A total of 27 fish passes were completed on the river dams last year. This enables fish to freely move to their natural spawning and growing grounds, which is necessary to restore and maintain fish populations.
The construction of fish passes amounted a total of 12.22 million euros. As a result of this activity, the fish can move freely in the Põltsamaa, Vääna, Leevi, Ahja, Piusa, Elva, Võhandu River, as well as in many other rivers, which were equipped with a number of bypass-type fish passes as close to nature as possible, natural rapids were maintained and chamber fish passes were established. The biggest projects of these included the establishment of fish passes on the Põltsamaa dam, the Põltsamaa River, as well as on the Leevi reservoirs on the Leevi River.
The opening of the fish passages on the rivers will continue and this year, it is planned to complete 35 new fish passes, with 28 of them located on river stretches important in terms of nature conservation. The establishment of fish passes helped to improve the fish migration conditions on a total of 52 dams from 2007–2013.
If a water dam is located in such water body that is confirmed as a spawning site and habitat of salmon, trout, sea trout and grayling, it is necessary to ensure that the fish can pass the dam both upstream and downstream. The fish pass helps the fish to overcome barriers in order to continue their journey in the flowing water body behind the barriers.
Although many fish lead a sedentary life, they undertake a journey to find a suitable spawning site during the spawning season. In order to preserve and restore the populations of highly migratory species, such as salmon and sea trout, their access to spawning and growing sites in rivers is of primary importance. The greatest traveller among carps is the vimba, who prefers to grow in wide water fields, but for spawning, it searches for clean fast flowing rivers. Also, the river lamprey is moving from the sea to the rivers to spawn.
The works were funded by the instruments of the EU Cohesion Fund period 2007–2013 through the Environmental Investment Centre.
In the future, aid for the establishment of dams situated on salmon rivers can be applied for from the funds of the EU financial period of 2014–2020; a total of 4.3 million euros will be allocated as support. In the event of other rivers, the fish pass establishment support can be requested from the environmental programme of the Environmental Investment Centre.