In case you missed it! Estonia seminar recap

On 22- 23 May 2019, 130 people from 23 countries came together in Pärnu, Estonia to share knowledge and connect at Let it Flow!—the past international seminar on dam removal.

This past Dam Removal Europe seminar was made possible through the support and unique collaboration of the Environment Agency of Estonia and Dam Removal Europe. Let it Flow! took place near the biggest river (Pärnu) basin opening (3,300 km of rivers and streams) in Europe—the Sindi Dam removal.

The scope of presentations ranged from dam removals, to river restoration and lessons learned. The keynote speaker, Mr. Bob Irvin, from American Rivers presented, “From Monkey-wrenching to Mainstream: 30 years of dam removal and river restoration in the USA.” You can see the programme here and download the presentations for more specific information.

Bob Irvin at Let it Flow!

The seminar began with a special drum session by moderator, Reigo Ahven, and Mr. Marku Lamp, deputy secretary general of the Ministry, gave the official opening. We particularly enjoyed this seminar because Reigo Ahven (his name coincidentally means perch) provided some comic relief to our otherwise rather serious seminar.

Hans Soll gets a gift from Külli Tammur, Herman Wanningen and Reigo Ahven

A special moment arose when Mr. Hans Soll, the leader of the conservation of fish stocks in Estonia was asked to come forward. He was and still is a major driving force behind the Sindi Dam removal. He motivated and encouraged others to join together, mobilise and influence politicians—he received a standing ovation and many kind words for his efforts.

We learned from the project manager (and main coordinator of the seminar), Külli Tammur, that the Sindi Dam removal is a result of bottom-up negotiations and community engagement. Tammur organized several meetings with locals who were hesitant at first in an effort to get them on board with the proposal to remove the dam. So by collaboration, lots of coffee/ cookies and listening to the needs (e.g. rapids and a pool) this project turned out to be a great success. Personally, I think the way this dam removal is communicated with stakeholders and residents is a great way of moving forward. It showcases the benefits of an inclusionary process.

Hans Soll and Let it Flow!

After the presentations, attendees were given the opportunity to provide any “news from Europe.” Corinne Ronot from European Rivers Network announced the next upcoming Dam Removal Europe seminar will be held on 24 – 26 September in Normandy, France. The seminar will cover successes and lessons learned from their recent dam removal that began last week: https://damremoval.eu/biggest-dam-removal-in-european-history/ . Of course, you don’t want to miss out! For more information and the opportunity to register for the “Sélune Valley Revival Seminar” please visit https://damremoval.eu/selune-valley-revival/.

Corinne Ronot from ERN announces the next DRE seminar

The second day of the seminar consisted of two fieldtrips to project sites in Estonia. The first field trip to the Sindi Dam showcased the reason why we all do this work—the beautiful river that was unleased from its chain and finding it natural bed again. We saw many fishes,like the local Vimba, even some making use of the gravel! Are they spawning already? How many more fish are upstream? Is recovery really that fast?

One of the attendees Pirkko-Liisa, from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation has attended 3 international DRE seminars commented, “Every DRE seminar has brought more new knowledge and experience about dam removal as a method to restore rivers and enhance migrating fish stocks – and of course new dam removals! It was very impressing to see in Estonia what they have already done and doing in our neighbourhood while we are just in the beginning in Finland. We saw the fish rushed upstream at the place where the Sindi Dam was demolished!”

The second field trip was to the Purtse River. This river together with its tributaries, located in the North of Estonia, is one of the most polluted watercourses in Europe. The extensive pollution of the rivers began with the extraction and processing of oil shale at chemical plants. Mainly done in the Soviet era. The overall objective is to have a clean, safe and healthy river again.

We hope to see you at the next seminar in France!

Full house at Let it Flow!

Credits: Iwan Hoving

Photo Credits: Ministry of Environment of Estonia

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