First ever dam removal in Latvia

Posted on May, 29 2023

Pasaules Dabas Fonds, an associate partner of WWF, has successfully removed the Beja dam in Latvia – the first dam removal in the country.
The only barrier on the 24-kilometer-long Alūksne river, the Beja dam was in a critical state of disrepair and was no longer used economically. Now that the dam has been removed, the entire river will be free-flowing again, allowing fish to migrate and spawn, increasing oxygen levels in the water and improving water quality – as well as enhancing resilience.
Work on this project has been going on for three years and it is planned to be completed by the end of the European summer, with the restoration of the river banks for local landowners.
The actual removal of the Beja dam began on May 8th with a gradual lowering of the water level from the water reservoir behind the dam, lowering the water level by 20 centimetres per day, so as not to create a risk of flooding in the surrounding areas. Considering that the water reservoir had not been cleaned for more than 40 years, since the restoration of the dam in the 1980s, a considerable amount of sediment had accumulated there. It is important to drain the water in the spring, when there is more water in the river and the sediments can be naturally washed away by the current, revealing the stones that are in the river bed.
In order to fully restore the river and the fish migration route, it is necessary to place stones and pebbles in the riverbed across the bridge threshold, simulating a natural riverbed. The necessary technical project will be designed so that the obstacle can be overcome even by the smallest river inhabitants and organisms. At the end of the project, Pasaules Dabas Fonds will clean up the river bank with the involvement of the local public.
After several years of work, the moment has finally come when we get to see the results of it. It is astounding to see how quickly the river has returned to its old riverbed and how quickly rapids begin to form in places where they had disappeared,” said Magda Jentgena, Manager of the Baltic Sea and Freshwater Programme at Pasaules Dabas Fonds/WWF.
“Finally, we will have a place in Latvia where everyone can witness this. This project would not be possible without the support of its financiers, the municipality and the public. Although this is the first project of this scale in Latvia, I hope it will not be the last. The dam removal movement in Latvia has only just begun, and we must do everything in our power to speed it up - the legislators must reduce bureaucratic obstacles, the dam owners must be forthcoming, and the general public has to speak up for dam removal and river restoration.”
The project is implemented by Pasaules Dabas Fonds and is financially supported by the Open Rivers Programme and Mangaļi. It is another major success for the dam removal pillar of the WWF Living European Rivers initiative.
Beja dam being removed in Latvia
© WWF Latvia
Beja dam during the removal process in Latvia
© WWF Latvia