Mörrumsån - Hemsjö
Mörrumsån - Hemsjö
Key features of the case study
In the following section, background and motives of the restoration project which led to the initiation of the project are introduced.
River Mörrumsån is an important reproduction site for Baltic salmon and sea trout. It has been estimated that smolt production in the river constitutes nearly 50 % of total smolt production in the rivers around the southern Baltic Sea. It is probably the most well-known salmon-bearing river in Sweden and sports fishing for salmon and trout in the river is internationally renowned.
The river was exploited for hydropower production in the late 19th- and early 20th century which has created numerous migration barriers and reduced the available reproduction area for anadromous salmonid fish. Both upstream migration and downstream migration has been hampered since hydropower dams prevent fish from moving upstream and fish are often injured or killed in the turbines of the hydropower plants when moving downstream.
Hemsjö is located about 20 km from the sea. There are two hydropower plants at the site about 3 km apart: Hemsjö övre hydropower plant and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plant. Marieberg hydropower plant is located further downstream in the river but the hydropower dam was equipped with a functioning fish ladder (vertical slot fishway) in 1945.
The two hydropower plants at Hemsjö are connected through a river stretch with residual flow; the original natural river channel. Water flow in the natural channel used to be sporadic and irregular and no minimum flow was decided in the water rights agreement. The river stretch is furthermore affected by channelization, deepening and bolder removal from milling activities and timber floating. This has together with hydrological degradation led to deterioration of the bottom structure.
The restoration efforts at Hemsjö can be divided into two separate categories, (1) lateral connectivity and (2) habitat improvement.
- The main goal of the first restoration project at Hemsjö carried out in 2003-2004 was to improve the potential for natural reproduction of Baltic salmon and sea trout in River Mörrumsån and to secure the population’s long term survival. Lateral connectivity should be restored at Hemsjö and the available reproduction area for anadromous salmonid fish in the river increased. This was also a goal of the IBSFC (International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission) Salmon Action Plan for the Baltic Sea. The restoration also served to increase fish production and to promote sports fishing in the river and the conservation of other species of the naturally occurring fish fauna was another important concern.
- After the first restoration, which provided the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower stations with an increased water flow, several habitat improvement projects have been undertaken in the river section. One habitat improvement project in 2004-2006 served to benefit especially the natural sea trout population in River Mörrumsån but also the salmon population. Another habitat improvement project in 2010 had the added incentive to indirectly benefit the fresh water pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) population. The glochidia larvae of the fresh water pearl mussel use salmon and trout as host fish in their life cycle. Habitat improvement was also carried out in the river section in 2012 within an EU LIFE+ project (UC4LIFE, LIFE10 NAT/SE/000046) with the broader goal to “strengthen the conservation status of the thick shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) and improve the ecological status of the rivers where it is found in Sweden”. Since host fish selectivity of the thick shelled river mussel glochidia larvae is poorly understood the goal of the restoration measures at Hemsjö was to create “natural conditions that favors diversity”.
- To restore lateral connectivity at Hemsjö fishways were to be constructed at Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower dams; these should be constructed so that most naturally occurring fish species in the river could use them to migrate upstream. Water flow in the natural channel between the hydropower plants should furthermore be increased to enable fish migration. Hydropower production should also be reduced in the hydropower plants at Hemsjö övre, Hemsjö nedre and Marieberg in the spring when smolt migrate to the sea to minimize damage caused by the turbines and a nature reserve should be created in the area.
- The habitat improvement projects carried out in 2004-2006, 2010 and 2012 had the goal to improve and create new spawning grounds for salmonid fish in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants.
The following section introduces which measures were prepared, implemented and whether they were successful in reaching their related goals
Nature-like partial width (ca 5 m) rock ramps were constructed at Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower dams in 2003-2004. Steel sheet piles were driven in to the river bottom to separate the ramps from the main channel. Water is allowed to flow over the partitioning and into the fishways at high flows. The fishways are about 100 m and 60 m long, respectively.
A new water rights agreement for Hemsjö övre, Hemsjö nedre and Marieberg hydropower plants was established in the Swedish Environmental Court in 2003 (today replaced by the Swedish Land and Environmental Court). It stipulates among other things that: -A minimum flow of 1 m3/s should be directed through the fishways at Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower dams and through the natural channel between 1 April and 15 November. During the remainder of the year a minimum flow of 0.5 m3/s should be directed through the fishways and the natural channel.
- During the salmon and trout spawning migration period, for 25 days between the dates 1 June and 15 November, 3 m3/s of water should be discharged through the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants in addition to the dictated minimum flow.
- For a maximum of five weeks, between the dates 1 April and 15 June, hydropower generation in Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants should be reduced to half the available potential at prevailing flow conditions.
- For a maximum of five weeks, between the dates 1 April and 15 June, hydropower generation in Marieberg hydropower plant should be completely halted.
A nature reserve (Mörrumsåns dalgång) that stretches from Hemsjö övre hydropower plant and 11 km downstream along the river was created in 2008. The nature reserve borders another nature reserve (Kärringahejan) in the upstream end. The in-stream habitats and diverse riparian zones in the nature reserve have been protected from exploitation.
In 2004-2006 about 100 m3 of salmonid spawning gravel (8-150 mm) was added with a crane lorry to ca. 15 different areas of the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants that in other respects were deemed suitable for salmonid spawning and were accessible from the road. In 2010 about 100 m3 of salmonid spawning gravel (8-150 mm, and some 2-4 mm) was added with a helicopter to four additional areas that had not been visited in 2004-2006. In 2012 ca. 88 m3 of salmonid spawning gravel was added with a helicopter to two additional areas that had not been visited in 2004-2006 or 2010. In total about 20 gravel beds were created in the river section.
In general, success criteria for Swedish restoration projects are poorly developed and no such criteria for these restorations could be found.
The creation of free migration routes at Hemsjö has opened up an additional 10 km of River Mörrumsån to spawning migrating anadromous salmonid fish. Results from the automatic fish counters in the fishways at Marieberg and at Hemsjö övre has revealed that in a given year on average ca. 50 % of the salmon and trout that pass through the fishway at Marieberg continue upstream through the fishway at Hemsjö övre.
On average about 550 salmonid fish (range 293-954) are recorded in the fish counter at Hemsjö övre each year (2007-2013). Pike and other fish species have also been observed moving upstream through the fishways. In 2013 almost 2000 fishes other than salmon, trout, trout/salmon hybrids or rainbow trout were recorded moving upstream through the fishway at Hemsjö övre. Lateral connectivity has not been 100% restored at Hemsjö however. Spawning migrating salmonid fish are reluctant to enter the fishway at Hemsjö nedre hydropower dam and continue upstream through the natural channel when flow is 1 m3/s (minimum flow during most of the summer and autumn according to the water rights agreement). Fish migration is thus halted downstream Hemsjö nedre hydropower plant. When an additional 3 m3/s of water is directed through the fishways and natural channel more fish enter the fishway at Hemsjö nedre and spawning migration is resumed.
The restoration has increased the area available for salmonid reproduction in River Mörrumsån by about 20 ha (equivalent to ca. 50% of the total available habitat). Salmonid spawning was observed in the river section upstream Hemsjö already in 2004. Young salmon and trout have been caught by electrofishing in several sites upstream Hemsjö after the restoration, sometimes in very high densities (>2 individual/m2 for salmon and >1.3 individuals/m2 for trout). Mean densities for salmon in the river section (nine samplings at seven sites between 2010 and 2012) were 0.55 individuals/m2 and minimum densities recorded were 0 individuals/m2. The same numbers for trout were 0.69 individuals/m2 and 0.12 individuals/m2 respectively. Young salmon and sea trout have also been caught in the natural channel with increased flow between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants after the restoration (see below).
Salmonid spawning was observed in 2007 on all the spawning areas that were created in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants in 2004-2006. Electrofishing on the gravel beds that were created in 2004-2006 and 2010 have given salmon and trout catches of up to >0.8 individuals/m2. Mean densities for salmon (12 samplings at nine sites between 2010 and 2012) were 0.36 individuals/m2 and minimum densities recorded were 0.08 individuals/m2. The same numbers for trout were 0.14 individuals/m2 and 0 individuals/m2 respectively.
No fresh water pearl mussels were found in the areas where spawning gravel additions were made in 2010 before the restoration, a few duck mussels (Anodonta anatina) were found though. No mussels at all were found in the areas where spawning gravel additions were made in 2012 before the restoration. Because of the complex life cycle of the freshwater pearl mussel and the thick shelled river mussel, the mussels’ slow growth rate, and a likely poor supply of colonization sources within the river (at least for freshwater pearl mussel) any response in the mussel population to the restoration measures might lie far in the future. A response in the mussel populations to the restoration measures can furthermore be manifested anywhere in the river accessible to anadromous salmonid fish and not only in the 3 km stretch of the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants.
The diversion of more water through the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants with an established minimum flow has created a permanent body of flowing water were there previously was a dry channel. The river stretch is still highly degraded however. Minimum flow in the river stretch established in the water rights agreement is 1 m3/s or 0.5 m3/s depending on the date. This should be compared with a natural mean annual flow of ca. 26 m3/s and a natural mean annual low flow of 8-9 m3/s. The flow regime is completely unnatural with a flow of 1 m3/s or 0.5 m3/s for long periods of time interrupted by sudden increases to 4 m3/s during the salmonid spawning migration period and to very high flows when excess water, or all the water, is discharged through the regulation dams.
The spawning gravel additions made in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants in 2004-2006, 2010 and 2012 have changed the bottom substrate composition in the river section somewhat. It is unclear whether this has restored the substrate composition to more natural conditions or not.
Monitoring before and after implementation of the project
Many different solutions on how to improve lateral connectivity at Hemsjö, and how to optimize upstream and downstream fish migration, were tested and evaluated before the restoration was carried out.
- Telemetric tracking of migrating fish (adults migrating upstream and smolt migrating downstream) was carried out.
- Fish traps were installed in the dry channel downstream Hemsjö nedre hydropower dam to investigate the migratory response to different flows in the dry channel.
- Different technical solutions to prevent downstream migrating fish from entering the turbines of the hydropower plats were tested.
- Model calculations on fish mortality rates in the turbines under different propeller rotation rates were made etc.
An automatic optical fish counter was installed in the fishway at Marieberg hydropower dam in 2001 and in the fishway at Hemsjö övre hydropower dam in 2007. The fish counters were equipped with high resolution cameras in 2009 and 2010 for better fish species verification. The installation of the fish counters was not a part of the restoration project directly, but it was administered and funded by some of the project partners. The results from the fish counters are spread and discussed within the River Mörrumsån Fish Conservation Group which consists amongst others of all the project partners.
Several sites upstream Hemsjö and in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants have been fished by electrofishing before and after the restoration. This has typically not been done as monitoring within the restoration project but for other reasons, e.g. by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management to estimate smolt densities within the Swedish Index River for Salmon Project (River Mörrumsån was chosen as one of tree Swedish index rivers for salmon in 2009). The results from electrofishing are spread and discussed within the River Mörrumsån fish conservation group.
Quantitative and qualitative electrofishing has been carried out by the project partners on many of the spawning areas that were created in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants in 2004-2006 and 2010. Electrofishing has also been carried out in the river section in 2000 and 2003 before the restoration for other reasons than monitoring within the restoration project. The areas where spawning gravel additions were made in 2010 were also checked for mussels before the restoration.
Quantitative electrofishing has been carried out on all the areas where spawning gravel additions were made in 2012, before the restoration (in 2012) and after the restoration (in 2013). The results have not yet been reported to the data host. The areas where spawning gravel additions were made were checked for mussels before the restoration (according to the Swedish standard method for freshwater mussel surveys). Substrate, depth, flow velocity and aquatic vegetation was also recorded along transects and site descriptions (of hydromorphology and other environmental parameters, according to the Swedish standard method) were made before the restoration. Follow-up is scheduled for 2016.
No information found.
Contact person within the organization
E.ON Vattenkraft Sverige AB
Johan Tielman, Environmental manager (project manager)
Telephone: 0046 70 5734414
Blekinge County Administrative Board
Andreas Nilsson (project manager)
Telephone: 0046 10 2240180
Extra background information
The restoration project at Hemsjö in 2003-2004 involved the following partners: Sydkraft AB (present E.ON Sverige AB), the Swedish Board of Fisheries (present Swedish Agency for Marine and Water management), the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Blekinge County Administrative Board, Mörrums kronolaxfiske which sorts under AssiDomän AB (present Sveaskog AB) and Karlshamn Municipality. Cooperation within the restoration project led to the creation of the “Mörrumsåns fiskevårdsgrupp” (River Mörrumsån Fish Conservation Group) which consists of all the aforementioned project partners. Kronoberg County Administrative Board and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) have joined the group in later years. Sydkraft AB administered the project. Coordination and cooperation was organized within the framework of the River Mörrumsån Fish Conservation Group.
The habitat improvement projects carried out in the natural channel between Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants in 2004-2006, 2010 and 2012 were discussed and processed in the River Mörrumsån Fish Conservation Group. Practical issues, funding, measures selection, ecological response, etc. has been presented and are up for discussion. The salmonid spawning gravel additions in 2004-2006 and 2010 were administered by Mörrums kronolaxfiske. Representatives from Blekinge County Administrative Board, the Swedish Board of Fisheries and Sydkraft AB were also involved in the realization of the restoration projects. The salmonid spawning gravel additions in 2012 within UC4LIFE were administered by Blekinge County Administrative Board with Mörrums kronolaxfiske as an important partner. The UC4LIFE project is a collaboration between the County Administrative Boards of Skåne, Jönköping, Blekinge, Östergötaland and Södermanland as well as Karlstad university.
The restoration project at Hemsjö in 2003-2004 has been recognized in Sweden as an example of how private stakeholders and government authorities can cooperate successfully in ecological restoration projects. The details of this interaction are described below. In the early 1990s the Swedish Board of Fisheries raised the issue that lateral connectivity should be restored at Hemsjö to enable Salmon and trout to reach the spawning areas upstream the hydropower plants at the site. In 1995-1996 the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency went to the Swedish Water Rights Court (today replaced by the Swedish Land and Environmental Court) to get a new water rights agreement for Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants. The new water rights agreement should include obligations by the owner of the hydropower plants (Sydkraft AB) to construct fishways at the two hydropower dams and to direct a minimum flow through the dry channel. Sydkraft AB described in an opinion to the court their view on the effects these restoration measures would have on hydropower generation at Hemsjö and the salmonid fish populations in River Mörrumsån. Instead of meeting in court, the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency, Sydkraft AB and the Swedish Board of Fisheries began to cooperate to investigate how conditions for the fish population in River Mörrumsån could be improved. This cooperation also involved Mörrums kronolaxfiske, the Blekinge County Administrative Board, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Karlshamn Municipality and led to the creation of the River Mörrumsån Fish Conservation Group. After a slow start, the collaboration between private stakeholders and government authorities was positive and constructive. Several studies of fish migration and possible restoration measures at Hemsjö were conducted in the years to follow.
In 2000 the Blekinge County Administrative Board applied for EU funding (EU LIFE) to purchase the hydropower plants in the lower reaches of River Mörrumsån (Hemsjö övre, Hemsjö nedre and Marieberg) from Sydkraft AB. The ambition was to seize or significantly reduce hydropower production in the hydropower plants, open up the hydropower dams and redirect the main flow of the river through the natural channels. Total project costs amounted to 85 million SEK (~9.6 million €). The application was however rejected by the European Commission. The cooperating parties then looked at alternative solutions to restore lateral connectivity at Hemsjö. This resulted in a proposal to construct fishways at the two hydropower dams and to increase water flow in the dry channel connecting the hydropower plants. In 2003 the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency again went to court (now to the newly established Swedish Environmental Court, today replaced by the Swedish Land and Environmental Court) to get a new water rights agreement for Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower plants. This time the Swedish Board of Fisheries had agreed to finance the construction of fishways at Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower dams beforehand and Sydkraft AB had in a written contract agreed to all the claims the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency presented to the court. The proposed restoration measures were sanctioned by the Swedish Environmental Court and construction work could begin in 2003: opening ceremonies were held in 2004. The habitat improvement at Hemsjö in 2004-2006 and 2010 had to be approved by affected landowners (primarily E.ON Sverige AB) beforehand. Local residents were also informed about the work that was going to be done in the area. The habitat improvement project at Hemsjö in 2012 within UC4LIFE strived to involve local stakeholders and landowners to create understanding for the planned restoration measures and for ecological restoration in general. The restoration measures had to be approved by affected landowners (primarily E.ON Sverige AB) beforehand. Discussions with landowners were coordinated by Mörrums kronolaxfiske. Local residents were also informed about the work that was going to be done in the area.
Communication efforts about the restoration project at Hemsjö in 2003-2004 have primarily been directed towards hydropower producers and the energy industry, policymakers, government authorities, people working with river restorations in various capacities and the general public. The dissemination work has been effective and the restoration project has received quite a lot of attention in Sweden and internationally. That River Mörrumsån is such a well-known salmon-bearing river in Sweden and abroad has probably helped to raise interest. Some of the communication work that has been done is presented below. Presentations about the restoration project have been held on a large number of conferences, seminars and other meetings (e.g on the 9th International Congress on the Biology of Fish in Barcelona 2010 by Johan Tielman from E.ON Vattenkraft Sverige AB and on the 2nd Nordic International Symposium on Freshwater Fish Migration and Fish Passage, Evaluation and Development in Reykjavik 2001). Hemsjö has also been used by representatives for the Energy industry as an example of “environmentally friendly hydropower production” in different forums (e.g. in the hearing “Energy from Moving Water” organized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm 2007). Of course the river ecosystem is still very much degraded at the site, the diversion of water for hydropower production always means a disturbance of the natural ecosystem. The project partners issued several press releases separately and jointly about the restoration project, media were invited to look at the restoration work and opportunities were given for interviews. News media and different trade magazines reported about the restoration. Local information meetings about the ongoing work and the plans and goals of the restoration project were held on several occasions and information signs about the restoration project have been put up at Hemsjö nedre hydropower plant and at “Laxens hus” in Mörrum. The habitat improvement carried out at Hemsjö in 2004-2006 and 2010 could be characterized as rather small scale restorations and communication efforts were limited. Local news media reported about the restorations and information was posted on the Mörrums Kronolaxfiske homepage. Communication work about the habitat improvement carried out at Hemsjö in 2012 within UC4LIFE has been somewhat more extensive. An information flyer about the restoration work within UC4LIFE in River Mörrumsån and specific information about the habitat improvement at Hemsjö in 2012 is available on the project homepage (http://www.ucforlife.se) and on the homepage of the Blekinge County Administrative Board. Local news media have reported about the restoration, information signs have been put up along the river and local information meetings and presentations in regional nature conservation forums have been held. Several posters, flyers, oral presentations, guidebooks for children, etc. about UC4LIFE and the thick shelled river mussel are available on the project homepage.
Total costs for the construction of the fishways at Hemsjö övre and Hemsjö nedre hydropower dams amounted to 5.511 million SEK (~616800 €) and was funded by the Swedish Board of Fisheries. The cost in terms of production losses in the hydropower plants at Hemsjö övre, Hemsjö nedre and Marieberg, caused by the diversion of water into the fishways and natural channel and reduced hydropower generation in spring, was split between the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Sydkraft AB. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency compensated Sydkraft AB for production losses with a lump sum of 22.65 million SEK (~2529100 €). This amount also covers the restrictions the creation of a nature reserve would mean to Sydkraft AB as the primary landowner at the site. Additional costs have to be carried by the energy company. E.ON Sverige AB has estimated that the total annual costs (including write-offs) for production losses, operation and maintenance of the two fishways at Hemsjö, etc. amounts to ca. 2 million SEK (223300 €) per year. On top of this are costs for project planning, project design, other investigations, monitoring, administrative costs and judicial costs (N/A). The costs of the habitat improvements at Hemsjö in 2004-2006 are not available. The total cost of the habitat improvement in 2010 was 207000 SEK (~23200 €) and the restoration was funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. The cost of the habitat improvement at Hemsjö in 2012 within UC4LIFE amounts to ca. 120000 SEK (13400 €) to date. The UC4LIFE project has a total budget of 4.9 million € and is funded by the EU (50%), the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (25%), participating County Administrative Boards and Karlstad University (25%).
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- Andreas Nilsson (project manager), Blekinge County Administrative Board (2013-11-22)
- Lars Lundahl, Senior Fisheries Officer, Blekinge County Administrative Board (2013-11-21)
- Johan Tielman, Environmental manager (project manager), E.ON Vattenkraft Sverige AB (2012-09-03 and 2013-11-22)
- Mörrumsåns kronolaxfiske (Sveaskog AB) homepage. 2013. http://morrum.sveaskog.se/Morrum-Lax/ (2013-11-15)
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- UC4LIFE project homepage. 2013. http://www.ucforlife.se/ (2013-11-08)
- Increase minimum flows
- Facilitate downstream migration
- Ensure minimum flows
- Install fish pass/bypass/side channel for upstream migration