The new fish migration aid at the Greifenstein power station makes its way through fauna and flora.

LIFE Netzwerk Donau:
New habitats
are created

A power move for tomorrow

Three fish migration aids, four locations and five measures: between 2016 and 2020, project leader VERBUND and its partners implemented extensive improvements for water bodies and biodiversity on the Danube in Austria.

Description of the project

The LIFE Danube Network project focused on nature and water protection at power plant sites. Five Natura 2000 areas were linked with already renaturalized areas. As part of the project, a mosaic of existing and new habitats was created from 2015 to 2021, which also resulted in increased accessibility for fish: the Ottensheim, Abwinden-Asten and Greifenstein fish migration aids allow fish to pass through the power plants.

A total of 25 million euros was invested in the measures. The holistic approach was important in the LIFE Network Danube project. The aim was to harmonize the requirements of environmental protection with the requirements of electricity generation from renewable hydropower.

The picture shows a pond at the construction site of the Abwinden-Asten power station against a bright blue sky.

Project overview

The project focused on connecting different protected areas. So-called stepping stone biotopes were built to connect ecologically healthy areas with existing renaturalized areas. 

VERBUND and its partners are creating valuable habitats. The banks along the Danube have been restructured. Gravel banks are new habitats and spawning grounds and provide protection for animals. Young alluvial forest and dry grassland zones increase ecological diversity. In the surrounding areas, the fish population has been strengthened, as the Danube is now connected to tributaries at the sides. This not only closes gaps between already implemented LIFE projects, but also enhances previous investments and implements the Water Framework Directive WFD. All measures are carried out according to the current state of the art. A guideline from the responsible ministry exists for the fish migration aids. The success of the project is evaluated by means of fish ecological monitoring and has already been confirmed for two facilities.

The map roughly shows the project locations. Specifically, the Ottensheim, Abwinden-Asten, Ybbs-Persenbeug and Greifenstein hydropower plants are shown.

Summary: Objectives and results

  • Fish migration aid in Ottensheim: Europe's longest fish migration aid was built at the Ottensheim power plant between 2016 and 2018. Over a length of 14.2 kilometers, it creates a bypass for the Danube power plant and a new habitat.
  • fish migration aid in Greifenstein: Fish bypass the Greifenstein Danube power plant with a 4.4-kilometre-long accompanying channel. The project connects to the "Greifenstein casting channel" and adds additional habitat to the artificially created channel. 
  • New banks for the Danube: New banks were created between the Melk and Ybbs power plants. Gravel islands and gravel banks provide a refuge for juvenile fish from wave action and predators, thereby strengthening biodiversity in the Danube.
  • Gravel island Marktau: A gravel island was created directly below the mouth of the Ottensheim fish migration aid, at the end of the Abwinden-Asten backwater area. The near-natural bank structure provides protection and habitat for juvenile fish.
  • Abwinden-Asten fish migration aid: The most recent sub-project is the fish migration aid at the Abwinden-Asten Danube power station (Upper Austria). A near-natural bypass stream allows fish to migrate around the power plant and provides additional habitat on the Danube.
The fish migration aid near Greifenstein blends in well with nature. The sky is bright blue and the bank is already overgrown.

The Facts

  • Area: Austrian section of the Danube
  • Budget: 25 Million Euro
  • thereof eligible for grant: 8.8 Million Euro
  • EU share: 50%
  • Period: 1/9/2011-31/12/2020
  • Coordinating grant beneficiary: VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH
  • Associated grant beneficiary: None
  • Co-financers: NÖ Landesfischereiverband, OÖ Landesfischereiverband, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management.