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Dam Removal Expert

Benoît Blazejewski

Environmental Engineer – Métropole Européenne de Lille

Can you mention some of the most interesting dam removals you have carried out?
During my last job, I removed approximately 80-90 dams of all sizes. If I must mention my most interesting dam removal, I will say the Guémy dam (Hem river) and Fersinghem dam (Aa river). Developing removals projects for both of them was exciting and formative for me, as a lot of steps were necessary to reach the goal of removal. 
For Guémy Dam, the owners didn’t want to destroy the hydraulic structure and wanted to rebuild it to produce hydroelectricity. At the start, they did not understand the benefits of dam removal. However, with a lot of patience and dialogue, they agreed to do the work. I felt very proud of myself for supporting them until the removal stage. Moreover, it was the first removal in the Hem River, which also contributed to people being sceptical about it.  Today, all dams have been removed or equipped on Hem River. The owners are satisfied, and salmon and sea trout could return to the liberating natural spawning ground.
In 2022, I removed Fersinghem Dam, which was a famous structure in the Aa River, as nobody had found a good solution to remove or equip problematic structures for the fish and the flood. For 10 years, technical studies concluded about the difficulties and expensive costs of removal, and many people thought it was an impossible project. However, we found a great solution to remove it cheaply and we made the work in only one year! Finally, this project was nominated for the Dam Removal Award in Lisbon, in 2022. Although we didn’t win, I was very proud to be in the 5 finalists and representing my country. 

What is your main expertise?
My mains professional expertise relate to hydraulic calculating, flood modelling and hydromorphology. I have extensive knowledge about fish species and rivers functionalities too, acquired during flyfishing sessions or trips in France and to foreign rivers. 

What is the proudest moment in your career regarding removing dams and why?
Honestly, I think all the removals I’ve made are special for me and make me proud, because you really understand the goal and the benefits of your job for biodiversity and society, in a global warming scenario. 
When you see spawning ground in the restauring river bed or when you contribute to reducing flooding, it’s a real reward for the difficult work carried out. I’m just proud to be one of the actors of my generation fighting to preserve and restore rivers ecosystems!

What is your take-home message for upcoming project leaders/managers in Europe? 
Be passionate, never give up and don’t have a lot of certainties. Don’t be afraid to learn and make errors, work experience is just coming…

Anything else you would like to share?
A film about the Fersinghem dam removal: 


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