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Barrier Removal in Poland Allows for Upstream Fish Migration

Placing rocks and gravel over Sopot River weir ©Dzika Rzeka

Fantastic news from Poland!

A concrete weir in the Sopot River was removed in September 2021, allowing upstream migration of fish and other river organisms through a once impassable barrier. 

The Context

The Sopot River is located in Eastern Poland, and is a tributary of the Tanew River. While the Sopot is one of the most naturally flowing rivers in the Tanew River basin, it is still affected by several barriers. The concrete weir that was removed completely blocked upstream fish migration. 

Weir in the Sopot River prior to removal ©Dzika Rzeka

The Removal

The weir removal was accomplished by Dzika Rzeka (Wild River) Foundation, and funded by WWF Poland. The first step was receiving approval from Wody Polskie and The Environmental Office, as well as contacting the land owners and the Polish Fishing Association.

In this case, the weir itself was not removed due to permissions, finances, and the complexity of rebuilding the bridge at that location. Instead, the obstacle was covered by an appropriate amount of rocks and gravel. This raised the water level to about 70 cm, which was enough to submerge the barrier and allow for fish to pass through. The team was also careful to understand and mimic the natural flow of the river to ensure as little damage to the ecosystem as possible. In addition to the removal of the barrier, the team will create spawning areas for trout and lamprey!

This process was completed without needing to alter the construction of the bridge, which helped save money and time. In total, this project cost just over €2,000. 

Bridge and newly passable weir after project completion ©Dzika Rzeka
Upstream fish migration is now possible thanks to barrier removal ©Dzika Rzeka

Why Does this Matter?

This project is just the beginning for the Dzika Rzeka Foundation, who have worked with river restoration expert Józef Jeleński to select several potential restoration spots in rivers around Poland. This success will not only help migratory fish and other organisms in the Sopot River, but it will create a momentum towards many more river restoration projects!

Dzika Rzeka remarked about this project:

“Although for some people our action may be of little significance, we are proud that we have done it. Step by step, we will try to carry on our work to do more restoration work. We have more interesting ideas. Thanks everyone for taking part in our crazy action.”

Watch the video of the removal, and learn more about the process and the team! Make sure to turn on English subtitles if you don’t speak Polish.
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