Eoghan Concannon is working as the Project Officer for the Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP) with the Wild Oxfordshire, in the UK. His passion for rivers began early on, but it wasn’t until 2022, during a conference organized by Dam Removal Europe, that he realised the importance of removing obsolete barriers and restoring hydro-morphological functions. After receiving the green light from the Environmental Agency, Eoghan will complete his first barrier removal by summer 2024!


Welcome Eoghan! What do you do for a living?
[Eoghan] I am a full-time project officer working on river and landscape restoration schemes in Southern England. The ECP focuses particularly on water quality, natural flood management, increasing biodiversity and community outreach on the above-mentioned issues in the Evenlode catchment.

How did you find out that river barriers can be removed? 
[Eoghan] I first discovered barrier removals reading articles online on the Dam Removal Europe website, attending an online Dam Removal Europe conference in January 2022 and further reading and learning on the topic. This was the first time that I was exposed to the breadth of work going on with dam removals in Europe and further abroad.

Rivers, freshwater and their catchments are constrained in many ways which degrades the public service they provide to people. This is why I work to fix them and restore these public services.

Figure 1. Community outreach in the field (© Eoghan Concannon)

When did you decide that you also wanted to free rivers? What did you do and where did you go? How did you actually start on dam removal?
[Eoghan] I knew I wanted to work to restore rivers from a young age when we had issues like being on boil water notice during summer periods from pollution, swimming in polluted water (unknowingly to me at the time) with dead fish, and from the flooding our town experienced, which was unheard of at the time.

When I finished university, I didn’t have much work experience (and by much, I mean none). Due to this I started to attend local conferences, events and networking events and read what was going on locally so I could begin to find people already working in this area. Doing this was very important if not crucial for me to find a career in this area of work.

I started on barrier removals by reading literature in this area and attending a Dam Removal Europe conference in Lisbon in Summer 2022. From there I wanted to put theory into practice. The ECP has aims to improve fish passage, so I started on barrier removals by doing various things. This included engaging landowners with proposals to get their support for the project, designing the works, baseline monitoring to measure efficacy, securing funding for the works, getting environmental permissions, and working with contractors to enable project delivery.

Figure 2. First weir to be removed, start small think big (© Eoghan Concannon)

What is the proudest moment in your efforts to remove a barrier?

[Eoghan] My proudest moment was when I finally got the green light from the landowner and Environment Agency to begin my first barrier removal project.

Do you have a take-home message for dam removal project managers and facilitators?
[Eoghan] Always collaborate with project stakeholders and communities affected. It is important that you don’t do things by yourself. Hear all sides of the argument and then make an informed decision.

Be open to learn from those who are more experienced, but also don’t be afraid to suggest things outside of the status quo, if these are based on real evidence and have good outcomes for nature and people.

Sometimes you may be constrained in what you can do for a certain project for various reasons. If this happens, just get on with it and move onto the next one! The best example for me here would be having to do a rock ramp style fish passage over a barrier removal. Removals and channel restorations will have the best outcomes for ecology, compared to the rock ramp which will be less beneficial to ecology. However, the possible further disconnection with the floodplain associated with the removal, the associated downstream flood impacts, excessive cost and time delays and effects on local communities means that removals are not always the best decision if you are considering the cost and benefit analysis between communities and ecology.

Figure 4. Rock ramps vs weir removals (© Eoghan Concannon)
What advice would you give to future river heroes of the younger generation?

[Eoghan] Network, network and more networking. Don’t be afraid to dive into volunteering to get experience and take on responsibilities, this is where you learn the most and is also important throughout your career.

Learn from failure and move on. Success doesn’t happen without prior failure. You usually learn more from failure than you do from success.

Always do your own research and don’t take statements or opinions for granted. Never forget to constructively question your own decisions and those of others, it’s healthy to counter arguments and of course, your own. This is the basis of science.