Since the removal of two dams, a river in northern France flows freely for the first time in almost a century, with marine animals returning and nature resuming its course.
“Dismantling this ancient hydropower dam and freeing up the Sélune is a landmark in Europe’s attitudes to its rivers,” states Roberto Epple, Founder and President of the European Rivers Network (ERN).
The removal of the 36-metre-high Vezins Dam on the Sélune River – the most significant dam removal in Europe – was completed in 2020, and in late 2022, the Roche Qui Boit Dam was entirely removed. For the first time in 90 years, marine animals like sea lampreys, European eels, and Atlantic salmon have returned to the River, whose temperature has decreased by 2°C, and sediments once trapped by the dams have resumed their natural transit. With a gross hydropower potential of more than 90%, France is the largest producer of hydroelectricity in the European Union, and removing dams weakens that position. Still, ERN argues that the priority is to reduce the country’s overall energy consumption and encourage new renewables-related technologies – hydroelectricity or other. France’s objective is to reduce energy consumption by 50% by 2050. According to Dam Removal Europe, more than 6,000 dams have been removed across Europe.