viadonau’s objectives for ecological hydraulic engineering are to maintain and improve the living conditions of the flora and fauna on the rivers Danube, March and Thaya without impairing other uses of the waterways or flood protection measures.
The history of ecological hydraulic engineering
For viadonau integrated, ecological hydraulic engineering is not only of importance because of the EU Water Framework Directive. Austria has a decades-long tradition of expertise in this field. Habitat conservation areas were established as far back as the 1980s, which saw the advent of the first renaturalisation projects. This started with the renaturalisation of riverbank structures in reservoirs and was then followed by the reconnection of long since silted up side arms to the free flowing sections of the Danube.
The Water Framework Directive
The EU Directive has existed since 2000 and stipulates that "good ecological status" must be achieved with "good ecological potential" for all waters. The challenges for Austria, lie especially in the areas of hydro-morphology and fish ecology. Restoration projects make an essential contribution to the achievement of these goals.
Since the mid 1990s, studies have been carried out based on these basic early pioneering experiences to ascertain the potential of renaturalisation and the prerequisites for the implementation of projects.
A study of the Upper Danube Valley and Upper Austria was carried out in 2006 and a study of the Danube in Lower Austria was completed in 2009. Comprehensive proposals for restoration measures in the section of the Danube to the east of Vienna led to the planning process for the Integrated River Engineering Project. In the area of March and Thaya the oldest potential study Martha was completed in 1995. This led to a bilateral project with Slovakia in March 2007 resulting in a number of mutually agreed measures. A project along the 16-kilometre stretch to the Czech border has been in progress since 2014.
By doing this, viadonau is fulfilling its responsibilities in their entirety by means of studies into ecologically effective restoration measures that are subsequently implemented on a step by step basis.
A number of projects to improve and preserve the habitats of the Danube, Morava and Thaya have been implemented in recent years based on the legal requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and the Natura 2000 directives (FFH and Birds Directive) for restoration concepts. These have been achieved partially thanks to the support of the EU’s environmental funding program LIFE. Other projects are in progress or preparation. Different hydraulic engineering measures are being implemented depending on river and objectives.