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Piscine protection Switzerland and France sign hydroelectric dam agreement

The ecological health of the Doubs River has declined in recent years, prompting the Swiss and French governments to reconcile renewable energy production with environmental wellbeing.


Swiss and French authorities have agreed to adopt regulations aimed at improving the joint management of three hydroelectric dams on the Doubs River, which flows between the two countries. The goal: to reduce the mortality of fish species affected by the dams’ operation.

Benoît Revaz, director of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Energy, and Raphaël Bartolt, the prefect of the Doubs department in eastern France, signed the agreement Friday in canton Jura on the banks of the iconic river, which flows 453 kilometres across Switzerland and into eastern France.

The regulations are the result of new hydroelectric dam management models that have been developed, tested, and now formalised. They should reinforce coordination between the two countries regarding the management of the Doubs’ three dams, and their impact on aquatic life.

Specifically, hydroelectric dams contribute to fish mortality via the variation in flows they cause when they release water, environmental protection organisations argue. Therefore, the new regulations are aimed at reducing such flow variations. They also aim to limit trapping or stranding fish aground, and to protect spawning grounds during the critical fish breeding period between December 1 and May 15.

The regulations include provision for a follow-up study to evaluate their efficacy after five years, and prescribe complementary measures if needed.

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