Evaluation of mitigation measures to reduce hydropeaking impacts on river ecosystems – a case study from the Swiss Alps

Tonolla, Diego and Bruder, Andreas and Schweizer, Steffen P. (2017) Evaluation of mitigation measures to reduce hydropeaking impacts on river ecosystems – a case study from the Swiss Alps. UNSPECIFIED. Science of The Total Environment, 574. pp. 594-604. ISSN 00489697

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New Swiss legislation obligates hydropower plant owners to reduce detrimental impacts on rivers ecosystems caused by hydropeaking. We used a case study in the Swiss Alps (hydropower company Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG) to develop an efficient and successful procedure for the ecological evaluation of such impacts, and to predict the effects of possible mitigation measures. We evaluated the following scenarios using 12 biotic and abiotic indicators: the pre-mitigation scenario (i.e. current state), the future scenario with increased turbine capacity but without mitigation measures, and future scenarios with increased turbine capacity and four alternative mitigation measures. The evaluation was based on representative hydrographs and quantitative or qualitative prediction of the indicators. Despite uncertainties in the ecological responses and the future operation mode of the hydropower plant, the procedure allowed the most appropriate mitigation measure to be identified. This measure combines a basin and a cavern at a total retention volume of 80,000 m 3 , allowing for substantial dampening in the flow falling and ramping rates and in turn considerable reduction in stranding risk for juvenile trout and in macroinvertebrate drift. In general, this retention volume had the greatest predicted ecological benefit and can also, to some extent, compensate for possible modifications in the hydropower operation regime in the future, e.g. due to climate change, changes in the energy market, and changes in river morphology. Furthermore, it also allows for more specific seasonal regulations of retention volume during ecologically sensitive periods (e.g. fish spawning seasons). Overall experience gained from our case study is expected to support other hydropeaking mitigation projects.

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