LIFE Projects

About the case study

Project: VERBUND LIFE Projects, including:

  • LIFE+ Traisen;
  • LIFE+ Network Danube;
  • LIFE Network Danube Plus;
  • LIFE Riverscape Lower Inn;
  • LIFE Project Blue Belt Danube Inn


Location: River Danube and River Inn, Austria and Germany


Cost: LIFE+ Traisen = 30 million EUR, LIFE Netzwerk Danube Plus = 19 million EUR, LIFE

Riverscape Lower Inn = 24 million EUR, LIFE Blue Belt Danube Inn = 52 million EUR.

Funded by the European Union LIFE programme


Dates: Planning to spend 280 million EUR by 2027, some project parts ongoing until 2029


Objectives: Improve ecological connectivity around existing hydropower plants in the Danube and River Inn and link Natura 2000 areas. Improve habitat conditions and species conservation status for endangered fish, wetland fauna and flora, and breeding, resting, and wintering bird species. Measures undertaken: Created a 10km new river corridor at Traisen. Straightened sections of the river were broken up to create a larger natural river ecosystem connected to tributaries and floodplains typical of the Danube. The floodplain was lowered at 60m, creating 60ha of new floodplain. 30ha of dry grassland was also created. It took 15 years in design, planning, financing, and obtaining authority permits since the first ideas, whereas the measures have been under construction for 3 years. Restored river habitats and created bypass rivers at HPP Ottensheim-Wilhering, HPP Greifenstein, and HPP Abwinden-Asten. For example, a 14.2km bypass river at Ottensheim was created in 2016 to enable fish migration and provide high quality key habitats, which contributes to the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive. The fishway was designed to integrate and restore natural water bodies, creating and improving habitat connectivity. Restored fish connectivity at Ering on the river Inn by creating a 2.6km bypass fishway (slope max 4.7%, discharge 2-12 m3 / s) and creating spawning and nursery grounds, as well as the construction of an island tributary system with flat banks, oxbow lakes, and dismantling of the river with water stones and fortified shore. Created a 13km bypass channel at Altenwörth with engineered log jams and sufficient flow to secure river dynamics. A wetland was also created, and four additional fishways reconnected fish from the river to floodplains.


Results: LIFE+ Traisen witnessed the number of onsite bird species increase from 72 in 2009 to 111 in 2018, with common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) breeding pairs increasing from 1 to 7, sand martin (Riparia riparia) colonising steep riverbanks, high dragonfly (Anisoptera) densities, and 60ha of softwood and willow (Salix) forest created. The general ecological status of fish increased from bad to good. The site at Altenwörth saw sand martin breeding tubes increase from 63 in 2022 to 169 in 2023, with common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) territories establishing exclusively within the restored river sections. The fish biomass increased from < 50 kg to > 300 kg/h.


Success factors:
• Stakeholder Consultation
• Scientific Justification
• Site specific solutions
• In-house technical expertise and thorough design
• Obtaining public acceptance
• Well established cooperation between developers and administrations
• Collecting and using high-quality data
• Knowledge sharing / lessons learned

Images copyright:  VERBUND