behind the headlines

Bring the Wild Rhine Salmon back into the river

Sunday, December 19, 2010 · Category Environment · comments 1


It all started out when I got to read an article my mother kept for me in the NRC Newspaper, which I consider to be one of the best around. The subject concerns the fact that our newly formed government under the reign of Prime Minister Rutte is about to reverse a long time agreement on opening the Haringvlietsluizen (Dam with locks) to allow migration of wild salmon back into the river Rhine.

What's the decision "Kierbesluit" all about

The Dutch "Kierbesluit" - taken in 2002 - may be translated to English as the "Haringvliet Crack Act" or in plain English; opening the waterways that where once closed by the Dutch after the disastrous floods of 1953. Opening the waterways - closed since 1971 - would restore the natural mix of salt and fresh water and possibly restore the natural migation of wild Salmon to and from the North Sea back into the river Rhine.

The aim of this so-called "kierbesluit" is to relaunch the migration of fish, especially salmon from the sea into the river. Adult salmon swim from the Atlantic Ocean upwards the river Rhine to spawn. Young fishes then swim back to the ocean. The return of salmon into the river Rhine is considered an indicator of the quality of the water in the river Rhine.

Reversing the decision over a budget deficit of 6 million euro?

The initial article I read in the paper version of the NRC newspaper introduced the subject to me and brought me to take a further look into the subject. I really engaged on an investigation after I read that the current Dutch government wants to reverse the decision because of a budget deficit in the Haringvliet opening of about 6 million euro. That smelled like there is more to it, especially when you consider that the EU member states concerned with the subject have invested a total of 500 million and the Dutch investment totals a mere 42 million euros (Indexed over the years) of which only half has been spent so far.

The problem in all it's complexity

So is it really about 6 million euro? Not likely. The decision to open the Haringvliet dam and locks was taken 10 years ago and only reaffirmed in 2007 by Dutch State secretary Huizinga in a ministers conference and towards the European Union. Yet in december 2007 the decision to open the Haringvliet dam and locks was delayed to the 1st of december 2010.

1. Restoring the natural transition from salt to fresh water

Opening the "Haringvlietsluizen" will recover the natural transition from salt to fresh water. These transitions have largely disappeared across the southwestern Dutch delta since the construction of the Delta Works.

2. Buying land from farmers to flood part of the Dutch Delta

To execute the decision a lot of work needed to be done. Among them the buying of land from farmers who would loose some of their farmland because the opening of the locks will allow salt water back into the Dutch Delta and therefor making some agricultural land worthless. So much protest against the decision is definately coming from farmers and since the governments' party CDA - traditionally the protector of farmer rights - lost big time in this years elections yet is part of our "tolerated minority government", there is much pressure to further delay the decision arguing that further research into alternatives is needed. In political terms: 6 million euro are needed for buying 3 hectares of land from farmers.

3. Water supply intake points and trajectories

Another important aspect of the decision is the relocation of so-called fresh water intake points. In short this means that part of the infrastructure of water intake points needs to be replanned, rearranged and rebuild.

  • Taking Point:
    A collection point is a place where water (for agriculture and drinking water) is removed from the Haringvliet.
  • Water supply range
    A water supply project is a (system of) watercourse (s) to fresh water to land (mostly to polder areas). In such a process (between the ditches) sometimes divers and pumps installed, for example water or a way by leading to higher ground to pump.

The river Rhine: Reversed political interest

Last but not least there is an old discussion about the initial polution of the river Rhine. At this moment Germany, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland are looking at the Dutch as the last frontier for allowing the plans for migration of wild salmon up the river Rhine, as we hold the last key; the frontier inlet at the North Sea.

Yet this is the first time in history other European countries are asking something from the Dutch government, where in the past the Dutch were the ones asking. Let's not forget that it was mainly the Swiss, French and Germans who were responsible for the total polution of the Rhine, resulting in the Dutch Delta becoming the well of unprecendented zinc pollution. These river Rhine and river Meuse countries were smart enough to take off the clean water for personal use at the overhead of the rivers, leaving the rest of the polluted water to the lowlands (mainly our precious Dutch Delta). And thus one can state that we now have to serve the interests of the polluters.

Our governments reply (for the moment)

The Dutch government now lead By rightwinger Mr. Rutte says that opening the Haringvlietsluizen is too expensive and wants further investigation into alternatives. It seems that some 40 years ago during the construction of the Deltaworks, sluices have been installed which can be made suitable for controlled intakes of seawater, yet they have never been used.

Another alternative would be to build a fish ladder North of Holland at the Afsluitdijk. Yet these are works that haven't even started yet and I am sure by the time plans are made these will cost a lot more than the 6 million that seems to be the key to a yes or no.

Related articles: "Salmon"

Some background information on the Floods of 1953 and Dutch Flood control


1. by Indian about 7 years

I love these articles. How many words can a worsdimth smith?


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