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Policing activities, a major factor in achieving good water status

On the Creuse river, inspections on hydroelectric installations resulted in citations and numerous injunctions ordering owners to ensure ecological continuity. These examples show that inspections, coupled with administrative penalties and even criminal proceedings, but also funding for corrective measures, constitute one of the major techniques used to achieve good water status. Synergy between repressive measures and incentives is a key element in the 2010 plan to restore ecological continuity.

Starting in the Massif Central, the Creuse river runs for almost 300 kilometres before joining the Vienne river. Its lower valley is potentially accessible to migratory fish (sea lampreys, allis shad, Atlantic salmon, sea trout and eels) for 124 km, up to the barrier set by the hydroelectric dam at Eguzon (Indre department). But this section is studded with 31 weirs and dams, one every 4 km on average, that hinder or block the travel of migratory fish. In that the Creuse river has been listed as a "river for migratory fish" (article L. 432-6 in the Environmental code), all installations must be equipped to allow travel by migratory fish and, in the near future, natural sediment transport.

Assessment of installation impacts

In 2008 and 2009, Onema personnel from the Centre Poitou-Charentes regional office and the Indre and Indre-et-Loire local offices studied the impact of installations. They identified 14 obstacles requiring priority action to achieve major ecological gains for the entire Creuse basin. In the Indre-et-Loire department, two of the obstacles were deemed significant for the entire Loire basin and listed as priority ("Grenelle") projects, namely the Gatineau and the La Guerche hydroelectric dams.

Administrative injunctions and criminal proceedings

On the basis of data provided by Onema personnel, the water police added further requirements concerning ecological continuity to the mandatory conditions for hydroelectric power generation by the two installations. The decisions were backed up by the threat of suspending the purchase contract with EDF, the national utility. Elsewhere, Onema personnel inspected a large number of other installations. Four citations were delivered for non-conforming fishways (article L.432-6) and an observation report was filed. In February 2010, a court ordered that work be undertaken to upgrade the Gatineau installation within eight months. The court also imposed a penalty of 100 euros per day if the work runs beyond the eight-month deadline. The presence before the court of a person from the Onema local office and of the head of the local MISE was a crucial factor in the judge's decision.

Installation compliance

The owner of the Gatineau installation has since launched a design study for a fishway (upstream and downstream migration), in conjunction with a system to facilitate sediment transport. It should be possible to terminate the work within the deadline set by the court, following the administrative injunction. Onema checked the project during the administrative procedure and will inspect the work as it progresses. The owner is entitled to receive a special work grant from the Loire-Bretagne Water agency, awarded for "Grenelle" installations. For the La Guerche dam, a request has been made to testify before the court. Thanks to the removal of the Maisons-Rouges dam on the Vienne river in 1998 and the future work on the Gatineau and La Guerche installations, it will be possible to reopen the Gartempe and the Creuse rivers to migratory fish.

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