We all love renewable energy, but it´s easily forgotten that this kind of energy can be pretty dirty, too.
Barduelva, one of Scandinavia´s finest road-near rivers, is in a sad state. Barduelva is a mighty river, up to 400m wide as it twists and turns through the lush, green Bardu valley, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Situated 200km north of the arctic circle, the river holds strong populations of brown trout and arctic char, and offers world-class fly fishing.
Nowadays, you are as likely to find the river almost drained of water as you are to find schools of rising fish there, especially in the upper parts.
Some history: In 1966, Barduelva was tamed. Two powerplants were built, one in the upper parts of the river, and one at the end of the river, at Bardufossen, where the river meets with an even bigger river – the Målselva. While this was of course a major blow to the fish populations in the river, it remained an outstanding destination for the passionate fly fisherman.
Unfortunately, recent developments are posing a serious threat to this arctic gem. There are two main problems:
1. The running of the powerplants is now entirely dependent on the price of electricity on the European energy market. Since the powerplants are run on a purely commercial basis, it makes sense for the owners to maximize their profit by running water through the turbines only when they can get a good price for the energy the water generates. Consequently, a high energy price means a lot of water in the river. And when the good price disappears, so does the water in the river. Since the price changes by the hour, the water level goes up and down fast, all the time. Very bad news for the fish (and all the other creatures who depend upon the river for their daily bread).
2. The two powerplants are run by two different companies, and they don´t communicate too well. In May 2008, the downstream powerplant was running full speed while the upstream powerplant wasn´t running at all. The result: almost complete drainage of the whole 45 kms of river. Disaster.
Here are some pics that show the river with and without water (Photos courtesy of Barduelvas venner´s website):
Well, this is some sad stuff for sure.
The good news is that some good-guys have started an organization called Barduelvas venner (Barduelva´s friends). They are working hard to make the government intervene and enforce a minimum water level in the river. It´s a very difficult task – this stuff is all about the money – but they´re doing a damn fine job. Check out their site here. And – even better: join Barduelvas venner ! I did!