Project aims to improve conditions for migration and breeding of trout and Ladoga salmon in River Hiitolanjoki
The Government is participating in a development project to cease hydroelectric power production on the River Hiitolanjoki and restore the rapids on the Finnish side of the river. The River Hiitolanjoki, which flows into Lake Ladoga, is the only river in Finland with a native population of landlocked Atlantic salmon. In addition to Ladoga salmon, the river is also home to trout that grow to a considerable size.
The Government’s participation in the project is part of the final phase of the measures to protect migratory fish under the key project “Nature policy based on trust and fair means” initiated by the Sipilä Government. The total cost of the project is around EUR 3.2 million. In addition to the key project funding, the purchase of the power stations and restoration of the rapids are being supported by several public financing sources and private donors.
Restoring the Hiitolanjoki rapids will make it possible to for the natural breeding cycle of migratory fish in the waterway to resume. The South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas already purchased the Lahnasenkoski power station, one of three located on the River Hiitolanjoki, from Vantaan Energia Oy in 2017. Once the Kangaskoski and Ritakoski power stations have been purchased and their operations closed down, all three rapids can be restored to allow barrier-free passage of fish and other aquatic animals. This means that migratory fish will be able to access the numerous rapids that have already been restored upstream. The project is progressing in phases, with the final restoration, that of the Ritakoski rapids, set to take place in 2023. The rapids restoration project was preceded by a project carried out by the fisheries authorities at the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in 2009–2019, which required the power stations to make arrangements for the passage of migratory fish across dams.
“The River Hiitolanjoki is home to the only naturally breeding landlocked salmon population in Finland. Restoring the rapids supports the implementation of the transboundary water agreement between Finland and Russia by enabling barrier-free passage of migratory fish to breeding areas. In addition to protecting migratory fish populations, the project’s measures aim to increase the recreational and tourist value of the river area,” says Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä.
On 23 January 2029, Minister Leppä met in Rautjärvi with several operators from the Hiitolanjoki area and learned more about the rapids restoration plans.
“The broad-ranging development cooperation between the municipalities located along the river, the power plant companies and a variety of other operators, along with the strong commitment from the Government, have made it possible for us to come up with the best possible comprehensive solution for increasing the value of the Hiitolanjoki waterway,” says Matti Viialainen, Regional Mayor at the Regional Council of South Karelia.
The measures taken as part of Sipilä Government’s key project on nature policy have improved the status of threatened fish populations and migratory fish in several areas throughout Finland. When allocating its key project funding, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry prioritised co-financed, concrete projects with swift implementation schedules and a strong commitment at the regional level. In its new Government Programme, Antti Rinne’s Government committed to launching a national migratory fish programme that will continue to implement the current measures to strengthen migratory fish populations. The programme will be prepared this coming autumn.
So far, the following parties have committed to providing financing for the project: WWF Finland and the Lassi Leppinen Foundation, the South Karelia Savings Bank Foundation, the Municipality of Rautjärvi, Simpele Savings Bank, an anonymous private individual, the Raija and Ossi Tuuliainen Foundation, LähiTapiola, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the Regional Council of South Karelia, Patagonia, Jasper Pääkkönen, Teemu Juutinen, an anonymous private investor and Ahti Invest Oy.
Annukka Kimmo, Special Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 50 478 0226 (requests for interviews)
Matti Viialainen, Regional Mayor, Regional Council of South Karelia, tel. +358 44 7700515
Mikko Koivurinta, Senior Fisheries Specialist, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Southwest Finland, tel. +358 400 829505, mikko.koivurinta(at)ely-keskus.fi
Matti Vaittinen, Environment Manager, Regional Council of South Karelia, tel. +358 40 1390173, matti.vaittinen(at)ekarjala.fi
Teppo Säkkinen, Special Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 50 5162868 (migratory fish projects, available from 12 August)