Built on the Allier River during the Second World War, the Poutès dam did not have authorization for hydropower production. The concession awarded in 1956 ended in December 2007 and the concession holder EDF, received the renewal of the concession in March 2015 for the following 50 years. Since its construction, the dam has been responsible for the loss of 90% of the Loire Allier wild salmon population.
The French government is responsible for conservation of the last great migrating salmon population in Western Europe. The need to protect this emblematic species has naturally led the state to implement several conservation and restoration programmes during the past 20 years. Tens of millions of Euros have been invested successively in different programmes to sustain the population through restocking; restoration of their habitats and implementation of migration routes. Despite many efforts, the great Loire salmon is still on the verge of extinction.
Because of the impact of the Poutès dam on salmon, both environmental protection groups and fishermen have been asking for the removal of the dam since 1991. A civil protest against the dam was first established in 1991 and lasted 20 years. In 2004, when EDF applied for renewal of the concession, a national campaign for Poutès removal was organized with support from the WWF and Patagonia.
In October of 2011 the French Ministry of the Environment announced the reconfiguration of the Poutès dam as a third and final proposal. A consensus was finally found.The technical project has been drawn up in partnership with all stakeholders: EDF, scientists, the French government, environmental protection groups and elected officials, who have been consulted on each step of the project.
The dam will be 7m high for a reservoir of 400m long. The sediment transport will be restored by the installation of 2 central sluice gates that will allow flow during the morphogenic floods (100m3/s). It will also be open for 91 days per year to all the upstream migration of fish (spring and autumn). The rest of the time an elevator associated with a fish pass will be functional. The turbine flow will be identical to that of today (28m3 / s, against 20m3 / s in the initial project), with a stop of the production of hydroelectricity during the 3 months of opening of the gates. The downstream migration will be optimized thanks to grids at the level of the finer intake (12 mm instead of 20 mm).