Flood defenses planned along the River Bārta

Large-scale construction works on the protective embankment on the right bank of the River Bārta in south-west Latvia are planned this year, which will be implemented with the support of the European Union (EU) Recovery Fund. The total cost of the project to prevent flooding in the future is nearly 5 million euros, reports Latvian Radio.

In the near future, a procurement will be announced so that construction work can begin in the summer. It's not the first time flood defenseshave been costructed here. When the left bank of the Bārta was rebuilt, the residents had mixed opinions about the usefulness of such a large-scale project and how the object looks in a real rural environment, cutting down trees and turning the bank into a promenade with piles of stones. The municipality has called for the preservation of more trees and the creation of a boat jetty for tourism purposes in the new project on the opposite bank.

In order to prevent the threat of floods, a protective dam on the Bārta River was first built in the 1930s, which also straightened its course for a while. Over the years, the sides of the dam have been overgrown with trees and bushes. In 2017, it was concluded that the condition of the dam had deteriorated, and an ambitious left bank restoration project supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was created, which won the 2021 Construction of the Year award.

However, residents do not show much enthusiasm for the outcome of this project. The dams could have been arranged more simply, preserving a more natural environment and not carrying out such a drastic rebuilding of the riverbank, according to Andris Maisiņš, a resident of Nīca parish. Similar thoughts are expressed by other locals.

"Here they thought more about how to earn as much as possible, invest more money, that's why this bank was paved, even though the trees that had already grown in the dam here for a hundred years had withstood the load, it was a good support for the dam so that it wouldn't be washed away. Now, when all the trees with all their roots were uprooted in the field, only a few were left to look nice, you can count them on the fingers of one hand. I doubt that this is has been thought through. The other crazy work was that they covered the entire bank with geotextile and piled it with stones," says Maisiņš.

This year, there is only one and a half meters left to the edge of the embankment to prevent floods, says Agija Kaunese, head of the joint administration of Nīca. The municipality has submitted its recommendations for the project of the protective dam on the right bank of the Bārta, so that the previous scenario, when trees were lost, does not repeat itself, and has also encouraged the creation of a boat pier for tourism purposes.

"This was also one of the objections and suggestions to leave as many trees as possible, so that it is not like on the left bank, there is no more landscape there. The designer was instructed to leave as many trees as possible," says Kaunese.

Uldis Mednis, head of the reclamation department of the Kurzeme region of the Agriculture Ministry's real estate department says it remains to be seen how much greener the right bank of the Bārta will be.

"It is planned to clean the River Bārta, starting from the mouth of the Tosele to the mouth of the Ječupe in a length of 4.5 km. It is planned to restore the protection dam on the right bank of Bārta for a total length of more than 5 km," said Mednis about the upcoming works.

Certified hydraulic technicians have assessed the circumstances and their calculations are appropriate, he says. Such protection dams are drainage systems at the disposal of the Ministry of Agriculture, but there is already communal drainage behind them.

It is clear that the existing dam does not fully protect the local territory from flooding, and this year the flood was experienced right behind the protective dam in Vecupe village, said resident Velta Grauduže.

"The sauna was full, everything was in the water. Our heating pellets are unusable, the bottom layer was in the water," Grauduže said.

It is planned that the ambitious works on the right bank of the River Bārta should start in July this year. They are expected to be completed by June 2026. There are at least five similar flood risk mitigation facilities in Kurzeme region, and a total of 21 in the country as a whole.


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