International Funding for river Hiitolanjoki

The European Open Rivers Programme joined Hiitolanjoki’s major financiers. This ensures the demolition of the last power dam at Ritakoski. The Open Rivers Programme is a grant giving organisation dedicated to restoring rivers. Hiitolanjoki’s Ritakoski is the first aid target of the Open Rivers Programme in Finland.

Ritakoski power plant and River Hiitolanjoki before the restoration on 26 July, 2023. Photo: Mikko Nikkinen.

The restoration of nature has been discussed in Europe for the past year. Most of the rivers in Europe are dammed for power generation or for other reasons. Around one million bigger or smaller have been built in Europe, which has put river ecosystems and the organisms that depend on them, such as migratory fish, under great threat. Now dams are being dismantled in many places, and funding is needed for that. Free-flowing undammed rivers provide a habitat for many plant and animal species.

The demolition and restoration project of the River Hiitolanjoki’s three dams in Rautjärvi is a major breakthrough in Finland. Hiitolanjoki has also attracted a lot of interest internationally, now also in the form of funding. The demolition of the dam of the last power plant in Ritakoski rapids can be ensured when the Open Rivers Programme has joined the financiers, awarding a grant of 100,000 euros to the South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas. The Open Rivers Programme started in 2021 and was established to restore endangered European rivers by supporting interventions that lead to the removal of small dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity. Hiitolanjoki’s Ritakoski is the first aid target of the Open Rivers Programme in Finland.

In addition to this, in the end of July the international forest company UPM Oyj announced a donation of 50,000 euros to Ritakoski rapids from its Share and Care Program. The total cost estimate for Ritakoski’s restoration work is around 700,000 euros. The other financiers enabling the demolition of Ritakoski and the two presious power dams are the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (main financier), the Southern Karelia Savings Bank Foundation, WWF, Metsä Group’s Nature Program, South Karelia Cooperative Bank, the Raija and Ossi Tuuliainen Foundation, Lähitapiola incurance company and several private financiers.

Ritakoski hydro power plant dam to be demolished and River Hiitolanjoki on 26 July, 2023. Photo: Mikko Nikkinen / Storymakers.

Contact information:
Hanna Ollikainen
toimitusjohtaja, CEO
+358 40 823 5105

Follow dam removal and restoration of Lahnasenkoski rapids

This article contains pictures from the Hiitolanjoki Lahnasenkoski construction site. Follow the construction site here – moving around the construction site is strictly prohibited to ensure the safety of all parties! Walking on the scenic path is also prohibited.

The turbines of the Lahnasenkoski power plant, which started in 1911, stopped finally on July 31, 2022.

The construction site already started in July, before the end of the power plant’s operation, with the preparation of construction sites and the start of the work dam.

Preparations are being made to dismantle the turbines, the turbine chamber of the power plant must be allowed to dry. Photos by Hanna Ollikainen

Lahnasenkoski construction site, water runs through the silenced power plant and the dam can be dismantled. Photo Mikko Nikkinen 19 August 2022

The dam disappears from the landscape. Photos by Mikko Nikkinen 23 August 2022

How the restoration of Kangaskoski will proceed


Work in Kangaskoski began immediately at the beginning of August. The power plant’s Kaplan turbine turned to standstill after had been grinding electricity for almost 100 years.

When the water could no longer flow through the power plant, water rose in the canal and ran through the overflow hatches.

The water of the river  is flowing into the rapids

In order to prevent the water from rising too high above Kangaskoski dam, the hatches of the regulation dam were opened and the water was released into the natural rapids, ie the former river bed. Timing the start of the work at end of the summer when the flow is small, the work machines were able to move in the river bed. The spawning gravel for salmonids had been brought to the rapids in July before the dam demolishing project, when the riverbed was still dry.

The construction of the rapids was facilitated by a work dam.

Work was first started at the top of the future rapids by bringing rocks and quarries to the working dam. The machine was able to work on the work dam and shape the top of the rapids.

The rapids are shaped with stones.

Large rocks have been brought to the upper section of the rapids and the shoreline are designed.

A roller found at the bottom of the river.

At the bottom of the river was found such an old roller – what is it possible and what is its age?

The water starts to drain from the power plant channel.

When the upper part of the river is ready to maintain the level of the water surface above, the dam hatches were completely opened. As a result, water began to fall at the dam and the upper channel began to dry out.

Excavated rock and old structures were exposed from the canal.

Dry upper duct.
A new tributary of the rapids

A new tributary was excavated from the rapids, which also brings flow to the water basin below the power plant. In the excavation work was revealed a concrete slab, which is part ot the structures of the previously located paper mill was found on site. An opening to the creek was pierced through the concrete.

The power strainer appeared

Work on the upper duct began in in the beginning of September. The overflow openings and power plant duct will be blocked with concrete walls before the duct is filled. The power strainer can be seen now.

The water level begins to drop in the duct.

The dam will be finally opened, allowing the water level to fall above the dam and in the power plant channel.

The Kangaskoski dam was demolished in early September. To be able to work at the dam, a construction site was built cross the river, under which water was led through drum pipes. When the work at dam is done, all construction sites will be removed as well from at the upper part of the rapids and at the dam. The design of the Kangaskoski rapids will be finished in the river and at shorelines.

Actors of the Kangaskoski project

  • Developer: South Karelia Recreation Area Foundation
  • Builder consultant: Insinööritoimisto SuunnitteluKide Ltd
  • Main contractor: Oteran Ltd
  • Kosken suunnittelu: Maveplan Oy (ks. asemapiirros)
  • Expert in the design of the rapids: Markus Tapaninen, ELY Center for South-East Finland
  • Machine contractors: Heikki Vaittinen and Jani Nokelainen
  • Stones and gravel: Karjalan Betoni Oy
  • Maisemasuunnitelma: Maisema-arkkitehtitoimisto Näkymä (ks. maisemasuunnielma)

Financing of the Kangaskoski project

The restoration of Kangaskoski is an action of the RivTimes project co-financed by the Southeast Finland – Russia CBC program. The rest of the funding are grants and donations received for the restoration of Hiitolanjoki. The main donators for Kangaskoski are WWF, OP Simpele and Patagonia /Tides Foundation. The purchase of the power plants was financed with the grants from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland, South Karelian Foundation of the Savings Bank, Municipality of Rautjärvi and several private companies and persons.

CBC program logo

Images and the article Hanna Ollikainen, South Karelia Recreation Area Foundation

International funding granted for Hiitolanjoki dam removal

Patagonia, a company producing makes eco-friendly outdoor outfits and accessories, is also an important sponsor of nature conservation projects world wide. Patagonia granted 28 000 $ for dam renovation in river Hiitolanjoki through Tides Foundation.

Thanks for Jasper Pääkkönen who communicated about our project to Patagonia’s people! Read the story how Jasper got involved to Hiitolanjoki restoration project. Read an article by Gregory Fitz / Patagonia:

How Actor Jasper Pääkkönen Advocates for Wild Fish

Application for Tides Foundation was accepted

South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas sent application for funding implementation of restoreation three rapids for migration fish, of which the most important species is extremely endangered Ladoga Salmon (Salmo salar m. sebago).  Patagonia’s grant is will be used mostly at the lowest of the rapids, Kangaskoski.

Hiitolanjoki river renovation project is to be put in practice by removal of three dams at old hydro power plants. The goal of the Hiitolanjoki river restoration project is to enable fish migration and salmon stock strengthening Finland. After dam removals breeding areas for the fish will be multiplied in upper areas of the watercourse. 

Ritakoski and Kangaskoski acquired ownership of South Karelia Recreation Area Foundation

Ritakoski and Kangaskoski acquired ownership of South Karelia Recreation Area Foundation

The long-prepared and negotiated acquisition of Ritakoski and Kangaskoski in Hiitolanjoki was completed on October 29th, 2019, when the South Karelia Recreation Area Foundation acquired the entire share capital of Hiitolanjoki Voima Oy. Hiitolanjoen Voima Oy is now a subsidiary of the Recreation Area Foundation.

The company owns the buildings and dam structures of the power plants and the properties on which they are located. The Hiitolanjoki river restoration project is proceeding as planned, the power dams will be dismantled and the rapids will be restored, creating plenty of new breeding ground for the Ladoga salmon and trout, and opening up free access to the extensive estuarine waters.

Restoration begins in Kangaskoski

After the design and licensing work, the dismantling of the dams will begin on the lowest barrier elevation, Kangaskoski, in 2021. Each year, work will be carried out at one of the rapids: dismantling and restoration of the Lahnasenkoski dam in 2022 and Ritakoski in 2023. Electricity production will continue at every rapid until its demolition

A multi-year project and several stakeholders in the background

In addition to the authorities, a number of foundations, associations, companies and individuals participate in the Hiitolanioki project. In the end, a state commitment ensured the completion of the project. Sipilä Government’s environmental policy – In addition to financing the project, the purchase and restoration of power plants was supported by a number of public and private donors. To date, WWF Finland and foundation Lassi Leppinen, Savings Bank of South Karelia Foundation, Municipality of Rautjärvi, Simpeleen Osuuspanki, person anonymous, Raija and Ossi Tuulainen Foundation, insurance company Lähi Tapiola, ELY Center, Union of South Karelia, Teemu Juutinen private investor, Ahti Invest  Oy and Signal Partners Oy.

More information

  • Hanna Ollikainen, Managing Director of South Karelia Recreational Area Foundation,, 0408235105
  • Matti Vaittinen, Environmental Manager of the South Karelia Federation,, +358 40 139 0173