Hiitolanjoki received international funding

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 Hiitolanjoki before 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 to restore endangered European rivers 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.

Also forest company UPM also joined Hiitolanjoki’s financiers

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.

A large number of financiers make it possible to dismantle the Hiitolanjoki dams

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.

More info about Hiitolanjoki project : Hanna Ollikainen, CEO South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas +358 40 823 5105 hanna.ollikainen@ekvas.fi

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.

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