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Open Rivers Programme – Apply Now!

Open Rivers Programme – Apply Now!

Deadline: 9-Dec-22

Applications are now open for the Open Rivers Programme to help restore natural habitats and enable river ecosystems to be more resilient to changes in climate.

Aim is to provide grants to:

Support the removal of small dams in catchments that offer the highest potential for river restoration and ecosystem recovery.
Support preparatory work in catchments to prepare dams for removal such as general project development, feasibility studies, provision of technical designs and securing permissions and permits.
Support a range of interventions to prepare small dam removal projects with high ecological potential for removal by a third party.
Support a range of interventions to enable the European dam removal movement to help ensure that dam removal becomes more widely accepted and implemented.
Grant Types
The programme offers three different categories of grants with the majority of support directed to preparing for and removing small dams from rivers.

Category A grants: programme supported dam removals
These grants will support a range of interventions that lead to the removal of small dams in catchments that offer the highest potential for river restoration and ecosystem recovery.
Category A is divided into four subcategories.
Category A1
Catchment development Supporting the identification and strategic selection of small dams that could later be removed via a grant from the programme. If it does not exist already, an important output of the grant should be an inventory of barriers (including location, height, width, photos, field verification). These grants may also support outreach to the local community to explore removal potential.
Catchment development projects must demonstrate a direct connection between the activities included in the grant and the future removal of priority barriers. Catchment development grants are intended for areas that offer very high potential for the restoration of river flow and biodiversity (ecologically valuable areas) but where there is currently low capacity, resources, and attention to dam removal.
Category A2
Preparatory work Supporting the development of essential work required to prepare for the removal of a small dam, for example, feasibility studies, preparation of technical design documents, and securing permissions and permits.
Category A3
Dam removal Demolition of a barrier. No preparatory work required / preparatory work already funded by a third party.
Category A4
Dam removal Demolition of a barrier. Preparatory work previously funded by the programme.
Category B grant: enabling others to remove dams
This grant will support preparatory work when funding for the dam removal (demolition) can be sourced from an alternative funder.
Category B Preparatory work Supporting the development of essential work required to prepare for the removal of a dam, for example, feasibility studies, preparation of technical design documents, ad securing permissions and permits. The completion of the work will result in the dam being removed by a third party.
The only difference from Category A3 grants is that the programme will not support the demolition. Their early research indicated that it was sometimes possible to secure funds for demolition but not for preparatory work and this was holding back the ability of some river managers to remove a dam.
Category C grants: enabling a European dam removal movement
These grants are not linked to specific removals but support interventions that result in dam removal becoming more widely accepted and implemented by others, which results in more rivers being restored across Europe. Category C grants provide support in three strategic areas. Applicants may apply for projects that contribute to one or more of the following:
Knowledge development and dissemination
To support the analysis of existing information, the development and sharing of best practices, and/or the generation and dissemination of new information that fills knowledge gaps.
Policy advocacy
To support work that ensures that dam removal is incorporated into EU and national policies, to support policy implementation, and for policy makers to better understand and support dam removal.
Communications and awareness raising
To support targeted communications that help to build enthusiasm and highlight the benefits of dam removal.
What is not supported?
Category A grants: programme supported dam removals
Post dam removal restoration, unless it is expected that without mitigating restoration activities, the dam removal would result in negative impacts e.g. changed hydrological regime that could cause flooding elsewhere, the release of invasive species, etc.
Partial removal of a dam. The full vertical extent of the barrier must be removed to be eligible for funding. The programme is only interested in the complete removal of a barrier/the full removal of the ‘barrier effect’.
Barrier purchase.
Eligibility Criteria
They recognise that projects often involve a diverse range of partners and contributors including NGOs, government, academia, the private sector, community groups and individuals. They welcome and encourage applications from diverse consortiums and collaborations. However, they have specific criteria for who can be a coordinating partner.
A coordinating partner is the applicant to the programme, and they will take a lead in managing the project. They will receive and manage the grant finances, sign a grant contract with the programme, and take responsibility for the effective delivery of the project. They will usually be based in the country of implementation. Non-resident coordinating organisations will need to be able to justify that their role is essential e.g. there is no suitable national coordinating organisation in the implementing country.
The following organisations may apply to the programme for Category A, B and C:
A charitable organisation.
An organisation with not-for-profit status.
They expect most applicants will be organisations with an environmental focus and a track record of restoring rivers / ecological work. They recognise that public and private organisations and community groups may wish to apply and they encourage their participation in projects as partners but will not accept unsolicited applications from these groups. These groups may contact the programme to explore options if they are not able to identify a suitable NGO coordinator for a project
Important note for coordinating partners who are awarded a grant
If you are successful in securing a grant at the end of the application process, you will receive a Grant Award Letter (GAL) from them which is their contract with you. The contract will require the activities outlined in your proposal to be delivered within the timeframe and budget set. The GAL will be signed by both the programme and the coordinating partner. There are several important points to note about implementing a grant from the programme.
They require all materials resulting from the grant to be made publicly available for free via the internet. This includes text, images, audio, and video.
You should hold public liability insurance that covers the period of implementation. These costs can be budgeted in your application if they are needed.
Projects must be implemented in Greater Europe and coordinating partners must be registered in Greater Europe.
For dam removal (A3 or A4) only
They will require you to confirm that there are no known issues that might jeopardise the river from remaining free-flowing once the dam(s) have been removed.
They aim to support projects that can be completed within 12 months.
For more information, visit Open Rivers Programme.

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