Restoration of minor water bodies
The status of minor water bodies has deteriorated because of the land use in their vicinity. The trend seen in agricultural streams has been driven by the need for field drainage, and the status of forest streams has in many places declined on account of forestry. Urban streams suffer through dense construction and the paving of the earth.
In recent years, the status of minor water bodies has attracted increased attention. In cities, interest has been aroused in drawing up programmes to promote the restoration of minor water bodies, and the guidelines for agricultural drainage are being revised. The methods of environmental hydraulic engineering enable effective drainage without jeopardising the ecology of streams. In many cases, restoration projects can also reduce flood risks.
Minor water bodies include streams, ponds, streamlets, ditches and springs, as well as small gloe lakes and flads. Streams are flowing waters whose catchment measures 10–100 km2. Channels with smaller catchments in which water is constantly flowing and that may support a fish population are also regarded as streams. Streamlets and ditches are small channels that may periodically dry up.
Planning of a national strategy for minor water bodies
The key objective in the conservation of minor water bodies is to protect the diverse minor water bodies that still exist. Further objectives include increasing knowledge of the conservation values of these waters and their preservation, and about the various benefits provided by their restoration. For reaching these objectives, a plan for drawing up a restoration programme for minor water bodies has been recorded in the Water Management Implementation Programme for the period 2012–2015.
Preparations for the restoration programme for minor water bodies are scheduled to begin in 2012. The parties responsible for this programme are the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The partners involved in the restoration plan are the Finnish Environment Institute; the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment; Metsähallitus; Forest Management Associations; and Tapio (the Forestry Development Centre). The implementation of the restoration programme is due to begin in 2014.
Legislation regulating the conservation of minor water bodies
According to the Forest Act, forest management measures in the immediate vicinity of streams and streamlets that either are in a natural state or resemble those in a natural state must be carried out in a manner that preserves the special features of these channels.
The Water Act provides that flads and gloe lakes of up to 10 hectares as well as natural ponds and lakes of up to one hectare situated outside the region of Lapland are aquatic habitats under strict protection. Jeopardising their natural state is prohibited in all circumstances. In addition, natural springs may not be modified in such a way as to jeopardise their preservation in a natural state.
The Water Act also regulates ditching and clearing of streams and streamlets. If drainage may cause harm to a water area owned by someone else, fishing, the operation of an aquatic ecosystem or the recreational use of a water body, or if it may result in the pollution of a water area or groundwater, a drainage permit must be obtained from the Regional State Administrative Agency.
According to Water Act, the excavation of a ditch; the widening or straightening of a ditch, stream or streamlet; and the clearance of a stream or streamlet are subject to a permit per the Water Act if the measure concerned may jeopardise the preservation of a stream in a natural state or cause damage to fish stocks or harmful changes to the aquatic ecosystem.
Wherever possible, the clearance of a stream for drainage purposes must be carried out in such a manner as not to cause deterioration in fish stocks or fishing, adverse effects on the aquatic ecosystem or weakening of the recreation services provided by the water body. If a power plant, a dam or another fixed structure must be removed or altered in order for drainage to be carried out, a permit per the Water Act must be applied for from the Regional State Administrative Agency. All drainage must be performed, and ditches maintained, in such a manner that no area belonging to another person suffers water or other damage.