Balancing the old and the new: Öreg-Túr rehabilitation — Phase II (EEA-C3-9) - Study Visit

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[November 2016] Following the site visit was a lengthy drive to Mátészalka, to the north east in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County. After a night’s rest, a busy October 7th opened with a presentation from the Upper Tisza Regional Water Directorate, the county seat of which is in Nyíregyháza. Regional water inspector József Gacsályi walked the group through a step-by-step account of a vast amount of work that was completed during Phase II of the EEA Grants-funded project. What is most impressive is that most of the work was carried under tight time constraints and in adverse winter weather conditions.

The 70-km course of the Túr River is vital to the livelihood of this region of Hungary, and the maintenance of flood control and inland water safety continues to be one of the most important tasks for its residents. As the region does not generally suffer from water shortages, the main work at hand involves the construction of channel weirs and placement of sluice gates in proper places in order to regulate water levels. This work formed the basis of Phase I of rehabilitation project, which got underway in 2010. For Phase II, which ran from May 2015 to April 2016, EEA Grants funding covered 85 percent of the total coast of EUR 894,617.

“The point of the Öreg-Túr rehabilitation is to raise the water level by 100 cm at the place of damming through the renewal of existing structures and modifications made to the present infrastructure,” states the official project literature published by the Water Directorate. “As a result, water at Sonkád can take off at a higher level [….] which is significant not only for inland drainage and water management, but represents serious goodwill and aesthetic value.”

It is also notable that the Water Directorate used special dredging equipment to cause as little harm as possible to the physical environment. Simultaneously with the construction work, an ecological assessment of the whole section of the Öreg-Túr was undertaken, through which the Water Directorate receives up-to-date information about the condition of the watercourse and changes that have taken place since the implementation of Phase I.

Participants were then treated to a full range of site visits, which revealed the true magnitude and scope of water regulation measures that the directorate team and others have undertaken in recent years. The first stop was to a sluice gate on the Túr that featured a newly constructed ramp for canoes, a boon for large numbers of river paddlers drawn to the region. The next stop in Turistvándi was of historical interest: there sits one of Europe’s oldest operative undershot water mills. The group was able to see the mill in operation and learn about its past. Nearly 20 kilometres away, the group gazed into crystal-clear water passing through a new canal in lush surroundings — the fruit of successful water quality improvement efforts carried out within the project.

The final stop was at Sonkád, where the participants were shown a scale model of water-level management infrastructure over a wide area before travelling to a large dam constructed as part of a huge project to rehabilitate the Tisza region called the New Vásárhely Plan (Új Vásárhelyi-terv), Phase I of which was carried out from 2004–2007.