Isola Serafini, reopening of the Po river blue highway

Isola Serafini, reopening of the Po river blue highway


A water corridor of over 100 km for sturgeon, eels, twaite shad and other 48 native species of the Po River: this is the reason why the fish ladder was put into service on March 17, at Enel Green Power’s Isola Serafini plant. A system of intercommunicating basins, arranged as a ladder, will allow migratory fish to pass through the barrier of the large dam near Monticelli d'Ongina (Piacenza), completing their natural reproductive cycle upstream.

The work was co-financed by Enel Green Power together with the European Union, under the Life Nature project CON.FLU.PO. The Lombardy Region played a leading role in this project, along with the Emilia-Romagna Region and other partners such as the Basin Authority for the Po, the Interregional Agency for the Po, the Ticino Park and Graia Lombardo srl (Water fish environmental research management), the Province of Piacenza and Rovigo.


A blue highway

The passage at the Isola Serafini plant was completed after 5 years of works, which finished on time. The fish routes have an extended water network of over 70,000 kilometres, considered among the riverine areas with the greatest biodiversity in Europe. It has 33 sites of Community importance and special protection areas, allowing fish stocks to move up to the big subalpine lakes of Italy and Switzerland.


“The extraordinary collaboration fielded in Isola Serafini launches our hydropower plant not only as Italy’s largest power plant, capable of producing 500 million kilowatt hours of energy per year for almost 300,000 households, but also as a site of natural and touristic interest”

– Giovanni Rocchi, Head of Enel Green Power Emilia Romagna

A plant that is also a laboratory

The passageway in Isola Serafini is also suitable for research on fish migration. In the central part of the complex a monitoring cabin with two large underwater windows was built: it allows to directly observe the species in transit and their direction of displacement, while a camera system records the flows 24 hours a day, identifying them. Over the first 18 days of operation, 1341 passing fish were recorded.

The corridor looks like a large Y, towards which a natural and an artificial river branch convey: it is equipped with two large movable frames, with a metal grid-like structure, through which temporarily the species are caught and the indigenous species are separated from the invasive ones, such as catfish.

In addition, on the surface it is then possible to follow a path that, thanks to a sequence of educational panels, allows to understand the operation of the ladder system and the site’s essential role for maintaining the ecosystem balance of the river basin. Every year the Enel plant cleans up the waters of the Po river removing nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste.

Many institutional authorities attended the opening, including the governor of Lombardy Roberto Maroni, and the mayor of Monticelli d'Ongina Michele Sfriso.


“Isola Serafini can be defined as ​​Lombardy’s outlet to the sea, but most of all it is a positive example of how European funds can be spent adequately and the service of an even larger community. A management and collaboration model that should be exported to other areas”

– Roberto Maroni, Governor of Lombardy Region

Europe’s new frontier

Thanks to the new ladder, the Monticelli d'Ongina hydroelectric plant becomes heritage of the whole of Europe, enhancing the Po river as an area bordering different regions and cultures, as well as a place of exchange and a bulwark to protect the environment. In fact, already in 2010, the plant played a decisive role in protecting the entire Po river basin, blocking nearly 80% of the polluted water from an oil leak occurred in the river Lambro, a tributary of the Po.


“The fish ladder also reminds us that the environment and the local land are assets lent to us all. This is why in the future it will be necessary to work on the safety of the river, the purification of the water, the revival of trade and navigation, bringing the Po back to its glories of the 50s. Once again, Enel's contribution will be essential”

– Michele Sfriso, Mayor of Monticelli d'Ongina

The effects of the environmental rebalancing deriving from the work carried out at the Isola Serafini plant will start becoming visible over the next five years. Meanwhile, all the parties involved have committed to take action against fish poaching, also signing a sustainable fishing memorandum of understanding among regions.

Therefore, the dam is undergoing a transformation that will turn it into a door that gives access to the resources of the area. A new door, opened up thanks to Enel.