by ERN 
European Rivers Network
Plan Loire Grandeur Nature


  • Introduction (very important) 1994 by Loire Vivante (english)
  • Map 1994 by Loire Vivante (english)
  • The 4 parts of the Plan Loire Grandeur Nature 1994 , by Loire Vivante/ERN (english)

  • Plan Loire (DREAL Centre)  

  • Plan Loire Phase 2 de 2000-2006 (site officiel)
    and thee document du CIADT du 23.7.99 (format pdf)

  • Plan Loire Phase 3 de 2007 - 2013
    - the officiel Website
    - the project convention (pdf)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

    NB : this presentation of the « Plan Loire Grandeur Nature » has been compiled by European Rivers Network from documents of the French Ministry of the Environment dating back to 1994, when the Plan Loire was announced. It explains the goals and means of the Plan Loire as it was launched in 1994 and does not represent the opinions of ERN concerning the management of the Loire. The words to click will take you to pages under construction where ERN gives the position of the environmentalists and indicates how far the goals have been fulfilled. 

    On January 4th, 1994, Michel Barnier, Minister of the Environment, announced a long-term management plan for the Loire river and its watershed, which was called « Plan Loire Grandeur Nature ». Plan Loire is an attempt to reconcile local and regional dependence on riverine resources with the river’s importance to France as a national treasure. It represents the first governmental effort to devise and implement a river management strategy which considers a basin of this magnitude in its entirety and over the long term. The goals are to mitigate the impacts of centuries of habitation and resource development without disrupting the river’s economic contribution to France’s economy, to protect and preserve the native character of the watershed for future generations, and to provide and maintain flood control for the security of the Loire valley’s residents, while allowing the natural hydrologic cycles necessary for a healthy living river. 

    This program stems from a wide debate over the management of the Loire which began in 1986. That year, the EPALA (a body of local basinwide authorities aiming at managing the Loire and its tributaries) signed with the government and the Loire-Bretagne Water Agency an agreement aiming at building 4 new dams: Serre de la Fare on the Upper Loire, Chambonchard on the Cher river, Naussac II and Le Veurdre on the Allier river, as well as several hundreds of kilometers of new dikes. 

    A few months later, the Loire Vivante committee - supported by WWF-France (World Wide Fund for Nature) - was created to oppose this program. This network comprises several NGOs local on the Loire basin. With the creation of SOS Loire Vivante in 1988, which occupied the Serre de la Fare dam site as of 1989, the campaign for a « living Loire » took an unprecedented turn in France and drew attention from national and international media on the management of the « last wild river in Europe ».

     A first governmental decision was taken in 1991 by the socialist government of Prime Minister Cresson. It announced the cancellation of Serre de la Fare and Chambonchard, the postponement of Le Veurdre and the construction of Naussac II. But it did not end the debate as it did not clearly propose alternative solutions to dams - notably for Serre de la Fare. With the change of government in 1993, the debate was revived until the Plan Loire was decided early in 1994.


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    The Plan Loire Grandeur Nature 1994 consists in 4 parts :

  • Actors - A global program for the Loire 
  • Man - Ensuring security of the Loire valley’s residents in case of floods
  • Water - Responding to the needs for water supply on the Loire basin
  • Nature - Protecting and restoring the river’s biodiversity 

    The actors - A global program for the Loire

    The Loire river is France’s largest river, draining a fifth of the country. Its 685 miles, flowing through 6 regions and 11 « départements » (French equivalent to countries), support agriculture, river navigation, fisheries and hydro and nuclear electrical generation. The river, its tributaries and associated habitats and wildlife constitute a natural ecosystem exceptional in Europe. 

    1. A global program for the Loire
    Thus, its management is essential to the nation and the valley’s residents and the main objective is to reconcile the valley’s residents with the river and its culture. 

    The Plan Loire is integrated into the state’s effort to devise a blueprint for managing and developing the Loire basin’s water resources (Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux - SDAGE). This SDAGE is elaborated by the Loire-Bretagne Basin Committee formed by local authorities, representatives of the industry, governmental agencies and environmental organizations. 

    2. Partnership with the authorities in charge of the basin
    The government will associate the Basin Committee to the Plan Loire by creating a Loire commission representing the different partners. The governement will see to the execution of the Plan Loire through an interministerial mission for the Loire. The State proposes to the EPALA (Public Agency in Charge of the Management of the Loire) to be associated to the Plan Loire. 

    Man - Ensuring security of the Loire valley’s residents in case of floods

    The security of the Loire valley’s residents is a priority of the Plan Loire. Increased settlement in the floodplains has created unacceptable risks, made worse by poor riverine management practices. Bad upkeep of the riverbed has increased these risks.

     1. Identifying the risks
    Education of local populations will include the publication of maps which show high-risk areas, along with flood protection advices and evacuation plans. 

    2. Controlling urbanization
    Further expansion of human habitation in the floodplains will be strictly supervised and will be forbidden in the most dangerous areas. 

    3. Strengthening the flood alarm system on the upper basins
    The Upper Loire experiences occasional, highly localized storms with extremely heavy rainfalls due to the influence of the Mediterranean climate.The powerful runoff that results from these rains presents a very great threat to Haute-Loire populations. 

    Plan Loire will implement an improved flood alarm system that will provide a 4 hours notice of impending high flows (instead of 2 hours previously). At the same time, local authorities will reinforce measures to evacuate people threatened by an impending flood. 

    4. Implementing alternative solutions to damming on the Upper Loire
    The government confirms the cancellation of the Serre de la Fare dam on the Upper Loire Valley. In order to insure protection against flooding, the Brives-Charensac town will undergo works meant to ease the passage of the flood within the town : the buildings of factories built in the Loire riverbed will be torn down. 

    5. Implementing specific measures for the Middle Loire
    Flows on the middle Loire have, for the most part, been stemmed. But diking there, as was learned on the Mississipi, can fail. A maintenance and restoration program is planned for the next 10 years to investigate and address weaknesses in the system. Pending completion of those studies, the government will postpone the decision on constructing the Le Veurdre dam until the end of 1998. 

    Water - Responding to the needs for water supply on the Loire basin

    Low summer flows in the Loire and its tributaries allow higher concentrations of existing pollutants and constitute a threat to water supplies as well as to industrial and agricultural activities. Efforts have been made to protect water quality, including rationing and restricting discharges into the river. But more steps are necessary. 

    1. Water supply on the upper valleys of the Allier and Cher rivers
    The government approves of the construction of the Naussac 2 dam on the upper Allier, the largest tributary of the Loire, to divert water into the Naussac 1 dam. 

    The government approves of the construction of the Chambonchard dam on the Upper Cher river. A 50 million m3 volume is judged sufficient to complete its primary goals : irrigation and sustaining low summer levels. In case local authorities would want to develop recreational activities around the reservoir, it is allowed that the reservoir would be 70/80 million m3. However, local authorities will have to finance the cost surplus. 

    2. Measures against riverbed sinking
    On the middle Loire, downstream from its confluence with the Allier river, the riverbed has dramatically sunk in the last 20 years, due to channelization and aggregate mining in the floodplain. This threatens water supply in riverine cities. Regulations are proposed on dredging in the river channels, and on the Lower Loire, the Plan Loire calls for a halt to aggregate mining in the floodplain. 

    Navigation between Bec de Vienne and Bouchemaine (Lower Loire) will no longer be allowed. Below Bouchemaine to the estuary, river level adequate for navigation will be maintained, and shipping will continue for 5 years, at which time it will be reevaluated. 

    Nature - Protecting and restoring the river’s biodiversity 

    The Loire is among a handful of European rivers that retain some naturally functioning aquatic environments.
    1. A program to protect migrating fish
    The Plan Loire intends to protect these fish by improving water quality, fighting eutrophication and implementing a flow management strategy mimicking the variable flows essential to riparian renewal and the survival of migratory fish. For the first time ever in France, two dams are proposed for removal, the Maisons-Rouges dam on the Vienne river and the Saint-Etienne du Vigan dam on the Upper Allier. Other measures will be launched to improve fish ladders on other obstacles to salmon migration. For dams scheduled for relicensing, flow regimes will be examined to insure the passage of fish.

     2. The estuary
    Plan Loire recognizes the essential role of the river estuary and delta in the health of the Loire and its watershed. During the past century, natural estuarine functions have suffered as a result of human, industrial and maritime activities. This degradation - particularly pollutants, salt water intrusion of the delta, and a reduction of wetlands and inter-tidal zones - now threatens water supply of surrounding communities, agriculture and industry, as well as nurseries for aquatic life and habitat for migratory birds. The Loire estuary provides habitat for 25 percent of the Gulf of Biscay’s juvenile fish. 

    Still, much of the estuary’s natural heritage remains - it is even of a remarkable value on a European level. The French government expresses its commitment to its protection. The goal is to reconcile economic development and protection of the environment. 

    To achieve these goals, the following measures will be implemented : 
    - the government proposes a preservation and management plan for the estuary of the Loire. 

    - the government’s action aims at protecting coherently the integrity of wetlands and at establishing special management zones for bird and wildlife habitat. 

    - specific care will be taken with managing river outflows to preserve inter-tidal zones.

    - the government confirms the decision to expand the Nantes-Saint-Nazaire Autonomous Harbor into the areas of Donges-Est and Le Carnet. In exchange, the harbor will donate approximately 1,500 hectares located within the « greenbelt », an ecologically rich area between the Brière wetlands and the Grandlieu Lake. These areas will be restored to functioning wetlands and natural areas. The harbor will be asked to help with the restoration and upkeep. 

    3. A program to restore natural areas
    A program to restore natural areas will be launched and financed by the State together with the Water Agency, the Superior Fishing Council, the EPALA and local authorities. The financial participation of the European Community will be asked by means of the LIFE program. 

    4. Protection of natural areas and landscapes
    The Middle Loire is a richly diverse setting of river meanders, meadows, islands, castles, villages... But even this exceptional natural landscape has been strongly impacted in the past 30 years of urbanization. The government wants to implement a policy aiming at protecting and developing these areas, with the following goals : 

    - developing a coherent network of nature reserves at the level of the watershed

    - protecting and extending riverine meadows by forwarding traditional extensive grazing habits and implementing agri-environmental measures.

    - the government decides to ask for the classification of a significant part of the Val de Loire on the list of world heritage ares managed by UNESCO.


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