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Providing fish with safe passage as they migrate past dams and into the ocean is central to the mission of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Region, and the iconic salmon is at the heart of these efforts. Biologists and engineers with the region’s Hydropower Division work every day to ensure that salmon and steelhead are able to complete their life cycle, unimpeded by dams and other barriers. And their work helped spawn an innovative fish passage facility that won three national awards.st
NOAA Fisheries contributed to the design of the Selective Water Withdrawal Project at the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project in the Deschutes Basin in Oregon. This facility allows Chinook, sockeye, and steelhead to pass over the dam. NOAA worked closely with Portland General Electric and CH2MHILL, as well as 20 other partners, in designing this state-of-the-art facility. In its first year of operation, the new facility has already had great success in collecting seaward-migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead.
The innovative fish passage design has not gone unnoticed. The American Council of Engineering Companies’ annual Engineering Excellence Awards recognizes engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of innovation, achievement, and value. This year’s recipient of the prestigious award is Portland General Electric and CH2MHILL for their design and installation of the facility. The new facility was recognized with two additional awards—the American General Contractors Aon Build America Award for 2011 and the Edison Electric Institute’s Edison Award in 2010.
Engineering feats that save Northwest fish
With the construction of the Round Butte dam in the early 1960s, young salmon and steelhead could no longer find their way out of the reservoir because of confusing currents, and natural migration to the Pacific Ocean ceased. In 2004, an agreement between the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Round Butte, and 20 other parties including NOAA Fisheries led to the design and installation of a selective water withdrawal and fish collection facility to help restore the fish runs to their natural habitat.
Completed in 2009, the project is designed to modify the surface current direction to help guide migrating fish into the fish collection structure; provide a fish sorting and handling system; keep fish out of the turbines; and ensure the water passing the turbines complies with the state and tribal water standards. The new structure is the only known floating surface fish collection facility of this design and size in the world. It is certified as a source of green power by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute.
The design of the 270-foot-tall structure presented complex construction and installation challenges. One of the greatest challenges was building and assembling all structural elements in and on the water, and then lowering and attaching the equivalent of a six-story building to the face of the existing power intake submerged hundreds of feet below the surface. Nearly all of the underwater work was performed using remotely operated submerged vehicles.
The Selective Water Withdrawal Project was developed in compliance with Round Butte’s 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project was designed and engineered to reintroduce anadromous fish to their historic range in the Deschutes Basin.