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Hydropower in the Columbia River: History of Fish Passage Development and Implications for the Mekong River

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Hydropower development in the Columbia River Basin is an example of the challenges associated with trying to balance economic development and protection of native fish populations in a large river system. While the importance of providing fish passage at dams was recognized early on, the success of fish passage has been mixed. In addition, while common to focus on upstream passage, downstream passage is equally important and often more difficult to achieve. Many modifications to structures and operations have been implemented to improve fish passage success and survival. At just the Federal Columbia/Snake River hydropower projects, about US$700 million dollars are spent annually on fish and wildlife mitigation measures. The costs of implementing fish passage in the Columbia/Snake River system is widely known; however, the ongoing evaluations and flexibility to changes in structures and operations are not well known, yet are the means by which fish passage has improved over the years. The Columbia/Snake River system is an example of the ongoing effort required to maintain sustainable hydropower. A similar level of effort, and flexibility in structural and operational changes, will be needed in the Mekong River if sustainable hydropower is desired.

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Hydropower in the Columbia River: History of Fish Passage Development and Implications for the Mekong River

  1. 1. David Hand, US Fish and Wildlife Service John Beeman, US Geological Survey
  2. 2.  Overview of Columbia River  Timeline of dam construction+fish passage  Highlight major themes  Implications for the Mekong
  3. 3. Length : 2,000 km. Source: Columbia Lake, British Columbia Drainage area: - 67 million hectares - Larger than France, Belgium, & Netherlands combined - 7,500 cms daily mean flow - 219 major dams: … 176 in U.S. … 43 in Canada Columbia River
  4. 4. Columbia Mekong Catchment (km2) 670,000 795,500 Length (km) 2,000 4,900 Mean discharge (m3s-1) 7,500 14,500 Number of fish species ~100 800-1,100 Mainstem Dams (existing or planned) 15 19 Tributary Dams (existing or planned) >250 ~200 Adapted from Ferguson et al 2011 and D. Wills USFWS 4
  5. 5. 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Mainstem Dam Construction Begins -Rock Island -Bonneville -Grand Coulee 6
  6. 6. 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 -McNary -Chief Joseph -The Dalles -Brownlee 7
  7. 7. 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 -Rocky Reach -Priest Rapids -Wanapum -Wells -Oxbow -Ice Harbor -Hells Canyon -Lower Monumental 8
  8. 8. 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 -John Day -Little Goose -Lower Granite 9
  9. 9.  Downstream passage through turbines  Upstream passage through fish ladders USACE Bonneville ladder,ODOT
  10. 10.  Downstream  Spill  Surface weirs  Flow Augmentation  Juvenile Bypass  Transportation  Turbine redesign  Upstream  Lamprey Passage Systems  Spill Patterns
  11. 11.  Fish Conservation=Power Generation  Government/Legal Driven  Treaties, NW Power Act, Endangered Species  Broad goals measurable objectives  Basing decision on SCIENCE CRITFC Lamprey counts Granite Dam
  12. 12.  Initial salmonid focus 13
  13. 13.  Initial salmonid focus  Salmon passage non-salmon passage 14 NOAA 14
  14. 14. Assess Problem Design Implement Monitor Evaluate Adjust  Test passage designs  Rigorous monitoring  Flexibility 15
  15. 15.  80+ years of work  Complex  Long-term monitoring  Financial  $US 500 Million annually  $US 3.3 Billion 1982-2001  Forgone power generation Spill at Bonneville Dam, USACE USGS 16
  16. 16. Columbia Mekong Political Will Strong Measurable Objectives Developing Broad Goals Ecosystem Approach 100 species >1,000 species Little known Adaptive Management Monitoring Flexible Limited monitoring Inflexible Long Term Commitment 80+ years Costly Unknown Limited $ 17

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