Underwater Pipes could Guide
by Associated Press
ASTORIA, Ore. -- A new system designed to steer migrating salmon past hydroelectric dams has undergone a successful test that sent about 50,000 baby coho salmon from one net pen to another.
The bypass was designed by Missoula, Mont., contractor and self-described amateur naturalist Gordon Burns.
It includes and underwater pumping system above a dam that creates a flow of water to carry young fish away from the structure and into a man-made river channel carved around the dam.
Burns says his system of underwater pipes is more efficient and safer than other methods used to steer baby salmon past dams -- including fish ladders, water spills and transport on trucks and barges.
Burns came up with the idea after watching small fish swimming around an intake pipe at a gold-mining operation, he said.
His proposal has caught the eye of federal agencies, including the Northwest Power Planning council and Army Corps of Engineers, which are conducting reviews for possible funding from the Bonneville Power Administration.
The test at a Clatsop County fishery was run to determine whether the fish would be drawn into the pipe, and how the trip would affect them. It's crucial question for the power council's independent scientific review panel, which is studying Burns' system.
"The concept is not to suck the fish through, but create a current they will guide on," Burns' said.
During the test, the fish were able to swim near the end of the 6-inch wide pipe without being drawn in. Most of the fingerlings appeared to make it through without harm.
The fish will be monitored for a month to see if they show excessive mortality or any other ill effects from the pipe transport. In the spring, Burns will return and run the same test using bigger spring chinook smelts, which will be closer to the size of migrating juvenile fish.
The system has the potential for creating not only a form of passage past the dams less harmful to the fish, but one that would require far less water than is used in traditional dam spills, perhaps as little as 4 percent, Burns said.
With that amount of water saved, a 10,000-foot-long bypass "river" could pay for itself in less than two years, he said.
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