Evaluating Innovative Swim-Thru Fishway Valve Lock System for Medium Head Applications
Can we find and evaluate an effective and cost-effective upstream passage fishway for a mid-height head dam?
The purpose of this research project is to evaluate the potential effectiveness of a new system of fish passage up and over mid-height head dams. Specifically, the proposal is to test a new patented fish passage system using a system of two sequenced slow opening and closing valves used similar to a fish lock but on smaller scale in the tailwater to attract fish into the fishway and then direct them up a discharge line to the dam forebay.
At present, the only other alternatives used for this purpose are the trap and haul and a trap and elevator or Borland Fish lock systems, and these have proved to require a lot of operation and are very expensive. This patented Swim-Thru Fishway system promises to be a very cost-effective alternative and, if proven successful, could be used to provide fish passage at a number of Reclamation higher head dams where fish passage presently is not considered feasible.
Need and Benefit
Reclamation has a real need for the above proposed research product in that Reclamation wide we do not have a product of similar capability or cost effectiveness to permit fish to pass over medium and high head dams where presently we have few provisions for upstream fish passage. If we did not have this need to provide fish passage at these structures, we would not be testing prototypes such as the above.
In 2004 and 2005, Reclamation tested an earlier lower head Swim-Thru Rotary Devise Fishway with mixed results because of operational problems, and this was tested in field test operation. However, when installed in the field, a couple dozen adult salmon successfully passed upstream during the first test. We had suggested to the inventors that their original concept of using valves as a lock was sound and more applicable to our particular needs, which could not be met with other existing types of fish passage short of the trap and haul or fish elevator method. Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) funded much of the previous testing because they saw merit and potential beneficial applications for the product if successful. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries were advocates and technical reviewers of the last prototype test and, while favorable of the principal, were concerned with the revolving door catching fish, which it did in one instance. The new model does not have this potential.
The principal inventors have gone back to their patented original design concept. They are seeking funding to test the revisions to the original design at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in Alsea, Oregon. That recognized facility, in conjunction with Oregon State University, has the ability to provide adult hatchery steelhead in a controlled setting for a real time test of the Swim-Thru system. On completion of the evaluation, this prototype would become the property of Reclamation, which we could install on any dam we wished. Without this research project, implementation of this type of fishway is likely to take much longer, if it would occur at all, because of the lack of financial resources of the innovators.
The following documents were not reviewed. Statements made in these documents are those of the authors. The findings have not been verified.
OHRC Testing of Swim-Thru Fishway (final, PDF,
By Mr. Ryan Couture
Report completed on April 16, 2012
This information was last updated on February 1, 2015
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