PORTLAND GENERAL ELECTRIC IS proposing to spend about US$10M to improve fish passage at Willamette Falls and its nearby Sullivan hydro power plant in Oregon, US.
The investment is proposed to make the 15.4MW plant and the falls less lethal to salmon, steelhead trout and other fish. After six years of study and negotiating, the utility recently reached an agreement with state and federal fish and environmental agencies, three Native American tribes and groups interested in fish protection.
The proposed agreement which came as a part of relicensing conditions agreed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The existing license for the project expires on 31 December, and the proposed new license would be valid for 30 years.
The plant diverts some of the Willamette river flow down a tunnel and through turbines to generate power. But for many decades, large numbers of young fish bound for the Pacific Ocean were swept into turbine blades and killed each spring.
Screening fish away from turbines and other improvements since the 1970s has increased the survival rate through Sullivan to about 94%, which is comparable to some of the other Northwest dams. With the proposed improvements, PGE expects 98% or more of downstream migrating fish to safely pass through.