U.S. utility assembles new fish passage for 170-MW Baker River

Puget Sound Energy announced July 18 it is making progress on the $40 million reconstruction of a floating surface collector for passing juvenile sockeye salmon at its 170.03-MW Baker River hydroelectric project in northwest Washington.

While work on the new floating surface collector actually began last winter, the utility said new components of the system only recently became visible on the lake behind the project’s Upper Baker Dam. Puget expects the new barge-mounted floating surface collector will be placed in service in 2008. Testing is planned for spring 2008 during the out-migration season.

Puget said its old fish-transport system behind 312-foot-tall Upper Baker Dam was successful in attracting and capturing juvenile salmon for release into the Skagit River for migration to the sea. However, some of the old system’s equipment dated to the 1950s, and the aging fish-transport system was reaching the end of its functional life, Puget said.

The new fish-transport system is four times the size of the old collector, the utility said. It is being equipped with a series of submerged screens, water pumps, fish-holding chambers, a fish-evaluation station, equipment control rooms, and a fish-loading facility.

The new collector’s four primary water pumps will quadruple the old pumps’ speed of simulated �river current� in Baker Lake, providing a stronger attraction for young fish. Inside the collector, screens will slow the water to prevent fish injury as pumped water is returned to the lake.

Fisheries agencies expect the new system will capture 90 to 95 percent of Baker Lake’s juvenile salmon. The new collector will operate in tandem with a deep-reservoir guide-net system that prevents young fish from entering project turbines.

Puget elected to build the new floating surface collector in advance of receiving a new hydropower license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, anticipated later this year. The cost of the new floating surface collector is in addition to the $110 million in other fish enhancement projects agreed to in a 2004 settlement that is proposed for inclusion in the relicense order.

Puget has operated the Baker River project (No. 2150) under a temporary annual license since its original 50-year license expired in April 2006. FERC staff issued a final environmental impact statement in September 2006 for relicensing of the project and endorsed Puget’s proposal to add 30 MW of capacity. (HNN 9/19/06)

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