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Corps uses simulations to design salmon passage improvements

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has used simulation modeling of hydropower system configuration and operations to identify the most promising options for improving survival rates for juvenile salmonids migrating out of the Snake River.

The Major System Improvements Analysis (MSIA) model was developed for this particular simulation modeling application by Battelle-Pacific Northwest Division in Richland, Wash., and its subcontractor, Decision Support in Richland. The model uses OptQuest optimization software from Decisioneering Inc. in Denver, Colo., to simulate many combinations of options and to identify the best performers.

Downstream-migrating juvenile salmonids encounter eight hydro projects on the Snake and Lower Columbia rivers. Five of these are under the direction of the Walla Walla District of the Corps. Four of these five feature the capability to transport, by barge or truck, fish collected in their juvenile bypass systems.

"Fisheries managers must identify ways to operate and configure the dams and fish transportation systems to meet or exceed the survival rates set forth in the Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2000," says Kenneth D. Ham, senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is operated by Battelle. "The challenge was to determine whether a candidate operation or construction option provided the expected survival benefits when the operations and configurations of the entire system were considered," he says. For example, transportation alternatives at upstream dams have a potential to influence the number of fish exposed to alternatives implemented at downstream dams.

The potential project construction and operational design features for enhancing fish survival that were available for evaluation using MSIA included divider walls, spillway improvements, new outfall locations, turbine improvements, new or modified fish facilities, extended screens, and new barges. The model was designed to screen various combinations of these features and to identify the subset that met minimum survival criteria. In fact, the possible combinations of construction items at the five projects number in the tens of millions. "When combined with the 18,000 operational combinations and considering species and route flows, the total number of possible combinations expands to many trillions," Ham says.

Acceptable combinations exhibited a range of survival values, construction costs, and power revenues. Overall, only several hundred combinations met the minimum survival criteria. From these sets of acceptable performers, top performers were identified that had the highest survival performance for each level of revenue. "All combinations selected as top performers provided higher survivals and greater net revenue than the operations specified in the Biological Opinion," Ham says.

This simulation modeling approach provided a set of cost-effective combinations from which a mix of survival benefits, construction costs, and power revenues could be chosen to meet stewardship goals.

Research could yield new type of flow sensor

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying how a method that cavefish use to sense motion can be adapted to develop new flow sensors.

Cavefish (Astyanax fasciatus) are blind and sense their environment and the movement of water around them using gel-covered hairs that extend from their bodies, says Vladimir Tsukruk, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. Researchers at the university are developing engineered sensors that mimic these hairs. The sensors could have a variety of underwater applications.

"These hair cells are like well-engineered mechanical sensors in which the deflection of the jelly-encapsulated hair cell measures important flow information," Tsukruk says.

The researchers are studying a simple artificial hair cell microsensor made of SU-8, a common epoxy-based polymer. The cell is covered with a gel-like capsule called a cupula.

The researchers have fabricated an array of eight microsensors and shown that the array is able to detect an oscillating object underwater. Researchers are seeking partners to scale up the work by fabricating arrays of thousands of sensors and testing them in marine environments.

– For more, contact Vladimir Tsukruk, E-mail: vladimir@mse.gatech.edu.

NMFS to study salmon survival on Penobscot River

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) plans to conduct research survival estimates for Atlantic salmon at 15 hydro projects on the Penobscot River in Maine.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Eastern Region Acquisition Division will hire a contractor on behalf of NMFS' Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole. NMFS seeks to develop desktop survival estimates for Atlantic salmon smolts and kelts at the 15 dams.

Federal, state, utility, tribal, and environmental officials approved the Penobscot River Restoration Project in 2004 to open more than 500 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon and other native species. Part of the settlement agreement allowed four of the Penobscot projects to increase generation in exchange for removal of three others.

NMFS seeks compilation of existing information needed to develop numerical distributions of salmon smolt and kelt survival at hydro projects based on site-specific operations (such as number and types of turbines, head, wicket gate settings, etc.), station capacity and flow duration data, downstream fishways and their effectiveness, and Atlantic salmon life history factors (such as size and migration timing).

The project will not require collection of new data but will require close coordination with numerous hydroelectric project owners and natural resource agencies.

NMFS said it expects significant changes in operation at up to five of the 15 hydro projects.

For more information, contact Brendon Johnson, (1) 757-441-3344; E-mail: brendon.johnson@noaa.gov.

EPRI elects Howard president and chief executive officer

The board of directors of EPRI elected Michael Howard president and chief executive officer (CEO), effective September 2010.

Howard was senior vice president of research and development for EPRI. In this position, he oversaw annual research spending in excess of $350 million and was responsible for overseeing EPRI's entire research portfolio, including renewable, fossil, and nuclear generation; transmission and distribution; energy efficiency; electric transportation; and the environment.

Previously, Howard was president and CEO of EPRI Solutions Inc. Before joining EPRI, he was president of the Tennessee Center for Research and Development and Beta Development Corp.

EPRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery, and use of electricity.


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