Environmental and Hydrologic Systems Science

Project Name: HydroPASSAGE

Project Team: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (lead) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

Lead Recipient Location: Richland, Washington

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In Fiscal Year 2021, the HydroPASSAGE project team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) expanded the use of two toolsets—the Biological Performance Assessment (BioPA) toolset and Hydropower Biological Evaluation Toolset (HBET)—developed to advance hydropower facility design to benefit both fish survival and hydropower operations.

The HydroPASSAGE team produced materials and conducted outreach activities—including best practices documents, instructional videos, and customized workshops—to engage with hydropower facility owners, turbine manufacturers, resource agencies, and other stakeholders that can use the information and toolsets to increase fish survival through turbines and past dams.

The BioPA toolset uses computational models to evaluate the relative impact that passage through a given hydropower turbine can have on a species of fish. This allows users to provide the specifics of a given turbine system and calculate a numerical score of its potential rate of fish injury and mortality. HBET provides similar information, but its findings are based on data collected by field-based sensors that are sent through hydropower facilities to determine the potential injury or mortality of a given species of fish.

A rainbow forms across a waterfall created by a dam.

A new tool can help hydropower developers and operators assess how to protect fish and their bottom line, too. Photo courtesy of Karl Specht, U.S. Department of Energy’s Make a Splash Photo Contest

The HydroPASSAGE team held 20 customized workshops for current and potential users of the tools, quadrupling its goal of five workshops. The team took its work to the international stage, speaking with representatives from not only the United States, but also from Europe, Australia, South America, and Asia. This effort focused on increasing the number of tool users and resulted in a doubling of executed licenses.

Biological response data gathered by PNNL and ORNL researchers and others was integrated into the BioPA toolset and HBET for more than 20 species of fish including adult American eel, juvenile Chinook salmon and juvenile American shad. A comprehensive technical report published in February 2021 summarized information on how these species respond to the physical conditions found within hydropower turbines.

As the HydroPASSAGE project concludes, these resources will remain publicly available to the hydropower community to support their decision making around the design and operation of hydropower facilities by clarifying design requirements, constraints, and methods to evaluate and improve fish passage.

Hydropower Projects