Improving Hydroturbine Pressures to Enhance Salmon Passage Survival and Recovery

Publication Date



hydroturbine, turbine passage, turbine design, salmon, survival, barotrauma

Journal or Book Title

Reviews in FIsh Biology and Fisheries


Submitted for special issue. Article published online, but not yet assigned to an issue as of 15 June 2014.


Barotrauma caused by rapid decompression during hydroturbine (turbine) passage may occur as fish move through the low pressure region below the turbine runner. This scenario is of particular concern in North American rivers with populations of ESA-listed salmon. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory released Sensor Fish into lower Snake and Columbia River turbines to determine the magnitude and rate of pressure change fish might experience. Recorded pressures were applied to simulated turbine passage (STP) in laboratory studies to determine the effect of rapid decompression on juvenile Chinook salmon. These STP studies have increased our understanding of how pressure effects fish passing through turbines and suggest that the ratio of pressure change (acclimation pressure [the depth upstream of the dam where fish are neutrally buoyant] divided by nadir pressure [lowest pressure]) is highly predictive in determining the effect on smolt survival. However, uncertainty remains in smolt acclimation depth prior to entering turbine intakes at hydroelectric facilities. The USACE continues to make progress on salmon survival and recovery efforts through continued research and by applying pressure study results to turbine design. Designing new turbines with higher nadir pressure criteria is likely to provide safer fish passage for all salmonid species experiencing turbine passage.


DOI 10.1007/s11160-013-9340-8

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