Northwest Hydropower News

Study says drawing down Lower Granite Reservoir during summer could help fish

By Eric Barker
Spokesman Review

Drawing down Lower Granite Reservoir during summer heatwaves could be an effective tool to help sockeye salmon and other protected fish by mitigating high water temperatures, according to analysis performed by the Portland-based Fish Passage Center.

But just as it did in a 1992 experiment, a drawdown would also disrupt barge transportation on the lower Snake River, leave some recreational facilities high and dry, and cause some riverside highways and railroad beds to sag and crack.

At the request of the Nez Perce Tribe and the state of Oregon, the center that is funded by Pacific Northwest hydropower ratepayers analyzed the feasibility of lowering the lower Snake River behind Lower Granite Dam from its present elevation of about 733 feet above sea level to as low as 690 feet. Doing so would reduce the surface area exposed to solar radiation, speed the pace of the river and increase the effectiveness of cold water releases from Dworshak Reservoir. Read More

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Study Analyzes Survival Tests for Young Salmon/Steelhead Moving Downriver Through Columbia/Snake Dams

By Staff Reporter
Columbia Basin Bulletin

Results of survival tests for young salmon and steelhead that migrate to the ocean through six Federal Columbia River Power System dams all generally exceeded the survival requirements of NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 FCRPS biological opinion for Columbia River salmon and steelhead, according to a recent study. Read More

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Judge Gives Feds Nearly Five Years to Complete NEPA Process For New Basin Salmon/Steelhead Recovery Plan

By Staff Reporter
Columbia Basin Bulletin

The federal judge presiding over the rewriting of the recovery plan for thirteen species of Columbia River salmon and steelhead says a thorough National Environmental Policy Act review is more important than the shortened remand schedule proposed by the litigation’s plaintiffs. Read More

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Lawsuit targets dam operators over impacts to bull trout

By Kate Prengaman
Yakima Herald

Dam operators across the Columbia River Basin are not doing enough to protect endangered bull trout, according to allegations in a federal lawsuit filed this week.

Two Bureau of Reclamation facilities on the Yakima River are mentioned in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court by the Montana-based environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies.  Read More

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EWEB sells Smith Creek dam for $22.1 million to pay down debt

By Christian Hill
Eugene Register Guard

The Eugene Water & Electric Board has sold its hydro­electric project in Idaho and will use the money from the sale to pay down debt, but it must continue buying power from the dam’s new owner at below-market rates for the next three years. Read more

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Group sues to force pollution disclosure at Grand Coulee Dam

By Phuong Le, Associated Press
Spokesman Review

An environmental group sued the federal agency that operates the nation’s largest hydropower producer Wednesday, saying operations at the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington are polluting the Columbia River in violation of federal clean water laws.

The nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper says the Bureau of Reclamation should get a pollution permit and be required to disclose as well as reduce the amount of oil, greases and other pollutants the dam in Eastern Washington sends into local waters. Read More

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FWEE Hydropower STEM Academy connects students to careers

The Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) launched the first FWEE Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam in Wenatchee the week of June 20—24.

Students explored the physics of producing and distributing hydropower while meeting and doing hands-on activities with mechanical and electrical engineers, plant mechanics and operators, divers, and linemen. As the week unfolded, professionals and educators gave insights into career options and educational pathways to connect them with these careers.

“It’s part of a ‘grow your own’ strategy,” said Andy Dunau, Executive Director of FWEE. Nationally, one-third of utility employees will retire in the next 10 years.

Particularly in rural areas, finding qualified engineers and others with math, science and technology skills is a huge challenge. Utilities find that people who grow up in the area are much more likely to not only apply for these type of jobs, but stay. Said Dunau, “We’re talking very good paying jobs that allow you to stay in the community.”

As with any “first,” there was much trepidation as the week with 16 students. But as hands-on STEM activities were combined with tours and career talks and academic counseling, the students became lit up. By graduation, they were a buzz.

Said one student, “I am interested in electrical engineering because this academy helped me see a path. The apprenticeship and other information was insanely helpful. I really have an understanding that I didn’t know existed.”

FWEE intends to offer the Academy next year as well.

Read the Wenatchee World article here

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Lights go on for student problem solvers

By Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

Bayley Babcock, 15, Wenatchee, left, celebrates with Zachary Vidrine, 16, Moses Lake, after successfully closing a wire circuit that had been frustrating them while they constructed an electric generator Friday. They were taking part in a hydroelectric power academy class at Rocky Reach Dam last week.

Bayley Babcock, 15, Wenatchee, left, celebrates with Zachary Vidrine, 16, Moses Lake, after successfully closing a wire circuit that had been frustrating them while they constructed an electric generator Friday. They were taking part in a hydroelectric power academy class at Rocky Reach Dam last week. (World photo/Don Seabrook)

WENATCHEE — How do you generate electricity with a transparent container, eight plastic spoons, four coils of copper wire, four coin-like magnets, a blank CD, a handful of other plastic doodads — and tap water?

Sixteen high school students from around the region did their best to figure that out Friday — with varying degrees of success — during the first-ever Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam.

With help from instructors Clyde Carpenter and Jack Horne, the students got their units’ tiny lights to illuminate when tap water put their improvised rotors and stators to work.

But not without considerable, mostly relevant banter among themselves.

“You’re doing it wrong, dude!”

“Don’t burn yourself!”

“It’s contin-U-ity”

“I said contin-U-ity”

“You said contin-DU-ity”

“That’s because you’re deaf.”

“It’s been really fun to see the kids think this stuff through,” said Andy Dunau, executive director of the Spokane-based Foundation for Water & Energy Education (FWEE). He observed the furrowed young brows, as the students worked to assemble their complex turbine/generator units.

The dam’s own units were spinning and generating electricity in much the same way on the nearby powerhouse floor under the watchful eyes of the Chelan County PUD’s professional engineers, electricians and operators.

That was the whole idea of last week’s academy — to give science, technology, engineering and math-minded students (STEM) a hands-on look at how hydropower works and hear from the professionals, themselves, about the variety of career opportunities available at a public utility.

“For these kids, it’s about making connections they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to make,” Dunau said. “They can see careers they didn’t even know existed.”

Organizers for both FWEE and the PUD distributed application packets to high schools all over Chelan County.

Details and application instructions were also posted on the FWEE website, which yielded student applicants from Moses Lake and two from Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

A week’s course work culminated Friday with their generating unit project. The students earned one college credit good at Wenatchee Valley College and potentially other colleges elsewhere, organizers said.

The academy wasn’t “FWEE,” as the acronym implies. It actually cost $175 per student. But scholarships made it open to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

“The cost was just to make sure the commitment was there,” Dunau said. “There is no kid who wants to be here who can’t be here.”

Based on the success of this year’s first academy, organizers have already decided to make it an annual event, he said. The students seemed to enjoy it.

“I thought it would be interesting to see all the career paths and look at what I’d like to do in the future,” said Zachary Vidrine, 16, of Moses Lake, while he and his teammate Bayley Babcock, 15, of Wenatchee adjusted the wiring of their generating unit.

“Engineering, science and math are strengths of mine,” added Babcock.

Alas, only one of the 16 students was female — 16-year-old Katie Keane of East Wenatchee.

“In male-dominated industries, girls get scared to challenge the social norm for what an engineer should be,” she said, adding that growing up in a house with a single mom gave her the courage to not be afraid.

She and her partner Isaac Janney, 16, of East Wenatchee, were the second-fastest team to get their generator unit working with water power.

Jaxon Ayling, 15, of Chelan, and Tyson Seidensticker, 15 of Cashmere, were the first.

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Chelan PUD to Modernize Original Units at Rock Island Dam

By Kimberlee Craig

Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday, decided to invest about $60 million to modernize the four original generating units at Rock Island Dam. The decision came after the board reviewed the results of intensive staff analysis and concluded the project meets the strategic objective of investing in long-term assets that provide value to customer-owners.

The benefits would include reliable operation of the units for another 50 years; an expected 12-percent rate of return; and more flexibility in hydro operations, said Brett Bickford, Engineering and Project Management director. The project also has environmental and fish protection benefits and aligns with PUD values of safety, stewardship, trustworthiness and operational excellence, Bickford said.  Read more

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Waterpower Hydro Basics Course lights up new hires

HydroCourseWhat better place for new hires and experienced professionals moving into the hydropower industry to learn “the business” than at the world’s largest hydro conference?

The Waterpower Hydro Basics Course is taking place July 25 – 26 at the HydroVision Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The full conference is July 26-29 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Click here for detailed course information and registration.

This intensive, highly practical course is designed specifically for people new to hydro to quickly gain the industry background they need, and to help persons with limited hydro experience expand their knowledge.

Taught by industry experts from hydropower producers across the country, course work immerses participants in all aspects of the industry. For instance, the physics of waterpower, the basics of electricity and distribution, plant operations, environmental stewardship, navigating the regulatory environment, and communicating hydro’s value.

Randy Stearnes, FWEE’s Board President and Tacoma Public Utilities Community Relations Officer, has been a Hydro Basics Course instructor for several years. “The Hydro Basics lesson plans can help a person new to the hydro industry better understand the work done for the generation of electricity and the successful management of fish, wildlife and recreational resources,” he said.

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