Northwest Hydropower News Archives 2010 & Older

Return to Previous Page$11M effort to make fish-safe turbine

By Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce

The US Army Corps of Engineers recently awarded an $11 million contract to Voith Hydro of York, PA for work at Ice Harbor Lock and dam on the Snake River near Burbank.

Voith will develop the first of a new generation of hydroelectric turbines for the federal Columia River Power System to provide safe passage for fish.

The contract was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and calls for design and manufacture of a new runner — the part of a turbine that rotates in water to generate power — for an aging hydroelectric turbine.

The contract requires multiple design cycles using computer modeling and physical model testing to examine water flow and pressures. Biological and engineering experts will collabo­rate in the process.

A press release for BPA says the collaboration is unique because it makes improving fish passage a primary goal, ahead of power and efficiency gains. Witt Anderson, director of programs for the Corps’ Northwestern Division, said the mission includes environmental stewardship of natural resources.

“We want to take advantage of technology that wasn’t around when, the dams were constructed and design the most advanced runner available to help improve fish passage in the region.”

The Turbine Unit Number 2 runner at Ice harbor has experienced numerous mechanical problems during its 30 years of operation.

The need to replace it created an opportunity for the Corps and BPA to pursue a new design that could also serve as an example of best practices for other dams.

The Corps and BPA crafted this contract as a model to demonstrate a science-based runner design and development process for other aging turbines. Development and post-installation testing are expected to improve understanding of fish passage, with potential application to other hydropower sites.

Mark Jones, BPA’s manager of federal hydro projects, said the project will take more work on the front end but will pave the way for upgrades
at dams in the system.

The turbine components are slated for operation in 2015 and will help meet goals of the 2008 biological opinion that protects salmon and steel-head listed as threatenedor endangered.

For more information, see the ‘Fish Passage’ tab at

Daily Journal of Commerce
Seattle, WA
March 30, 2010

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