We heard about the “Cooling Tower” that PGE had added to Pelton Damn, but to be honest did not know all of the details surrounding it. A one of a kind project, that basically has just begun, and we will not know for sometime the effect this Tower will have on the Deschutes Fishery. But for right now it looks incredible.
The underwater tower draws water off the surface of Lake Billy Chinook, restoring currents disturbed when the dam was built in the 1960s, and allowing migrating fish to find their way to a collection facility where they can be transported downstream of the Pelton Round Butte hydro project, to complete their journey to the sea. It will also allow project operators to mix warmer surface water with cooler water from the bottom of the reservoir to improve conditions for fish in the lower Deschutes River.
It seems the first of the two goals of the project have already started to work. The First Goal was to provide surface currents within the fore bay of Round Butte Dam that will help attract migrating summer steelhead, spring chinook, and kokanee/sockeye smolts.
We have now captured over 100,000 fish at the new downstream fish facility at Round Butte Dam. The numbers of salmon smolts (juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean) entering the new fish facilities increased dramatically during March and April, with several days when more than 7,000 salmon and steelhead were caught. The fish passage crew worked overtime to get them sorted, marked, transported to the lower Deschutes River and released safely to continue their journey to the Pacific.
As of the first week in June, more than 30,000 yearling spring Chinook salmon, 5,000 steelhead and 47,000 yearling kokanee/sockeye salmon have been passed downstream. Another 25,000 older kokanee, bull trout, brown trout and assorted other species have been released back into Lake Billy Chinook. We expected numbers to decline more as May ended, but we are still passing more than a thousand smolts per day, mostly spring Chinook and steelhead.
The Second Goal is to return the temperature of water in the Deschutes River downstream to pre-dam conditions by allowing withdrawal of water from various levels in the reservoir. This is the goal that could take some time to determine the long-term effects. The trout today on the Deschutes River are remarkable, a blue ribbon fishery that cannot and should not be compromised.
To learn more about the Deschutes River Cooling Tower click on the links above. There you will find a blog full of info about the tower.
Click here to view the video posted by PGE about the tower I recommend a person take 10 minutes and watch the video, the Building of this project is nothing less than Amazing. Just think for the first time in over 40 years the downstream passage on Deschutes River of salmon and steelhead from streams and rivers above three Deschutes River dams, has begun. They are estimated to return some time in 2012.