BRIDGMAN, Mich., May 2, 2002 — A research project about fish migration underway at American Electric Power’s Buchanan Hydroelectric Plant could result in increased fish populations on the St. Joseph River.
If successful, the new technology could be applied and have similar results on fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.
AEP’s Buchanan Hydro was chosen by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for this project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute because the dam is a smaller scale model of dams in the Pacific Northwest. Research on the Buchanan facility can be done for a fraction of the cost than plants in the Northwest.
The research project is testing the effectiveness of a new system that uses water turbulence to divert juvenile salmon, called smolts, away from the intakes of hydroelectric plants and direct the fish toward a safe bypass of the facility.
“This project has great potential to enhance environmental stewardship at hydro facilities locally and nationwide,” said Alan Gaulke, AEP environmental engineer. “AEP is proud to have a leadership role in this project along with Oak Ridge and the DOE.”
Chinook salmon and steelhead trout smolts raised at the Bodine Hatchery in Mishawaka, Indiana are stocked into the St. Joseph River downstream from the Twin Branch Dam. These species also populate rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Smolts migrating downstream follow turbulence in the stream. The area upstream from dams has little turbulence and that is usually created by the flow into the hydroelectric turbines. The research will test whether the smolts will follow artificially created turbulence toward a safe bypass.
The smolts will be marked with light-emitting tags and released just upstream from AEP’s Buchanan Hydro intake. Scientists will use the tags and sophisticated sonar fish locators to track the path of the smolts. If this method of guiding salmon smolts to a safe bypass is effective, AEP will investigate installation of the equipment on its St. Joseph River hydroelectric facilities. This technology will also have application to hydroelectric plants on the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington and Oregon.
American Electric Power is a multinational energy company with a balanced portfolio of energy assets. AEP, the United States’ largest electricity generator, owns and operates more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. and select international markets. AEP is a wholesale energy marketer, ranking among North America’s top providers of wholesale power and natural gas with a growing wholesale presence in European markets.
In addition to electricity generation, AEP owns and operates natural gas pipeline systems, natural gas storage, coal mines, and the fourth-largest inland barge company in the U.S. AEP is also one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, with almost 5 million customers linked to AEP’s wires. The company is based in Columbus, Ohio.