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Technology can provide fish migration and power

By Dan Golden, Guest Writer Herald and News 10/21/09
    The hydro agreement between stakeholders in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Pacific Power proposes to remove dams to open the river to fish migration, thus sacrificing electrical generation for an estimated 70,000 homes.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. New technology is the game-changer. We could have fish migration and electrical generation in the same river at the same time.

    Tradition dam installations impound rivers and run them through electrical generation turbines at the dam site which generates a significant amount of electricity. The impoundment of the river cuts off migrating fish, unless a side stream around the dam is created as a fish passage. Fish passages reduce water flow to turbines and permit only limited numbers of fish to migrate.

    New technology holds the promise of generating electricity without cutting down fish migrations. The new devices are known as hydro-kinetic generators. These generate power by causing river or ocean currents running through them to rotate turbines. They can be placed in active currents, but do not restrict or impound the river.   

    Instead of stopping the river current, relatively small hydro-kinetic generators are submerged in them. With proper fish screens, the river current moves through and around them. Fish swim around them like other obstacles such as boulders and submerged logs. These devices have minimal impact on fish migration.

    Hydroelectric plants based on dam technology are confined to co-location with the dam. On the other hand, hydro-kinetic generators may be submerged in a river along its entire length. Hydro-kinetic electrical generation is being proposed for the Mississippi River and rivers in Alaska.

    Legislation to implement the Klamath River hydro agreement should sponsor a study of the potential for hydro-kinetic generation to replace the power generated by the dams. The Oregon Institute of Technology, already a world leader in renewable energy, would be the perfect site for the hydro-kinetic energy group studying the Klamath River.

    Sacrificing hydro-generated energy to promote fish migration is submitting to a false choice.

    Both fish migration and electrical generation could be supported by the same river.

Dan Golden serves as the volunteer coordinator of the Klamath County Renewable Energy Working Group. He can be reached at
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