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Making dams safer for fish around the world
Date:4/14/2014

swirl, the fish suddenly finds itself back at its normal pressure.

Those sudden changes can have a catastrophic effect on fish, most of which are equipped with an organ known as a swim bladder like a balloon to maintain buoyancy at a desired depth. When the fish goes deeper and pressures are greater, the swim bladder shrinks; when the fish rises and pressure is reduced, the organ increases in size.

For some fish, the pressure shift means the swim bladder instantly expands four-fold or eight-fold, like an air bag that inflates suddenly. This rapid expansion can result in internal injuries or even death.

Factors at play include the specific path of a fish, the amount of water going through a turbine, the design of the turbine, the depth of water where the fish usually lives, and the physiology of the fish itself.

"To customize a power plant that is the safest for the fish, you must understand the species of fish in that particular river, their physiology, and the depth at which they normally reside, as well as the tremendous forces that the fish can be subjected to," said Brown.

PNNL scientists have found that trying to keep minimum pressure higher in all areas near the turbine is key for preventing barotrauma. That reduces the amount of pressure change a fish is exposed to and is a crucial component for any turbine that is truly "fish friendly." Preventing those extremely low pressures also protects a turbine from damage, reducing shutdowns and costly repairs.

Lower Mekong River Basin

Brown and PNNL colleague Zhiqun (Daniel) Deng have made several trips to work with scientists in Southeast Asia, where dozens of dams are planned along the Mekong River and its tributaries. The Mekong starts out high in Tibet and travels more than 2,700 miles, touching China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The team estimates more than 1,200 species of fish make their home in the Mekong, including th
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom.rickey@pnnl.gov
509-375-3732
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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