Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1611
Title: Thinking like a fish: a key ingredient for development of effective fish passage facilities at hydropower dams
Author: John G. Williams, Greg Armstrong, Chris Katopodis, Michel Larinier, Francois Travade
Publication Year: 2012
Journal: River Research and Applications
Volume: 28
Issue: 4
Pages: 407-417
Keywords: dams, fish passage, fish behaviour, fish bypass systems

Worldwide, obstructions on watercourses have interfered with migratory pathways of fish species, reducing life–cycle success and often eliminating diadromous fish species altogether from river basins.  Over the last century, efforts to mitigate these effects were initially directed at developing fishways for upstream, high–value migrant adult salmon.  In more recent years, efforts have turned to developing fishways for other species.  Results of past research suggest that the development of effective fishways requires biological knowledge of fish behaviour when encountering variable flows, velocity and turbulence, combined with hydraulic and civil engineering knowledge and expertise to develop facilities that provide appropriate hydraulic conditions that fish will exploit.  Further, it often requires substantial financial resources for biological and hydraulic testing as well as engineering design, particularly where prior knowledge of the behaviour of target fish species does not exist.  Where biological or engineering knowledge (or both) is absent, development of effective passage facilities must take on a trial and error approach that will almost certainly require years to attain success.  Evaluations of existing adult and juvenile fish passage facilities, where they have been carried out, suggest that migrant fish reject areas with hydraulic conditions they determine unsuitable.  Even well designed fish ladders or nature–like bypass channels for upstream migrants, even those with good attraction flows, will fail if incorrectly sited.  Although progress has been made, developing successful installations for downstream migrants remains much more difficult, probably because downstream fish move with the flow and have less time to assess cues at entrances to any bypasses that they encounter. 

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