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SOLAR PUMPING SYSTEM
RESTORES SALMON RUNS

In 2009, the first juvenile salmonids in almost 40 years were passed below the Pelton-Round Butte hydroelectric project with the completion of the award winning selective water withdrawal (SWW) project. The ability to capture and pass fish from Lake Billy Chinook to the Lower Deschutes River was the first step to reintroduce wild fish runs back into the upper Deschutes, Crooked, and Metolius River Basins. Since then adult salmon have returned to the fish trap at the base of the Pelton Regulating Dam at approximate river mile 100. The next challenge was to release the returning adults into Lake Billy Chinook so that they are able to continue their journey up river to spawn.

In the summer months the surface temperatures of the reservoir exceed limits found to be harmful or distressing to the coldwater salmon and steelhead. Engineers and biologists had to work together to devise a plan to release fish into Lake Billy Chinook while preventing exposure to the upper 10-15ft of warm surface water.

So, a concrete vault was built at the edge of the lake with a pipe that extends 30 ft deep into the reservoir. This would provide a pathway down into the cool water of the lake. To maintain water temperatures within the vault a pump would be needed to circulate and cycle the water within the facility. In fact, the role of the pumping system was twofold. First, the pump would remove warming water near the surface to be replaced with cool deep water. And second, this would provide a flow of cold water up the pipe which would allow the fish to locate the release pipe.

Many options were considered for the pumping flows; first, an electric pump with controls for operators to control remotely. The steep canyon wall limited the location of the facility to allow truck access. The selected site was about ˝ mile upstream of Round Butte Dam. This option met the needs of the facility, but was very costly. The second option was to use a gas or diesel pump. This option had environmental and logistical issues. First was the potential of a fuel spill into the waters of Lake Billy Chinook during operation, storage, transportation, or refueling. The second was control. Personnel would have to operate the pump before processing fish, or have to wait with fish sitting in the truck while the pump cycled the warm water out of the system.

The solution was to use a solar powered pump. So, the Oasis technicians provided a Grundfos pump system, matched with a 800+ watt solar array. With the system installed, the water begins to cycle when the sun rises and the internal temperatures are maintained throughout the day with no need for overhead power lines, control panels, or risk of chemical spill. The first salmon was released into the facility. After a few laps, the female Chinook found the release pipe and swam down its length into Lake Billy Chinook to continue her journey home.

To quote the onsite technicians: “At 9:57 a.m. Wednesday morning, the first Spring Chinook was released above Round Butte Dam! The fish (named ‘Glory’) was released into the Round Butte Adult Release Vault within the forebay of Round Butte Dam to continue its upstream migration into the upper Deschutes basin. Congratulations to all for all the hard work and dedication! YEEE-HAH! It’s a glorious day for all!” The fish had no trouble finding the release pipe — it sensed the cold water and was “down in a flash”.

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