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Efforts to Reduce Mortality to Hydroelectric Turbine-Passed Fish: Locating and Quantifying Damaging Shear Stresses

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Severe fluid forces are believed to be a source of injury and mortality to fish that pass through hydroelectric turbines. A process is described by which laboratory bioassays, computational fluid dynamics models, and field studies can be integrated to evaluate the significance of fluid shear stresses that occur in a turbine. Areas containing potentially lethal shear stresses were identified near the stay vanes and wicket gates, runner, and in the draft tube of a large Kaplan turbine. However, under typical operating conditions, computational models estimated that these dangerous areas comprise less than 2% of the flow path through the modeled turbine. The predicted volumes of the damaging shear stress zones did not correlate well with observed fish mortality at a field installation of this turbine, which ranged from less than 1% to nearly 12%. Possible reasons for the poor correlation are discussed. Computational modeling is necessary to develop an understanding of the role of particular fish injury mechanisms, to compare their effects with those of other sources of injury, and to minimize the trial and error previously needed to mitigate those effects. The process we describe is being used to modify the design of hydroelectric turbines to improve fish passage survival.

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We thank Mike Sale and Fotis Sotiropoulos for their ideas and suggestions during the conduct of this effort. Chuck Coutant and Brennan Smith of the Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, commented on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to Glenn Čada.

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Čada, G., Loar, J., Garrison, L. et al. Efforts to Reduce Mortality to Hydroelectric Turbine-Passed Fish: Locating and Quantifying Damaging Shear Stresses. Environmental Management 37, 898–906 (2006).

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