Environmental Impact Assessment for Hydropower Regulation (hosted by AFS)

Environmental impact assessments for federal and non-federal hydropower regulation include assessments of fisheries and wildlife populations and their habitat, water quality, recreation, and more. This symposium will capitalize on the diverse body of scientists, agency biologists, resource managers, and consultants assembled for the joint American Fisheries Society – The Wildlife Society meeting that conduct environmental assessments for hydropower regulation. During the symposium, participants will identify common issues and considerations, explore solutions across disciplines, regulatory process requirements (e.g., federal vs. non-federal hydropower facilities), discuss common practices and methods, and provide a forum for discussion with a diverse panel of experts in hydropower regulation. Participants in this symposium will be invited to submit original scientific work for publication of a special issue of a journal on the symposium topic.

8:00AM Environmental Impact Assessment for Hydropower Regulation
  Brenda Pracheil, Dana McCoskey, Ryan McManamay, Kate Buenau
Environmental impact assessment is an important part of the hydropower regulatory process. In this talk, we provide context for and an introduction to the Environmental Impact Assessment for Hydropower Regulation symposium.
8:20AM Effectiveness of Fine-Spaced Low-Sloping Racks to Protect Atlantic Salmon Smolts at Four Hydropowerplants in South-Western France
  Stéphane Tétard, Sylvie Tomanova, Dominique Courret, Olivier Mercier, Sylvain Richard, Eric De Oliveira, Vincent Mataix, Thierry Lagarrigue, Aurélien Frey
Two types of fish protection systems (FPS) are currently accepted in France for small and medium sized (up to 100 m3.s-1) hydropower plants (HPPs) to protect downstream migrating Atlantic salmon smolts: fine-spaced (20 mm) low-sloping racks, either horizontally inclined (1) or angled to the flow (2), associated to bypass(es). Recent telemetry studies confirmed their effectiveness to protect smolts for HPPs with intake capacities from 4.1 to 30 m3.s-1 (Tomanova et al., 2018). As bigger HPPs are progressively equipped with these FPS, we assessed their effectiveness for smolts’ protection on 4 successive HPPs, recently equipped (three inclined and one angled racks; intake capacities from 32 to 50 m3.s-1) and located close together on a same reach (∼17km) of the Ariège River. A total of 199 smolts were tagged with radio-transmitters (99 in 2017, 100 in 2018) and released upstream of the studied sites. All passage ways (bypasses, dams and turbines) were surveyed with a multiple-antennas array at each studied site. Our results showed that about 90% of migrating smolts were successfully protected by the installed racks and quickly guided to bypasses. The effectiveness ranged from 80% to 100%, depending on river hydrology and amount of flow in the bypass device.
8:40AM Predicting Distribution of Fish Guilds in Gabon’s Ogooué River
  Joseph Cutler, J. Andrés Olivos, Brian Sidlauskas, Ivan Arismendi
Freshwater ecosystems cover less than 0.01% of Earth’s surface, but are home to approximately 40% percent of the world’s fish biodiversity. Yet freshwater ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world and 36% of freshwater fishes have been evaluated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gabon’s Ogooué River has a particularly rich diversity of freshwater fishes, with over 350 described species, but the Ogooué’s biodiversity is potentially threatened by proposed hydropower development. To assess the potential impacts of proposed hydropower development in the Ogooué watershed we; gathered distributional data for all freshwater fish species in Gabon, classified fish species into thirteen distinct ecological guilds, and used predictive occupancy modeling to determine the likelihood of occurrence for fish guilds throughout the Ogooué watershed in Gabon. Finally, we use our model to analyze the impacts of Gabon’s proposed hydropower development on migratory fish guilds in the Ogooué River system.
9:00AM LIFE4FISH Project: Downstream Fish Migratiion Alont the Low Meuse River
  Eric De Oliveira
The LIFE4FISH Project develops an integrated approach to migratory fish conservation in the Lower Meuse river basin (Belgium), especially European eels (Anguilla anguilla) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). It enables characterization of the population, migratory routes and obstacles, demonstrating innovative solutions to facilitate the passage of hydropower plants. By bringing together universities, hydropower operators, experts in fish behavioral ecology and aquatic ecosystems, a wellbalanced, efficient approach is explored. The solutions consist of specific technologies (repulsive barriers and fish passes) and new hydropower control strategies accounting for the downstream migrating process. The project objectives are increasing the survival rate of silver eel and salmon smolts, increasing the operation management capabilities of hydropower plants, demonstrate the performance of the deployed solutions and disseminate validated tools for monitoring downstream migration. This ambitious project runs for a period of 4.5 years from October 2017 to March 2022 with a European budget of 4 million. The project has already reached some of the key steps, such as numerical and physical modeling of pilot sites, selection of the behavioral barrier, downstream migration model for the eels.
9:20AM Quantifying Responses of Morphologically Distinct Riverine Fishes Exposed to Simulated Turbine Blade Strike to Better Inform Design of Safer Hydropower Turbines
  Ryan Saylor, Brenda Pracheil, Mark Bevelhimer
Fish passing through hydropower turbines may experience traumatic injury or death as a result of blade strike impact. Blade velocity and leading-edge thickness, along with fish size and shape, affect estimates of injury or mortality among fishes. Response data will be used by collaborators to parameterize models to better inform design of safer turbines. To quantify responses, we subjected multiple, morphologically distinct riverine fishes (e.g., American Eel and paddlefish) to simulated blade strike. After being struck, we assessed mortality and performed detailed necropsies. Mortality was higher among laterally compressed species compared to elongate or rotund fishes. Injury and morality rates were higher as strike velocity increased and leading-edge thickness decreased. Lateral strikes perpendicular to the mid-body caused higher mortality and severe injuries (e.g., vertebral fractures). Many fish observed with severe injuries did not die from strike impact, but were considered functionally (ecologically) dead. Strikes near the center of gravity where likely worse because of the close proximity to vital organs. Dose-response relationships suggested small fish may experience higher mortality, though size effects were not observed in all species. This study has increased our understanding of turbine passage stressors and will help design turbines that minimize mortality of turbine-passed fishes.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM Adaptive Management of Hydropower to Facilitate Downstream Migration of Atlantic Salmon Smolts: The Case of Poutès Dam on the Allier River (France)
  Stéphane Tétard, Jean-Maxence Ditche, Gaël Olivier, Jocelyn Rancon, Eric De Oliveira, Patrick Martin
In a relicensing context, the Poutès dam (Haute-Loire, France) is going to be partly redesigned in the next years to meet with ecological continuity requirements, especially for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). However, this redesigning was delayed, and meanwhile, temporary exploitation measures were set during 3 years to limit migration delay and turbine-induced mortality, in accordance with local stakeholders. The measures consisted in lowering the reservoir level to decrease reservoir length by 70% and to modulate turbines’ operation (minimum of 2/3 of the river flow discharged into the bypass) for 20 nights (from 7pm to 7am). As part of the AMBER project (EU H2020), the effectiveness of these measures was assessed using acoustic telemetry in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 results revealed that the lowering was effective to deal with reservoir delay (median residence time in the reservoir of 3.6 h against 9.3 d before) but that the modulation of turbines’ operation was not sufficient to reach the objectives of survival. Adaptively, it was decided to stop the turbines for 20 nights in 2018 (same duration). Following this second measure, the passage effectiveness improved but was still below expectations. Consequently, number and duration of shutdown nights were increased in 2019.
1:30PM Total Dissolved Gas and Gas Bubble Disease in the Lower Clark Fork River: What Have We Learned in the Last 20 Years?
  Paul Kusnierz
Spill over Cabinet Gorge Dam can result in high levels of total dissolved gas (TDG) in the lower Clark Fork River, Idaho. Research performed on this river and published in 2003, demonstrated that GBD incidence was less than expected relative to the TDG values observed and that fish typically resided at depths >2 m, behaviorally reducing the physiological effects of high TDG. During five years from 2000–2018, 4,972 fish were evaluated during spill season for GBD downstream of Cabinet Gorge Dam. Gas bubble disease incidence by species ranged from 0% to 85%. Severity was typically low with <6% of fins or eyes covered with bubbles. Mean GBD incidence ranged from 0% to 17% across years and was highly correlated with mean TDG. The relationship between GBD incidence and TDG prior to fish capture was highly variable with greater GBD incidence prior to peak mean TDG values. No negative associations were observed between fish population estimates and the number of hours with mean TDG >110% saturation during the previous spill season. These updated analyses support the 2003 findings and when considered with TDG reduction measures implemented at Cabinet Gorge Dam, indicate decreased likelihood of observing GBD in the future.
1:50PM Modeling to Evaluate the Effects of Missouri River Hydrosystem Operations on Piping Plovers and Least Terns
  Kate Buenau, Craig Fischenich
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP) manages the habitats and populations of three federally listed species: the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), the interior population of the least tern (Sternula antillarum), and the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus). The USACE recently completed a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the impact of the Missouri River hydrosystem on these species and their habitats and evaluate current and proposed management actions to mitigate for habitat loss. The process began with an Effects Analysis (EA) initiated in 2013, in which we developed a suite of hydrological, geomorphological, and population models for plovers and terns. We used these models to evaluate the effects of reservoir operations and the natural variability in basin runoff that determine habitat availability and the reproductive success of the birds. These models were then used in a multi-stage structured decision-making process to develop management alternatives to be evaluated in the EIS, including planned releases to create habitat and reduced flows during the nesting season to improve habitat variability. The models also serve as the scientific basis for an adaptive management plan which was put into practice in 2018.
2:10PM Agent-Based Modeling to Design Wildlife-Friendly Renewable Energy Projects
  Henriette Jager, James Chandler, Ken Lepla, Phil Bates
Several important renewable energy sources use turbines to convert power from natural forces (wind, water, waves, and tides) to electricity. In doing so, fish and wildlife are exposed to an additional risk from turbine interactions. Agent- or individual-based models (IBM) can be used to quantify changes in both individual-level risks and [meta]population-level consequences of alternative project designs. Hydropower research has gained insights by studying interactions of individual juvenile salmon during downstream passage. However, IBMs are needed to scale up from individual outcomes to meta-population effects. IBM research in the Snake River highlighted the importance of fish attributes (e.g., size) on the risk of downstream movement through dams. Demography and habitat attributes were important when evaluating where reconnection through volitional passage or translocation might best be implemented. Although length-based survival rates differed among turbine designs, scaling these differences to the population required understanding habitat characteristics above and below projects and paying attention to screening. Compared to hydropower, relatively few IBMs have been implemented to quantify the population-level effects of alternative designs for marine hydrokinetic and wind projects, which have similar issues. Considerable opportunities exist for improving the design of turbine-based technologies to generate fish- and wildlife-friendly renewable energy.
2:30PM Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Loss Assessment
  Scott Soults, Norm Merz
Dams and reservoirs impact the environment through their presence in the landscape and by altering natural hydrologic cycles. To assess the impacts of these alterations, a process-based hierarchy is effective for representing this succession of impacts, and provides a ‘roadmap’ for exploring and assessing the processes linking successive levels of impact throughout the ecosystem. Moreover, physical drivers and biological responses can be displayed in space and time, with the potential for isolating specific operational impacts. To assess the ecological impacts experienced in the Kootenai River (US portion) and on its floodplain communities, a series of multi-metric indices were developed for each order of impacts and combined into an overall Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) and for each of the three unique geomorphic reaches of this river; the canyon, braided, and meander reaches. The current IEI value for the Kootenai River floodplain is 4.9 out of 10, with a 10 representing a pristine condition. When the IEI is calculated at the reach scale, the canyon, braided, and meander reaches scored 5.0, 5.3, and 4.5, respectively. However, whether by reach or as an entire large river-floodplain ecosystem, these values reflect considerable alteration from a natural state (i.e. more than 50% altered).
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Managing Hydropower Dam Releases for Water Users and Imperiled Cold- and Warm-Water Fishes
3:40PM Science in Action or Science Inaction: The Use of Best Available Science in the Ferc Hydropower Relicensing Process
  Sarah Vogel, Jessica S. Jansujwicz, Joseph Zydlewski
Over the next two decades, half of all hydropower projects nationwide will require relicensing by FERC. Relicensing proceedings invoke a range of knowledge sources and agency regulators are tasked with using the “best available science” (BAS) to make informed decisions about hydropower operations and management. Although embraced as the standard, BAS is not well-defined. Using citation analysis and an online survey, we identified information sources used in relicensing decisions for dams in the Kennebec and Penobscot River Watersheds, Maine and assessed agency perceptions of BAS. Analysis of relicensing documents (n=62) demonstrates that FERC and licensee documents are highly similar in citation composition. NOAA documents typically cite more sources and are three times more likely to cite peer-reviewed sources than FERC and licensee documents. Survey data reveals that federal and state agency respondents (n=49) rate peer-reviewed literature highly as BAS, followed by university, agency, and expert sources while industry and community sources rate poorly. Federal respondents report using peer-reviewed/academic sources more frequently and expert sources less frequently than state respondents. Overall, the agreement between individuals with respect to the valuation of sources is low. Enhanced understanding of information use may aid in identifying pathways for well-informed relicensing decisions.
4:00PM Understanding the Environmental Impact Study and Mitigation Life Cycle in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Hydropower Licenses
  Brenda Pracheil, PhD, Matthew Aldrovandi, Ryan McManamay, Nicholas Oschman, Esther Parish, Anna West, Kelsey Rugani, Shelaine Curd, Brennan Smith
Stakeholders and licensees (i.e., hydropower producers) involved in the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hydropower licensing process work together to determine which environmental impact studies to conduct and how to mitigate these impacts. This part of the licensing process can sometimes take several years as stakeholders negotiate with the license applicant to determine which studies to conduct, the methods by which these studies will be conducted, and what and how impacts will be mitigated. Proposed and conducted studies and mitigations are then documented by FERC and entered in the official project licensing documentation available in the FERC e-library. However, there is currently a limited understanding of patterns in natural resource issues, how these natural resource issues are studied and mitigated, and the variability in timelines associated with this process during FERC licensing. To address this knowledge gap, we have mined FERC hydropower licensing records to determine the life cycle of environmental impact studies and mitigation. In this talk, we present our findings from mining FERC documents including information on which environmental studies and mitigations are proposed versus those that are completed and timelines associated with this part of the FERC licensing process.
4:20PM An Evidence-Based Decision-Support Tool to Guide Hydropower Environmental Impact Assessments
  Ryan A. McManamay, Brenda Pracheil, Christopher DeRolph, Adam Witt, Esther Parish, Alicia Burtner, Anna West, Kelsey Rugani, Shelaine Curd, Brennan Smith
Globally, hydropower growth has continued to meet growing energy demands and fill electricity gaps. Unfortunately, hydropower induces significant environmental effects on river ecosystems – these environmental effects are regulated through environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes. However, EIA processes are becoming ubiquitously stressed or ineffective, either by the rapid expansion of hydropower in under-developed countries, or by the time and resource-intensive negotiations in developed countries, such as the US. To help address this gap, we developed a decision-support-tool (DST) that uses a question-driven, weight-of-evidence approach to determine the most relevant impacts of hydropower on different components of the river ecosystem, identified through indicators. Through a structured questionnaire, the DST provides users with evidence of which indicators have been impacted and those that have the highest levels of uncertainty. Hence, the DST assists stakeholders in identifying knowledge gaps and which river functions might require further investigation. Furthermore, we provide a river function linkage assessment tool (RFLAT), which translates the output of the DST into a network visualization of inter-indicator relationships that help formulate hypotheses of causal relationships to design future studies. To provide examples of the utility of these tools, we provide a series of case studies for several hydropower projects.
4:40PM Logistic Growth Curve Modeling of US Hydropower Energy Production for Environmental Impact Modeling and Policy Analysis
  Tyler Harris, Amy Landis
Energy production of all types and sources, including hydropower, tend to follow distinct historical trends based a variety of factors including renewable or finite fuel sources, government policy, technological development, and total potential production capacity. Such trends have been successfully modeled with logistic growth curves for historical production and policy analysis, as well as for forecasting future trends and estimating resulting environmental impacts. This research used a 5-parameter logistic growth curve equation to model historical US hydropower production trends to produce a best-fit growth curve model in addition to fixed condition and forced growth forecasts to 2040. The historical hydropower production growth curve was then analyzed against hydropower related US energy policy implementations to determine the effectiveness of the policy against the stated policy goals. The forecasts were then used to scale standard environmental impact indicators obtained from published life cycle assessment (LCA) results to produce long-term hydropower environmental impact scenarios.

Organizers: Brenda Pracheil, Ryan McManamay, Kate Buenau
Supported by: AFS Fish Habitat Section

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm