Fish-Friendly Strategies

By Kris Polly

The hydropower industry is often plagued by the misperception that the term fish-friendly dam is an oxymoron. In fact, hydro operators work tirelessly to ensure that their facilities are safe for fish and that the rivers on which they are located remain hospitable habitats. 

Idaho Power has taken recent relicensing processes as an opportunity to carry out hatchery programs, temperature mitigation activities, river channel maintenance, and dam upgrades. We speak with Idaho Power’s Jim Chandler about these efforts. Similarly, when Snohomish County Public Utility District in Washington had to relicense its Jackson Hydroelectric Project, it committed to improving the situation of local salmon and steelhead through water release management, fish passage structures, and river restoration. Natural Resources Manager Keith Binkley tells us more. 

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to support several endangered species. We hear more about it from three of the professionals involved. 

Most of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ largest hydroelectric dams are located on Pacific Northwest rivers that also provide habitat for salmon and steelhead. We interview five Army Corps professionals about the agency’s efforts to improve fish passage and habitats. We also speak with the Bureau of Reclamation’s chief engineer, David Raff, about how Reclamation’s Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program will use the $250 million allocated to it by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

Voith Hydro recently designed and installed an improved-fish-passage turbine at the Army Corps’ Ice Harbor Dam. Brian Van Baush and Jason Foust tell us more about it. 

Marycella Dumlao of the National Hydropower Association tells us about the recently launched Future Leaders of Waterpower, or FLOW, program, which aims to attract diverse professionals and facilitate knowledge transfer. 

Professionals across the hydro industry are working to ensure that this green, zero-carbon energy source is generated in a way that ensures the flourishing of fish and other aquatic species. I hope you find their stories inspirational. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at