Fish-friendly Fruit in the Hood River Valley
Fish-friendly Fruit in the Hood River Valley- A guest blog post by Helen Sarakinos, Director of the River Restoration Program at River Alliance of Wisconsin
This past May, Portland OR was host to the annual River Rally, a celebration of river champions jointly organized by national freshwater advocacy groups River Network and The Waterkeepers Alliance. A highlight of the conference is always the day of field trips, when attendees are encouraged to get out of the conference rooms and into the rivers, streams, bays and estuaries where terrific work is being done in the name of protecting and cleaning up water and the creatures that rely on it. I had the good fortune to spend a rare sunny spring day in the Pacific Northwest in the Hood River Valley, where we got a tour of some innovative and elegantly simple fish screen projects. Admittedly, in a part of the country witnessing some of the biggest dam removals in US history, fishscreens may not quicken the pulse of water lovers like an exploding dam does. But this simple little innovation has been a game-changer in rivers with a long legacy of conflict between those who want to divert water for irrigating crops and those who are trying to protect the dwindling runs of endangered salmon. When a salmon meets an irrigation pump, the outcome is never good. These fishscreens ensure the two rarely meet.
Image source: Farmer’s Conservation Alliance (http://www.farmerscreen.org/HowItWorks)
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. In rivers with endangered salmon runs, anyone who diverts water is required to install a device to prevent sucking up salmon and other fish into their intake pumps. Traditional fish-exclusion technology was finicky, high maintenance and prone to washing out when a major rainstorm raises the flows of rivers. Around a decade ago, a frustrated irrigation district manager designed a fish screen that would hold up to storms and debris and approached federal fisheries agencies to build a prototype. His approach, beautifully elegant, uses both gravity and flow manipulation to do the work of pumps and engines. The design was a success and is increasingly being installed at water diversions across the Pacific Northwest. Today, the Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA), a nonprofit social enterprise organization helps to build these fish screens and to educate the public about them. They have constructed screens for streams with flows as low as 0.5 cfs and as high as 150 cfs. FCA hosted a visit to one of these fish screens installed by the Middlefork Irrigation District on Coe Creek, a tributary to the Hood River.
Middlefork Irrigation District intake fishscreen.
Water moves through at just the right speed so some gets captured but enough flow is left to escort out fish and debris This fish screen was installed as part of a dam removal and upgrade of the intake structure. The water is diverted from Coe Creek and sent through a hydroelectric turbine to generate electricity before being distributed to individual irrigators. The hydro turbines generate 3.5 MW, enough to power half the residences in the Hood River Valley and are a smart and effective way to maximize the “usefulness” of diverted water while leaving the creek accessible to migrating fish.
The exit slide for fish!
This irrigation district serves roughly 400 irrigators and feeds over 6400 acres of fruit orchards in the Hood River Valley. The total cost of this one fish screen, built to handle flows from 3 to 30 cfs, was $1.3 M.
Pear orchards in blossom in the Hood River Valley. Fed by fish-friendly water.