Better fishing ahead. Environmentalists say the new ladder has improved the survivability of younger fish and will ultimately mean more catchable trout in the Snake River tributary.
Photo credit: Fall River Electric Cooperative
By Derrill Holly | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
Replacement of a ten-year-old fish ladder at a small hydroelectric plant has helped the Idaho co-op earn low impact hydropower certification and could eventually improve trout fishing on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.
Early last year, Fall River Electric Cooperative, Ashton, replaced a ladder installed in 1996 at the 250 kilowatt Buffalo Hydroelectric Plant, with a state-of-the-art 270-foot long system.
“The old ladder allowed adult trout, 12 to 24 inches long, to reach the river to spawn. The new ladder can pass fish as small as three-inches,” said David Trosen, a co-op engineer.
"The new ladder allowed large numbers of younger fish to migrate into better winter habitat,” said Robert Van Kirk, a quantitative ecologist, who has studied the Henry’s Fork fishery since 1994. “That should increase the number of catchable fish in the future.”
There are about 80,000 dams in the United States, but FERC has licensed only about 2,000 for hydroelectric use. Hundreds of others could potentially be adapted to generate power, said Fred Ayer, executive director of the independent Low Impact Hydropower Institute.
The institute does not certify new projects, but does review upgrades to older facilities used for irrigation, navigation and other purposes for low impact hydropower designations.
“This effort proves you can generate green power and take care of the environment,” said Ayer.