Tubes, water tanks, laser lights and powerful jet streams are at play in the mechanical engineering lab of Washington State University Prof. Dave Stock, to model and map water flows, velocities, turbulence and jet force on a smaller scale to those inside the powerful turbines of the Columbia River dams.
The project is a $15,000 start toward supplying hydro-engineers data to develop more fish-friendly dams with smaller pressure changes and shear forces than are in turbines today. As smolts (small salmon and trout) pass through the eight dams from Lewiston to Portland on their journey to the ocean, as many as 80-90 percent die from collective turbine trauma, says fisheries biologist Scott Abernathy, Stock’s partner at Battelle’s PNNL in Richland.
Abernathy will use Stock’s data to design in a larger test facility at Battelle where euthanized fish are used to measure physical impacts. While the project will be completed within another several months, it is unlikely the resulting retrofit designs would be implemented for several years, say the researchers. The project is funded by the Department of Energy.
David Stock, Mechanical Engineering, 509/335-3223, e-mail:,
Scott Abernathy, PNNL Richland, 509/376-3087, e-mail: