May 11, 2020
Journal Article

Physical and Ecological Evaluation of a Fish-Friendly Surface Spillway

Daqing Zhou
Tao Fu
Joanne Duncan
Zhiqun Deng
Joshua Arnold
Bradly Trumbo
Thomas Carlson


Spillway passage is one of the commonly accepted dam passage alternatives for downstream-migrating salmonids and other species. Fish passing in spill near the water surface have improved chances of survival than fish that pass deeper in the water column near spillway structure. In this study, an autonomous sensor device (Sensor Fish) was deployed in 2005 to evaluate fish passage conditions through the Removable Spillway Weir (RSW) at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River in south-central Washington State. RSWs enable fish to pass in spill nearer the water surface compared to conventional spillways where spill discharge is controlled using tainter gates. The RSW study was undertaken concurrently with a separate live fish injury and survival study. Conditions at the RSW–Spillway transition and deflector region were found to be potentially detrimental to fish. As a result, the spillway slope and deflector radius were modified, and the efficacy of the modifications was evaluated in 2015. The frequency of severe acceleration events (acceleration =95 G) during passage decreased significantly (from 51% to 35%; p-value = 0.049), and collisions with structures decreased from 47% to 27% (p-value = 0.015). Pressures observed in the Spillway–Deflector region and pressure rates of change decreased as well. Overall, the modifications resulted in improved hydraulic and fish passage conditions, which contributed to increased fish survival.

Revised: May 11, 2020 | Published: January 1, 2018


Duncan J.P., Z. Deng, J.L. Arnold, T. Fu, B.A. Trumbo, T.J. Carlson, and D. Zhou. 2018. "Physical and Ecological Evaluation of a Fish-Friendly Surface Spillway." Ecological Engineering 110. PNNL-SA-126408. doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.10.012

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