PSE Completes Second Fish Collector to Further aid Baker River Sockeye

Fisheries Managers Hoping River’s Record Returns Will Continue to Grow

BELLEVUE, Wash. (Feb. 27, 2013) – Record sockeye salmon runs in the Skagit-Baker river system over the past few years are poised to grow even larger with the completion of another key fish-migration facility by Puget Sound Energy.

After two years of construction, the utility this week is bringing online its second “floating surface collector” to help young salmon migrate downstream around PSE’s two-dam Baker River Hydroelectric Project. PSE and fisheries agencies expect the new apparatus to push the Baker River’s revived sockeye population even higher.

“Our Baker River dams are an important source of clean, renewable power for our customers, but for migrating fish, the dams are an obstacle,” said Paul Wiegand, senior vice president of Energy Operations for PSE. “It’s gratifying to see the tremendous difference our recent fisheries investments are making for Baker River salmon.”

PSE completed the 285-foot-high Lower Baker Dam in 1925, followed by the 312-foot-high Upper Baker Dam in 1959. The utility employed a variety of methods over the years to move salmon over or around the impassable structures. For most of the past century, the annual summertime return of adult Baker River sockeye averaged about 3,500 fish.

Then, in 2008, PSE completed construction of an innovative, barge-like facility to more effectively attract and collect juvenile salmon for downstream transport around the two dams. This initial floating surface collector, the first of its kind in the world, immediately began producing record out-migrations of juvenile salmon from Baker Lake. (The lake is the river’s upper reservoir and prime habitat for salmon.)

The result? The three highest returns of adult Baker River sockeye have all been in the past three years: 22,767 in 2010; 37,264 in 2011; and 48,014 in 2012.

With the launch of a new, 1,100-ton surface collector on Lake Shannon on Friday (March 1) , fisheries managers are about to conduct their first major test of sockeye propagation in the Baker River’s lower reservoir. Historically, Lake Shannon has seen few sockeye; trout and kokanee are the reservoir’s chief residents. In 2012, however, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife planted 2 million fingerling sockeye in Lake Shannon. The reservoir’s new collector is designed to attract those young sockeye – and sockeye from future plantings – for downstream transport around Lower Baker Dam.

“Salmon are important to our tribe both culturally and economically,” said Scott Schuyler, natural resources director for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “We’re thrilled by the increase in sockeye returns we’ve seen from Puget Sound Energy’s first floating surface collector and the utility’s other collaborative fisheries projects. We’re hoping for even greater sockeye runs now that the Lower Baker FSC is coming online.”

The new Lake Shannon collector, anchored just above Lower Baker Dam, largely mirrors the successful Baker Lake version. Both are large, steel barges equipped with massive, submerged water pumps that simulate river current to attract juvenile fish into the structure. The fish are collected and sorted into specialized holding ponds, with some analyzed at an on-board evaluation station. All collected fish are crowded into large, water-filled hoppers, which are used to transfer the fish to tanker trucks for a downriver drive around the dams. The transported juveniles then spend two days in riverside stress-relief ponds before being released back into the river for their migration to sea.

PSE received a new, 50-year federal operating license in 2008 for the Baker River Hydroelectric Project. The floating surface collectors are just two of the major fish-enhancement projects PSE has collaboratively conducted under the federal license. In 2010 the utility replaced a decades-old fish hatchery and an upstream fish trap with new, technologically advanced facilities. And later this year, a second Lower Baker Dam powerhouse will be completed.

The new, 30-megawatt powerhouse will provide for better control of dam outflows into the Skagit River and reduce the “ramping rate” (the rate of water withdrawal from the river) for the protection, restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife resources.

The Baker River Hydroelectric Project, currently with 170 megawatts of generating capacity, is PSE’s largest hydropower operation. It produces enough electricity to supply approximately 130,000 households.

About Puget Sound Energy

Washington state’s oldest local energy company, Puget Sound Energy serves 1.1 million electric customers and more than 750,000 natural gas customers in 11 counties. A subsidiary of Puget Energy, PSE meets the energy needs of its customers, in part, through cost-effective energy efficiency, procurement of sustainable energy resources, and far-sighted investment in energy-delivery infrastructure. PSE employees are dedicated to providing great customer service that is safe, dependable and efficient. For more information, visit www.PSE.com.

Media Contact

Roger Thompson, 1-888-831-7250
PSENewsroom@pse.com