Salmon survival put to the test: PUD moves forward with Rock Island study

by Rachel Hansen | Sep 21, 2020

Chelan PUD will aim for at least 93 percent juvenile salmon survival during a study at Rock Island Hydro Project next spring.

Chelan PUD commissioners approved a nearly $955,000 contract Monday with Ellensburg firm Blue Leaf Environmental to complete the study and report the findings by September 2021. (1:37:05 on the board audio).

“This is a very important study for us,” General Manager Steve Wright said. “The PUD committed not just to a set of actions to protect salmon and steelhead, but to a biological outcome. This is the second test in a series of 10-year cycles.”

Starting in April, crews will tag yearling chinook with a battery-powered tracking device that will show researchers how the fish pass through the hydro project, and how many survive.

In 2010, Chelan PUD achieved the gold standard for survival rates by achieving 96.8 percent survival for steelhead, nearly 94 percent for spring chinook and 93.3 percent for sockeye at Rock Island Hydro Project. Rocky Reach achieved similar survival rates that year.

The survival study is required every 10 years by the habitat conservation plans for Rocky Reach and Rock Island hydro projects. Chelan PUD developed the plans cooperatively with state and federal fisheries agencies and tribes.

The plans commit the PUD to a 50-year program to ensure that its hydro projects have no net impact on the mid-Columbia salmon and steelhead runs. To achieve that standard, the PUD has invested in dam passage improvements, off-site hatchery programs, predator control, and habitat restoration work in the mid-Columbia tributary systems.

The Rock Island study was originally scheduled for 2020, but the PUD was granted a one-year deferral due to planned maintenance on the Powerhouse 1 turbines. 

In other business, commissioners:

  • Heard an update from the Customer Energy Solutions team about several programs, including virtual home energy audits. (14:20)
  • Heard an update about regional water rights from Water/Wastewater Manager Ron Slabaugh. (33:15)
  • Approved a proposal to convert C10 and C11 at Rocky Reach from oil- to water-filled turbine hubs to reduce oil leaks, lower operating and maintenance costs, and fewer outages. (51:30)

Upcoming events:

  • Oct. 4-10 – Public Power Week
  • Oct. 5 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., virtual meeting
  • Oct. 19 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., virtual meeting

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The next regular PUD commission meeting is at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 5. The public is welcome to attend remotely in accordance with the latest guidance from the state Department of Health.

Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at Find us at and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.

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Media contacts

Rachel Hansen: (509) 661-4320
Neil Neroutsos: (509) 661-8291

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Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.


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