The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 5, 2005

Engineers Receive Additional $6.7 Million To Study Salmon

University of Iowa College of Engineering researchers led by Larry J. Weber (left), associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, the college's world-renowned water research center, have received $6.7 million in new funding from Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County, Wash. to study Pacific Northwest salmon.

The funding is in addition to a 2004 $1.9 million contract extension from the district. Since the current contract began in 1990, UI researchers have received a total of some $25 million to study how Pacific Northwest salmon can co-exist with hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River.

Weber, who also serves as Donald E. Bently Faculty Fellow of Engineering and IIHR research engineer, said that the supplementary funds will be used to develop juvenile fish passage schemes for the Priest Rapids Dam. Many salmon fall prey to the harsh environment within the hydroelectric turbines or to the high levels of nitrogen absorbed by the river as water mixes with air after passing through the spillway gates.

This latest funding, which follows the recent successful fish passage facility designed for the District at its Wanapum Dam, will allow IIHR researchers to develop a production fish passage system at Priest Rapids Dam. The system is expected to increase the dam's fish survival rate above 96 percent and meet the passage criteria of various fisheries resource agencies, Weber said. The construction cost of the fish passage facility is expected to be approximately $25 million. Weber noted that the fish passage project has been a successful university-industry partnership since about 1980, when IIHR conducted its first project for the district.

"Although the uniqueness of each dam has hindered the development of basin-wide solutions to fish passage, recent advances in numerical modeling and our newly-acquired ability to model the behavioral response of juvenile salmonids to their local flow environment have dramatically increased our likelihood to develop successful bypass systems," Weber said. "This numerical modeling research has been a collaborative effort with researchers at the University of Washington, Cornell University and senior scientists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."

In addition to Weber, UI researchers working on the project are: Pablo Carrica, associate research engineer; Marian Muste, associate research engineer; Songheng Li, assistant research engineer; Marcela Politano, assistant research engineer; Pete Haug, engineer 2; Troy Lyons, engineer 1; four graduate students; four undergraduate students; and several UI support staff members, including Doug Houser, Darian DeJong, Mark Wilson, Brian Miller and Mike Kundert.

The group's research involves the application of environmental hydraulics and fluid mechanics to the restoration of threatened and endangered freshwater mussels and Pacific salmon. Their work involves the Columbia River, the Snake River, the Mississippi River and other rivers throughout the world.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,