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Fish rescue part of Packwood’s annual maintenance outage

Feature Story

​​​​​Biologist Chuck Sauvageau of McMillen Jacobs & Associates nets a fish for species identification, sizing and counting at Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project Aug. 17.

The Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project was taken offline Aug. 15 for its annual maintenance outage. In addition to routine and preventative maintenance on the 27.5-megawatt facility, workers at Packwood have another task to perform each August: Fishing.

But rather than catching fish for sport, Energy Northwest employees work with biologists and contractors to rescue any fish caught in the facility’s stilling basin. 

The maintenance outage includes taking Packwood’s generator offline and isolating the penstock from the rest of Packwood Lake. The penstock is made up of about 5 miles of pipe and tunnel that travels from the lake to the powerhouse. After passing through the powerhouse, water then travels through a tailrace canal for about 1.5 miles before reaching the Cowlitz River. 

As work begins to drain down the penstock, fish can get caught in the canals and Packwood’s stilling basin, cut off from the river system. Once the water level is low enough to allow safe access, workers walk the length of the canal searching for stranded fish. The team works to safely net and transport the fish back to the river.

Workers also use a large seine net to capture fish caught in the basin. Biologists from McMillen Jacobs & Associates assisted with this year’s fish rescue. The fish are counted, identified and logged before being released. 
“We want to be good neighbors and good stewards of the environment,” said Ken Williams, hydro and wind projects supervisor. “It’s fun to get down there and find the fish, but more than that it’s important. By working together with biologists and environmental agencies, hydroelectric facilities like Packwood can remain a source of clean energy for our region while protecting fish populations.”

Packwood is EN’s first electric power project. Operation began in 1964. In addition to Packwood, EN’s Energy Services & Development division supplies operations and maintenance services for Tieton Hydroelectric Project on Rimrock Lake, and the Portland Hydroelectric Project on the Bull Run River and the Stone Creek Hydroelectric Project on the Clackamas River in Oregon.

Energy Northwest's Rob Rhodes (standing left), Ken Williams and Brian Coonrod (sitting left) work with biologist Chuck Sauvageau of McMillen Jacobs & Associates to capture fish caught in the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project's stilling basin. After documentation, the fish are released into the Cowlitz River. 

A crew from EN uses a seining net to capture fish caught in Packwood's stilling basin so they can be released into the river.

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