In addition to the floating surface collector scheme, the utility is working on a further US$110M in fish enhancement projects with state and federal fisheries agencies, it said. Work on constructing the collector started last year and it is to be tested in spring 2008.

The various fish protection projects are part of PSE’s proposed federal licence agreement for the 175MW Baker River hydro scheme. Consisting of two plants of 105MW and 70MW capacities on a tributary of the Skagit river, the scheme’s 50-year licence expires in April 2006 and PSE is operating the plants under an annual licence while seeking a new, long-term federal licence.

PSE is installing the new collector system as the existing method of juvenile sockeye protection – based on a reservoir-wide net and a floating collector to transport fish downstream to the Skagit river – has almost reached the end of its useful life.

The collector is a barge equipped with submerged screens, pumps, holding chambers, a fish evaluation station, control rooms and a loading facility. It is four times bigger than the old system, and also included in the collector is a funnel-like ‘transition structure’ to help guide the fish from the net as they are attracted by a simulated river current.

The existing system has been successful in boosting the salmon population, but the new collector has been under development for eight years helped by better understanding of the fish biology and responses to varying hydrological conditions.