NHA Announces 2018 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award Winners

NHA Announces 2018 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award Winners

The National Hydropower Association is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) Awards, which recognizes projects that have provided extraordinary recreational, historical, environmental or educational value. This year’s winners include Whooshh Innovations, Brookfield Renewable, Avista Corporation, Seattle City Light, Grand River Dam Authority and PacifiCorp.

“This year’s winners show true excellence in innovation in environmental enhancement and operational excellence ,” said Linda Church Ciocci, NHA Executive Director. “From creative solutions to protect wildlife, including land preservation and new technologies, to increasing environmental education, these companies went above and beyond to find exciting new solutions.”

OSAW Awards are given out in three distinct categories: Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement, Public Education and Operational Excellence.

Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement

Three companies received an award in the Recreational, Environmental & Historical Enhancement category, which recognizes projects that provide enhanced recreational opportunities for the general public; offer measurable benefits that mitigate, conserve, preserve or enhance the natural resources; or conserve historical aspects of hydropower facilities and their integration with the surrounding community.

Whooshh Innovations: Upstream Fish Passage and Hydropower

A pilot of Whooshh Innovations’ fish passage system was installed in less than three months at the Cle Elum Dam. The 700-foot long, 180-foot high modular fish passage system can accommodate the river’s 70-vertical-foot water fluctuation. Instead of relying on water levels, the system uses pressure differentials to move fish from a higher-pressure area to a lower-pressure area.

Its linear system can move fish of many shapes and sizes without injury at a fast but controlled and gentle speed, resulting in no negative effects on fish safety, stress, health, migration, homing or behavior. In addition, as fish pass through the Whooshh System, they are counted, measured and can be sorted. If an invasive species is identified, it can be relocated or removed completed.

Because the system is modular, accommodates many fish species, and can meet the needs of dams with high- and low-head, it marks the beginning of affordable and effective solutions for fish passage over many more U.S. dams–and the possible expansion of hydropower.

Brookfield Renewable: Innovative Efforts To Cease Herbicidal Spraying

Brookfield Renewable acquired Conejohela Flats, located in the middle of the Susquehanna River, as part of the purchase of a hydroelectric facility and learned herbicidal spraying was the accepted method for vegetation management. To protect the area, which is an annual stop for migrating shorebirds and attracts birdwatchers, Brookfield Renewable decided to determine a more environmentally friendly method for vegetation management.

After extensive research, the company created an amphibious vehicle that is capable of navigating the muddy terrain and equipped with burning equipment that boils the unwanted vegetation from the inside out. Using the boiling method, Brookfield Renewable was able to control vegetation as effectively as the previous owner that used chemicals.

PacifiCorp: Land Acquisition for Wildlife Habitat Mitigation in the North Fork Lewis River Basin

When PacifiCorp created the Merwin, Yale and Swift dams along the north fork of the Lewis River in Washington, more than 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat was lost. Though the utility had committed to protecting and managing 10,000 acres of land surrounding its facility, it decided to protect an additional 5,000 acres during relicensing in 2008.

The first acquisition was made in 2009 and included 55 acres of meadow habitat from a local community member. That sale resulted in other interested sellers in the area, allowing PacifiCorp to purchase a 400-acre parcel near Yale Dam and a 640-acre parcel near Swift Reservoir. These purchases also led to the purchase of an additional 2,110 acres in 2012 and 1,880 acres in 2017. The result was 15,162 total acres of wildlife mitigation lands in the Lewis River basin.

Public Education

Two projects received an award in the Public Education category, which recognizes programs that effectively communicate and promote the benefits of hydropower through mediums such as curriculum, learning centers, videos or outreach programs.

Seattle City Light: Five Year Plan for Wildfire Mitigation to Protect Historical and Critical Infrastructure

After recognizing the threat of wildfire to its Skagit River Hydroelectric Project and the utility-owned towns of Newhalem and Diablo in Washington, Seattle City Light created a five-year plan to educate employees and community members about the best ways to prevent and handle the threat of wildfire. To determine the plan, the utility partnered with community members and organizations.

As part of the plan, Seattle City Light created an employee and resident evacuation procedure, trained its vegetation management and gardening crews on fuel reduction techniques around critical and historical buildings, planted fire-resistant native species in flower beds and gardens, and reduced invasive species near transmission lines. In 2015, a lightning strike ignited a wildfire that burned 7,000 acres of land surrounding the facility. Thanks in large parts to its wildfire mitigation efforts, no one was injured, no historic or critical utility-owned buildings were damaged, and transmission was restored quickly.

Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA): Rush for Brush: Aquatic Resource Enhancement Program

GRDA created Rush-for-Brush, a program that aims to rehabilitate aging lakes by improving the aquatic habitat for popular game fish. The program educates fishermen and conservationists about sound management practices and encourages volunteers, primarily local anglers, to create artificial habitats that simulate traditional brush piles. GRDA provides all the materials needed and allows volunteers to deploy their habitat in any part of a GRDA-managed lake.

Since the beginning of the program, 5,780 habitats have been created by more than 1,100 volunteers. The habitats now cover nearly 11 acres of lake bed in GRDA-managed lakes. The habitats also improve the fishing experience, drawing more fishermen to the region and leading to an increase in tourism that helps stimulate the local economy.

Operational Excellence

One project won an award in the Operational Excellence category, which recognizes projects that add value to the hydropower industry through technical contributions, innovation, engineering, upgrades and improvements or technology breakthroughs for new hydropower technologies.

Avista Corporation: Long Lake Dam Spillway Modification Project

After learning its Long Lake Dam created high total dissolved gas (TDG) levels, Avista Corporation came up with a plan to mitigate the risk to fish in the river downstream. The project included three complex parts that needed to be completed between spill seasons or risk a significant cost increase–a feat that had a very low chance of success.

To complete the project on time, Avista Corporation worked with project stakeholders to create plans for 20 potential risk scenarios–19 of which needed to be deployed during construction–and determine a precise construction schedule.

Their work paid off. The final project was completed under budget, with no lost-time safety accidents, compromises to quality standards or contract claims. The following year, water quality monitoring results showed lower TDG values–sometimes reporting levels that were even lower downstream than upstream.

About the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Awards

In 1994, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) created the Hydro Achievement Awards to recognize organizations and projects committed to excellence in the development and operation of hydropower. In 1999, NHA added the Outstanding Stewardship of America’s Rivers (OSAR) Report to profile the best examples of hydropower’s ability to generate clean, renewable, reliable and affordable electricity while protecting the riverine ecosystem. Beginning in 2007, these two recognition programs were merged to more effectively provide recognition to deserving organizations and to reflect the changing nature of the hydropower industry, particularly the fact that hydropower can be used in various waterways. The new award program is called the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW).