Managing dams for energy and fish tradeoffs: What does a win-win solution take?


Management activities to restore endangered fish species, such as dam removals, fishway installations, and periodic turbine shutdowns, usually decrease hydropower generation capacities at dams. Quantitative analysis of the tradeoffs between energy production and fish population recovery related to dam decision-making is still lacking. In this study, an integrated hydropower generation and age-structured fish population model was developed using a system dynamics modeling method to assess basin-scale energy-fish tradeoffs under eight dam management scenarios. This model ran across 150 years on a daily time step, applied to five hydroelectric dams located in the main stem of the Penobscot River, Maine. We used alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) to be representative of the local diadromous fish populations to link projected hydropower production with theoretical influences on migratory fish populations on the model river system. Our results show that while the five dams can produce around 427 GWh/year of energy, without fishway installations they would contribute to a 90% reduction in the alewife spawner abundance. The effectiveness of fishway installations is largely influenced by the size of reopened habitat areas and the actual passage rate of the fishways. Homing to natal habitat has an insignificant effect on the growth of the simulated spawner abundance. Operating turbine shutdowns during alewives' peak downstream migration periods, in addition to other dam management strategies, can effectively increase the spawner abundance by 480–550% while also preserving 65% of the hydropower generation capacity. These data demonstrate that in a river system where active hydropower dams operate, a combination of dam management strategies at the basin scale can best balance the tradeoff between energy production and the potential for migratory fish population recovery.

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Science of The Total Environment

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