Two energy advocates have released a case study that examines how hydropower can occur away from the natural river system.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Energy Trust of Oregon issued the study, authored by Hood River firm Farmers Conservation Alliance, which examines the cumulative effects of small-scale hydropower generation by two irrigation districts on the Hood River watershed over the past 30 years.

The study found “a measured positive impact on fish” from projects in the Hood River watershed, thanks to “the generation of nearly $90 million in revenue that funded infrastructure improvements leading to increased summer stream flows, installation of fish screens, removal of passage barriers and increased collaboration within the watershed community.”

FCA examined irrigation and hydropower generation systems of the Farmers Irrigation District and the Middle Fork Irrigation District. It mulled data relating to energy, water, watershed restoration and the local economy.

“Within the category of small hydro, projects located within existing irrigation systems are of particular interest due to the opportunity to use an existing resource for an additional benefit,” wrote study author Les Perkins.

The work details how hydropower generation is occurring “away from the natural habitat of fish and other species and, unlike the large, river-spanning dams we are all accustomed to hearing about, not impeding their safe passage during migrations.”

“Hydropower projects utilizing irrigation district infrastructure have been a focus for Energy Trust because the projects can generate renewable energy while often creating other environmental benefits, such as putting water back in-stream for fish,” added Energy Trust Program Manager Jed Jorgensen, in a release.

“Through this study, we are able to share the full range of benefits that can be experienced both by irrigation districts and the environment from irrigation hydro projects. This study will be a valuable resource for irrigation districts who are considering adding hydropower, as well as for natural resource agencies and other interested parties who need to evaluate the impacts of irrigation hydro.”

Source: Sustainable Business Oregon

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