A proportion of juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and other salmonids travel through one or more turbines during their seaward migration in the Columbia and Snake rivers. There is limited information on how these fish respond to the hydraulic pressures found during turbine passage events. We exposed juvenile Chinook salmon to varied acclimation pressures and subsequent exposure pressures to mimic the hydraulic pressures of large Kaplan turbines. Additionally, we varied abiotic (total dissolved gas and rate of pressure change) and biotic factors (condition factor, fish length, and fish weight) that may contribute to the incidence of mortal injury associated with fish passage through hydropower turbines. We determined that the main factor associated with the mortal injury of juvenile Chinook salmon during simulated turbine passage was the ratio between the acclimation pressure and the lowest exposure pressure. Condition factor, total dissolved gas, and rate of pressure change were found to only slightly increase the predictive power of the equations relating the probability of mortal injury to the conditions of exposure or the characteristics of the test fish during simulated turbine passage. This research should assist engineers and fisheries managers in operating and improving hydroelectric facilities while minimizing mortality and injury to turbine-passed juvenile Chinook salmon. Using these data, models can be built that might determine how much mortal injury is present at different turbine operations as pressures change. Further, pressure data coupled with the mortal injury data should be useful to engineers and turbine manufacturers when designing new turbines, which could not only increase power generation and efficiency but also minimize barotrauma to the fish that pass through them.
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