2012 – Using Submerged Weirs to Prevent Cold Water Pollution from Reservoirs Fort Peck Dam Case Study

Krey Price, David Moore, John Palensky

Cold water pollution (CWP) occurs when dam releases draw from lower-temperature regions of a reservoir, potentially impacting fish survivability in downstream waterways. Declining fish populations along the Missouri River have prompted recent investigations into solutions for CWP prevention.
Fort Peck Dam is an 80-metre high, 7-kilometre long dam located along the Missouri River; completed in 1940, it is one of the world’s oldest and largest hydraulically filled earthen dams and is listed on the U.S. National Historic Register. Inflow temperatures to Fort Peck Reservoir are significantly warmer than the outflow temperatures through the dam during the months of March through August. A water temperature of 18°C has been identified as critical for spawning and recruitment of locally threatened fish species; however, downstream temperatures typically remain below 14°C during critical time periods. This difference is due to the current deep-water withdrawal from Fort Peck Reservoir.
Ten alternatives were proposed to increase the temperature of the discharge, and an options analysis narrowed the results to a single, preferred alternative that consisted of a flexible, submerged weir around the intake. This paper documents the design efforts undertaken for temperature control measures at Fort Peck Dam, including a description of the modelling methods, design criteria, and effectiveness of the submerged weir alternative.
The use of a submerged weir to increase discharge temperatures relies on the process of passing warmer water from the upper portion of the water column over the weir crest into the intake area, rather than drawing from the bottom of the reservoir. For reservoirs with fluctuating levels, such as those at Fort Peck Dam, a flexible curtain can be suspended a set distance from the water surface using a float system, with the bottom of the curtain anchored to the lake bottom with ballast and cables. The crest elevation is set relative to the thermocline; as the lake level fluctuates, the flexible curtain folds and unfolds in response.
The impacts of CWP are increasingly recognised as an environmental risk worldwide. This paper draws upon the results of similar, implemented projects around the world, including a comparison to cold water pollution prevention measures and costs that have been assessed by CSIRO for application to Australian reservoirs.
Keywords: Cold water pollution, reservoir stratification, thermocline, curtain, fish health

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