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Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County in Washington operates the 912-MW Priest Rapids facility on the Columbia River. The powerhouse contains 10 Kaplan-type turbines that are more than 50 years old. Plans are under way to install new runners. The Columbia River is a migratory pathway for several species of threatened and endangered juvenile and adult salmonids, thus safe fish passage is a major consideration when upgrading the turbines.

Among the hazardous hydraulic conditions affecting anadromous and resident fish during their passage though hydro-turbines two common physical processes can lead to injury and mortality: collisions/blade-strike and rapid decompression. Several methods are currently available to evaluate these stressors in installed turbines, e.g. using live fish or autonomous sensor devices, and in reduced-scale physical models, e.g. registering collisions from plastic beads.

To increase and maintain existing hydropower capacity within biological performance-based regulations, predictive simulation methods are needed that can reliably estimate the risk to fish passing through flow passage routes at hydropower facilities. One of the central challenges is to validate the software capabilities for simulating the trajectories, including collisions, of inertial particles against laboratory data.