NEAR RICHLAND, Wash. -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory celebrated the renovation of their Aquatics Research Laboratory Wednesday.
Aquatics Research Laboratory is where most of PNNL's fish laboratory experiments are conducted. It's been overhauled with a modern, energy- and water-efficient water treatment system that supplies research-ready water to a fish tanks in a new, 5,500-square foot addition, making the total facility a whopping 7,400 square feet. The DyDepartment of Energy's Institutional General Plant Project fund paid for the $4.9 million project.
The remodel enables PNNL to continue investigating ways to reduce the environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams and other renewable power sources. Located within the Life Sciences Laboratory building on PNNL's north Richland campus, initial lab was built in 1972. However fish research in the are dates back to Hanford at the 1940's and 1950's.
The newly remodeled features include: a fish surgery center, multiple tanks of various sizes to raise fish from eggs to adults, a tank that simulates shear effects , or the conditions fish experience as they move from slow to fast waters when they pass through dam turbines.
"The dams can be operated more safely and still operate in a way that keeps our electricity costs down," said David Geist, the Ecology Group Manager at PNNL.
Research at the facility includes: fish passage and survival at hydroelectric dams, developing biological criteria for the design of fish-friendly dam turbines, understanding how Hanford Site operations affect the Columbia River ecosystem, and how to protect and recover the endangered species such as salmon in the Snake and Columbia Rivers.
The facility used to be partially outdoors and kept control conditions difficult. Geist said pipes would freeze in the winter, high winds would interfere and during the summer, it difficult to keep temperatures steady.
New features added include a space which provides a climate-controlled area to raise and research fish.
One of the most helpful additions for the two dozen researchers is the modern water-delivery system that pumps in river water, filters it, treats it to remove disease-causing pathogens, and heats or chills it to reach a specific desired temperature.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with the Bonneville Power Administration and the Department of Energy invest $15 million dollars a year to make sure the fish in the Snake and Columbia Rivers don't go extinct, and the hydroelectric dams make it a challenge.
The mobile Aquatic Barotrauma Laboratory allows scientists to learn how pressure affects the species and what can be done in the future to save them. "We can test a whole range of rapid pressure changes, then they can take that information and they can use that to model new turbines. So when they put those new turbines into the Snake River and Columbia River, the mortality is much lower on the fish," said Richard Brown a head research scientist at the lab.