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On the 1st of March 2017, at the Poutès dam on the Allier river gorge in France, EDF launched a novel project in consultation with water stakeholders. Its objective is to improve the migration of wild salmon downstream i.e. their journey down the Allier River to the sea.
Prior to work on the New Poutès project, which is planned to start in a few months, the height of the reservoir water level has been lowered by 6 meters at the dam. This water level drop has reduced the reservoir length from the usual 3.5 km to 1 km. Adjustment of the water flow rate through the turbine makes it possible to reconcile the production of hydroelectricity, which is the primary source of renewable energy in the region, with the optimisation of downstream migration of Allier Salmon.
In partnership with the Wild Salmon Conservatory, under the AMBER European program, young salmon, known as smolts, are caught upstream of the reservoir of Poutès by a drum net trap placed in the river. The young salmon trapped are equipped with an acoustic transmitter, and then released. Their behaviour is studied and the time to traverse the dam is measured by receivers arranged upstream and downstream of the dam.
An escape route, a special crossing device, has been carefully positioned on the opening of the left bank valve to allow a minimum of 70 cm depth of water to flow out. This allows the fish to traverse the dam structure without damage. Once the downstream life-cycle of the fish is complete, the valve will be closed and the water height will be returned to its usual operating level. The fish movement measured by the acoustic transmitters can then be analyzed.
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