Spokane Journal of Business

Contractors team up to land dam job

Kuney Goebel JV expects to receive $27.4 million contract for fish bypass

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Contractors team up to land dam job
-—Photo courtesy of Grant County PUD
The fish-bypass system will be located in the three spillways closest to the power house at the Priest Rapids Dam, located on the Columbia River in central Washington.

A joint venture of two Spokane-based construction companies is the apparent low bidder for an about $27.4 million project to construct three fish bypass structures at the Priest Rapids Dam, located on the Columbia River in central Washington.

Robert B. Goebel General Contractor Inc. and Max J. Kuney Construction Inc. formed the partnership, called Kuney Goebel JV, with the intent of bidding on and working on the project together, says Steve Goebel, a partner with Goebel.

The Priest Rapids Dam fish bypass project is being performed with the objective to increase survival rates of juvenile salmon as they migrate downstream in the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, says Rita Bjork, a spokeswoman with the Grant County Public Utilities District, which owns and operates the dam, located about 160 miles southwest of Spokane.

Bjork says the construction of the structures would allow salmon and other fish to bypass the dam's turbines through a non-turbine spillway. The addition of a safer passage through the dam could increase survival rates of young migrating salmon to 98 percent, from between 87 percent and 92 percent, she says.

Construction of the fish bypass at Priest Rapids is expected to begin early this summer and should be completed by April of 2014, Bjork says. The dam will continue to operate throughout construction.

A contract for the project is expected to be awarded at the end of this month to Kuney Goebel JV, she says. The joint venture's bid of $27.4 million came in about $4 million lower than the next lowest bid, project bid results show.

Bjork says that the Grant County PUD is adding the structures at Priest Rapids to meet updated hydropower operating license requirements set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses and oversees new and existing hydropower and other types of power facilities in the U.S. The updated licensing regulations require that hydropower facilities in the U.S. have a minimum 95 percent survival rate for salmon that pass through them, she says.

Bjork says that the Grant County PUD recently completed a similar fish-bypass project on its Wanapum Dam, which is located about 28 miles upstream from Priest Rapids and about six miles south of where Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia River, at Vantage, Wash. Since completion of the bypass there in 2008, she says, the dam has seen a survival rate of 98 percent for salmon and 99 percent for steelhead.

At Priest Rapids, the project has been engineered to use three existing spillways on the dam's west side, near its power house, Bjork says. Currently, only 10 of the 22 total spillway gates at the dam are installed with turbines, the PUD says.

The design and engineering of both the Wanapum and Priest Rapids fish bypass projects were preceded by several years of research and studies to ensure that the structures would be used by the fish as they cross the dams' spillways, Bjork says. She adds that the engineering of the projects were a collaborative effort by federal, state, local, and tribal agencies.

"It's a very expensive project, and we want to make sure we're getting it right," she says.

The Grant County PUD is funding the multi-million dollar Priest Rapids project itself, Bjork says.

She adds that the fish bypass structures not only are expected to make downstream migration safer for the fish, but they also will increase the dam's electrical generation capacity because the PUD won't have to spill excess water over the dam to carry the fish. Consequently, she says, the structure being constructed at Priest Rapids will pay for itself in as little as three and a half years.

  • Chey Scott

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