Dick Durbin’s office put me in contact with GAO. An introductory letter was prepared to explain the situation. GAO never got back to me. On later calls to bug them about it, the excuse was they had bigger fish to fry…
Dear Ms. Fennell,
It was good to speak with you last week. To reestablish our conversation, let me recap the subject covered and back-fill a little more detail.
I spoke briefly of an ongoing Endangered Species Act lawsuit ongoing in Portland Oregon Federal Court for over 12-year. This lawsuit is only collateral to the problems I’m bringing to your attention; however, to understand the scope of the corruption I am reporting, you must first have a grasp of the lawsuit’s history.
At issue in the lawsuit is the fish mortality problem caused by hydroelectric plants on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.
It is my contention that the unavoidable problems of hydropower are unnecessarily exacerbated by sub-standard Kaplan turbine control system equipment that has been produced and deployed under an unjustifiable “sole-source” contract by a “favored supplier” that was created by USACE Hydro Design Center (HDC) and DOE Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) government personnel under the pretense of its being a necessary “captive supplier,” a special consultant that does work only for HDC. A DOD IG found that this relationship is unsavory, and the ownership of this captive supplier is likely in the hands of highly placed USACE and DOE personnel, in essence, they are “feathering their own nest” at our expense.
A 3-year investigation by DOE IG uncovered many problems with this captive supplier relationship, most dubious among these was a “shell company” owned, operated by the wife of an HDC employee - but in the end was simply covered-up to protect the guilty and avoid any negative impact on the government’s defense in the ongoing lawsuit. The cover-up goes all the way up to Mr. Trahan, the Department of Defense Inspector General acting head at that time. I would like GAO to review the information file from this investigation in order to vet my allegations of:
· Illegal procurement favoritism from a “captive supplier” that leads to
· Sub-standard equipment, that causes
· Misaligned Kaplan turbine blade to head and gate positioning, that cause
· Increased turbulence and shear forces in the water flowing through the turbines that
· Increases mortality of downstream migrant juvenile anadromous fish that
· Decreases fish populations to extinction and near extinction that is the subject of the ongoing lawsuit.
All of these elements are rooted in illegal procurement favoritism by DOE and USACE government personnel that are being covered-up after an initial IG investigation found them to be true.
The penultimate complaint is that in order to provide the technology for this captive supplier to build and deploy, government personnel pirate the technology by intellectual property theft and reverse-engineering equipment technologies that have been developed in the private sector, using their official government jobs to bully private companies to acquire the technology by fraud and contract manipulation, subsequent sub-standard control systems are hidden behind national security protocols to protect the guilty. This situation has existed for over 20 years.
I can demonstrate with empirical field data that the control systems designed by the government personnel and mass produced and deployed by their captive supplier is sub-standard by the accepted, published ASME and IEEE industry standards and thus cannot position the Kaplan turbine blades and gates accurately and robustly. The DOD IG investigation file will show this all to be true, and that USACE IG’s response was a cover-up instead to a corrective action.
The matter before the Portland Oregon federal court is the destruction of every anadromous and catadromous species of aquatic wildlife in the Columbia River Basin. There are elements of root cause stemming from government corruption in the form of procurement favoritism that has led to sub-standard Kaplan turbine control system equipment that cannot position the turbine blades accurately and robustly.
You surmised at our first exchange that this entails technical, detailed information. As the saying goes, “The Devil is in the details.” Yes, indeed.
To set the stage, please watch this excellent movie on PBS that tells the story of the fish-mortality problem very effectively:
The Judge in the case is James A Redden. His story is well told in this interview by author Ken Olson in the High Country News, "Salmon Justice."
Of particular interest is the timeline in a sidebar linked on page 4 of this article, "History of a decline."
Let me add a post-script to these; prior to this timeline, Rock Island Dam, located just 235 miles from the Canadian border was completed in 1933 as detailed in this webpage about Native Fisheries.
A few years later the Colville Indian Nation complained to Congress about how the dams were going to destroy the fish populations, citing diminished catches in subsequent years after the dam was completed.
As a result of the Indian's claim that the dams would kill all of the fish, Congress ordered fish-ladders be constructed to allow the adult fish to surmount the dam and get upriver to spawn in the freshwater creeks of their own birth.
It can only be presumed that some live-fish testing of the downstream passage was conducted by placing nets across the discharge of the turbine and putting live fish into the intake, catching them and evaluating the potential for survival of the species; some form of test or demonstration certainly must have been conducted…
That all happened 80 years ago - any reports on the test procedures and results were archived and forgotten long ago, so without further research or an official inquiry we can only guess as to what really happened. However, whatever really happened a satisfactory arrangement ensued. Many more dams were built, electricity has been generated in abundance and the fish have been able to pass the dams in both directions with acceptable survival rates for over 50 years.
Everything was going fine until the 1980's when the fish populations went into a sudden and serious decline. In rapid succession several species of anadromous fish were declared extinct and 12 more were placed on the endangered species list.
Something had changed to cause this problem, and everyone was at a loss to explain it despite the expenditure of massive government funds, great efforts and bringing the finest minds on the planet to bear on the situation.
(The sudden crash of fish populations around 1980 coincided with USACE Hydro Design Center designing and deploying their first generation of Seawell electronic 3-D cams that government personnel reverse-engineered from equipment the government procured from the private sector –but I’m getting ahead of the story - more on this topic later).
Since the early1980s, live and simulated fish testing has been conducted by marine biologists from a number of government agencies to figure out why the fish populations were in such serious decline:
· Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
· Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
· Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)
· National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries
· Fish Passage Center
These tests and research have been conducted to figure out why the fish populations are dying out. All of these agencies have conducted numerous live-fish testing; PNNL has created a simulated fish (electronic sensor-fish) to test the potential for turbine survival by quantifying pressure and acceleration profiles. This has become a much more exacting (and expensive) science and is beyond my scope of expertise, and not the primary concern that I’m bringing to the GAO.
I do know that they still have not solved the problem, and that it’s perhaps because they don’t want to. “A crisis provides an opportunity to do things you couldn’t otherwise do” – to quote our current administration’s philosophy. It certainly fits the facts on the ground in this situation.
I can say that the data results from all of this testing has been inconclusive and they have not yet solved the fish-mortality problem, and I think I know the reason why not. There is an operational variable in the turbine control system that is not being controlled adequately, not been recorded or even being recognized by the marine biologist during any of their testing, a variable that has a dramatic impact on a Kaplan turbine’s operating efficiency, the turbulence, shear forces in the water flowing through it and the resulting fish mortality rates, yet nobody wants to consider it, despite my suggesting it to them on many occasions.
A few of the fish mortality data results come immediately to mind:
· An early report on turbine-passage fish-survival test results by Glenn Cada Ph.D., a marine biologist at ORNL, decried a 13% mortality rate when earlier testing had shown mortality rates of only 2% to 5%. He puzzled why it was over twice as high.
· Another more recent report by Mike Sale, Ph.D. (another ORNL biologist), enumerated fish mortality rates from 5% to 30% in the abstract.
· Currently USACE is stating that mortality rates are < 18%.
· Earlier survival rates found in the NOAA fisheries Biological Opinion (BiOp) were reported at 45% to 55%.
· Today, this matter has become such a political “hot-potato” that these numbers are “all over the map,” and it is impossible to get a straight answer out of any of the “experts” about it.
They have determined that increased survival rates are better, and that the extreme pressure gradients, turbulence and shear forces that exist in the water as it passes through the turbines are detrimental to fish survival rates. Less turbulent, smoother and more laminar flowing water with reduced shear-forces will increase survival rates. The obvious answer to the problem is in the efficiency performance of the Kaplan turbines. What they are overlooking is that a “standard practice” efficiency performance optimization test is not being conducted by the government personnel responsible for the turbine control equipment, and the turbine control systems the government has designed, built and deployed themselves and by their captive supplier are sub-standard by every accepted industry metric.
By the time we conclude or conversation I hope to have provided a brief primer on
· Variable geometries
· Control mechanisms
· The applicable industry standards
· Turbine control system performance measurement procedures
· Turbine control system performance standards
· Turbine efficiency measurement procedures
· Turbine 3-D cam blade angle to head and gate stroke tuning procedures
It was determined by the marine biologists many years ago that increasing turbine operating efficiency increases survival rates. A Biological Opinion (BiOp) was devised as a practical guideline stating that the turbines should be operated only within the top 1% of their efficiency envelope. This dictate was mandated by Judge Redden in attempt to preserve and restore the fish populations.
Figure 1 Efficiency profile of Kaplan turbine showing the peak 1% envelope
Figure 1 shows this relationship that was incorporated into the NOAA Fisheries BiOp and mandated into practice by the court until 2008. Despite this mandate, fish populations continue to decline despite everything they did.
NOAA Fisheries has now “thrown in the towel;” in 2008 they rescinded the “1% efficiency envelope,” as explained in Gary Fredricks’ email appended at the end of this letter.
The above description is the collateral situation to the root-cause of the problem.
The root cause I’m bringing to your attention is misalignment of the blades that makes it impossible to realize the efficiency profile shown in Figure 1. This is the subject of my next letter. For now I will pinch this off to prepare for our 11:00 am (your time) conversation.
Appendix 1- Kaplan Turbine Control Systems
Blade to Head and Gate Relationship and Efficiency
Kaplan turbines have variable pitch blades that can be adjusted, or “tuned” to maximize operating efficiency of the machines.
Recall in our initial conversation the “Winnebago” sized control systems that were originally developed for these machines by Woodward Governor. Here is a picture of the control system at McNary dam. Each one of these controls two of the 13 turbines in the dam, so consider this one as a “double-wide.”
Figure 2 Woodward Governor for Units 9 & 10 at McNary Dam
These control systems were impossible for government personnel to reverse-engineer and make in their own private company, so Woodwards’ core business of providing these controls systems was safe.
The purpose of this control system was twofold. The first was to open and close the gates to let the water flow into the turbine section, and the second was to rotate the blades to the optimum, or best efficiency angle relative to gate opening.
This relationship is shown in a 2-dimensional Cartesian Coordinates graph:
Figure 3 Kaplan turbine 3-D cam surface profile
Figure 4 Actual Kaplan turbine "runner" on display outside Bonneville Dam
Figure 2. Kaplan turbine “runner” on display outside Bonneville Dam
The pitch of these turbine blades can be adjusted “on the fly.” The blade sticking out towards you from the picture rotates from 16 to 47 degrees within the radius of the circle outlined by the rust “drooling” out of the hub.
Just like the propeller on a boat; the optimum (or best) pitch for a boat propeller will be different whether you want to drag water-skiers or push a barge.
To understand what’s happening with this turbine in a hydroelectric unit, a cutaway drawing will provide a frame of reference.
Figure 5 Kaplan turbine cutaway used to describe internal workings
This Rudimentary geometry is used to describe the optimum blade angle for a given flow rate of water.
Procurement favoritism in the acquisition and deployment of the turbine blade controls systems all along the Snake and Columbia Rivers, which started in the mid 1980's after USACE Hydro Design Center reverse-engineered Woodward's
I look forward to continuing our dialog on Tuesday.
Actuation Test Equipment Company
Appendix 2 Email letter from NOAA Fisheries on current status
CC: Ed.Meyer@noaa.gov, Ritchie.Graves@noaa.gov
Sent: 6/28/2011 2:24:35 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Re: Doug Albright turbine efficiency and fish survival
Doug, I've been on the move a lot lately so haven't had a chance
to respond. As I indicated on the phone, our current direction in turbine
operation has shifted away from a strict adherence to efficiency to an emphasis
on what we call "open or best geometry". The idea here is that fish
survival (based on extensive model work and limited biological studies) is more
likely linked to balancing the best possible pathway through the turbine units
while staying away from extreme pressure changes. Our approach is to advocate
for the operation of turbine units near the upper end or, in some cases, beyond
the upper end of the 1% efficiency range. This operation does a better job of
aligning stay vane and wicket gates, steepening blade angles, reducing hub
swirl, and filling out the draft tubes (which also helps improve tailrace
egress conditions). We realize that forcing more flow through these units also
decreases pressure nadirs and we have a fairly extensive biological data set
that will help us avoid moving into pressures that may harm fish. Our intention
is to move towards replacing the current 1% efficiency guidelines with new operating
ranges as they are developed for the various groups of turbines in the system.
This work is occurring under RPA 27 of the 2008-2010 Biological Opinion. There
are a couple of reasons why we are not as concerned with turbine efficiency as
we once were. First, the more recent fish survival reviews have not shown a
strong correlation between efficiency and survival (reference the Skalski 2002
North American Journal of Fisheries Management paper) and second, the
combination of spill, surface passage routes and bypasses have been very
effective a moving fish passage away from turbine units which greatly reduces
the effect turbine improvements have on improving overall fish passage
survival. Thanks for your interest in our issues out here. Sincerely, Gary Fredricks
On 5/3/2011 3:20 PM, DudleyDevices@aol.com wrote:
Thanks for speaking with me this morning. I'd like to keep our conversation off the record and just get the straight-skinny on what's happing in your bailiwick.
The PBS Nature move, Salmon, Running the Gauntlet can be seen at this link.
Good stuff. I'm going to find the folks in this movie and talk to them about turbine control systems and fish passage.
The Washington Post article about Larry Craig is at:
What I'm requesting from you is information regarding the current understanding of fish survival in turbines and how it will go in the future. Would you characterize the original 1% envelope as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the problem?
I'm shifting the focus of my Index Test Box marketing to connect two concepts:
1. NOAA Fisheries' BIOP has linked increasing turbine efficiency to increasing fish survival rates, and
2. index testing and optimizing turbines increases their operating efficiencies,
Therefore, index testing and optimizing Kaplan turbines will increase fish survival rates.
And not just one of a family index testing, but comprehensive, every single turbine gets index tested and optimized, individually.
This would also require strict adherence to accepted, published industry standards by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and International Electro-technical Commission.
You said the 1% envelope is no longer the "law of the land."
What exactly are the new guiding principals and stated "law of the land?"
Actuation Test Equipment Company
 Seawell was the name of the company that built and deployed the first generation of USACE designed Kaplan turbine 3-D cam designs. Note that in 1980 USACE acquired 18 perfectly functional Woodward Governor electronic 3-D cams for the Bonneville Dam, then after reverse-engineering this technology to produce their own version if it USACE personnel introduced their new 3-D cam as a new development - if the prior acquisition of similar equipment had never happened. USACE claimed to have "invented" a digital electronic 3-D cam 10 years later in 1990. This new "invention" of USACE's personnel was subsequently deployed into every hydropower dam on the Snake and Columbia Rivers by a vendor created by government personnel. It is my contention that this practice is a root cause of the fish-mortality problem – another result of government personnel greed and corruption.