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Hydropower Planning - Praire du Sac Hydropower Dam and Fishway

Notice of Intent: Conduct Scoping for an Environmental Assessment of Alternatives for Fish Passage at Prairie du Sac Dam


Biologist holding a shovelnose sturgeon.

Shovelnose sturgeon are one of the fish species no longer found upstream of the Prairie du Sac dam.

Photo by USFWS

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


ACTION: Notice of Intent to Conduct Scoping for an Environmental Assessment of Alternatives for Fish Passage at Prairie du Sac Dam; Request for Comments.



We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are advising the public that we intend to prepare a draft environmental assessment to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives for a fishway at Prairie du Sac Hydroelectric Dam, owned and operated by Wisconsin Power and Light Company (a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation), licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC Project No. 11162), and located on the Wisconsin River near the village of Prairie du Sac, Sauk County, Wisconsin. As part of the Environmental Assessment, we are conducting public scoping by opening a 30-day public comment period as an opportunity for the interested parties to provide the Service information on issues, concerns, or data that should be considered in the Environmental Assessment.  



The public comment period begins on July 1, 2013 and will continue through August 1, 2013. The Service will consider all comments defining the scope of the Environmental Assessment that are received or postmarked by this date. Comments received or postmarked after this date will be considered to the extent practicable. During the public comment period, the Service will host an open house in Prairie du Sac, WI, at the Ruth Culver Community Library on July 15, 2013 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM with a brief presentation starting at 6:00 PM. The open house will provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues with Service staff regarding the Environmental Assessment.  Written scoping comments will be accepted during the Open House.



You may submit scoping comments by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ATTN: Prairie du Sac Fishway, 2661 Scott Tower Drive, New Franken, Wisconsin, 54229; electronic mail: PDSfishway@fws.gov; or fax: (920) 866-1710 (Attention: Prairie du Sac Fishway).  Written comments may be hand delivered during the public Open House on July 15, 2013.



Mr. Nick Utrup at (920) 866-1717 or PDSfishway@fws.gov.


Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877–8337 for TTY assistance.



We are conducting this public scoping and preparing an Environmental Assessment  in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 1506.6, and 1508.22).  We intend to prepare an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives for the proposed fishway at the Prairie du Sac dam.   The purpose of the Environmental Assessment is to determine the significance of the environmental effects of each alternative.  This information will support selection and approval of an alternative for fish passage at Prairie du Sac Hydroelectric Dam. The Environmental Assessment will include measures necessary to minimize and mitigate environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable.



We are requesting data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party. These comments and data will be considered in evaluating the impacts of alternatives for the proposed fishway and will be documented in the draft Environmental Assessment . We particularly seek comments concerning:


(1) Biological information concerning relevant aquatic species;


(2) Relevant data concerning hydropower, fish passage, and other aquatic species interactions;


(3) Additional information concerning the environmental impacts of fish passage implementation, including any known impacts from sorting or handling of fish for purpose of fish passage;


(4) Any information identified in the aforementioned as it relates to other species that occur in the project area;


(5) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project planning by the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.); and


(6) Identification of any other environmental issues that should be considered with regard to the proposed project.


You may submit your comments and materials considering this notice by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section.
Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing the NEPA document will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Green Bay Ecological Services Field Office, Wisconsin (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). You may obtain copies of this notice on the Internet (www.fws.gov/midwest/greenbay/PDSfishway.html) or by mail from the Green Bay Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section).


The network of dams on the Wisconsin River severely impedes the free and long-distance movement of fish to different seasonal habitats.  The disruption of these movements may have significant implications for riverine fish populations.  If the Wisconsin River were unobstructed by dams, species such as lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), blue sucker (Cycleptus elongates), and shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) would benefit from the ability to make unimpeded, long-distance upstream and downstream spawning migrations and travel to and from preferred summer and winter habitats. The disruption of these movements and fragmentation of fish populations between dams may also have implications for genetic diversity and population resilience. Dams not only create physical barriers to the movement of aquatic organisms, they also change the structure and function of aquatic communities by limiting distribution of species, altering habitat conditions, and blocking fish migrations.  Dams impact migrations to refuge, spawning, and feeding areas that may be necessary during the life cycle of many species.  Fish passage structures may be able to overcome these impacts by providing an engineered pathway as a way to “close the circuit” for the natural life cycle of many fish species.


The use of a fish passage facility could be considered a compromise between the production of reliable hydroelectric power and the need to maintain a healthy and functioning river ecosystem.  A fish passage facility at Prairie du Sac Dam would greatly increase connectivity among the Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Baraboo rivers, therefore increasing habitat availability and the probability of species persistence in previously disconnected riverine habitats. The recent removal of four dams on the Baraboo River, a tributary to the Wisconsin River just upstream of the Prairie du Sac Dam near the town of Portage, Wisconsin, would further extend the benefit of fish passage to more than 100 miles of previously fragmented riverine habitat historically important to many of the native fish species. Additionally, fish passage would most likely mean passage for fish species that host mussel larvae of species once found above the dam and perhaps allow species to become re-established above the Prairie du Sac Dam. 


Wisconsin Power and Light Company (a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation) is the owner and operator of the Prairie du Sac Hydroelectric Dam located on the Wisconsin River near the village of Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. A license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2002 includes a condition that requires the company to provide for fish passage that allows fish to move upstream from below the dam. The dam has been a barrier to upstream fish movement since it was constructed over 100 hundred years ago and the result has been loss of aquatic species upstream of the dam. As part of the effort to restore fish passage at the dam, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is starting a public scoping effort as we begin to prepare an Environmental Assessment that describes and evaluates alternatives for providing fish passage. 


Invasive Species Considerations

Asian carp (Hypophthalmichthys spp.) are invasive species of concern when considering various alternatives for implementation of fishways. The Service will analyze each fish passage alternative in the draft EA, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, so as to be adequately informed prior to approving an alternative in an effort to prevent further spread of this non-native species.


Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is a harmful virus that infects freshwater fish, particularly fish in cold water. VHS is a disease that has caused significant fish kills in the Great Lakes and can be transferred through the water via reproductive fluids or urine. The virus weakens blood tissue and organs resulting in hemorrhaging of the internal organs. The virus is not native to North America, and is thought to have been transferred to Great Lakes waterways through ballast water transfer. This virus is the primary fish disease that is of concern when considering fish passage systems, and each alternative will be analyzed in the Environmental Assessment in order to select an alternative that will prevent the spread of the virus, particularly to areas where it currently does not exist.



The proposed action is to provide for the safe, timely, and effective passage of native fish upstream and downstream of the Prairie du Sac Dam, while simultaneously maintaining a barrier to invasive non-native species.  The proposed action must incorporate reasonable precautions (per State of Wisconsin Invasive Species Rule, NR 40) to prevent the upstream passage of invasive species and diseases of concern as well as comply with all other applicable State and Federal laws.


To meet these requirements and precautions, the proposed action may involve construction of a fish elevator designed to attract migrating fish into a trap that can be lifted out of the water (while still holding water and fish) with a hoist whereby the fish and water in the hopper would be transferred to a controlled sorting facility.  The fish would then be physically sorted by trained professionals prior to being transferred upstream.  Similar alternatives have been proven successful at other hydroelectric dams and may allow for the passage of fish at Prairie du Sac Dam while also maintaining a barrier to the free movement of non-native invasive species upstream. 



In addition to the proposed action, several other alternatives for fish passage are under consideration and will be analyzed to determine which will meet the needs of the proposal while also considering the spread of invasive species.  Examples of other alternatives include the use of nets and traditional fishing gear to capture fish for transfer upstream or the use of a trap and truck whereby fish would be collected, sorted, placed into a truck with a hauling tank, and driven to areas upstream of the Prairie du Sac Dam.  Regardless of which alternative is selected, all fish would need to be screened and sorted to keep non-native invasive species from reaching areas upstream of the dam.



Under the No Action Alternative, hydropower production at the Prairie du Sac Dam would continue under the existing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate (FERC Project No. 11162) without construction, operation, and maintenance of upstream and downstream fishways as currently required as a condition of the project license.



The Service will conduct an environmental assessment (EA) to analyze various alternatives for implementing the proposed action and the associated impacts of each. The EA will describe the affected environment, including species and habitats, the effects of the alternatives on water resources, water quality, cultural resources, land use, recreation, water use, local economy, and environmental justice, and identify measures to mitigate (avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce or eliminate the impacts over time, or compensate) environmental effects. Following completion of a draft environmental assessment, the Service will publish a notice of availability and a request for comments on the draft EA.



This notice is being furnished as provided for by NEPA, the NEPA regulations, and the Act. The intent of public scoping period is to obtain suggestions and additional information from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues to be considered. Comments and participation in this scoping process are solicited.


Dated: July 1, 2013



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Last updated: February 13, 2017