Use of a particle-tracking model for predicting entrainment at power plants on the Hudson River
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A major assumption of the Empirical Transport Model (ETM), widely adopted by both electric utilities and regulatory agencies for estimating the effects of entrainment mortality on fish populations in estuaries, is that the fraction of ichthyoplankton entrained varies only in response to changes in water withdrawals, not to changes in freshwater flow. We evaluated this assumption using a particle-tracking model to estimate the probability of entrainment at power plants on the Hudson River during low and high freshwater flow periods and comparing those probabilities with estimates calculated from the ETM. We found that freshwater flow had a profound effect on the probability of entrainment. Both the number of river regions from which particles were entrained and the probabilities of entrainment for particles in those river regions differed between low-flow and high-flow periods. During high flow, particles spent less time in the grid box next to the intakes, reducing the probability of entrainment for particles released in the river region of each power plant and the average probability of entrainment across all regions at three power plants. The reduced probability of entrainment for particles released in the river regions of two power plants was offset by higher entrainment for particles upriver of these power plants. Although the average probabilities of entrainment across all river regions estimated with the particle-tracking model and the ETM were relatively similar for some power plants at high flow, low flow, or both, the probabilities for each river region differed considerably between the models. The number of river regions from which particles were entrained using the ETM was consistently underestimated, resulting in probabilities for regions where entrainment occurred that were biased high compared with the particle-tracking model.