Vientiane Times, February 14, 2015 The developer of the Don Sahong Hydropower Project has said channel modification and monitoring of fish species and fish passages in the Siphandone area will continue as preparations are made to start construction. The Lao PDR recently told the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that it is ending the formal six-month Prior Consultation process and plans to move ahead with construction of the 260-MW Don Sahong Project. Excavation is being done in Hou Wai to provide a wider and deeper channel for large fish to move upstream past the Khone Larn rapids in the dry season, as well as modifications to the existing channel to improve the passage for smaller fish species. This work will ensure that there is an effective upstream passage route for all fish species past the main barrier in Hou Xang Pheuak. Journalists who visited the channel-widening project this month saw many birds hunting for food, a sign that small fish were already plentiful. In addition to widening and deepening channels adjacent to Hou Sahong, scientific studies of the fish species and the local fishery will continue. Among the ongoing activities is catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) sampling at upstream and downstream sites in various fish passage channels near Hou Sahong, the channel which would be blocked by the project. Another is the household catch survey in which 60 households in six villages have been recording their catches daily to reflect the socioeconomic importance of the fish catch. The results of the household survey also tell scientists about fish migration patterns. Mr Kent Hortle, an independent consultant for Don Sahong Power Company, said the geography of the Khone Falls area is characterised by its many channels and seasonal changes in water flows. In addition, there is a great diversity of fish, with more than 200 species identified. Some species migrate past the falls at certain times of year. Before the project began its studies in 2006, most of fisheries data came from 1994-1999 studies of catches by locals fishing downstream of the falls. “Most quantitative information on Khone Falls fisheries is out-of-date and tells us only that fish are caught and killed in large quantities while trying to ascend the falls,” he said. “Many breeding fish are killed while migrating – before they can spawn. But there are no quantitative data on the proportions of fish that get past the falls (in total) or on the proportion that passes each channel at present. Nobody can quantify fisheries losses at this stage.” Mr Hortle said the Don Sahong project has done what was initially required by the MRC by developing methods to evaluate the effectiveness of fish passage mitigation measures for upstream-migrating fish and to provide information for ongoing fish passage improvement. In addition, the project has been evaluating risk to downstream-migrating fish and providing information needed to develop downstream fish passage mitigation measures. A third mandate is for the developer to gauge the socio-economic importance and value of the fisheries to the people directly affected by the project. Rather than build any man-made fish ladders, the Don Sahong project is relying on natural channels to provide passage for fish once the Hou Sahong is blocked. Working with local residents, the project team has improved fish passage at four places, one in Hou Sadam and three in Hou Xang Pheuak. In recent weeks, fish can be seen moving upstream through the improved fish passages and feeding within them.