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CEE researchers receive BPA Public Service Award

February 27, 2018

  Associate professor Bart Nijssen    Graduate student Oriana Chegwidden

Two UW CEE researchers are honored by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for their efforts to equip BPA with the latest climate change information, which will be used for long-range hydropower planning in the Columbia Basin.

Associate professor Bart Nijssen and research scientist and graduate student Oriana Chegwidden received the 2017 Administrator’s Excellence Awards-Exceptional Public Service to BPA Award. The award, which recognizes an outside team that has been of service to BPA, also recognizes assistant professor David Rupp from Oregon State University.

Starting in 2013, the researchers began using the latest technology to develop datasets and models to better understand future impacts of climate change on the hydrology of the Pacific Northwest. The research is allowing BPA and its partners to better estimate future impacts of climate change on river flow and power generation. The datasets include streamflow information for the Columbia River and coastal drainages in Washington and Oregon states, based on a large number of climate scenarios and model experiments.

While the quality of the work stood out to BPA stakeholders, they were equally impressed with the researchers’ willingness to participate in outreach efforts. The researchers “went above and beyond the research agreement” through their involvement in six workshops intended to update stakeholders on the status of the project. The researchers gave short presentations, offered practical advice, explained the complexities of climate change, and advised how to best use the datasets.

“Bart, Oriana and David led key presentations and discussions at each workshop, and not only shared their research progress, but openly shared the challenges at several points in the complex process, and sought feedback and dialogue on how to mitigate or even turn the challenges into opportunities,” stated the nomination letter.

The four-year project wrapped up in December 2017. Due to its success, other entities have contacted BPA to inquire how to similarly enhance and update their own climate change modeling processes.

The researchers will accept the award at a ceremony on April 26 at BPA in Portland. The datasets produced as part of this project are available online.