Reclamation awards four prizes for tall dam fish passage research

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced four winners who will split $20,000 in funding for fish passage research.

The goal of the program is to identify potential solutions to move juvenile fish downstream past tall dams, ensuring habitat connectivity that USBR says is essential for threatened and endangered populations.

The first prize of $10,000 went to Briana Connors — a chemical engineer and 2014 graduate of the University of Cincinnati — whose submission uses a drag conveyor belt to pass fish with minimal trauma.

“My proposed solution used solutions I had seen used in food and chemical plant designs for inspiration,” Connors said. “Prior to reading the problem statement, I was not aware of how much resources went into fish relocation at dams. I assumed this is funded by taxes, so to me, any way we can improve methods would lead to a more efficient use of tax dollars.”

Other winners include:

  • Ted R. Grygar, who will receive $4,000 for an “Archimedean internal helical device” use to move fish past high-head dams;
  • Joseph Rizzi, who will receive $3,500 for a system that uses nets to guide fish to multiple collection points, where they will be conveyed downstream via flexible pipe; and
  • Kenneth Smith, who will receive $2,500 to develop a system that uses “innovative ways” to attract fish to collection locations.

The four winners were selected from a pool of 59 applications, whose technologies will be used by the federal government on a perpetual, no-cost basis following further testing and development by Reclamation.

The program was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA – National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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