US Government Taps the Crowd to Help Ensure Habitat Connectivity for Fish

Posted by Graham Buchanan on Jul 12, 2017 12:04:54 PM

The US Bureau of Reclamation recently awarded $20,000 to four submissions that could help move migrating juvenile fish past tall dams, essential for ensuring the habitat connectivity that many threatened and endangered fish populations need to survive and reproduce. 

The Bureau was specifically interested in finding ways to get young endangered salmon around the Shasta Dam in California, part of a project to reintroduce the fish to the nearby McCloud River. Currently the Bureau uses traps to take returning salmon out of the water and haul them by truck to the McCloud River. In total, 59 submissions were received. The Bureau now plans to further test, develop and demonstrate the four ideas.

Through the Challenge, Solvers from very diverse backgrounds had the opportunity to make a positive impact and tackle a problem they would not otherwise have known existed. Here we look at the four winning Solvers and their proposed solutions.

Solvers and Proposed Solutions

Briana Connors (Cincinnati, Ohio): $10,000

Briana graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2014 with degrees in Chemical Engineering and is now employed as a process engineer working on mineral processing systems. Working during the evenings, she put together her solution, which utilized a drag conveyor to pass fish downstream. Fish would be caught between discs that were attached to a cable running through a tube. The cable would be continuously pulled through the tube, rapidly transporting the fish from one side of the dam to the other. "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."

Ted R. Grygar (San Diego, California): $4,000

Grygar’s idea involves a fish collection structure that floats on the surface of the lake. From there, an Archimedean-style helical device would de-elevate the fish into a pass-through pipe, where they can then swim through a passage to the other side of the dam. The de-elevating function is to reduce the pressure and turbulence for the fish swimming through. With a background in physics and mechanical and electrical engineering, Grygar was motivated to enter this prize competition because he could “participate in a field never experienced in my work history."

Joseph Rizzi (Benicia, California): $3,500

Rizzi’s idea involved guiding fish into a flexible pipe that the fish could slide down to get to the other side of the dam. The reservoir end of the pipe would be attached to a buoy to keep it above the water line. Rizzi was attracted to the Challenge because he wanted to “help Reclamation to help the fish. Dams are important and can be made fish friendly, too.”

Kenneth Smith (Colfax, Wisconsin): $2,500

Smith, who teaches college courses in manufacturing operations at the University of Wisconsin, proposed a system that attracts fish to a collection point and the siphons them over the top of the dam. “I have long been active with inventing, entrepreneurship and social and environmental stewardship,” Smith said.

The Bureau of Reclamation was collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Water Resources on this Challenge.

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