Corps Prepares to Build a Fishway on Upper Mississippi River
In a few years, all kinds of fish in the Upper Mississippi River will be able to swim upstream from Lock & Dam 22. That's south of Quincy, Illinois and 170 miles south of the Quad Cities.
It'll be the first time since the navigation system was built that fish will be able to migrate year-round without going through a lock and dam.
"So those fish are going to come up, and they're looking for those open gates. And they're like, 'Hey look at your gate. We'd really like to get through but the water's coming through so quickly.' They can make it to about the end of those Gates but they can't get up and through. So we want them to learn... 'Oh, look! There's a better way!' We studied where are they going to go? Where are they going to move? How are they going to find their way? And they find it right to this location."
If you can't already tell, Kara Mitvalsky (KAIR-uh mitt-VOL-skee) -- the Corps of Engineers' Senior Technical Lead for the Fish Passage Improvement Project -- is thrilled the project finally kicked off in May. It's been more than 20 years since she was assigned to it as part of NESP, the corps' Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program.
While working on a feasibility study, funding for NESP was cut. But in recent years, Mitvalsky says funding was restored for the $97 million project.
Mitvalsky and her co-workers studied fish movement with computer modelling and decided Lock and Dam 22 near Saverton (SAY-ver-ton), Missouri is the best place to build a rock ramp, or a "fishway on a spillway."
The project also includes a bridge over the fishway, plus a building where computers and other equipment will monitor the fish and their migration.
"Anyone who spends time on the river knows that we have a lot of log jams that can come through, you know, large debris, floating down the river. And of course, you know, as soon as we start to get a spring, we have a lot of ice floes and ice jams that can happen. So we wanted to make sure we could protect the fishway structure. So we have a debris boom that will be on the upstream end that'll be able to deflect debris and protect the fishway."
While this is the very first funded environmental project through NESP, Mitvalsky is looking forward to more.
"We've never done anything like this before. So we want to make sure that what we learned here we can apply to other dams in the future. So we're building this structure in a way that we can change it over time, and so we can see what the fish are doing through it. So there's a huge science component to this. We're going to learn and figure out... Could we make it smaller? Could we change the opening? Could we change how we place the rocks inside of it? And what works best? And then, whatever that best design is at the end, we can apply that to future fishway projects."
It'll take a few years to build the fish passage. She hopes the entire project will be completed by the summer of 2027.
In April, the Corps of Engineers also broke ground on another project that's part of NESP (Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program). It's a mooring cell near Lock and Dam 14 in LeClaire.
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