Corps releases research on fish behavior from barge tows crossing electric barriers

Published Dec. 20, 2013

CHICAGO - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), released preliminary findings from research following laboratory and field experiments to assess potential impacts on fish behavior from barge tows crossing the electric fish barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC), Dec. 20, 2013.

The preliminary findings of this research and proposed future actions are summarized in a white paper: “The Summary of Fish-Barge Interaction Research and Fixed Dual Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON) Sampling at the Electric Dispersal Barrier in Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal”

The experiments consisted of the following:

Development of a scale physical model to evaluate the possibility of fish being inadvertently transported across the electric barriers by navigation operations in the CSSC; instrumented-barge testing to determine the effects of loaded and unloaded barges crossing the barriers on electric field strength; and observation of fish behavior during barge testing through the use of caged-fish and tethered-wild fish trials.

USFWS is also evaluating wild fish populations and their behavior within the electric barriers using a dual-frequency identification SONAR (DIDSON) unit, which is an underwater camera. DIDSON is used to evaluate fish populations throughout the entire barrier system.

Additional review and analysis, as well as additional testing will be required to fully understand the data and any potential impact on barrier operations and navigation in the CSSC.

Future research will include a variety of simulations to further evaluate fish behavior, effects of the electrical field on groups of fish and how these may relate to operational protocols of the barriers and navigation in the CSSC. The research will be undertaken by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) over a two-year period. 

Findings like these are why the Corps continues to monitor the area closely; it presents opportunities to strengthen the barriers already in place.

There is no evidence that Asian carp are bypassing the barriers; nor is there any indication Asian carp are in the vicinity of the barriers. The closest adult Asian carp found in the Illinois River are about 55 miles from Lake Michigan, and no small Asian carp have been observed closer than 131 miles from Lake Michigan.

Sarah Gross

Release no. 122013-001