USACE test underwater speakers for invasive species multi-deterrent system at Brandon Road Lock and Dam

USACE Chicago District
Published Dec. 2, 2021
USACE test underwater speakers for invasive species multi-deterrent system at Brandon Road Lock and Dam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologists test interactions between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal electrical barrier and underwater acoustic speakers for an invasive species multi-deterrent system at Brandon Road Lock and Dam.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District biologists assisted U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) researchers with testing interactions between the electrical barrier near Romeoville, Illinois, and underwater acoustic deterrent transducers, or speakers, to assist with the design and specifications for an invasive species multi-deterrent system at Brandon Road Lock and Dam (BRLD). 

The Brandon Road Chief of Engineers Report, signed May 23, 2019, recommended authorizing a National Ecosystem Restoration (NER) Plan to protect ecosystems in the Great Lakes Basin by implementing a risk management plan that includes structural and non-structural measures at BRLD to minimize the risk of upstream transfer and establishment of ANS from the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) into the GLB. The NER Plan addresses Bighead and Silver carp, i.e. invasive carp, the current, greatest MRB invasive carp threat to the Great Lakes Basin.

According to USACE Chicago District Project Manager Jeff Zuercher, invasive carp have a unique biological response to sound due to a connection between their ear and swim bladder. 

“It causes them to react to sound differently than other species and is what makes them jump out of the water when boats go by,” he said. “Acoustics is an attempt to refine the sounds that would cause them to flee or swim in the other direction utilizing this biological response. In that way we can create a ‘wall’ of sound that will deter them from moving where we don’t want them to go.”

Preconstruction Engineering and Design for the Brandon Road Interbasin Project is underway and one of the actions identified to inform design is the interaction between an electric deterrent and underwater speakers. The objective of study was to ensure that marginal electrical fields would not significantly impact the acoustic speakers and hydrophones (underwater microphones) used to monitor the sound output. In addition, researchers needed to determine if any sound output from the electrical barrier would interfere with the engineered deterrent signals that will be used to deter invasive carps.

“This is the first time we have done this type of work,” Nick Barkowski, fish biologist at USACE Chicago District, said. “Underwater speakers have been used in multiple ways to change fish behavior and deter fish movement, but it has not been used in conjunction with an electrical barrier, and the interactions between the two deterrents is important to understand prior to implementation.”

Also assisting Barkowski from the USACE Chicago District: John Belcik, fish biologist; and Dayla Dillon and Richard Porter, student biological technicians. Jeff Zuercher, project manager for the fish barrier project, also assisted with data collection; and Nick Karnezis, civil engineer, was on shore communicating with the team.

USACE Chicago District assisted with safety planning, provided personnel as on-water and on-shore safety spotters, and helped with sound playback/recording.

“Initial review of the data determined that marginal electrical fields did not cause significant impacts to the equipment, and there is minimal overlap in engineered signal frequencies between the electrical barrier and the fish underwater acoustics deterrent.” Belcik said. “Additional analysis of any minor impacts to the equipment is being investigated by equipment manufacturers, while ERDC continues detailed analyses on electrical exposure and sound projection.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Chicago District’s E-barrier team to assess immediate and long-term effects of electrical current on these specialized transducers,” Dr. Christa Woodley, ERDC Bioacoustics Team lead, said. “The results from this effort will support the design of BRLD as well as other districts’ needs to encourage native and invasive species movements in and around USACE structures.”

The results from this study will be utilized to inform the Brandon Road Interbasin Project design team as they begin to prepare plans and specifications for Increment I construction. The study results will also be beneficial for other projects on the Mississippi, Ohio river basins and other locations where multiple deterrents may be deployed to prevent the transfer of aquatic nuisance species.

ERDC continues to develop and refine an underwater acoustic deterrent funded by EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to develop invasive fish deterrents and attractants. Federal agencies use GLRI resources to work with federal and nonfederal partners to implement protection and restoration projects to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Significant work has been done to identify potential biological and physical deterrent techniques that discourage the movement of bighead carp and silver carp, while allowing passage of native fish and shipping to continue without or very little impact.

“Underwater acoustic deterrent systems have demonstrated effectiveness in laboratory and pond settings,” Woodley said. “Building off these studies and deploying large-scale experimental acoustic structures at critical passage points in the Ohio River and Upper Mississippi River basins will help managers understand the effectiveness of acoustic deterrents where invasive carp populations are established, and will evaluate potential for the technology to be transferred and deployed in other locations to prevent upstream migration to the Great Lakes.” 

The migration of Asian carp through the Illinois River, Des Plaines River, and Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) is one risk facing the Great Lakes today. In the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS), USACE is evaluating a range of options and technologies, collectively known as “ANS controls,” to prevent the transfer of aquatic nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins by aquatic pathways.

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