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Evaluating swimming and leaping performance and restoring connectivity for native and priority fish species in the West

Project #: 4W9156
Start Date: 06/01/2021
End Date: 12/31/2025
Status: Current

The overarching objective is to improve connectivity for native and/or priority fish species in the west. The goals of this study are threefold:

  1. to characterize the swimming performance of native fish species in the Missouri River basin in relation to ascend fishways,
  2. to characterize the jumping abilities of native fish species in this basin in relation to ascend weirs, and
  3. to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of rock ramps and smaller Denil fishways at providing upstream passage for native species.

Species that may be studied include but are not limited to Bull Trout, Arctic Grayling, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Longnose Dace, Longnose Sucker, White Sucker, Mountain Sucker, Mountain Whitefish, Lake Chub, The Rocky Mountain Sculpin, and Northern Pike.


Roads and other linear infrastructure, such as canals or rail lines, cross rivers, wetlands, lakes, and streams. These crossings, which number in the millions in the U.S. alone, can create impediments to fish and other aquatic organism passage. In addition, water supplies often require low-head dams to divert water from rivers and streams into canals. Low-head dams can completely block fish and aquatic passage, and in most cases, they have some impact on passage.

This research will provide specific engineering design criteria to improve the design of hydraulics structures so that they do not affect fish passage and are more resilient to future flood events. Some of those criteria include identifying the proper water depths in the structure, or the minimum flow required to pass certain species, or what the structure’s size or slope should be. The work will inform all fish passage practitioners including civil engineers, hydrologists, biologists, planners, and any person involved in designing, constructing, permitting or simply those who desire to ensure our infrastructure is built to be resilient yet ecologically sensitive.


  • Matt Blank
    Matt Blank