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Literature Review of Electric Barriers for Returning Adult Salmonids

Project ID: 9447
Principal Investigator: Connie Svoboda
Research Topic: Fish Passage and Entrainment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: electric barrier, graduated electric barrier, electrofishing, salmon, delta smelt, sturgeon

Research Question

Adult salmon returning to their natal streams to spawn may stray into other river systems when high attraction flows occur. In these instances, poor hatchery return numbers or undesirable genetic mixing may occur. Electric barriers are one possible alternative to redirect adult salmon back to their natal stream. Because of their instinctual drive to spawn, other non-physical barriers such as sound, light, and bubble curtains would not be effective for deterring adult salmon.

Over fifty electric barriers are installed in North America and Europe by Smith-Root, Inc (Vancouver, Washington) for a variety of applications. Some barriers provide upstream guidance or deterrence in rivers or at fish hatcheries. Some provide downstream guidance in rivers. Some barriers are used to exclude fish from power intakes. Barriers are installed for many different types of fish ranging from invasive species to endangered species.

The goal of this scoping level study is to perform a literature review on the use of electric barriers for returning adult salmonids. How many barriers have been installed for this purpose? How were the barriers designed? Were the barriers effective? If not, what were the problems? Does electricity affect adult salmonid health, stamina, or reproductive capability?

Need and Benefit

Reclamation has the responsibility of delivering water to its customers in an economically and environmentally sound matter. Conflicts between the needs of water users and the ecological needs of listed species can lead to reductions in water diversions at Reclamation facilities.

An electrical barrier has been proposed by the Golden Gate Salmon Association in California to prevent Mokelumne River adult salmon from straying into the Sacramento River when Delta Cross Channel gates are open in the fall. Reclamation opens the gates in October to improve the water quality of water exports to the South Delta according to State Water Resources Control Board Decision 1641. In order to meet both objectives of preventing adult salmon from straying and keeping gates open to improve water quality, an electric barrier has been proposed.

CVPIA Program Manager, David Mooney, approached the Science %26 Technology Office regarding possible ways to partner on research for the proposed electric barrier at the Delta Cross Channel. This literature review would provide baseline information needed for Reclamation personnel to decide if an electric barrier can be an effective and safe option at the Delta Cross Channel. A literature review will also help identify potential research topics that Reclamation's Science %26 Technology Program may want to fund in later years if an experimental electric barrier installed.

It is anticipated that electric barriers will be considered for returning adult salmon at other locations in the MP and PN regions. Although the fish species would be different, the LC region would benefit from this scoping level project since electric barriers have been installed in the Central Arizona Project.

Contributing Partners


Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Literature Review of Electric Barriers for Returning Adult Salmonids (interim, PDF, 904KB)
By Connie Svoboda and Jarod Hutcherson
Report completed on September 04, 2014

This literature review identifies studies on the effectiveness of electric fish barriers at deterring upstream-migrating adult salmon, the effects of electricity on adult salmonid health, stamina, and reproductive capability, and the effects of electricity on federally-listed delta smelt and sturgeon. The feasibility of developing an effective electrical barrier to divert adult Chinook salmon in the Mokulemne River that might otherwise pass through the Delta Cross Channel is evaluated.
Keywords: electric fish barrier, graduated field fish barrier, delta cross channel, salmon, sturgeon, delta smelt

This information was last updated on February 27, 2015
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