Reclamation Awards $20,000 for Ideas to Limit Rodents from Burrowing into Canals, Levees and Earthen Dam Embankments

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615,

For Release: September 19, 2017

Burrrowing Rodent Prize Competition
Burrrowing Rodent Prize Competition
WASHINGTON - The Bureau of Reclamation has selected five ideas to receive $20,000 to limit rodents from burrowing into canals, levees and earthen dam embankments. The two top ideas submitted will each receive $5,500. Edem Tsikata of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Lawrence Kearns of Chicago, Illinois, were selected as the top prize winners.

Rodents can burrow through both sides of an embankment providing a pathway for water to move through and erode the embankment, potentially causing serious issues for the surrounding communities. Burrows may also intersect or expose other anomalies in the embankment that may result in a failure of the embankment. Offending rodents include squirrels, badgers, moles, muskrats, mice and beavers.

Tsikata's idea proposes installation of a geotextile with embedded steel wool as a barrier cloth placed on or just under the embankment surface. It addresses rodent burrow prevention, is likely to be effective long-term, and allows small vegetation and moisture to penetrate the mesh. "I had read about a thorny plant (African Myrrh) used to deter lions in Southern Africa and steel mesh used to prevent damage by beavers in Germany," Tsikata described. "I thought combining these ideas might solve the problem."

Kearns’ solution proposes a subsurface cut-off wall approach that is known to be technically viable. However, the wall would be constructed using a unique hydro-excavation technique that would create a narrower trench, with less structural impact to the embankment, than what has previously been used for this application.

Others selected to receive prizes are: John McNabb of Pocatello, Idaho, for proposing the introduction of natural predators combined with hydro-seeded plant deterrents ($4,000), Leaf Jiang of Lexington, Massachusetts, for proposing a robotic smart trap ($2,500), and a team led by David Orlebeke of Ridgecrest, California, for proposing a wind-powered subsurface random acoustic emitter ($2,500).

The Bureau of Reclamation collaborated with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources Dam Safety Division, and federal canal operating entities including the Boise Project Board of Control and the South Columbia Basin Irrigation District, to design and judge this prize competition.   To learn more about Reclamation's Water Prize Competition Center, please visit:

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