Reclamation selects winners of competition to develop solutions for removing sediment from reservoirs

Written by: Peter Soeth

Sedimentation is a significant program for aging reservoirs, like Paonia Reservoir in Colorado.
Sedimentation is a significant program for aging reservoirs, like Paonia Reservoir in Colorado.
Reclamation launched a prize competition seeking new and improved techniques for the removal of sediment and transport of that sediment in a cost-effective manner. Of the 40 potential solutions received, six winners will share $75,000. Sedimentation is a significant problem for aging reservoirs as it reduces the amount of water that can be stored. It also impacts the dam outlets, water quality, recreation and downstream habitat.

"While sediment will never go away, we can seek to minimize its impact and allow the reservoirs to store water for agriculture and cities and minimize the risk of flooding," said competition co-lead Jennifer Bountry. "The solutions have the potential to be cost-effective while preserving and sustaining the objectives of the reservoir."

The prize competition sought ideas for the collection of sediment from the reservoir bottom, moving sediment from the collection site to the disposal site and delivering sediments to the downstream channel. Four submissions will each receive $16,250, while two submissions will each receive $5,000.

Two of the four top placing solutions were submitted by Baha Abulnaga with Mazdak International, Inc., of Sumas, Washington, and his proposed transport methods for sediments. His first solution proposed a hydraulic capsule pipeline for topset sediments. His second solution proposed transporting cohesive sediment as a sediment log using a pressurized pipeline. Abulnaga will receive a total prize of $32,500 for his two solutions.

The other top placing solutions receiving $16,250 each provided sediment collection options. Lawrence Kearns of Chicago, Illinois, proposed a Sediment Snake submersible robot for collecting reservoir sediments, and David Orlebeke of Ridgecrest, California, proposed the use of flexible augers.

The remaining ideas selected to receive $5,000 prizes are:

  • Eric Hinterman of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for his collection solution - CryoDredger utilizing inert liquid nitrogen. Hinterman collaborated with Barret Schlegelmilch, Phil Ebben, and Steve Link on the development of his solution.
  • Team of Pradeep Nalabalapu of Round Rock Texas, and Olivier Loidi of Toulouse, Midi-Pyrenees for their solution to collect reservoir sediments using adapted electro-coagulation methods.

"We are now planning for the next stage of the prize competition and determining how best to work with the winning solutions to conduct more testing to verify or enhance their practical application for collecting or transporting reservoir sediment," said competition co-lead Tim Randle.

The Bureau of Reclamation partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service and American Rivers on various aspects of this prize competition.

To learn more about this prize competition and other competitions Reclamation has hosted, please visit

Published on July 11, 2019