Innovative Technique to Establish Swimming Performance Criteria for Fish Impacted by Fish Exclusion and Passage Facilities

Project ID: 6469
Principal Investigator: Zak Sutphin
Research Topic: Fish Passage and Entrainment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2007, 2009 and 2010
Keywords: None

Research Question

* What are the critical water velocities necessary, at different water temperatures, for different life stages and species of fish to efficiently navigate screen diversions at fish exclusion and passage facilities?

Need and Benefit

Swimming endurance curves provide an estimate of the water velocity and amount of time a species of fish can maintain sustained, prolonged, and burst swimming speeds. Developing swimming endurance curves--at all life stages and at varying water temperatures--for fish that potentially encounter fish exclusion facilities is critical when designing facilities and developing operational criteria for such facilities. This is important because a fish's swimming endurance is not only species dependent but also dependent upon life stage of fish and water temperature at which the fish is being tested. Swimming endurance curves provide the most comprehensive measure of performance for fish affected by Reclamation projects where fish exclusion facilities are either implemented or planned, because the curves evaluate fish swimming performance at multiple swimming speeds--from sustained to prolonged to burst speeds--and can be developed at varying water temperatures for multiple life stages. Fish exclusion facility water velocities outside of the range of a fish's swimming endurance curve can negatively effect fish survival, increasing Reclamation's cost for mitigation. Water velocities below the swimming endurance curve indicate that Reclamation could potentially be increasing gains by moving more water.

Current literature evaluating the swimming endurance curves of fish is limited and fails to summarize the swimming performance of many fish species impacted by facilities designed and constructed by Reclamation. The reviewed literature also fails to fully consider three important factors that effect swimming performance: life stage of fish, varying water temperatures, and water velocities during swimming trials. There are many species of concern that are either currently impacted or may become impacted by Reclamation operated and planned fish exclusion facilities. Many of the species are impacted at multiple life stages and during different seasonal water temperatures. In central California the threadfin shad, delta smelt and Sacramento splittail, in the lower Colorado river basin the bonytail chub, Arizona razorback sucker, desert pupfish, humpback chub and Colorado pikeminnow, in southeastern Idaho the Yellowstone and Bonneville cutthroat trout, in the Rio Grande the silvery minnow, in Washington the sauger and Pacific lamprey and in Montana the bull trout and pallid sturgeon are currently being impacted by Reclamation fish exclusion facilities or warrant studying due to planned fish exclusion facilities in their native range.

Currently, Reclamation owned facilities are being designed and operated based upon scientific literature that fails to protect all important fish species at all life stages and during all seasons. This research will provide Reclamation engineers with the best, most defendable scientific data that will allow them to design screen diversions for all life stages and species of fish. The innovative portable nature of the respirometry swimming flumes will allow us to produce high quality fish swimming data on local fish in native waters that will provide information necessary for facility managers to set operational criteria that will maximize fish salvage and water pumping potential.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Independent Peer Review

The following documents were reviewed by qualified Bureau of Reclamation employees. The findings were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Swimming Performance of Larval Pacific Lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) (final, PDF, 445KB)
By Charles Hueth
Publication completed on June 15, 2011

Attached doc described swimming endurance curves developed for juvenile Pacific lamprey as published in Northwest Science.

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.

Establishing Swimming Performance Criteria for Fish (final, PDF, 336KB)
By Zak Sutphin
Publication completed on September 30, 2010

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20