German fish passage prospects just got a major boost

Walla Walla District
Published Aug. 27, 2012

Lynn Reese wasn’t planning on going to Germany in June, but when he was invited to share his fish passage improvement knowledge, he quickly prepared.

With 30 years of experience working on fish passage with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District, the hydraulic engineer was first invited to meet with hydrology and environmental experts from Germany at a April 2011 Turner Falls, Mass. workshop, which was sponsored by Germany’s Federal Institute of Hydrology (BFG) where representatives from the BFG and the Federal Waterway Engineering and Research Institute (BAW) learned new approaches on hydraulic and biological issues.

So when the BAW was preparing to hold a fish passage symposium in June 2012, they wanted Reese there.

“He was chosen for this presentation because of his helpful advice concerning these issues during the 2011 workshop,” BAW’s Stephanie Wasserman said.  

At the symposium in June, Reese presented a paper he wrote about the District’s approach to improving lamprey passage at its dams.

“The paper was great to write because it forced our organization to evaluate ourselves more closely by looking at what we have done and what we are doing now. This leads to improving our operations as well,” he said.

Wasserman said that Reese’s informative presentation offered recommendations on preferable solutions, possible improvements and other considerations.

In addition to presenting lessons learned on adult fish passage improvement at the symposium, Reese also attended another workshop where, along with Engineer and Research Development Center’s (ERDC) Research Engineer David L. Smith, the experts discussed fish issues more specifically.

Then, Reese visited a fish lab and three recently built fishways to continue technical discussions. Many of their fishways need adult fish passage improvements, Reese said.

Historically, Germany focused primarily on navigation systems and lowhead power. In recent years, there has been a growing focus on fish passage improvement.

Today, they are challenged to improve fish passage requirements, but have flow limit restrictions and are still learning about migratory species in their waterways.

Wasserman said, “We hope that the site visits gave Lynn an idea of our current situation here with our barrages and hydropower plants, as well as modern German approaches.”

Reese said he was happy to offer the Germans what he calls “commonsense solutions and practical tips using cutting-edge technology.”

But Reese cautioned that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to fish issues.

“We are always going to be confined by challenges, but we do the best we can. Sometimes tighter budgets cause us to think outside the box a little more,” he added. “I like this organization because it pushes technology and it pushes people,” Reese said about the Corps.