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Little Falls Dam Fish Passage Project Wins Coastal America Award
Released: 8/3/2000

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Rebecca Phipps 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4414 | FAX: 703-648-4466

A project to restore historical spawning grounds for anadromous fish on the Potomac River has won the Coastal America Partnership Award.

Mufeed Odeh of the U.S. Geological Survey’s S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls, Mass., led the award-winning interagency team in conducting a hydraulic model study and devising the novel fish passage design constructed at the dam in March of 2000. The Little Falls Dam fish passage project’s goal is to restore anadromous fish runs -- especially those of American shad -- to 10 miles of historical spawning grounds upstream of Little Falls Dam on the Potomac River just outside Washington, D.C.

To do this, Odeh and his team designed a unique passage structure that allows fish to easily traverse the 12-foot-high dam.

The Coastal America Partnership Award is presented to natural resource-related projects that recognize outstanding partnership efforts and/or multi-agency projects with outstanding team efforts.

The USGS, represented by Odeh and his team, is a member of a multi-federal, state, and private agency task force that consists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. State, regional, and local agencies represented include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin,Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Montgomery County (Maryland) Department of Environmental Protection. Non-governmental organizations include the Potomac Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The public has been involved in the Little Falls Dam Fish Passage Project as well. Elementary school students and teachers from several areas around the dam have helped with the introduction of shad fry to the area upstream of the project in the Potomac River.

American shad and other anadromous fishes ascend rivers from the sea to spawn as part of their normal life cycles. The 12-foot vertical barrier created by the dam at Little Falls prevents the fish from reaching the 10 miles of historical prime feeding and spawning habitat above the dam. The inability of the fish to traverse the dam may have contributed to the continued decline of the American shad in the Potomac River during the last several decades. Efforts are already under way to monitor the performance of the passage structure by finding adults upstream of the dam. This is a long-term effort because it will take several years for the shad to get reestablished in the new available spawning and feeding areas.

The Coastal America Partnership is a multi-agency partnership organization, established in 1992 to restore and protect the coastal environment. Each year, projects are eligible to compete for the award that recognizes outstanding partnership efforts or multi-agency projects and outstanding team efforts that demonstrate the successful collaborative nature of Coastal America.

The Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center is a world-class, unique fish passage and hydraulic engineering research facility on 25 acres adjacent to the Connecticut River in northwestern Massachusetts. Laboratory staff conduct research on the ecological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics of anadromous and migratory species as well as environmental hydraulics. The lab is a component of the USGS Leetown Science Center located in West Virginia. The National Society of Professional Engineers previously honored Mufeed Odeh’s work by awarding him their "USGS Federal Engineer of the Year Award."

For reproducible photos of the Potomac River fishway go to:
http://biology.usgs.gov/pr/newsrelease/2000/3-2a.tif Aerial view of Little Falls Dam on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.
http://biology.usgs.gov/pr/newsrelease/2000/3-2b.tif Dr. Mufeed Odeh works on a three-dimensional model of the Little Falls Dam fishway.

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