A federal study is underway to figure out the best way to get native fish through a dam on the Wisconsin River.
For 100 years, the Prairie du Sac hydroelectric dam on the Wisconsin River has prevented native sturgeon, paddlefish, and blue suckers from moving upstream on the river. More than a decade ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered dam operator Alliant Energy to construct a fish passage so native spawning fish could travel freely.
Today, the fish passage design still has not been settled on, partially because of growing concerns about Asian carp and fish diseases spreading north on the river. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hydropower coordinator Nick Utrup says the agency is now conducting a study to explore the best option. “In particular, we’re looking at options that keep invasives out, or at least control which species and which fish we can move upstream.”
One example is a fish elevator that would move fish from the lower to the upper part of the dam. Staff could sort through the fish and allow natives to move through. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has suggested looking into the impacts of not creating a fish passage.
River Alliance of Wisconsin executive director Denny Caneff says he understands the need to explore alternatives, but would like to see the agencies make up their minds and complete the project. “For the good of the river, the good of the sturgeon, and just for people’s appreciation of this really unique animal, we’d like to see fish passage go on there,” says Caneff.
The deadline for Alliant to build the fish passage is 2015.