Update: September 12, 2001

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is preparing a feasibility report to investigate fish passage alternatives at Claiborne Dam on the Alabama River under authority of Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as amended. Claiborne Lock and Dam is located at navigation mile 72.5 on the Alabama River, in Monroe County, Alabama, approximately 15 miles west of Monroeville, Alabama. Currently Claiborne Dam seriously hinders the spawning activities of approximately 30 species of fish. Some of these are diadromous fish that require movements between marine and freshwater environments and others are freshwater riverine species that require some movement upstream and downstream in the river to accomplish their full life cycle. The objective of this study effort is to design a feasible fish passage structure that would restore access for a number of fish species to historical spawning grounds utilized prior to construction of the Dam. In the reconnaissance phase of this study, three alternatives were considered: 1) construction of a natural fish bypass channel; 2) construction of a fish lift; and 3) modification of the lock to facilitate fish passage through the lock chamber.
The alternative of a natural fish bypass channel has been removed from further consideration after surveys of Government land adjacent to Claiborne Lock & Dam revealed that the fish bypass channel would require large excavations and a long bridge required to cross the access road leading to the west bank access area.

In an effort to take advantage of current fish passage technology, the study team participated in two field investigations of existing fish passage facilities. The first trip consisted of a tour of fish passage facilities in the southeastern U.S. and the second trip was made to Pennsylvania to investigate fish passage facilities on the Susquehanna River.

The field investigation in the vicinity of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in May 2001 provided the Corps valuable information about the design, operation and maintenance of fish lifts and serpentine vertical slot fishways. A series of three fish lifts on the lower Susquehanna River provides successful passage of a variety of species. A similar design warrants further consideration at Claiborne Dam.

The York Haven Serpentine Vertical Slot Fishway at Three Mile Island has proven to be effective in passing a variety of fish species, some of which are similar to species found on the Alabama River. With some modifications to the York Haven Fishway design, it is anticipated that a similar serpentine vertical slot fishway could be constructed at Claiborne that would pass many species of fish. This would include some bottom-dwelling species and perhaps the Gulf Sturgeon, the Alabama Sturgeon and/or the paddlefish. Therefore, it will be evaluated as a viable alternative in the feasibility study. Based on the valuable information obtained from this field investigation, we have contracted with Ben Rizzo, a design engineer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to develop conceptual designs for a fish lift and serpentine vertical slot fishway for Claiborne Dam.

The Corps’ Engineering Division is developing designs for the lock modification alternative. This approach is similar to an approach utilized successfully by the Corps’ Wilmington District on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. At Cape Fear Lock and Dam #1, fish are attracted into the lock chamber by leaving the lower miter gates open and providing flow through sluice gates in the upper miter gates. The lock chamber is closed and the water level is raised to the upper pool level. The upper miter gates are opened and sluice gates in the lower miter gates are opened. This creates a flow in the lock chamber which causes the fish to swim upstream and exit the lock chamber. At Claiborne, this alternative may result in physical modification of the upper and lower miter gates to provide sluice gates for attraction flows. Another possibility is to utilize the lock filling and emptying valves to provide attraction flows to facilitate fish passage.

The feasibility study is scheduled to be complete by February 2002. Construction of a fish passage facility could begin in Fiscal Year 2003, pending approval of the feasibility report by Corps and execution of a Project Cooperation Agreement with a non-Federal sponsor.