Get the facts: The Menasha barrier part 2

Posted on Oct 14, 2019 by

Many of our customers and concerned citizens have asked specific questions about the proposed electric barrier for the Menasha Lock. We’re answering some of those questions here in order to give you the facts about the propsed project.

Where will the barrier be located?

The barrier will be constructed immediately downstream of the Menasha lock (remember, the Fox River flows north from Lake Winnebago to Green Bay). The lock is located at 82 Broad Street in the City of Menasha. FRNSA leases the property immediately around the lock from the State of Wisconsin.

What changes are proposed for the Menasha lock?

The proposal calls for building a 100-foot long concrete channel, 36 feet wide with vertical walls approximately 13 feet high (2’ will be visible above the waterline). Electrodes will be recessed in the concrete to create a pulsed DC electrical current. A portion of the riverbank on each side of the channel will be filled in to support the concrete channel. The plan calls for installing failsafe systems in the event of a power outage that include a backup natural gas powered generation system, an uninterpretable power supply to cover any possible lapse in power, and almost a dozen other closely monitored alarm controls that will alert operators to any system changes. The system is being built for future adaptability in mind to deter other invasive species.

Is the electric barrier dangerous to humans?

The barrier uses a pulsed field of direct current (DC) in the water that is not dangerous to humans on shore or in their boats. When going through the proposed barrier, boaters must follow a few safety precautions that are normally required for transit through the locks:

  • All boaters must wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD)
  • When entering the lock, all boat passengers must keep their arms, legs, and metal paddles out of the water.
  • No swimming is allowed in a lock or lock channel (there never has been)

Passengers must not get on or off a boat within locks or the lock channel

Where are electric barrier systems currently in use?

Use of electricity to guide and block fish is not a new concept and was derived from electroshocking technology used by fishery departments in nearly all states. Electrical barriers built in the 1950s and 1960s are still in operation. Electric barriers are custom-designed for each situation and, as such, include a wide variety of barrier geometries, waveforms, and field strengths. In short, the objective of each barrier and guidance system is what drives the system design.

More than 70 Smith-Root-designed electrical barriers and guidance systems have been installed across the globe. In Midwestern states such as Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois Smith-Root has 28 pulsed DC electrical barriers in operation for multiple years and monitoring shows the barriers operate reliably.

The design proposal is currently 60% complete and has been submitted to the state DNR for review and approval. For more information including design proposals, construction proposals, and supporting documentation, visit this link. 

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