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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Mark Eberle, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District Project Biologist, explains the ecological purposes of fish passages to students.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Mark Eberle, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District Project Biologist, explains the ecological purposes of fish passages to students. (Photo by Richard Pearsall)

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Terry Fowler, Project Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District, discusses the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder project with Assistant Secretary of Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. The project included rebuilding the fish passage to improve its functionality.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Terry Fowler, Project Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District, discusses the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder project with Assistant Secretary of Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. The project included rebuilding the fish passage to improve its functionality. (Photo by Stephen Rochette)

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Joe Perillo of the Philadelphia Water Department displays an American Shad. More than 3000 of the migratory fish species passed through the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder in 2011.

Joe Perillo of the Philadelphia Water Department displays an American Shad. More than 3000 of the migratory fish species passed through the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder in 2011. (Photo by Philadelphia Water Department)

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — More than 3000 American Shad passed through the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder. The number has rapidly increased since the completion of the rebuilt fish passage.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — More than 3000 American Shad passed through the Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder. The number has rapidly increased since the completion of the rebuilt fish passage. (Photo by Philadelphia Water Department)

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Posted 4/30/2012

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By Stephen Rochette
Philadelphia District


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Four years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District completed construction on a rebuilt fish ladder at the Fairmount Dam in Philadelphia. The project was designed to help migratory fish travel further up the Schuylkill River to spawn.

Today, the project has proven to be an overwhelming success.

The Philadelphia Water Department, the project's non-federal sponsor, recently posted data on the number of migratory fish species that have passed through the fish ladder. In 2011, more than 3000 American Shad traveled through the passage. Before the project was completed, the number rarely reached 100 in a year. Other species of migratory fish, including the Striped Bass and Blueback Herring, have increased in numbers as well.

"The data shows the project has been an incredible success," said Project Manager Terry Fowler, a planner with the Philadelphia District. "Certainly the fish have voted and we're happy with the result."

Fowler said the functionality of the rebuilt ladder was a vast improvement over what existed previously. The District rebuilt the entrance and exit gates, chamber pools, and a structure to help fish find the entrance to the passage.

Project Biologist Mark Eberle said the features help simulate the natural experience a migratory fish would have when traveling upstream.

The Fairmount Dam is the first impediment for fish on the Schuylkill River. The next dam (with a fishway already installed) is six miles upstream. With four recently constructed fishways and a series of completed dam removals, migratory fish are now able to travel approximately 100 miles up the Schuylkill River.

The Fairmount Dam Fish Ladder project has also provided an educational tool for the Philadelphia Water Department and the city. The site includes an outdoor classroom and video camera that streams a real-time feed of the fish passage. Students can view the stream and learn about the fish ladder at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center site.