salmon Washington pressurized tube transport DamNation

Pressurized Tube System For Salmon     Photo: William Bain/flickr

The Salmon Cannon

Forget fish ladders—pressurized tube-transport systems are the newest way to bypass a dam

It's no secret that prodigious dam construction in the United States has been a boon for hydroelectric power but hasn't been so fantastic for our native salmon populations, which, in addition to natural predators, have for decades had to contend with man-made obstacles blocking the path to their natural spawning waters.

Many dams have fish ladders to help these migratory swimmers on their (not-so) merry way, but many do not. And as studies have shown, fish ladders have proven to be only moderately effective at best.

Which is why a team of scientists in central Washington has been dabbling with the concept of a pressurized tube transport for fish populations, a method that recalls the pneumatic pipelines in offices of yore. Instead of business memos, however, this pressurized system hopes to help salmon and steelhead trout reach the promised land by shooting them over particularly impenetrable areas.

The concept originated in 2009 with Whooshh Industries, a Washington-based company that initially specialized in fruit transportation. It's still in early phases, but the idea sounds promising and, believe it or not, "less stressful" for the fish, as they would be subjected to minimal human contact.

For more information on dam construction and its effect on fisheries, check out the trailer for DamNation, a new film available on iTunes.