Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

December 2006


Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Environmental Studies 2006.


The Schuylkill River in Southeaster Pennsylvania once supported massive spring runs of anadromous fishes until the construction of dams in the early 1800's. American shad (Alosa sapidissima), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), and river herring (alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and blueback herring A. aestivalis) ascended the Schuylkill River as far upstream as Pottsville (160 rkm), but have not done so since 1820, when Fairmount Dam (13.6 rkm) was built. The dam served as a physical barrier to migratory fishes, completely blocking upstream movement and access to critical spawning grounds. In 1979, a vertical slot fish passage facility was constructed on the west side of Fairmount Dam, however, very few anadromous species were utilizing the passage and the fishway was abandoned in 1984. No fish counts were conducted from 1984 to 2004, until Philadelphia Water Department biologists took responsibility for maintenance and operation of the fishway and developed a digital video monitoring system to record fish passage. An underwater viewing room and window allows direct observation of fishes swimming through the fishway and is a primary means for evaluating fish passage. In 2004, there were 6,438 fish of 23 species that ascended Fairmount fishway, including 91 American shad, 161 striped bass, and 2 river herring. A total of 8,017 fishes representing 25 species were counted passing through the fishway in 2005, including 41 American shad, 127 striped bass, and 5 river herring. In 2006, a total of 16,850 fishes representing 26 species were counted passing through the fishway including 345 American shad, 9 hickory shad, 61 striped bass, and 7 river herring, marking an astonishing 279% increase in American shad passage from 2004 to 2006. The interannual trend in relative abundance of American Shad below Fairmount Dam increased, as did overall shad passage trends in the fishway. Continued monitoring of fish passage will be a critical component in assessing anadromous fish restoration efforts on the Schuylkill River.



Date Posted: 08 December 2006