Can a High-Tech Bubble Barrier Save California Salmon?

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Bubbles, light and noise may save the endangered salmon in California.

Buoys atop the Sacramento river in Walnut Grove, CA, are the only indication of a unique, $7 million underwater barrier -- an experiment intended to herd the endangered fish and help keep them alive, reported KTVU.

"What we're trying to do is keep them in the main channel of the river," Jacob McQuirk, a civil engineer with the Department of Water Resources, told the TV station.

Divers are busily constructing the barrier, the station reported; it's intended to prevent baby "fingerling" salmon from taking a wrong turn on the waterway towards pumps that divert the water -- and spell disaster for the salmon.

16 sections of high-tech lights, speakers, and bubble-making hoses comprise the barrier system, which creates lights so bright that they lit the surface of the waterway at night.

"We want those fish to be annoyed by the sound of those bubbles and turn the other way," McQuirk told KTVU.  Crews also installed special monitors to track the fish, to ascertain where they go and whether the barrier is doing its job.  They also hope to determine when it's most cost-effective to turn the barrier on.

"We're trying to deter these fish during the time they're out migrating to the ocean," McQuirk said.

For more information about the high-tech fish barrier, see the video on