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Inside the Mind of a Fish Passage Engineer: Meet Ed Meyer


May 16, 2016

The floating surface collector on Baker Lake. Smolts swimming toward the collector (center, top) are guided by nets on both sides of the opening, a project fish passage engineer Ed Meyer has worked on. Photo courtesy of Ed Meyer

In celebration of  World Fish Migration Day 2016, we want to introduce you to one of our own engineers here at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. Each of our engineers works on innovative solutions to barriers that block anadromous fish from moving upstream to spawning grounds and downstream to the ocean. Our engineers also work with our partners and industry to develop best management practices that promote the recovery and sustainability of anadromous fish species. Their work is often at the cutting-edge of technology, promoting both ecologically-sound solutions while balancing economic viability.

We had a chance to speak with Ed Meyer who has worked for NOAA Fisheries for 25 years now, and is currently located in the Region’s Portland, OR, office. We wanted to find out more about his career path and what he does here at NOAA Fisheries.

Why did you choose a career as an engineer?

I grew up in a military family. My father was an Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army and I wanted to be the same. Throughout high school and college, I took summer jobs doing home construction. In high school, math and the hard sciences were my favorite subjects so, combined with my construction experience, I naturally tended toward the engineering and science fields. After gaining my undergraduate degree, I received a commission as a Combat Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army where I served for 6 years. In 1991, I resigned my commission and came to work for NOAA Fisheries.

What was your education path?

I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, and a Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering specializing in Hydraulic Engineering from Washington State University located in Pullman, WA.

What is your current title and role at NOAA Fisheries?

My current title at NOAA Fisheries is Senior Hydraulic Engineer. My role is to design structures or facilities, such as fish ladders and screens, that allow adult and juvenile anadromous fish to freely pass upstream and downstream of barriers, such as dams. I work hand-in-hand with federal and state agencies, as well as owners and operators of dams, to develop new designs for functional fish passage facilities. I also work to improve existing facilities based on new science and technology. Examples of passage designs we use to move fish upstream include fish ladders and trap and haul facilities; and solutions for downstream juvenile fish passage include conventional fish screens at water withdrawals (e.g., irrigation withdrawals) and downstream passage for hydroelectric projects.

What is the best part of your job?

I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to safely move fish around or through manmade structures and obstacles so they can continue their migration. I like working as a team with NOAA Fisheries’ biologists and our partners on a wide range of projects out in the field and seeing fish facilities being built and operated that I had a hand in designing. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is often trying to figure out why an existing fish passage facility is not performing as well as it should and how to make the necessary improvements.

What work accomplishment makes you most proud?

I’m probably most proud of all of my work on the fish passage facilities on the lower Columbia River, which includes adult fish ladders and juvenile fish bypass systems for Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams. I’m also proud of all the work that went into re-licensing and implementing licenses on a number of hydroelectric projects in the Pacific Northwest (Baker Hydroelectric Project, Willamette Falls Hydroelectric Project, North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, Cowlitz River Hydroelectric Project, etc.).

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Fly fishing for summer and winter steelhead, waterfowl and upland bird hunting, photography, reading, and travel.