American-Made Challenges

Fish Protection

Fish Protection

Catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to prevent fish from swimming into water infrastructure.
CONCEPT Stage Winner Notification
$700,000 in total prizes

Challenge Overview

Fish Protection Prize

The Fish Protection Prize is catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to prevent fish from swimming into water infrastructure, such as water diversions and pipes and intakes at hydropower dams. We’re seeking innovative ideas to advance fish exclusion technology. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has launched the Fish Protection Prize, inspiring innovators to compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support to help protect fish from these threats. As many as three winners will be selected.




The prize consists of three stages that provide the structure and resources needed to move methods for protecting fish from water diversions and intakes from initial concept, to technical design, to prototyping, to field-tested systems.

This prize builds on the initial Fish Exclusion Prize, run by the Bureau of Reclamation, released on March 6, 2019. The winners of the first prize were announced in December 2019. This next three-staged prize invites you to share your innovative approach—along with a design and research plan—for keeping fish away from water diversions and intakes. 



This prize will distribute a total of $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support.



The purpose of this prize is to incentivize the development of innovative solutions to advance fish exclusion technology. 

While the prize is soliciting solutions of all shapes and sizes, organizers identified the following six topic areas as having the greatest potential for successful and cost-effective fish exclusion: 

  1. Sensory deterrents - Sensory deterrent systems are used to prevent the upstream movement of fish. Technologies that make up this innovation category include but are not limited to: Acoustic Air Bubble Curtains, Electrical Barrier, Underwater Sound, and Underwater Strobe Lights.
  2. Turbulence and velocity-based deterrents – Influencing and controlling turbulence and velocity in river channel design can be employed to deter fish from diversions, pipes, and intakes.
  3. Combination stimulus barriers – This innovation category can utilize multiple stimulus or sensory deterrents, or a combination of physical and non-physical barriers to avert fish from diversions, pipes, and intakes.
  4. Diversion or intake layouts/geometry – This category addresses the design, planning, and implementation of diversions and intakes for the purpose of fish exclusion.
  5. Fish screen materials or coatings - Structures or surface coatings meant to prevent fish from entering hydroelectric dams, aqueducts, river diversions, or other anthropogenic structures, are developed with the intent to supply water free of debris to power plants and other facilities without harming aquatic life.
  6. Fish screen cleaning methods – This innovation category can include various fish screen cleaning technology including but not limited to air burst, water jet, and brush systems.

Please review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing. 


Updates 8
Forum 6
Community 164

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Accept Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

The prize competition is open only to: (a) citizens or permanent residents of the United States; and (b) private or non-federal public entities, such as townships, tribes, corporations, or other organizations that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals can compete alone or as a member of a group. 

A representative of a private entity can register the entity to compete. If an entity is legally formed under the laws of a State or the laws of the United States, individuals working under that entity may participate regardless of immigration status. 

DOE employees, employees of sponsoring organizations, members of their immediate families (spouses, children, siblings, and parents), and any persons living in the same household as such persons (even if unrelated) are not eligible to participate in this prize. Federal entities and federal employees, acting within the scope of their employment, are also not eligible to participate in any portion of this prize. DOE National Laboratory employees cannot participate in any stage of the prize.

Unfortunately, employees of a DOE national laboratory are not allowed to compete in any prize contest in this program.

No. If you are a contest winner, you are receiving the prize for meeting or exceeding the contest goals.

The Fish Protection Prize is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the Bureau of Reclamation. The competition is being administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Technical expertise is provided by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Yes. We encourage you to promote your concept to universities and other technical outlets.

This prize competition is a continuation of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Improving Fish Exclusion from Water Diversions and Intakes (Fish Exclusion) competition, but this is an independent 3 stage-competition with separate requirements and judging criteria. Your previous submission to the Fish Exclusion competition is not automatically entered in this competition.  If you are interested in competing, please submit your concept directly to the competition via HeroX. 

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum, where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.

You may also contact us directly at