screened from canal danger
Fish trying to swim through the headgates of the A
Canal have been in for a wild ride.
Any fish longer than 1.2 inches that finds itself
swimming into the canal encounters a fine-mesh
screen keeping it from going into the main diversion
canal for the Klamath Reclamation Project.
Fish are then
shunted into a bypass pipe that lead them through a
pump, an observation room and then back through
another pipe into Upper Klamath Lake near the Link
So how's the fish screen working now that it's been
in place for two irrigation seasons?
"There really hasn't been
too much that has gone wrong this year," said Dave
Solem, manager of the Klamath Irrigation District,
which operates the fish screen.
He said some minor adjustments have been needed,
most involving some electronic equipment that got
wet. Other than that, the screen is working as
Replacing the old
headgates that were epicenter of protests during the
2001 water crisis, the new concrete and metal marvel
features high-tech, self-cleaning fish screens whose
goal is to keep endangered sucker fish from getting
trapped in the Project's canals.
The $16-million dollar project, built between
October 2002 and April 2003, has drawn attention
from engineers, other irrigation districts, college
students and others, Solem said. Many have come to
Klamath Falls for a tour.
"We show it off a lot,"
Many have trumpeted the new headgates as a move
toward restoration of the suckers, but much is left
to do, officials said.
"It allowed the project to continue, but we've still
got a lot of work to do in the biological
restoration of the fish and their habitat," said
Rich Piaskowski, a fisheries biologist for the
Bureau of Reclamation.
Once a week, Bureau scientists go to the observation
room and capture some suckers as they go through the
bypass. They record species, health and other
Data from this season's sampling hasn't been
"We haven't gotten through the field season, so none
of it has been summarized," Piaskowski said.
One way officials can gauge the effectiveness of the
fish screen is to search for suckers remaining in
the canal system after the end of irrigation season.
For the past several years, biologists have seined
canals to capture suckers and release them in Upper
Before the fish screen
was installed, the number of trapped suckers
recovered varied greatly, as few as several hundred
to as high as 10,000, Piaskowski said.
Last year, a about 2,000 were recovered, but most of
those were older suckers that had found places where
water stayed year round, he said. This year, he said
he expects even fewer suckers to be salvaged, and it
could be the last year of the operation.
Like those in the agricultural community, many
environmental groups cheered the improved headgates.
"We certainly know by screening (the A Canal) we
have stopped one area where there was a lot of
annual loss and that is a good thing," said Bob
Hunter, an attorney for WaterWatch, a Portland-based
But he said it is only one of many things that need
to be done.
"We corrected one of the big hot spots, but we still
haven't taken significant steps forward for fish
downstream or for wildlife in the refuges," Hunter