Studies find changes in area sucker populations
followed by Plan sets course for fish
Lee Juillerat, Herald and News October 22, 2008
|KBC NOTE: According
to fisheries scientist Dave Vogel, "In 1986, the Fish and
Wildlife service staff responsible for whether or not to
pursue these ESA listings believed there were only 12,000
suckers in Upper Klamath Lake...they didn't believe they
were endangered...a couple years later we now know for a
fact that number's exceeded by tens of thousands of Lost
River Suckers. Now they flip-flop and say they are
endangered. What constitutes endangered?" Dave Vogel is
a fisheries scientist with 33 years experience, 14 years
working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
2/3/04 - "Dr William Lewis Jr., University
of Colorado, spoke regarding the NRC conclusions
on suckers. He shared his appreciation of the
work of Dan Keppen, Klamath Water Users
Executive Director. He said Keppen's work is
refreshing because he advocates water use
without being destructive. "That's the kind of
interaction we always need, as well as working
with the agencies in the Klamath Basin."
Lewis explained that the suckers
were listed since 1988 because of over harvest.
They stopped fishing in '87 but they did not
recover. The lake has gone from 3' range under
natural conditions to experiencing 6' deep in
current dry years. With charts and graphs he showed
the habitat and water quality, algae and
chlorophyll. He said that the committee looked
extensively at water levels, and they find 'no hint
of a relationship'. He also said that there was no
relationship between lower water levels and extreme
ph levels. And "the committee cannot support the
idea that water levels effect algae growth.' "It can
not be achieved by lake levels." '92 was the lowest
water year, and they expected it to be the least
favorable for fish. 'The lowest water year produced
the same amount of larvae as other years."
He said that fish kill information
does not support that fish are dying by changing
water level. "We need to look at other locations."
He explained that Clear Lake does
not have the habitat that scientists are trying to
create in the Upper Basin for suckers, yet Clear
Lake has stable populations of healthy
suckers..."These have all the characteristics we
want in recovered population. We have to
protect these populations."
... Lewis was asked about making more
wetlands for suckers, and he responded that there
are 17,000 acres of restoration already. He
cautioned how much faith we should put into wetlands
regarding the suppression of algae.
Someone tried to compare algae bloom
in Lake Washington. Lewis said they got Lake
Washington turned around by ceasing to pour 90% of
the sewage into it. He added that we should not
count on retiring agricultural land land for saving
Jacob Kann, ecologist and scientist
for Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, insisted that
timing and flows are related to the ph levels. Lewis
responded that the water is always ph loaded, "the
increase doesn't matter if it's always been
saturated." Finally, to end the constant insistence
by Kann to promote lake level/river flow management,
Lewis said, "I can see you are thinking about it and
When asked if it would work to
control the significant part of the ph load, Lewis
responded that the lake is 140 square miles...that
is not feasible to change. It is not like Lake
Washington where they had sewage to cut off.
Tribal biologist Larry Dunsmuir felt
like lake level management was necessary for
emergent vegetation, and Lewis responded that Clear
Lake has no emergent vegetation yet production of
larvae is not shut off in Clear Lake.
Dunsmuir told Lewis he was premature
and not factoring in sucker life span. Lewis
reiterated that, looking at the data, water level
management just does not line up."
Scientific investigations show significant changes in the
current distribution of endangered suckers.
Upper Klamath Lake: Low tens of thousands of both adult Lost River
and adult shortnose suckers with poor “recruitment” rates (meaning
low survival rates of younger fish) in both species.
Clear Lake: Thousands of adult Lost River and thousands of
shortnose suckers with good recruitment but low adult
Gerber Reservoir: Thousands of adult shortnose, but no Lost River
suckers. Multiple adult age classes but low adult survivorship.
Tule Lake: About 1,000 adult shortnose and about 1,000 adult Lost
River suckers. Little recruitment.
Lost River: Hundreds of adult shortnose but no Lost River suckers.
Keno, JC Boyle, Copco and Iron Gate reservoirs: Hundreds of adult
shortnose suckers, but Lost River rare. No recruitment.
Sucker species can live for decades
Lost River and shortnose suckers that survive their early years
can live for decades. Lost River suckers, which have a high
mortality rate when young, can live at least 57 years. The
shortnose can live at least 33 years.
Most suckers live in Upper Klamath Lake, although some may live in
the Sprague River. Springtime spawning is in lakeshore springs and
rivers. In Upper Klamath, they go to shallow water only in the
spring to spawn and prefer deeper water the rest of the year.
Annual egg production can be 235,000 eggs for Lost River and
57,000 for shortnose. Females mature at 5 to 10 years, so lifetime
egg production can be in the millions.
Stakeholders in the process
Stakeholder interests will be sought and discussed by the Recovery
Meeting schedules and minutes of stakeholder and public meetings
will be published on the Klamath Falls U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service office Web site at www.fws.gov/klamathfallsfwo/suckers/suc_rec.htm
Partners in the recovery plan include: several hundred private
landowners, Hatfield Working Group, Klamath Watershed Partnership,
The Klamath Tribes, Timber Resource Services, Bureau of Indian
Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Klamath Water Users
Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service,
U.S. Geological Survey, Klamath Soil and Water Conservation
Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, PacifiCorp, Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality, City of Klamath Falls, Nature Conservancy,
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust,
Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Trout and the counties
of Modoc, Siskiyou, Klamath and Lake.
Plan sets course for fish
Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey A trio of
Lost River suckers photographed underwater at Sucker Springs,
along the southeast side of Upper Klamath Lake. Effort aims to
rebuild endangered sucker population
By Lee Juillerat October 22, 2008, Herald and News.
The way Don Sada sees it, there are two solutions to
getting endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers off the
federally endangered list.
One, allowing the two fish species to completely die off, is
That’s why Sada is heading up a team of researchers to focus on
the second, trying to rebuild fish populations that were once a
major food source for Klamath Tribes members.
“The agencies want to know what we need to do to get them off the
list,” Sada explained during an open house meeting on a sucker
recovery plan started earlier this year. Recovery team members
were stationed around a conference room of the Shilo Inn last week
to provide updates on findings they and others have gathered since
a previous recovery plan was written in 1993. The timetable calls
for having a revised plan written, reviewed by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and released late next year for public review.
“This will be a guidance document. It is not something set in
stone,” explained Sada, an aquatic biologist with the Desert
Sada was hired as the recovery plan project manager because of his
30-plus years of work on fisheries and other recovery plans.
“It’s a lot of fun to teach people about what’s going on,” he
said. He’s optimistic because of successes he’s seen with other
sucker species, including Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
“We haven’t figured out what we need to do here. That’s part of
the process,” he said emphasizing the collected information goes
to stakeholders groups as diverse as private landowners, tribes,
state and federal agencies, water users and environmentalists.
“Having a recovery plan is a good thing. The devil is in the
details,” said Dave Solem, Klamath Irrigation District manager,
representing water users and irrigators on the stakeholders group.
Solem, who was involved with the original 1993 recovery plan, said
the stakeholders are scheduled to meet four times before a
proposed plan is released in about a year.
Larry Dunsmoor, a senior aquatics biologist for Klamath Tribes and
recovery team member, said the sucker program is connected to the
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
“This is one part of the agreement,” he said, noting open-ended
relationships between different user groups are critical in
solving sucker and other water-related issues. “I can see an
enormous amount of progress in the key ingredient, that’s the
relationship involving the groups of people involved in the
“One of the foundational causes of all the disagreement is the
condition of the ecosystem,” Dunsmoor said. “Because we’ve been
fighting each other, we don’t get around to fixing things. This is
one little step along the way. Just think what could happen if
people would work together.”
Major habitat changes in Upper Klamath Lake since 1900 include:
The draining of near-shore wetlands, habitat used for larval and
juvenile rearing, feeding and protection. Although the average
lake depth is still 8 feet, there has been a loss of extensive
shorelines and upstream wetlands.
Water quality degradation that adversely affects all life stages
Lake elevation fluctuations that limit access to lake spawning
areas and rearing habitat. Until construction of the Link River
Dam, the seasonal fluctuation was 2-1/2 feet; it is now 5 feet.
Upstream watershed changes — such as the recently removed
Chiloquin Dam, stream channel degradation, and nutrient runoff
from grazing, timber and farming.