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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 suckers.

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 that's great."

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 survivorship.

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 Implementation Committee.

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 unacceptable.

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 Research Institute.

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 efforts.”

“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.”
Side Bar

Habitat changes

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 of suckers.

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.

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