Pilot solar aeration system deployed in Klamath Lake to help sucker fish

Two solar aerations systems await deployment into Upper Klamath Lake. (John Stoeckl/News 10)

Over the past 20 years, the Lost River (C’waam) and shortnose (Koptu) sucker fish on Upper Klamath Lake have been dwindling, according to Oregon Institute of Technology Professor Mason Terry.

Terry, who teaches electrical and renewable energy and is the director of the Oregon Renewable Energy Center, said he gained his inspiration at the Merkley Science Summit last November, which focused on shrinking sucker populations.

“(Merkley) convened a ton of experts.” Terry said. “30-40 experts that have been looking at issues associated with the lake for 20 years plus.”

Terry said there was little known growth from juvenile to adult suckers.

“One of the issues I found out was that in August and September when we have the algae blooms and the die-off, it creates hypoxic conditions down on the lake bottom.”

Basically, Terry said, that’s a lake of dissolved oxygen in the water which is hard for the fish to breathe and ultimately making it hard to survive.

Terry said he’d heard of aeration systems in ponds in Asia. He proposed designing a system on a larger scale that would be placed about two miles out near Pelican Bay.

This pilot project, the first in Oregon, is a collaboration between the Oregon Renewable Energy Center, Oregon Institute of Technology and the Klamath Tribes.

The aeration system sits on two floats and are powered by solar panels. Klamath Tribal members deployed the floats around 11 a.m. this morning and will monitor the project over the next 3 months.

Terry said it’ll be weeks or more before they’ll know if this project is working, and they plan to double the aeration floats next August when they utilize this project again.

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