Uniquely Designed Fish Ladder Will Help Lamprey

Aug 30, 2018

Construction is wrapping up on a special fish ladder at Eel Creek north of Coos Bay.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull explains, it’s to help the regional lamprey population rebound.

A technician installs a uniquely designed fish ladder for Pacific Lamprey, in order to get them to cross easier into waterways like Eel Lake.
Credit Doc Slyter / Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

Gary Vonderohe of the Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife, near Eel Creek in southwestern Oregon.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Gary Vonderohe of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says his agency, the Tenmile Lakes Basin Partnership, and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians teamed up to install the device. Its purpose is to help lampreys navigate waterways better.

Vonderohe says there is already a fish ladder at the base of Eel Lake, but it’s designed for salmon and steelhead.

“And lamprey have hard time going over any 90 degree corners, and that ladder’s full of 90 degree corners," explains Vonderohe. "So the ODFW has designed a ladder that will hang off the wall, and the lamprey will kinda climb vertically, and at the top there’ll be a rounded corner and hopefully get them up and going into the spawning grounds above the lake.”

A radio-tagged Pacific Lamprey rests on bedrock substrate
Credit Dave Herasimtschuk, Fresh Waters Illustrated / USFWS Pacific Region, Flickr.com

Vonderohe says the tribes kicked in $45,000 dollars towards the lamprey ladder, with some extra engineering work and materials provided by ODFW.

Lamprey numbers are down significantly from half a century ago. One Oregon State University estimate says they’re at 5 to 10 percent of what they were in the 1960s. 

Copyright 2018, KLCC.