On time, on budget, but experts not sure it will work

(Note: Money, money, money, and still nothing that guarantees that this spending orgy will help the farmers in the Klamath Basin. Is it really about the fish? You know the answer!)

February 19, 2003

By Kehn Gibson

The Tri-County Courier

kgibson@cot.net

Lacking data about screening for endangered suckerfish, biologists relied on information about salmon to design the new fish screens now being installed on the A Canal, Bureau of Reclamation spokesmen said Friday.

"There is no criteria established for suckers," said Chuck Korson, fish passage manager in the Bureau's Klamath Falls office. "We used criteria for salmonids, and we designed the screen to meet criteria set by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California's Department of Fish and Game."

As a result, technical factors including water flow velocities and the openings in the stainless steel screens may not be optimal for sucker survival, but Korson said even that is unknown.

For example, salmon fingerlings live in the spawning gravel where they were hatched until they can swim, by which time they are 1" to 3" long. For that reason, the openings in the 26 panels of the A Canal fish screen are uniformly 3/32" wide.

Suckerfish larvae are much smaller than 3/32," Korson said, and cannot swim. Therefore, the screen cannot stop larval suckerfish from being taken into the A Canal.

Korson said one component of several ongoing studies of the screens' operation would be the placing of nets behind the headgates to monitor how many larval fish are being sucked into the canal system.

"There are a lot on unknowns, but people accept that if we can screen out adult fish it will be a big accomplishment," Korson said. "The expectation is that having a screen is better than having no screen."

In past years, fish that were swept into the Klamath Irrigation Project's system of canals and drains were virtually certain to die, either falling victim to predators or becoming stranded when the canals empty at season's end, usually in September.

The fish large enough to be screened out of the system will be funneled into a 26" diameter pipe that is being routed into an evaluation station being built on the south side of the headgate structure, Korson said. There, biologists will be able to capture and place the fish into tanks, inspect them for damage, and install radio monitoring tags.

From there, the fish will drop down a grade and travel through the pipe back into Upper Klamath Lake, to be deposited about 200 yards away near the far shore opposite the headgate.

From there, Korson said, the fish will travel one of three directions; downstream, through the unscreened Link River Dam into Lake Ewuana, back up into the main body of upper Klamath Lake, or back into the fish screen itself where " if they survive" they will once again be deposited at the pipe's outlet.

Korson said the use of radio tags, attached at the evaluation station, will help biologists determine if fish are be recycled through the fish screen. Biologists will also keep an eye on increased activity by predators, either birds or other fish, at the pipe outlet, which will be about three or four feet below the lake's surface depending on lake levels.

The cost of operating the headgates is another unknown, although it is certain to be higher than the previous installation. Once completed the headgates will be entirely automated, with brushes cleaning the screens to keep them clear of algae and a mechanized rake that will clean debris collected on a trash grate at the upstream end of the entire structure.

In addition, the operation of the sluice gates, baffles to control water velocity, and pumps to propel the water containing screened fish is also fully automated, according to the onsite construction manager, Randy Wyatt of the Bureau.

"This is a state-of-the-art facility," Wyatt said. "Everything is automated, and we will leave the site as we found it."

Wyatt said the construction is about $200,000 over budget as of Friday, yet that was well within expectations.

"In a project of this size, you usually factor in about 10 percent for a buffer," Wyatt said. "For an $11 million project, we are doing pretty well. We have an excellent contractor and, although we will be going down to the wire, they have a very good chance of making their date."

Wyatt explained there are four target dates set on his calendar; March 20, when the headgate is set for manual operation, April 1, when manual operation with water is scheduled, and July 22, when the entire work is completed.

A fourth date, set in November, is for the completion of a second, 36" pipe for fish screened from the headgate that will bypass the evaluation station and go directly to the Link River below the dam, Wyatt said.

Wyatt confirmed the general contractor, Slayden Construction, will be required to pay "liquidated damages" for each of the target days missed, although he made it clear the monies were not punitive.

The money, set at $6,500 per day after April 1, an additional $4,000 per day after July 22, and another $2,400 per day after the November target, are to cover costs incurred by the Bureau to maintain construction inspectors and engineers on the site, Wyatt said.

There are no bonuses for early completion of the contract, added Wyatt.

"This is a federal contract and, although I've heard of performance bonuses, those aren't in the federal contracts I'm familiar with," Wyatt said. "We pay a fair price for the expectations contained in the contract."

When asked, Wyatt said the sill height, or the maximum depth the headgate can draw from the lake, remains unchanged.

Queried about the large metal building erected on the site for storage of equipment and materials, Wyatt said as far as he was concerned it was coming down when construction is complete.

"That is what it says in the contract, and that's what I plan to do," Wyatt said. "There was no city inspection of the footing, and it was built for this project."

Wyatt said he had heard of talk about the landowner wanting to leave the building standing, but it was not something that was his concern.

"Until I'm told something different by my boss," Wyatt said. "That building is coming down."

http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/Kehn%20Fishscreen.htm