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Videos document challenges to fish passage

April 1, 2013

Recent video taken at roads in the Medford area show juvenile salmon and steelhead struggling to pass through culverts as they try to swim upstream. The video shows the problem that partial barriers create for fish migration. Barriers include dams and culverts that are either poorly placed or need to be replaced.

"Most people know that adult salmon and steelhead migrate upstream to spawn and that barriers can either partially or completely block this needed movement" said Dan Van Dyke, district biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). "In the Rogue watershed, with our very hot, dry summers, young fish move around as well."

Juvenile coho salmon live for a year in Rogue Valley streams before they migrate to the ocean.  Juvenile steelhead may spend two or three years in freshwater before leaving the valley. 

During their time in freshwater, fish migrate seasonally between very small streams, larger streams like Bear Creek, and even the river itself.  Barriers can block this migration.  The fish spend time and energy jumping at these sites, most often without success.  Predators like heron and mink can be seen at culvert barriers taking advantage of their young prey.

ODFW fish passage criteria and policy for culverts and other barriers is to provide passage for all native migratory fish and life stages that need passage at a site. So as new culverts are built, and as barriers are removed in the Rogue Valley, passage conditions for these juveniles are improving. Still, hundreds of barriers to fish passage exist within the Rogue watershed. Examples of these barriers can be seen here:

Video from Oak St. diversion site (Ashland). Improvements are being developed for this location. Video from Coleman Creek near Highway 99 (Phoenix). Video from a culvert on Larson Creek near Barnett Rd. (Medford).
Video from Crooked Creek near Barnett and Stewart (Medford). Lone Pine Creek at Table Rock Rd. (Medford).

According to Van Dyke, the challenge for fish will get bigger if we see a trend for more extreme climate conditions in the future. High water flows in undersized culverts scour the streambed and create the jumps that block fish.  Poorly designed culverts allow very low and very high flows to block fish movement.   

"We can have all the newly hatched fish we want, but unless they can survive to head to sea as smolts, we will not have more salmon and steelhead coming back as adult fish."



Dan Van Dyke (541) 826-8774
Meghan Collins (541) 440-3353

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