Oregon Tech solar project targets sucker recovery

Rocky Point, Ore. – An Oregon Tech solar project hopes to literally breathe new life into an endangered species on Upper Klamath Lake.

The project is aimed at restoring numbers of endangered sucker fish.

The suckers aren’t making it to child-rearing age – and no one knows exactly why.

“Very few to none have recruited for the last 20 years.”  Notes Professor Mason Terry of Oregon Tech.  “So the species is dying off.”

Floating, solar powered pumps could be the key to sucker recovery.

“To pump air down to the bottom of the lake, to try and increase the oxygen levels so fish don’t die.”  Explains Assistant Lab Manager Ian Riley.

Professor Terry came up with the concept following November’s ‘Sucker Summit’ hosted by Senator Jeff Merkley.

The system is similar to what you may have in your aquarium.

“The aerator is essentially the same thing.”  Terry notes.  “Just, these are bigger.”

The $4000 prototypes are the first floating solar projects in Oregon.

“We’ve been working closely with the Klamath Tribes.”  Says Lead Design Engineer Jennifer Berdyugin.  “They’re kind of the ones who brought us this problem.  Then, as an engineer, we’re just problem solvers.”

The solar arrays will be anchored in the Pelican Bay area on the north side of the lake.

“We’re going to have 6 feet of tubing, and then we’re going to have 5 more feet of aerator tubing to disperse the oxygen.”  Explains Riley.

Biologists will be monitoring the results.

“If it proves positive, then we will expand the whole thing.”  Professor Terry stated.

Other efforts to boost sucker numbers include development of fish hatcheries, and netting systems on Upper Klamath Lake to help protect released fish.

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