Pacific Lamprey get a successful boost to travel past Rocky Reach Dam

by Kimberlee Craig | Mar 05, 2018

No bones, no paired fins and not great swimmers like salmon – that’s why Pacific lamprey can really use some help navigating the Columbia River.  Changes to the fish ladder at Rocky Reach and tracking studies are proving an effective combo for adult lamprey migrating past the dam, Chelan PUD commissioners heard Monday.

Steve Hemstrom, senior fisheries biologist, delivered the good news that 98 percent of adult lamprey that enter the fish ladder at Rocky Reach Dam are traveling on up the Columbia to spawn in streams. (00:13 on the board meeting audio)

“We have reached our objective in the lamprey management plan to achieve passage at Rocky Reach  similar to the best on the Columbia – in fact, we have the best passage results ever measured at any dam,” Hemstrom said.

Pacific lamprey are eel-like fish native to the Columbia River, dating from 450 million years ago. They hatch in freshwater streams, spending up to seven years before migrating to the ocean. There they use their round mouth and raspy teeth to attach to large fish and grow as a parasite off the host. Adults return to the Columbia, traveling upstream to spawn

Lamprey are highly valued in Native American culture and tradition and for their important role in the food chain and stream ecology, Hemstrom said.

Studying and managing lamprey passage at the dam is a term of the license to operate Rocky Reach issued in 2009. A study in 2004 had found that less than half the adult lamprey that started up the ladder at the dam made the trip, Hemstrom said.

Studies on lamprey swimming ability and working with tribes and fish agencies, led to two fish ladder changes:

  • Adding “ramps” to connect concrete steps in the fish ladder, and
  • Putting grates over small gaps in water intakes to keep lamprey from slipping in where they aren’t strong enough to swim out

The ramps give lamprey a place to latch on with the suction-cup mouth and rest while gathering energy for the swim up to the next pool. Both features led to very successful passage, Hemstrom said.

“Congratulations, it’s a great accomplishment,” said Commissioner Ann Congdon.

Chelan PUD will keep working with the tribes and agencies to affirm meeting the passage goal and on other steps, if any, needed to help lamprey successfully pass Rocky Reach, Hemstrom said.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Reviewed progress on evaluating and choosing firms to supply, install and test new systems to manage customer and billing information and move toward advanced electric grid operation. Mark O’Bryan, project manager, also reviewed the project budget of $8 million set after commissioners affirmed the need to install a “top tier” system to maintain rigorous internal controls and financial analysis capabilities for the District’s hydropower operations. Plans are to launch the project in April 2019 and have it ready to use by summer 2019.  (00:56)
  • Heard an update on developing a sustainable response to service requests of more than 5 megawatts, most for cryptocurrency mining. Senior managers identified more than a dozen priority that may be delayed due to the large load requests. General Manager Steve Wright, said staff is moving ahead with hiring contractor expertise, talking with large load requestors on power supply options and meeting with Chelan County commissioners and city councils as they consider actions related to siting large load operations and on safety concerns about smaller operations in residential areas. (00:30)
  • Heard the March 1 forecast for April-July runoff into Lake Chelan is at 106 percent of average based on mountain snowpack and precipitation. Energy analyst John Wasniewski reported on results of last week’s helicopter snow survey. Based on the forecast, lake operations will follow targets set for dry-average years to meet fish, flood control, stream barrier, recreation and erosion control goals. A final runoff forecast will be done on April 1. Columbia River streamflow at Grand Coulee is expected to be 110 percent of average according to the Northwest River Forecast Center.  (03:25)
  • Received a petition from the 134 homeowners on Eagle Creek Road near Leavenworth asking for fiber network access under the Public Power Benefit program. Following discussion on how locations are decided for future expansion, Mike Coleman, Fiber and Telecom managing director, said Eagle Creek Road is eligible for buildout and will be evaluated, as will other locations, during the annual selection process. Coleman added that homeowners will be kept informed.  (02:04)
  • Set three special meetings:
    • March 12 – Mid-C commissioner and manager dinner, 5:30 p.m. at Mai Lee Thai, 595 Grant Road
    • April 12 – Strategy Partners meeting, 7 a.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Way
    • June 5 – Tri-Commission Meeting, 1 p.m., Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology way

Upcoming events:

  • March 9-11 – KPQ Home Expo, Town Toyota Center
  • March 14 – Senior Tri-Dam Tour, 9-4 p.m.
  • March 19 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., boardroom
  • March 23 – Pathways to College/NW Mariachi Festival, 7:30 p.m., Town Toyota Center
  • April 2 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. , boardroom
  • April 16 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m., boardroom
  • April 30 – Commission meeting, 10 a.m. boardroom (rescheduled)


The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 19, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave. 

Outages or Emergencies

Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.


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