Did chinook make it up Bear Creek?

OK, we read the great front-page story last month when you threw down the gauntlet and said that salmon may not make it up Bear Creek for the first time in years because of a blockage under the bridge in downtown Medford where the channel had gone underground a year ago during a flood.

What was the outcome? Did anyone fix the blockage in time? Is anyone planning on fixing it before next year?

Alan F., Medford

It turns out the chinook salmon did make it through downtown Medford last year despite two new obstacles under the Jackson Street bridge.

There initially was some concern that two abandoned sewer lines that created a falls just upstream of a spot where Bear Creek actually flowed about 15 feet underground were going to block chinook migration last month.

But Bear Creek chinook are tough critters, and they managed to negotiate both barriers to spawn in gravel bars all the way upstream to Ashland just like they have in recent years.

Apparently that spot where the water went underground was big enough that the chinook simply swam right through it. And although the  abandoned pipes created a 4-foot falls that took chinook a few tries, most made it successfully past it. Those that didn't went back downstream to find a place to spawn.

The obstructions were discovered too late in the year to do anything about them immediately, but plans are to fix them before next year's run shows up in late September.

The city of Medford plans to inspect the old sewer lines and clean them out if necessary before capping them along both banks of Bear Creek before removing the portion exposed in the stream. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also plans to look into removing the old concrete and rocks now forming a bridge over the creek so that won't pose any future blockage should the tube that salmon used this year get full of debris.

The Mail Tribune produced a video outlying the issue and showing salmon successfully, and not so successfully, clearing the pipe. Check it out at http://www.mailtribune.com/news/20171013/salmon-show-in-downtown-medford.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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