Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest editorial: Pitching in to keep salmon moving

A single road crossing with a bad culvert can prevent fish from reaching miles of habitat.

Small tributaries provide a path to salmon nurseries, and juvenile salmon, particularly coho, migrate up streams.

Studies have shown that juvenile salmon that successfully migrate up and down small streams survive better in the ocean. It is important to keep these migration routes free of barriers.

Damaged, poorly designed or poorly maintained culverts all create a significant impasse to fish migration. Addressing the needs of fish passage is one of the primary focuses of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s efforts on the Kenai Peninsula.

A large culvert restoration project has recently been completed by the Kenai Watershed Forum. A culvert at Daniel’s Creek in Nikiski had been so badly crushed that parts of it were sticking up through the road surface. And the culvert was too narrow compared to the normal width of the stream. To avoid the jagged culvert in the road, drivers were illegally trudging through the salmon stream, destroying habitat for spawning and rearing.

The crushed culvert was located along a shared right-of-way and pipeline crossing. A single-lane, 16-foot span bridge was installed during the replacement of the crushed culvert, allowing unabated movement of anadromous fish. The bridge allows for the most natural conditions possible while still allowing recreation and heavy equipment access along the right-of-way.

Tesoro Alaska stepped in as a financial partner in the restoration project, and the Tesoro Alaska refinery provided 15 volunteers for a day’s effort toward the bank revegetation and stabilization. The banks were repaired with willows and coir logs. This restoration project opened over one mile of stream habitat in addition to a large lake.

The Daniel’s Creek project was completed during the spring and summer of 2008, with a total project cost of approximately $75,000. In addition to Tesoro Alaska, the Kenai Watershed Forum partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to complete this project supporting fish habitat in our Kenai Peninsula watershed.

Looking ahead, the 2009 spring and summer construction season will be a busy one for the Kenai Watershed Forum’s culvert restoration staff. At this time, nine culvert replacement projects are planned within the Kenai Peninsula.

To find out more about culvert restoration projects, how culverts are assessed or a map of the highest-priority culvert projects on the peninsula, check out the restoration link on the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Web site at kenaiwatershed.org.

Rhonda Orth is the accounting and office manager for the Kenai Watershed Forum.

No comments: