TU proud to be part of Forest Service's big year

A new span over Gertrude Run in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest was one of 255 road-stream projects accomplished by the U.S. Forest Service last year. Trout Unlimited partnered with the agency on many of the projects.

By Mark Taylor 

It’s the season of recapping the “Best of” the prior year and Trout Unlimited is proud to have played a big role in one group’s accomplishments in 2018. 

The U.S. Forest Service recently announced its national tally for road-stream crossing projects designed to improve aquatic organism passage and to improve flood resiliency. In fiscal year 2018 the Forest Service accomplished a whopping 255 such projects, reconnecting 481 miles of aquatic habitat. 

The total represented a major increase in AOP projects for the Forest Service, which completed 178 AOP projects in FY 2016 and 211 in FY 2017. 

The Forest Service invested $17.5 million into the work, which benefits the road network on national forests while also improving habitat access for aquatic species such as native and wild trout and salmon. 

Partners, including TU, played a key role in the effort, contributing nearly $10 million in funding. 

Conventionally designed road-stream crossings — particularly undersized culverts and fords —can clog and catastrophically fail during flood events as well as adversely affect water quality. Many can also act as barriers, preventing fish and other stream-dwelling creatures from accessing habitat. 

“More than 50 percent of blue ribbon trout streams flow across Forest Service lands, and the vast majority of remaining western native trout depend on national forest habitats,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.  “TU commends the Forest Service for its leadership on reconnecting vital habitat in order to sustain our coldwater fisheries.” 

The agency’s stream simulation design approach eliminates the barriers to fish passage while also increasing transportation infrastructure resilience to flooding and also helping maintain critical access for emergency response, recreation and other economic activities for local communities.  

The projects spanned the country. 

In Idaho, TU worked with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and the Upper Blackfoot Confluence (UBC) partnership to replace a problematic culvert crossing (above) on Chippy Creek, a tributary in the Upper Blackfoot River watershed in Southeast Idaho.  

The project replaced undersized culverts with a full-spanning concrete structure containing a constructed natural stream channel. In addition, partners restored over a mile of degraded stream channel upstream and downstream from the new structure, restoring stability and function to the stream by re-meandering straightened and eroded channel sections and reconnecting the stream to its floodplain. 

In the Missoula, Montana area, the Brewster Creek Fish Passage Reconnection Project removed a fish passage barrier and reconnected Brewster Creek to the mainstem of Rock Creek. 

Rock Creek is one of the most popular angling destinations in Montana, supporting healthy populations of native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout, wild rainbow, brook and brown trout, as well as non-game fish.  

During the project, TU also upgraded a small irrigation diversion located just upstream of the culvert. The project reconnects 7 miles of spawning and rearing habitat in lower Rock Creek. 

A number of TU/Forest Service AOP projects were completed in the upper Midwest. 

In Wisconsin’s Nicolet Chequamegon National Forest, TU and the Forest Service teamed up on a culvert replacement project on the Popple River, a state-designated Wild River and Trout Stream.  

A small circular culvert that was prone to over-topping was replaced by a 19-foot wide and 6-foot tall box culvert that will pass flows, fish and paddlers. In conjunction with another Forest Service AOP upstream the work reconnected more than 8 miles of coldwater habitat. 

In the Huron-Manistee National Forest (HMNF), TU and the Forest Service partnered on four AOP projects, two each on Hinton Creek (above) and Bigelow Creek.  

At all project sites, the existing undersized culverts that prohibited fish passage were replaced with natural channel-spanning sized culverts or concrete boxes. A natural stream channel bed was constructed through the culverts to mimic natural conditions. 

TU has helped secure match funding, provided project management, engineering and design and construction oversight and implementation for the projects, which reconnected a total of approximately 8 miles of habitat. 

In the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, native brook trout gained access to more than 20 miles of aquatic habitat above an AOP project on the Little River.  

The project (below) replaced a low water vented ford and concrete apron with a 40-foot-span concrete structure over a natural stream bed. 

Just upstream, an AOP project on Gertrude Run saw a culvert that was perched 2 feet above the water surface replaced with a 26-foot concrete arch. 

Other partners in the AOP work included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, many tribal governments, state departments of environmental quality/ conservation, state and county departments of transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and American Rivers. 

This coming year will be another big one for TU’s collaboration with the Forest Service, with dozens of projects planned for coldwater streams in the West, upper Midwest, the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast. 





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