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New culvert restores fish passage immediately
News media contacts: Monte Turner, OWEB, 503-986-0195
Gordon Kurtz, Benton County Public Works: 541-766-6821
Culvert replaced on Coal Bank Creek, tributary of Lobster Creek near Alsea
This summer, fish are passing freely through a culvert installed one year ago to open up some of the Alsea Basin's most important habitat for steelhead and cutthroat trout as well as Coho and Chinook salmon.
With a five-foot drop at the downstream end, the old culvert blocked fish passage.  The slope of the culvert created high water speeds that further restricted fish progress and scoured the streambed.  The scoured material was deposited downstream, interfering with potential spawning beds.
During July and August 2006, crews replaced the original culvert with a large, countersunk arch culvert.  They built the arch culvert to be wider than the stream, so natural streambed conditions were restored.  Native material and river-run cobblestone rock at the culvert outlet and along the streambed provide a natural passage setting.  Red fescue grass will control erosion.
Since the bottom of the culvert is lined with rock, intermittent pools developed within the culvert and at the outlet.  These conditions help juvenile salmon and trout to pass through.  Ultimately, the new culvert provides access to 2.3 miles of important fish habitat; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) identified it as the highest-quality cutthroat trout habitat in the basin.
Gordon Kurtz, associate engineer with project leader Benton County Public Works, spoke of the project's success.  “We’re very proud of it.  We immediately saw fish passage,” he said.  He mentioned that his team has completed similar projects in the past; “Over time we have modified our design and construction approaches to take into account lessons learned from previous efforts.  By now, we feel confident that our restoration activities will be permanent,” he said.    
The project, which carried a total cost of about $188,400, was a group effort among Benton County Public Works, ODFW, and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB).  OWEB contributed $85,400 from salmon license plate revenues. 
Salmon license plate purchasers pay an extra $30 every two years above regular passenger vehicle registration fees.  Half the fee goes directly to fix road-related impacts to salmon and trout streams by improving water quality, fish habitat, and fish passage through OWEB grants.  The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department invests the other half in salmon habitat and related projects in state parks.
Since the beginning of the salmon license plate program in 1997, OWEB and OPRD have each received more than $2.5 million.  For more information about salmon plates and instructions for purchasing, call OWEB at 503-986-0178 or visit www.salmonplate.org
Salmon and trout can pass freely through a new culvert installed last year in a Lobster Creek tributary to replace an old culvert with a five-foot drop that blocked fish passage.