Updating ODOT’s Culvert Repair Program

Earlier this year, federal courts ruled in favor of salmon and steelhead against the state of Washington, requiring the state to replace poorly designed culverts.

Culverts are pipes under roadways that carry streams and runoff. When a culvert becomes plugged by debris or crushed, salmon cannot pass through to reach their spawning grounds, and young cannot migrate to sea.

Some culverts are too small, and others are perched, or too high from the level of the stream bed for salmon to negotiate.

Government Creek's fish-friendly culvert

Oregon has laws on the books to prevent obstruction of fish passage, but the Oregon Department of Transportation is currently allowed to repair culverts without allowing fish passage. The Native Fish Society, WaterWatch and The Conservation Angler recently released a statement, calling out ODOT for setting a poor example and doing so little to help fish recovery.

“ODOT will spend a total of approximately $35 million on fish passage over the next five years. While that may sound like a lot, it is less than one percent of ODOT’s highway repair budget. To put things in perspective, ODOT is proposing to spend $450 million to widen just two miles of freeway near Portland – more than 10 times what it is proposing to spend statewide on fish passage over the next five years.”

ODFW’s Commissioners are reviewing the regulations December 8th.

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