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Officials Seek Public Input on N. Oregon Coast Fish Passage Issues

Published 05/27/2020 at 9:54 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Officials Seek Public Input on N. Oregon Coast Fish Passage Issues

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(Salem, Oregon) – Three culverts that failed on the northern half of the Oregon coast have triggered emergency conditions and thus urgent reconstruction measures. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is seeking public comments on a fish passage waiver application and an exemption request by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). (Above: Highway 53)

ODOT and ODFW are looking closely at culverts at the following locations: the North Fork Nehalem at Highway 53, MP 11.4; Vossburg Creek at Highway 101, MP 48; and Rowdy Creek at Highway 101, MP 111.

These actions have triggered Oregon’s fish passage laws. Under the terms of the emergency repairs, ODOT must address fish passage requirements according to OAR 635-412-0035 by completing one of the following actions. 1.) Replace the culvert with one that meets fish passage criteria, 2.) Mitigate for the lost habitat, or 3.) Seek an exemption from fish passage requirements.

In early February 2020, the ODOT culvert under Hwy 101 at mile point 111 began to fail and needed immediate replacement. The 24-inch culvert transports an unnamed tributary to Rowdy Creek, which has the potential to provide habitat for cutthroat trout. The current culvert does not meet the State’s fish passage requirements. ODOT seeks an exemption from fish passage requirements at this location. According to Katherine Nordholm, ODFW/ODOT Assistant Fish Passage Liaison, ODFW may grant a fish passage exemption if there are no appreciable benefits to native migratory fish if passage were provided at a location. ODFW has made the initial determination that providing passage at the Rowdy Creek tributary crossing would not provide an appreciable benefit to cutthroat trout.

Regarding Vossburg Creek and the North Fork Nehalem:

ODOT’s waiver request proposes to waive fish passage requirements at two locations in Tillamook County and mitigate for the lost fish habitat by removing a culvert on an unnamed tributary of Acey Creek. The culvert located at US 101 mile point 48 near Wheeler collapsed, causing a sinkhole in June of 2017. The resulting replacement culvert is perched, blocking access to approximately 0.55 miles of historic cutthroat trout habitat, however; an existing barrier currently blocks fish passage at 0.13 miles above the Highway 101 crossing. The culvert under OR 53 at mile point 11.4 is located in an area prone to landslides. An emergency replacement was completed in August of 2017 intended to meet fish passage criteria, however the culvert does not meet fish passage criteria and now blocks access to 0.6 miles of cutthroat trout habitat.

ODOT proposes to mitigate for the loss of 0.73 miles of cutthroat trout habitat by removing a culvert, currently a full passage barrier, on a tributary of Acey Creek, restoring access to 0.89 miles of cutthroat trout habitat. According to Pete Baki, ODFW/ODOT Fish Passage Liaison, ODFW may grant a fish passage waiver if benefits to native migratory fish are greater at the mitigation site when compared to if passage was provided at the waiver sites. ODFW has made the initial determination that providing passage at the Acey Creek tributary crossing would provide a net benefit to cutthroat.

The project-specific details (the fish passage exemption and waiver applications and ODFW’s benefit analyses) are available at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/passage/

The fish passage waiver and exemption requests will be presented to the Oregon Fish Passage Task Force for their recommendation at an upcoming virtual public meeting on June 26, 2020. Public comments will be provided to the Task Force for their consideration.

Members of the public can send written comments to or request additional information from ODFW staff: Pete Baki, ODFW-ODOT Fish Passage Liaison, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr SE, Salem, OR 97303, Pete.Baki@state.or.us, (503) 947-6234 for the fish passage waiver application including Highway 101 MP 48, Highway 53 MP 11.4 and Acey Creek or contact Katherine Nordholm, ODFW-ODOT Assistant Fish Passage Liaison, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr SE, Salem, OR 97303, Katherine.e.nordholm@state.or.us, (503) 947-6274 for the fish passage exemption application at Highway 101 MP 111.

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