Representatives from Thurston County, including elected officials and staff, took the stage at the Washington State Convention Center last night to accept the American Public Works Association (APWA) Project of the Year Award.
Thurston County's five-site Fish Passage Enhancement Program was chosen as the winner in the environment category, for projects with a budget of $5 million or less.
"We opened approximately seven miles of habitat. Within the first year we had spawning fish at four of the five sites and immediately had rearing fish at all five," said Trevin Taylor, Thurston County Senior Environmental Coordinator.
Thurston County was joined by 27 other municipal organizations from throughout the nation recognized for completing projects that epitomize the public works profession and best practices in the field. The county was one of three awardees from Washington State. The City of Oak Harbor and the Seattle Transportation Department were also recognized for projects in the environmental and historical preservation categories.
Since completing the first five sites under the program in 2018, the county's work to improve fish passage has received acclaim from local, state, and national organizations. The program, driven by an innovative matrix that prioritizes culvert replacement, maximizes the total amount of fish habitat gained from each project cycle.
"The matrix allows us to focus our attention on those barrier culverts that will provide good habitat gain, remove critical barriers for fish, and aim for the most effective results," said Steve Johnson, Thurston County Civil Engineer and project leader.
In addition to state and national APWA award recognition, the county is also being honored with the 2019 Environmental Stewardship Award at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) in October 2019, at their annual conference in Sacramento, California.
The success of the program has also resulted in grant awards for future project cycles. The program was recently awarded a $1.7 million Brian Abbot Fish Enhancement grant. The funds are slated to put towards an upcoming project on Spurgeon Creek in Summer 2021.
"This grant was only possible because of the early planning and design developed through the county Fish Passage Enhancement Program," added Taylor.
The primary goal of the Fish Passage Enhancement Program is to increase access to habitat for spawning salmon and other anadromous fish by replacing fish blocking culverts on county owned roadways. The Board of County Commissioners directed Public Works to develop the program in 2016 after reviewing the environmental impacts of fish blocking culverts, and the challenges Washington State faced managing and replacing culverts on state roadways.
For more information about the Thurston County Fish Passage Enhancement Program visit the following links: