County engineers are working with consultants on a solution to a difficult problem under Country Club Road NW. A pipe, under the road at Green Cove Creek is blocking fish from returning to their spawning area.
The culvert under Country Club Rd NW blocks fish from upstream habitat.
For the past several years, Thurston County has been removing barriers like this through the Fish Passage Enhancement program. Each location is treated differently and brings its own unique challenges. The barrier at Country Club Rd. NW is not different.
When the road was built by a developer in the early 1970’s, a culvert was installed in the gorge, soil was laid down to bring the crossing level with the rest of the road, followed by water, gas and telephone lines. The result is a 5-foot-wide culvert covered by 50 feet of rock and soil with a road and utilities on top.
Back then, building roads like this was commonplace, but regulations considering the impacts to the environment would not allow this today. Forcing so much water through a small opening makes the current so fast that salmon and other fish cannot swim upstream to reach their habitat. Streams need more space to flow naturally and allow for heavy rains during winter without stopping fish.
In Fall 2021, the barrier under Country Club Rd NW became priority number one, when inspectors found the culvert had collapsed an additional foot since the previous inspection in 2019.
The culvert before repair work started in October 2021.
“Because the culvert was actively collapsing, my concern was a full collapse of the culvert. If this happened it would completely block the flow of the creek, send sediment-laded water downstream, and build up water on the upstream side of Country Club Road with no outlet just as the wet season begins,” explained County Engineer Scott Lindblom.
County staff had to act fast. “The best timely emergency repair was to insert a smaller culvert into the larger one and to do it before the heavy rains made even that repair unworkable,” said Marcus Storvick, the project manager.
With approval from the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), Country Club Rd. NW was closed from October 25, 2021 to November 15, 2021 to allow Public Works crews to complete the emergency repair and protect the residents, roadway, and utilities.
County staff were anxiously watching the weather as they worked through rainy days to complete the project. Even as they worked, crews reported the culvert continued to deteriorate and collapsed even further making the repair more difficult than predicted. “Considering this further evidence, it is unlikely the culvert would have lasted through the winter,” added Lindblom.
The repair was completed November 10, 2021, five days ahead of schedule. Although safety for the residents, roads, and utilities is restored, the fish are still blocked from spawning habitat. Due to the need for quick action, Public Works immediately hired consultants to assist engineering staff in determining the best long-term solution to address the issue.
The consultants and engineers are considering four very different alternatives, all of which will meet the most current fish passage requirements from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Two of the options include a new bridge spanning the creek, one carrying a two-lane road, the other for pedestrians only. Another option would restore a two-lane road with a much, much larger diameter culvert carrying Green Cove Creek. The fourth option would remove the crossing completely. Each of the solutions has its challenges and opportunities which will be considered carefully. In no case will the existing five-foot diameter culvert be replaced with another five-foot diameter culvert but will meet the current fish passage requirements as approved by the WDFW.
Example of a buried bridge, one of the four options being considered as a permanent fix for this structure.
Factors under consideration for all options include emergency access, utilities, environmental considerations, cultural resources, constructability and cost, long-term maintenance costs, impacts to the residents, and time constraints. Extensive research goes into investigating each option and ranking their workability. Public Works staff will review the outcome of the study with the BoCC when it’s complete in Spring 2022.
Work on the project must be completed by 2024 as a condition of the emergency permit provided by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. If you would like more information about this project please visit the project webpage. You can sign up there to receive email updates on the progress.