Thurston County News

 

​Questions and inquiries regarding News Release content should be directed to the Thurston County Public Information Officer:

Meghan Porter
360-490-0562

Bryan Dominique
360-867-2091

Tuesday, October 18, 2022
A Tale of Two Bridges
Dana Bowers, Public Works Communications Specialist, 360-867-2358 or email dana.bowers@co.thurston.wa.us



Thurston County is celebrating the completion of our 13th fish passage enhancement project with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, November 2, 2022. The completion of this project at Latigo Street SE over Spurgeon Creek has been highly anticipated by fish advocacy groups, trail users, and the neighborhood.

Come celebrate with us at the Spurgeon Creek crossing on Latigo Road. A map for parking and other event details can be found on the project website.

Fish passage enhancement is important in Thurston County. Our coastal location means we share hundreds of streams and creeks with fish that travel up and down the waterway in their lifecycle. When our communities were being developed, roads were built on top of streams using pipes called culverts under the road to carry the water. Culverts that prevent the natural movement of fish throughout a waterway are considered barriers to fish passage.

In 2016, Thurston County took the initiative to enhance fish passage by creating a program to determine which culverts and other barriers were priorities and set aside funding each year to remove them. Culverts under Latigo Street SE and Chehalis Western Trail were identified as a top priority by Thurston County, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, local watershed groups, and tribal partners. The solution to remove the barriers needed to involve both the road and the trail at the same time since the trail runs parallel to the road.

The factors that favored the Spurgeon Creek location for culvert replacement were the large area of recoverable habitat and the relative ease with which prefabricated bridges could be installed at this location. One major concern with this project was funding. Having four culverts on two separate traveled ways to replace rather than just one or two meant the estimated costs were more than double the normal amount. County staff knew they would need additional funding to make it happen and started applying for grants to fill the need.

In 2018, Public Works was awarded a $1.7 million grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office to improve fish passage at Latigo Street SE and Chehalis Western Trail. With funding in place, engineers, environmental staff, right of way agents, and project managers worked alongside our regional partners to design a solution. Once it was clear two prefabricated bridges would be the best alternative to replace the culverts, staff collaborated with federal, state, tribal, and local groups to obtain the necessary permits.

During construction, the first challenge was to remove 300 dump truck loads of soil and rock while maintaining a wetland ecosystem. The15-foot tall railroad base placed by Chehalis Western Railway over 100 years earlier forced the entire flow of Spurgeon Creek though two small 4-foot openings. A key to success was relieving that water pressure slowly. With the soil removed, environment and engineering staff monitored and adapted conditions to ensure water quality levels were not adversely impacted.

Further complications arose when a previously unknown fiberoptics cable buried in the trail was discovered.  The company responsible for the line had to come and move the cable before excavation could proceed. In 2021, materials shortages for construction related projects - such as rebar - also affected the project schedule. With the delays, Chehalis Western Trail bridge could be completed in by October 2021, but construction of the Latigo Street bridge had to wait until the following summer.

In September 2022, construction was completed on the Latigo Street SE bridge and the stream once again flowed freely. Two weeks after construction, fish were already moving upstream using the new, large tree roots and trunks in the water for shade and cover. Diverse wildlife such as coho salmon, trout, sculpin, lamprey, blue heron, western bittern, hawks, otters, bats, and deer have been spotted in the area and can be viewed using the viewing overlook on the trail bridge.

In the next spawning season, fish returns to this area are predicted to increase, allowing for further recovery of salmon in the Puget Sound. While this is only one of many fish barriers that need to be removed, Thurston County has already enhanced 17 miles of habitat in the past eight years by replacing culverts. One more project is planned for the summer of 2023 and grant funding is being pursued to open more miles of habitat in our watersheds.

You can also visit the county's Fish Passage Enhancement Program page to find out more about how we are enhancing fish passage.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3