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Protecting People and Communities, Helping Fish and Wildlife

North Atlantic LCC to coordinate and support a collaborative, region-wide effort to restore fish passage while reducing the likelihood of damage to road stream crossings from future floods.
Protecting People and Communities, Helping Fish and Wildlife

A road culvert in Maine.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received $1.27 million in Hurricane Sandy mitigation funds from the Department of the Interior to work through the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative to coordinate and support a collaborative, region-wide effort to restore fish passage while reducing the likelihood of damage to  road stream crossings from future floods.

The critical role of culverts — essentially big pipes or concrete boxes carrying streams beneath roads — was demonstrated dramatically in a series of extreme weather events hitting the Northeast in recent years. In 2011, intense and sustained rain from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee washed out roads throughout mountains of New York and New England as culverts running under those roads were not designed to handle such enormous volumes of water.  Additional flooding from Hurricane Sandy, which lashed the Northeast coast and adjacent inland areas in October 2012, caused additional damage. The widespread effects of these massive storms underscore the need for a regional science-based approach to prioritize and increase the resiliency of roads to floods.

Improving the resiliency of roads has multiple benefits beyond protecting human health, safety, and property. Upgrading, repairing or replacing culverts can also increase connectivity and movement of fish and wildlife. This addresses a critical problem because aquatic systems in the Northeast are extremely fragmented by undersized or damaged road culverts that are unfit to provide passage for fish, other aquatic organisms and wildlife. Beyond their in-stream benefits, fish-friendly culverts also help sustain nearby wetlands and floodplains while they nourish coastal beaches with sediment.

This project involves a number of tasks that will assist local, state, and federal partners in protecting roads and improving fish passage. It will develop a database and mapped locations and condition assessments of road stream crossings based on existing data and models, support additional surveys of road stream crossings, predict future storm discharge levels, assess risk and prioritize crossing improvements.  The resulting regionally-consistent data on stream crossing locations and future flood conditions will help towns, states and communities manage future intense storms and improve conditions for aquatic organisms.  The project will be facilitated by the North Atlantic LCC and the Fisheries Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and guided by partners and users from the conservation, transportation, and state and municipal planning sectors.

The project will take place over three years in coastal watersheds in New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia. Partners include USFWS, the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service. In addition to the DOI funding, the culvert project is supported by $150,000 in matching funding from the North Atlantic LCC that will allow the inclusion of additional northeast states in the project.

Click here to view additional details on the project and participating partners.

DOI Secretary Sally Jewell announced last October that the Department will invest $162 million in 45 restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms, by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.

In addition to the culvert project, the North Atlantic LCC will help coordinate two other Hurricane Sandy projects – totaling nearly $4 million – to develop decision-support tools for understanding future impacts of sea-level rise and storms – along with other predicted effects of climate change, urban growth and conservation – on beach and tidal wetland areas throughout the coastal region impacted by the storm. The LCCs will work with DOI Bureaus, Climate Science Centers (CSCs), coastal states, tribes, NGOs and university partners.






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