Picture from inside culvert. Photo by Blythe Brown
Juvenile salmon from Lake Orbin will soon have an easier path to the sea.
Blythe Brown is the Project Coordinator at the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District. She says they’re improving the culverts in the Lake Orbin tributary to the Russian River will ease them on their way.
“The old culvert was only three feet diameter. The new culverts are seven feet diameter and the stream bed is going to be built right through the culvert so the young juvenile fish can swim through more easily,” says Brown.”
Brown says they’ve been working on the culverts for three years from conception to installation. She says at first people were wary about investing time and money on Orbin, but she says that more salmon pass through there than people think.
“In the minnow trapping that I’ve been doing, we’ve discovered a lot of cohos are in there,” says Brown. “The local land owners have seen a lot of adult fish running up through that creek, so even thought it dries out part of the year, it is a valuable habitat.”
Bill Rice is the Southcentral Alaska Fish Path Engineer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He says streams like Orbin can have a long-term affect on fish populations.
“This gained an importance in our view because it was a unique feature where some significant rearing habitat could be accessed and used,” Rice says.
Rice says there are four culverts in the stream and that they serve more than one purpose.
“Typically we’re also increasing the size and flood capacity of these crossings and so we like to say we’re improving fish and better flood capacity at the same time,” says Rice.
He says the budget is about $250,000 dollars and Brown adds that the Fish and Wildlife Service was the major funder.
Rice says they are close to being done with the project and hope to finish the culvert on Lake Orbin Drive this week, which will also involve smoothing the dirt placed over the pipe.
He says they will be re-seeding the disturbed land around the culverts this summer.