New bridge unleashes a northern Michigan trout stream

Project Summary: Replacing two dysfunctional culverts with a bridge over the Black River reconnected 18 miles of free-flowing trout stream to Lake Huron in northern Michigan and created miles of prime spawning habitat for lake-run coaster brook trout, steelhead and salmon. 

 

Project name: Black River and Sucker Creek Road Stream Crossing.

Location: Black River, near Harrisville, Mi.

The perched culverts disrupted the Black River's natural flow,  prevented fish passage and created and ecological divide in the river. (Huron Pines photo)

The perched culverts disrupted the Black River’s natural flow, prevented fish passage and created and ecological divide in the river. (Huron Pines photo)

Description: The Black River in northeast Michigan is known for coaster brook trout and steelhead that migrate up the river from Lake Huron. In 2007, a study by the conservation group Huron Pines identified a problem with twin culverts that allows the river to flow beneath Sucker Creek Road. The culverts, each of which was 5-feet in diameter and 50-feet long, created a bottleneck in the river, which increased the river’s velocity. The increased velocity created a plunge pool on the downstream side of the culvert, effectively leaving the culverts perched above the river channel. The perched culvert block fish passage and created a biological disconnect between the lower Black River and 18 miles of the river and tributaries upstream of the road crossing. Soil erosion from steep banks near the bridge crossing sent about 80 tons of sediment into the stream each year, covering rocky areas where trout spawn. During high-flow events, the river flowed over the road, creating safety hazards for motorists. Working with the Alcona County Road Commission and the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, the conservation group Huron Pines coordinated plans to replace the perched culverts with a 30-foot long timber bridge. The bridge restored the river’s natural flow, reconnected 18 miles of free-flowing Black River to Lake Huron and created miles of spawning habitat for lake-run coaster brook trout, steelhead and salmon.

Approximate cost of project: $350,000, which was provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.

The new bridge restored the Black River's natural flow and reconnected 18 miles of free-flowing river to Lake Huron. (Huron PInes photo)

The new bridge restored the Black River’s natural flow and reconnected 18 miles of free-flowing river to Lake Huron. (Huron PInes photo)

Resource challenges addressed: Fragmentation of a river, disruption of fish passage, and soil erosion that damaged trout habitat in the river.

Key partners (public and private): Huron Pines, Alcona County Road Commission, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust.

Types of jobs created: Engineers, biologists, stream ecologists, heavy equipment operators and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: Reconnected 18 miles of a free-flowing section of the Black River to Lake Huron, which created new habitat for migratory fish species. The project also reduced by about 80 tons annually the amount of sediment washing into the stream near the bridge.

Web site: http://bit.ly/ZRSioj

Originally Published: March 19, 2013

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