A New Life for Old Data
Have you been reminiscing fondly about your days as a Culvert Operator? Do you wonder what became of all your data? It’s been five years since a group of dedicated citizen scientists first surveyed culverts and bridges in the Ashuelot River watershed with an eye toward fish passage, but the data live on!
In 2008, AVEO and The Nature Conservancy filled in gaps in the 2006 culvert data for three high-quality sub-watersheds in southwest New Hampshire (in the vicinity of Surry Dam, Otter Brook, and Hinsdale and Winchester), with an eye toward establishing restoration priorities. The report — River Connectivity Restoration Priorities in High Quality Sub-watersheds in Southwest New Hampshire — identified 63 severe barriers to fish passage in these three sub-watersheds (26% of total culverts surveyed), just over half of which were not sufficient for passing storm flow associated with 25- or 100-year floods. This analysis also identified 20 culverts as top-priority candidates for restoration.
Collaborating for Conservation
Building on this work, Trout Unlimited hired a New England Culvert Project Coordinator in 2011, with the express purpose of shepherding on-the-ground stream restoration initiatives, informed in part by AVEO’s citizen science data. Throughout the spring and summer of 2011, AVEO met with representatives from Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and Antioch University New England to narrow down the list of potential culvert restoration projects to a manageable few. For each road-stream crossing, we considered the severity the barrier, the amount of upstream mileage that would be re-opened to fish movement if the barrier were replaced or retrofitted, the integrity of the stream corridor (in terms of habitat viability for cold-water fish and amount of surrounding conservation land), and the feasibility of restoration (structurally & financially). During our review, we regularly returned to the photographs and data collected by citizen science volunteers in 2006 and 2008.
We have now narrowed our list down to three top-priority restoration projects — one each on Grassy Brook, Falls Brook, and Thompson Brook — which will provide a combined total of 22.5+ miles of re-opened upstream habitat when completed.
Next: grant writing and community partnerships in pursuit of on-the-ground (or in-the-stream, as the case may be) restoration. Onward!