Video: WSDOT Makes Bridge Safer for Human Travelers & Fish Species

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently wrapped up a roughly $13 million fish barrier correction project – resulting in a new 440-foot bridge that spans Kilisut Harbor along State Route 116. The new bridge not only improves safety for human travelers but also is, in the words WSDOT Project Engineer Dan McKernan, a “huge win” for local salmon and other fish species in the area.

[Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation.]

“The work involved replacing two small culverts that were installed in the 1950s. The channel here now with the bridge was not here previously,” he said, adding that the new channel aids in the annual migration of salmon in the area.

This work is part of WSDOT’s Fish Barrier Removal Program, which identifies and removes barriers to fish caused by culverts under state highways. The agency noted in a statement that it worked with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition or NOSC to complete this specific bridge project while also continuing to work with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify locations where culvert replacement will increase fish habitat.

“The area between Indian and Marrowstone Islands was historically comprised of tidal channels and salt marsh,” NOSC noted in separate statement. “Tidal waters exchanged freely between Oak Bay and Kilisut Harbor, flushing cold water, moving sediment, and allowing juvenile salmon to migrate northward from Oak Bay into the shallow, productive waters of Kilisut Harbor. The installation of the causeway in between Kilisut Harbor and Oak Bay eased transportation between the Islands, but choked the flow of water and sediment, eventually creating an artificial beach berm, a filled channel, and increased water temperatures in Kilisut Harbor.”

The construction of the new bridge also resulted in the removal that land barrier, reconnecting the large numbers of Hood Canal and Puget Sound out-migrating juvenile salmon that converge at Oak Bay with immense foraging opportunities available within Kilisut Harbor while also restoring and enhance important staging and foraging habitat for multiple coastal dependent and migratory birds. “Clean, cold water is now flowing north into Kilisut Harbor/Scow Bay,” the organization noted. “This mixing on each tide cycle is expected to improve water quality in Kilisut Harbor over time.”

Video: Volunteers Help Oregon DOT with Wetland Renewal

Volunteers with Klamath Wingwatchers recently helped the Oregon Department of Transportation resettle “sedges” from the Lost River Wetlands to the Lake Ewauna Trail in Klamath Falls.

“Sedges” are grass-like plants with triangular stems and inconspicuous flowers that typically grow in moist, wet ground. They are a major – often the dominant – plant of many wetland ecosystems throughout the world and their long, strong densely tangled stems and roots can help with erosion control. They also help improve water quality by acting as filters to remove pollutants and sediments; demonstrating the ability to remove a large percentage of nitrogen and significantly sequester metals such as copper.

Moving sedges to the Lake Ewauna Trail – Oregon DOT

Maryland DOT Division Joins New Chesapeake Bay Restoration Effort

The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration is launching a pilot education program with Living Classrooms Foundation that will encourage activities to reduce pollution to Maryland waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, with the overall success of this endeavor to be measured under Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

“Working with Living Classrooms and other Bay partners, this program will help us empower one of our greatest resources in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay – our young people,” explained Gregory Slater, Maryland’s transportation secretary, in a statement. “Together we will educate future stewards of the environment with a program that’s informative, innovative, and driven by data to achieve real progress in restoring the bay.”  

He said SHA is investing in the program as part of the agency’s commitment to pollution reduction goals under its municipal stormwater permit. Meanwhile, MDE will work with SHA and Living Classrooms to establish a scientific basis for credits SHA would receive toward its stormwater permit obligations; credits for “environmentally positive actions” resulting from this educational program.

Those “actions” might include reducing the use of fertilizer, building rain gardens, using rain barrels to reduce polluted stormwater runoff, or increasing the use of public transit to reduce emissions that can deposit nutrient pollution in the bay. 

The agency noted that this pilot project is designed to tie environmental education and pollutant reductions together through rigorous social and scientific monitoring. When students are moved to install rain gardens for capturing stormwater runoff or take mass transit for reducing harmful emissions, those actions can be tracked, pollutant reductions can be measured, and stormwater discharges can be reduced.

The scientific basis for crediting an educational best management practice supports the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Citizen Stewardship Outcome Management Strategy, which holds that the long-term success and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort will ultimately depend on the actions and support of the 17 million residents who call the watershed home.

Slater, who previously served as SHA’s administrator, said the partnership with Living Classrooms was sparked by ongoing concern with litter that affects the health of the bay – noting that in 2018, the Maryland DOT spent more than $9 million on litter abatement. 

“Maryland DOT’s environmental programs are a key part of our mission and we are continuously looking for innovative partnerships in yielding sustainable results,” said Secretary Slater. “This partnership recognizes that education is just as important as our physical efforts to tackle pollution.”