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Dunn Creek Fish Passage Project

Upper Crossing from the upstream side after construction
Middle Crossing from the downstream side before construction

Middle Crossing from the downstream side before construction

January 2012 – Bill Morrison, Coastal District Manager –

We just successfully finished up on a multi-year project to enhance fish passage and create new habitat on our lands in Mendocino County.

Dunn Creek is a tributary to the North Fork of Cottaneva Creek in Mendocino County, California which supports anadromous steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).

Dunn Creek is a two square mile sub basin of which 82% is owned by Soper Company and managed by Soper-Wheeler Company, LLC for sustainable timber production, primarily redwoods.

Currently, fish passage to this portion of Dunn Creek is blocked by Highway 1. With CalTrans working under a directive from the California Department of Fish and Game to construct a new bridge for the sole purpose of fish passage on Dunn Creek, crossings on our upstream property needed to be reevaluated.

Removing the old culvert and shaping the bank

Removing the old culvert and shaping the bank

In 2010, California Department of Fish and Game staff identified three existing culverts within the company ownership located along Dunn Creek which posed potential barriers for fish passage.

Fish and Game staff conducted measurements on all three culverts. This culvert data was checked using the fish passage crossing computer model and it was concluded that all three crossings were barriers to both juvenile and adult steelhead trout, and juvenile and adult coho salmon.

With this finding, we voluntarily made the choice to upgrade the crossings prior to the bridge construction on Highway 1 so all crossings on company land would accommodate future fish passage.

Later in 2010, Soper Company and the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District entered into an agreement to submit a proposal for the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program for a fish passage project on Dunn Creek. Since 1981, the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program has been a collaborative effort with more than 600 stakeholders to restore declining anadromous salmonid habitat.

Hauling in rock to line the streambed

Hauling in rock to line the streambed

In addition, Soper Company retained the services of Michael Love & Associates to develop plans to accommodate fish passage concerns for all three crossings. With much diligent work from all involved, a grant application was compiled and submitted before the 2010  deadline.

The Dunn Creek Coho Fish Passage Project proposed
“…To upgrade one eight-foot culvert and one seven-foot culvert on an unnamed tributary to Dunn Creek and a third three-foot culvert and bridge crossing downstream above the Highway 1 crossing.

All these crossings are barriers to fish migration. The culverts are to be replaced with bridges which are designed for the stream channel’s natural width and grade and will remove the barrier to both adult and juvenile salmonid migration.

Placing rock next to the historic train trestle

Placing rock next to the historic train trestle

In addition, at the lower crossing, a new rerouted channel will be designed to provide low-gradient backwater habitat, as a refuge from higher discharges in Dunn Creek, for juvenile coho salmon and to prevent head-cutting and destabilization of the tributary channel upstream of the project area.

The crossing at State Highway 1 is also an identified barrier, especially to coho salmon and is scheduled for upgrading to provide fish passage by Caltrans in 2013.

The opportunity is timely for upgrading all of these crossings to open up a total of approximately 1.66 miles for potential anadromy migration, including approximately 0.8 miles for the three crossings on Soper Company properties.”

Early in 2011, the Dunn Creek Coho Fish Passage Project Grant Proposal was awarded as submitted. A Fish and Game Streambed Alteration agreement was obtained and late in September of 2011, project implementation began.

Middle Crossing from the downstream side after construction

Middle Crossing from the downstream side after construction

Soper Company retained the services of Kernen Construction for bridge, equipment, rock, and labor. In addition, Pacific Earthscape of McKinleyville provided equipment and labor for project implementation. Doug Kelly of the Humboldt Fish Action Council along with William Morrison representing Soper-Wheeler Company, LLC, and Elias Steinbuck representing the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District performed supervision and ensured project compliance.

In late October 2011, all culverts have been successfully replaced with new bridges at the three crossing sites. The creation of the rerouted channel designed to provide low-gradient backwater habitat was also completed. All areas were treated for erosion control at project sites.

Soper Company and Soper-Wheeler Company, LLC would like to acknowledge the participation of the Department of Fish and Game, Fisheries Restoration Grant Program and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries funds for the restoration grant opportunity for the Dunn Creek Coho Fish Passage Project.

 

Click images to enlarge

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