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Takshanuk spending $230K improving fish passage


A $150,000 culvert replacement at Letnikof Cove is aimed at allowing more coho salmon, Dolly Varden and cutthroat trout to reach spawning areas adjacent to Mud Bay Road near 5 Mile.

The Takshanuk Watershed Council in late April completed the project that improves fish access to Cannery Creek. An $80,000 culvert project by the council on the west side of town should be done by July.

The new, oval-shaped pipe is 60 feet long and 8-by-5 feet in shape. It extends under a private road leading to the historic Haines Packing cannery.

The old pipe, that was narrower and shorter, was buried at a shallow depth that was sometimes nine feet above the water level in Letnikof Cove, preventing fish in the salt-water cove from reaching it except during 14 percent of high tides. “Only the highest tides brought water up that high,” said Rich Chapell, sportfish biologist for Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The new culvert has a baffled floor that provides for a consistent grade from the stream above to the cove below, Chapell said. “It’s going to be a big improvement on anadramous fish passage. Just last week I saw three adult cutthroat trout there, including two spawning above Mud Bay Road.”

The Cannery Creek project scored the highest on a “biological significance index” compiled by the watershed council, with 1,260 meters of potential habitat upstream and a frequency of pools equivalent to .4 per meter. Funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Patagonia World Trout.

Cutthroat spend winters in large lakes, then in spring follow rivers down to small streams swollen by winter snowmelt to reach spawning areas. Similarly, each fall when rains swell some of the same streams, returning coho swim up them to spawn. “They use high-water events to push up those small streams that seem insignificant, but are important as spawning habitat,” Chapell said.

Meredith Pochardt of the watershed council said the group also hopes to replace two culverts that connect the new culvert to the uplands stream and wetlands. Those twin culverts pass under Mud Bay Road. “Right now, they constrict flows through there,” Pochardt said.

Also, the council in June will replace a culvert at Chestnut Drive in the Meadowlands subdivision. The new, square-shaped culvert will be 40-feet long, she said. That culvert links a Sawmill Creek tributary that starts above Comstock Road, passing through a new, fish-friendly culvert that was replaced there about three years ago, Pochardt said.

The existing culvert on Chestnut is old and rusting out, said Fish and Game’s Chapell. It’s also undersized and eating away at the roadbanks. “Fish are making it through there now, but (the project) will help them get there.” That project has a price tag of $80,000. It should take about a month and include revegetation work, she said. It is paid for with funds from the state Coast Community Impact Assessment Program.

Rearing coho, cutthroat and Dolly Varden use the stream, Chapell said. Spawning cutthroat have been found above Comstock, he said, and spawning coho have been found above Union Street, above a large culvert placed there about 10 years ago that replaced an aging, L-shaped one.