Environment, Gales Creek, News

County asks feds for $1.7 million to replace two culverts in Gales Creek area

The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved action to seek a grant from the federal government for up to $1.7 million to replace two culverts that the Tualatin River Watershed Council says is a barrier to fish passage on White Creek, a small stream that empties into Gales Creek near the junction of Highways 6 and 8.

County commissioners unanimously approved the action during their regular board meeting held Tuesday, January 24.

The grant, expected to be submitted by the county’s Land Use and Transportation department, would ask the United States Department of Transportation for funding to replace two culverts on White Creek, a small, historically fish-bearing stream that enters Gales Creek just east of the Highway 6 and 8 junction.

“The crossings at NW Gales Creek Road and NW Thornburg Road have been identified as fish passage barriers by the Tualatin River Watershed Council,” the county said in a report issued by Stephen Roberts, the county’s director of Land Use & Transportation.

The specific grant program—lengthily titled “United States Department of Transportation for Aquatic Organism Passage Under the National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program (Culvert AOP)”— was made possible with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

If approved, the grant would require 20% matching funds, or about $340,000.

Those funds would come from the County Road Fund, and would be used largely for county staff time administering the project and for procuring needed right-of-way for the two culvert replacement projects.

The program the county is applying to is geared toward barriers to fish that travel between the ocean and freshwater streams—called anadromous fish—such as salmon, cutthroat trout, and Pacific Lamprey.

“Removing these fish passage barriers will provide a direct connection with Gales Creek, which is classified as critical fish habitat for Upper Willamette Steelhead by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS),” the county said. “It is also mapped as Essential Salmonid Habitat by Oregon Department of State Lands in coordination with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

If the grant were approved, funding would likely arrive in November of this year, with actual construction expected in the summer of 2025.

The county noted that several state and local government entities and nonprofits had expressed support for the project, including Clean Water Services, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Tualatin River Watershed Council and Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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