Environment, Gales Creek, News

After federal grant denied, county may seek state funds to replace two Gales Creek-area culverts

The Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation is still trying to fund the replacement of two culverts in the Gales Creek area on White Creek, a small tributary that empties into Gales Creek near the junction of Highways 6 and 8.

A previous grant asking the United States Department of Transportation to give the county $1.7 million to replace two culverts—one passing under Thornburg Road and one passing under Gales Creek Road—was unsuccessful, according to LUT Operations and Maintenance Division Project Manager Stephen Cruise.

As a result, LUT is asking the Washington County Board of Commissioners to consider approving a grant request of $1.5 million—the total estimated project cost—to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife during their business meeting scheduled for December 12.

If the Board of Commissioners approves the motion, listed in the consent agenda—routine items usually approved as a batch—for Tuesday’s meeting, the land use department will proceed to ask for up to $1.5 million through the ODF&W’s Private Forest Accord grant program.

The program is designed to award grants to projects that increase environmental protections for streams and aquatic species’ habitats. During the 2022 legislative session, state lawmakers set aside funds for the program.

“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 document outlining the project.

The two culverts currently restrict the passage of anadromous—species that travel to and from the ocean as part of their natural lifecycle—fish like salmon and steelhead.

With the project funds in hand, the county could design and install two larger culverts that would open habitat that once held robust fish populations near what was once called the Fir Creek neighborhood and further upstream of the Gales Creek area.

“Removing these barriers to fish passage 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.

If the grant is approved, funds would be awarded during the spring of 2024, with construction anticipated to take place during the in-water work window in summer of 2025.

Unlike the prior grant, the county is not required to provide matching funds, but should the grant application need bolstering with county funds, the money would come from the county’s Road Fund, according to the county.

Clean Water Services, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Tualatin River Watershed Council, and the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District all were listed as organizations that had expressed support for the project.

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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