The Town of Jay, Ausable River Association, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and NYS Department of State are restoring an upstream portion of Otis Brook, a tributary of the Ausable River’s East Branch.
The partners are replacing an undersized, 30-inch pipe culvert under Jay Mountain Road – a frequent source of flooding that requires repeated maintenance by the town highway department – with a 17-foot wide aluminum arch culvert designed and sized specifically for the site. The new culvert will allow Otis Brook, its population of native brook trout, and other wildlife to move unimpeded under the road.
The project is part of an initiative led by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) and the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (the Conservancy) to improve stream connectivity, fish habitat, and community flood resilience in the Ausable River watershed by replacing road-stream crossings with designs engineered to allow for natural stream pattern and flow.
Culverts that don’t allow fish passage can also pose serious risks to road infrastructure and public safety. The new culvert should reduce flooding, road and culvert maintenance, and property damage after floods. It’s also expected to provide safe passage for trout, frogs, salamanders, and many small to mid-size mammals. In the process, town road crews gain experience installing climate-ready, fish-friendly culverts.
The new culvert, which is expected to last 60-70 years, was designed by North Woods Engineering of Saranac Lake. It uses an open-bottom aluminum arch wide enough to span the natural streambanks and low enough to avoid raising the level of the road. “What you end up with is a healthy restored stream with a lid over it,” says Kelley Tucker of AsRA. “The culvert is designed to allow 100-year flood flows to pass through with room to spare. Because the stream underneath is intact, sediment and debris move through efficiently, reducing flood risks and reducing maintenance costs to the town.”
The Town of Jay Highway Department is building the new culvert. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and AsRA are providing oversight and technical assistance and secured the cooperation of the landowners whose property borders the site.
The Conservancy’s work to assess and prioritize road-stream crossings in the watershed, which began in 2010, combines ecological data with information from town officials about culverts with frequent flooding or maintenance problems.
The Nature Conservancy secured grant funding for the project from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Program through the U.S. Department of Interior. AsRA is coordinating the work and is providing additional funding through the New York State Department of State under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. The Town of Jay Highway Department is contributing its time and equipment.
Photo of new aluminum arch culvert provided.