The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has completed installation of a flood-resilient, fish-friendly culvert in the Town of Jay. The 19-foot-wide aluminum arch is designed to reduce flood risks on Nugent Road, near Glen Road.
“The old culvert, undersized and badly deteriorated, consisted of two, 30-inch pipes that could not contain the full flow of the stream and frequently flooded the road,” an AsRA announcement to the press said. “Now, the restored stream flows freely underneath the wide bottomless arch, allowing native brook trout and other wildlife safe passage under the road.”
The Nugent Road site is on a tributary of Rocky Branch, a natural stream system that descends from the Jay Mountain Wilderness and supports an abundance of wildlife. Five genetically distinct native strains of brook trout have been identified in its waters.
The replacement is part of the Climate-Ready Culvert Initiative in the Ausable River watershed. The goal is to improve stream connectivity, fish habitat, and community flood resilience, through the replacement and redesign of road-stream crossings. The lead partners in this effort are the Ausable River Association, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy — Adirondack Chapter. The Ausable River watershed program serves as a model for other communities.
Under rural roads throughout the Adirondacks, streams are routed through plastic or steel pipes often significantly narrower than the width of the streams at normal flow. During high flow events, undersized culverts are often blocked by debris and sediment, flooding roads and property. High flows forced through undersized pipes scour away soil at the downstream ends of culverts, creating large dropoffs, impassable to fish, to the streams below. This causes bank erosion and sedimentation, creates flood hazards, and blocks native fish from moving upstream, diminishing their capacity to survive and reproduce.
Over the past five years, working with town officials, AsRA and its partners have prioritized culverts in the Ausable watershed based on their degree of impairment to trout and aquatic organisms and their infrastructure value for local communities. Passage from the main branches of the river to smaller, cooler upland tributaries is important for conserving wild fish populations in the Ausable watershed, but is often thwarted by aging, debris-laden, undersized, perched, or deeply scoured culverts that block fish movement.
Since 2014, AsRA and its partners, working alongside town and county road crews, have replaced or retrofitted eight culverts in the Ausable watershed with climate-ready, fish-friendly designs. The new structures connect over 100 miles of river habitat. The direct cost of this year’s construction on the Rocky Branch tributary — not counting the donated support of the Town of Jay — is anticipated to be $110,500.
Photo: Nugent Road culvert, provided by AsRA.