Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ausable River Association To Replace Otis Brook Culvert

culvert on Otis Brook in JayThe Ausable River Association (AsRA) has been awarded a $100,000 Best Management Practices for Pollution Reduction grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP).

The funding supports replacement of an undersized and failing culvert on Otis Brook in Jay, NY. This will be AsRA’s sixth installation of a Climate-Ready-Culvert and is part of their wider effort to restore stream health by reducing sedimentation of waterways, to improve wildlife habitat, and to create flood resilience for communities in the Ausable watershed.

In 2016, AsRA, through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Town of Jay, and The Nature Conservancy Adirondacks, replaced the first undersized culvert over Otis Brook.

Descending from the Jay Mountain Wilderness, this small stream supports a wide array of native wildlife including a healthy wild brook trout population. Once the stream flows out of the wilderness, it crosses under several roads on its way to join the East Branch Ausable River. Four of the five road crossings along Otis Brook were identified as high priorities for replacement through an earlier process that assessed aquatic connectivity, flood vulnerability, and community safety.

LCBP funds are expected to replace the second culvert on the Otis system – just downstream of the 2016 project. The targeted culvert is an undersized 4-foot diameter pipe. It is a barrier to aquatic organisms – including native brook trout, is frequently overwhelmed during moderate flooding, and causes significant bank erosion on either side of the road. Additionally, the stream 100 feet immediately above the culvert inlet has been re-routed to run alongside the road causing extreme siltation and threatening undercutting of the roadway during storms. Construction is planned for summer of 2020 and is expected to include installation of a bottomless aluminum arch culvert sized to accommodate a 100-year flood event at 80% capacity – approximately 17 feet in width. Plans are to replace the stream to its original channel, restoring its bed and banks to mimic natural stream conditions up and downstream, and eliminating excess erosion and sedimentation. The expected structural life of Climate-Ready-Culverts is estimated at 75 years.

Climate-Ready-Culverts reduce flood impacts, ensure passage for a variety of animals including fish, salamanders, frogs, and turtles, restore stream function and habitat, improve water quality, and reduce or eliminate frequent and costly maintenance activities for towns. Furthermore, they enhance the quality of recreational activities within the Ausable watershed. Each year thousands of anglers travel to the Ausable River and its tributaries for world-class trout fishing. Passable culverts support healthy fish populations, resulting in better opportunities for recreational fishing, thus bringing money to local communities.

LCBP, in conjunction with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, offers grants to develop and install Best Management Practices for Pollution Reduction in the US-portion of the Lake Champlain Basin, and for projects to provide planning and prioritization for future on-the-ground interventions. Selected projects help to implement LCBP’s Opportunities for Action: An Evolving Plan for the Future of the Lake Champlain Basin.

AsRA holds several grants from LCBP and leverages this support to identify matching funds to help communities protect Ausable streams and lakes. Work on the second Otis Brook culvert is also supported by a $50,000 grant awarded to AsRA in 2019 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service through its National Fish Passage Program.

Photo of culvert on Otis Brook in Jay provided.

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