Culverts critical role in trout migration - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Culverts critical role in trout migration

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Many of us drive over culverts everyday, probably without giving much thought to what lies beneath. But for some fish like wild trout those culverts are important to their survival. 

This morning on The Weekend we're taking a look at how new culverts are being better designed to help fish populations survive.

Bret Ladago works for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"It was kind of exactly what I was hoping to do," says Ladago.

He's been a fisheries biologist for three years.  So he knows a thing or two about wild trout and what's good for them.

"They're cold blooded animals, so they're very sensitive to temperature. In the summer, when the water warms up they need to get to cold water areas where there are springs and access to good, cold habitat," says Ladago.

In order to get where they need to go, a lot of wild trout have to pass through culverts. And in many parts of the state, these culverts aren't doing the fish any favors.

"We did an evaluation of culverts in Vermont and out of 3000 culverts we found that only 6% were fully passable," says Ladago.

One of these less than ideal culverts is located on Chase Brook in Waitsfield. The culvert doesn't look anything like trout's natural habitat. Plus, with a lot of water going through a smaller space the water flow is too strong for some fish to overcome.

"Young fish are not gonna be able to get all the way up and access the cold water areas," says Ladago.

Bret says if these trout can't move up river to spawn, this can impact the overall trout population. So in recent years there's been a movement to replace aging culverts with a design that's more fish friendly.

An example? The culvert at Bradley Brook in Warren. Up until 2015, it was impossible for trout to move back and forth.

But thanks to the efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the town of Warren, friends of the Mad River and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Deparment, it's a different story today.

" If you look at the river bed it looks very natural throughout the culvert, there's no abrupt drops and it provided habitat and connectivity between 2 areas that were disconnected up until last year," says Ladago.

The project cost north of two hundred thousand dollars.

This fish friendly design is a win win. Not only does it provide ease of movement for fish, it also allows more water to pass through.

"The next Irene that we get, rather than forcing all the water through a little straw, we have a lot bigger area," says Ladago.

Hopefully mitigating potential flood damage.

"Now we actually have rules in place when a culvert is replaces it needs to be a passable culvert," says Ladago.

Rules that wild trout appreciate and Bret stands behind.

"It's nice to know that you're helping to conserve those species and protect their ecosystem," says Ladago.

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