Fish passage barrier is anything that inhibits fish, from adults to small fry, from moving up or down stream. As you can imagine, they come in all shapes in sizes. On this project, the barrier came in the shape of a ford. Working with our partners, we were able to remove this barrier and create year around access for fish.
The Brain Ranch Ford existed for several decades and provided access to the Brain family home on the other side of Taneum Creek. The ford removal was part of a larger project where a new bridge was put in to secure safe access to the home, which wasn’t always feasible when creek flows were high. This project was accomplished through the collaboration of our partners – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Yakama Nation, Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Ecology.
A Barrier To Fish
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife determined the ford to be a fish passage barrier for juvenile fish and some adults due to the water surface drop on the downstream side of the ford (see photo above). While it might not look that big to a human, the fall equated to several feet of vertical drop for fish. This drop presented a barrier to species like Coho Salmon who are less able to make a large jump in comparison to species like Steelhead.
When Non-Profit Nimbleness Pays Off
Yakama Nation contacted us because they saw the need to remove the ford, but didn’t have the funding to do it. Being a small non-profit allowed us the flexibility to step in and help. The ford was removed without isolating the creek through an innovative work process. The Yakama Nation and WDFW biologists carefully monitored local current spawning conditions for species such as Steelhead and determined an allowable work window where sediment released from the ford removal was unlikely to impact spawning fish immediately downstream of the ford.
The ford was removed by breaking the concrete slab into three pieces and hauling the pieces to upland areas away from the creek. After the ford was removed, water bars were constructed on the remaining road so that further sediment did not enter the stream. The entire removal process took just under 2 hours of work. This innovative approach allowed the ford to be removed with minimal operator cost while still protecting downstream spawning fish.
During the removal process the creek was beginning to fill in the downstream pool that had formed as a result of the ford. The assumption is that by removing this barrier prior to higher spring flows, the stream will begin to regrade and restore to natural conditions. The team that coordinated on and supervised the removal plans to revisit the site during the summer of 2019 to assess and monitor how much regrading of the stream occurred during the high flows of spring 2019.