Gary Johnson of the Pacific Northwest National Labaratory

Device at Hatchery Allows Statewide Culvert Testing

    TENINO - Juvenile salmon heading upstream to grow and increase their chances of survival often meet a sizable obstacle -- a poorly designed road cuvlert blocking the way.
     A new, one-of-a-kind culvert testing device at the Skookmuchuck hatery will help researchers replace culverts that block salmon runs.  The state Department of Transportation has found hundreds of culverts under state roads that impede--or block-- the salmon from rearing grounds.  The issue is at the heart of a federal lawsuit more than a dozen Puget Sound American Indian tribes files against the state of Washington in 2001.
     And fish and wildlife officials said there are thousands of culverts across the state that require repair. A team across

the Northwest and Alaska will use the scientific data gathered from the new culvert test bed at Skookumchuck to retrofit existing culverts and design new ones that ease fish passage.  Consider the test culvert bed an aquatic version of  a wind tunnel: it allows researchers to see how salmon handle a culvert design before its installation.
     Researchers can adjust and measure water conditions, including speed, turbulence and depth.  they can adjust the culvert's slope from near-level to a 10 percent grade and change the water flow up to 20 cubic feet per second.  Researchers set to test culvert at certain conditions and then send in the salmon for a test run.
     "There are hundreds of possibilities for bed configurations," said Dr. Walter Pearson, the test bed's program manager. "A particular design may; stop passing fish at some flow rate or some slope, and that's what we'll be looking for.  This will help us design stream crossings that accommodate fish in all life stages."

Gary Johnson of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory lowers juvenile coho salmon into a new culvert testing system to demonstrate its effectiveness.  Skookumchuck hatchery manager Jim Dills is beside him during the dedication tour of the Tenino area facility Tuesday.


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