WV: Stream Restoration Program Restores Access for Brook Trout
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and its partners have completed a major project to restore spawning access for brook trout in Beaver Creek of the Shavers Fork River above Cheat Bridge in Randolph County. “For the first time in 25 years, brook trout in the Shavers Fork mainstem can move upstream into Beaver Creek to their critical tributary spawning areas,” DNR Director Frank Jezioro said.
Unique in West Virginia, Shavers Fork is a historic, high-elevation, big-river brook trout fishery. For more than a century, the river and its watershed have been impacted by activities such as logging and railroad construction that have reduced brook trout habitat and populations. Recently developed species restoration plans have prioritized both habitat restoration and removal of fish passage barriers between the mainstem and the brook trout’s spawning tributaries.
The DNR Wildlife Resources Section has expanded its highly successful Acid Stream Restoration Program to include physical habitat restoration as well as stream liming, in which limestone pellets are added to streams to neutralize acid rain and mine drainage. Director Jezioro said “New grant funding for stream restoration became available to us through congressional appropriations and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. This has allowed us to tackle additional habitat problems such as fish passage restoration.”
To build the Beaver Creek project, biologists worked with key partners at West Virginia University’s Natural Resources Analysis Center and others, assembling a team of experts with unique expertise and skills. The team included DNR biologists, WVU research scientists, stream restoration experts from Canaan Valley Institute, and railroad construction specialists from TrakSpec Railroad Corporation, based in Hurricane, W.Va. Because the project site is located on a remote section of railroad, all construction material such as logs and rocks and heavy equipment had to be transported to the site by rail. TrakSpec’s expertise and equipment was critical.
In the end, the team built a new, fish-friendly section of stream and a sophisticated complex of culverts, the centerpiece of which is a partially-buried 10-foot culvert containing a simulated stream channel. The project also doubled the flood capacity of the Beaver Creek culverts.
Midway through the project, a major design change was required to meet a mandatory construction deadline and to provide a design that could be more readily used for additional streams.
“The most impressive thing for me was the way the team pivoted to an entirely new design and pulled together to build such a high-quality project,” DNR Program Manager Steve Brown said. He added, “Major thanks go to the guys at CONTECH Construction Products who located a 10-foot culvert for us in a matter of hours and had it on site in three days. I also want to thank State Rail Director Cindy Butler and the State Rail Authority, which owns the rail, for their help throughout the effort.”
Looking to the future, Director Jezioro observed that the project is a good model for future transportation culvert replacements because it complies with all current and proposed Corps of Engineers requirements for fish passage through culverts.