Underway this week, replacement of an undersized and outmoded culvert on a tributary to West Brook in Whately will improve conditions for native brook trout, aid related research of regional importance and provide a model for work to improve other stream crossings in the state.
The work, which will take place where Mitchell Brook passes under Conway Road, is expected to take two to three weeks and will create a wider culvert with a natural cobble, rather than metal, bottom. The upgraded culvert will improve fish and wildlife movement in the stream and will not constrict high water flows, and it will create a natural pattern of small pools and riffles during low water flows.
During construction, through traffic on Conway Road will be detoured around the site using Webber Road.
West Brook is home to an isolated population of native brook trout, and, in addition to simply making the stream more passable to these and other fish, the new culvert will foster—year-round—the swift-moving, cool-water conditions in which brook trout thrive.
In addition, the work will aid significant research on the effects of increased stream connectivity—the free and natural flow of rivers— on brook trout.
A project of The Nature Conservancy, the West Brook culvert upgrade is funded in part by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust.
“This project may be relatively small in scale, but it will bring large benefits,” said project manager Amy Singler, associate director of the River Restoration Program, a partnership with American Rivers and The Nature Conservancy. “Not only will it benefit the trout that live in West Brook, it will also help the Conservancy and others with future habitat restoration work. We hope this work also can provide a valuable example of improved stream crossing guidelines in action.”
The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service have been tagging and monitoring the brook trout population in West Brook since 1997 to learn about the population’s survival, growth and movement. The information from this research is the only information of its kind and longevity in New England. The Nature Conservancy started providing funding support for this work in 2006.
Continued monitoring will improve understanding of the impacts of habitat restoration work in a stream that is representative of streams impacted by restrictive culverts, dams and other obstacles throughout the Northeast. It will also improve understanding of a species important to outdoor enthusiasts, including conservationists. The brook trout is considered an indicator of ecosystem change.
“We know how the trout pass through, or don’t pass through, this culvert,” Singler said. “By replacing it and seeing how fish move through the system afterward, we’ll be able to gain valuable information about the impacts of these types of structures on trout populations.”
The rebuilt culvert will also be a demonstration of the Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting requirements for stream crossings. While flooding hasn’t been a problem at the West Brook site, culverts designed to these higher standards have held up better than earlier culverts under flood conditions, and the project will help highlight the feasibility of this type of construction.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire