The Colter Creek Fish Passage Restoration Project will restore juvenile fish passage, improve stream function, and enhance fish habitat on Colter Creek, the second largest tributary along the southern flank of the Talkeetna Mountains to the Little Susitna River. Only four culverts occur on Colter Creek; by the end of this project, all will pass migratory fish and adequately provide for stream flow and process. The lowest culvert, located on Sitze Road, blocks juvenile fish passage due to a perch at the outlet and increased velocity due to constriction of the creek. Three culvert crossings upstream on private driveways severely constrict the creek and thus also present velocity barriers to juvenile salmon. The Nature Conservancy is working with the Mat-Su Borough, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local landowners to replace all four culverts with arched pipes. All restoration sites will be re-vegetated and monitored for success with the help of volunteers. The sites will be incorporated into an existing environmental education program conducted by the Wasilla Soil and Water Conservation District for local elementary school children and the project will be used to educate the general public about fish passage.
The direct ecological benefits of the Colter Creek Fish Passage Restoration Project will be improved Coho and Chinook juvenile fish passage and enhanced habitat for these species and resident fishes, including approximately 1 acre of riparian habitat. The project will restore passage to approximately 3 miles upstream plus small unmapped tributaries. Constrictions of the creek will be removed, which will improve stream function and provide capacity for the creek to remain in its channel and floodplain during high water events. At a greater scale, the Little Susitna River watershed remains free of northern pike, a non-native salmon predator in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, thus the watershed provides important habitat for salmon fry and juveniles, plus other fish species. Enhancing fish passage and habitat in Colter Creek can provide resiliency for salmon species in the larger ecosystem as pike are nearly impossible to eradicate from other watersheds.
The Colter Creek Fish Passage Restoration Project helps to expand private-public partnerships addressing restoration in the Mat-Su Basin. The Mat-Su Basin Salmon Conservation Partnership is officially recognized under the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. Together with partners such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USFWS, MSB, WSWCD, The Nature Conservancy will implement restoration and re-vegetation methods which will restore the health of Colter Creek while providing opportunities to educate the public about the importance of maintaining healthy fish passage.March 07, 2011