An arch culvert is lowered by backhoe to it's foundations straddling a river in Maine
Installing an arch culvert An open-bottom arch culvert is installed over a Maine river. © Robert Bukaty

Stories in Maine

Determination Pays Off Big for Salmon

A new permit process may make fish passage projects faster, cheaper and more effective.

Jeremy Bell was working on a project to replace a typical culvert that was inadequately sized and placed, acting as a barrier to endangered Atlantic salmon trying to gain access to critical spawning habitat. Particularly when a stream has known habitat for salmon, projects like this require special permits from multiple state and federal agencies.

Jeremy, who is the Conservancy’s river and coastal restoration director, knows a thing or two about salmon habitat. He identified this permitting process as a hurdle to installing culvert replacements that provide better fish passage. It takes so much time and involves so many requirements that town managers and municipal leaders have very little incentive to spend the time and expense to repair road-stream crossings in a way that helps salmon and other sea-run fish while minimizing future flooding issues. Quite often old undersized culvert pipes are replaced with new culvert pipes that still don’t do enough to meet the needs of migrating fish.

Over the past two years, Jeremy, with support from State Director Kate Dempsey, External Affairs Director Tom Abello, and Ben Matthews, our watershed restoration specialist, has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to streamline the permit process so that improvements to fish passage on salmon waters is easier and more consistent. This past September, USFWS announced a new process that includes pre-approved structure designs and environmental conditions so these projects can be done faster, cheaper and more effectively.

“It’s good to have this opportunity to work together to ensure habitat restoration and regulations work hand-in hand,” says Jeremy. “This clears the way to getting more of this important work done, and done right.”

Thanks to Jeremy’s determination, the support of our members, and a tremendous effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the table is set for more habitat restoration than ever before!