Attendees visit the site of the tidal culvert restoration on Bay Road in Newmarket, NH.
A Culvert with a View Attendees visit the site of the tidal culvert restoration on Bay Road in Newmarket, NH. © Megan Latour/TNC

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Newmarket Tidal Culvert Project Symbolizes the Goal of The Nature Conservancy’s Future of Nature Campaign

Newmarket, NH

Heavy rains overwhelm the tidal culvert on Bay Road in Newmarket, NH.
Overflow Heavy rains overwhelm the tidal culvert on Bay Road in Newmarket, NH. © Joanne Glode/TNC

With incidents of coastal flooding and habitat restrictions on the rise, The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Coastal Program and the town of Newmarket hosted a tour with elected officials and community members of a significant tidal culvert replacement project in Newmarket on Wednesday, September 4. Once completed, the new culvert will support fish passage, salt marsh migration and reduce ongoing flooding in the area.

“This project really hits the mark of a triple bottom line investment,” said Mark Zankel, state director for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. “Environmentally, it’s a win for conservation because once it is finished, fish can migrate upstream. Socially, it’s a win for public safety because it is on a hurricane evacuation route. Economically, it’s a win for infrastructure because taxpayers in the local community have had to pay for many road repairs due to a perched, undersized culvert.”

This project really hits the mark of a triple bottom line investment.

Mark Zankel New Hampshire State Director
The perched culvert on Lubberland Creek.
A Dead End The perched culvert on Lubberland Creek. © Peter Steckler/TNC

The project is a key component of the $40 million “Future of Nature” campaign being led by The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. This ambitious and far-reaching awareness and fundraising campaign is designed to put New Hampshire on a new, more sustainable path where people and nature can thrive together. The campaign was created to enable a suite of investments in tackling the climate challenge, charting a course for healthy waters and inspiring people to take action for nature.   

An old three-by-four-foot pipe on Bay Road is being replaced with a concrete box culvert that is 16 feet wide and nearly nine feet tall. This new structure is designed to allow water to flow freely with the tides, enabling fish and other creatures to navigate Lubberland Creek and providing a migration pathway for the salt marsh as rising sea levels push it through the culvert into the adjacent 400-acre Lubberland Creek Preserve.

“I’ve been working on this spot since 1990, and probably a dozen times it’s flooded and washed the road out. It is an evacuation route, and Route 108 floods before anything else. Typically, when we have floods, this is the only route to get out of Newmarket because of flooding in other areas. It’s been a problem for a long time, so it’s going to be nice to get this project done,” said Rick Malaski, Newmarket Public Works Director.

Federal, state and local officials were on hand to tour the site, see inside the culvert during the construction process and learn more about the project, which is scheduled to be completed in early October.

“Communities are going to respond to challenges such as antiquated culverts, and there’s really two paths they can take: It’s either the business-as-usual path. Newmarket could have kept fixing this undersized, perched culvert or replace it with another undersized culvert. Or, there’s the sustainable path. This path is looking toward the future of nature in New Hampshire and that will build resilience,” said Pete Steckler, geographic information system and conservation project manager for The Nature Conservancy. “We’re hoping to work with communities, our federal policy makers, our state policy makers and figure out how we can move New Hampshire from the business-as-usual path to a sustainable path. That’s the future of nature in New Hampshire.”

The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire and the Department of Environmental Servives’ Coastal Program teamed up with partners at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, NH GRANITE and the NH Technology Transfer Center to identify and analyze the tidal culverts most at risk on New Hampshire’s Seacoast. A recently released study found that, when pairing structure condition and inundation risk, the majority of New Hampshire’s tidal crossings (58%) are at immediate or near-term risk[1], while less than 20% of crossings are currently adequate.

Heavy rains often overtake an undersized culvert near the Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket, NH.
Bay Road Flooding Heavy rains often overtake an undersized culvert near the Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket, NH. © Joanne Glode/The Nature Conservancy

“Climate change projections show that sea levels will rise. We’re projected to have more extreme storm events and more serious storm surges from the ocean. All of that means that the vulnerability of this infrastructure will grow. It emphasizes the need for projects like this,” Zankel said. “And we hope this one will serve as a demonstration to other coastal communities on how we can partner with state and federal governments and nonprofits, to use nature-based solutions to strengthen the resilience of a community’s infrastructure, benefit public safety and fish and wildlife.”

Replacing problematic and restrictive tidal culverts—such as the one in Newmarket—reconnects coastal waterways to Great Bay and the ocean and allows eels and other aquatic creatures and species to move safely beneath the road to reach critical habitat. These projects provide communities with needed infrastructure improvements that allow for safer passage by mitigating flood risk and potential cost-savings from avoiding future catastrophic failure.

“We’re seeing increasing storms. Our coastline is looking different. We have to make sure that we respond in a way that builds the infrastructure of tomorrow that’s going to protect public health, public safety and the great wildlife that’s a part of this region,” said Congressman Chris Pappas, who attended the event. “Being out here today, seeing this project, understanding some of the needs that don’t just exist here in Newmarket but across our state, is critically important for me.”

To learn more about the tidal culvert replacement project and Future of Nature campaign, contact Jim O’Brien, director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire at Jim.Obrien@tnc.org or 603-224-5853, extension 228.

[1] Report. “Resilient and Tidal Crossings NH: Prioritizing tidal crossing replacement for community and ecosystem resilience.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.