Looking for safe passage for fish and wildlife through the Valley

Culverts that cross state and town roads in Seymour are being assessed to identify those that are preventing movement of fish and wildlife along the stream corridor.

This project is being undertaken by the nonprofit Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) and is made possible with a $10,000 grant from the Valley Community Foundation and a $2,500 grant from the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut.

To survive, fish and animals such as muskrat, mink, otter, frogs, stream salamanders, turtles, and snakes need to move freely in and along rivers and streams to access habitats, avoid adverse conditions, and find food and mates.

Too small, prone to blockage

Mike Jastremski, HVA water protection manager, said, “There are thousands of road stream crossing culverts in the Housatonic watershed. Many of them are too small, and prone to blockage, and many are in disrepair.

“They are barriers to fish and wildlife passage, and they can cause flooding and interfere with emergency response. They are also expensive for towns to maintain,” Jastremski said.
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“They are barriers to fish and wildlife passage."

— Mike Jastremski, HVA

“The good news is that the same design principles that ensure safe passage for fish and wildlife make for safer, flood resilient crossings that require less maintenance.,” he said. “Fixing these problematic culverts is a real win-win for communities and the environment.”

What makes a good crossing

According to Jastremski, a good crossing spans the stream and banks, does not change water velocity, has a natural streambed and creates no noticeable change in the river. He said that effective crossings include bridges, open bottom arches, and culverts that span and are sunk into the streambed.

HVA Executive Director Lynn Werner said, “HVA launched this initiative in the Berkshires several years ago. We partnered with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and trained an army of volunteers who have collectively examined more than 1,000 stream-crossing culverts so far.

“Thanks to the Valley Community Foundation and Rivers Alliance, we are able to expand this project into the Valley,” Werner said.

Replacing the problem culverts

HVA is working with Seymour officials to match up the culvert assessment findings with Seymour’s priorities for maintenance, flood damage prevention, flood response and public safety.

HVA and Seymour plan to do replacement analysis for those crossings that are both a fish and wildlife issue and a priority for the town.

The ultimate goal, Jastremski said, is to secure funding to replace priority culverts.

Protecting the Housatonic watershed

Founded in 1941, HVA protects and restores the land and waters of the Housatonic watershed from its source in the Pittsfield, Mass. area to Long Island Sound.

The Housatonic River forms the eastern border of Shelton. Learn more about the organization at www.hvatoday.org

Read about an upcoming Housatonic River cleanup effort in Shelton: