West Virginia Forest Service Roads to Temporarily Close to Improve Aquatic Organism Passage
Three Forest Service roads in the Bartow, West Virginia area will be temporarily closed this year in order to improve aquatic organism passage. Forest Road 17, also known as Little River Road, will be closed where an unnamed tributary of Little River crosses under it just west of Forest Road 14, or Middle Mountain Road, for about two weeks starting around August 15th. Later in the fall, Forest Road 44 will be closed where Gertrude Run crosses under it between Forest Road 179, or Elklick Run Road, and Forest Road 178, or Gertrude Run Road. Forest Road 369, also known as Fox Run Road, is not open to the public, but will also be affected, with work beginning on or about July 31st and lasting around two weeks.
The current culvert systems are passage barriers to aquatic organisms, such as salamanders, crayfish, aquatic invertebrates, and native brook trout. We spoke with Lindsey Hayes, Aquatic Ecologist on the Greenbrier Ranger District for the Monongahela National Forest, to learn more. She says, “The culverts that are currently in all three of these places are undersized. When water goes through these pipes at higher flows, it kind of shoots out of the pipe like a fire hose, so it really erodes the stream bottom at the lower end of the culvert, causing a big pool, you know, a kind of a big hole, which then causes that water elevation in the inlet of the culvert to be at a greater distance apart, and fish have a lot of problems navigating up through there, especially at lower flows. It’s not always possible for fish to navigate that perched culvert, so when we take out those culverts and put something in that doesn’t have a bottom in it, it allows us just to build a natural stream bed all the way up through that structure, so the fish can just continue to swim right up past the road like they’re just swimming in a native, natural part of the stream, so that really increases their access to other spawning habitat. The Fox Run and a tributary to Little River, both of those replacements are going to open up about a mile and a quarter of stream habitat in each of those, and the one in Gertrude will open up almost three miles of stream habitat above the crossing that previously the fish are not able to access.
Many factors, such as slope and soil material, determine the type of culvert that will be installed. Ms. Hayes continues, “One we’re going to do like a concrete arch, and another one is a steel plate arch, and the third one that we’ll be installing this year is actually a bridge.”
The public is cautioned that there will be increased heavy truck traffic in these areas when the new stream crossings are being installed, but there will be alternative ways to get around these closed areas. Ms. Hayes explains, “Forest Road 17 and Forest Road 44 will be closed for a pretty short amount of time, hopefully two to three weeks each. Hopefully, the impact to motorists and recreationalists on the forest will be minimal. We will have detour routes posted, and we’ll just do the best we can to work as quickly as we can to get the road back open, but it’s just an important part of our restoration plan for the forest.”
Two restoration projects were completed last year along with partners, Trout Unlimited. Members of the Monongahela National Forest will continue working with the organization this year. Lindsey Haye’s concludes, “Trout Unlimited is a national trout conservation organization and non-profit, and they have been great partners with the Monongahela National Forest. We both have a lot of the same goals in mind, so we’ve been able to get a lot of great conservation restoration work done, so we’re really appreciative to have such wonderful partners.”
Future restoration projects are anticipated to occur as time and funding allows. For more information, call the Greenbrier Ranger Station in Bartow at 304-456-3335.