Travelers can expect delays in Whatcom CountyBy Frances Fedoriska
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Counting all of the migratory fish that call Whatcom County home isn't easy, but it had to be done ahead of our upcoming Tawes Creek Fish Passage project along State Route 9 in Van Zandt.
The 'egg' stage
In this project's infancy, environmental teams from partner agencies conducted a fish count just downstream of the project area. In early 2012, five Coho salmon were counted in Tawes Creek. Flash forward to last month, when our environmental crews found 156 aquatic species. Among them were eight Coho, 54 cutthroat trout, 75 lamphrey, 14 crayfish and six stickleback. In other words, this fish passage project is happening at the right time, with the goal of further increasing those numbers.
|These two culverts near SR 9 and Potter Road will be replaced with larger passages.|
Starting in July, contractor crews will begin the process of replacing two tiny fish culverts at the south tributaries with larger 12-foot wide box culverts near the intersection of SR 9 and Potter Road.
North on SR 9 near Williams Lake Road, a new 20-foot bridge will be built over Tawes Creek.
|The current Tawes Creek culvert in Van Zandt.|
What drivers need to know
To help keep traffic flowing, contractor crews built a temporary bypass lane on SR 9 at the south end of the project area. Flaggers will alternate traffic on that bypass when SR 9 is reduced to one lane. A bypass lane was also built on the north end of the project. A temporary traffic light will alternate traffic there. Expect delays on this portion of SR 9 in July and August, especially during the morning and afternoon commutes.
|Temporary bypass lanes controlled with flaggers and a signal will help|
keep traffic moving during this project.
Why this work is important
When water is funneled through small spaces, such as tiny pipes under highways, the flow of the water is very swift. Many young fish aren't strong enough to swim against the current, which prevents them from continuing their journeys. But when this $5.5 million project is complete this fall, the water will flow at a slower rate through the wider passages, making it easier for these juvenile fish to connect with roughly two miles of previously-unreachable habitat.
This new fish passage also helps us comply with a U.S. District Court ruling, requiring the replacement of nearly 1,000 culverts blocking fish passage under state roads to restore historical tribal fishing rights.
Check real-time traffic conditions before heading out the door. Find closure updates on the: