Key Pen drivers may have noticed detours at the end of July for 118th Avenue. The detours were needed for a Minter Creek culvert restoration project spearheaded by South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG). The group is replacing culverts that block fish migration.

“My organization saw Minter Creek as a high priority,” says Jason Lundgren, project manager for SPSSEG. He lists the many partners involved with the project, including counties, tribes, the Pierce Conservation District, the state Department of Ecology; U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the National Fish Wildlife Foundation, and private landowners.

“The more people involved—the more complex the project,” says Lundgren.

According to Lundgren, the goal is to increase access to salmon spawning and rearing habitat for four native salmonid species by replacing the five worst fish passage structures along Minter Creek, Hugh Creek, and Little Minter Creek. The restoration project is not affiliated with the Minter Creek Hatchery but it was the hatchery’s scientific studies that established the importance of the Minter Creek salmon stream.

The need for the restoration was established by a culvert inventory done by the Pierce Conservation District completed in 2000. Restoration projects are awarded as a result of a highly competitive process among 40 Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs). Each WRIA has its own citizens and technical group who compete for funding. The funding comes from state and federal government departments of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition to the complexity of many partners, the project is further challenged because it is now in the final year of a three-year implementation requirement. One of the culverts was finished on private land in 2002, and since then there have been lots of reviews and design changes, and the cost of steel and fuel has played havoc. SPSSEG hopes to complete four of the five projects for Minter Creek but, according to Lundgren, they will probably hand the fifth one over to the counties.

The culvert replacement started at the intersection of State Route 302 and 118th Avenue on July 25 and will move north along 118th Avenue. It is the second of the five projects. SPSSEG expects to finish the work in three weeks but Lundgren warned that the “sites get looking pretty messy.” It becomes a big construction site with heavy machinery used to pull the old culverts, making it necessary to block off the creek and route it around the project. The first phase of each project involves “gathering fish and critters…to move them downstream,” says Lundgren. “It’s usually pretty exciting moving fish from streams.”

After work completion, native plants and trees will be planted at the sites and volunteers are needed to assist in restoring the work areas. Interested volunteers may contact Jason Lundgren at 360-412-0808.

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