Oregon’s highway system has about 35 thousand culverts built in to allow safe passage for fish. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, about one third of those are in poor condition and need to be replaced. But funding those repairs has become difficult as ODOT’s budget continues to experience shortfalls. An agreement between ODOT and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife could be a solution.
State law requires project owners, including ODOT, to make culverts fish friendly. A proposed three year pilot project would allow ODOT to perform repairs without requiring full fish passage compliance. It also requires ODOT to pay 1.8 million dollars into an ODFW-managed account that would fund fish passage projects in the future. Greg Apke is the ODFW Fish Passage Program Leader. He says this proposal is the result of two years of negotiations between the two departments and that’s why they are vetting it publically.
Apke: “We want to make sure folks understand the dilemmas out there, they understand the funding crisis in the Transportation Department and even ODFW is currently under. We’re looking for a win-win here, for fish and transportation.”
The proposal is being reviewed by a task force. The State is seeking public comment. A final plan is expected to be announced in October. The comment period ends August 21st.
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