A Busy Summer on the Salmon SuperHwy

In 2014, TU and our partners with the Salmon SuperHwy came together with the shared vision of reconnecting over 180 miles of historic spawning and rearing habitat for salmon, steelhead and other native species on the rivers of Oregon’s North Coast. Some of these rivers include the Tillamook, Trask, Kilchis, Wilson, Miami, Nestucca, Little Nestucca, and streams of the Sand Lake Region.

Working from the headwaters to the estuaries, the Salmon SuperHwy is removing and replacing undersized culverts and critical tide gates that block or impede fish passage. Beyond the benefits to anadromous fish populations, the new culverts also provide decades of durable road infrastructure for coastal communities by improving stream crossings that could be at risk of failing during high water events.

With these criteria in mind, the partners have identified a hit list targeting 93 high-priority barriers. To this day, the Salmon SuperHwy partnership has removed 50 barriers and reconnected over 127 miles of anadromous fish habitat. Three of those were finished this year.

A Busy Summer

Cutting the Samson Creek culvert to remove it from the site. Photo by Jacob Jesionek.

During the summer of 2023, the Salmon SuperHwy completed three projects that improved fish passage for Oregon Coast’s Coho, Chinook, and Chum Salmon, Winter and Summer Steelhead, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, and Pacific and/or Brook Lamprey. Trout Unlimited staff, Liz Ransom and Jacob Jesionek, worked closely with multiple partners including Tillamook County Public Works, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to see these projects from concept designs through to completion.

The Green Creek project completed. Photo by Trav Williams

The first project took place along Trask River Road just East of Tillamook. Green Creek, a tributary to the Trask River, was impeded by an undersized culvert that restricted fish passage to 1.7 miles of potential spawning and rearing habitat. The culvert was removed, and a bridge was constructed to restore natural stream function and full fish passage to Green Creek.

The new bridge over Samson Creek after project completion. Photo by Jacob Jesionek

The second project, also on a Trask River tributary, was an undersized culvert removal on Samson Creek that restricted anadromous fish access to 1.3 miles of quality spawning and rearing habitat. With the support of federal infrastructure investments, a bridge was constructed after the culvert was removed and streambed material was used to create a new natural stream channel for Samson Creek.

Both projects along the Trask River Road also greatly improved road infrastructure on this important, sole regional access road.

Lamprey found during a fish salvage operation at Hughey Creek. Phot by Jacob Jesionek

Finally, TU staff assisted in the permitting process and fish salvage for a Tillamook County Public Works project that re-opened Fairview Road outside of Tillamook on Hughey Creek. Previously, the County had to pull a collapsing culvert and close Fairview Road due to public safety concerns. With Hughey Creek being a coho salmon bearing system, and ranked in the Salmon SuperHwy database, it was important to install an oversized culvert to allow the road to reopen and restore full fish passage at the site.

Drone shot of the completed Samson Creek project. Photo by Trav Williams

Continued Work

Beyond this Summer’s completed projects, the team also participated in many meetings surrounding project development, funding opportunities and collaborative outreach efforts. With each season, the Salmon SuperHwy partnership continues to push projects forward that improve habitat connectivity and road infrastructure to help keep moving us closer to our goal of removing 93 waterway barriers on Oregon’s North Coast Rivers.

A construction shot from the Alder Creek project. Photo by Trav Williams

Connect with the Salmon SuperHwy

In August, our colleagues at the US Fish and Wildlife Service took time to celebrate the Salmon SuperHwy partnership in an article on their blog. It is a great look at the work that’s been accomplished, the work ahead and the partnerships that are making it possible.

Because of all the fish passage projects lined up in the coming years, TU’s Salmon SuperHwy team is growing. We’re hiring a new project manager to expand the team.

The Salmon SuperHwy documents all our projects on various social media platforms for those interested in following along. Please check out our Instagram and Facebook pages if you would like to see what we are up to on the Coast! Also, stop by to learn more about the Salmon SuperHwy partnerships and our projects completed over the course of the last decade.

Finally, if you’re interested in supporting this work directly (and looking good while you’re at it!), be sure to check out our new Salmon SuperHwy hats and sweatshirts.