Photo credit: John Noonan
Improving road stream crossings to restore natural stream function and thriving fish communities.
In 2021, The Watershed Center partnered with the City of Traverse City to improve five undersized road stream crossings within the city limits that were negatively affecting natural stream function. As part of the Kids Creek Restoration Project, this work is critical to maintain proper stream dimensions and sediment transport in the creek, which will restore and protect the habitat necessary for thriving fish communities (a key factor in getting Kids Creek removed from the State of Michigan’s Impaired Waters List).
Cedar and 6th Street Crossings
The first three crossings replaced were on the main branch of Kids Creek where it crosses Cedar Street (twice) and 6th Street. A 2017 Stormwater Management Plan compiled by the City of Traverse City found that these three road crossings had the biggest impact on the hydraulics of the main branch of Kids Creek, as all three crossings were undersized and severely restricting the flow of the creek. The stream reach in this section was severely degraded, both completely filled in with sand as well as over-widened, providing little to no habitat for macroinvertebrates or fish. This area also floods frequently, and the crossings have stone and/or wood grade controls that are impeding flow.
Additionally, the undersized road crossings were culverts that lacked habitat for aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish and may be blocking passage of juvenile and adult salmonids. Young trout require darting cover (rocks, woody debris, etc.) to move upstream against the current, a critical feature that culverts do not provide. Undersized culverts also lead to increased stream velocity during high flows, prohibiting the movement of salmonids like brook and brown trout, which can be especially harmful during spawning seasons.
All three culverts were removed and replaced with single concrete box culverts that were the appropriate size to help restore the natural function of the stream, reduce scouring and sedimentation, and provide a stable environment for fish and macroinvertebrates. It will also improve fish passage for existing brook trout populations. Close to 4,000 feet of the creek is expected to benefit from this work.
City of Traverse City Parkland Crossings
The remaining two crossings replaced were located on parkland owned by the City of Traverse City north of where Kids Creek crosses Silver Lake Road. As opposed to the three road crossing replacements on Cedar and 6th streets, this project removed the crossings entirely and replaced them with pedestrian bridges that are much less impactful to the stream but still maintain connectivity and walkability in the community. The first crossing replaced was an undersized and misaligned box culvert under a dirt road that used to be an extension of Elmwood Avenue and is no longer being used for vehicle transportation. The second crossing was about 400 feet downstream where a dirt trail along an old railroad grade crosses the creek via a failing concrete bridge structure. This crossing was completed in conjunction with a paved path that is part of the City’s Safe Routes to School Project.
Project Status: Complete
- 5 road crossing improvements
- City of Traverse City
- Trout Unlimited
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
- Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Nonpoint Source Pollution
- Great Lakes Fishery Trust
Total project cost:
Before & After: Old Railroad Crossing
From a dirt trail along an old railroad grade crossing the creek via a failing concrete bridge structure to a new pedestrian bridge, in conjunction with a paved path that is part of the City’s Safe Routes to School Project.