Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) in Culvert Design

Washington State Fish Passage Barrier Removal Projects

  • Casey Kramer (WSDOT)


There are more than 1,987 identified barriers to fish passage in the Washington State highway system and over 1,500 have been identified by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) having significant habitat (more than 200 meters upstream). Since 1991, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has completed a total of 285 fish passage projects statewide. Collectively, these projects have improved access to more than 971 miles of potential habitat upstream.

In March 2013, a U.S. District Court injunction (part of the U.S. v. Washington State culverts case) required Washington State (WSDOT, WDFW, Department of Natural Resources, and State Parks) to correct hundreds of culverts in Western Washington by 2030. WSDOT currently has over 1,000 culverts that apply to this injunction, with over 840 of them having significant habitat. To meet the requirements, WSDOT estimates it will need to correct an average of 30-40 culverts each year until 2030. The injunction allows WSDOT to defer corrections up to 10 percent of the total blocked upstream habitat, however only until the end of the culverts useful life.

The injunction directs WSDOT to use bridges or “stream simulation” culvert designs to correct culvert barriers. Stream simulation design has a variety of definitions; however the common theme is to simulate natural stream processes by providing a structure that is wider than the measured bankfull width and has a streambed with a similar gradient as the existing stream reach. The estimated cost for this work is $310 million per biennium. The total estimated unfunded cost for the program was originally estimated in 2013 at over $2.4 billion.

To accelerate the scoping, design and construction of the fish barrier removal projects WSDOT developed four specialized fish passage teams in the various WSDOT regions within the culvert case area. Currently the teams are designing 33 fish passage projects to be ready for advertisement in the 2015-2017 biennium, in addition to scoping approximately 75 projects for future design. The teams have and will continue to create efficiencies by working exclusively on fish passage and other stream related projects.

This presentation will provide background of the U.S. District Court injunction, design standards being utilized and before and after examples of several fish passage barrier removal projects.

How to Cite:

Kramer, C., (2014) “Washington State Fish Passage Barrier Removal Projects”, National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 1(2014).

Rights: Copyright © 2014, Casey Kramer

Publisher Notes

  • Panel moderated by Bart Bergendahl, FHWA.
  • About the Presenters: Mr. Kramer is the State Hydraulic Engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation where he manages inter-disciplinary teams of specialists in hydrology, hydraulics, and fluvial geomorphology for projects in a variety of riverine and geomorphic settings including steep mountainous streams, alluvial fans, low gradient large and small rivers, estuaries, and wetlands. He has technical expertise and over 12 years of experience in river mechanics, hydrology, hydraulics, fluvial geomorphology, and sediment transport analyses of streams, rivers, floodplains and wetlands both in the private and public sector. Some specific experience includes planning, design and construction of fish passage and wildlife crossings, comprehensive flood control projects, channel stabilization, river and wetland restoration, and highway infrastructure located near waterbodies. He holds a Masters of Science degree in Hydraulic Engineering from the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research at the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Washington State University. After college, Casey worked at a private Hydrology and Hydraulics consulting firm in Northern California for a few years then moved back to Washington State and accepted a position at the Headquarters Hydraulic Office for the Washington State Department of Transportation. Mr. Kramer currently serves as a member of the AASHTO Technical Committee on Hydrology and Hydraulics.

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Published on
20 Aug 2014
Peer Reviewed