Watershed Restoration Manuals

Draft Routine Effectiveness Evaluation Guidelines for In-Stream and Off-Channel Projects


2000 FPCI Manual

Fish Passage - Culvert Inspection Procedures. Watershed Technical Circular No. 11. 2000. By Michael A. Parker.


Introduction to Fish Passage – Culvert Inspection Procedures:

The connectivity of a diversity of fish habitats is integral to supporting the abundance of fish species and their life stages found in British Columbia's fresh water habitats. Tributary streams, lakes, off-channels, back channels, ponds, and sloughs all provide critical habitat. Ensuring that these components remain connected for the free migration of spawning adults and rearing juvenile fish is a critical piece of the equation in maintaining healthy populations. A variety of natural and man made barriers limit connectivity of habitat and greatly reduces the fish production in some systems. The Fish Passage - Culvert Inspection Procedures (FPCI) assesses fish passage at culverts and evaluates the findings in conjunction with other known barriers to identify priority barrier crossings that are eligible for improvement under Forest Renewal British Columbia's (FRBC) Watershed Restoration Program (WRP). In order to prioritize access issues, all crossings within a watershed are typically evaluated, such that the relative importance of addressing those that are eligible for funding through FRBC programs is within a watershed context.

The FPCI procedures have been developed to assess fish access at culvert bearing road crossings installed before the implementation of the Forest Practices Code. Although an informal evaluation of this type is completed during a WRP Fish Habitat Assessment Procedure (FHAP) - Level 1 Field Assessment (Johnston and Slaney 1996), this is only done if the road crossing happens to be within the portion of stream reach from which data is being collected. Therefore, a culvert above or below the site may not be assessed, and certainly a comprehensive assessment of watershed culverts is not completed. Similarly, the WRP Sediment Source Surveys (SSS) (Moore, G. 1994) funded by FRBC may evaluate every culvert crossing in a watershed for sediment delivery, but it does not assess fish passage. Therefore, the FPCI procedure has been developed to evaluate one of the most easily addressed fish habitat constraints. Access to existing habitats.

The FPCI is easily incorporated into the Watershed Restoration Program toolbox with other assessments and activities. It should be considered as a potential add on component to be included as part of a Fish Habitat Assessment Procedure, as it addresses one of the high priority objectives of FRBC; fish access. In many watersheds an FHAP may have already been completed, in which case the FPCI can be carried out as a stand-alone assessment that draws on habitat value information collected during the FHAP. Interior Watershed Assessment Procedures (IWAP) and Coastal Watershed Assessment Procedures (CWAP) may provide a reasonable selection tool in determining which watersheds should undergo an FPCI as these procedures identify the number of road crossings per kilometer of stream. The higher the number of crossings the greater the likelihood that stream connectivity issues associated with crossings could exist.

The FPCI is a watershed approach to determining connectivity of fish habitats, and relative priorities of FRBC eligible crossings in the stream network, in order to address fish access issues associated with road crossings. The priorities identified by the FPCI are then incorporated into the overall restoration planning for a watershed, adding a critical component to the rehabilitation of fish and fish habitat. Even though this assessment has been developed for use in the Watershed Restoration Program and the eligible funding criteria established by Forest Renewal British Columbia, it is easily applied to other non-forestry locations and programs without modification.

The data collected herein provides support for determination of fish passage, as well as serving as a quality assurance tool to be used for expert evaluation in determining if additional assessment is required. If a fish passage issue is identified and prioritized to be addressed, a prescription will need to be completed to re-establish fish access at the crossing. All prescriptions leading to installation of new FRBC eligible crossing structures will need to meet Forest Practices Code standards.

The FPCI is best completed by a qualified fisheries biologist because of the need to carry out fish sampling and identification at crossings where fish inventories have not been previously completed, and a subjective evaluation of the value of fish habitat to be gained by restoring access.