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Fishways, Erosion -- Oregon, Waterways, Channels (Hydraulic engineering)


Streambeds are important fish passageways in Oregon; they provide for the necessary habitats and spawning cycles of a healthy fish population. Oregon state law requires that hydraulic structures located in water properly provide fish passage. Increasingly stringent state and federal regulations apply to these fish passageways, and designers must become more cognizant of conditions over a range of flows to accommodate fish movement and avoid expensive structural failure of these passageways. Fish passage structures are built when roads cross streambeds and may include culverts, or bridges. When these structures are built, the streambeds are re-created using a technique called “roughened channels”. Roughened channels are man-made stream channels utilized for re-creating the hydraulics necessary for adequate stream passage, and this may include new constructions or retrofits of older, inadequate structures. Mixtures of materials are used to construct the bed of roughened channels, ranging from fines such as sand, silt and gravel to coarse elements like cobbles and boulders. Fines are a critical element in limiting permeability of the constructed bed thus keeping stream flow at the surface of the roughened channel during low flow periods. This report discusses work of a research project designed to discover factors that are key to successful long-term implementation of fish passageways, especially focused on the construction process.

Areas of inquiry postulated in this study are that failures experienced in actual installations may be due to inadequate range and/or mix of soil and rock material gradation; unexpected water velocity, especially during high flows; inadequate mixing of rock and soil materials during construction; and inadequate compaction of rock and soil materials during construction. This report suggests that several factors may be especially important considerations in fish passage success. These factors are the relationship of downstream slope to structure slope, well-graded fine soil materials in the channel fill (improved by choice of fill source), and frequent site visits. Improving fish passages for cost-efficient fish movement is a priority for government agencies such as Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC).


This is a final report, FHWA-OR-RD 11-15, from the NITC program of TREC at Portland State University, and can be found online at:



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