of Washington in the Bristol Bay region has
shown that the stability of salmon fisheries hinges on the availability of a wide array
of intact freshwater habitats, as published in
“Population Diversity and the Portfolio Effect in an Exploited Species” by Schindler et al.
Analogous to asset diversity on the stability of
financial portfolios, access to diverse habitats
throughout the year, and from year to year,
gives fish populations the flexibility and resiliency they need to thrive over the long term.
With roads and fish, Alaska can have its
cake and eat it too. Design approaches that
maximize the life and safety of transportation
networks (new and existing) and the sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries are being adopted
and are establishing a track record of success.
The ADF&G Fish Passage Improvement
Program and USFWS Fish Passage Program
jointly offer free training workshops to practitioners including engineers, resource managers, road owners, and permitting staff. For
specific information on topics including fisheries biology, regulatory questions, design
methods, Alaska hydrology, and construction techniques, contact the nearest agency
office in your area. R
Katrina Liebich is Fisheries Outreach
Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife
Service in Alaska.
maintenance needs are often minimal, resulting
in long-term cost savings, according to Perrin
and Jhaveri’s “The Economic Costs of Culvert
Failures” report published in 2004.
Other Key Considerations
Given their expense and long-term liability,
it’s worthwhile to consider if crossings can be
avoided completely, and if not where along
the continuum of the stream or river they’re
least likely to fail. Developers in Mat-Su are
now finding ways to plan their developments
to minimize the number of crossings or avoid
them altogether to save costs. If a crossing is
unavoidable, crossing a stream higher in its watershed is generally better because it’s usually
more entrenched, meaning less floodplain and
less volume of flowing water.
Costs to Alaska’s Fisheries
Externalities that aren’t reflected in the initial
price tag are potential impacts to subsistence
ways of living that depend on healthy fish populations and the cost to Alaska’s multi-billion
dollar commercial and sport fishing industries.
Since 2001, the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game (ADF&G) has assessed 3,099
crossings on state and local roads and roughly
40 percent are considered partial or full barriers to weak-swimming fish such as juvenile
salmon and Arctic Grayling. On federal roads
maintained by the US Forest Service Tongass
National Forest, there are similar patterns
with 2,019 fish stream crossings, of which 34
percent have documented passage concerns.
According to Gillian O’Doherty, a habitat
biologist with ADF&G, “We’ve assessed over
90 percent of culverts in the state for impacts to
fish passage. We also look at the condition and
age of structures and collect data to help devel-
op initial cost estimates for replacement. That
data is publicly available in ADF&G’s interac-
tive online mapper. The initial investment in
assessment and ongoing prioritization efforts
means we can be strategic and work over large
areas and time frames to restore fish passage in
an organized and cost-effective manner.”
Alaska can be a pretty harsh place for fish to
eke out a living. Fish need to constantly move to
access feeding areas, ice-free areas for overwin-
tering, and cooler areas during the summer. They
also need to be able to quickly find refuge during
seasonally high and low flows and temperatures.
Some species move short distances, but many
Alaska species are migratory and need to swim
long distances to complete their life cycle. It’s
generally known that salmon return from the
sea to spawn, a behavior called anadromy, but
few people know that there are twenty anadro-
mous species of fish in Alaska ranging from lam-
prey to whitefish. Even species that spend their
whole lives in freshwater may complete long mi-
grations. Migration maximizes growth and re-
productive potential, but it can quickly become a
disadvantage when barriers, such as culverts, de-
lay or prevent movement and migration among
key habitats. This has happened in the Northeast
United States and Pacific Northwest where roads
rank second only to main stem dams as the most
significant impediment to salmon recovery, ac-
cording to Perrin and Jhaveri.
Decades-long research by the University
Individual & Family
Commercial & Business
PARTNERS IN RISK MANAGEMENT
ARE ALL YOUR RISKS COVERED?
CHECK YOUR BUSINESS HEALTHIQ™
Helping businesses grow through consultative risk
intelligence services and integrated insurance programs.
Insurance Brokers of Alaska and Northrim Benefits
Group have joined together to form RISQ Consulting,
making us Alaska’s largest risk consulting firm.
RISQ Consulting has over 60 years of combined
experience providing custom insurance solutions for
Our consultants help businesses grow through RISQ’s
proprietary Business HealthIQ™process, ensuring
you spend time, money, and energy only on areas of
your business which add value.