Thurston County Commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday for public works to move forward with receiving sealed bids on the Toboton Creek culvert replacement project on Piessner Road. 

The project is one of many culvert replacement projects spearheaded by the Thurston County Fish Passage Enhancement Enhancement Program. 

Steve Johnson, senior civil engineer for Thurston County Public Works, said the project will go to bid May 1 and the contract should be finalized in about a month. Contractors are expected to break ground sometime toward the end of June. 

“That gives the least amount of impact to fish while we’re in the water,” Johnson said. “We suspect a November timeline for Coho, when we may see some fish coming up.” 

The county plans on installing a single metal culvert at the Piessner Road crossing to replace three culverts at the site that have been trouble for fish migration up and down the Nisqually River, said Johnson. Toboton Creek is a tributary of the Nisqually River and the culvert replacement project is projected to cost about $650,000. 

“I think that, through Steve working on this and working with other entities involved, that because we are ahead of others and really leading the state in culvert replacement, we’ve been able to leverage some of our money to get some more money to do more,” said Commissioner Gary Edwards.

The culvert replacement at Piessner Road was also recognized by the county fish passage program as being one of the top-10 highest priority projects by county staff, according to county documents which prioritized over 350 culverts within the county. 

Results from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision stated that Washington state had a responsibility to remove barriers that block fish migration. Thurston County officials say they’re being proactive by spearheading the culvert replacement operations, which have been recognized as some of the most proactive in the state. 

The Nisqually Indian Tribe and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group provided funds to help the design on the project, Johnson said.  

The 2019-2020 public works budget included $4 million in funding to remove about six fish-passage barriers under county roads, Johnson said. The culvert replacement projects were included in the same biennium Capital Facilities Plan.

Johnson said last year the county was able to fund five projects with $4 million. This year, the county is looking to fund the same amount of projects. 

“We are hoping for five or six to be completed, but we want to make sure we’re doing the best sites for the money that will have the best impact on fish,” Johnson said.

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