Fish Passage

Trout and other fish depend on the entire river system for survival, so connecting upstream and downstream habitats is important.

Dam removal project

In 2016 the WRP partnered with American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Greater Upper Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Ripple Natural Resources to remove the Randolph Dam on the Third Branch of the White River. No longer in use, the dam spanned the Third Branch underneath the Rte 12 bridge in Randolph village, and was a complete barrier to fish passage. Removing the dam restored fish passage to 98 miles of cold-water trout habitat.

Visit this link for more information: Randolph Dam removal project.


Culvert replacements

Replacing an under-sized stream-crossing culvert with a larger structure is a way to improve fish passage while increasing flood resilience. Two post-flood WRP culvert replacement projects are highlighted below:

Wing Brook, Rochester

In 2016 and 2017 the WRP worked with the town, US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and TR Fellows Engineering to replace the two of three undersized culverts on Wing Brook in Rochester. Both the Maple Hill Road culvert and Marine Hill Road culvert are under-sized and prone to failure; they have been replaced with flood-resilient, fish-friendly structures using US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Forest Foundation funds. The third undersized culvert on Wing Brook at Wing Farm Road will be replaced in 2018.

Howe/Marsh/Nason Brooks, Rochester


Fiske Road culvert on Howe Brook before replacement


Fiske Road culvert on Howe Brook after replacement in 2014

In Rochester, Tropical Storm Irene blew out numerous under-sized culverts and bridges. From 2011 – 2014 the WRP worked with the town and multiple partners, including the US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and Trout Unlimited, to put in 6 right-sized crossing structures in three impacted stream systems: Oak Lodge Road and Fiske Road on Howe Brook; North Hollow Road and Marsh Brook Road on Marsh Brook; and Moose Run and Woodlawn Cemetery on Nason Brook.  

The town of Rochester is located in the upper reaches of the White River watershed and almost all of the town’s high-elevation streams overflowed their banks during Tropical Storm Irene. As a result, every culvert and bridge failed in three stream systems that flow into the main stem of the White River, causing massive damage to the town road system, private residences, and a cemetery located along the stream corridors. These damages were a primary focus for USFWS technical experts, who designed replacement structures for 6 culverts that failed during the flood. With funds from the USFWS, USFS, Orvis/Trout Unlimited, and private foundations, the WRP worked with the town of Rochester, FEMA, and the state of Vermont to replace the 6 flood-damaged culverts with stream crossing structures designed to accommodate a 100-year flood event as well as the passage of debris, ice, and aquatic organisms.

Culvert retrofits

Retrofitting a culvert is a way to improve fish passage when replacing a culvert is not an option. A successful WRP culvert retrofit projects is highlighted below:

Broad Brook, Sharon

The first culvert above the mouth of Broad Brook is a concrete arch located only a few hundred feet above the confluence with the White River. During its initial construction over two decades ago, the VDFW worked with the town to add a series of wooden baffles to provide some reduction of velocities at higher flows. The undersized culvert ultimately developed a perch of nearly 1 foot under low flow conditions, limiting aquatic organism passage.


The stone weir constructed below the Broad Brook culvert ensures fish passage at all water levels.

The WRP and its partners recognized the problem and decided to retrofit this culvert to enhance passage. To eliminate the outlet perch, a rock weir was constructed downstream of the outlet pool in 2008, raising its elevation above the base of the culvert. The rock weir was designed like a natural stream feature and provides multiple passage pathways which change with stream flow levels. Fish and other aquatic organisms can now freely enter the culvert at a variety of flows.

The weir survived Tropical Storm Irene – although buried in sediment, it is functioning to allow fish passage through the Broad Brook culvert at all water levels.