What's Happening at MSRF?
Emergency Construction on Frazer Creek
For the past month, MSRF has been working with landowners on Frazer Creek to replace culverts damaged and/or buried by the debris flows that followed the Carlton Complex fires this summer. The project will replace the undersized culverts in the vicinity of the WSDOT road repairs completed on Highway 20 with free-spanning bridges ranging from 40 to 70 feet in length.
Despite the cold weather and early snow, Hurst Construction of Wenatchee has installed the first five bridges on schedule. Construction of the sixth bridge will begin next week.
The severity and scale of the fires in the uplands that drain into Frazer and Beaver Creeks has left the land stripped of vegetation and unable to retain heavy rain.
In the flooding following the fires, creek culverts that had been adequate for many years quickly filled beyond their capacity with debris and mud. With the creek blocked, water and debris flooded out of the creek bed and caused extensive damage to Highway 20 and to surrounding homes and property.
The increased runoff into these creeks is predicted to yield elevated spring flows and more debris for the next several years until surrounding vegetation begins to regrow. Modeling of expected flows completed by the Burn Area Emergency Response team predicts that flows may be increased by as much as 1,000 percent during this period, well beyond the capacity of a three-foot-diameter round culvert. The new bridges will restore safe access for the affected landowners, protect Highway 20 and adjacent properties from repeated flooding, and improve fish passage throughout the lower four miles of Frazer Creek.
Funding for the Frazer Creek bridges has been provided by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office, the Washington Department of Transportation, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources Family Forest Fish Passage Program. We are also working with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Habitat Program to install a sixth bridge, which will replace two undersized culverts on Beaver Creek just downstream of its confluence with Frazer Creek.
The long-term impact of the fires and floods on native and anadromous fish is not fully known at this time. MSRF has been monitoring fish populations in Beaver Creek in late October of each of the past three years. After the fires and the flooding, the average number of fish caught and released in the half-mile area surveyed was reduced from roughly 400 individuals to only 4. While these numbers look bleak, a similar population crash in the Chewuch River followed the 20- and 30-Mile fires, but fish sampling in subsequent years showed recolonization exceeding pre-fire numbers. We hope to see similar results in our future surveys of Beaver and Frazer Creeks.
For past updates, please visit our archive.