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Wildlife have stake in culvert project

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Aquatic organisms have better chance with bigger pipe

TELL CITY - Humans and other living things will benefit from replacement of a 6-foot culvert near the south end of Tipsaw Lake with one 28 feet in diameter, according to a fisheries biologist for the Hoosier National Forest.

Amanda Kunzmann sought the cooperation of the Perry County commissioners at their regular meeting June 2 in replacing the culvert that carries Snake Branch water under Limestone Road. She told them water rushes through the existing pipe too fast to allow aquatic organisms to pass through safely.

"We have direction from our Washington (D.C.) office," Kunzmann said Thursday. "We want all life stages to be able to pass through, and the higher velocities prevent the younger organisms from passing."

The organisms involved could be fish, crawfish, salamanders, snakes and fur-bearing wildlife such as muskrats and raccoons, she said.

Forest officials want the culvert to have characteristics of the stream flowing through it, such as a rocky bottom, Kunzmann explained, but during high-flow events such as heavy rains, water flushes the natural materials from the pipe.

She told the commissioners national-forest officials will provide the bulk of the $97,000 needed to complete the work, and asked them to contribute $15,000.

"The replacement of the culvert will also benefit Perry County," she said in a written statement outlining the proposal. "During high-flow events, Snake Branch will overflow its banks and wash over the road ... (requiring) the county to continuously fix and regrade the road."

County Highway Superintendent Ed Feix said the road washes out three or four times per year.

"We've been down there at 1 in the morning because there's a resident down there," he told the commissioners.

"We've worked well with (Hoosier National Forest officials) in the past," Commissioner Jody Fortwendel said in offering a motion to approve the payment from the county's cumulative-bridge fund. "I'm all for it."

Kunzmann said the work will likely be done in August or September, when water levels are expected to be low. Travel along Limestone Road will be affected for three or four days, she said, and residents will be notified before work begins.

The motion carried, but the county council must approve the spending.