Boise National Forest Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP)

Currently we’re standing in front of Big Spruce
Creek, this Creek feeds Clear Creek. Clear Creek is designated bull trout critical
habitat, and we have a population of adfluvial bull trout that use the upper Clear Creek
as spawning habitat and South Fork of the Payette as over-wintering habitat. This habitat is important for juvenile fish
because it allows juvenile fish to use these small creeks to rear before they move into
the bigger system. AOPs (aquatic organism passage) structures
are really important, it’s especially important for juvenile fish that can utilize these small
fragments of habitat for protection from predators, and use the nutrients that are available before
they make it down to the larger systems. So Big Spruce Creek was important during the
BAER (burned area emergency response) effort because we were looking at what might happen
to bull trout populations if there was a sediment event. If there was hillslope failure; where would
they go, what would they do? By opening up this lower culvert, we solidify
work we had done uphill by pulling two culverts and we open up three miles of fish habitat
which would be essentially sediment refugia and cold water refugia, not to mention just
regular habitat for the bull trout. Refugia is just an escape, it’s a place for
the fish to go. Like you get out of the city, come up into
the country; the fish can get out of the mess if there was one. The Big Spruce creek culvert AOP project is
important for bull trout because it supports the bull trout recovery plan, and opens up
new habitat for fish. This was a win post fire, and it would have
been a win either way; opening up the habitat for the fish.

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