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Culvert channel rebuild carves out Stark Street in Troutdale, costs $2.1 million.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Work continues at the Stark Street culvert rebuild in Troutdale. Inside a 40-foot pit beneath Southeast Stark Street in Troutdale, a half dozen workers in hard hats are busy gouging the gorge.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A team of excavators work on the $2.1 million rebuilding of a fish channel underneath Southeast Stark Street in Troutdale. The fish passage is part of little-noticed Beaver Creek, which flows into the Sandy River at Depot City Park in downtown Troutdale. Following orders from the Feds, Multnomah County has targeted Beaver Creek for streamlining efforts that should help native salmon and other species swim up the river.

In practice, that means rebuilding the concrete culverts — a glorified word for fish pipe — that channel the creek when it passes under manmade barriers, like the two-lane arterial in near Mt. Hood Community College.

Workers have already removed at least 15,000 cubic yards of dirt from the stretch of Stark between Kane Drive and South Troutdale Road, carving a hole 150 feet across. And they're not done yet.

"Demolition is definitely a lot faster than placing," notes Road Engineer Carrie Warren. "A lot of people who drive by don't even know that (Beaver Creek) is here."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Multnomah County transportation spokesman Mike Pullen explains the details of a $2.1 million overhaul of a culvert beneath Southeast Stark Street in Troutdale. It includes a new fish passage, as well as pedestrian amenities such as new sidewalks.

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, crews focused on the west footing, the concrete-and-rebar foundation that will hold the semicircle top of the culvert in place.

"(The footing is) so it doesn't turn or twist or shear or break," Warren explains.

The culvert project is expected to consume roughly 10,000 pounds of rebar, employ about 100 people and cost the government and public approximately $2.1 million by the time construction wraps in early October.

It's laying the literal groundwork for future road widening that should expand Stark Street to four lanes by 2019. Also on the radar, county officials know they'll need to rebuild other inadvertent blockages in culverts beneath Cochran and Troutdale roads.

Beaver Creek, which feeds into the Sandy River, is aptly named. The crafty animals almost flooded out Cochran Road a few years ago by blocking the box culvert with a dam.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The waters of Beaver Creek are being diverted through the large pipe in the foreground while a new fish passage is constructed beneath Southeast Stark Street adjacent to Mt Hood Community College in Troutdale. Engineers also found the remnants of an earlier, wooden roadway beneath the existing street; it can be seen right next to the pipe. "It hit like a cork going into a wine bottle," Remarks a helmeted Mike Pullen, a county transportation spokesman.

The new arched culvert will be roughly 40 feet wide and 20 feet high at its apex, with no change in elevation to impede fish. The previous culvert used a concrete fish ladder that became an impassable barrier after heavy flows created a steep grade. When rebuilt, the channel will open up five miles of water to fish living in the nine-mile-long stream.

The new project will use 22 boulders, some the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, to mimic a natural streambed.

"It's so the fish can rest and hide," says project manager Sara Jeffrey.

"(From the fish's perspective) it's like they're just going up the creek: 'It's dark over our heads,'" Pullen explains.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Work continues at the Stark Street culvert rebuild in Troutdale.

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