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In-water work underway on Tacoma Street culvert project

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - At S.E. 21st Avenue in Sellwood, Tacoma Street now narrows considerably to allow the Crystal Springs Creek culvert replacement project to take place across it.After weeks of preparation, the Crystal Springs Creek Tacoma Culvert Replacement project got into full swing on Monday, July 15.

With contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers having already installed a “pipe” under S.E. Tacoma Street at 21st Avenue, workers prepared to divert the creek out of its channel and into the temporary conduit.

“The new culvert under S.E. Tacoma Street will be 14 feet wide,” said City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services Environmental Coordinator Ronda Fast, as she took THE BEE on a tour of the worksite. “Once the creek is diverted away from the old four-foot-wide culvert, they’ll be able to work in the dry creek bed.”

After workers unblocked the diversion pipe inlet on the north and the exit to the south, Bureau of Environmental Services crews put nets in place to catch and salvage fish as water near the old culvert was drawn down. “The fish within the project area are being relocated downstream,” explained Fast.

During the visit, construction engineers were solving final problems, like how to keep the water flowing out of the pipe’s outlet from eroding the bank. “We also have to watch for flooding at the north end,” Fast added. “The temporary pipe looks to be of slightly smaller diameter than the old culvert.”

It is not easy to divert a creek into a pipe, especially under a heavily-used thoroughfare, Fast acknowledged. “Our mandate is to keep traffic flowing in both directions on Tacoma Street throughout the project. Drivers will notice the traffic lanes are narrowed and shifted to one side.”

One block south of the project, Fast pointed out the new culverts across S.E Tenino and S.E. Umatilla Streets. “And, we removed the culvert at the restoration site down the creek, last year.”

Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and partner U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working together, Fast said, “to replace a total of nine by 2015 to help salmon and trout recovery.” The Army Corps is also busy removing the Westmoreland Park duck pond and restoring Crystal Springs Creek there.