Culvert maintenance is undertaken to extend the life of the structure and to ensure that it functions as designed, thus ensuring public safety and safe fish passage. Culvert maintenance includes the removal of accumulated debris (e.g., logs, boulders, garbage, ice build-up) that prevents the efficient passage of water and fish through the structure. Culvert maintenance may also include the reinforcement of eroding inlets and outlets, but does not include the replacement of damaged or destroyed bevel ends. Culverts requiring regular maintenance should be considered for future remediation via redesign or reinstallation.
Culvert maintenance activities can affect fish and fish habitat by the removal of woody debris that is important for cover and food production, by causing flooding and excessive stream scouring if blockages are removed too quickly, excessive erosion and sedimentation from the use of equipment along the stream bank, and disruption of critical fish life stages. Replacement of eroded rock armouring can alter flows and fish movement patterns if done excessively.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for protecting fish and fish habitat across Canada. Under the
Fisheries Act no one may carry out a work or undertaking that will cause the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat unless it has been authorized by DFO. By following the conditions and measures set out below you will be in compliance with subsection 35(1) of the
The purpose of this Operational Statement is to describe the conditions under which it is applicable to your project and the measures to incorporate into your project in order to avoid negative impacts to fish habitat. You may proceed with your culvert maintenance project without a DFO review when you meet the following conditions:
- the work does not include realigning the watercourse, installing a culvert liner or support struts, replacing damaged or destroyed bevels ends, or extending/replacing the existing culvert,
- explosives are not used to remove debris,
- the work does not include any dredging, infilling (e.g., filling scour pools) or excavation of the channel upstream or downstream of the culvert, and
- you incorporate the Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Maintaining Culverts listed below in this Operational Statement.
If you cannot meet all of the conditions listed above and cannot incorporate all of the measures listed below then your project may result in a violation of subsection 35(1) of the
Fisheries Act and you could be subject to enforcement action. In this case, you should contact your Conservation Authority, or the DFO office in your area (see Ontario DFO office list) or Parks Canada if the project is located within its jurisdiction, including the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal, if you wish to obtain an opinion on the possible options you should consider to avoid contravention of the
Fisheries Act. For activities carried out under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the requirements of this Operational Statement are addressed through an existing agreement and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is the first point of contact.
You are required to respect all municipal, provincial or federal legislation that applies to the work being carried out in relation to this Operational Statement. The activities undertaken in this Operational Statement must also comply with the Species at Risk Act (www.sararegistry.gc.ca). If you have questions regarding this Operational Statement, please contact one of the agencies listed above.
We ask that you notify DFO, preferably 10 working days before starting your work by filling out and sending the Ontario Operational Statement notification form (http://www.dfo-mpo.ca/regions/central/habitat/os-eo/provinces-territories-territoires/on/os-eo20-eng.htm) to the DFO office in your area. This information is requested in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the work carried out in relation to this Operational Statement.
Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat when Maintaining Culverts
- Use existing trails, roads, or cut lines wherever possible to avoid disturbance to the riparian vegetation.
- While this Operational Statement does not cover the clearing of riparian vegetation, the removal of select plants may be required. This removal should be kept to a minimum.
- Unless accumulated material (i.e., branches, stumps, other woody materials, garbage, ice build-up, etc.) is preventing the passage of water and/or fish through the structure, time material and debris removal to prevent disruption to sensitive fish life stages by adhering to appropriate fisheries timing windows (see the Ontario In-Water Construction Timing Windows). Any proposal to conduct such work under ice-covered conditions, with the exception of ice build-up removal, requires prior review by your Conservation Authority, DFO, or Parks Canada office, as appropriate.
- Emergency debris removal using hand tools or machinery (e.g., backhoe) can be carried out at any time of year. Emergencies include situations where carrying out the project immediately is in the interest of preventing damage to property or the environment, or is in the interest of public health or safety. Your local Conservation Authority, DFO, or Parks Canada office, as appropriate, is to be notified immediately. You should follow all other measures to the greatest extent possible.
- Install effective sediment and erosion control measures before starting work to prevent sediment from entering the watercourse. Inspect them regularly during the course of construction and make all necessary repairs if any damage occurs.
- Limit the removal of accumulated material (i.e., branches, stumps, other woody materials, garbage, etc.) to the area within the culvert, immediately upstream of the culvert and to that which is necessary to maintain culvert function and fish passage.
- Remove accumulated material and debris slowly to allow clean water to pass, to prevent downstream flooding and reduce the amount of sediment-laden water going downstream. Gradual dewatering will also reduce the potential for stranding fish in upstream areas.
- 7.1. A separate Operational Statement exists for the removal of beaver dams and associated debris and it applies to dams that are not directly connected or immediately adjacent to the culvert structure.
- Operate machinery on land (from outside of the water) and in a manner that minimizes disturbance to the banks of the watercourse.
- 8.1. Machinery is to arrive on site in a clean condition and is to be maintained free of fluid leaks.
- 8.2. Wash, refuel and service machinery and store fuel and other materials for the machinery away from the water to prevent any deleterious substance from entering the water.
- 8.3. Keep an emergency spill kit on site in case of fluid leaks or spills from machinery.
- 8.4. Restore banks to original condition if any disturbance occurs.
- If replacement rock reinforcement/armouring is required to stabilize eroding inlets and outlets, the following measures should be incorporated:
- 9.1. Place appropriately-sized, clean rocks into the eroding area.
- 9.2. Do not obtain rocks from below the ordinary high water mark (see definition below) of any water body.
- 9.3. Avoid the use of rock that is acid-generating. Also avoid the use of rock that fractures and breaks down quickly when exposed to the elements.
- 9.4. Install rock at a similar slope to maintain a uniform stream bank and natural stream alignment.
- 9.5. Ensure rock does not interfere with fish passage or constrict the channel width.
- 9.6. If any in-water work is involved, adhere to fisheries timing windows, as outlined in Measure 3 above.
- Stabilize any waste materials removed from the work site to prevent them from entering the watercourse. This could include covering spoil piles with biodegradable mats or tarps or planting them with grass or shrubs.
- Vegetate any disturbed areas by planting and seeding preferably with native trees, shrubs or grasses and cover such areas with mulch to prevent erosion and to help seeds germinate. If there is insufficient time remaining in the growing season, the site should be stabilized (e.g., cover exposed areas with erosion control blankets to keep the soil in place and prevent erosion) and vegetated the following spring.
- 11.1. Maintain effective sediment and erosion control measures until re-vegetation of the disturbed areas is achieved.
Ordinary high water mark – The usual or average level to which a body of water rises at its highest point and remains for sufficient time so as to change the characteristics of the land. In flowing waters (rivers, streams) this refers to the “active channel/bank-full level” which is often the 1:2 year flood flow return level. In inland lakes, wetlands or marine environments it refers to those parts of the water body bed and banks that are frequently flooded by water so as to leave a mark on the land and where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic vegetation to terrestrial vegetation (excepting water tolerant species). For reservoirs this refers to normal high operating levels (Full Supply Level).
For the Great Lakes this refers to the 80th percentile elevation above chart datum as described in DFO’s Fish Habitat and Determining the High Water Mark on Lakes.
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