Stream Restoration / Fish Passage Projects

Bolton Branch trout stream
Bolton Branch. Photo by Hugh Kenny, PEC.
Culverts and low-water crossings on public and private road crossings act as barriers to aquatic organism passage and worsen overall stream health. We are working to improve stream health and connectivity by removing or replacing culverts in the upper Rappahannock watershed with more wildlife-friendly versions!

A Collaborative Effort

The Piedmont Environmental Council is leading a regional initiative of conservation organizations, federal agencies, and the Virginia Department of Transportation to restore and reconnect habitat for the Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and other aquatic organisms in headwater streams that border Shenandoah National Park.

Over the past decade, PEC has identified physical barriers that are preventing brook trout and other aquatic species from moving through these headwater systems. Moving from analysis to action, PEC has prioritized projects based on habitat connectivity and water quality improvement and pursued a series of pilot projects that have successfully set the stage for scaling up a more broad-based stream and habitat restoration strategy along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. 

map of trout streams surveyed with crossings indicated
Map created by Watsun Randolph, PEC.

About the Brook Trout

The brook trout is an indicator species that depends on cold, clean water and thrives best in free-flowing headwater streams. Physical barriers, such as undersized road-stream crossings, can impede fish passage by blocking upstream migration to spawning, better food and coldwater refuge during warmer summer months.

PEC recognizes that restoring trout habitat goes beyond protecting charismatic species like the brook trout, American eel, and other freshwater organisms; our work also improves water quality and climate resiliency, which benefits the larger Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Additionally, the mountain communities and families that reside in this region have deep ties to this iconic fish, and anglers travel long distances to fish these pristine mountain streams.

Crossing Survey

PEC partnered with Trout Unlimited in 2013 to survey barriers to aquatic organism movement in Rappahannock, Madison, Greene and Albemarle counties. The surveys were made possible from the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish Passage Program. An online map of the survey data can be found at pecva.org/troutmap

Of the 141 road-stream crossings assessed:

  • Nearly half provided no or reduced passage;
  • 75 were owned by VDOT; and
  • 66 were in private ownership.

Trout Stream Restoration Blogroll

Fish count with DWR biologists
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Return of brook trout signals promise for trout stream restoration efforts

DWR biologists (from left to right) Robert Willis, Mike Isel, John Odenkirk and Peter Grap. PEC volunteer Matt Krauss stands on the large rock. Photo by Claire Catlett. *Press Release* Contact: Celia Vuocolo, Habitat & Stewardship SpecialistThe Piedmont Environmental Councilcvuocolo@pecva.org; ...
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A Fish Runs Through It
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A Fish Runs Through It

Landowner Jimmy Graves and Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new bridge at Whiteoak Canyon. Pictured, left to right: Celia Vuocolo, Chris Miller, Peter Hujik, Chris Hawk, PEC; Jennifer Flynn, Shenandoah ...
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Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead
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Whiteoak Canyon Trailhead

New bridge improves access to one of Shenandoah National Park's most unique trails SYRIA, VA: The new 35-foot span bridge across Cedar Run offers hikers and nature-loving community members improved access to the popular Whiteoak Canyon trailhead outside of Shenandoah ...
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Free Flow
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Free Flow

Restoring Rivers & Connecting Habitat Rivers naturally flow from the mountains to the sea. Dams and other barriers like culverts can disrupt natural stream flow, disconnect fish and wildlife habitat and impair water quality. Removing unnatural barriers and disruptions is ...
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handbook cover page
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Eastern Brook Trout Monitoring Protocols for Headwater Streams in Virginia’s Piedmont

During the summer of 2017, PEC Fellowship participants Dana Ek and Callee Manna put together this stream monitoring guidebook as part of their final practicum project. The guidebook is meant to serve as a reference for PEC and other entities ...
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Robinson River
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Robinson River

SYRIA, VA. At the Robinson River, 350 linear feet of stream was restored to its natural channel, stabilizing banks from erosion, and ultimately removing sediment from going downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. In all, 5.3 miles of habitat was restored ...
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Sprucepine Branch
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Sprucepine Branch

HUNTLY, VA: Recent work at Sprucepine Branch reconnected 2 miles of stream, as a set of culverts were removed from a private driveway, and replaced with a bridge. PEC coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Shenandoah Streamworks ...
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image
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Good News for the Brook Trout

We’re continuing our efforts to increase the habitat available to the eastern brook trout and other fish species with two pilot culvert removal projects, slated to begin this summer. These current projects stem from work that began in 2013, when ...
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Brook trout. Photo by Chris Anderson.
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Teaming Up to Save the “Brookie”

PEC, Trout Unlimited and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service join forces to help the eastern brook trout Photo by Chris Anderson. Virginia’s state fish, the eastern brook trout, is in trouble. The Commonwealth’s only native trout has seen a sharp ...
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PEC has worked to build robust partnerships with a diverse set of agencies, non-profits, private consultants and funders in order to propel this initiative forward:

Friends of the Rappahannock, Trout Unlimited, US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), VA Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NWFW), Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), VA Department of Forestry (DOF), Nimick Forbesway Foundation, PEC’s Krebser Fund for Conservation in Rappahannock County, The Campbell Foundation, Shenandoah National Park (SNP), Shenandoah Streamworks, Ecosystem Services LLC, VA Department of Transportation (VDOT), private landowners and many others.