Replacing a Culvert Improves

Brook Trout Habitat in Pennsylvania

Replacing a culvert, stabilizing a road to prevent sedimentation and restoring fish habitat allowed for fish passage in a small stream that eventually feeds into Lake Ontario.


About 20 years ago a culvert was installed beneath a private driveway in Potter County to accommodate a small tributary stream which eventually flows into Lake Ontario. Unfortunately, this culvert created a barrier that prevented brook trout from migrating to prime upstream habitat. This loss of quality habitat was exacerbated by the erosion of a small dirt and gravel road adjacent to the stream during storms, resulting in heavy sediment build up that degraded the stream’s habitat. Thanks to several grants, including one from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Potter County Conservation District was able to replace this culvert, improve trout habitat, and stabilize the road to prevent sediment pollution. The new culvert allows for a more natural stream flow and enables aquatic organism passage. Workers further enhanced trout habitat by installing boulders and logs in the stream to produce ripples, pools, and other trout habitat features. Workers also installed natural features to improve drainage and reduced stormflow in the adjacent road. Finally, they partially resurfaced that stretch of road to reduce erosion caused by automobile traffic, and planted willow saplings between the road and the stream to further stabilize the soil.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of fish habitat
  • Barriers to fish migration
  • Sediment build up
  • Erosion


A bridge over a small stream

The new culvert is much larger, allowing fish and other aquatic life to travel up and down stream freely. The road above the culvert has also been stabilized, reducing polluted runoff. Credit: Potter County Conservation District.

Results and Accomplishments

This project opened up 10 miles of prime upstream habitat for brook trout spawning in the Genesee River tributary. The project also stabilized 2.5 miles of an adjacent dirt and gravel road to reduce sedimentation, protecting brook trout habitat. Potter County Conservation District and its partners are currently measuring the performance of this project through fish tagging and stream monitors. They hope that this project becomes a model for Potter County townships and private landowners interested in improving fish habitat and opening up previously blocked habitat, and they are securing funding to perform similar projects on other priority sites throughout the county. By improving brook trout habitat and migration, this project will enhance sport fishing and other recreational opportunities in the area.