The Native Village of Tyonek was awarded a $200,000 Tribal Wildlife Grant in 2015 to replace undersized and perched culverts beneath Tyonek Timber Road with an embedded culvert to allow fish passage upstream to spawning and rearing habitat in Old Tyonek Creek. The site is located on the western side of Cook Inlet near Tyonek, AK in a subsistence area that Tebughna people have fished for hundreds of years. Old Tyonek Creek provides habitat for a number of anadromous fish including Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, and Eulachon which require unobstructed movement throughout the watershed to maintain healthy populations.
Salmon is a primary subsistence resource for Tyonek. The Tyonek Tribal Conservation District contains 29 culverts on key river systems with the majority defined as impassable by anadromous fish. According to data collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, amounts of Chinook salmon necessary for subsistence were not met in Tyonek during 2009 and 2011.
The project replaced two 5 feet wide culverts that prevented salmon from reaching spawning and rearing habitat upstream and frequently washed out (two out of three years) with a 28 feet wide, 13 feet high salmon-friendly culvert. By opening over 10 miles of salmon habitat, this project supports salmon populations in Cook Inlet, as well as the many people who depend on salmon through subsistence, commercial fishing, or sport fishing.
Allowing for passage to spawning habitat in Old Tyonek Creek will benefit several salmon populations and will provide increased subsistence opportunities within the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District. Subsistence is important for the culture, history, physical body, and spirituality of Alaska Native people and tribes. In addition to improving fish habitat, removal of these barriers improves road conditions by allowing more water to pass under the road.
This project opened 10.44 miles of creek for upstream and downstream migration of adult and juvenile fish. Partners included: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Native Village of Tyonek, Tyonek Tribal Conservation District, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cook Inlet Region Inc., PacRim Coal and Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership.