This multi-year project seeks to reconnect habitat and restorein Fairbanks, Alaska.
Cripple Creek’s natural channel was abandoned in 1935 when streamflow was diverted into an artificial drain constructed to carry wastewater and sediment from hydraulic mining activity in the Ester area. Though mining activity ceased years ago, the drain channel has remained the primary conduit for streamflow. The straight, channelized drain has offered relatively poor Chinook rearing habitat for many years.
The Interior Alaska Land Trust, in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has studied the feasibility of restoring Cripple Creek in the lower Chena River watershed for almost a decade, including funding several extensive studies by Herrera Environmental Consultants and DOWL HKM Engineering. After years of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, restoring Cripple Creek has become possible. The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities plans to reconnect two reaches of the abandoned natural channel by installing a fish passage culvert where fill was placed during the construction of Chena Ridge Road. With their commitment to this single multi-million dollar element, and through additional work by the Land Trust, Alaska DOT&PF will remove the largest obstacle in the restoring Cripple Creek. Three additional smaller obstacles remain. Two involve culverts which are (at least partial) barriers to fish passage. The final step involves redirecting flow from the upper reaches of the drain back into the historic natural channel. After careful analysis by habitat biologists, it was determined that improving fish passage at the Old Chena Ridge Road culvert crossing provides the greatest immediate habitat benefit because its downstream location ensures flow no matter whether the drain or the restored historic channel conveys Cripple Creek water.