Project Name: Bronson Brook Habitat Restoration, Worthington

When conservation priorities overlap with the need to replace or upgrade infrastructure, technical and funding support may be available to municipalities,organizations and private landowners. Working with local conservation partners, the Town of Worthington replaced a failed culvert and retrofitted another culvert to restore stream continuity along Bronson Brook. Through a collaborative effort, state and federal grants, private donations and labor were pulled together to make the $380,000 project happen. 

Bronson Brook is a high quality coldwater tributary to the East Branch Westfield River, supporting habitat for Atlantic salmon and resident coldwater species such as Eastern brook trout and black nosed dace. The concrete double box culvert on Dingle Road was a barrier to fish due to a perched outlet, shallow water depths and excessive water velocities. A large storm in August 2003 caused the Dingle Road crossing to catastrophically fail when debris clogged and flows overtopped the undersized box culverts, eroding the road fill around the culverts and causing extensive streambank damage downstream. By the end of the storm the channel had flanked the culverts, creating a 14 ft. (4 m) wide rift between the road and the culverts.

In 2006, the box culverts were replaced with a 40-foot wide open bottomed culvert that spanned the bankfull channel width and allowed for a natural channel streambed throughout. The new arch culvert has prefabricated steel headwalls and is founded on precast concrete footings. The open-bottom arch allows for natural flows through the crossing and reduces the chance of woody material catching and blocking the culvert, thereby reducing the
chance of another flood overtopping the culvert.

A nearby crossing at Cummington Road was perched about a foot above the downstream pool. Partners decided to retrofit this crossing because it was already large enough to pass flood flows and it was structurally sound. They built a downstream riffle to raise the water level high enough to reduce perching, and installed retention sills within the crossing to retain natural bed materials. Fish and salamanders where not the only ones to benefit – the project ultimately reduced maintenance costs for the town, reconnected access for residential and emergency vehicles, and protected municipal and private infrastructure.

New open-bottom arch culvert on Bronson Brook
Sediment retention sills in culvert retrofit