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Effects of Box Culverts on Stream Habitat, Channel Morphology, and Fish and Macroinvertebrate Communities at Selected Sites in South Carolina, 2016–18

Monday, June 15, 2020 - 14:00

Much attention has been placed on the role that under-roadway culverts may have in inhibiting upstream fish movement because of altered hydrology and unsuitable conditions for accessing or swimming through the culvert. Other culvert effects related to habitat alterations or disturbance to macroinvertebrate communities have received relatively little attention. Entities responsible for culverts or other stream crossing structures are required to follow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidelines for compensatory mitigation should any disturbance result from an engineering activity. One factor considered in the scoring of mitigation requirements is culvert length. Except for shading a longer length of stream, it is unknown whether longer culverts result in greater disturbance to stream habitat or the biotic communities than shorter culverts. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Transportation, evaluated the role of culverts in altering physical habitat and community structure of fish and macroinvertebrates at 20 sites in South Carolina. Culvert sites were categorized by length (either greater than 30.5 meters or less than or equal to 30.5 meters) and physiographic province (Piedmont or Upper Coastal Plain). This study design allowed for a regional assessment to determine if culverts may have different effects on habitat and biotic communities in different physical settings. The results indicated considerable variation in physical habitat characteristics within and among the culvert sites from all categories. This document can be downloaded from the US Geological Survey web site at https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2020/5021/sir20205021.pdf