Multnomah County to spend $3 million on project to improve passage for Beaver Creek fish.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY  - The culvert beneath Cochran Road dates back to the 1930s. Planners say its too narrow and creates water speeds that are too fast for fish. After last year's culvert hullabaloo on Stark Street, Multnomah County is trying to stay one step ahead of the game as it prepares to re-do a stream crossing on Southeast Cochran Road in summer 2019.

A four-month closure is expected as workers build a bridge to replace the fish channel culvert that government planners say actually hinders fish from moving upstream on Beaver Creek. Construction will cost at least $3 million, though that doesn't include the price of land acquisition.

The county says there are roughly 13 native and four non-native fish species in Beaver Creek. With the completion of a culvert beneath Stark in October, gilled creatures can move upstream to Cochran, but rarely travel any further.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Sweetbriar Lane resident Steve Smith examines a poster describing the Cochran Road bridge during a meeting at Mt. Hood Community College on Tuesday, March 13. "There's a lot of people who use that street, and there's no sidewalks. The track team uses it and there's very poor visibility. I'm always worried they're going to get hit," commented Louise Dix, a local resident, during an informational meeting at Mt. Hood Community College in March.

"My only concern is the inconvenience of having it (rebuilt), because it took so long to get the Stark Street one done," she continued.

Cochran, which is named Northeast 17th Street within Gresham city limits, has had a culvert for fish beneath it since the 1930s. Guardrails were added later. About 1,000 motorists utilize the street each day, although that number is projected to double by 2040.

The new bridge will be 60 feet long, with room for two 12-foot-wide traffic lanes and 11-foot-wide shoulders on each side. That should leave space for bike lanes and sidewalks to be added when more funding is freed up.

"If you've driven the road, you know it is very narrow," said county engineer Ae-young Lee. "They weren't thinking of pedestrians or how big vehicles were going to get or how fast vehicles are going to go."

Students in Mt. Hood's fisheries program have counted as many as 150 coho and chinook in Beaver Creek at one time, but the number has slumped to about a dozen during the most recent tally. One issue is the lack of shade, which causes the water to overheat.

"Ocean conditions are a big factor," noted water resources specialist Roy Iwai, who estimates it may take another two decades for the fish population to fully recover.

Cochran Road is expected to be closed between Southeast Troutdale Road and Paloma Avenue during the construction work in 2019. Stark Street and Northeast Division Street will be the nearest detours for travelers moving west or east during the closure.

"Multnomah County has a lot of other problems to be spending money on salmon," Sweetbriar Lane resident Steve Smith said at the meeting. "Being rerouted or inconvenienced for even more than a day — it's absurd."

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