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How often, especially in the summer, do you curse road closures and construction crews for inconveniencing your day? Me, often, even though I’m married to one of the delayers.

There is lots of stream enhancement going on around here so fish can get where they’re supposed to be going the same way they used to go before we put roads through their streams that lead to their homes in the saltwater. We put in small culverts to allow most of the stream to flow under the road, but not enough for the fish or to prevent floods upstream from the culvert during big rainstorms, or “events” as they are sometimes called in stormwater-management circles. Because we did so a long time ago, and the salmon have been complaining, and we find salmon delicious, we are now ripping up those roads to restore the streams inside big pipes, and then covering that with road again. I think it would be cheaper to develop a public-transit system where fish could queue on one side of the stream and then be bussed to the other side of the stream at regular intervals, but no one asked me, so gigantic culverts under existing roads it is.

These photos hurt my eyes, too. They are from my cell phone and it was getting dark, so the camera struggled with the focus. And it’s a cell phone camera, so distances and scale are not very apparent. Look at us, all complaining about the quality of the cameras in the relatively tiny devices that allow us to carry on phone calls from just about anywhere to just about anywhere and take pictures between phone calls. What a bunch of whiners we are, instead of appreciating that we can send this photo from said device out here in the woods of the Pacific Northwest to another device in Santiago or Paris or Manhattan for about a quarter. If I’d had my real camera, hadn’t been wearing brand new shoes, and hadn’t just vacuumed out my car, I might have crawled around in the mud more to get more representative photos (we hadn’t planned to come here when we left to go eat dinner).

pipe 1

For a sense of scale, that’s Captain OCD, just shy of six feet tall (and getting shyer of six feet every year), next to the excavator. The black sections are gravel, and the road used to go from where we’re standing straight across to the black section on the other side. It’s about 275 feet to the other side, about 47 feet deep (picture a 5-story building sitting down in the hole), and more than 200,000 cubic yards of material was removed from this site.

pipe 2

That’s the new passageway for the salmon. The pipe is about 140 feet long, 10 feet high, and 20 feet across. It’s a half pipe sitting on concrete footings, with a gravel floor, upon which a sort of naturalized surface was created using rocks, logs, and other things salmon like to see in their streams. It will take several events before enough silt fills the system (possibly several years) so that the stream flows as it should and the salmon can get back in the reproductive business.

There are 7,500 large bolts holding those pipe sections together, each one fastened by hand with impact wrenches held at odd angles, often overhead. Some of the guys doing most of the bolting together could barely feel their arms and hands at the end of the 10 to 14 hour workdays, making driving home a challenge. Captain OCD spent the better part of a very long day fastening bolts while sitting on a ladder at odd angles and his hands look like swollen hamburger (which were not helped by replacing belts in the cramped quarters of the front of an engine bay). He generates impressive bruises easily (both because he bruises easily and because he uses his body like a tool), so I told him if he has to take a trip to the emergency room he’d better be prepared to explain the crop of bruises on his backside or he’ll go up on the wall of weirdo admits.

pipe 3

Soon this will all disappear under a standard paved road. The entire process, from finished road back to finished road, has to be completed in 35 working days. Now, would you like to know what’s under your housing development, the nearest strip mall, or a hospital? A whole other complex world.