Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management (MS)

Administrative Home Department

College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Advisor 1

Joseph Wagenbrenner

Advisor 2

Andrew Storer

Committee Member 1

Casey Huckins

Committee Member 2

David Watkins

Committee Member 3

Mark Fedora

Committee Member 4

Melanie Watkins


The Great Lakes Region of North America has experienced more frequent extreme precipitation events recently, resulting in a large number of stream crossing failures. To evaluate failure risk and potential impacts of crossings in northern Michigan, we identified and conducted coarse assessments of all the stream crossings and dams in the North Branch Paint River Watershed. A subset of 11 culverts were selected from 49 identified sites for hydraulic analysis to estimate crossing failure discharge conditions. Stream crossing dimensions and upstream attributes were used to create metrics that predict failure risk without the need for complex hydraulic modeling, and these metrics were applied at the watershed scale. Sediment discharge and the economic impact associated with a failure event were also estimated for each stream crossing. Aquatic organism passability ratings were also determined for each crossing in the watershed. Five of the 11 modeled culverts were predicted to fail at discharges below the 50-year flood. Upstream main channel length, bankfull width, culvert width, and upstream watershed area formed the best metrics for predicting failure with a combined R2 value of 0.9. Estimated cost of replacement was 19% more for a failed culvert than a planned replacement. Other unsurveyed culverts were analyzed to predicted failure condition discharge, and this resulted in an estimated cost of $1.4 million in total culvert replacement throughout the watershed for the 11 total culverts that would likely fail during a 50-year flood. Fish passability scores were lowest at culverts, and relationships between scores and risk of failure were assessed. Nine of the 20 culverts were impassable for fish year round, while 45% were barriers only at high flows. Risk of failure, in conjunction with organism passability, should be considered when prioritizing culverts for replacement.