Minnesota Culvert Design Guidance for Aquatic Species Passage and Stream Connectivity

Principal Investigator(s):

Matthew Hernick, Associate Engineer, SAFHL - Hydraulic Lab


  • Jeff Marr, Associate Director, SAFHL - Hydraulic Lab
  • John Nieber, Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering

Project summary:

This guide assists Minnesota culvert designers in identifying, selecting, and implementing appropriate designs for maintaining aquatic organism passage (AOP) and stream connectivity at road-stream intersections. It was synthesized from existing literature and culvert design documents, a survey of Minnesota practitioners, research, and input from local, regional, and national experts. Culvert designs that create excessive velocity, physical barriers, or shallow depth can disrupt AOP and may be detrimental to the continuity of water flow, sediment, and debris transport vital to stream health. Conversely, the recommended culvert designs in this guide account for stream parameters such as slope and substrate that vary across Minnesota landscapes. A set of best practices captures critical design elements based on stream characteristics, which can be summarized as follows: 1.) Design the culvert to be similar to the stream channel (reference reach) by matching its slope, alignment, bankfull width, and flow depth to maximize AOP; 2.) Provide a continuous sediment bed with roughness similar to the channel, while maintaining continuity of sediment transport and debris passage, and; 3.) Design for public safety, longevity, and resilience. Culvert design that improves AOP and accounts for sediment transport is expected to reduce long-term maintenance costs and increase culvert life span.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2017013
  • Start date: 06/2016
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Environment and Energy