Cantwell, Bipartisan Washington Delegation Requests Funding to Enhance Salmon and Orca Recovery at Howard A. Hanson Dam
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA-08) and the entire bipartisan Washington congressional delegation in support of a project central to Puget Sound salmon recovery and the growth of food supplies to Southern resident orcas. The delegation sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting that the next phase of the Howard A. Hanson Dam (HAHD) project in Auburn, Washington, be funded and prioritized in the FY2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan. In addition to Senator Cantwell and Representative Schrier, the letter was signed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA07), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), and Denny Heck (D-WA-10).
A 2019 Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the construction of a downstream fish passage facility at HAHD was necessary for the recovery of salmon and steelhead stocks and the recovery of Southern resident orcas. The members’ request encourages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and OMB to continue progress on this vital regional project.
“Federal funding is needed to complete the design and cost estimate phase of the fish passage facility at Howard Hanson Dam to ensure salmon and steelhead are able to move upriver to spawning habitat and complete returns to Puget Sound,” the members wrote in their letter. “Completing downstream fish passage would reopen at least 60 miles of prime salmon and steelhead habitat above Howard Hanson Dam, nearly doubling the amount of habitat currently available.”
“Restoring fish runs above Howard Hanson Dam, which requires a downstream passage system for the dam, is the largest single gain in potential salmon production in Puget Sound,” added the Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed (WRIA 9).
"As we think about Northwest projects to recover endangered salmon and steelhead stocks, fish passage improvements at Howard Hanson Dam are a great choice. These improvements will benefit not just our fish, but orcas as well. NOAA Fisheries has identified Puget Sound Chinook runs as some of the most critical to the survival of Southern Resident Killer Whales. We are pleased to see the Washington Congressional delegation unite in supporting critical funding to move this project forward,” said Kristin Meira, Executive Director of Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA).
“I want to thank the entire Washington Congressional Delegation for coming together to support this uniquely important project for salmon and orca recovery and to provide reliable, clean drinking water,” said Victoria Woodards, Mayor of Tacoma. “Getting this project underway is an important step for our entire region.”
Completing the activities outlined in the February 15, 2019 NOAA Fisheries BiOp would provide 60 miles of necessary salmon and steelhead habitat. The additional habitat will increase salmon populations and support Southern resident orcas currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Moving forward on this project will also facilitate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ continued operation of the HAHD project to protect the Green River Valley from flooding, increase drinking water storage capacity, and uphold the federal government’s trust responsibilities to impacted Tribes.
The text of the full letter is below:
Dear Assistant Secretary James and Acting Director Vought:
We write in support of the Howard A. Hanson Dam (HAHD) project in Washington state and urge you to allocate funding in the current and future fiscal years to fulfill the mitigation actions agreed to by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) and NOAA Fisheries in the Howard A. Hanson Dam Biological Opinion (BiOp) dated February 15, 2019. Completing the activities outlined in the BiOp would improve recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and uphold the federal government’s trust responsibilities to impacted Tribes. Moving forward on this project will also facilitate the Army Corps’ continued operation of HAHD to protect the Green River Valley from flooding, increase drinking water storage capacity, and provide necessary salmon and steelhead habitat that will increase salmon populations and support Southern resident orcas. We request prioritization of the next phase of this project in the FY20 Work Plan for the Army Civil Works program.
In October 2015, NOAA Fisheries issued a draft jeopardy opinion to the Army Corps for the continued operation of HAHD and full realization of the Howard A. Hanson Dam Additional Water Storage Project (HAHD-AWSP)—a multi-phase habitat restoration and flood mitigation effort authorized by Water Resources Development Act of 1999. NOAA fisheries found the dam puts Chinook salmon, Puget Sound steelhead and Southern resident orcas at risk. The February 2019 BiOp outlines the Army Corps’ responsibility to design and construct a downstream fish passage facility to aid in the recovery of ESA-listed species. Tacoma Public Utilities, Water Division (TPU) has made investments to increase adult salmon and steelhead survival rates. However, federal funding is needed to complete the design and cost estimate phase of the fish passage facility at Howard Hanson Dam to ensure salmon and steelhead are able to move upriver to spawning habitat and complete returns to Puget Sound.
Completing downstream fish passage would reopen at least 60 miles of prime salmon and steelhead habitat above Howard Hanson Dam, nearly doubling the amount of habitat currently available. According to the group of local governments, community organizations, and businesses that have joined forces to recover salmon in the Green-Duwamish River system (Water Resource Inventory Area 9 Watershed Ecosystem Forum [WRIA 9]), restoring fish runs above Howard Hanson Dam, “…is the largest single gain in potential salmon production in Puget Sound.” Importantly, the project will fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibilities to Tribes that rely on healthy salmon populations and it provides reliable clean drinking water to the approximately one million residents living in Tacoma, Covington, Kent, Federal Way, Maple Valley, and the surrounding communities.
Significant resources have already been invested downstream of the dam to restore or improve fish habitat. Those improvements continue to support the enormous potential for significantly increasing salmon and steelhead productivity in the watershed. Major project investments required by local governments have also been completed, including the system to move some adult spawning salmon and steelhead upstream of Howard Hanson Dam. TPU and other local government partners (City of Kent, Covington Water District, & Lakehaven Water and Sewer District) have invested more than $400 million for supply and treatment facilities necessary to provide clean drinking water to the area. For these investments to be realized, the BiOp must move forward and the HAHD project must be prioritized.
We support providing funding as soon as possible for the Seattle District to undertake its responsibility to execute the BiOp. It is critical the design and cost update phase of this project is completed and the project is moved onto the construction phase. We appreciate your support and assistance in this effort to complete this urgent priority.
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