“Major Milestone for Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Efforts,” Says Cantwell, as Key Habitat Restoration Project Included in National Defense Bill

Howard A. Hanson Dam Downstream Fish Passage would allow endangered salmon to reach 60 miles of pristine Green River habitat then return to Puget Sound; Bill would also authorize projects in Everett, Port Townsend, Duckabush Estuary, Shoreline/Lake Forest Park, and the Columbia Basin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 350-80 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation – which now heads to the Senate – includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and would authorize critical projects for salmon recovery and Washington state’s maritime economy.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, fought to secure WRDA language that would authorize key Army Corps of Engineers projects across the State of Washington.

Among other projects, the bill would authorize construction of the Howard A. Hanson Dam Downstream Fish Passage, which will allow salmon to reach 60 miles of ideal spawning habitat in the Upper Green River. 

"Behind the Howard A. Hanson Dam is 60 miles of pristine habitat that's perfect for salmon," said Senator Cantwell. "With authorization of the downstream fish passage facility and the $220 million investment secured from the Army Corps earlier this year, we are going to open up this habitat which will help increase salmon survival. This is a major milestone for Puget Sound salmon recovery efforts that has been decades in the making.”

Building the fish passage will open up the Green River cool water habitat deep in the Pierce County foothills, away from road runoff and other human pollutants, where salmon can spawn before returning to the Sound.

In March 2022, Senator Cantwell secured $220 million in funding for the fish passage as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. With authorization in the NDAA, the Army Corps will be able to use that funding to begin and complete the design of the facility and the first phase of construction. The project is a top priority of local conservation groups and has strong bipartisan support.

The fish passage project is among several Army Corps projects in the House-passed NDAA that aim to fix short-term problems and provide long-term solutions in waterways around Washington state. 

Puget Sound Region

Howard A. Hanson Dam Downstream Fish Passage

The bill would authorize construction of the downstream fish passage to help restore Chinook and Coho salmon and steelhead populations by allowing the fish to safely navigate the dam from upriver habitats all the way to Puget Sound. Senator Cantwell secured $220 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds which means the Army Corps can begin and complete the design of the fish passage facility and the first phase of construction. 

Completing the downstream fish passage facility will reopen more than 60 miles of the upper Green River watershed, a critical habitat for Chinook salmon which are essential to the survival of the Southern resident orcas. 

Once the fish passage is completed, the Additional Water Storage Project for the Green River can move forward, helping ensure access to clean water for surrounding communities.

“Authorizing the completion of downstream fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam represents a significant milestone for regional drinking water storage and a huge step forward for a major salmon production opportunity in Puget Sound,” said Jackie Flowers, Director & CEO of Tacoma Public Utilities. “We are very thankful for the strong leadership of our entire congressional delegation to get this done.”

Port of Everett Boat Launch Connector Channel

The Port of Everett boat launch is one of the largest in the state, contributing $57 million in local purchases and $11 million in state and local tax revenues. It is also one of the most heavily-used boat launches in Washington state — approximately 30,000 people use it every year for recreational and commercial activity. The launch is also used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, first responders and other agencies to access North Puget Sound.

Because of increased sediment flows from the Snohomish River, most vessels can’t navigate from the boat launch to North Puget Sound except at the highest tides. The bill aims to make sure the Army Corps of Engineers dredges the access channel between the federal navigation channel and the Port’s boat launch so boats can safely get in and out.

If the Army Corps assumes responsibility for dredging and maintaining the channel, it will make sure dredging occurs regularly and it will allow the Port of Everett to use resources on other Port projects. 

Dredging of the connector channel would occur as part of the Corps’ regular annual maintenance of the Snohomish River. The area to be dredged is close enough to the boat launch that people will be able to see the dredging from the shore.

A map of the Port of Everett Boat Launch Connector Channel project can be found HERE.

“Heavy sedimentation in the Snohomish River is creating dangerous situations for first responders, commercial fisherman and recreational boaters alike,” Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber said. “As a critical access point that serves emergency response, national security interests, and access to usual and accustomed fishing areas, the access channel is vital infrastructure for the region. We are grateful for Sen. Cantwell’s advocacy and applaud this project’s inclusion in the final bill.”

Duckabush Estuary Restoration

The bill would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to consider taking further action and providing resources to reconnect the Duckabush River to neighboring floodplains and wetlands by modifying local roads, elevating Highway 101, and rerouting utilities. 

The Duckabush River estuary is blocked by the highway. Restoration of a natural estuary is expected to improve habitat for Hood Canal summer chum and Chinook salmon, and reduce seasonal flooding. A new 1,613 foot-long estuary spanning bridge is being designed to provide a wildlife corridor and help eliminate vehicle/wildlife crashes.

The project is also a critical step in the larger Puget Sound Nearshore Restoration Project which is restoring nearshore habitat throughout Puget Sound.

Port of Port Townsend Boat Haven Breakwater

The bill would initiate the Port of Port Townsend Boat Haven Breakwater feasibility study, evaluating the transfer of the portion of the breakwater owned by the Port of Port Townsend to the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Boat Haven Marina is home to 475 commercial and recreational vessels and more than sixty marine trades businesses, and Boat Haven Marina provides more than 6,000 overnight guest moorage accommodations for visiting boats every year. 

The portion of the breakwater owned by the Port was originally built in the 1930s and is deteriorating. Emergency repairs have kept the breakwater functioning. Having the Army Corps assume ownership of the portion owned by the Port of Port Townsend could lead to a renovation of the breakwater to keep the boats, businesses, and surrounding community safe.

Ballinger Creek Ecosystem Restoration (Shoreline/Lake Forest Park)

The bill would fund a $100,000 feasibility study for a planned project to restore and improve approximately 1,500 feet of Ballinger Creek that is now run through pipes or other man-made structures. 

The project would improve habitat for steelhead, chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon, and include box culverts to help salmon return to Lake Washington.

Ballard Locks Fish Ladder Improvements (Seattle)

The bill would allow the Army Corps to study and pursue improvements to the Ballard Locks Fish Ladder to ensure the Locks can safely allow fish to pass. Fish pile up at the current fish ladder, making them susceptible to predators. Also, the Army Corps will be addressing hotter water temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels at the Locks to better ensure fish survival.  

North Bend Water Supply Project

Water supply is one of the biggest challenges in North Bend and the city is working to ensure supply for its residents and customers. The bill would allow the Army Corps to study and pursue ways to help North Bend address these critical water supply issues.

Columbia River Basin

Columbia River Treaty Flood Protection

The bill would direct the Army Corps to study one of the key pillars in the efforts to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime: flood control in the Columbia River Basin. The Columbia River Basin experiences high annual runoff, variation in flows and a limited amount of water storage in the United States portion of the Columbia River Basin. The bill authorizes a study to evaluate how to improve water storage and flood control in the Columbia River Basin.

Columbia River Village Development Plan

Four Columbia River Treaty Tribes -- the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation; the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; and the Nez Perce Tribe -- were supposed to get a replacement village when their tribal villages were inundated by dam construction in the 1950s. The village has never been built. 

The bill would require the Army Corps of Engineers to revise and complete the village development plan. 

Eastern Washington

Army Corps Aquifer Recharge and Water Supply Conservation

Washington state communities including communities in the Columbia and Yakima Basins that face potential water shortages from declining aquifers. The bill would direct the Army Corps to conduct a national assessment of managed aquifer recharge projects, conduct feasibility studies, and create a working group of experts to advise the Corps on aquifer recharge and drought resiliency projects. 

This is a first step toward more innovative water management solutions, which would help to ensure that communities in Washington state that depend on aquifers have clean drinking water for generations to come.

Taneum Creek Ecosystem Restoration

The Taneum Creek Ecosystem Restoration project is a 180-acre habitat restoration project in Lower Taneum Creek near Thorpe, Washington. Language included in this bill would allow the Corps to study and potentially pursue important habitat projects in the Taneum Creek watershed.

The NDAA now heads to the Senate, where the bill is expected to be considered next week, before ultimately heading to the President’s desk.