WA Gets $39.8 Million to Remove Fish Barriers, Restore Salmon Habitat

Cantwell, Murray celebrate NOAA grants aimed at boosting salmon and orca populations by funding fish barrier removal projects such as small obsolete dams, culverts, and other blockages; Project funding comes from salmon recovery investments secured by Cantwell, Murray in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

WASHINGTON, D.C– Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the agency will award $39,819,704 to Tribes, communities, and local governments in Washington state for removal of fish passage barriers like small dams and culverts, to open up salmon migration routes, and allow more salmon to return to their spawning grounds.

Of the 10 projects funded in Washington state, nine will be led by or completed in partnership with Tribes. Together, these projects will help recover habitats for endangered migratory fish and support the sustainability of commercial, recreational, and Tribal fisheries.

“These first projects from the NOAA’s Restoring Fish Passage Through Barrier Removal Program will support 10 projects in Washington aimed at jumpstarting salmon recovery by removing salmon-blocking culverts and other stream obstructions,” said Senator Cantwell. “Barriers like obsolete dams and impassable block salmon from migrating to their spawning grounds across the state, from the Skagit and Snohomish rivers in Northwest Washington to the Washougal River in Southwest Washington, and the Yakima River and Columbia River basins in Central Washington to the Hoquiam River on the Olympic Peninsula. These projects help recover salmon stocks important to Southern resident orcas, coastal ecosystems and our economy by supporting commercial, recreational, and Tribal fishing communities.”

“Salmon are foundational to Washington state’s economy, culture, and traditions. Preserving and protecting fish populations and habitats matters for all of us. I did everything I could to secure historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Washington state fish passages and Tribal fisheries. I’ll keep working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure Congress is doing its part to help save our salmon,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Sen. Cantwell, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, oversees key investments in salmon restoration and resiliency. Last year, she and Sen. Murray secured $2.855 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) for salmon and ecosystem restoration programs, representing the single largest investment in salmon recovery in history.

Sen. Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been a leader in the Senate and throughout the appropriations process to ensure Congress delivers investments that will benefit fish migration and support endangered and harvestable salmon species alike.

This year, Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Murray secured over $16 million for fishery disaster assistance funding for several Tribes in Washington state and $5 million to support fish migration at the Cle Elum Reservoir. Through the BIL, Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Murray also helped secure $220 million to create a new fish passage at the Howard Hanson dam that will be critical toward salmon recovery efforts in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest.

Across the country, NOAA announced nearly $105 million for 36 fish passage projects this year, as well as an additional $61 million in future year funding under the BIL. This year, Washington state received the largest allocation in the nation in both the amount of money received and the number of projects funded.

The following organizations in Washington state received funding for fish passage projects.

Olympic Peninsula:

  • $10.39 million for culvert removal in the Quillayute and Quinault watersheds
    • Wild Salmon Center and partners will be awarded $10,396,280 to design, permit, and remove nine culverts on county and Tribal reserve roads. The project is part of the Coldwater Connection Campaign, which is a partnership between non-profits, stakeholders, and state, federal, and local agencies to reconnect 125 miles of high-quality salmon and steelhead streams in Washington’s coastal areas.
    • The project was developed with the Quileute and Quinault Tribes and will increase tribal capacity for fish passage restoration. Culvert replacements in the Quillayute and Quinault watersheds will improve access for native migratory salmonids to their historic range while improving the durability of public infrastructure.
    • Project partners include the Coast Salmon Partnership, Trout Unlimited, the Quileute Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation, the Hoh Tribe and others.
  • $7.07 million for fish barrier replacements on the Olympic Peninsula
    • Trout Unlimited and partners will be awarded $7,071,627 to replace eight fish passage barriers as part of the Coldwater Connection Campaign.
    • The eight barriers were prioritized using a decision support tool that evaluated the potential ecological benefits of removing more than 500 fish passage barriers in the Olympic Peninsula. The culverts will be replaced with structures that fish are able to swim through to improve the resilience of salmon populations and transportation infrastructure.
    • The effort will open more than 7 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for commercially and recreationally important salmon species. Funding will also support hiring staff and support capacity building with the Hoh Tribe.
    • Project partners include the Wild Salmon Center, the Coast Salmon Partnership, the Quileute Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation, the Hoh Tribe and others.
  • $1.23 million for Hoquiam River Dam removal feasibility assessment in the Lower Chehalis Watershed
    • The City of Hoquiam and partners will be awarded $1,231,350 to assess the feasibility of removing the West Fork of the Hoquiam River Dam in the Lower Chehalis Watershed.
    • The project will involve developing conceptual designs for dam removal and designing, permitting, and installing groundwater wells that will be tested to serve as an alternative water source for the City of Hoquiam.
    • Removal of the dam would open 13 miles of habitat for Chinook, coho, and steelhead, and would improve instream flows in the watershed.
    • If the wells can provide a reliable source of alternative water, and the dam removal is found to be feasible, residents of the City of Hoquiam will have a more reliable water supply, decreased likelihood of water supply contamination, reduced dam and fishway maintenance and repair costs, and updated infrastructure.
    • The project has been prioritized by Chehalis Basin restoration partners and Tribes due to its potential to provide access to high quality habitat that will be more resilient to climate change because of the cooler waters, there. Cool water is critical to salmon survival.
    • Project partners include the Chehalis Basin Partnership and the Chehalis Basin Habitat Workgroup.

Northwest WA/Puget Sound:

  • $9.73 million for fish barrier removal in the Snohomish River Basin
    • The Tulalip Tribes and partners will be awarded $9,733,975 to support planning and construction of 16 fish barrier removal projects in the Snohomish River Basin, which drains into Puget Sound.
    • These projects will remove or replace barrier culverts with fish passable structures designed to withstand climate change, restoring connectivity to more than 32 miles of upstream salmon habitat. This project will benefit streams that are a priority for salmon recovery.
    • Barrier removal will benefit several listed and managed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and other salmon species (e.g., coho and chum).
    • Tribal and rural communities will also benefit from mitigating flood risk, reducing safety hazards, and increased recreational and economic opportunities.
    • Project partners include Snohomish County and Snohomish Conservation District.
  • $1.23 million for fish habitat restoration in Martin Slough, Hatchery Creek, and Everett Creek
    • The Skagit River System Cooperative and partners will be awarded up to $1,232,068 to reestablish access to fish habitat that has been blocked by undersized or improperly installed culverts.
    • The project will focus on implementing improvements at three sites of interest to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Sauk-Suiattle Tribes: Martin Slough—a Skagit River side channel and tributary complex and two tributaries to the Sauk River: Hatchery Creek and Everett Creek.
    • The project will help expand an existing collaborative process aimed at identifying and repairing barriers throughout the Skagit River Watershed. Since 2014, Skagit River System Cooperative has partnered with Skagit County Public Works, the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, and the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe to identify salmon-blocking culverts, secure funding, and implement repairs. Collectively they have implemented 12 projects as a result of those efforts.
    • Project partners include Skagit County Public Works, the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, and Fisheries Engineers Inc.
  • $456,206 for fish passage barrier planning around Bellingham
    • The Nooksack Tribe and partners will be awarded $456,206 to work collaboratively with the Lummi Nation, the City of Bellingham, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a plan for city-owned fish passage barriers that addresses both city infrastructure needs and meets fisheries goals.
    • Project partners will update an inventory of fish passage barriers, develop a list of priority sites for corrective habitat restoration actions, assist with developing preliminary design plans, and provide support to fund high-priority projects.
    • This assessment will focus on fish passage barriers in estuarine areas of Bellingham, which are often the first barriers encountered by migratory salmon in these systems. The project will support an increase in ESA-listed, managed, and culturally-important salmon stocks, and more resilient infrastructure for local communities that face increasing challenges related to climate change.
    • Project partners include the Lummi Nation, the City of Bellingham, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Central WA:

  • $3.62 million for causeway removal and hydraulic modeling in the Yakima Basin
    • The Yakama Nation and partners will be awarded up to $3,626,635 to remove the Bateman Island Causeway and complete hydraulic modeling at the Prosser Dam.
    • The Bateman Island Causeway is a partial fish passage barrier at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. It also creates a thermal barrier to fish passage during the summer, which reduces the migratory season and can result in tremendous fish mortality.
    • The Prosser Dam is a partial barrier on the Yakima River that reduces the passage and survival of smolt. The dam is also an irrigation water diversion that can divert up to 50 percent of the flow of the Yakima River, which also results in negative impacts to smolts.
    • These projects are identified as the highest eligible priority in the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan and identified in NOAA recovery planning documents. They will improve spawning habitat for Chinook and steelhead in the mainstem river, and spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook, coho, and steelhead in the tributaries.
    • Project partners include the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group.
  • $2.31 million for Enloe Dam removal planning on the Similkameen River
    • Trout Unlimited and partners will be awarded $2,314,610 for the planning and feasibility assessment for the removal of Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River, a tributary to the Columbia River.
    • The Enloe Dam has blocked fish passage for 100 years and has not generated power for the last 64 years. If completed, removing the Enloe Dam would be the largest habitat restoration action in the Columbia River Basin.
    • The project focuses on completing planning and feasibility assessment for a full dam removal, which are critical steps in the path to gain support from the dam owner for removal. The effort will contribute to opening access to high elevation cold water habitat, improving Tribal fishing opportunities, reducing the risk of catastrophic flooding to downstream communities, and alleviating the financial burden of the obsolete Enloe Dam.
    • The project includes coordination with and outreach to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Similkameen Indian Band, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
    • Project partners include the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and American Rivers.
  • $1.17 million for barrier removal on Snake Creek
    • The Yakama Nation will be awarded up to $1,179,073 for barrier removal on the Snake Creek to address a ‘mortality hotspot’ for ESA-listed steelhead in the Yakima River watershed.
    • Two check dams will be removed, opening six miles of upstream habitat. Barrier removal will improve water flow, reduce stranding of smolts, and is predicted to increase steelhead survival by 10 to 20 percent.
    • Funding will also be directed towards the development of an interactive tool and database for fish passage management on Yakama Nation lands. The tool will enable the Tribe to identify, plan, and execute fish passage improvements on an additional 310 miles and three tributaries, comprising 30 to 40 percent of the annual adult steelhead run and will support co-management capacity of the watershed and its resources.  
    • Currently, the Tribe is voluntarily limiting their traditional fishing because of the ESA listing. This project will be important for restoring culturally important fishing, and a step towards delisting of Middle Columbia River steelhead.
    • The project was developed in close coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Southwest WA:

  • $2.57 million for Kwoneesum Dam removal in the Columbia River watershed
    • The Cowlitz Indian Tribe and partners will be awarded $2,577,880 to remove Kwoneesum Dam on Wildboy Creek, a tributary to the West Fork Washougal River in the Columbia River watershed.
    • Removal of the 55-foot tall, 425-foot long rock fill embankment dam will restore fish access to a minimum of 6.5 miles of highly productive habitat, benefitting native fish and other aquatic species.
    • The Tribe has finished the final design and secured permits for dam removal. They have also completed habitat restoration designs to place 1.2 miles of log structures in the stream to restore habitat complexity and capture sediment.
    • Project partners include the Columbia Land Trust and Parr Excellence.

A full list of grant recipients nationwide can be found HERE.