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 Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced $39.4 million in funding for nine projects in the State of Washington to remove fish passage barriers like small dams and culverts, open salmon and steelhead migration routes, and allow more salmon to return to their natural spawning grounds. These funds come from the NOAA Fish Passage through Barrier Removal grant program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

"Habitat restoration works, and these projects will help boost the salmon and steelhead runs our tribes and our regional economy depend on,” said Sen. Cantwell. “These grants will make lasting and meaningful improvements to habitat, including for Puget Sound Chinook stocks that orcas need to thrive. Removing fish barriers will also boost endangered Upper Columbia River Chinook and threatened Upper Columbia steelhead.” 

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As Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Cantwell secured $2.855 billion in the BIL for programs that could fund salmon and ecosystem restoration, representing the single largest investment in salmon recovery in history. This also includes her $1 billion National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program, the first federal program devoted entirely to culverts removal to improve fish passage.

All nine projects in Washington state 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. Nationally, NOAA awarded $240 million for 46 passage projects, and 40% of the recommended projects were led or supported by tribes. Today’s announcement builds on the $166 million awarded in 2022 in the first round of funding. There will be one more round of NOAA fish passage barrier removal projects to come under the BIL.

The following organizations in Washington state will receive funding for fish passage projects:

North Puget Sound:

Tulalip Tribes – $9.2 million:

  • Funding will help the Tulalip Tribes to remove multiple fish passage barriers at priority streams in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Basins. These barrier removals will allow threatened Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead, as well as Puget Sound coho, to access significant habitat that also benefits Southern resident orcas.
  • Sen. Cantwell wrote a letter of support for this project in January 2024. 

Skagit River System Cooperative – $3.3 million

  • Funding will help the Skagit River System Cooperative remove or replace seven culverts that block fish passage in the Skagit and Samish watersheds and asses the feasibility of one additional fish passage project. This project will support tribal capacity to develop and engage in fish passage projects and provide a hands-on opportunity for tribal members and youth to participate in habitat restoration.

South Puget Sound:

Squaxin Island Tribe – $6.4 million:

  • Funding will help the Squaxin Island Tribe remove the 5th Avenue Dam across the mouth of the Deschutes River which at one time created Capitol Lake. Removing the dam and restoring the estuary will help recover habitat for threatened Puget Sound Chinook. The project will also support tribal capacity to expand their barrier removal efforts and engage in salmon recovery planning in South Puget Sound.

Nisqually Indian Tribe – $5.8 million:

  • Funding will allow the Nisqually Indian Tribe to remove and replace a culvert that is completely blocking fish passage on Brighton Creek, a tributary of the Nisqually River. The new channel-spanning culvert will allow threatened Puget Sound steelhead and Chinook salmon to reach high-quality habitat. The new channel-spanning culvert project will include a wildlife crossing and help reduce flood risks and provide opportunities for further native plant restoration in the area. 

Olympic Peninsula:

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe – $2.2 million:

  • Funding will allow the Port Gable S’Klallam Tribe to improve juvenile steelhead passage at the floating Hood Canal Bridge. The Tribe will develop a plan to address near-term solutions and evaluate the possibility of eventually replacing the bridge.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe – $1.4 million:

  • Funding will help remove one of the last remaining fish passage barriers in the Ennis Creek watershed by replacing a culvert under a city road in Port Angeles with a bridge. The new bridge will benefit threatened Puget Sound steelhead, bull trout, and Chinook salmon. The bridge will reduce road maintenance costs and risks of road failure and flooding.

Central WA:

Yakama Nation – $3.1 million:

  • Funding will replace a barrier comprised of three culverts with a bridge to address the last remaining fish passage barrier on Brush Creek in the Klickitat Watershed. This project will support threatened Mid-Columbia River steelhead as well as additional migratory species. Funding will also help the Yakama Nation increase capacity by supporting new staff positions focused on fish passage efforts in the Yakima and Klickitat watersheds.

Yakama Nation – $3 million in the first year, up to $6.1 million total over three years:

  • Funding will allow the Yakama Nation to relocate a portion of a state highway to improve fish passage, reduce roadway flooding, and reconnect habitat for salmon and steelhead. This section of Route 207 currently restricts migratory fish access to half of the floodplain. This project will reconnect 13 acres of floodplain habitat in a highly important area for the spawning and rearing of endangered Upper Columbia spring-run Chinook and threatened Upper Columbia steelhead.

Southwest WA:

Cowlitz Indian Tribe – $1.9 million:

  • Funding will allow the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to remove the last remaining fish passage barrier and an abandoned railroad crossing on Ostrander Creek, a tributary of the lower Cowlitz River. This project will benefit multiple species of steelhead and salmon and help reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

A full list of projects that were recommended funding nationwide can be found HERE.


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