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

Senators Cantwell, Murray celebrate NOAA grants aimed at boosting salmon and orca populations — including $456,206 for fish passage barrier planning around Whatcom County

In December, 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 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.”

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 Whatcom County received $456,206 for fish passage barrier planning.

 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 Whatcom County, 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.

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