U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced over $18.3 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to improve fish passage across Washington’s Sixth Congressional District – including funding for Grays Harbor.
Kilmer’s office states that the funding was allocated from the FHWA’s Culvert Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) Program, the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.
The AOP program is the first federal program devoted entirely to culvert restoration.
“Through these awards, the federal government is moving to restore fish passages and provide critical access to upstream habitat throughout Washington state. That’s critically important if we’re going to recover the salmon populations that are so vital to our region’s economy, culture, and way of life,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This is a big deal, because it underlines our commitment to preserving the environment and the legacy we leave for future generations.”
“In communities across the country where people depend on fishing for their livelihoods, culverts are vital infrastructure for ensuring fish passage,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Through this investment, we are repairing or removing hundreds of culverts nationwide, protecting jobs, mitigating the risk of flooding, and strengthening local economies.”
The grants are part of an announcement by FHWA of $196 million going to 59 Tribal, state, and local governments that will fix or remove 169 culvert barriers to improve fish passage – including over $58 million for 46 projects in Washington.
Outdated culverts and other infrastructure can cause roads to flood and severely restrict or altogether block fish passage, which is key to the health of fish runs and important to commercial and recreational fishing, and the health of Tribal communities. The projects also advance a key pillar of the America the Beautiful Initiative by increasing the ecological connectivity of rivers and streams and creating more climate resiliency in our landscapes and communities.
Grant recipients in the Puget Sound watershed in Washington will receive almost $45.5 million to reconnect rivers and streams in more than 19 locations, providing safe passage for wild salmon, steelhead, and other fish.
Many of these projects will help to increase chinook salmon populations in Puget Sound, which will also assist the Endangered Species Act-listed Southern Resident Killer Whales that make Puget Sound their home and are sacred to Tribal Nations in the region.
- In Hoquiam, Grays Harbor County will receive over $900,000 to remove a fish passage barrier culvert installed under Walker Road at its crossing over Mopang Creek and replace it with a fully passable structure, benefitting six anadromous fish species including four salmon and two trout species.
- Grays Harbor County will also receive over $300,000 for the replacement of a fish passage barrier culvert under a county road crossing on Berryman Creek by designing and permitting the culvert’s removal and proceeding to the final design of its replacement with a fully passable stream crossing structure.
- In New London, Grays Harbor County will also receive over $750,000 to remove two steel culverts installed under a single road crossing of Chenois Creek and replace them with a fully passable structure, benefitting five anadromous fish species including three salmons and two trouts. The proposal will also reconnect the creek with its floodplain.
- Grays Harbor County will also receive over $300,000 for the Polson Creek Fish Passage Design Project – which is to fund the design and the removal of a fish passage barrier culvert, replacing it with a structure that is fully passable to all aquatic species in Polson Creek. This barrier correction will meaningfully restore fish passage for 5 species of anadromous fish by opening access to 5.64 miles of excellent spawning and rearing habitat in forested properties upstream.
- In the City of Elma, Grays Harbor County will also receive over $2.3 million for Workman Creek at Lambert Road Fish Passage Project – which will design, permit, and implement the removal of two fish passage barrier culverts installed under a single road crossing and their replacement with a structure that is fully passable to all aquatic species in Workman Creek. The existing fish passage barrier is under Lambert Road south of Elma, Washington, in Grays Harbor County. This barrier correction will meaningfully restore fish passage for six species of anadromous fish by opening access to 20.73 miles of excellent spawning and rearing habitat in forestland upstream.
“This is incredibly important funding,” said Vickie L. Raines; Commissioner, District III; Grays Harbor County. “These projects will help restore salmon across our community. That means more salmon in Polson, Mopang, Berryman, Workman, and Chenois Creeks, more jobs for people and industries across Grays Harbor County that rely on salmon, and improved habitat that can better protect us from floods and the effects of climate change.”
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kilmer has successfully worked to secure funding for programs that support salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Last year, he secured $50 million in federal funding for the Puget Sound Geographic Program, which provides critical grant support to state, local, and Tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality and enhance fish passage and salmon habitat.
The funding increase, which passed the House in July 2022, would bring total federal funding for the program to the highest ever amount and represents an over 30% increase from the previous fiscal year.