Rep. Kilmer announces $18.4 million for regional fish passage work

Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded $18.4 million in new federal funding to four fish passage restoration projects within Washington’s Sixth District. 

This funding aims to restore aquatic access to healthy habitats through the Restoring Fish Passage through Barrier Removal program and the Restoring Priority Tribal Fish Passage through Barrier Removal program. 

These grants are part of nearly $75 million in funding for Washington state projects – including $39.4 million for Tribes – to help remove fish barriers, improve fish passages, and protect critical habitats.

“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the federal government is continuing 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 protecting our environment and the legacy we leave for future generations.” 

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Co-Chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, Rep. Kilmer has championed more than $1.2 billion in new funding opportunities through the BIL to support fish passage and recovery. This funding includes $1 billion for Rep. Kilmer’s National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program, a new program aimed at removing, replacing, or restoring culverts, the first federal program devoted to culvert restoration. 

“NOAA has a long history conducting habitat restoration—including fish passage—by executing large-scale competitive funding opportunities and providing expert technical assistance,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with Tribes and other partners to coordinate efforts and make a collective, positive impact for coastal habitats and communities.” 

This major investment includes funding for the following projects in Washington’s Sixth District: 

  • Trout Unlimited will receive $8.4 million to restore access to high-quality spawning and rearing habitat within the Olympic Peninsula by addressing 6 fish passage barriers in the Hoh, Queets-Quinault, and Quillayute watersheds. These barriers were identified as priorities under the Coldwater Connection Campaign, a partnership that aims to reconnect 125 river miles by removing 50 of the highest-priority fish passage barriers on the Western Olympic Peninsula.
  • The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe will receive $1.4 million to address one of the last remaining fish passage barriers in the Ennis Creek watershed by replacing undersized culverts on a city road in Port Angeles, Washington, with a bridge. This work will benefit threatened Puget Sound steelhead, bull trout, and Chinook salmon. The new bridge will also help reduce maintenance costs and reduce the risk of road failure and flooding.
  • The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will receive $2.2 million to address fish passage at the floating Hood Canal Bridge to reduce a major cause of mortality for juvenile steelhead. They will develop a plan for near-term solutions to immediately reduce the loss of steelhead at the bridge and evaluate the possibility of replacing the bridge as a long-term solution. Addressing this significant barrier will help support sustainable Tribal fisheries and protect Tribal trust resources.
  • The Squaxin Island Tribe will receive $6.4 million to remove the 5th Avenue Dam, a barrier built across the mouth of the Deschutes River to create Capitol Lake. Removal of the dam and restoration of the estuary will create a significant amount of habitat of key importance to the recovery of threatened Puget Sound Chinook. The project will also support Tribal capacity to expand their barrier removal efforts and engagement in salmon recovery planning in south Puget Sound.

NOAA awarded a total of nearly $240 million across the country  through this second round of funding to 46 new fish passage projects through the Investing in America agenda, with 40% of the projects being led or supported by Tribes. 

“We are very excited to continue this work to restore and reconnect salmon and steelhead habitat on the Olympic Peninsula, which has some of the highest habitat restoration potential for salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. This second round of recommended infrastructure funding builds upon our previous NOAA fish passage award and allows us to move ahead with additional high-priority fish barrier correction projects in the Hoh, Queets/Clearwater, and Quillayute watersheds,” said Trout Unlimited Western Washington Program Director Luke Kelly. “We worked to identify these key locations with our partners at the Coldwater Connection Campaign – the Coast Salmon Partnership and Wild Salmon Center. Together, with our Tribal partners, agency partners, and skilled teams of local contractors, this federal infrastructure investment will restore access to key spawning and rearing habitats for salmon and steelhead and provide durable, climate-resilient infrastructure for Olympic Peninsula communities. Thank you to Congressman Kilmer’s office for working to provide this funding opportunity and investments in our Olympic Peninsula communities and the infrastructure and ecosystems they depend upon.”

This funding builds on the first round of funding at the end of 2022, which saw more than $166 million for 36 projects across the U.S. to provide significant benefits to endangered migratory fish and sustainable fisheries.