$196M in Grants Awarded to Fix Culvert Barriers Inhibiting Fish Passage

Aerial photo of Cordova, Orca Inlet and Eyak Lake, Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest, Alaska. Image: Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA

The Federal Highway Administration has announced grants totaling $196 million for tribal, state and local governments to fix or remove 169 culvert barriers nationwide – including ones in Alaska, Oregon and Washington – to improve fish passage.

The Biden-Harris administration said this past week that outdated culverts and other infrastructure may cause roads to flood and severely restrict or block fish passage. Repairing or removing such blockages, the announcement said, is key to the health of fish runs and important to commercial and recreational fishing and tribal communities.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that through the investment, the government would protect jobs and mitigate flooding risk nationwide. More than $19 million is earmarked for 26 projects in Oregon, with $58.2 million set aside for 46 projects in Washington.

Grants to Washington state include $4.2 million for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to replace two complete fish passage barriers in Clallam County, the heart of traditional hunting, fishing and gathering for the S’Klallam people.

Additionally, grant recipients in the Puget Sound watershed in Washington state are to receive almost $45.5 million to reconnect rivers and streams in more than 19 locations, thereby providing safe journey for wild salmon, steelhead and other fish.

Many of the projects are expected to help boost Chinook salmon populations in Puget Sound, which also would assist the Endangered Species Act-listed Southern Resident killer whales at home.

The whales are sacred to tribal nations in the region.

Grants to Alaska include $3.49 million to the Anchorage-based Eyak Corporation, for replacement of a failing weir at the outlet of Eyak Lake in Cordova. Both Alaska Native and rural residents of Cordova depend on Eyak Lake salmon for their livelihoods.

The commercial value of sockeye and coho salmon fishing in Eyak Lake is estimated at $1.7 million to $2.9 million annually, FHA officials said.