Federal Investment Incredible Opportunity to Improve NW Fish Passage / Public News Service
Fish passage is set to improve in the Northwest with an investment from Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure law.
The Biden administration has announced its first round of grants totaling $196 million to fix or remove culverts across the country. Culverts channel water under structures like roadways, but can be barriers to fish who use streams and rivers.
Michael O’Casey, deputy director of the Pacific Northwest region for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said culverts are especially hard for young salmon and other species to pass.
“This is really an incredible opportunity to improve passage and ecological connectivity of rivers and streams here in the Northwest and across the country,” O’Casey contended.
Oregon will receive nearly $20 million for 26 culvert projects in the state. Investments for fish passage in the infrastructure law total $2 billion and will be allocated to tribal, state and local governments over the next five years.
Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said many culverts were designed only for temporary use, and called for an infrastructure improvement paradigm shift.
“When we have things like increasing storm events from a changing climate, we really wanted to see a dedicated source of funding for replacement of these culverts’ infrastructure and allowing more fish passage,” Plumer explained.
Plumer noted the projects will also provide jobs. According to a 2021 report from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the so-called “restoration economy” creates more than 17 jobs for every $1 million invested.
“Often rather than a 10- or 20-year life span for these projects, we’re seeing a 50-year life span,” Plumer stressed. “These are big infrastructure projects. They’re going to bring a lot of local jobs to the local economies.”