US pledges $2.8b for barrier removal and habitat restoration in Pacific Northwest

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Funding to help fix culverts could open up cold water habitat to Northwest salmon.

On Tuesday, the US Senate approved an historic $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Included in the bill are commitments to spend $2.8 billion over a five-year period on salmon habitat restoration and barrier removal projects.

The $1 billion culvert removal program, proposed by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, will be the first federal program of its kind and is intended to open up salmon spawning habitat in Washington State.

Pipe dreams?
Streams that flow inside culverts, a type of pipe, can be too swift or too shallow for salmon to navigate. They can also create waterfalls that block fish from moving upstream.

“The infrastructure bill makes serious investments in some of our salmon recovery challenges,” Cantwell said in a statement.

The bill was also supported by Washington’s other Senator, Patty Murray. In a statement, Murray said, “I am firmly committed to making sure the federal government is doing its part to recover our iconic salmon runs.”

Habitat restoration
Among other funding for salmon, the federal infrastructure bill also includes $172 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, a grant program for states and tribes to help protect and restore salmon habitat. It includes $132 million for the National Estuary Program. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will receive $400 million to restore fish passage, 15 per cent of which will be set aside for tribes and tribal partnerships.

The bill must still pass the US House of Representatives.