Millions More Earmarked For Northwest Fish Passage Projects

Federal officials are recommending tens of millions of dollars worth of funding for fish passage projects in Washington and Oregon in a second round of targeted national disbursements announced today.


The funds come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, both passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, and will “help facilitate efforts to restore access to healthy habitats through fish passage restoration projects” that range from removing culverts and other blockages on high-priority salmon and steelhead watersheds in Western Washington to drawing up plans to help smolts get past the Hood Canal Bridge to breaching a dike on an Oregon Coast estuary home to listed coho, among others.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda continues to support fish passage projects that are vital to the cultures, economies, and overall well being of communities all over the country, particularly Tribal communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a press release. “Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to working closely with Tribes and strengthening migratory fish populations, this $278 million investment will help protect critical fish species and increase economic prosperity nationwide.”

The money will be distributed to a mix of state and other governmental agencies, tribal nations and organizations that responded to a NOAA call for proposals last summer.

“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 in the press release. “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.”

All totaled, $75.2 million will flow to Washington and $33.7 million to Oregon, figures which include future-year funding, for tribal-priority and other fish passage projects.

“Fish passage projects restore river corridors and improve access for fish to the habitat they need or reconnect fish access to historic habitat. Migratory fish such as salmon require access to high quality rearing and spawning habitats and unimpeded migratory corridors to be successful and resilient,” NOAA states.

Northwest tribal priority fish passage projects that have been included for funding include:


  • The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians will restore more than 200 acres of habitat for migratory fish, including threatened Oregon Coast coho and Oregon Coast Chinook and steelhead. The removal of a dike, culvert, and tide gate will reconnect tidal and river flows to the site of the former Waite Ranch in the Siuslaw River estuary. The project will also construct a levee to protect neighboring properties and infrastructure. ($5.5 million) 
  • The Coquille Indian Tribe will restore fish passage at four culvert and tide gate barriers in the Coquille River watershed. This will open significant habitat for threatened Oregon Coast coho, Coquille River fall Chinook, and Pacific lamprey—species that are culturally important to the Coquille Indian Tribe and the community of Coos Bay. The work will help reduce the impacts of climate change by providing functioning floodplains and upgrading a major road and tsunami evacuation route. ($4.2 million)


  • The Cowlitz Indian Tribe will address the last remaining fish passage barrier on Ostrander Creek, a tributary of the lower Cowlitz River, by completely removing a culvert and associated abandoned railroad crossing. This work will benefit multiple species of steelhead and salmon that are important subsistence and cultural resources for tribal members. It will also help reduce the risk of downstream flooding. ($1.9 million) 
  • The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe will 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. ($1.4 million) 
  • The Nisqually Indian Tribe will remove a culvert that is completely blocking fish passage on Brighton Creek, a tributary of the Nisqually River. They will replace it with a new channel-spanning culvert, opening up high quality habitat to access by threatened Puget Sound steelhead and Chinook salmon. The project design incorporates climate change projections to help prevent flooding, and a wildlife crossing to reduce the chance of animal strikes. The project will also support the tribe’s Native Plant Restoration Crew’s work at the project site after implementation. ($5.8 million)
  • The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will work 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. ($2.2 million)
  • The Skagit River System Cooperative, which provides natural resource management services for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, will remove or replace seven culverts that block fish passage in the Skagit and Samish watersheds. They will also assess the feasibility of one additional fish passage project. This project will support tribal capacity to develop and engage in fish passage projects, and provide a hands-on opportunity for tribal members and youth to participate in habitat restoration. ($3.3 million) 
  • The Squaxin Island Tribe will work 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. ($6.4 million) 
  • The Tulalip Tribes will work with partners to remove multiple fish passage barriers at priority streams in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Basins, part of the South Whidbey Basin in Puget Sound. This effort will open significant habitat to access by threatened Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead, as well as Puget Sound coho. It will also benefit Southern Resident killer whales, a NOAA Species in the Spotlight, by supporting their prey. Climate change considerations will be incorporated into the barrier replacements, to help prevent flooding and increase community resilience. ($9.2 million) 
  • The Yakama Nation will build tribal capacity by establishing new staff positions to support fish passage efforts in the Yakima and Klickitat watersheds. They will also replace a barrier comprised of three culverts with a bridge, to address the last remaining fish passage barrier on Brush Creek in the Klickitat watershed. This work will support threatened Middle Columbia River steelhead as well as additional migratory species. ($3.1 million) 
  • The Yakama Nation will work to relocate a portion of a state highway to improve fish passage, reduce roadway flooding, and reconnect habitat for salmon and steelhead. Currently, this section of Route 207 restricts migratory fish access to half of the floodplain. This project will reconnect 13 acres of floodplain habitat in a highly important area for the spawning and rearing of endangered Upper Columbia spring-run Chinook and threatened Upper Columbia steelhead. ($3 million in first year; up to $6.1 million total over three years) 

Northwest fish passage projects that have been included for funding include:


  • Marys River Watershed Council will support threatened Upper Willamette River Chinook and steelhead by addressing 18 barriers across multiple watersheds in the Mid-Willamette region. Efforts include removing a dam and replacing several culverts to reopen access to more than 40 miles of habitat. This work will also support local communities by reducing the risk of flooding and helping improve response to wildfires. ($8.7 million)
  • Multnomah County will replace a culvert and failed fish ladder with a new bridge on Beaver Creek, the lowest tributary of the Sandy River. This will open up more than 6 miles of high-quality habitat for threatened coho and Chinook salmon and threatened steelhead. The new bridge will increase the climate resilience of the community by being able to accommodate increasingly larger storms. (Up to $7.8 million total over three years)
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate potential options for restoring fish passage at Keno Dam on the Klamath River. Nearly 350 miles of habitat lie upstream of the dam, and access to that habitat by salmon will be possible for the first time in a century following completion of the ongoing removal of the lower four dams on the river. This project will evaluate a range of options—from retaining the existing dam to full removal and replacement—that both provide fish passage and retain irrigation, flood control, and other functions for the surrounding community. ($1.9 million)
  • Tillamook Estuaries Partnership will support recovery of threatened Oregon Coast coho by restoring estuary and river habitat in Sand Lake Estuary. They will work toward breaching Beltz Dike, replacing three culverts behind the dike, and restoring tidal wetlands. The project will also repair the main road to Tierra del Mar, which is often closed due to flooding and is at risk of total failure. ($1.6 million)
  • Trout Unlimited will remove 7 fish passage barriers as part of the ongoing Salmon Superhighway effort, contributing to the initiative’s overall 180-mile goal. Collectively, the initiative will support salmon, steelhead, and other species by addressing priority fish passage concerns and improving access to a diversity of habitats. It will also provide transportation infrastructure and flood resilience benefits to local communities. ($4 million) 


  • Chelan County will work to address several fish passage barriers in the Wenatchee watershed, one of four major watersheds of the Upper Columbia River Basin. This work will reopen access to high-quality habitat for threatened Upper Columbia steelhead and endangered Upper Columbia Chinook salmon. ($1.6 million) 
  • Trout Unlimited will 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. The 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. ($8.4 million)
  • The Tulalip Tribes will work with partners to plan and construct multiple barrier removals in several watersheds in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Basins, part of the South Whidbey Basin in Puget Sound. This work will support several salmon and steelhead species that are of economic, recreational, and cultural importance to the Tulalip Tribes and other members of the local community. By removing or replacing undersized and aging culverts with structures designed to withstand climate change, these efforts will also help protect the community from flooding. ($11.7 million)
  • The Yakama Nation will advance several efforts to improve fish passage and reduce the mortality of salmon and steelhead in the Yakima River basin. By addressing barriers at multiple sites, this work will help support tribally-important fisheries and restore access to traditional tribal fishing locations. It will also provide juvenile salmon with access to habitat with cooler water temperatures during summer months. ($7 million in first year; up to $14 million total over three years)

The funding builds on 2022 disbursements that included funding to design, permit and begin removing a dam on the lower Willamette River’s Kellogg Creek, feasibility assessments for removing dams on the West Fork Hoquiam and Similkameen Rivers in Washington, and removal of the Bateman Island Causeway at the mouth of the Yakima River.