On July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act, which included an amendment led by Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Pacific Northwest to support salmon recovery. The amendment would create a new program within the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program, to substantially invest in culvert restoration and aid anadromous fish passage and recovery efforts. In addition, the amendment provides $800 million to fund the newly established grant program.
The effort mirrors an amendment included by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in the Senate version of the surface transportation legislation that passed in June.
“People in the Pacific Northwest have faced horrific news this week regarding the potential catastrophic die-off of salmon populations resulting from rising water temperatures from the recent heat wave. Sadly, in our region deteriorating infrastructure and failing culverts have long had a negative impact on water quality and have threatened the salmon that are so important to our economy and identity,” said Rep. Kilmer. “But today – through this bipartisan amendment – we have some good news. By securing this dedicated funding, the federal government is moving to restore fish passages and provide critical access to upstream habitat. I’m grateful Senator Cantwell’s partnership and the support of bipartisan members from across the Pacific Northwest who know how important this effort is to protecting clean water and recovering salmon populations in our region.”
“I am pleased to see the House take action to mirror Senate proposals to address salmon-blocking culverts so that we can make progress on salmon recovery and restoration,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Sportsmen, Tribes and environmentalists all know that culverts are harming salmon, and this new grant program will result in meaningful progress to restore fish passage and recover salmon. I applaud Congressman Kilmer and the bipartisan Northwest delegation for coming together to support salmon infrastructure improvements.”
“The National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program offers an important new tool to ensure healthy fish runs, uphold tribal treaty rights, and build resilient infrastructure for a strong economy. I applaud Congress for including it in the INVEST in America Act,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “I applaud Sen. Cantwell for proposing this vital program in the Senate, and Rep. Kilmer for leading our entire Congressional delegation in ensuring its inclusion in House legislation. This vital program provides critical benefits to Washington state from strong, climate-focused surface transportation reauthorization legislation, and I urge the Congress to ensure it is sent to the President for signature.”
“Northwest salmon are in trouble, but recovery is still possible—if we take bold and meaningful action now,” said Kelly Susewind, Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program is the kind of transformative action our salmon need.”
“We are thrilled that Rep. Kilmer and Senator Cantwell are leading the creation of a National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program. Aging and undersized culverts block fish access to crucial spawning and rearing habitat and migration corridors. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that the total cost of replacing these culverts in Washington State alone is $16B. We need federal partnership to match tribal, state, and local investments in culvert replacement, and we applaud Senator Cantwell and Rep. Kilmer for their hard work to create that opportunity,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership.
“Retrofitting or replacing culverts that block fish passage would help restore habitat connectivity for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, and many native fish, so we’re thrilled to see this amendment included to help fund and prioritize these important efforts,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Culvert modernization, especially as part of a well-performing infrastructure network that works with our natural systems, will provide a direct, multidecadal return on investment while boosting fishing opportunities and the nation’s outdoor recreation economy.”
“Recreational fishing is enjoyed by 55 million Americans annually who contribute $129 billion to the economy, and in places like the Pacific Northwest, anadromous fish like salmon and steelhead fuel much of this activity,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “Modernizing our nation’s culverts is critical to supporting the long-term viability of these fish stocks. We are grateful to Rep. Derek Kilmer and Sen. Maria Cantwell for successfully including the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program legislation in infrastructure bills in both chambers of Congress.”
“The National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program will provide much-needed federal investment to modernize outdated transportation infrastructure in ways that improve connectivity for salmon, steelhead and other species,” said Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “As in many places around the country, these species are vital to our economy, growth and prosperity. The INVEST Act includes a number of critical investments in natural infrastructure, water quality and climate. We are pleased to see this new culvert program included in the bill and we look forward to working with Congressman Kilmer, Chairman DeFazio and the rest of our delegation to see the proposal become law.”
Co-sponsors of the bipartisan amendment included U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA-10).
In April, Rep. Kilmer joined Reps. Schrier and Simpson in introducing the bipartisan Legacy Roads and Trails (LRT) Act – which was also included in the INVEST in America Act. The LRT Program leverages public and private funding to address water quality and access for threatened and endangered species like the Chinook salmon, bull trout, and steelhead. The LRT program focuses on addressing our national backlog of deteriorating infrastructure, and does so while protecting American rivers and streams, endangered fish, and community water systems with targeted projects.