Office of Rep. Derek Kilmer announcement.
TACOMA, WA – Today (August 25, 2023), U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced over $18.3 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to improve fish passage across Washington’s Sixth Congressional District – including in Grays Harbor County, Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard, and Tacoma.
The funding announced today was allocated from the FHWA’s Culvert Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) Program, which was championed by Rep. Kilmer in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century. The AOP program is the first federal program devoted entirely to culvert restoration.
“Through these awards, the federal government is moving to restore fish passages and provide critical access to upstream habitat throughout Washington state. That’s critically important if we’re going to recover the salmon populations that are so vital to our region’s economy, culture, and way of life,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This is a big deal, because it underlines our commitment to preserving the environment and the legacy we leave for future generations.”
“In communities across the country where people depend on fishing for their livelihoods, culverts are vital infrastructure for ensuring fish passage,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Through this investment, we are repairing or removing hundreds of culverts nationwide, protecting jobs, mitigating the risk of flooding, and strengthening local economies.”
The grants are part of an announcement by FHWA of $196 million going to 59 Tribal, state, and local governments that will fix or remove 169 culvert barriers to improve fish passage – including over $58 million for 46 projects in Washington state. Outdated culverts and other infrastructure can cause roads to flood and severely restrict or altogether block fish passage, which is key to the health of fish runs and important to commercial and recreational fishing, and the health of Tribal communities. The projects also advance a key pillar of the America the Beautiful Initiative by increasing the ecological connectivity of rivers and streams and creating more climate resiliency in our landscapes and communities.
Grant recipients in the Puget Sound watershed in Washington State will receive almost $45.5 million to reconnect rivers and streams in more than 19 locations, providing safe passage for wild salmon, steelhead, and other fish. Many of these projects will help to increase chinook salmon populations in Puget Sound, which will also assist the Endangered Species Act-listed Southern Resident Killer Whales that make Puget Sound their home and are sacred to Tribal Nations in the region.
In Hoquiam, Grays Harbor County will receive over $900,000 to remove a fish passage barrier culvert installed under Walker Road at its crossing over Mopang Creek and replace it with a fully passable structure, benefitting six anadromous fish species including four salmon and two trout species. Grays Harbor County will also receive over $300,000 for the replacement of a fish passage barrier culvert under a county road crossing on Berryman Creek by designing and permitting the culvert’s removal and proceeding to the final design of its replacement with a fully passable stream crossing structure.
In New London, Grays Harbor County will also receive over $750,000 to remove two steel culverts installed under a single road crossing of Chenois Creek and replace them with a fully passable structure, benefitting five anadromous fish species including three salmons and two trouts. The proposal will also reconnect the creek with its floodplain. Grays Harbor County will also receive over $300,000 for the Polson Creek Fish Passage Design Project – which is to fund the design and the removal of a fish passage barrier culvert, replacing it with a structure that is fully passable to all aquatic species in Polson Creek. This barrier correction will meaningfully restore fish passage for 5 species of anadromous fish by opening access to 5.64 miles of excellent spawning and rearing habitat in forested properties upstream.
In the City of Elma, Grays Harbor County will also receive over $2.3 million for Workman Creek at Lambert Road Fish Passage Project – which will design, permit, and implement the removal of two fish passage barrier culverts installed under a single road crossing and their replacement with a structure that is fully passable to all aquatic species in Workman Creek. The existing fish passage barrier is under Lambert Road south of Elma, Washington, in Grays Harbor County. This barrier correction will meaningfully restore fish passage for six species of anadromous fish by opening access to 20.73 miles of excellent spawning and rearing habitat in forestland upstream.
“This is incredibly important funding,” said Vickie L. Raines; Commissioner, District III; Grays Harbor County. “These projects will help restore salmon across our community. That means more salmon in Polson, Mopang, Beeryman, Workman, and Chenois Creeks, more jobs for people and industries across Grays Harbor County that rely on salmon, and improved habitat that can better protect us from floods and the effects of climate change.”
The City of Bainbridge Island will receive over $2.5 million for Springbrook Creek Fish Passage Restoration, Culvert and Weir Removal Project – which proposes to remove a 60-inch failing culvert (only 33% passable to fish) and weir ( 100% fish passage barrier) and replacing it with a 60-foot bridge. The goal of the project is to restore fish passage and population capacity within the project reach and upstream, improve in-stream and riparian habitat conditions, and improve the capacity of the stream to accommodate hydrologic changes associated with climate change. Springbrook Creek is designated as a critical habitat for ESA-listed threatened Puget Sound Steelhead. The project was identified as the number 1 priority restoration project in its watershed as part of a 2018 assessment.
In Port Orchard, the Washington State Department of Transportation will receive over $4.1 million for the SR166 – Johnson Creek Fish Barrier Culverts Removal and Estuary Restoration project – which aims to remove the existing series of connected fish-barrier culverts on Johnson Creek to open approximately 2,928 meters of potential upstream habitat for anadromous fish. The portion of the culvert within the WSDOT right-of-way will be replaced with a new single-span bridge to maintain public transportation access into the City of Port Orchard on State Route 166. The sections of the culvert immediately upstream of the highway and existing buildings, which are within City jurisdiction, will be entirely removed to eliminate the remainder of the 500-foot-long fish barrier, address recurring flooding problems, and restore the historic pocket estuary in its place.
In the Port Gamble Tribal Community, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will receive over $750,000 for the Middle Creek Culvert Replacement Project – which aims to design the removal and restoration of a 100% fish passage barrier culvert located on Middle Creek. The Middle Creek fish passage barrier is a high-priority project for The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe because this stream has been the spawning and rearing ground for Coho, Steelhead, Searun Cutthroat, and Resident Trout.
In Clallam County, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe will receive $4.2 million for the Chicken Coop Creek Culvert Restoration Project – which will replace two complete fish passage barriers on Chicken Coop Creek, in Clallam County, WA. Chicken Coop Creek is the heart of the traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering areas for the S’Klallam People and the project will restore access to 4 miles of spawning and rearing habitat.
“Our Tribe is overjoyed at this announcement and deeply appreciative of the timing,” said Ron Allen, Tribal Council Chairman, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “We are excited about the culvert work being done by WSDOT on Hwy 101 to fix fish barriers in the Sequim Bay area. Now this funding provides us with the resources to fix downstream culverts to fully restore access to miles of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead. A victory for salmon.”
The Port of Tacoma will receive $2 million to rehabilitate the failing Wapato Creek culvert that limits aquatic connectivity and threatens Port operations in Pierce County. Currently, fish passage through the culvert is possible only during high tides, restricting anadromous salmonids’ access to upstream habitats. The improved culvert is expected to improve fish accessibility to the habitats where they spawn.
“This project represents our commitment to environmental leadership at the Port of Tacoma as we look to improve habitat for salmon,” said Deanna Keller, President, Port of Tacoma Commission. “It will also bring operational benefits for moving cargo at Pierce County Terminal, managed by The Northwest Seaport Alliance. The culvert replacement in Wapato Creek is within the most complicated 300-foot corridor in the area around the Port, and we are grateful to Rep. Kilmer for securing this important funding.”
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kilmer has successfully worked to secure funding for programs that support salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Last year, he secured $50 million in federal funding for the Puget Sound Geographic Program, which provides critical grant support to state, local, and Tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality and enhance fish passage and salmon habitat. The funding increase, which passed the House in July 2022, would bring total federal funding for the program to the highest ever amount and represents an over 30% increase from the previous fiscal year. Additionally, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kilmer has successfully worked to secure key funding increases in NOAA’s budget to help recover salmon stocks and support the commercial, recreational, and Tribal fisheries that depend on them, including funding for the implementation of the newly ratified Pacific Salmon Treaty, funding to support Mitchell Act hatchery activities, and funding to support communities impacted by recent fisheries disasters.