Kilmer-Led Culvert Amendment Part Of House Infrastructure Bill

Washington, DC –Politicians and environmental leaders have offered their praise and support for an amendment to the INVEST in America Act designed to substantially invest in culvert restoration and aid anadromous fish passage and recovery efforts, according to the office of congressman Derek Kilmer (D-06).

On July 1, the House of Representatives passed the $715 billion transportation and drinking water bill by a vote of 221-201, largely along party lines. This will set up talks with the Senate, which passed its own infrastructure bill in June.

The House bill includes a Kilmer-led bipartisan amendment that creates 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. The amendment provides $800 million to fund the newly established grant program.

The legislation mirrors an amendment included by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in the Senate bill.

"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," Kilmer said about the proposed legislation.

"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 for 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."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee applauded Kilmer and Cantwell for their championing of the dual culvert-related amendments.

"(The grant program) offers an important new tool to ensure healthy fish runs, uphold tribal treaty rights and build resilient infrastructure for a strong economy," Inslee said. "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," Inslee said.

Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said salmon are in trouble, but recovery is still possible with action like the National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program.

"(The grant program) is the kind of transformative action our salmon need," Susewind said.

Experts say that aging and undersized culverts block fish access to crucial spawning and rearing habitat and migration corridors. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have estimated that the total cost of replacing these culverts in Washington State alone is $16 billion.

"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.

Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association, said recreational fishing is enjoyed by 55 million Americans, who contribute $129 billion to the economy, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

"Anadromous fish like salmon and steelhead fuel much of this activity," Leonard said. "Modernizing our nation's culverts is critical to supporting the long-term viability of these fish stocks."

In April, Kilmer, Kim Schrier (D-08) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) introduced the bipartisan Legacy Roads and Trails (ART) Act, which also was included in the INVEST in America Act. This program leveraged public and private funding to address water quality and access for threatened and endangered species like the Chinook salmon, bull trout and steelhead, according to Kilmer's office.


By:  Dan Shalin
Source: Patch