08.16.21

Rep. Kilmer, Sen. Cantwell Tout Culvert Repair & Replacement Program in Senate-Passed Infrastructure Bill

Senate-passed infrastructure package includes historic $2.855 billion investment in salmon recovery and ecosystem restoration

SEATTLE, WAToday, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) joined U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and King County Executive Dow Constantine at an event at Carkeek Park in Seattle to tout the inclusion of $1 billion for the first-ever national grant program established to specifically address culvert impacts to anadromous fish in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by the Senate.

“Recently, people in the Pacific Northwest have faced horrific news 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 we have good news. By securing new dedicated funding for culvert restoration, 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.”

“We need to make every effort possible to do something to correct the wrongs. We need these culverts, these barriers, these problems removed so that we can enhance habitats and so we can restore fish passage,” said Senator Cantwell. “This is so important in a place like Puget Sound because these waterways are connectors to these very historic places and habitats. Let’s put dollars towards correcting these past problems. Why? Because salmon are counting on it, and if we’re going to have healthy habitats and streams and restore the salmon populations, we have to clear these blockages.”

“I am so grateful for our two champions -- environmental champions -- like Representative Kilmer and Senator Maria Cantwell, helping us to take this dream of restoring native salmon runs and making it a reality here in our region,” said King County Executive Constantine. “We are very, very fortunate in this county and state to have absolutely top-notch, committed elected officials who share our values, and have the know-how, the determination to take those values and convert them into real action at the national government.”

Culverts can be barriers to fish passage for a number of reasons, including when water flows too fast, the water in the pipe is too shallow, or the pipes hover above the connecting stream making a little ‘waterfall’ in or out of the culverts. If culverts are impassable, migrating salmon will perish despite other conservation interventions. 

There is more than $4 billion dollars in culvert restoration and repair needed in Washington state alone. Carkeek Park contains two high-priority culverts that are critical to the recovery of chum and coho salmon habitat. Restoration would also improve juvenile Chinook survival by improving rearing habitat. Chinook rearing habitat is one of the most important steps that must be taken to reverse Chinook decline, and support Southern resident orca recovery.

The senate-passed IIJA includes historic $2.855 billion investment in salmon recovery and ecosystem restoration programs, as well as tens of billions of dollars allocated for water infrastructure. Key components of the IIJA to support salmon recovery include:

 

  • National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program: $1 billion
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund$172 million for NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
  • Fish Passage Barrier Removal Grants: $400 million
  • EPA Estuary Programs: The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a network of organizations that protects and restores 28 estuaries around the country, including the Puget Sound and Columbia River Basin.
  • NOAA Habitat Restoration Programs: These funds will be used to enable communities, Tribes, and states to respond and adapt to climate change impacts.
    • $491 million for Habitat Restoration and Community Resilience Grants.
    • $492 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund Grants.
  • EPA Water Quality Programs: These provisions of the IIJA help improve overall water quality and prevent pollution to protect salmon-supporting ecosystems. The IIJA also includes significant funding for Tribal and rural water systems and would provide funding for stormwater and wastewater systems in Washington state and Puget Sound.
  • $23 billion for the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, including $15 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
  • $10 billion across multiple programs for monitoring and remediation of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals enter the environment through production or waste streams and are extremely difficult to remove. According to the EPA, they are known to have “adverse reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in animals and humans.”

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Kilmer has successfully worked to secure funding for programs that support salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Earlier this 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, 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 Committee 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.

Throughout her time in the Senate, Cantwell has been a staunch advocate of protecting and strengthening critical salmon populations. Earlier this year, Cantwell secured commitments from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to work on increasing investments in salmon habitat and prioritizing fisheries management. Cantwell also championed and passed the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act in 2019, which authorized an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing water challenges in the Yakima River Basin. For years, Cantwell has led the fight to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay – one of the world’s largest fisheries – against the proposed Pebble Mine, emphasizing the devastation that the mine could bring to the Pacific Northwest. In 2020, the permit was denied and now Cantwell is now pushing for permanent protections.

More information on the IIJA funding for salmon and ecosystem restoration is available HERE.

 

The full text of the infrastructure package is available HERE.

 

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