FILE: Lower Granite Dam

FILE - Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Wash. 

(The Center Square) – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a federal grant program to improve fish passage during a stop in Washington state on Thursday.

The $1 billion culvert grant program supports freeing fish passages over the next five years under the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The program plans to remove and repair culverts found under roads that can prevent fish passage and hurt coastal and tribal communities that rely on thriving fish populations for their regional economy and way of life.

“With this investment, we’re helping protect local economies that count on healthy fisheries and also make key roads less prone to flooding,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “This first-in-its-kind effort will begin to address the longstanding challenges posed by existing culverts for fishing and Tribal communities.”

State, local governments and tribes will be able to apply for a portion of the $196 million of Fiscal Year 2022 funding currently available through this program starting Oct. 7.

Buttigieg began his tour with a visit to Wenatchee to celebrate the Apple Capital Loop Project, which received $92 million of federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Buttigieg then visited the Carey Creek Culvert in Maple Valley to announce the Culvert Grant Program alongside Washington State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Kim Schrier, Congressman Rick Larsen and local and tribal leaders.

The U.S. Department of Transportation claims the program will also help make culverts and weirs more resilient to increased flooding events due to the impacts of climate change on weather and precipitation.

“Grants will both help restore fish populations and make roads more durable and resilient to climate events, creating cascading benefits for communities that rely on the fisheries economy,” Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said.

As previously reported, King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed budget for 2023-24 would allocate $28.5 in capital funds to remove blockages to fish passage habitat. The county expects restorative projects to yield 46 stream miles of new habitat by the end of 2024.

King County has directed more than $20 million toward dozens of projects to connect native salmon populations to over 150 miles of habitat since 2019.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.