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Biden-Harris Administration Opens Applications for $1 Billion Grant Program to Protect Critical Fish Populations and Support Local Jobs by Removing and Upgrading Culverts

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Culvert Grant Program established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

KING COUNTY, Wash. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will announce today that the Department’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in close coordination with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, has opened applications for Tribal, state, and local governments to access a total of $1 billion over five years from the new National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration-Culvert Aquatic Organism Passage Program established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This grant program builds on the over $2 billion eligible to support fish passage under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will specifically help communities remove and repair culverts found under roads that can prevent fish passage and are especially problematic for coastal and Tribal communities for whom thriving fish populations are critical to the regional economy and way of life. Secretary Buttigieg will make the announcement alongside Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Kim Schrier, Congressman Rick Larsen and local and Tribal leaders. 

“With this investment, we’re helping protect local economies that count on healthy fisheries and also make key roads less prone to flooding,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this first-in-its-kind effort will begin to address the longstanding challenges posed by existing culverts for fishing and Tribal communities, from the Pacific Northwest to the low-lying communities in the Southeast.”

Barriers to freshwater migration are a major cause of declining populations of anadromous fish, which live primarily in the ocean, but return to freshwater streams to spawn. The competitive Culvert Grant Program will help remove or redesign culverts and weirs that create such barriers, allowing anadromous fish populations – including salmon, sturgeon, lamprey, shad and river herring – which require access to freshwater habitats to spawn. Culverts and weirs are both engineered structures that impact the flow of water in rivers and streams. A weir allows for the controlled passage of water over a low headed dam, while a culvert allows for the subterranean passage of water through a channel underneath an obstacle, such as a road.

In addition to improving anadromous fish passage, this 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.

“Many Tribal and underserved coastal communities depend on thriving fish populations for their livelihoods, and this program, which will remove, replace, and repair harmful culverts, will improve the natural environment and the economic wellbeing of Tribal, coastal, and low-lying communities,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack. “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.” 

Tribes, state, and local governments will be able to apply for a portion of the $196 million of Fiscal Year 2022 funding currently available through this program. Additional technical assistance for Tribal governments with regards to Bipartisan Infrastructure Law implementation was released by FHWA earlier this year

Alongside FHWA’s program, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides funding for fish passage and ecosystem restoration efforts by other Federal agencies. These efforts include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Fish Passage Program, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service’s Restoring Fish Passage funding opportunities.  Both efforts will benefit Tribal and other conservation priorities. Together, these programs will work closely to use an ecosystem-based approach to ensure federal funds are strategically deployed to benefit Tribal and other conservation priorities – including sharing information, expertise, and helping communities find the right program for their projects. 

More information on the Culvert AOP Program is available on the FHWA web site.