The National Fish Passage program has received $36 million in new funding, part of a larger five-year, $200 million investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The program has been around since 1999 and has already impacted West Virginia.
“In addition to the bipartisan infrastructure law and President Biden’s commitment, I think it’s important to note that over $3 million from the infrastructure law has been invested in fish passages in projects in West Virginia alone,” Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator for the U.S. Department of the Interior, said. “These are projects all across the country and in communities in West Virginia as well. And it’s really gratifying to see how communities are coming back together and being able to access streams and rivers, to be able to fish, to be able to enjoy the outdoors.”
The National Fish Passage Program funds projects that help to improve infrastructure around and in the nation’s waterways, simultaneously improving habitat for fish and improving the health of communities around the river.
“Water is essential and rivers are essential and streams are essential to not only aquatic health, but to community health. You see people going down to streams and rivers and fishing. I’m an angler myself, and if you don’t have access to streams, if you don’t have access to clean waterways and healthy ecosystem, especially aquatic ecosystems, it’s a problem for communities,” Stachelberg said.
The projects can help replace unsafe dams and levees, and the additional funding is helping areas that are struggling to find the money to repair their river ecosystems.
Since the program began, it has reopened 64,000 miles of upstream habitat and over 193,000 acres of wetland for wildlife and fish that live in rivers.
“The National Fish Passage Program has been around really since 1999. It’s a program that works with local communities, states and tribes and private landowners to remove bypasses and barriers to fish passage and to reopen access to miles and miles of upstream habitat,” Stachelberg said. “And it bolsters efforts to address outdated and unsafe and obsolete dams and culverts and levees and other barriers that really fragment our nation’s rivers and streams.”