U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investing $200 million nationwide to restore fish and wildlife passages by removing in-stream barriers and providing technical assistance under the National Fish Passage Program, including $1.3 million for the Little Tonsina River, with flows into the Copper River.
The prospect of fitting the road with a bridge to allow the Little Tonsina to move naturally was already attracting attention and funding from multiple state and federal partner agencies prior to this year.
Now the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will push the project to the finish line by creating a two land 100-foot floodplain-friendly bridge that employs the service’s comprehensive design guidelines for building road-stream crossings that provide ecological function in Alaska.
Completion of this project not only benefits the salmon of the Copper River Basin but is also expected to catalyze funding and efforts to address barriers and unstable infrastructure in nearby tributaries. As climate change continues to disproportionately impact northern locales like Alaska, it’s important to provide salmon access to all the options when it comes to available habitat. Aquatic connectivity keeps salmon runs resilient and fisheries stable.
Project partners include the Chugach Alaska Corporation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Transportation, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, NOAA Fisheries, Copper River Watershed Project, and The Denali Commission.
Fish passage funds for Alaska totaling over $35 million for fiscal year 2022 also include fish passage projects in Tyonek and Gustavus.