Six Alaska projects, including one for the Copper River, are among a new $35 million Interior Department investment in restoring free-flowing waters in 22 states.
“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our nation’s rivers, streams and communities and help restore habitat connectivity for aquatic species around the country,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, tribal nations in particular are facing unique climate-related challenges that threaten resources vital to Indigenous communities.”
Haaland is the first Native American to serve as Interior Secretary.
“These fish passage investments will support community-led transitions and facilitate long-term conservation and economic growth in these areas,” she said.
The $525,000 Copper River project will reconstruct three culverts within the Cooper River watershed, to remove barriers to Chinook and coho salmon, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, and longnose sucker. The project areas include eight miles of stream.
Replacement stream crossings are intended to promote a more natural ecosystem, improve climate resiliency, and restore aquatic connectivity to upstream and wetland habitats. Interior officials said these stream crossings are aimed at ensuring year-round passage for fish and greatly reduce the likelihood of catastrophic structure failure, risks to human health and safety, environmental damage, and loss of access to emergency services and subsistence resources.
Other Alaska projects include $1,365,000 for improvements in the Deep Creek Watershed Fish Passage on the Kenai Peninsula; $780,000 for restoring access to Tyonek Creek; and $262,500 for restoration of subsistence salmon habitat on the Kenai Peninsula. Additionally, funds include $630,000 for the Metlakatla Indian Community Fish Passage Project on Prince of Wales Island, and $491,000 for Yakutat Forest Highway 10 Aquatic Organism Passage in the Yakutat area of Southeast Alaska.
Each of the funded projects has been developed collaboratively by local partners and selected through a competitive process led by an interdisciplinary panel from multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service. Interior officials said the effort is delivering on one of the America the Beautiful initiative’s six early focus areas of supporting collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and corridors, and is consistent with the Biden Administration’s Corridors and Connectivity Guidance.
The 22 states named, including Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington, have been struggling to restore salmon habitat that has been adversely impacted for decades from dams, pollution, and climate change.