Feds Tout National Fish Passage Program

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Chris Tollefson

A Dam Success: The National Fish Passage Program Helps
Restore Streams, While Benefitting People and Local Economies

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and community partners across the
nation worked together to remove or bypass 158 dams, culverts and other
structures in 2011, opening more than 2,180 miles of streams to native
fish populations. These efforts, coordinated through the National Fish
Passage Program, have also contributed to improved water quality, provided
additional recreational and economic opportunities, and even addressed
serious threats to human health and safety.

“The National Fish Passage Program serves as a vital catalyst for
grass-roots community action that not only benefits native species and
habitat, but also contributes to local economies and addresses aging and
sometimes dangerous infrastructure,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.
“Everyone wins when rivers and streams are allowed to flow freely again –
that’s why this program is so popular and successful.”

Documenting these successful efforts, the Service released its 2011 Annual
Report for the National Fish Passage program this week. The report, which
can be viewed at http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/facilities/nfpp.html ,
provides dozens of stories and examples of projects completed in the past
year that have provided tremendous benefits to fish, wildlife and local

The National Fish Passage Program, administered by the Service, is a
voluntary initiative active in all 50 states. The non-regulatory program
addresses barriers that limit fish movement vital for their survival. Fish
passage is gained by removing dams, replacing poorly designed culverts,
constructing low-water crossings, and installing fishways. These projects
are done in close cooperation with state and federal agencies,
non-government organizations, universities and supporting individuals.
Program staff identifies, prioritizes, funds, designs and reviews these
conservation projects, while working closely with a wide variety of
programs and partners to provide technical support to local communities.

Since the program’s creation in 1999, the Service and more than 700
project partners have removed 1,118 barriers to fish passage, reopening
17,683 stream miles to access by more than 90 native species of fish and
freshwater mussels and reconnecting nearly 120,000 acres of wetlands to
their historic water sources. In turn, these projects have contributed an
estimated $9.7 billion to local economies and supported nearly 220,000

From the earliest days of the American colonies, people have sought to
harness streams and redirect them to provide valuable services such as
irrigation, power production, drinking water, flood control and
transportation. As a result, millions of culverts, dikes, water
diversions, dams, and other artificial barriers have been constructed to
impound and redirect water flowing through every river system and
watershed in the nation. While many of these structures continue to serve
a purpose, thousands of them are obsolete, abandoned or deteriorating.

An estimated 74,000 dams alone dot the American landscape, thousands of
which are small dams built decades ago that no longer serve a purpose.
These structures impede the passage of native fish and destroy spawning
habitat, as well as degrading water quality by preventing stream flow that
flushes sediment and pollutants out of river systems. They also reduce
fishing and other river-based recreational and economic opportunities for
people. And in some cases, aging dams threaten downstream communities
should they fail, or otherwise endanger human life and safety by creating
dangerous drowning conditions.

For example, the town of Front Royal, Virginia worked with National Fish
Passage Program staff to remove an abandoned low head dam on the
Shenandoah River that was the site of multiple drownings. This “drowning
machine,” as it was called locally, was removed in October, 2011, enabling
residents and visitors to enjoy fishing, canoeing and swimming on a safer

And in the Klamath Basin of Northern California, the Service worked with
the Karuk Tribe, the Forest Service and local watershed and salmon
restoration councils to restore fish passage on ten miles of the Klamath
River. Completed in 2011, the project identified and addressed 48 barriers
to fish passage in this stretch of the river. And by using tribal youth to
do much of the work, it provided summer jobs to dozens of young men and
women and introduced them to potential careers in fisheries science.

“As this project and many others like it demonstrate, the National Fish
Passage Program is also an avenue for young adults to develop skills and
confidence that will help them throughout life, whether they pursue a
career in conservation or not,” said Director Ashe. “We are very grateful
to the Service employees, partners and communities who have done so much
to make the Program a monumental success for both people and wildlife.”

For more information on the National Fish Passage Program and its
accomplishments, or for how to apply for funding and technical assistance,
visit http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/facilities/nfpp.html .

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others
to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a
leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for
our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources,
dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more
information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit
www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws ,
follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq , watch our YouTube Channel at
http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at


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