Fish Passage Barriers

Address fish passage barriers and reopen salmon habitat by accelerating strategic planning and sequenced implementation of projects.
The ability of salmon and steelhead to swim upstream to their freshwater spawning grounds is vital to their recovery across Washington. Deteriorating culverts, outdated bridges and dams, and other barriers block fish passage and undermine the state’s recovery efforts. When these barriers are fixed or removed, the fish often return and use those previously inaccessible habitats. Over recent decades, numerous fish passage barriers have been fixed, but many remain.

Fish passage barriers are found on lands owned and managed by government or private entities. As a result, public agencies, private landowners, local, state, tribal, and federal governments, and non-profit community groups must work together to locate fish passage barriers and identify the highest priority projects to ensure that limited funds are well-spent. A variety of types of funds support fish passage barrier and habitat restoration work, but more is needed.

Implementing the Chinook and other Implementation Strategies supports the success of this strategy.
  • Remove barriers to flow

Prepare and implement strategies to reestablish runs above existing dams and optimize management of dams for salmon. (ID #23)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Reach an agreement with United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Tacoma Public Utilities on timely construction and adaptive management of the Howard Hanson Dam juvenile fish passage, and ensure that recent federal funding commitments fully fund this project;
  • Implement adaptive management of the new adult trap at the Buckley diversion dam;
  • Coordinate planning, design, and adaptive management for Capitol Lake and Deschutes Estuary to improve salmon habitat, migration, and spawning;
  • Convene partners to identify barriers and discuss dam removal benefits for fish and ecosystem functions, adaptive management provisions in dam management and operating plans (including those identified in local salmon recovery plans) to meet instream flow goals, and actions that support fish passage, survival, and reintroduction (including restoring downstream channel processes and moderating water temperature) at the Snake River Dams for the benefit of Southern Resident Orca, and support efforts considering removal of the lower Snake River dams and the planning necessary to replace or mitigate for lost benefits of the dams;
  • Consider dam management or removal benefits in coordination with other upstream or downstream habitat restoration benefits and opportunities.

Inventory and assess all fish passage barriers (culverts, dams, etc.). Prioritize, sequence, and implement fish passage barrier correction or removal in watersheds. (ID #152)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Identify opportunities to remove outdated dams or dams that have consistently failed to comply with environmental regulations;
  • Consider strategic and varied approaches for private and public culvert removal;
  • Streamline funding opportunities for private culverts and barrier removal;
  • Support utilization of adaptive management of existing guidelines, coding, and laws in place;
  • Integrate stormwater data to support salmon health;
  • Include stormwater and climate change priorities in transportation plans;
  • Support landowners to address railroad barriers (for example, BNSF and neighboring landowners);
  • Address flood safety regulation and permit obstacles;
  • Improve migration pathways around dams;
  • Fulfill the state’s obligation to replace fish passage culverts;
  • Support Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) compilation and development of statewide strategies, in collaboration with tribal nations, other agencies, and local partners, including prioritization and sequencing of barriers;
  • Implement the restoration permit streamlining pilot program authorized under ESSHB 1382;
  • Monitor and evaluate responses to fish passage barrier actions and improve data and research to support ongoing monitoring and evaluation;
  • Include fish passage, stormwater and climate change priorities in transportation plans.
Implementation Considerations

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • Consider opportunities to bring jobs and economic benefits to communities through culvert, bridge, dam removal improvements, and subsequent habitat restoration work.
  • Expand inclusion of vulnerable populations and underserved communities in governance and decision- making about how and where we protect and restore fish passages and stream access.
  • Use information relevant to culturally significant areas when setting priorities for acquisition, protection, and restoration, where recommended by tribal nations.
  • Include information about the benefits of fish passage barrier removal in salmon and salmon habitat preK-16 education.
  • Seek opportunities to address fish passage as a part of other important infrastructure upgrades such as flood prevention, road improvements, and recreational access improvements.

Climate Change

  • Incorporate climate impacts and future flow potentials into culvert and bridge improvement planning, sequencing, and design.
  • Factor climate information into strategies designed to re-establish salmon runs above existing dams.
Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

Program Name Owner Organization
Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board (FBRB) grant program WA RCO
Bridge Investment Program USDOT FHWA
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) WA SCC
Ecosystems Support WA DFW
Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program USDOT FHWA
Family Forest Fish Passage Program WA DNR
Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) grants WA RCO
Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) USDOT FHWA
Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) USDOT FHWA
Fish Barrier Correction WA DOT
Fish Passage WA DFW
Forest Resilience Federal Lands and Service Forestry WA DNR
Forest Resilience Planning, Science, & Monitoring WA DNR
Hydraulic Project Approval Program WA DFW
Instream Flows WA DFW
Landscape Scale Restoration Program USFS
Legacy Roads and Trails Program USFS
Local and Regional Project Assistance Grants (RAISE) USDOT
National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program USDOT
National Estuary Program and Puget Sound Geographic Funds US EPA
National Fish Passage Program USFWS
Office of Habitat Conservation US NOAA
Office of Protected Resources US NOAA
Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund US NOAA
Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration WA PSP
Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan US NOAA
Puget Sound Conservation Districts (12) WA SCC
Puget Sound Federal Task Force US EPA
Puget Sound Steelhead Recovery Plan US NOAA
Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program US Navy
Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups (RFEGs) WA DFW
Salmon Recovery Funding Board WA RCO
Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) USDOT FHWA
Washington Geological Survey WA DNR
Water Resources - Streamflow Restoration program WA ECY
Watershed Surveys and Planning Program USDA NRCS
What We're Measuring

We achieve our recovery goal of thriving species and foodwebs in the Puget Sound region by removing or managing culverts, dams, and other infrastructure to ensure fish passage and functioning downstream habitat. The indicator of success is increasing the miles of streams opened to fish as a result of fish passage barrier removal.

Current Legislative Actions (2 Bills)
2024 | State Bill HB 2045
Related Activity Types
Mobilizing Funding
Related Strategies
6 - Fish Passage Barriers
Status: Passed
2024 | State Bill HB 2456 & SB 6237
Status: Did not pass