Salmon spawning Tye River, Washington. (NOAA Fisheries West Coast photo)

Salmon spawning Tye River, Washington. (NOAA Fisheries West Coast photo)

Cantwell outlines big wins for Washington state’s infrastructure, salmon, economy

  • Sat Aug 21st, 2021 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.

On Aug. 10, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement about a historic $2.855 billion investment in salmon recovery and ecosystem restoration programs, as well as tens of billions of dollars allocated for water infrastructure in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

“The infrastructure bill makes serious investments in some of our salmon recovery challenges,” Cantwell said. “For the first time, the bill creates a new culvert removal and habitat restoration grant program that prioritizes salmon and will open up spawning habitat. The bill also provides robust funding for EPA regional efforts to clean up Puget Sound as well as a significant down payment in the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.”

The IIJA includes the following salmon and ecosystem restoration funding (all numbers are over 5 years):

• National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program: $1 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a new program aimed at removing, replacing or restoring culverts, which will enable the recovery of salmon passage and habitats. This provision was authored by Senator Cantwell, and this program will be the first federal program devoted entirely to culverts.

• Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: $172 million for NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, a grants program that provides funding to States and Tribes to protect, conserve, and restore West Coast salmon. Learn more at fisheries.noaa.gov/grant/pacific-coastal-salmon-recovery-fund.

• Fish Passage Barrier Removal Grants: $400 million for the creation of a new community-based restoration program focused on removing fish passage barriers.

• EPA Estuary Programs: The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a network of organizations that protects and restores 28 estuaries around the country, including the Puget Sound and Columbia River Basin.

– $89 million for the Puget Sound Geographic Program, epa.gov/puget-sound.

– $79 million for the Columbia River Basin Geographic Program, epa.gov/columbiariver/columbia-river-basin-restoration-funding-assistance-program.

– $132 million for the National Estuary Program, epa.gov/nep.

• NOAA Habitat Restoration Programs: These funds will be used to enable communities, Tribes, and states to respond and adapt to climate change impacts.

– $491 million for Habitat Restoration and Community Resilience Grants.

– $492 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund Grants.

• EPA Water Quality Programs: These provisions of the IIJA help improve overall water quality and prevent pollution to protect salmon-supporting ecosystems. The IIJA also includes significant funding for Tribal and rural water systems and would provide funding for stormwater and wastewater systems in Washington state and Puget Sound.

– $23 billion for the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, including $15 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

– $10 billion across multiple programs for monitoring and remediation of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals enter the environment through production or waste streams and are extremely difficult to remove. According to the EPA, they are known to have “adverse reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in animals and humans.”

Throughout her time in the Senate, Cantwell has been a staunch advocate of protecting and strengthening critical salmon populations. Earlier this year, Cantwell secured commitments from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to work on increasing investments in salmon habitat and prioritizing fisheries management. Cantwell also championed and passed the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act in 2019, which authorized an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing water challenges in the Yakima River Basin. For years, Cantwell has led the fight to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay – one of the world’s largest fisheries – against the proposed Pebble Mine, emphasizing the devastation that the mine could bring to the Pacific Northwest. In 2020, the permit was denied and now Cantwell is now pushing for permanent protections.

Senator Cantwell also has a strong history of leading efforts in Congress to address water contamination due to PFAS, and she has repeatedly introduced bipartisan legislation to hold federal agencies accountable for addressing PFAS contamination at military bases across the country. In January 2020, Cantwell sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Navy expressing concern over PFAS health risks to Kitsap County residents, and in February 2020, she called on the EPA to provide an updated timeline for when it will implement the commitments made in the agency’s plan to combat PFAS exposure. In 2017, Cantwell urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to support programs to investigate and clean up chemicals that have contaminated drinking water sources across the nation and secured $62 million in funding for water remediation and environmental restoration in impacted communities.

Support for salmon recovery and ecosystem restoration in the IIJA:

“The funding for salmon recovery and culvert removal and replacement contained in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a huge win for the resource and the people of the State of Washington,” said Bob Kehoe, Executive Director of the Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association’s (PSVOA). “These investments in salmon recovery and fish habitat restoration will go a long way toward the goal of rebuilding salmon populations here on the West Coast. Senator Cantwell deserves a great deal of credit for her leadership in the Senate on salmon recovery.”

“We are very excited to see that the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation will help protect and restore Pacific salmon runs,” said Justin Parker, Executive Director of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “We all depend on natural infrastructure such as habitat to support salmon recovery, a robust economy and the tribes’ treaty-protected resources. The bill is an important step toward addressing our natural infrastructure needs in Washington through programs such as the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and many others. We are thankful for Senator Cantwell’s leadership and our delegation’s efforts to secure these critical investments.”

“Funding in the infrastructure package for Puget Sound, salmon recovery and fish passage improvements gives us the chance to make significant progress now,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We’re seeing the effects of climate change on our environment already. We need funding at a scale to address big issues—like salmon recovery, fish passage, and ecosystem restoration—with urgency. We’re grateful to Senators Cantwell and Murray for their leadership and passion in working to secure funding that helps us meet these challenges.”

“Our lands and waters are part of America’s infrastructure. Like good roads and bridges, healthy watersheds are critical to the safety and well-being of our families and the economic growth of our communities,” said Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “This legislation includes game-changing investments in fish passage, community-based habitat restoration, Puget Sound recovery and Pacific salmon habitat restoration. Senator Cantwell was critical to making this bi-partisan package come together in ways that make us all stronger in the face of a changing climate and help us meet our commitments to Tribal nations and overburdened communities. The Nature Conservancy looks forward to working with Senator Cantwell to ensure the legislation makes it to the President’s desk for signature.”