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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 river.
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
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
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.
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