News Release

July 22, 2013

Service Report: Nations Rivers Flow toward Better Habitat, Economies and Public Safety

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More than 200 barriers removed in 2012

More than 200 blockages in the nation’s major natural resource “arteries” were removed last year thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program. Working with numerous partners, the program improves fish passage, local economies and public safety by ridding the nation’s rivers of derelict dams that no longer serve a purpose.

“Free-flowing, healthy rivers and streams are vital to our nation. Many species of fish, wildlife and plants depend on the natural ebb and flow of rivers at critical stages of their lives,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “I’m pleased to report last year the Service and its partners reconnected more than 2,500 miles of streams and 36,000 associated wetland acres, providing opportunities for aquatic populations to increase and become more resilient in the face of greater environmental pressures.”

Estimates show there are approximately 74,000 derelict dams and millions of other manmade river impediments in the United States.  These structures impede upstream and downstream passage for native fish, destroy or eliminate access to key spawning habitat, and degrade water quality by preventing normal stream flow that cleanses river systems. In addition, if aging dams fail, they can threaten human safety in downstream communities.

The Service’s FY 2012 National Fish Passage Program Annual Report illustrates many collaborative accomplishments, from Alaska to the southeast United States.  Last year, projects were completed in more than 40 states in cooperation with approximately 300 partners across the nation. Projects included fish passage barrier removals, engineering, planning and partnership coordination, monitoring and evaluation, and barrier inventories.

Across the country, the National Fish Passage Program has helped fish, wildlife and people in numerous ways.  Species benefited by fish passage projects include native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, leopard darter, Ouachita shiner, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, northern pike, American shad, blueback herring, American eel, brook trout, Atlantic salmon, Dolly Varden char, imperiled freshwater mussels, and even the Hawaiian freshwater shrimp.   Plants and other native wildlife also benefit from the program’s efforts to restore free-flowing waters.

With 70 percent of funds applied to on-the-ground projects and leveraged at a 3:1 ratio (nonfederal match to federal program funds), the National Fish Passage Program’s modest investments are paying off.  Since 1999, the program has:

·      Removed 1,345 fish passage barriers.

·      Reopened access to 20,229 stream miles.

·      Benefited more than 90 species of fish and freshwater mussels.

·      Supported 219,195 jobs.

·      Provided $11 billion in economic value to local communities.

The National Fish Passage Program also provides leadership and support in the science of fish passage engineering and research, including a 2012 project at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center in Montana to study fish swimming capabilities under varying conditions to guide the design of fish passage projects. In addition, the program developed a Web-based application known as GeoFIN (Fisheries Information Network), a decision-support platform that helps biologists find and analyze data and make informed and strategic choices about how and where to spend resources to maximize benefits for priority aquatic species.

The FY 2012 report also outlines goals for FY 2013, including identification of more than 350 “shovel-ready” fish passage projects and strategies to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others to develop a long-term approach for dealing with aquatic resources and road infrastructure resiliency in advance of flooding and other natural disasters.

To view a copy of the report, visit: http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/whatwedo/NFPP/nfpp.html