Fisheries & Ecological Services
Alaska Region   


Fish Passage Title Bar

Why is fish....title bar

Juvenile and adult fish need to move on a daily basis to find food and cover. In Alaska, fish inhabit, move among, and migrate between a huge variety of habitat types: small headwater streams, wetlands, lakes, sloughs, large rivers, clearwater side channels, estuaries, and the ocean. They move year-round and at most flows. Feeding and spawning migrations take some fish thousands of miles up and down freshwater corridors and between freshwater and estuarine/ marine habitats.

With tens of thousands of streams across Alaska, it may come as a surprise that artificial fish passage barriers (including undersized road culverts and dams) threaten the sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries resources. However, these barriers change upstream and downstream habitat, and can delay or block juveniles and adults from accessing key habitats and food sources at critical times of year.

This map displays only a subset of all culverts currently surveyed in the Mat-Su Borough as of January, 2011. Over 60% hinder fish passage. Our Fish Passage Program has helped make nearly half of the culverts in the "Green" category passable for fish.

Alaska Fish Passage Program Title Bar

Our Fish Passage Program provides direct conservation assistance: we invest funding and staff time into projects that restore fish passage and habitat connectivity. We also invest in projects that help prioritize removal of fish passage barriers (e.g., barrier inventories and habitat assessments).  In Alaska, we have been partnering with state agencies, Tribes, municipalities, boroughs, non-profits and others to assess and remove barriers since 1999. We still have a long way to go and hope the educational resources provided below help generate awareness about the importance of fish passage!

Photo of Swiftwater Creek culverts.  Photo Credit: USFWS   Swiftwater Creek, removed culverts.  Photo Credit: USFWS
The Fish Passage Program helps partners remove fish passage barriers
(like these three culverts, pictured left) and replace them with fish-friendly structures (right).

Resources Title Bar

Alaska Fish Passage Program

2016 Fish Passage Workshops: 

Beyond Alaska:
National Fish Passage Program webpage
National Fish Passage Decision Support System webpage

Culvert Prioritization Tools:
Copper River Watershed Partnership Prioritization Protocol
Copper River Watershed mapping tool
Matanuska-Susitna Salmon Passage Improvement Plan

Key Links
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fish Passage Program
Forest Service FishXing Software (free)
Federal Highway Administration "Culvert Design for Aquatic Organism Passage"
National Marine Fisheries Service "Anadromous Salmonid Passage Facility Design"

Attention Students
The University of Massachusetts Amherst now offers a Masters of Science in Civil Engineering degree with a specialization in Fish Passage Engineering.

Contact Us Title Bar

Got an engineering/hydrology challenge/question?  
Contact Franklin Dekker at or (907) 271-6647

Let’s discuss potential fish passage projects in your neck of the woods!
Southeast Alaska: Neil Stichert at or (907) 780-1180 
Kenai Peninsula: Kyle Graham at  or (907) 262-9863
Interior Alaska: Mitch Osborne at or (907) 456-0209


Last updated: January 2016