Fish and Aquatic Conservation
photo of man fishing
Stream rehabilitation has increased fish populations on the Maquoketa River in Manchester, IA. Photo Credit: Mara Koenig/USFWS


Working with the National Fish Passage Program

How can I get involved?

The National Fish Passage Program depends on strong partnerships with individuals, organizations, local governments, and agencies to conduct fish passage projects. We often collaborate with state fish and wildlife departments, other federal agencies, tribes, and transportation agencies. We partner with non-profit organizations, from national organizations like Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and American Rivers to local watershed groups. The program works with private landowners, ranchers, cities and towns, and we collaborate with large companies, like Coca-Cola, and those more locally known such as Founders Brewing Company in Michigan.

Partnerships play a key role in the mission, success and future of the National Fish Passage Program. The National Fish Passage Program has worked with over 700 different partners on projects throughout the U.S. to improve aquatic connectivity. There are over 2000 partners across the country that have contributed over $800 million to fish passage projects since the start of the program in 1999.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we’re a river.” This old saying is especially true for the National Fish Passage Program. This partnership program has proven successful because of the many people – from grassroots volunteers to renowned biologists -- working together to keep fish migration routes open, improve aquatic conservation and preserve the outdoors for the American people.

The National Fish Passage Program provides financial and technical assistance in support of fish passage projects. Fish passage project proposals may be initiated by any individual, organization, government, or agency, in cooperation with their local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. Please contact your Regional Fish Passage Coordinator or local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office to begin the process!

What is a fish passage project?

A fish passage project is any activity that improves the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move by reconnecting habitat that has been fragmented by a barrier.

Are there examples of successful projects?

There are many examples of successful fish passage projects that have been supported by the National Fish Passage Program.

Please note that fish passage projects being used for Federal or State compensatory mitigation or required by existing Federal or State regulatory programs are not eligible for funding through the National Fish Passage Program.

What type of technical assistance is available?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and engineers are available to provide assistance in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring of select fish passage projects. Contact your Regional Fish Passage Coordinator, or your local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, to discuss the project and learn more about the technical assistance that is available.

How do I apply for funding through the National Fish Passage Program?

You must work with a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office Biologist to be considered for funding.  To begin this process, please contact your Regional Fish Passage Coordinator or your local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.  Service Biologists will discuss the project with you and help ensure it is a good fit for the National Fish Passage Program.  It is recommended that you do this early in the process so that they can help guide the creation of your proposal.

Proposals are accepted year round; however, the funding cycle for Fish Passage projects begins each year in the Fall with compilation of the projects being proposed for the following year’s funding. The projects are reviewed and prioritized in the Winter. Generally, funding for selected projects becomes available the following Spring but the timing is dependent upon federal budget allocation.  Funding is administered through the Regional and local Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices.

How are projects prioritized?

Proposals will be reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The following criteria, as well as other criteria dependent on the region, will be used in this process to prioritize projects and make funding decisions.

High priority fish passage projects:

Please note that fish passage projects are not eligible for funding if they are eligible for any Federal or State compensatory mitigation or if fish passage is a condition provided by existing Federal or State regulatory programs.

What is the average funding level for a fish passage project?

On average the program contributes about $70,000 per project. There is no upper limit to project funding.   

Are non-federal matching funds required?

The National Fish Passage Program has flexibility on matching funds from project to project but strives to achieve a 50% match from federal or non-federal sources. This can include in-kind contributions.