Southeast Region
Map of the Southeast Region Map of Kentucky Map of the Caribbean and Navassa Map of North Carolina Map of Tennessee Map of South Carolina Map of Arkansas Map of Louisiana Map of Mississippi Map of Alabama Map of Georgia Map of Florida

National Fish Passage Program

Conserving America's Fisheries Logo

Program Background

Millions of culverts, dikes, water diversions, dams, and other artificial barriers have been constructed to impound and redirect water for irrigation, flood control, electricity, drinking water, and transportation--all changing natural features of rivers and streams. In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated the National Fish Passage Program to work with others to address this problem. The Program uses a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to remove and bypass barriers to aquatic species movement. The Program addresses the problem of passage barriers on a national level, working with local communities and partner agencies to restore natural flows and fish migration. The Program is administered by National and Regional Coordinators, and delivered by Regional Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Offices.

Program Accomplishments

To date, the Southeast Region’s Fish Passage Program has restored or enhanced access to over 400 miles of stream habitat and over 75,000 of aquatic habitat.

Southeast Region Funding

Annually, the Southeast Region’s Fisheries Program receives between $500K and $1.3M in funding to address high priority, on-the-ground fish passage projects. Individual project funding has ranged from around $5K to $200K. Average project funding is generally around $40K.

Program Scope

The Fish Passage Program’s primary focus is to remove barriers to fish passage. Secondarily, the program strives to replace or retrofit barriers to passage and to provide funding for fishway design. Monitoring and evaluation of these activities can also be funded so long as they are part of an overall project that improves passage and they do not represent more than about 30% of the total funding.

Project Submission

Potential fish passage projects should first be discussed with either Tom Sinclair in the Regional Fisheries Office (404-679-7324) or with Tripp Boltin at the Wadmalaw Island Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Office (843-819-1229). This initial review will help to minimize your project development investment and also work to improve your project’s chances of being funded. Once this informal review is completed, fish passage projects can be submitted to a Fisheries Field Office or the Regional Fisheries Office anytime during a fiscal year. A one-page request form that describes the project and a pre-project photo are all that are initially required. Information from this form and the photo are then loaded into the Fisheries Operational Needs System (FONS) for further consideration.

Example Projects

The Southeast Region has funded a variety of traditional and non-traditional fish passage projects. Traditional projects include removal of small head dams (Raines Mill Dam below), construction and design of fishways, and replacement of culverts. Non-traditional projects include removal of dikes around impounded salt marsh, notching of channel training dikes in the Lower Mississippi River, and purchasing small metal bridges to replace driveway fill blocking channels.


Rains Mill Dam Before
Raines Mill Dam Removal. Credit: Mike Wicker, USFWS


Raines Mill Dam After
Raines Mill Dam Removal. Credit: Mike Wicker, USFWS


During October of each year, submitted projects are evaluated as to their overall priority with regard to permanence of fish passage benefits, ecological benefits for Federal trust species, minimum cost to the Service for operation and maintenance, the number of partners involved, maximizing matching fund contributions, addressing objectives in approved fishery management plans, use of current scientific knowledge and proven technology, and their cost-to-benefit ratio (miles or acres of habitat to which access is restored/dollars expended).

Reporting Requirements

A final report and a set of photos documenting the work performed are required at the time of project completion. This report should be a basic narrative of how and why the project was implemented. Any monitoring and evaluation results should also be included in this document. The report should be of sufficient detail to address the project’s how and why, but it is not expected to be a dissertation on every project aspect. Brevity is encouraged. A very short annual interim report detailing the work accomplished within a fiscal year is also required for projects that extend beyond the fiscal year in which they were funded.

Fish Passage Decision Support System

The Fish Passage Decision Support System is an on-line barrier database with a graphic interphase created by the National Fish Passage Program to assist Service biologists and the general public with identifying and evaluating important fish passage barriers. One of the most useful components of this system is a modeling tool that can estimate the amount of upstream and downstream habitat disconnected by a barrier. Using this feature should assist you with completing the section of the request form dealing with the amount of habitat to which access will be restored.

Last updated: October 15, 2015