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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Cantwell, Murray announce $75M to improve fish habitats, including $1.9M to Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Cowlitz tribe will use money for fish passage project on Ostrander Creek in Cowlitz County

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 23, 2024, 6:06am

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray announced Wednesday nearly $75 million will flow to projects removing fish passage barriers and improving fish habitat in Washington. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe will receive $1.9 million for a fish passage project on Ostrander Creek in Cowlitz County.

The funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act that Murray and Cantwell helped pass.

Included in the funding is $39.4 million in grant funds from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Restoring Fish Passage through Barrier Removal grants. The grants will go to projects led or completed by Washington tribes, including the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

The tribe has been working on the passage project since at least 2018 and has secured state and federal funding to remove the Ostrander Creek railroad prism and an undersized culvert. According to a Cowlitz spokesman, the project will restore upstream fish passage to almost 14 miles of productive spawning and rearing habitat. It will benefit Ostrander Creek winter steelhead, coho, fall chinook and chum salmon. Ostrander Creek is a tributary of the lower Cowlitz River.

“The Cowlitz Indian Tribe is grateful for our federal delegation’s commitment to advancing habitat restoration efforts to assist in the recovery of our local threatened and endangered fish species. The Ostrander Creek fish barrier removal is one of 46 habitat restoration projects the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has led in the tribe’s ancestral homelands,” Tribal Chair Patty Kinswa-Gaiser said Wednesday.

Murray, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the funding represents the largest investment into the climate crisis in American history and includes record funding for salmon recovery and fish habitats.

“In Washington state, our fish drive local economies and are foundational to the culture of the Pacific Northwest. And the record investments in fish passage projects we secured under President Biden will make a big difference across our state,” Murray said in a news release Wednesday. “This influx of federal funding will be key to saving precious species, including our salmon, and restoring wetlands and other vital habitats.

Murray said the Senate’s work isn’t done, and she will continue to fight to secure federal resources needed to save salmon and protect the environment.

Cantwell also spoke of the economic importance of restoring fish passages and protecting critical habitat.

“Habitat restoration works and these projects will help boost the salmon and steelhead runs our tribes and our regional economy depend on,” Cantwell said in the news release.

Other Washington tribes receiving funds included: $9.2 million to the Tulalip Tribes to remove multiple barriers at priority streams in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Basins; $3.3 million to the Skagit River System Cooperative to replace seven culverts in the Skagit and Samish watersheds; $6.4 million to the Squaxin Island Tribe for dam removal across the mouth of the Deschutes River; $5.8 million to the Nisqually Indian Tribe to remove and replace a culvert on a Nisqually River tributary; $2.2 million to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to improve juvenile steelhead passage at the Hood Canal Bridge; $1.4 million to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for removal of fish passage barriers in the Ennis Creek watershed; and $3.1 million to the Yakama Nation to replace a barrier in the Klickitat Watershed.

Nationally, NOAA awarded $240 million for 46 passage projects, with 40 percent of the recommended projects led or supported by tribes. One additional round of NOAA funding for fish passage projects is expected later this year.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.