FHWA Announces $196 Million in Fish Crossing Grants

The Federal Highway Administration this week announced the winners of $196 million in federal grant money for a new program to provide fish crossings on federal-aid highways (below-grade, of course).

The program (the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program) was created and funded by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law (the IIJA). That law was unusual in that it was assembled by a small group of ten Senators, two of whom were Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). In addition, the chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at the time was Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and part of the price for her cooperation with the “Gang of Ten” was funding for the new culvert program.

It should not, therefore, surprise anyone that those three states – Alaska, Maine, and Washington – between them received 70 percent of the total funding from the program ($137.4 million out of $195.9 million). (Reminiscent of the rural ferry program that Murkowski set up in the IIJA, gaming the eligibility criteria so Alaska got $235 million out of $252 million nationwide in the first year’s grants.)

“In communities across the country where people depend on fishing for their livelihoods, culverts are vital infrastructure for ensuring fish passage,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Through this investment, we are repairing or removing hundreds of culverts nationwide, protecting jobs, mitigating the risk of flooding, and strengthening local economies.”

The program is intended to benefit “anadromous fish” – the kind of fish that are born in fresh water, then go live most of their lives in a saltwater environment, and then come back to fresh water to spawn. As such, eligibility is obviously limited to coastal states.

Within the eligibility guidelines of the statute, FHWA decided to prioritize projects to benefit endangered, threatened, or protected fish species.

The program is funded by the general fund, not the Highway Trust Fund, and grants are made on a 50-50 matching basis. Grant totals, along with matching fund sources, are below.

A full list of grant recipients is here.

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