New Washington Board meeting to prioritize removal of fish barriers statewide

A new board responsible for restoring fish habitat by expediting the removal of fish barriers in Washington’s streams will hold its first meeting June 17 in Olympia.

The Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board will develop a statewide strategy for removing fish barriers on state, local and private lands. Washington state has an estimated 30,000 fish barriers, such as culverts, which impede the migration of steelhead and salmon.

“Our goal is to coordinate the removal of barriers within a watershed to help ensure fish passage throughout the entire stream,” said Julie Henning, fish passage section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “A coordinated approach among barrier owners will take advantage of cost efficiencies while contributing to salmon recovery.”

The board was created earlier this year through state legislation (House Bill 2251) that also streamlines the permitting process for barrier removal projects. The legislation instructs board members to give preference to projects that will most benefit threatened or endangered species.

Board members will meet at 9 a.m. June 17 at the DoubleTree Hotel, 415 Capitol Way North in Olympia. All meetings are open to the public but only board members will participate in the discussion. Information on future board meetings, as well as meeting agendas and notes, can be found on the Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board’s web page at .

The chair of the board is a representative from WDFW. Other board members include representatives from the Washington departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, Association of Washington Counties, Washington Association of Cities, the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Yakama Indian Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The board’s work will build upon barrier removal projects including those completed under a 2013 federal court injunction that requires Washington to remove hundreds of state-owned culverts by 2030. The board’s effort will build on the state’s investment by correcting barriers upstream and downstream of those projects.