April 14, 2023
Mr. Mitch Landrieu
Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Ms. Shalanda D. Young
Office of Management and Budget
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Ms. Brenda Mallory
Council on Environmental Quality
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20501
Re: Coordination of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Fish Passage Funding
Dear Mr. Landrieu, Ms. Young, and Ms. Mallory:
The undersigned hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, landowner organizations, and scientific societies are writing in regard to the historic federal investment in fish passage and aquatic connectivity through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
Throughout the U.S., fish habitat is fragmented by culverts, dams, and other water control structures leading to declining fish populations, Endangered Species listings, and lost recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing opportunities. Eight federal agencies have received nearly $2 billion in funding to restore fish passage and aquatic connectivity. The agencies are now releasing the second of five years of funding with projects totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars in progress or moving toward implementation.
The conservation community has expressed our hope that this once in a generation opportunity will result in watershed-level connectivity at a scope and scale necessary to address one of the most significant nation-wide challenges for fish and aquatic organisms. We are encouraged by the ongoing, multi-agency dialogue underway and look forward to the agencies sharing a strategic vision for achieving watershed-level connectivity and an efficient process for coordination and implementation of these funds. We look forward to continued engagement with our federal partners as this process moves forward to ensure that this unique funding opportunity achieves maximum benefit for fish and communities.
Restoring aquatic connectivity at the watershed-level creates thriving fish populations, builds resilience, and allows access to cooler habitats as streams warm in the face of climate change. Further, these restoration activities economically benefit rural, tribal, and underserved communities by leveraging local labor, supplies, and materials.
We appreciate the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Martha Williams in convening federal agencies and stakeholders to chart a path forward for the coordinated and efficient use of BIL funding for aquatic connectivity. Under her leadership, the federal agencies have made progress toward- coordination. Last July, FWS convened a successful Fish Passage Summit at the National Conservation Training Center that brought together federal partners, state agencies, and the conservation community to begin a dialogue. In follow-up, the agencies met in December 2022, to further discuss opportunities for collaboration. As a conservation community, we look forward to more details on the shared strategic vision for achieving watershed-level connectivity and specifics on an efficient process for coordination and implementation across the federal family.
Partners across the nation, including many of the signatories here, are undertaking restoration projects for fish with significant co-benefits for communities including reducing and mitigating flood damage, improving water quality, and providing recreational opportunities leading to thriving local economies. We share the goal of ensuring that these projects result in the greatest benefits for our nation’s fish, rivers, streams, and communities.
We are encouraged by the dialogue that began last July at the Fish Passage Summit and we look forward to re-engaging in those discussions and working together to ensure this once-in-a generation funding opportunity has maximum impact for fish and aquatic organisms and local communities.
American Fisheries Society
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
American Sportfishing Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wild Salmon Center