Photo Credit: Hunter Brumels

 

Klamath River Basin communities have likely heard of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) signed by President Biden on November 15th of this year. The bill was created to fund various federal programs, address climate change, and to address far-reaching infrastructure needs felt throughout the country. The bill also includes large sums of money allocated for rivers and clean water infrastructure. These funds will go to environmental restoration projects, amongst others, that should help alleviate some of the conditions that are currently threatening anadromous fish populations in the Klamath River and others like it.

The IIJA includes $55 billion for addressing ongoing water infrastructure issues that many communities throughout the nation face. These issues include lead service pipes, aging infrastructure, and emerging contaminants such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The bill also has over $7 billion allocated for flood management projects and $4.5 billion earmarked for the restoration of watersheds.

This last portion of funding, allocated for watershed restoration and conservation, is particularly exciting for those interested in seeing a reconnected Klamath River and the return of abundant, unimpeded salmon runs to the Basin. The $4.5 billion includes extensive funding for salmon conservation projects to be implemented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Agriculture.

Funded projects include community-based habitat restoration programs, large-scale water recycling and reuse projects, shore protection projects, and landscape restoration partnership programs. Additionally, large portions of the allocated funds will go towards grants for funding recovery projects for pacific coastal salmon populations, national estuary conservation, and culvert removal, replacement, and restoration programs, to name a few. The IIJA is comprised of diverse funding targets whose outcomes will improve conditions for threatened anadromous fish populations and support communities in their attempts to counter the disruption of salmon habitats and migrations.

As noted in a report by the Wild Salmon Center, the IIJA “creates a historic opportunity…to change the current trajectory of our salmon and orca populations, while directly benefiting the Tribes, economies, ecosystems, and local communities.” This is an opportunity for communities in the Klamath River Basin and in other regions impacted by river ecosystem degradation to improve the landscapes they inhabit to the benefit of human and animal populations alike. The funding provided by the Act will contribute to continued restoration and conservation efforts such as those exemplified in Klamath Basin communities’ work to remove dams from the river that is the heart of the region.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a great step forward in restoration and conservation of salmon populations and the waterways they rely on. The proposed Build Back Better bill could include further funding for “habitat restoration, hatcheries and more.” Hopefully, we will see this bill, and others like it, providing financial and political support for salmon restoration projects throughout impacted watersheds – the fish, the ecosystems they inhabit, and the communities that have historically depended on them need these changes to survive and prosper into the future.

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