Enhance Restoration of Salmon Habitat in Washington

Target: Washington State Department of Transportation

Goal: Enhance the restoration of salmon habitat and migratory paths by correcting more culverts so salmon can safely pass under roads.

Salmon are losing habitat and productive capacity in Washington due to habitat degradation and impedance to migratory paths. The Washington Department of Transportation is required to correct culverts, which channel streams under roads, so that salmon can pass safely and easily through. However the Department is not sufficiently committed to this effort; far more culverts must be corrected per year, and a stronger emphasis must be placed on the restoration of salmon habitat.

Constructed before the needs of salmon were readily observed, old culverts impede the path of salmon under roads in several ways. Rocks and sediment often build up, culverts are often too high for salmon jumping capacity, water level may be too low, or the culvert may be too small, forcing water through too fast for salmon. Correcting these culverts requires mindfulness of stream direction, flow rate, and nearby sediment; new culverts must facilitate stream and salmon passage under roads. Over 900 old culverts still impede salmon passage in streams throughout Western Washington, and fewer than ten are corrected each year. Northwest Tribes have gained federal and state legislation protecting salmon habitat through treaty rights, and while the Department of Natural Resources supports this effort, Department of Transportation lacks commitment.

Correction of culverts is one of the most cost-effective methods to restore habitat and increase salmon production. Salmon are vital to the economy and culture of the Puget Sound region, but habitat loss has serious implications for production, salmon health and survival, and species diversity. Please support Northwest Indian Tribes, northwest fisheries and Puget Sound salmon by requiring that the Washington Department of Transportation significantly increase its efforts to adequately correct culverts and restore salmon habitat.


Dear Washington State Department of Transportation,

Loss of salmon habitat and hindrances to migratory paths under roads due to old culverts pose a serious threat to production, the fisheries economy, species diversity, as well as salmon culture and heritage in the region. Northwest Indian Tribes have advocated for salmon habitat through treaty rights, but responsible state agencies are still not doing enough to restore habitat and ensure safe paths for salmon, especially under roads.

Hundreds of old culverts throughout Western Washington obstruct the paths of salmon, further reducing their ability to access habitat and reproduce. These culverts prevent salmon passage due to height, build-up of sediment, or problematic stream flow. The Department of Transportation is required to correct culverts, not only to channel stream water safely under and away from roads, but to ensure that salmon can safely and easily continue to swim through the stream.

Supported by the federal and state governments and Washington Department of Natural Resources, this effort to enhance stream flow and salmon paths under roads needs further action and implementation on the part of Department of Transportation. The enormous significance of salmon in the Puget Sound region requires that the Department prioritize the effort to correct culverts and restore habitats.


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Photo credit: Wonderlane via Flickr

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