State law requires that structures in streams provide for fish passage. The 353 known fish passage barriers in Thurston County – road culverts, dams, dikes, and other obstructions – reduce the habitat available to fish, including salmon and steelhead. The inability of fish to access upstream spawning and rearing areas results in decreased production, and in some cases, eliminates fish populations altogether.
What are we measuring?
Number of barriers that prevent fish passage.
In 2013, a U.S. District Court injunction required that the state correct hundreds of state-owned culverts in much of Western Washington by 2030. The court found that the fish passage barriers violate the treaties of more than 20 Western Washington Indian nations. Although the ruling only applies to state culverts, it implicates local and private fish passage barriers downstream of state barrier culverts.
Over the last 20 years, over 80 barriers were corrected in Thurston County; at least 353 remain. Removing barriers costs roughly $200,000 to $5 million each. While Washington State has a dedicated budget for barrier removal, current funding is not sufficient to meet the court deadline. Thurston County's 2017-2018 budget includes $4 million for fish passage barrier removal, and the County has identified 10-15 culverts for replacement. Funding for other locally-owned fish passage barriers comes from competitive grants. With current funding levels, it will take more than 60-80 years to correct locally-owned fish passage barriers.