Of 36 proposed projects to reopen migratory fish passages, two that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recommended for funding are in North Carolina.
NOAA Fisheries announced Wednesday its recommendations for nearly $105 million in funding for the new fish passage projects under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The purpose is to reopen migratory pathways, restore access to healthy habitat for fish and build tribal capacity to participate in developing and implementing fish passage projects.
The habitat projects for migratory fish across the country employs fish passage restoration, engineering and design, future project development, and building the capacity among partners to design projects and manage multifaceted restoration efforts, officials said.
In North Carolina, American Rivers was recommended for $4.23 million in the first year, up to total $7.14 million over three years, to restore priority habitat in the Cape Fear watershed for several migratory fish species, including American shad, river herring, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon and American eel. Three dams upstream of a series of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ locks and dams are to be removed, and pre-removal activities will be initiated for two additional dams.
The Nature Conservancy has been recommended for $3.26 million to replace six undersized culverts with bridges and remove two earthen barriers within the floodplain of the lower Roanoke River. Removal of these eight barriers will benefit migratory species such as blueback herring. Officials also noted that it will provide community benefits by reducing flooding and improving water quality in the watershed.
More than $26.3 million in funding is recommended for 15 projects to be led by tribal applicants for fish passage and to build tribal organizational capacity. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the remaining projects will directly involve tribes and are aligned with tribal priorities, officials said.
Application approval and obligation of funds are not final at this point in the selection process. Each application is being “recommended” for funding. This announcement is not an authorization to start the project and is not a guarantee of funding, officials continued.
Fish passage is about improving access for fish to the habitats they need or reconnecting access to historic habitat blocked by humans. When fish cannot access their habitat, they cannot rear, reproduce and grow their populations, resulting in population declines. NOAA said it is working to reopen these migratory pathways, restoring access to healthy habitat for fish.
The funding will help reopen migratory pathways and reconnect fish with their historic habitat, which is a critical step towards rebuilding fisheries back to healthy levels, NOAA said.