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Making Way for the Nation’s Migrating Fish

Salmon and other migrating fish, such as shad, alewives and sturgeon, need access to freshwater habitat for spawning and rearing. In some cases, these fish need to swim thousands of miles through the oceans and rivers to reach their destination, but they are often blocked from completing their journey by man-made barriers, such as dams and culverts. NOAA is leading the charge to open our nation's rivers and streams by providing fish passage solutions at these barriers.

NOAA’s Approach to River Restoration

Fish passage is important to the protection and restoration of fish and their habitats. NOAA works with conservation organizations, energy companies, states, tribes and citizens to evaluate barriers—big and small—to improve fish passage. Most barriers have the same general impact on fish—blocking migrations—but each requires a specific set of conservation actions.

Through programs such as the Open Rivers Initiative, the NOAA Restoration Center has been able to open rivers and streams for fish and hundreds of other species by completely removing fish passage barriers. At the same time, the NOAA Fisheries Hydropower Program provides solutions for fish passage around hydroelectric dams—some of the largest dams in the United States. Together, NOAA programs have opened thousands of river miles with benefits to riverine, coastal, and marine ecosystems.

Delivering Lasting Results

  • In the past 14 years, NOAA has provided more than $19 million and leveraged an additional $52 million in partner funding to remove dams, replace culverts, and install fish ladders.
  • NOAA funded and provided technical assistance to almost 400 fish passage projects around the country since 1996.
  • In 2006, NOAA negotiated fish passage at two major hydropower projects—the Klamath in California and the Santee Cooper River in South Carolina—opening more than 650 miles of historic river habitat to migratory fish.
  • NOAA has also engaged more than 7,000 citizen volunteers who gave 42,000 hours to help implement fish passage projects since 1996.