The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the agency's partners will pool $4.8 million in 2004 to remove 91 barriers to fish passage in 26 states.
Service funds for the popular Fish Passage program, amounting to $2.8 million, will be supplemented by another $2 million in matching funds from a wide array of partners ranging from civic and conservation organizations, local and State governments and other Federal agencies.
"Since 2001, the Fish Passage program has removed 158 barriers across the country," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "The Service, working with local communities and partner agencies, is using a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to restore natural flows and fish migration. Rivers are running their natural course, habitat has been restored, and the fish are coming back."
"Our partners in this program enable us to really stretch taxpayer's dollars," Director Steve Williams said. "That gives us a budget that lets us do far more than we could if we were in this alone. It's all voluntary, and it remains one of the most popular programs."
Fish Passage works to remove obstructions in waterways that prevent fish from reaching spawning grounds or historic habitat. Projects can be as small as inserting culverts under roads or railroad tracks or as large as the removal last February of the 95-year-old Embrey Dam near Fredericksburg, Va., by a military explosives team.
Many of the small dams targeted for removal date as far back as the American and Industrial Revolutions. Those dams were built either to accommodate early barge traffic or to provide power or irrigation for a young country. As times changed, many of the dams were abandoned but remained in place, serving only to block populations of fish and contributing to their gradual decline.
Completion of the 2004 projects will open 19,364 acres and more than 3,048 miles of waterways for fish, contributing to larger populations and more recreational fishing opportunities.
(A list of projects by State is available at http://news.fws.gov/NewsReleases/)