Joe Biden

FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Action to Restore Healthy and Abundant Wild Salmon and Steelhead in the Columbia River Basin

September 27, 2023

Presidential Memorandum follows a historic agreement signed last week with Tribal Nations to reintroduce salmon into blocked areas in the Upper Basin

Today, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum to prioritize the restoration of healthy and abundant wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish populations to the Columbia River Basin. The Presidential Memorandum is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's unprecedented commitment to honor the United States' obligations to Tribal Nations and protect and restore America's natural wonders for future generations, while also recognizing the important co-benefits that the Columbia River provides to communities and businesses throughout the region.

The Columbia River and its tributaries, wetlands, and estuaries are the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest. The river ecosystem has supported ways of life, cultural and spiritual practices, commerce, and economic growth for generations and continues to provide our nation with abundant water, power, recreation, agriculture, transportation, and opportunity. Wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish populations in the Columbia River Basin are essential to the culture, economy, religion, and way of life of Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples. Actions since 1855, including the Federal Government's construction and operation of dams, private dam building, population growth, and overfishing, have changed the ecosystem and severely depleted wild fish populations in the region, substantially harming the Tribes' ability to exercise their rights reserved under treaty to hunt and fish in all usual and accustomed places. Since the dams were constructed, 13 fish species have been listed as threatened or endangered.

Today, President Biden is directing all relevant Federal agencies to utilize existing authorities and available resources – and assess what additional authorities and resources may be needed – to restore these wild fish populations and help ensure that the United States upholds its treaty and trust responsibilities to the Tribes. The President is also directing the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to explore opportunities and mechanisms to develop a partnership with Tribal Nations and States in the Columbia River Basin to ensure that Federal, Tribal, and State entities work together to achieve this goal.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to honoring and respecting Tribal sovereignty, protecting Tribal homelands, and incorporating Indigenous Knowledge and robust Tribal consultation into planning and decision-making. The Presidential Memorandum announced today supports Tribally led conservation efforts and helps address injustices of the past, including the decline or elimination of these fish from Tribal lands. It establishes that it is the policy of this Administration to work with the Congress and with Tribal Nations, States, local governments, and stakeholders to pursue effective, creative, and durable solutions to restore wild fish populations while delivering affordable and reliable clean energy, supporting the local agriculture economy, and meeting the many resilience needs of the region.

The Presidential Memorandum builds on the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to identify a strong and lasting path forward to restore healthy and abundant wild salmon and other native fish to the Columbia River Basin, President Biden's call to action earlier this year, and a historic agreement announced last week to support Tribally led efforts to restore salmon in blocked habitats in the Upper Basin. The agreement with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and Spokane Tribe of Indians will provide over $200 million over 20 years from the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal power marketing administration under the Department of Energy, to help reintroduce salmon into blocked habitats in the Upper Columbia River Basin. In addition, last week the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced $8 million over two years through the Bureau of Reclamation to support these efforts.

President Biden's Investing in America agenda has provided historic resources to support locally led conservation efforts, including in the Pacific Northwest. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act together include record resources for fish passage and ecosystem restoration. Today, DOI is also announcing $3.6 million to support the construction and expansion of Tribally led fish hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin, part of a $10 million investment through the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Inflation Reduction Act Fish Hatchery Program.

Additional Biden-Harris Administration efforts to target resources to support President Biden's goal of restoring wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels in the Columbia River Basin include:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allocated $60 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to support high-priority deferred maintenance projects for Mitchell Act Hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin. NOAA also allocated nearly $4.5 million in 2022 funding for two Tribal priority fish passage projects in the Basin through the Restoring Tribal Priority Fish Passage through Barrier Removal program.
  • EPA's Columbia River Basin Program received $79 million in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for 2021-2026. This funding provides EPA the ability to expand the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program and significantly increase competitive grants throughout the Basin to reduce toxics. In 2022, EPA awarded approximately $6.9 million across 25 projects to reduce toxics in fish and water throughout the Basin. EPA has also committed more than $33 million in the Basin in fiscal year 2023 to address toxics and cold water refugia.
  • NOAA Fisheries announced $95 million for 2022 and $106 million for 2023 Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund awards, through annual appropriations and President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Over $12 million of this was directed to the Columbia River Basin in 2022 and over $16 million in 2023.
  • NOAA has committed over $2.4 million to the removal of the Enloe Dam in Washington. The removal of Enloe Dam is led by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and will provide access to 1,520 miles of potential spawning and rearing habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead.
  • The Department of Transportation awarded over $18 million for culvert removals in the Columbia River Basin to help salmon migrate more freely through tributaries to their natal spawning grounds.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded over $7 million in 2023 for projects to conserve and restore native fish and their habitats throughout the Columbia River Basin.
  • Grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge include funding for priority Tribal projects related to salmon. For 2022, grants and matching funds included over $6 million for the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation for habitat restoration projects; nearly $20 million to the Nez Perce Tribe for restoring sockeye salmon habitat connectivity at the Wallowa Dam; and $621,000 to the North Fork John Day Watershed Council for habitat benefiting at-risk Middle Columbia River steelhead, bull trout, and spring run chinook salmon.
  • President Biden's fiscal year 2024 budget request includes $93 million for salmon recovery efforts through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including $66.67 million specific to Columbia River Fish Mitigation.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Action to Restore Healthy and Abundant Wild Salmon and Steelhead in the Columbia River Basin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/365722

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