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Working to fix fish passage barriers


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King County is developing a program that will outline the strategy for comprehensive restoration of fish passage at existing barriers that are owned or operated and maintained by the county. This program provides an important contribution to King County’s Clean Water Healthy Habitat agenda, equity and social justice efforts, and longstanding leadership in salmon recovery:

  • Removing fish passage barriers is one of the most effective ways to quickly restore salmon habitat.

  • Providing access to more and better stream habitat is essential to avoid extinction of both salmon and southern resident orcas in the Puget Sound region.

  • Restoring fish passage also helps restore natural habitat processes, which provides substantial environmental benefits for all species that rely on healthy stream habitats.

  • By helping support healthy salmon runs, restoration of fish passage provides a proactive investment that recognizes our obligations to Indian Tribes and their treaty rights to harvest fish.


Removing fish passage barriers is one of the most effective ways to quickly restore salmon habitat


King County has started development of the Fish Passage Restoration Program for watersheds within its jurisdiction.


Healthy salmon stocks are vital to Washington’s economy and culture. Salmon fisheries bolster the State’s economic health, furnish tens of thousands of jobs, and provide recreation and nourishment to our communities. Simply put, salmon are essential to Washington’s way of life. The Fish Passage Restoration Program will outline how the County will proactively restore fish passage at existing barriers.

In collaboration with federal, state, tribal, and city officials, this program will identify barriers to fish passage that have a county linkage, assess habitat and fish population restoration potential, coordinate with other protection and restoration actions, and sequence and accelerate investments to achieve the greatest benefits for salmon recovery. Program elements include:

Early Action Projects
As a down payment reflecting the priority of fish passage restoration, the approved 2019-2020 budget includes $12.5 million to support various phases of 39 fish passage projects. When complete, these projects would connect salmon to more than 150 miles of streams.

Inventory and Assessment of County Barriers
Existing information identifies more than 200 county-owned sites that are likely fish passage barriers. In the next two years, King County will survey more than 2,000 stream crossings to complete a comprehensive inventory of King County fish passage barriers.

Barrier Prioritization
Using data from the inventory and assessment of county stream crossings, King County will work with tribes, agencies, and partners to develop a methodology to prioritize the barrier inventory based on the quality and amount of fish habitat that could be restored, the condition of the crossing, and other factors. The prioritization will be useful to develop a sustainable plan for investments that accelerate the rate of habitat improvement from barrier removals.

Program Procedures
King County will develop a wide range of programmatic procedures that will make restoration of fish passage faster, cheaper, and better. This will include

  • identifying and implementing best practices for planning, designing, permitting, constructing, and performance monitoring of projects,
  • defining phasing of individual projects in light of prioritization and success goals;
  • regional collaboration to foster partnerships that coordinate widespread barrier removal in priority basins;
  • innovative approaches to align critical fish passage needs and critical infrastructure repair needs; and

Funding Strategies
King County will utilize the barrier inventory and program procedures to develop conceptual cost estimates for comprehensive barrier removal.  By comparing the cost estimate to historical funding, the county will analyze alternative financial scenarios to achieve program success and recommend a sustainable funding strategy to complete removal of fish passage barriers at County assets over the long-term.

For more information about the Fish Passage Restoration Program, please contact
Evan Lewis, Water and Land Resources Division.

Fish Passage Restoration Program

Evan Lewis