Historic investments are supporting salmon restoration, Tribal climate resilience and infrastructure improvements
Date: Thursday, August 24, 2023
ANCHORAGE — Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau and Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu were in Alaska this week to highlight how historic resources from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda are supporting Tribal communities impacted by climate change and advancing co-stewardship and salmon conservation across the Yukon, Kuskokwim and Norton Sound Region.
The leaders toured the Little Tonsina River Restoration Project in Alaska’s Valdez-Cordova Borough, where $1.3 million from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has replaced a flood-damaged culvert with a new two-lane bridge, opening 70 miles of chinook and coho salmon habitat and reducing the risk of future flooding events. The Department is investing an overall $200 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law into the National Fish Passage Program, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over five years to bolster efforts to address outdated, unsafe or obsolete dams, culverts, levees and other barriers fragmenting our nation’s river and streams, which will help restore fish passages and aquatic connectivity while addressing public safety and enhancing recreation.
This work also advances the Department’s “Gravel to Gravel” Initiative, which has committed an initial $16 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law towards co-stewardship and salmon conservation in Alaska. Through a series of nation-to-nation consultations, congressional field hearings, and other forums, Department leaders have heard directly from communities about dramatic ecosystem changes in the region, their impacts on ways of life, and the need for immediate and lasting “gravel to gravel” action by the federal government. One of the most compelling examples of that change and the greatest call to action came around Pacific salmon populations, which are experiencing stark declines due to a variety of factors, including climate change and reduced habitat quality and connectivity, leading to subsistence salmon fishing closures and empty smokehouses.
Deputy Secretary Beaudreau and Advisor Landrieu also toured the Sourdough bridge replacement project, supported by $1.9 million from the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide access to the Bureau of Land Management-managed Sourdough Campground and help maintain safe, sustainable access to motorized recreational fishing on the Gulkana Wild and Scenic River. The GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), a bipartisan investment that improves visitor experiences, bolsters climate resilience and invests in the economy by creating good-paying jobs in recreation areas, national parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools. GAOA’s LRF funding sunsets after fiscal year 2025 and would need to be reauthorized by Congress to continue the efforts underway to address significant infrastructure needs across public lands. Throughout the month of August, Interior Department leaders are traveling throughout the nation to highlight how these investments are addressing long-deferred maintenance projects.
Members of the team also traveled to the Native Village of Napakiak to meet with community leaders and tour infrastructure under threat from climate-related erosion, flooding and permafrost degradation. Severe erosion has brought the banks of the Kuskokwim River just feet away from the William Miller Memorial School, the community’s only school, at high tide. Within the next 10 years, Napakiak will have to build a new school and move many homes, the water plant, and several other community structures to a safe and sustainable location.
In 2022, the Native Village of Napakiak was one of three communities in the nation selected to receive $25 million for a demonstration project as part of the Department’s voluntary community driven relocation program –funded through an initial $135 million commitment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act – to support Tribal communities at extreme risk from climate related threats. In conjunction with the launch of the new program, this year, the Department is making over $120 million available for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal climate resilience grants, the largest funding opportunity in the history of the program.
President Biden's Investing in America agenda and “Bidenomics” strategy is deploying record investments to provide affordable high-speed internet, safer roads and bridges, modern wastewater and sanitations systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good paying jobs in every Tribal community.