The Howard Hanson Dam on the Green River that helps protect Kent, Auburn, Renton and Tukwila from flooding. COURTESY PHOTO, Stacy Smenos, U.S. Army

The Howard Hanson Dam on the Green River that helps protect Kent, Auburn, Renton and Tukwila from flooding. COURTESY PHOTO, Stacy Smenos, U.S. Army

President Biden’s budget includes $500M for Hanson Dam fish passage

Green River facility would open connection to 100 miles of salmon spawning habitat upriver

A total of $500 million to construct a downstream fish passage facility at Howard Hanson Dam along the Green River is part of President Joe Biden’s proposed federal budget for 2025.

Biden released a $7.3 trillion budget proposal for the 2025 fiscal year on Monday, March 11. Congress must approve the budget.

The dam, about 25 miles east of Kent, helps protect the Green River Valley communities of Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Renton, which depend on the earthen dam, built in 1961, to protect their lives and their jobs from flooding.

The dam continues to be a barrier to migrating salmon.

“This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District project will restore the biological connection to more than 100 miles of high-quality salmon spawning habitat upriver from the dam,” according to a March 11 Army Corps news release. “This is a 45% increase of total spawning habitat area on the Green River.”

The dam has prevented an estimated $23 billion in flood damage since it’s completion, according to the Army Corps. The dam includes other benefits such as providing clean drinking water to the people of Tacoma, Kent, Covington and other areas, fish conservation and ecosystem restoration.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has pushed hard for the fish passage funds.

“I’ve worked hard to make sure that saving our salmon is a top priority at the federal level,” Murray said in a statement. “The Howard Hanson Dam fish passage facility project is absolutely critical to salmon recovery in Washington state—and I’ve made clear through extensive engagement and many conversations with the Army Corps and OMB (Office of Management and Budget) that we need to get the job done on this project, which will open up over 100 miles of prime habitat and has the potential to produce more salmon than any other project in our region.

“We took a big step forward on this project with the $220 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and another step with $50 million I included in this year’s appropriations bills. But the most important step we’ve been working toward throughout this process is major federal funding for the actual construction of the fish passage facility.”

The goal is to finish the fish passage facilty by 2030. In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a Biological Opinion requiring the Army Corps to finish the project and have the fish passage facility operational by the end of 2030.

Tacoma Public Utilities has already completed an upstream fish passage facility that is ready for operation, according to the Army Corps. Once the Army Corps’ downstream facility is operational, the two facilities will open the watershed above the dam for migrating salmon.

“The funding requested in President Biden’s budget for Howard Hanson Dam would fully cover the construction contract award for the fish passage facility—this is a true milestone and a real cause for celebration,” Murray said. “Salmon and fish are so foundational to Washington state’s economy, culture, and our Tribal partners—and in writing our funding bills for next year, you can bet I will do my part at every step of the way to deliver this historic funding to restore wild salmon to our rivers and streams.”

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