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The Department of Interior funding will help reopen native fish habitats, including in southwestern Colorado

The money, from the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will be used to remove or retrofit outdated dams, culverts and other barriers that breach the nation’s rivers and streams.

Of the federal government’s latest investments in fish passages, approximately $3.7 million is flowing to projects in the Mountain West.

In southwestern Colorado, more than $700,000 will be used to replace a culvert that blocks roundtail, bluehead, and flannelmouth suckers from advancing into Cherry Creek in the La Plata River basin.

In northern Idaho, more than $400,000 will be used to replace a culvert blocking the migration of Snake River Basin steelhead and bull trout on the South Fork of Running Creek.

In northern New Mexico, more than $2.5 million will go toward various projects, including barrier removal in the Rio Chama watershed, the Upper San Juan River watershed and the Rio Costilla watershed. This latest project is the final step in a 25-year effort to reconnect 120 miles of stream for the Rio Grande’s cutthroat trout, sucker, chub and other species.

“Ensuring that these fish can move freely through this metapopulation is critical at this moment when the climate and things are changing so rapidly,” said Kevin Terry, Southwest program director at Trout Unlimited, which leads the Rio Costilla project. “We really need resilience, and we really need these organisms to be able to find refuge.”

Terry said climate change could shrink snowpack, reducing the amount of cool water that replenishes rivers and streams. As a result, water temperatures rise, which may force fish to seek cooler habitats.

The funding is part of the Biden administration’s $200 million commitment to restore native fish habitat and spawning grounds.

The projects receiving funding will not only support native fish, they will also help local communities, said Emily Olson, vice president for the Rocky Mountain region at Trout Unlimited.

“We see them improving climate resilience and increasing recreational opportunities, we know they strengthen local economies,” Olson said. “And of course they improve fish passage.”