Feds release plans for $2.6B in climate and fisheries spending

Some of the money is bound for Washington state, but it’s uncertain how much.

By: - June 6, 2023 2:15 am

(Getty Images)

Washington state and Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest are positioned to score some of $2.6 billion for climate and fisheries programs the Biden administration unveiled on Tuesday. But how much of the money could eventually end up in this corner of the country isn’t yet clear.

Part of the package is $390 million the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will provide to tribes for fish-related programs. Habitat restoration, hatcheries, and specifically, Pacific salmon are among the areas the dollars will go to, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, which NOAA is part of. There’s another $349 million for conserving fisheries and protected marine species in the nation’s waters.

NOAA will also launch a $575 million competitive grant program to help pay for efforts by coastal regions to adapt to more severe weather, sea level rise, and other challenges tied to climate change. Washington communities would be able to apply for these funds.

Portions of the $2.6 billion will go to other costs and programs as well, such as workforce development and a competitive “business accelerator program” that will support companies offering “coastal and ocean-based resilience products and services related to NOAA’s mission.”

The money is flowing under the Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats pushed the law through Congress last year and President Biden signed it in August.

NOAA also plans to use funding from the law on facilities and infrastructure projects in Washington state, including a new Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The science center project will receive $90 million and the marine sanctuary $3 million, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“I’m pleased to see that NOAA’s spend plan includes enormous investments in salmon recovery, coastal resilience, and Tribes that will enable our state to punch above its weight when it comes to securing federal funds,” Murray said in a statement.

“I will be watching closely and working hand-in-hand with partners on the ground to make sure this funding gets to Washington state and is implemented as intended,” she added.

Lawmakers and Biden pegged the value of the climate and energy spending in the Inflation Reduction Act at about $370 billion around the time it passed. An April analysis from nonpartisan researchers at the University of Pennsylvania says the cost to the federal budget from the climate and energy provisions over a decade will be closer to $1 trillion above a baseline from before the law. To put those numbers in context, federal revenue for fiscal 2023 is expected to be $4.8 trillion and spending $6.4 trillion, according to May 12 estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

“The Inflation Reduction Act was all about making long-overdue investments in America, particularly when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. And while there’s been a lot of attention to accelerating the transition to clean energy, which was a big part of it, the Commerce Committee also made sure that we included robust funding to help coastal communities prepare for those climate impacts,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said on a call with reporters.

“Natural events are challenging us,” Cantwell said, adding that the programs outlined on Tuesday are geared toward “trying to build better natural infrastructure to help us weather the storm, really weather the storm, and try to save fish.”

Rick Spinrad, who leads NOAA, was also on the press call and highlighted that since January the U.S. has seen seven climate-related disasters where damages totaled more than $1 billion. “Communities across the country are facing the realities of climate change and extreme weather,” he said.

Cantwell emphasized that some money from the new programs could also go toward the removal of so-called fish passage barriers, which can include infrastructure like levees, culverts, or what she described as “deadbeat dams,” that block salmon from moving along waterways.

Washington state is spending billions of dollars on replacing culverts–the tunnels and pipes that carry water under roads–to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by tribes.

Of the $390 million in NOAA funding for tribal programs, $240 million will be for salmon and steelhead hatchery infrastructure and $70 million will go toward the removal of fish passage barriers, according to a press release Cantwell sent out on Tuesday.

It also said that the $3 million in Olympic Marine Sanctuary funding would be for upgrades at the site’s visitor center in Port Angeles. The total expected cost of that project will be around $15 million.

Murray’s office noted that the overall spending package includes $15 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and $27 million for Pacific salmon research.

This story was updated.

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Bill Lucia
Bill Lucia

Bill Lucia is the Standard’s editor-in-chief. He’s covered state and local policy and politics for a decade, nationwide for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and in Seattle for Crosscut.