Small grant programs mean a lot to local communities

With the state of the economy leading every newscast and talk of a “super committee” in Congress that will slash federal spending, it is to lose sight of all of the good things happening around us and positive impact many state and federal programs still have on local communities.

Earlier this summer we announced, along with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center, over $860,000 in grants that will improve river health, restore fisheries, improve public safety and reduce flood risks. This funding will advance the effort to remove outdated dams and restore streams around the United States. Twelve projects in nine states across the country – from Massachusetts to California were allotted funding.

Projects like the Arroyo Sequit Creek Steelhead Barrier Removal Project, just outside of Malibu, California and within the California state park system, will receive $75,000 to remove fish passage barriers located within the Arroyo Sequit watershed. Removal of these barriers will not only open up 4.5 miles of important steelhead habitat in Southern California.

This project will also eliminate downcutting and erosion caused by the blockages. This erosion has led to the loss of five adjacent campsites and threatens septic system lines within the park. With state budget cuts resulting in the closure 70 state parks, the ability to provide federal dollars to assist the park in managing outdated infrastructure is even more crucial and supports the overall park system, which can help generate revenue in the form of income from recreation and tourism.

Moving back east to Massachusetts, the Beaver Dam Brook project is scheduled to remove two dams, restoring approximately 3.5 miles of stream and 250-acres of coastal wetlands, which are crucial in providing clean water to the community and important habitat to fish and wildlife. Streamside forests will be restored, and all existing barriers to fish migration from ocean to headwaters will be removed.

Restoring this portion of coastal wetlands will also provide significant amount of carbon sequestration, a process that removes carbon dioxide form the atmosphere – helping to mitigate global warming. Not only will this removal help the local communities and fish, but it will also help to alleviate the effects of climate change.  

American Rivers and NOAA have been partnering since 2001 to provide financial and technical assistance to more than 144 river restoration projects throughout the country aimed at restoring habitat for migratory fish and reconnecting local communities to their rivers.

The funds we are able to provide through NOAA’s Open Rivers Initiative extend beyond enabling local communities to remove stream barriers simply to benefit fish and other aquatic species. These projects create immediate jobs restoring habitat and make long-term improvements to the health of fisheries and the jobs, recreation and tourism that healthy habitat supports. 

These projects are just another example of why 2011 is the Year of the River. Keep checking back all year as we get closer to the nation’s thousandth dam being removed, as well as the removal of some of the tallest, most significant dams to date.