It has been “Infrastructure Week” in Washington for about 15 years. But this week, the American people and sportsmen finally won their case with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This is bipartisan infrastructure legislation that makes major investments to help the nation cope with the impacts of climate change, including some of the worst effects of rapidly warming climate on trout and salmon.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this bill in these polarized times. Many of the provisions of the bill represent years and decades of work and deferred priorities. Infrastructure has been a desperate need and a national priority for many years.
Thanks to the critical leadership of Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, we have the largest investment in physical infrastructure and waterways in our country in more than a generation. The anglers and hunters of Utah wish to express our gratitude to the senator for his foresight and initiative to bring this legislation across the finish line.
Trout Unlimited welcomes provisions of this law that will bring major benefits to cold-water fish and their habitats, including restoration of abandoned mines, removal of obsolete dams, restoration of forests and watersheds, replacement of old culverts and fish passage barriers; and increased efficiency of water management and transportation systems.
“This legislation is potentially transformational,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It reflects the understanding – which TU has championed for years – that our natural landscapes and waterways are as much a fundamental part of the nation’s infrastructure as bridges and dams. And it directly addresses some of the biggest challenges climate change poses to our infrastructure. ”
The infrastructure bill is accompanied by several common sense solutions and mitigation measures for climate-related impacts on fish and wildlife. For example, he’s creating a new Abandoned Hard Rock Mining Land Fund to help tackle the tens of thousands of abandoned hard rock mines that are currently polluting western watersheds, particularly in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. and Utah.
In addition, it funds the Legacy Roads and Trails program. This program provides dedicated funding to repair, upgrade and sometimes remove the more than 375,000 miles of roads, 12,000 bridges and 143,000 miles of trails managed by the US Forest Service. This is a high priority for Trout Unlimited due to the widespread adverse effects of poorly maintained roads and trails on trout and salmon streams.
The agreement also recognizes the critical role of water infrastructure and watershed health in improving water security as climate change makes conditions hotter and drier. It is investing $ 400 million in the WaterSMART program, of which $ 100 million is dedicated to natural infrastructure projects; $ 100 million for watershed management projects; $ 250 million for projects to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems; $ 300 million to implement the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan; and $ 1 billion for water reuse and recycling. Utah is already home to several projects funded by these grant programs, and this additional funding will ensure many additional opportunities to improve watershed health, fish and wildlife habitat, and clean water for the Utahns for. generations to come.
The infrastructure bill’s provisions help protect Utah’s water resources in the face of hotter summers and drier winters. And it will help protect the hunting and fishing heritage of many Utah families.
Some might describe this old-fashioned sausage-making business negatively: a little ugly and sometimes heavy. Yet we cannot help but view it as effective bipartite legislation.
Thanks to the leadership of the White House, House and Senate Democrats, and willing Republican leaders like Mitt Romney of Utah, we have a real victory for the American people.
Andy Rasmussen is the Utah coordinator for the Anglers Conservation Project at Trout Unlimited. He lives in Logan and works throughout Utah and the West on policy issues related to public lands, energy, and the maintenance of streams and other water resources.