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Salazar Highlights Kenai River as one of 10 Projects in Pacific Northwest and Western States as America’s Great Outdoors Rivers

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today identified river projects in 10 western and Pacific Northwest states to serve as models of the America’s Great Outdoors River Initiative to conserve and restore key rivers across the nation, expand outdoor recreational opportunities and support jobs in local communities.

The 10 river projects are part of a list of 51 ongoing projects that the Secretary is highlighting nationwide, one in each state and the District of Columbia. Ranging from the Elwha River Fish Passage Project in Washington to the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park in Nevada, today’s projects were selected to provide examples for how communities across America can restore and reconnect with the rivers in their backyards.

“Across the country, we are working hand in hand with states, tribes, local communities and other partners to revitalize our nation’s rivers and expand the opportunities for people to fish, swim, boat, and otherwise connect with the great outdoors,” Salazar said. “These on-going projects demonstrate how the federal family can be an effective conservation partner for community-led efforts to improve our rivers, which are the lifeblood of our communities and our economies.”

A map and more detailed descriptions of the river initiatives highlighted by Salazar can be accessed here. Additional river projects across the nation will be announced in the coming days.

The projects identified today are:

Alaska: Kenai RiverKenai River Restoration and Protection Project
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with many federal, tribal, state and local agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private landowners to restore fish passage, improve riparian habitat, and support the community Stream Watch program on the Kenai River, which is one of Alaska's premier recreation destinations for tourists and residents.

California: Sacramento RiverRed Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project
The Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project is a partnership between Bureau of Reclamation and the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority. It is the culmination of over 40 years of efforts by various stakeholders to find a balanced solution that improves fish passage and continues to deliver irrigation water to high-value cropland that produces over $250 million in crops per year and contributes $1 billion annually to the regional economy.

Colorado: Dolores RiverDolores River Tamarisk Removal Project
The Bureau of Land Management is working with the Dolores River Partnership - a two-state, citizen driven partnership – to improve fish habitat, restore riparian habitat, increase stream flows, reduce wildfire risks, develop education and stewardship opportunities, and expand opportunities for youth employment.

Hawaii: He’eia RiverLower He’eia Stream Restoration Project
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Federal agencies are working with many state and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations to restore the biological, socioeconomic, and cultural productivity of the lower He‘eia watershed, which contains the highest numbers and greatest diversity of fish, marine invertebrates, and native marine algae on the island.

Idaho: Yankee ForkYankee Fork Rehabilitation Project
The Bureau of Reclamation along with other federal, tribal, state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private corporations are creating spawning habitat for Chinook salmon, as well as steelhead and other native fish, along a section of Yankee Fork that was drastically altered by mining and dredging activities.

Nevada: Colorado RiverColorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails
The Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state, and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations are collaborating on river restoration, trails and access, picnic sites, shade shelters, fishing piers, equestrian facilities and other projects on a 1,191 acre public park serving the states of Nevada, Arizona and California.

Oregon: Sandy RiverSandy River Basin Restoration Project
The watershed-scale partnership of federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental organizations, including the Bureau of Land Management, are working to expand environmental and recreational opportunities, and protect critical habitat on the Sandy River, which will benefit the one-third of Oregon’s population that lives within 30 minutes of the project, and the federally-listed spring Chinook, winter Steelhead, and winter Coho.

Utah: Escalante RiverEscalante River Watershed Partnership
The Bureau of Land Management, other Federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations are cooperating on recreation, riparian restoration, and species recovery projects that utilize Youth Corps and other volunteers, and will benefit 200 species of migratory birds and several rare fish along the Escalante River. 

Washington: Elwha RiverElwha River Restoration
The National Park Service and other federal, tribal, state and local agencies are working to reopen more than 70 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat for five species of Pacific salmon on the Elwha River, with salmon populations predicted to swell from 3,000 to 400,000 – returning the Elwha River to the Pacific Northwest’s most productive salmon streams.

Wyoming: North Platte RiverTrappers Route Special Recreation Management Area
The Bureau of Land Management is working with state and local agencies to enhance wildlife habitat through invasive species control and reforestation, and to improve public access along the North Platte River, which offers spectacular fishing, paddling, waterfowl hunting and wildlife observation opportunities.

As part of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers, Interior Department agencies – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – will work with states and communities to advance river restoration and recreation by providing technical and other assistance through existing programs and staff, and by leveraging non-federal investments.

“America has more than 3.6 million miles of rivers and streams, and nearly every American lives within a mile of a river or stream, making them some of the nation’s most important recreational and ecological assets,” Salazar added. “America’s Great Outdoors Rivers will help fulfill President Obama’s vision for healthy and accessible rivers as we work to restore and conserve our nation’s treasured waterways.”

Rivers are economic engines for many local communities, supporting recreation and tourism industries by providing opportunities for boating, fishing and hunting, hiking, camping, swimming, and numerous other outdoor activities. Salazar noted that the outdoor industry creates an estimated 6.5 million jobs in the United States and pumps an estimated $730 billion a year into our nation’s economy.

Salazar unveiled America’s Great Outdoors Rivers in January as part of President Obama’s overall America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to work with communities across the country to establish a conservation and recreation agenda for 21st century and to reconnect people, especially young people, to the great outdoors.

The goals of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers include protecting and restoring America’s rivers for people and wildlife and enhancing river recreation that supports jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation.

Under the initiative, Salazar issued a Secretarial Order in February establishing a National Water Trails System, creating a network of designated water trails on rivers across the country that will help facilitate outdoor recreation, especially around urban areas, and provide national recognition to existing, local water trails. He designated the Chattahoochee River Water Trail, which encompasses 48 miles of river within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia, as the first National Water Trail.

In March, Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of Commerce John Bryson signed a memorandum of understanding implementing the National Fish Habitat Action Plan to assist state and local governments, landowners, and community groups in protecting and restoring waterways and fisheries.

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