Biden-Harris Administration announces $1 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to boost watershed restoration in Alaska
Funding will help local soil and water conservation district to restore impacted mine lands and fisheries
FAIRBANKS, ALASKA — The Bureau of Land Management recently awarded a $1 million grant to the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District as part of an ongoing effort to restore impacted mine lands in the Alaska Eastern Interior Field Office. The grant was made possible through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $1.4 billion for ecosystem restoration efforts over the next five years, building on proven projects, programs and partnerships that conserve our cherished wildlife and natural resources critical to supporting local economies, creating jobs and strengthening communities.
The BLM, in partnership with the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District, has been actively restoring river systems impacted by placer mining since 2013. The latest round of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will be put to work rehabilitating waterways in the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River system and upstream of the Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River system in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.
“We are thrilled to partner with Salcha-Delta in this endeavor,” said BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn. “They continue to be a key partner in creating jobs to restore impacted lands across a vast area of Alaska’s interior. The health of our fisheries and rivers is top of mind for all Alaskans, highlighting the importance of investing in restoring stream function.”
“We are mostly dealing with stabilizing the streams, which are flowing through old tailings,” said Matt Varner, BLM Alaska’s fisheries lead. “We use a very deliberate design approach to restore a mix of pools and riffles by reintroducing large rocks that were removed during past mining. We also reshape the valley and channel to restore floodplain connectivity and function.”
The work will restore several creeks feeding into the Fortymile River system, where historic mining practices in the area removed vegetation from the floodplain and processed materials in and around the stream to extract gold, often destabilizing channels. As a result, creeks struggle to recover from these significant effects even decades after mining operations have ended, causing reduced water quality, unstable streambanks, and limited pools for fish.
The BLM is taking robust strides using adaptive management in improving aquatic habitat through this approach. This work also provides a demonstration model for mining companies to follow when reclaiming streams and shorelines.
The funds for this project will be available to Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District for up to five years. This is one of many projects that will be supported by the BLM as part of its $26 million share of the $68.4 million announced by the Department of the Interior this year for ecosystem restoration funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
For more information on how BLM is using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other special legislation, go to https://www.blm.gov/infrastructure.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.