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Family Forest Fish Passage Program

a Cost-Share Program for Small Forest Landowners to Improve Fish Passage

About the Program

The Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) assists private forestland owners in removing culverts and other stream crossing structures that keep trout, salmon, and other fish from reaching upstream habitat. Road culverts and other structures that are aging, too small, or improperly installed can block fish from reaching their spawning grounds and young-rearing salmon from reaching the ocean. The program funds the replacement of eligible barriers with new structures. Since 2003, some 376 landowners have taken advantage of the program to remove 433 barriers and open more than 1149 miles of stream habitat.

Who is Eligable?

  • A private, or small forest landowner: You harvest less than 2 million board feet of timber each year from lands you own in Washington.


  • The fish barrier is on forestland and associated with a road: The land is capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber and is not being used for anything incompatible with growing timber. Forestland does not include crop fields, orchards, vineyards, pastures, feedlots, Christmas tree farms, etc.


  • The structure is on a fish-bearing stream: Any stream wider than 2 feet in western Washington (3 feet in eastern Washington) with a gradient of less than 20 percent is considered a potential fish habitat. A site-specific evaluation can determine if smaller or steeper streams also are fish-bearing. Qualifying barriers must be human-made, such as:

    • Culverts​

    • Dams

    • Weirs

    • Puncheons

    • Spillways

Benefits to the Landowner

Removing fish barriers helps increase salmon and trout populations. Reconnecting spawning and rearing habitat allows fish to move freely throughout a stream. Adult salmon migrate upstream to suitable spawning gravels, dig a nest (known as a redd), and lay thousands of eggs. Once the eggs hatch, juvenile salmon (known as fry) move upstream or downstream in search of suitable rearing habitat. Pools, beaver ponds, and wetlands provide excellent rearing habitats with slow-moving water and a feast of aquatic insects to eat.

Adult salmon have excellent jumping abilities and may be able to jump some fish passage barriers. Juvenile fish and other fish species like mud minnows are not strong jumpers and must be considered when evaluating a fish passage barrier. The Family Forest Fish Passage Program typically replaces barrier culverts with bridges, which are the best option for all species and life stages of fish. Bridges can also help mammals, amphibians, and reptiles safely cross roads.

Installing a larger culvert or bridge that passes high stream flows benefits landowners by reducing maintenance costs, road erosion, and flooding. When stream waters are high, undersized culverts can get blocked by debris and fail. Flood waters flowing over a roadway or eroding the roadway bed also create safety hazards. Installing a larger culvert or bridge that passes high stream flows reduces future maintenance costs. Landowners also benefit by having more salmon and trout in their streams.

Fish barrier diagram.jpg

Not sure if you instream structure is a fish barrier?

Apply to the program for an evaluation.

Fish Passage Barrier

Undersized and perches culvert concentrates water during high flow periods creating a velocity barrier to fish.

Fish Passage Structure

New bridge allows stream to function naturally during all flow periods

Financial and Technical Assistance

By signing up for the program, a landowner is relieved of any Forest Practices obligation to fix a fish barrier until the state determines the barrier is high priority. The program addresses barriers on a worst-first basis within each watershed. Each year the highest priority projects are funded. When a project is selected for funding, the state will provide 75-100 percent of the cost of fixing a fish barrier. 

How to Apply

The Washington Department of Natural Resources manages the Family Forest Fish Passage Program and accepts applications year round. If your project meets the eligibility requirements, a WDFW biologist will conduct a site visit to confirm your culvert is a barrier. 

  • Landowner applies for a culvert evaluation: Landowner submits an application to the DNR office by mail or online.

  • Culvert is evaluated and prioritized: A field technician will contact you to make a site visit to assess the fish barrier.

  • Culvert is funded when it becomes a high priority: The culvert or other form of barrier presenting the highest benefit to fish habitat are fixed first.

  • Project sponsor manages the project: The program provides a project sponsor who will manage all aspects of the project including: engineering, permits, contractors, and accounts. A sponsor may be a local conservation district, a regional non-profit fish enhancement group or another organization familiar with such projects. Landowners may also sponsor their own project. Program staff will assist you in identifying sponsors for each project.


  • Department of Natural Resources – Eligibility, outreach, and additional funding

  • Department of Fish and Wildlife – Evaluation and ranking

  • Recreation & Conservation Office – Funding & grant management 

Let’s Work Together

If you are interested in this program, reach out to the Ferry Conservation District and see how we can assist you.

Thanks for submitting!
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