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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 26, 2019
April Leigh, Education & Outreach Coordinator – Public Works Department (360) 867-2375 or april.leigh@co.thurston.wa.us 

Fish Passage Enhancement Program Wins State and National Award
American Public Works Association honors Thurston County’s innovative environmental project

​OLYMPIA – Thurston County is joining an elite list of government agencies awarded by the American Public Works Association (APWA). The county is receiving both a state chapter and national APWA Project of the Year award for the five-site project completed last year as part of the Fish Passage Enhancement Program. This is the first time the county will receive the prestigious national award.

"I am exceedingly proud of what our public works staff have accomplished in such a short period of time with this program," said Thurston County Commissioner John Hutchings. "They have opened more than 7 miles of fish habitat that had been blocked for decades. Last year we got to see the first salmon swim up-stream in more than 100 years at a creek running under Hunter Point Road near Steamboat Island."

Hutchings joined county administrative and Public Works staff in acceptance of the state chapter award on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center in Tacoma, WA. The national award will be given in September during the APWA National Conference, PWX, in Seattle, WA.

This year, APWA is awarding 28 projects that epitomize the public works profession and best practices from throughout the nation. The five-site Fish Passage Enhancement Program project was chosen as the winner in the environment category, for projects with a budget of $5 million or less.

"We are honored to receive this recognition and rewarded by the results of the project," said Thurston County Public Works Director Jennifer Walker. "I'm proud of our team and all the work they have done to make the project and the entire Fish Passage Enhancement Program a success."

The project included the removal of fish blocking culverts, the creation of streambed improvements and construction of new fish passable structures at five sites. Program coordinators created an innovative matrix that prioritizes culvert replacement, maximizing the total amount of fish habitat gained from the project.  They also kept costs low by using prefabricated structures.

"Taking the time to inventory our culverts and design a system for replacement really paid off. With this first project, we were able to open fish habitat at 5 different sites," said program coordinator and Thurston County Civil Engineer Steve Johnson.

The primary goal of the Fish Passage Enhancement Program is to increase access to habitat for spawning salmon and other anadromous fish by replacing fish blocking culverts on county owned roadways. The Board of County Commissioners directed Public Works to develop the program in 2016 after reviewing the damaging environmental impacts of fish blocking culverts, and the challenges Washington State faced managing and replacing culverts on state roadways.

For more information about the Thurston County Fish Passage Enhancement Program visit the following links:

About APWA

The American Public Works Association (www.apwa.net) is a not-for-profit, international organization of more than 30,000 members involved in the field of public works. APWA supports those who operate, improve and maintain public works and infrastructure through advocacy, education, and member engagement. APWA is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, has an office in Washington, DC, and 63 chapters in North America.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3