Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage

Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage

Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage

Reconnecting Miles of Historic Fish Habitat

When completed, the project will achieve a major objective in the regional efforts to increase natural reproduction of Puget Sound Chinook salmon as a food source for the large carnivores such as orca whales that depend on them for survival, as well as the habitat improvement in the spawning areas resulting from ocean derived nutrient transport. Working with the City of Bellingham, we evaluated concepts for removal of the existing diversion dam located in a remote area on the upper Middle Fork Nooksack River and restoration of fish passage to upstream habitat areas throughout the watershed. 

HDR and their consultant team were selected by the City and its funding partner, American Rivers, to summarize the alternative concepts, develop a selection methodology to determine the preferred alternative, and carry the preferred alternative forward through the development of construction plans and specifications and an engineer’s estimate of construction costs — concurrent with the preparation and negotiation of all necessary environmental agency permits to obtain approval for the construction of the project. 

This restoration project required intensive stakeholder participation and strategizing to determine potential streamlining pathways to enable dam removal on an aggressive timeline. Our environmental team completed required documents to successfully acquire 12 permits, all of which were obtained less than one year from contract initiation. 

In addition, we managed cultural and historic subconsultants for work at a culturally sensitive location, and a USACE Memorandum of Agreement for impacts on a historic property, which was completed in less than five months. The alternative selection process included a collaborative approach to reaching consensus with multiple federal, state and local agencies with regulatory authority and partner status, including both the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington State Department of Ecology and Whatcom County. 

Our key staff have been involved from original conception in 2001, finally reaching a successful milestone with grant funding obtained in 2017 to carry the project through construction completion by the end of 2022. 

Middle Fork Nooksack River Fish Passage
City of Bellingham

Middle Fork Nooksack River, WA
United States

Approximately 16 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat restored


Project Achievement Award (2022)
Environmental Category, Less than $50 Million
Construction Management Association of America