Dams and other stream blockages prevent anadromous fish from accessing large areas of key habitat. The NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program (CRP) supports habitat restoration projects, including 53 dam removal and fish passage projects from 1996 to 2002. This article provides a preliminary review of the biological benefits provided by the first 18 CRP dam removal and fish passage projects supported between 1996 and 1999. These 18 projects improved access to over 160 km of river habitat for many anadromous fish species, especially river herring (Alosa spp.) on the east coast and salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) on the west coast. While fish ladders provide targeted fish species access to key habitat areas, dam removal can improve the health of entire stream ecosystems and provide fish passage to fish species unable to utilize ladders. The CRP complements existing federal regulatory programs by providing a cooperative process at the local level that can restore habitats efficiently and effectively while encouraging long-term stewardship.