Overview: Puget Sound hatcheries draft EIS

NOAA Fisheries is releasing for public review a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for two resource management plans (RMPs) that were submitted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Treaty Tribes (referred to as the co-managers). One resource management plan addresses hatchery programs that produce Puget Sound Chinook salmon. The other plan addresses programs producing Puget Sound coho, pink, chum, and sockeye salmon and steelhead. NOAA Fisheries invited comments and suggestions from all interested parties in the summer of 2004 and again in 2011 to ensure that the EIS considers the full range of related issues and alternatives to the proposed action.

The Resource Management Plans and the hatchery plans

The resource management plans are the proposed frameworks through which the co-managers would jointly manage salmon and steelhead hatchery programs in Puget Sound while meeting conservation requirements specified under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The plans describe over 100 hatchery programs and evaluate their effects on Puget Sound Chinook and summer chum salmon populations protected as threatened species under the ESA. The plans also describe the scientific foundation and general principles for continued innovation in response to new information. Individual hatchery and genetic management plans (HGMPs) for each of the hatchery programs are appended to the plans. The HGMPs describe each hatchery program, including specific measures for research, monitoring, and evaluation activities that would guide future program adjustments using adaptive management.

NOAA Fisheries’ ESA determination on the co-managers' resource management plans for listed salmon and steelhead is the federal action that is the focus of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. A single EIS addresses the two plans and associated HGMPs.  The EIS will consider potential impacts on listed and non-listed animal and plant species and their habitats, water quality and quantity, socioeconomics, and environmental justice. The EIS will also include information about potential impacts on other components of the human environment, including human health and cultural resources.  The EIS will provide information for NOAA Fisheries, hatchery operators, and the public about the current and anticipated environmental effects of operating Puget Sound hatchery programs under a range of alternatives.

NOAA Fisheries is rigorously exploring and objectively evaluating a full range of reasonable alternatives in the draft EIS, including the action proposed by the co-managers in their resource management plans, and a "no action" alternative. Additional alternatives include: (1) a reduced production alternative that would provide greater conservation benefits in watersheds with management strategies to protect and recover indigenous populations where they still occur, and (2) an increased production alternative that would provide more harvest benefits.

Project Location

The hatchery programs included in this EIS are located in the Puget Sound basin. Major watersheds that may be affected by the programs include the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Lake Washington, Green, Puyallup, Nisqually, Skokomish, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Hamma Hamma, Dungeness, and Elwha. Hatchery facilities are located both in the river systems and adjacent marine areas.