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Hatchery opens plans to public comment

The public has until Oct. 23 to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has prepared for salmon and steelhead hatchery management plans in Puget Sound.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound treaty tribes co-manage Puget Sound hatcheries, aside from one the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates.

Rob Jones, NOAA Marine Fisheries Service chief of hatcheries and fisheries for the West Coast region, said the environmental study looks at the benefits and risks of 133 hatchery programs in Puget Sound, including the Skagit River steelhead program a lawsuit halted earlier this year.

Following the lawsuit, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife retracted the plan for Skagit River winter steelhead from review under the Endangered Species Act, which was used as the basis of the legal argument.

Four hatcheries operate in the Skagit River system: the Marblemount, Upper Skagit, Baker Lake and Barnaby Slough hatcheries. Those operations contribute to chinook, coho, chum, sockeye and steelhead runs.

NOAA’s environmental study includes four alternatives for area hatcheries.

The alternatives are to take no action, accept the hatchery plans as submitted, reduce hatchery production or increase it, said Steve Leider, NOAA’s EIS project manager for the West Coast region.

Comment on the NOAA website at; by mail to William W. Stelle Jr., Regional Administrator, NMFS Northwest Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115; or by fax to 206-526-6426.