[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 81 (Wednesday, April 27, 2016)]
[Pages 24796-24797]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-09766]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE578

Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of final determination and discussion of underlying 
biological analysis; notice of availability of a Record of Decision.


SUMMARY: NMFS has evaluated the joint resource management plans (RMPs) 
submitted to NMFS by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 
and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, Lummi Nation, Nooksack Tribe, 
Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, and Tulalip Tribes, pursuant to the 
limitation on take prohibitions for actions conducted under Limit 6 of 
the 4(d) Rule for salmon and steelhead promulgated under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA). The RMPs specify the propagation of early winter 
steelhead to support recreational and tribal fishing in the Dungeness, 
Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie River watersheds of 
Washington State. This document serves to notify the public that NMFS, 
by delegated authority from the Secretary of Commerce, has determined 
pursuant to Limit 6 of the 4(d) rule for salmon and steelhead that 
implementing and enforcing the RMPs will not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of survival and recovery of Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood 
Canal summer-run chum salmon, and Puget Sound steelhead. In compliance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), NMFS also announces 
the availability of its Record of Decision (ROD) on its Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the five early-winter 
steelhead hatchery programs in Puget Sound.

DATES: The final determination on the take limit under the ESA was made 
on April 15, 2016. The Record of Decision under NEPA was signed on 
April 15, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Written responses to the determinations should be sent to 
the Sustainable Fisheries Division, 1201 NE. Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 
1100, Portland, OR 97232. The complete text of the determinations, the 
analysis of the effects of the plans, and the ROD, along with 
additional documents and information, are available on the NMFS West 
Coast Region Web site at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/hatcheries/salmon_and_steelhead_hatcheries.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For ESA determinations, contact Tim 
Tynan at (360) 753-9579 or via email: [email protected]. For 
information on the ROD, contact Steve Leider at (360) 753-4650 or via 
email: [email protected].


Species Covered in This Notice

    Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): Threatened, Puget Sound, 
naturally produced and artificially propagated.
    Chum salmon (O. keta): Threatened, Hood Canal summer-run, naturally 
produced and artificially propagated.
    Steelhead (O. mykiss): Threatened, Puget Sound, naturally produced 
and artificially propagated.


    The RMPs are represented by five Hatchery and Genetics Management 
Plans (HGMPs). The HGMPs describe hatchery operations intended to 
produce early winter steelhead to mitigate for impacts on tribal and 
recreational fishing caused by past and on-going human developmental 
activities in the Dungeness, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and 
Snoqualmie River watersheds. They would be implemented to provide 
hatchery fish to: (1) Meet regional recreational fisheries objectives 
for the citizens of Washington State, and (2) meet tribal fishery 
harvest allocations that are guaranteed through treaties, as affirmed 
in United States v. Washington (1974). Adult steelhead produced by the 
programs are not intended to spawn naturally. All five proposed 
hatchery programs would use only hatchery fish for broodstock, and all 
HGMPs include monitoring and evaluation actions to assess the 
performance of each program, and effects on ESA-listed Puget Sound 
Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon (Dungeness River only), 
and Puget Sound steelhead. NMFS has determined that implementing and 
enforcing the RMPs will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood 
Canal summer-run chum salmon, or Puget Sound steelhead.
    NMFS West Coast Region was the lead agency responsible for 
preparing an FEIS to analyze the impacts of NMFS's 4(d) determination 
under Limit 6 for the five early winter steelhead hatchery programs. 
The FEIS evaluates five alternatives, including the proposed action and 
a no-action alternative. The notice of availability of the FEIS was 
published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016 (81 FR 12898).

Discussion of the Biological Analysis Underlying the ESA Determination

    The proposed hatchery activities described in the RMPs are intended 
to provide non-ESA-listed adult steelhead for harvest in recreational 
and tribal fisheries in the five watersheds where

[[Page 24797]]

the programs would operate. The RMPs provide the framework through 
which the State of Washington and the Tribes can jointly manage early 
winter steelhead hatchery, monitoring, and evaluation activities while 
meeting requirements specified under the ESA. The proposed action 
covers continued operation of the five hatchery programs to produce 
steelhead for harvest, while minimizing any impacts on the genetic 
integrity of natural steelhead populations, and ecological and 
demographic impacts on natural ESA-listed Chinook salmon, chum salmon, 
and steelhead.
    All steelhead produced through the five programs are derived from 
broodstock native to Puget Sound but not native to the watersheds where 
the fish would be planted. The early-winter steelhead stock released 
through the programs is not included as part of the listed Puget Sound 
Steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Operational protocols 
applied through the five hatchery programs would minimize potential 
risks to associated listed natural-origin steelhead, Chinook salmon, 
and (for the Dungeness River program) summer chum salmon populations in 
each of the watersheds where the programs are located. Particular 
emphasis is placed on ensuring that returning adult hatchery early-
winter steelhead do not interact to a substantial degree with natural-
origin steelhead populations in natural spawning areas. Hatchery 
management measures are applied to reduce the risk of spatial and 
temporal overlap, straying, and interbreeding between early-winter 
steelhead and natural-origin steelhead. The five HGMPs share very low 
genetic effects on natural-origin steelhead--essentially no estimated 
hatchery fish contribution or gene flow--demonstrated by DNA sampling 
results and other analyses of genetic introgression.
    As part of the proposed hatchery programs, monitoring and 
evaluation would be implemented to assess their effects on ESA-listed 
natural-origin steelhead, Chinook salmon, and summer chum salmon, and 
program performance in meeting harvest augmentation objectives. The 
hatchery plans emphasize monitoring and evaluation of genetic effects 
as a key objective to validate that effects are, and will remain, low 
and within levels identified as posing unsubstantial risks to listed 
natural-origin steelhead. Information gained through monitoring and 
evaluation will also be used to assess whether levels for other 
hatchery-related program impacts on listed fish (e.g., hatchery 
facilities, competition, and predation) are unsubstantial. The RMPs 
include provisions for annual reports that will assess compliance with 
performance standards established in the plans. Review of the RMPs and 
reports by NMFS, Washington State, and the Tribes will occur annually 
to evaluate whether assumptions regarding hatchery plan effects and 
analyses remain valid, and whether the objectives of the plans are 
being accomplished. NMFS' evaluation is available on the NMFS West 
Coast Region Web site (see ADDRESSES).

Summary of Comments Received in Response to the Proposed Evaluation and 
Pending Determination

    NMFS published two notices of its proposed evaluation and pending 
determinations for public review and comment on March 26, 2015 (80 FR 
15984), and February 23, 2016 (81 FR 8941). The proposed evaluation and 
pending determination was available for public review and comment for 
39 days. During the public comment period, NMFS received substantive 
comments specifically addressing the proposed evaluation and pending 
determination from two non-governmental organizations. None of the 
comments raised issues that required changes to the RMPs, or 
substantive modification of the NMFS proposed evaluation and pending 
determination document. In response to the comments, minor revisions 
were made in the NMFS document to clarify language included in the 
hatchery plan action description and effects evaluation sections. A 
detailed summary of the comments and NMFS' responses is also available 
on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site. Based on its evaluation and 
recommended determination and taking into account the public comments, 
NMFS issued its final determination on the early-winter steelhead 
hatchery RMPs.

Record of Decision--FEIS on Puget Sound Early-Winter Steelhead Programs

    NMFS has decided to select Alternative 5 from the FEIS. Alternative 
5 was the agency's preferred alternative in the FEIS. Under the 
selected alternative, NMFS would make a determination that the HGMPs 
submitted by the co-managers, including a revised HGMP for the 
Skykomish early-winter steelhead program, meet requirements of the ESA 
4(d) rule. The early-winter steelhead hatchery programs proposed in the 
Dungeness, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie River 
watersheds would be implemented as described in the submitted HGMPs. 
The ROD documents NMFS's decision, identifies all alternatives 
considered in reaching the decision, specifies the alternative 
considered to be environmentally preferable, and identifies and 
discusses relevant factors which were balanced by NMFS in making its 


    Under section 4 of the ESA, the Secretary of Commerce is required 
to adopt such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable for the 
conservation of species listed as threatened. The ESA salmon and 
steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000) specifies categories 
of activities that contribute to the conservation of listed salmonids 
and sets out the criteria for such activities. The rule further 
provides that the prohibitions of paragraph (a) of the rule do not 
apply to actions undertaken in compliance with an RMP developed jointly 
by the State of Washington and the Tribes and determined by NMFS to be 
in accordance with the salmon and steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, 
July 10, 2000).
    We also apply this notice in accordance with the requirements of 
NEPA as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1500 part 1506.6), and other appropriate Federal 
laws and regulations, and policies and procedures of NMFS for 
compliance with those regulations.

    Dated: April 21, 2016.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-09766 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am]