[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 58 (Thursday, March 26, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15986-15987]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-06926]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD827


Endangered and Threatened Species; Notice of Intent To Withdraw 
Existing Draft Environmental Impact Statement

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

ACTION: Notice of withdrawal.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is announcing the withdrawal of a draft Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) that was being prepared on two resource 
management plans (RMPs) and 114 supporting hatchery and genetic 
management plans (HGMPs) for Puget Sound hatchery programs. The plans 
were submitted to NMFS by the Washington Department of Fish and 
Wildlife and the Puget Sound treaty tribes (referred to as the co-
managers) for evaluation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for 
threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon and Puget Sound steelhead. 
Subsequent to the notice of intent to prepare an EIS in 2004, the co-
managers have made important changes in hatchery programs for salmon 
and steelhead. Changes in the programs and updated information 
important for analysis are being reflected in revised joint RMPs that 
are generally organized on a watershed-specific basis. In light of this 
and the ongoing submissions of revised watershed-specific joint 
hatchery RMPs and considering public comments received on the draft 
EIS, NMFS has determined that it is appropriate to withdraw the draft 
EIS. NMFS will conduct NEPA reviews for the revised RMPs that are 
jointly submitted to NMFS by the co-managers.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Leider, telephone (360) 753-
4650; fax (360) 753-9517; electronic mail: Steve.Leider@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On May 12, 2004, NMFS published the original 
notice of intent in the Federal Register to prepare an EIS for two 
joint 2004 state and tribal RMPs for salmon and steelhead hatcheries in 
Puget Sound (69 FR 26364). On July 29, 2011, NMFS published a second 
notice of intent in the Federal Register (76 FR 45515), to remind other 
agencies and the public of its plans to analyze the effects related to 
the action, and obtain information that may not have been available in 
2004 pertinent to the scope of issues to include in the EIS. On July 
25, 2014, NMFS published notification in the Federal Register that a 
draft EIS was available for comment (79 FR 43465). In response to 
requests from the public the comment period was extended twice as 
published in the Federal Register (79 FR 59767, October 3, 2014, and 79 
FR 69470, November 21, 2014).
    Subsequent to NMFS' publication of the notice of intent to prepare 
an EIS in 2004, and subsequent to the 2004 RMPs, the co-managers have 
updated their hatchery programs to reflect important changes in 
hatchery management in different areas of Puget Sound. Such changes 
include new management practices to respond to new scientific 
information, revised purposes and sizes of some programs, and 
management responses to other issues unique to particular watersheds. 
Several hatchery programs have been terminated since 2004. Finally, the 
RMPs have been updated to reflect the 2007 listing of Puget Sound 
steelhead under the ESA.
    In light of these changes, the co-managers have begun to submit to 
NMFS for review and approval revised joint RMPs for hatchery programs, 
generally organized by watershed, but located within the same action 
area as the 2004 RMPs. Because the co-managers are in control of how to 
design their RMPs and whether to revise the underlying HGMPs, these new 
RMPs replace the RMPs submitted in 2004.
    While the draft EIS for Puget Sound hatchery programs was being 
developed, and in response to co-manager requests, NMFS conducted

[[Page 15987]]

environmental reviews for the RMPs that were revised since the 2004 
RMPs were submitted to NMFS. For example, on December 10, 2012, NMFS 
completed a final Environmental Assessment (EA) and finding of no 
significant impact (FONSI) for five Elwha salmon and steelhead hatchery 
programs. Subsequently, on December 15, 2014, a final supplemental EA 
and FONSI for Elwha hatchery programs was published. In addition, in 
February, NMFS published a notice of availability for a draft EA for 
three salmon hatchery programs in the Dungeness River watershed (80 FR 
9260, February 20, 2015).
    Public comments on the draft EIS for Puget Sound hatchery programs 
noted that the 2004 RMPs for hatchery programs do not accurately 
reflect current hatchery program purposes or practices, and that some 
of the information used was outdated. It was also noted that the scale 
of the review, incorporating more than a hundred hatchery programs, 
tended to mask effects for some species.
    Therefore, considering ongoing submissions of revised watershed-
specific joint RMPs within the action area of the 2004 RMPs and public 
comments received on the draft EIS, NMFS has determined it is 
appropriate to terminate the EIS and transition this effort into new 
NEPA reviews on revised hatchery RMPs that are jointly submitted to 
NMFS by the co-managers. NMFS does not plan to formally respond to 
public comments on the draft EIS; however, information in the 
terminated draft EIS, along with public comments received on the draft 
EIS, will be considered by NMFS in subsequent NEPA reviews of 
watershed-specific RMPs.

Authority

    We provide this notice in accordance with the requirements of NEPA 
as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations 
(40 CFR 1506.6), and other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, 
and policies and procedures of NMFS for compliance with those 
regulations.

    Dated: March 23, 2015.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-06926 Filed 3-25-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P