OLYMPIA – A new management plan designed to rebuild the state’s wild steelhead populations is unlikely to have an adverse environmental impact, according to a preliminary environmental impact statement (EIS) released today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Developed in accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act, the EIS assesses the environmental benefits and risks of changes proposed by WDFW in fisheries management, hatchery operations, habitat restoration and other practices under the plan.
None of the changes proposed by the department to benefit naturally spawning steelhead are likely to have an adverse impact on other species of fish, wildlife or plants, the environmental review concludes.
The EIS, which considers WDFW’s “preferred alternative” and three other options, is now posted on the department’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/steelhead/sepa.htm). The proposed steelhead management plan is included as Appendix A to that document.
The environmental assessment of WDFW’s proposal lays the foundation for final decisions on a new steelhead-management strategy expected early next year, said Heather Bartlett, WDFW fish program manager.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is scheduled to hear public comments on the department’s proposal at a public meeting Feb. 1-2 in Olympia, and is scheduled to take action on a final plan as early as next March.
Both the EIS and the proposed steelhead-management plan under consideration by the commission reflect public comments received over the past year during a statewide review, Bartlett said. A final comment period for the environmental review, including a series of public meetings throughout the state, was conducted last August.
“We really appreciate all the public input we have received on both of these documents,” Bartlett said. “Naturally spawning steelhead are facing serious challenges in many parts of the state, and we want to make sure the management plan that is ultimately adopted addresses all of the relevant issues.”
For more information on WDFW’s proposed steelhead management plan, see the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/steelhead/index.htm.