OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has extended the public comment period on updated draft management plans that will be used by the agency to operate several hatchery programs in the lower Columbia River.
Under the new timeline, WDFW will accept public comments on the draft plans through Oct. 15.
Heather Bartlett, hatchery division manager for WDFW, said the comment period was extended for an additional 10 days because technical difficulties prevented the department from receiving some email in early to mid-September.
"We're asking anyone who received a message informing them that their email did not go through to re-submit their comments," Bartlett said. "We apologize for the inconvenience."
Of the 17 draft plans, known as Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMP), 15 are for artificial production programs for steelhead and two are for chinook salmon.
The plans describe the operation of those hatchery programs in the lower Columbia River and the potential effects of the programs on wild fish species, including salmon and steelhead, that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The draft plans are available for review on WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/hgmp/
) or at the department's office in Olympia. To schedule an appointment to review the plans in person, call (360) 902-2782.
Comments on the draft HGMPs can be submitted by U.S. mail to Hatcheries at 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA, 98501, or by email at HGMP_LCRcomments@dfw.wa.gov
WDFW has updated the draft HGMPs for the lower Columbia River to better reflect current efforts to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead populations, said Bartlett.
Public comments, WDFW's response and any resulting modifications to the draft HGMPs will be posted on the department's website. The finalized HGMPs will be forwarded to NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for implementing the ESA.
NOAA Fisheries is currently working to produce a final environmental impact statement on the effect of hatchery programs on protected salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River and Puget Sound.
In the coming weeks, WDFW will be seeking public comment on updated and revised draft HGMPs for hatchery programs in Puget Sound. Those draft plans also will be posted on WDFW's website.