WDFW seeking public input on proposed fish passage rules

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking for public feedback on proposed fish passage and screening rules intended to support salmon and orca recovery.

The public is invited to a virtual public meeting, scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 13, to learn more and provide input.

The proposed rule would formalize existing design standards for diversion screens and fish passage, introduce a climate adapted design standard for water crossings, and outline procedures that support regulatory compliance. 

New rules are anticipated to go into effect in 2023.

The rule making effort is rooted in recommendations from Gov. Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force. In 2018, the task force published its report identifying lack of prey as a key threat to endangered Southern Resident killer whales’ survival. 

Recommendation three of the report endorsed agencies to apply and enforce laws that protect salmon habitat. The task force specifically noted that WDFW should develop rules to fully implement the fishways, flow, and screening statutes (Chapter 77.57 Revised Code of Washington). 

The public can reference the proposed rules on WDFW’s website and provide feedback by email to [email protected], online, or by phone (855-925-2801 project code 4535).

The proposed rules are also undergoing a state environmental review process, referred to as a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. WDFW is accepting comments as part of that environmental review online and by email to [email protected]. Reference the WDFW website for more information.

The Department is accepting comments through Sept. 29, 2023.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear a briefing and hold a public hearing on the proposed rules during its Sept. 28-30 hybrid meeting in Yakima. The Commission will consider the proposed rules at its Oct. 26-28 hybrid meeting in October. More information will be posted to the Commission webpage as it becomes available.

WDFW shared prior drafts of the rules with the public in early 2021 and late 2022. Prior drafts, as well as recordings from previous public meetings, are available on WDFW’s website.

People with limited internet access can call the Habitat Program at 360-902-2534 to learn how to participate by phone and request print materials.