We invite you to comment on the applications and supporting documents Cooke Aquaculture Pacific (Cooke) submitted requesting to modify its existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for four Puget Sound net pens.
The request is to modify its existing water quality permits for four net pens — one near Hope Island in Skagit Bay, and three in Rich Passage in Kistsap County.
Cooke wants to raise all-female, sterile rainbow trout, also known as steelhead. As steelhead are native to Washington, they are not part of the 2018 law phasing out non-native species in marine fish farming by 2022. However, if we modify the permits it will not extend the life of the permits, which expire in 2024. The current permits were originally issued to allow for two years of closure activities and monitoring after the facilities aquatic lands leases from the Washington Department of Natural Resources expire in 2022.
In order to change the species they are farming, the company must go through a multi-agency, multi-step permitting process. Our role is to consider how the new species may affect the discharges from the operation and what is required to be in the permit to ensure that water quality is protected. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has approved and issued their Marine Aquaculture Permit allowing Cooke to farm this native salmon in Puget Sound. WDFW regulates ecological impacts of marine aquaculture to prevent disease and deleterious effects to wild fish stocks.