Salmon net pen water quality individual permits

Making sure net pens in Puget Sound meet the requirements of laws, rules, and regulations involves multiple agencies.

  • We issue individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water quality permits to make sure any release (discharge) of wastewater meets Washington's water quailty standards.
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regulates ecological impacts of marine aquaculture.
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides state aquatic land leases.

Draft Cooke Aquaculture permit modifications to raise steelhead

Since the change of fish species is not likely to change the effect to water quality, we drafted revised permits at four facilities to allow Cooke Aquaculture 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, this draft permit modification does 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 DNR expire in 2022. The net pens are located: one near Hope Island in Skagit Bay, and three in Rich Passage in Kitsap County (see maps below).

Draft permit documents

In the draft permits, we included all water quality related WDFW mitigations and took the opportunity to further strengthen the permit to protect water quality. Changes to the permits include:

  • Clarifying that any fish reared in Cooke’s net pens are prohibited from release.
  • Adding requirements and details on how to notify state agencies of events that could potentially lead to fish escape.
  • Increasing monitoring and reporting of potential fish escape during stocking and harvesting.
  • Adding monthly reporting for fish feed consumption.
  • Adding details on how nets must be maintained.
  • Adding a requirement to study new technologies and propose alternatives that reduce waste from feed.

We held a comment period and hearing on the draft permits

We held a comment period on draft modifications from Sept. 9 to Oct. 26, 2020. You can view all comments submitted via the online comment form. Also, we held a public workshop and hearing Oct. 14, 2020 to explain the proposed changes to the permits. Thirty five people attended the pubic hearing and eight provided testimony.   

Next steps

We are reviewing the comments we received and will make any necessary changes to the draft permits. We hope to finalize the permits in early 2021 and will include a response to comments in the Statement of Basis. 

Applications to modify permits

Cooke started this process by first submitting applications requesting to modify their permits. We held a public comment period on those applications in Spring 2020. Read the comments we received on the applications or read the full application materials below. 

Locations of net pens

Three salmon net pens – Clam Bay, Fort Ward, and Orchard Rocks in Rich Passage of Kitsap County. 

Northern most net pen – Hope Island in Skagit Bay of Skagit County.