In October 2019, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published its Draft Outline for a Work Plan for a Federal Aquaculture Regulatory Task Force (Draft Outline) in the Federal Register Notice. The Draft Outline identifies three goals that NMFS intends to use to improve regulatory efficiency for freshwater and marine aquaculture, as well as streamline regulations and management decisions.
The public comment period closes on November 8, 2019.
Given the rise in freshwater and marine aquaculture, particularly in Washington, the goals and objectives contained within the Draft Outline could provide clarity for both growers and agencies. Implementation of some of the objectives in the Draft Outline, however, could face legal challenges—particularly those aimed at expanding categories of use for NWP 48.
Last week, a Washington federal court judge issued a ruling in two cases regarding NWP 48 and its application to commercial shellfish aquaculture. Plaintiffs challenged the Army Corps’ reissuance of NWP 48 “authorizing discharges, structures, and work in the waters of the United States related to commercial shellfish aquaculture activities.” They argued, among other things, that the Army Corps failed to comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it reissued the Permit in 2017. The court agreed, finding that the Army Corps “failed to adequately consider the impacts of commercial shellfish aquaculture activities authorized under NWP 48, that its conclusory findings of minimal individual and cumulative impacts are not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and that its [Environmental Assessment] does not satisfy NEPA requirements and the governing regulations.”