NMFS takes additional step to protect Atlantic sturgeon in 15 states, DC

With several population segments of Atlantic sturgeon being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, their protection is a significant concern for owners and operators of hydropower projects and dams in the eastern U.S.

Reflecting this, last week the National Marine Fisheries Service in the U.S. issued a final rule to designate critical habitat for several sturgeon species. The “critical habitat” designation means that during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process for a hydropower project, FERC and other federal agencies must take special actions to protect that habitat.

The nearly 4,000 miles of rivers that contain “distinct population segments” that were listed in 2012 and are included in this rule are:

  • Gulf of Maine DPS: Penobscot, Kennebec, Androscoggin, Piscataqua, Cocheco, Salmon Falls and Merrimack rivers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts
  • New York Bight DPS: Connecticut, Housatonic, Hudson and Delaware rivers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware
  • Chesapeake Bay DPS: Potomac, Rappahannock, York, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, James and Nanticoke rivers and Marshyhope Creek in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia
  • Carolina DPS: Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear, Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Black, Santee, North Santee, South Santee and Cooper rivers and Bull Creek in North Carolina and South Carolina
  • South Atlantic DPS: Edisto, Combahee-Salkehatchie, Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Satilla and St. Marys rivers in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

The rule becomes effective Sept. 18.

It is called Endangered and Threatened Species; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Endangered New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina and South Atlantic Distinct Population Segments of Atlantic Sturgeon and the Threatened Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic Sturgeon.

What does this mean for hydropower? JD Supra says, “The rule increases regulatory complexity and compliance obligations for some hydropower and nuclear power licensees, among others.” NMFS says this rule will not have a “significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy.”

Further Reading on Sturgeon

Click the link to learn more about sturgeon passage work at the 700-kW Shawano hydro facility in Wisconsin.

For more on how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation are dealing with pallid sturgeon in Montana, click here.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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