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Essential Fish Habitat Consultations
Through EFH consultations, NOAA works with federal agencies to conserve and enhance essential fish habitat (EFH). Consultation is required when a federal agency authorizes, funds, or undertakes an action that may adversely affect EFH. The federal agency must provide NOAA Fisheries with an assessment of the action’s impacts to EFH, and NOAA Fisheries provides the federal agency with EFH Conservation Recommendations to avoid, minimize, mitigate, or otherwise offset those adverse effects. Federal agencies must provide a detailed written explanation to NOAA Fisheries describing which recommendations, if any, it has not adopted.
Who Needs a Consultation?
Private landowners and state agencies are not required to consult with NOAA Fisheries Service. A consultation is required if each of the following factors are satisfied:
- The federal government has authorized, funded, or undertaken part or all of a proposed activity. For example, if a project proposed by a federal or state agency or an individual requires a federal permit, then the federal agency authorizing the project through the issuance of a permit must consult with NOAA Fisheries Service.
- The action will “adversely” affect EFH. An adverse effect is defined as any impact that reduces quality and/or quantity of EFH. This includes direct or indirect physical, chemical, or biological alterations of the waters or substrate and loss of, or injury to species and their habitat, and other ecosystem components, or reduction of the quality and/or quantity of EFH. Adverse effects may result from actions occurring within EFH or outside of EFH. Use NOAA’s EFH Mapper tool to determine if the proposed action is located within or adjacent to EFH.
Types of Consultations
An EFH consultation can be combined with existing environmental review procedures, such as those under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the fish and Wildlife Coordination Act and the Federal Power Act, to streamline the requirements and avoid duplication with other environmental reviews.
NOAA might consult with other federal agencies on a programmatic basis (i.e., on a group of similar actions that fall within a program). In most cases, when EFH conservation recommendations are accepted by the action agency, no further consultation will be required.
NOAA can issue a general concurrence on specific types of federal actions that do not cause greater than minimal adverse effects on EFH and no further consultation will generally be required.
An abbreviated consultation is only completed if no general concurrence, programmatic consultation, or existing environmental review process is available or appropriate for the federal action. Abbreviated consultation is performed for those projects where the effect on EHF will not be substantial.
Expanded consultation should be completed when no other review process is available or appropriate for the federal action, and that action might result in substantial adverse effects on EFH. Procedures for expanded consultation allow for more detailed analysis of effects and more time for NOAA to coordinate with the action agency and develop EFH conservation recommendations.