Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Surf Zone Testing/Training and Amphibious Vehicle Training and Weapons Testing, 35870-35876 [E6-9882]

Download as PDF 35870 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices untimely, certain information submitted by Guangzhou Maria Yee Furnishings International Trade Administration Ltd. and Pyla HK Ltd.) (‘‘Maria Yee’’). The Court found that the Department’s [A–570–890] method of notice to parties of the requirement and deadline to submit a Notice of Amended Final response to Section A of the Determination of Sales at Less Than Fair Value/Pursuant to Court Decision: Department’s questionnaire was not reasonable, and remanded this case to Wooden Bedroom Furniture from the the Department for further consideration People’s Republic of China consistent with the Court’s opinion, and AGENCY: Import Administration, in light of the Court’s decision in Decca International Trade Administration, Hospitality Furnishings, LLC v. United U.S. Department of Commerce. States, 391 F. Supp. 2d 1298 (2005). SUMMARY: On April 5, 2006, the United The remand redetermination States Court of International Trade explained that, in accordance with the (‘‘Court’’) sustained the final remand Court’s opinion, the Department must determination made by the Department analyze the evidence presented by of Commerce (‘‘the Department’’) Maria Yee to determine whether it is pursuant to the Court’s remand of the eligible for a separate rate. Accordingly, amended final determination of the on December 27, 2005, the Department investigation of wooden bedroom reopened the record and requested that furniture from the People’s Republic of Maria Yee re–submit a copy of its initial China (‘‘PRC’’). See Guangzhou Maria July 2, 2004, submission, which it did Yee Furnishings Ltd., et al. v. United on December 28, 2005. Additionally, the States, Ct. No. 05–00065, Slip Op. 06– Department issued one supplemental 44 (Ct. Int’l Trade April 5, 2006) (‘‘Maria questionnaire to Maria Yee to address a Yee Order’’). This case arises out of the few deficiencies found in its December Department’s Final Determination of 28, 2005, submission. Maria Yee Sales at Less Than Fair Value: Wooden submitted timely and complete Bedroom Furniture From the People’s responses to these questionnaires. On Republic of China, 69 FR 67313 February 10, 2006, the Department (November 17, 2004) (‘‘Final issued its draft results of Determination’’), as amended, 70 FR 329 redetermination pursuant to remand for (January 4, 2005) (‘‘Amended Final comment by the interested parties. On Determination’’). Because the litigation February 14, 2006, Maria Yee submitted in this matter is concluded, the comments in response to the Department is issuing an amended final Department’s draft results of determination in accordance with the redetermination. No other party filed CIT’s decision. comments. On March 1, 2006, the EFFECTIVE DATE: June 22, 2006. Department issued its final results of redetermination pursuant to remand to FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: the Court. Based on our analysis of Eugene Degnan, AD/CVD Operations, Maria Yee’s evidence, we determined Office 8, Import Administration, that Maria Yee qualifies for a separate International Trade Administration, rate in the investigation of wooden U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th bedroom furniture from the PRC. See Street and Constitution Avenue, NW., Final Results of Redetermination Washington DC 20230; telephone (202) Pursuant to Court Remand, March 1, 482–0414. 2006. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On April 5, 2006, the Court ruled that Background the Department’s remand determination is supported by substantial evidence, On November 17, 2004, the Department published its notice of final and affirmed the Department’s remand results in their entirety. See Maria Yee determination in the investigation of Order. Granting a separate rate to Maria wooden bedroom furniture from the Yee changes it’s antidumping duty rate PRC. See Final Determination. On from the PRC–wide rate of 198.08 January 4, 2005, the Department percent to the Section A respondent rate published its notice of amended final of 6.65 percent. determination in the investigation of On April 27, 2006, consistent with the wooden bedroom furniture from the decision in Timken Co. v. United States, PRC. See Amended Final 893 F.2d 337 (Fed. Cir. 1990), the Determination. In Guangzhou Maria Yee Furnishings, Department notified the public that the CIT’s decision was not ‘‘in harmony’’ Ltd., et al. v. United States, Ct. No. 05– with the Department’s final 00065, Slip Op. 05–158 (CIT December determination. See Wooden Bedroom 14, 2005), the Court remanded the Department’s determination to reject, as Furniture from the People’s Republic of wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 China: Notice of Court Decision Not in Harmony, 71 FR 24840 (April 27, 2006). Amended Final Determination There is now a final and conclusive court decision in the court proceeding and we are thus amending the Amended Final Determination to reflect the results of our remand determination. The revised dumping margin is as follows: Company Weighted–Average Margin (Percent) Maria Yee ..................... 6.65 U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require a cash deposit rate of 6.65 percent for subject merchandise exported by Maria Yee and entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption on or after the effective date of this notice. This cash deposit requirement shall remain in effect until publication of the final results of an administrative review of this order. This notice is published in accordance with sections 735(d) and 777(i) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended. Dated: June 16, 2006. David M. Spooner, Assistant Secretary for Import Administration. [FR Doc. E6–9876 Filed 6–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [I.D. 041806B] Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Surf Zone Testing/ Training and Amphibious Vehicle Training and Weapons Testing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of receipt of an application for an incidental take authorization; notice of proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments and information. AGENCY: SUMMARY: On November 29, 2005, NMFS received a request from Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin AFB), for authorization to harass marine mammals, incidental to conducting surf zone testing/training and amphibious vehicle training and weapons testing off the coast of Santa Rosa Island (SRI). As E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices a result of this request, NMFS is proposing to issue a 1–year authorization to take marine mammals by Level B harassment incidental to this activity. NMFS will propose regulations at a later date that would govern these incidental takes under a Letter of Authorization (LOA) issued to Eglin for a period of up to 5 years after the 1–year IHA expires. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on the Eglin AFB application and NMFS’ proposal to issue an authorization to Eglin AFB to incidentally take, by harassment, two species of cetaceans for a period of 1 year. Comments and information must be postmarked no later than July 24, 2006. DATES: Comments should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910–3226. The mailbox address for providing email comments on this action is PR1.041806B@noaa.gov. Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10– megabyte file size. A copy of the application and a list of references used in this document may be obtained by writing to this address, by telephoning the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) and is also available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm. A copy of the Santa Rosa Island Mission Utilization Plan Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SRI Mission PEA) (U.S. Air Force, 2005) is available by writing to the Department of the Air Force, AAC/EMSN, Natural Resources Branch, 501 DeLeon St., Suite 101, Eglin AFB, FL 32542–5133. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shane Guan, NMFS, 301–713–2289, ext 137. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) (MMPA) direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 An authorization shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses, and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ’’...an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Subsection 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take marine mammals by harassment. With respect to ‘‘military readiness activities,’’ the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as follows: (i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B harassment]. Summary of Request On November 21, 2005, Eglin AFB petitioned NMFS for an authorization under section 101(a)(5) of the MMPA for the taking, by harassment, of marine mammals incidental to programmatic mission activities on Eglin’s SRI property, including the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf or GOM) to a depth of 30 feet (9.1 meters). The distance from the island shoreline that corresponds to this depth varies from approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) at the western side of the Air Force property to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) at the eastern side, extending out into the inner continental shelf. Activities conducted within the sound are addressed in the Estuarine and Riverine Areas Programmatic Environmental Assessment (U.S. Air Force, 2003a). The proposed action is for the 46th Test Wing Commander to establish a mission utilization plan for SRI based on historical and anticipated future use. Current and future operations are categorized as either testing or training and include: (1) Surf Zone Testing/Training; (2) Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) Training and Weapons Testing; (3) Amphibious PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 35871 Assaults; and (4) Special Operations Training. Description of Activities Surf Zone Testing/Training Eglin AFB proposes to establish Surf Zone Test Areas (SZTAs) on SRI to support major surf zone test exercises. Specific and dedicated areas on SRI would be utilized to perform these exercises. Major surf-zone test exercises include neutral (inert) systems and live (containing explosive material) systems, which would be detonated in shallow water. Current and proposed future surf zone activities would involve detonations of mine clearing line charges and bombs for obstacle clearing. These activities include line-charge mine clearance testing, shallow water assault breaching (SABRE) mine clearing testing, and beach obstacle clearing and neutralization. In the line-charge mine clearance testing, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (NSWCPC) conducted a line-charge test in the past as a precursor to other tests to evaluate the effectiveness of underwater mine countermeasure and clearing techniques. The Navy’s SABRE explosive net clearing weapon is in development with testing ongoing at Eglin’s Shallow Water Mine Pond Facility. Testing of the SABRE system would involve launching of a line charge subsystem propelled by rocket motors. This could require closure of some areas of the GOM and Choctawhatchee Bay waters to accommodate a 2.5–mile, 110–degree safety fan if these tests are conducted on the eastern portion of SRI. The beach obstacle clearing and neutralization involve simultaneous detonations of multiple bombs in the surf zone, which NSWCPC would evaluate to assess their effects on obstacles and mines as a potential beach-clearing tactic. Concentrating surf zone detonation activities within specified areas may reduce the environmental impacts associated with these activities as well as standardize the logistics, operational planning, and safety procedures. The designated test/training areas would accommodate both historical and expanded activities. Navy personnel would establish the areas within current usage guidelines similar to the numerous test areas as described in the AAC Technical Facilities Manual (Volume II Land Test Areas) (U.S. Air Force, 1996). E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 35872 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices Amphibious Vehicle Training and Weapon Testing Amphibious vehicles include the LCAC and the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV). Both of these vehicles have the capability to transit through the land/water interface and are utilized in a variety of mission types. The LCAC is a high-speed fully amphibious landing craft capable of traveling over both land and water, providing transition of personnel and equipment over the land-water interface. The LCAC is also used in the neutralization of beach obstacles and hostile watercraft, with test/training activities typically involving live/inert testing of various firing mechanisms in concert with travel through the landwater interface and across beach environments. In 1998 and 2000, the Navy conducted LCAC training and weapon testing on SRI involving live fire and tank transport. The proposed expansion of LCAC training and testing is related to the need for expanded special operations and amphibious assault training and testing activities. Expanded LCAC activities would involve increased use of the LCAC for both inert training activities and live fire testing and training. The LCAC would utilize specific areas for crossing between the Gulf to Santa Rosa Sound, and for firing weapons systems. In addition, several organizations have a need to initiate or expand their current work in or around the SRI. The Marine Corps has a need to use the island to perform amphibious assault exercises. These activities would typically involve a coordinated mission utilizing large landing craft such as AAVs and LCACs, varying numbers of troops and personnel, and aircraft. Landing craft and personnel would be dropped into the ocean several miles or several thousand yards off shore and traverse to the island. Upon reaching the island, the assault force would breach the shoreline, set up a perimeter or staging area, and either proceed to an objective or remain on site. wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES Special Operations Training Eglin proposes to increase Special Operations training within established maneuver areas and the additional establishment of LCAC live fire and crossover areas on the island. Increased special operations training would involve covert beach landings and assaults and other mission training activities. These exercises could involve full-scale beach assaults involving dozens of troops and landing craft, or small-scale exercises involving VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 dropping off personnel in rubber boats within the proposed action area. Personnel would navigate in, conduct a covert landing on the beach, and capture a target on the island or proceed to transit the island and go to the mainland. Surf zone testing/training activities and amphibious vehicle testing/training activities would be intermittent yet ongoing, and therefore Eglin AFB has also made a request for a take authorization under section 10(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA for a time period of five years. These activities would occur within the proposed action area, which includes the Gulf-side shoreline of SRI seaward to a depth of 30 feet (91 m). The distance from the shoreline that corresponds to this depth varies from approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) at the western side of the Air Force property to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) at the eastern side, extending into the inner continental shelf. Training involving live fire exercises would be carried out a maximum twice per year (one during daytime and/or one at night). These missions would involve special operations personnel, an LCAC, or an AAV on the north shore of the island or in Santa Rosa Sound firing a at target located on SRI. The target would be a hardended structure of steel or wood. The angle of firing would be toward the ground and ricocheting would be minimal due to the sandy substrate. The NSWCPC would use lowrange, high-fragmentation munitions at the maneuver areas to allow for more realistic training scenarios. The NSWCPC would direct live fire toward the Gulf. Description of Marine Mammals Affected by the Activity Marine mammal species potentially occurring within the proposed action area include the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), and the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). General information on Florida manatee can be found in the Florida Manatee Recovery Plan (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001). Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are distributed continuously throughout the continental shelf, coastal, and baysound waters of the northern GOM and along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. The identification of a biologicallymeaningful ‘‘stock’’ of bottlenose dolphins in the GOM is complicated by the high degree of behavioral variability exhibited by this species (Wells, 2003). Currently, bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. GOM are managed as 38 different PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 stocks: one northern GOM oceanic stock, one northern GOM continental shelf stock, three northern GOM costal stocks (western, northern, and eastern Gulf), and 33 bay, sound, and estuarine stocks (NMFS, 2005). The identification of these stocks is based on descriptions of relatively discrete dolphin communities in these waters. A community includes resident dolphins that regularly share large portions of their ranges, exhibit similar distinct genetic profiles, and interact with each other to a much greater extent than with dolphins in adjacent waters. Bottlenose dolphin communities do not constitute closed demographic populations, as individuals from adjacent communities are known to interbreed. Nevertheless, the geographic nature of these areas and long-term stability of residency patterns suggest that many of these communities exist as functioning units of their ecosystems, and under the MMPA must be maintained as such. Within the proposed action area, at least three Atlantic bottlenose dolphin stocks are expected to occur: the northern GOM northern coastal, the Pensacola Bay/East Bay stock, and the Choctawhatchee Bay stock (NMFS, 2005). There has been no population assessment for any of these stocks for more than eight years. The relatively high number of bottlenose dolphin deaths that occurred during mortality events (mostly from stranding) since 1990 raises a concern that some of the stocks are stressed. Each of these stocks is listed as a strategic stock under the MMPA. The Atlantic spotted dolphin is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean in temperate to tropical waters (Perrin et al., 1994). In the GOM, this species occurs primarily from continental shelf waters 10–200 m (32.8 – 656.2 ft) deep to slope waters <500 m (1,640 ft) deep (Fulling et al., 2003). Atlantic spotted dolphins were seen in all seasons during GulfCet aerial surveys of the northern GOM from 1992 to 1998 (Hansen et al., 1996; Mullin and Hoggard, 2003). It has been suggested that this species may move inshore seasonally during spring, but data supporting this hypothesis are limited (Fritts et al., 1983). The best available abundance estimate for the northern GOM stock of the Atlantic spotted dolphin is 30,947 (NMFS, 2005). More detailed information on the Atlantic bottlenose and spotted dolphins can be found in the NMFS Stock Assessment Reports at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ species.htm. E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices Potential Impacts to Marine Mammals Potential impacts to marine mammals may occur due to underwater noise and direct physical impacts (DPI). Noise is produced by underwater detonations in the surf zone and by the operation of amphibious vehicles. DPI could result from collisions with amphibious vehicles and from ordnance live fire. However, with implementation of the mitigation actions discussed later in this document, the potential for impacts to marine mammals are anticipated to be de minimus (U.S. Air Force, 2005). Explosive criteria and thresholds for assessing impacts of explosions on marine mammals were discussed by NMFS in detail in its issuance of an IHA for Eglin’s Precision Strike Weapon testing activity (70 FR 48675, August 19, 2005) and are not repeated here. Please refer to that document for this background information. Estimation of Take and Impact Surf Zone Detonation Surf zone detonation noise impacts are considered within two categories: overpressure and acoustics. Underwater explosive detonations produce a wave of pressure in the water column. This pressure wave potentially has lethal and injurious impacts, depending on the proximity to the source detonation. Humans and animals receive the acoustic signature of noise as sound. Beyond the physical impacts, acoustics may cause annoyance and behavior modifications (Goertner, 1982). Estimating the impacts to marine mammals from underwater detonations were discussed by NMFS in detail in its notice of receipt of application for an IHA for Eglin’s Air-to-Surface Gunnery mission in the Gulf (71 FR 3474, January 23, 2006) and is not repeated here. Please refer to that document for this background information. A maximum of one surf zone testing/ training mission would be completed per year. The impact areas of the proposed action are derived from mathematical calculations and models that predict the distances to which threshold noise levels would travel. The equations for the models consider the amount of net explosive, the properties of detonations under water, and environmental factors such as depth of the explosion, overall water depth, water temperature, and bottom type. The end result of the analysis is an area known as the Zone of Influence (ZOI). A ZOI is based on an outward radial distance from the point of detonation, extending to the limit of a particular threshold level in a 360– 35873 degree area. Thus, there are separate ZOIs for mortality, injury (hearingrelated injury and slight, non-fatal lung injury), and harassment (temporary threshold shift, or TTS, and sub-TTS). Given the radius, and assuming noise spreads outward in a spherical manner, the entire area ensonified (i.e., exposed to the specific noise level being analyzed) is estimated. The radius of each threshold is shown for each shallow water surf zone mine clearing system in Table 1. The radius is assumed to extend from the point of detonation in all directions, allowing calculation of the affected area. The number of takes is calculated by applying marine mammal density to the ZOI (area) for each detonation type. Species density for most cetaceans is based on adjusted GulfCet II aerial survey data, which is shown in Table 2. GulfCet II data were conservatively adjusted upward to approximately two standard deviations to obtain 99 percent confidence, and a submergence correction factor was applied to account for the presence of submerged, uncounted animals. However, the actual number of marine mammal takes would be even smaller, since up to half of the ZOI would be over land and very shallow surf, which is not considered marine mammal habitat. TABLE 1.—ZONES OF IMPACT FOR UNDERWATER EXPLOSIVE FROM FOUR MINE CLEARING SYSTEMS (ACOUSTIC UNITS ARE RE 1 MICROPA2) ZOI Radius (m) Threshold Criteria 176 dB 1/3 Octave SEL* 182 dB 1/3 Octave SEL 205 dB SEL 23 psi 13 psi-msec 30.5 psi-msec SABRE 232 lb NEW MK–5 MCS 1,750 lb NEW 1,440 961 200 857 60 45 2,299 1,658 478 1,788 100 68 Level B Behavior Level B TTS Dual Criterion Level A PTS Level B Dual Criteria Level A Injury Mortality DET 130 lb 1,252 796 155 761 58 42 * SEL - Sound energy level Table 3 lists the noise-related dolphin take estimates resulting from surf zone detonations associated with the AdPerferred Alternative of the PEA. The justed take numbers represent the combined density total of Atlantic bottlenose and Atlantic (Individuals/ spotted dolphins, and do not consider km2)* any mitigation measures. Implementation of mitigation measures 0.810 discussed below would significantly 0.677 decrease the number of takes. Discussion of the amount of take 0.053 reduction is provided below. TABLE 2.—CETACEAN DENSITIES FOR GULF OF MEXICO SHELF REGION Individuals/ km2 wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES Species Bottlenose dolphin Atlantic spotted dolphin Bottlenose or Atlantic dolphin Total Dive profile % at surface 0.148 30 0.089 30 0.007 30 0.244 1.54 * Adjusted for undetected submerged animals to approximately two standard deviations. VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 MK–82 ARRAY 1,372 lb 2,207 1,544 436 1,557 86 60 35874 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices TABLE 3.—PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE TAKE ESTIMATES FROM NOISE IMPACTS TO DOLPHINS (ACOUSTIC UNITS ARE RE 1 MICROPA 2) Threshold Criteria 176 dB 1/3 Octave SEL 182 dB 1/3 Octave SEL SABRE Sub-TTS Level B Harassment TTS (dual criterion) Level B TTS (dual criterion) Level A PTS Level A Non-lethal Injury Mortality 23 psi 205 dB Total SEL 13 psi-msec 30.5 psi-msec MK–5 MCS MK–82 Array DET Total Takes * 10 5 26 13 8 3 24 12 68 33 4 0 0 0 15 1 0 0 3 0 0 0 12 1 0 0 34 2 0 0 * Estimated exposure with no mitigation measures in place wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES Noise from LCAC Noise resulting from LCAC operations was considered under a transit mode of operation. The LCAC uses rotary air screw technology to power the craft over the water, therefore, noise from the engine is not emitted directly into the water. The Navy’s acoustic in-water noise characterization studies show the noise emitted from the LCAC into the water is very similar to that of the MH– 53 helicopter operating at low altitudes. Based on the Air Force’s Excess Sound Attenuation Model for the LCAC’s engines under ground runup condition, the data estimate that the maximum noise level (98 dBA) is at a point 45 degrees from the bow of the craft at a distance of 61 m (200 ft) in air. Maximum noise levels fall below 90 dBA at a point less than 122 meters (400 ft) from the craft in air (U.S. Air Force, 1999). Due to the large difference of acoustic impedance between air and water, much of the acoustic energy would be reflected at the surface. Therefore, the effects of noise from LCAC to marine mammals would be negligible. Collision with Vessels During the time that amphibious vehicles are operating in (or, in the case of LCACs, just above) the water, encounters with marine mammals are possible. A slight possibility exists that such encounters could result in a vessel physically striking an animal. However, this scenario is considered very unlikely. Dolphins are extremely mobile and have keen hearing and would likely leave the vicinity of any vehicle traffic. The largest vehicles that would be moving are LCACs, and their beam measurement can be used for conservative impact analyses. The operation which potentially uses the largest number of LCACs is Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) training. Based on analysis in the ARG/MEU Readiness Training Environmental Assessment (U.S. Air Force, 2003b), LCAC activities VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 (over 10 days) could potentially impact 22.25 square miles of the total water surface area. The estimated number of bottlenose dolphins in this area is 6.9, with an approximately equal number of Atlantic spotted dolphins. These species would easily avoid collision because the LCACs produce noise that would be detected some distance away, and therefore would be avoided as any other boat in the Gulf. In addition, AAVs move very slowly and would be easily avoided. The potential for amphibious craft colliding with marine mammals and causing injury or death is therefore considered remote. from a section of beach 0.2 km (0.11 nm) wide, only 0.3 dolphins would be within the area of potential DPI. Finally, the mitigation measures discussed below would further reduces the likelihood of direct impacts to marine mammals due to live fire operations. In addition, given the infrequency of the surf zone detonation (maximum of once per year) and the amphibious vehicle and weapon testing (maximum of twice per year), NMFS believes there is no potential for long-term displacement or behavioral impacts of marine mammals within the proposed action area. Live Fire Operations Mitigation Live fire operations with munitions directed towards the Gulf have the potential to impact marine mammals (primarily bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins). Cetacean abundance estimates for the study area are derived from CulfCet II aerial surveys in the eastern Gulf waters (Davis et al., 2000). To provide a more conservative impact analysis, density estimates have been adjusted to account for submerged individuals. The percent of time that an animal is submerged versus at the surface was obtained from Moore and Clarke (1998), and used to determine an adjusted density for each species. The result shows an estimated animal density of 1.54 animals/km2 (Table 2). A maximum of two live fire operations would be conducted in a year, and are associated with expanded Special Operations training on SRI. Small caliber weapons between 5.56 mm and .50 caliber with low-range munitions would be allowed only within designated live fire areas. The average range of the munitions is approximately 1 km (0.54 nm). If a given live fire area was 1 km (0.54 nm) wide, then approximately 1.5 dolphins could be vulnerable to a munitions strike. However, even the largest live fire area on SRI is considerably less than 1 km (0.54 nm) wide. If live fire is conservatively estimated to originate Eglin AFB would employ a number of mitigation measures in an effort to substantially decrease the number of animals potentially affected. Visual monitoring of the operational area can be a very effective means of detecting the presence of marine mammals. This is particularly true of the species most likely to be present (bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins) due to their tendency to occur in groups, their relatively short dive time, and their relatively high level of surface activity. In addition, the water clarity in the northeastern GOM is typically very high. It is often possible to view the entire water column in the water depth that defines the study area (30 feet or 9.1 m). For the surf zone testing/training, missions would only be conducted under daylight conditions of suitable visibility and sea state of number three or less. Prior to the mission, a trained observer aboard a helicopter would survey (visually monitor) the test area, which is a very effective method for detecting sea turtles and cetaceans. In addition, shipboard personnel would provide supplemental observations when available. The size of the area to be surveyed would depend on the specific test system, but it would correspond to the ZOI for Level B behavior harassment (176 dB 1/3 octave PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices SEL) listed in Table 1. The survey would be conducted approximately 250 feet (76 m) above the sea surface to allow observers to scan a large distance. If a marine mammal is sighted within the ZOI, the mission would be suspended until the animal is clear of this area. In addition, to reduce the potential impacts to sea turtles and manatees, surf zone testing would be conducted between 1 November and 1 March whenever possible. Navy personnel (NSWCPC) would only conduct live fire testing with sea surface conditions of sea state 3 or less on the Beaufort scale, which is when there is about 33 – 50 percent of surface whitecaps with 0.6 – 0.9 m (2 – 3 ft) waves. During daytime missions, small boats would be used to survey for marine mammals in the proposed action area before and after the operations. If a marine mammal is sighted within the target or closely adjacent areas, the mission would be suspended until the area is clear. No mitigation for marine mammals would be feasible for nighttime mission, however, given the remoteness of impact, the potential that a marine mammal is injured or killed is unlikely. wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES Monitoring and Reporting The Eglin AFB will train personnel to conduct aerial surveys for protected species. The aerial survey/monitoring team would consist of an observer and a pilot familiar with flying transect patterns. A helicopter provides a preferable viewing platform for detection of protected marine species. The aerial observer must be experienced in marine mammal surveying and be familiar with species that may occur in the area. The observer would be responsible for relaying the location (latitude and longitude), the species if known, and the number of animals sighted. The aerial team would also identify large schools of fish, jellyfish aggregations, and any large accumulation of Sargassum that could potentially drift into the ZOI. Standard line-transect aerial surveying methods would be used. Observed marine mammals and sea turtles would be identified to species or the lowest possible taxonomic level possible. The aerial and (potential) shipboard monitoring teams would have proper lines of communication to avoid communication deficiencies. Observers would have direct communication via radio with the lead scientist. The lead scientist reviews the range conditions and recommends a Go/No-Go decision to the Officer in Tactical Command, who makes the final Go/No-Go decision. VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 Stepwise mitigation procedures for SRI surf zone missions are outlined below. All zones (mortality, injury, TTS) would be monitored. Pre-mission Monitoring The purposes of pre-mission monitoring are to (1) evaluate the test site for environmental suitability of the mission (e.g., relatively low numbers of marine mammals and turtles, few or no patches of Sargassum, etc.) and (2) verify that the ZOI is free of visually detectable marine mammals, sea turtles, large schools of fish, large flocks of birds, large Sargassum mats, and large concentrations of jellyfish (the latter two are possible indicators of turtle presence). On the morning of the test, the lead scientist would confirm that the test site can support the mission and that the weather is adequate to support observations. (1) One Hour Prior to Mission Approximately one hour prior to the mission, or at daybreak, the appropriate vessel(s) would be on-site near the location of the earliest planned mission point. Personnel onboard the vessel would assess the suitability of the test site, based on visual observation of marine mammals and sea turtles. This information would be relayed to the Lead Scientist. (2) Fifteen Minutes Prior to Mission Aerial monitoring would commence at the test site 15 minutes prior to the start of the mission. The entire ZOI would be surveyed by flying transects through the area. Shipboard personnel would also monitor the area as available. All marine mammal sightings would be reported to the Lead Scientist, who would enter all pertinent data into a sighting database. (3) Go/No-Go Decision Process The Lead Scientist would record sightings and bearing for all protected species detected. This would depict animal sightings relative to the mission area. The Lead Scientist would have the authority to declare the range fouled and recommend a hold until monitoring indicates that the ZOI is and will remain clear of detectable animals. The mission would be postponed if any marine mammal or sea turtle is visually detected within the ZOI for Level B behavioral harassment. The delay would continue until the marine mammal or sea turtle is confirmed to be outside the ZOI for Level B behavioral harassment on its own. In the event of a postponement, premission monitoring would continue as long as weather and daylight hours PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 35875 allow. Aerial monitoring is limited by fuel and the on-station time of the monitoring aircraft. Post-mission Monitoring Post-mission monitoring is designed to determine the effectiveness of premission mitigation by reporting any sightings of dead or injured marine mammals or sea turtles. Post-detonation monitoring would commence immediately following each detonation and continue for 15 minutes. The helicopter would resume transects in the area of the detonation, concentrating on the area down current of the test site. The monitoring team would attempt to document any marine mammals or turtles that were found dead or injured after the detonation, and, if practicable, recover and examine any dead animals. The species, number, location, and behavior of any animals observed by the observation teams would be documented and reported to the Lead Scientist. Post-mission monitoring activities would also include coordination with marine animal stranding networks. The NMFS maintains stranding networks along coasts to collect and circulate information about marine mammal and sea turtle standings. In addition, NMFS proposes to require Eglin to monitor the target area for impacts to marine mammals and to report on its activities on an annual basis. Accordingly, NMFS’ Biological Opinion on this action has recommended certain monitoring measures to protect marine life. NMFS proposes to require the same requirements under an IHA: (1) Eglin will develop and implement a marine species observer-training program in coordination with NMFS. This program will primarily provide expertise to Eglin’s testing and training community in the identification of protected marine species during surface and aerial mission activities in the GOM. Additionally, personnel involved in the surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training would participate in the proposed species observation training. Observers would receive training in protected species survey and identification techniques through a NMFS-approved training program. (2) Eglin would track their use of the surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training for test firing missions and protected resources (marine mammal/sea turtle) observations, through the use of an observer training sheet. (3) A summary annual report of marine mammal/sea turtle observations E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 35876 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 120 / Thursday, June 22, 2006 / Notices and surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training activities would be submitted to the NMFS Southeast Regional Office (SERO) and the Office of Protected Resources by January 31 of each year. (4) If any marine mammal or sea turtle is observed or detected to be deceased prior to testing, or injured or killed during live fire, a report must be made to the NMFS by the following business day. (5) Any unauthorized takes of marine mammals (i.e., serious injury or mortality) must be immediately reported to the NMFS representative and to the respective stranding network representative. ESA Consultation under section 7 of the ESA on Eglin AFB activities was completed on December 17, 1998. On March 18, 2005, NMFS Southeast Regional Office received a letter from the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Eglin AFB, requesting initiation of formal consultation on all potential environmental impacts to ESA-listed species from all Eglin AFB mission activities on SRI and within the surf zone near SRI. These missions include the surf zone detonation and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/ training. A NMFS Biological Opinion issued on October 12, 2005, concluded that the surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training are unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of species listed under the ESA that are within the jurisdiction of NMFS or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The proposed IHA to Eglin is a federal action; accordingly, prior to issuance of an IHA, NMFS will determine whether additional consultation is necessary. wwhite on PROD1PC61 with NOTICES NEPA In March, 2005, the USAF prepared the Santa Rosa Island Mission Utilization Plan Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SRI Mission PEA). NMFS is reviewing this PEA and will either adopt it or prepare its own NEPA document before making a determination on the issuance of an IHA and rulemaking. A copy of Eglin’s PEA for this activity is available upon written request (see ADDRESSES). Preliminary Conclusions NMFS has preliminarily determined that the surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training that are proposed by Eglin AFB off the coast of SRI, is unlikely to result in the mortality or serious injury of marine mammals (see Tables 2 and 3) and, VerDate Aug<31>2005 19:08 Jun 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 would result in, at worst, a temporary modification in behavior by marine mammals. While behavioral modifications may be made by these species as a result of these surf zone detonation and amphibious vehicle training activities, any behavioral change is expected to have a negligible impact on the affected species. Also, given the infrequency of these testing/ training missions (maximum of once per year for surf zone detonation and maximum of twice per year for amphibious assault training involving live fire), there is no potential for longterm displacement or long-lasting behavioral impacts of marine mammals within the proposed action area. In addition, the potential for temporary hearing impairment is very low and would be mitigated to the lowest level practicable through the incorporation of the mitigation measures mentioned in this document. Proposed Authorization NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Eglin AFB for conducting surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/ training off the coast of SRI in the northern GOM provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed activity is unlikely to result in serious injury or mortality to marine mammals; would have no more than a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal stocks; and would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of stocks for subsistence uses. Information Solicited NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments and information concerning this proposed IHA and Eglin’s application for incidental take regulations (see ADDRESSES). NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments, information, and suggestions concerning both the request and the structure and content of future regulations to allow this taking. NMFS will consider this information in developing proposed regulations to authorize the taking. Dated: June 16, 2006. James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E6–9882 Filed 6–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request—Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys and Children’s Articles Consumer Product Safety Commission. AGENCY: ACTION: Notice. SUMMARY: In the Federal Register of April 4, 2006 (71 FR 16766), the Consumer Product Safety Commission published a notice in accordance with provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35) to announce the agency’s intention to seek extension of approval of the collection of information required in the Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys or Other Electrically Operated Articles Intended for Use by Children (16 CFR Part 1505). No comments were received in response to that notice. By publication of this notice, the Commission announces that it has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a request for extension of approval of that collection of information without change for three years from the date of approval by OMB. The regulations in Part 1505 establish performance and labeling requirements for electrically operated toys and children’s articles to reduce unreasonable risks of injury to children from electric shock, electrical burns, and thermal burns associated with those products. Section 1505.4(a)(3) of the regulations requires manufacturers and importers of electrically operated toys and children’s articles to maintain records for three years containing information about: (1) Material and production specifications; (2) the quality assurance program used; (3) results of all tests and inspections conducted; and (4) sales and distribution of electrically operated toys and children’s articles. The records of testing and other information required by the regulations allow the Commission to determine if electrically operated toys and children’s articles comply with the requirements of the regulations in Part 1505. If the Commission determines that products fail to comply with the regulations, this information also enables the Commission and the firm to: (i) Identify specific lots or production lines of products which fail to comply with applicable requirements; and (ii) notify distributors and retailers in the event those products are subject to recall. E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 120 (Thursday, June 22, 2006)]
[Notices]
[Pages 35870-35876]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-9882]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 041806B]


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Surf Zone Testing/Training and Amphibious Vehicle 
Training and Weapons Testing

AGENCY:  National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:  Notice of receipt of an application for an incidental take 
authorization; notice of proposed incidental harassment authorization; 
request for comments and information.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY:  On November 29, 2005, NMFS received a request from Eglin Air 
Force Base (Eglin AFB), for authorization to harass marine mammals, 
incidental to conducting surf zone testing/training and amphibious 
vehicle training and weapons testing off the coast of Santa Rosa Island 
(SRI). As

[[Page 35871]]

a result of this request, NMFS is proposing to issue a 1-year 
authorization to take marine mammals by Level B harassment incidental 
to this activity. NMFS will propose regulations at a later date that 
would govern these incidental takes under a Letter of Authorization 
(LOA) issued to Eglin for a period of up to 5 years after the 1-year 
IHA expires. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is 
requesting comments on the Eglin AFB application and NMFS' proposal to 
issue an authorization to Eglin AFB to incidentally take, by 
harassment, two species of cetaceans for a period of 1 year.

DATES:  Comments and information must be postmarked no later than July 
24, 2006.

ADDRESSES:  Comments should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, 
Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226. The mailbox address for providing email 
comments on this action is PR1.041806B@noaa.gov. Comments sent via 
email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file 
size. A copy of the application and a list of references used in this 
document may be obtained by writing to this address, by telephoning the 
contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) and is also 
available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. A 
copy of the Santa Rosa Island Mission Utilization Plan Programmatic 
Environmental Assessment (SRI Mission PEA) (U.S. Air Force, 2005) is 
available by writing to the Department of the Air Force, AAC/EMSN, 
Natural Resources Branch, 501 DeLeon St., Suite 101, Eglin AFB, FL 
32542-5133.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Shane Guan, NMFS, 301-713-2289, ext 
137.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) (MMPA) direct the Secretary of 
Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not 
intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a 
specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified 
geographical region if certain findings are made and regulations are 
issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a 
proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.
    An authorization shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking 
will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not 
have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species 
or stock(s) for subsistence uses, and if the permissible methods of 
taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible 
impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ''...an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.''
    Subsection 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited 
process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an 
authorization to incidentally take marine mammals by harassment. With 
respect to ``military readiness activities,'' the MMPA defines 
``harassment'' as follows:

    (i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to 
injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing 
disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned 
or significantly altered [Level B harassment].

Summary of Request

    On November 21, 2005, Eglin AFB petitioned NMFS for an 
authorization under section 101(a)(5) of the MMPA for the taking, by 
harassment, of marine mammals incidental to programmatic mission 
activities on Eglin's SRI property, including the shoreline of the Gulf 
of Mexico (Gulf or GOM) to a depth of 30 feet (9.1 meters). The 
distance from the island shoreline that corresponds to this depth 
varies from approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) at the western side of the 
Air Force property to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) at the eastern side, extending 
out into the inner continental shelf.
    Activities conducted within the sound are addressed in the 
Estuarine and Riverine Areas Programmatic Environmental Assessment 
(U.S. Air Force, 2003a). The proposed action is for the 46th Test Wing 
Commander to establish a mission utilization plan for SRI based on 
historical and anticipated future use. Current and future operations 
are categorized as either testing or training and include: (1) Surf 
Zone Testing/Training; (2) Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) Training 
and Weapons Testing; (3) Amphibious Assaults; and (4) Special 
Operations Training.

Description of Activities

Surf Zone Testing/Training
    Eglin AFB proposes to establish Surf Zone Test Areas (SZTAs) on SRI 
to support major surf zone test exercises. Specific and dedicated areas 
on SRI would be utilized to perform these exercises. Major surf-zone 
test exercises include neutral (inert) systems and live (containing 
explosive material) systems, which would be detonated in shallow water.
    Current and proposed future surf zone activities would involve 
detonations of mine clearing line charges and bombs for obstacle 
clearing. These activities include line-charge mine clearance testing, 
shallow water assault breaching (SABRE) mine clearing testing, and 
beach obstacle clearing and neutralization.
    In the line-charge mine clearance testing, the Naval Surface 
Warfare Center Panama City (NSWCPC) conducted a line-charge test in the 
past as a precursor to other tests to evaluate the effectiveness of 
underwater mine countermeasure and clearing techniques.
    The Navy's SABRE explosive net clearing weapon is in development 
with testing ongoing at Eglin's Shallow Water Mine Pond Facility. 
Testing of the SABRE system would involve launching of a line charge 
subsystem propelled by rocket motors. This could require closure of 
some areas of the GOM and Choctawhatchee Bay waters to accommodate a 
2.5-mile, 110-degree safety fan if these tests are conducted on the 
eastern portion of SRI.
    The beach obstacle clearing and neutralization involve simultaneous 
detonations of multiple bombs in the surf zone, which NSWCPC would 
evaluate to assess their effects on obstacles and mines as a potential 
beach-clearing tactic.
    Concentrating surf zone detonation activities within specified 
areas may reduce the environmental impacts associated with these 
activities as well as standardize the logistics, operational planning, 
and safety procedures. The designated test/training areas would 
accommodate both historical and expanded activities. Navy personnel 
would establish the areas within current usage guidelines similar to 
the numerous test areas as described in the AAC Technical Facilities 
Manual (Volume II Land Test Areas) (U.S. Air Force, 1996).

[[Page 35872]]

Amphibious Vehicle Training and Weapon Testing
    Amphibious vehicles include the LCAC and the Amphibious Assault 
Vehicle (AAV). Both of these vehicles have the capability to transit 
through the land/water interface and are utilized in a variety of 
mission types.
    The LCAC is a high-speed fully amphibious landing craft capable of 
traveling over both land and water, providing transition of personnel 
and equipment over the land-water interface. The LCAC is also used in 
the neutralization of beach obstacles and hostile watercraft, with 
test/training activities typically involving live/inert testing of 
various firing mechanisms in concert with travel through the land-water 
interface and across beach environments. In 1998 and 2000, the Navy 
conducted LCAC training and weapon testing on SRI involving live fire 
and tank transport.
    The proposed expansion of LCAC training and testing is related to 
the need for expanded special operations and amphibious assault 
training and testing activities. Expanded LCAC activities would involve 
increased use of the LCAC for both inert training activities and live 
fire testing and training. The LCAC would utilize specific areas for 
crossing between the Gulf to Santa Rosa Sound, and for firing weapons 
systems.
    In addition, several organizations have a need to initiate or 
expand their current work in or around the SRI. The Marine Corps has a 
need to use the island to perform amphibious assault exercises. These 
activities would typically involve a coordinated mission utilizing 
large landing craft such as AAVs and LCACs, varying numbers of troops 
and personnel, and aircraft. Landing craft and personnel would be 
dropped into the ocean several miles or several thousand yards off 
shore and traverse to the island. Upon reaching the island, the assault 
force would breach the shoreline, set up a perimeter or staging area, 
and either proceed to an objective or remain on site.
Special Operations Training
    Eglin proposes to increase Special Operations training within 
established maneuver areas and the additional establishment of LCAC 
live fire and crossover areas on the island. Increased special 
operations training would involve covert beach landings and assaults 
and other mission training activities. These exercises could involve 
full-scale beach assaults involving dozens of troops and landing craft, 
or small-scale exercises involving dropping off personnel in rubber 
boats within the proposed action area. Personnel would navigate in, 
conduct a covert landing on the beach, and capture a target on the 
island or proceed to transit the island and go to the mainland.
    Surf zone testing/training activities and amphibious vehicle 
testing/training activities would be intermittent yet ongoing, and 
therefore Eglin AFB has also made a request for a take authorization 
under section 10(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA for a time period of five years. 
These activities would occur within the proposed action area, which 
includes the Gulf-side shoreline of SRI seaward to a depth of 30 feet 
(91 m). The distance from the shoreline that corresponds to this depth 
varies from approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) at the western side of the 
Air Force property to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) at the eastern side, extending 
into the inner continental shelf.
    Training involving live fire exercises would be carried out a 
maximum twice per year (one during daytime and/or one at night). These 
missions would involve special operations personnel, an LCAC, or an AAV 
on the north shore of the island or in Santa Rosa Sound firing a at 
target located on SRI. The target would be a hardended structure of 
steel or wood. The angle of firing would be toward the ground and 
ricocheting would be minimal due to the sandy substrate. The NSWCPC 
would use low-range, high-fragmentation munitions at the maneuver areas 
to allow for more realistic training scenarios. The NSWCPC would direct 
live fire toward the Gulf.

Description of Marine Mammals Affected by the Activity

    Marine mammal species potentially occurring within the proposed 
action area include the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops 
truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), and the 
Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). General information 
on Florida manatee can be found in the Florida Manatee Recovery Plan 
(US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001).
    Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are distributed continuously 
throughout the continental shelf, coastal, and bay-sound waters of the 
northern GOM and along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. The identification 
of a biologically-meaningful ``stock'' of bottlenose dolphins in the 
GOM is complicated by the high degree of behavioral variability 
exhibited by this species (Wells, 2003). Currently, bottlenose dolphins 
in the U.S. GOM are managed as 38 different stocks: one northern GOM 
oceanic stock, one northern GOM continental shelf stock, three northern 
GOM costal stocks (western, northern, and eastern Gulf), and 33 bay, 
sound, and estuarine stocks (NMFS, 2005). The identification of these 
stocks is based on descriptions of relatively discrete dolphin 
communities in these waters. A community includes resident dolphins 
that regularly share large portions of their ranges, exhibit similar 
distinct genetic profiles, and interact with each other to a much 
greater extent than with dolphins in adjacent waters. Bottlenose 
dolphin communities do not constitute closed demographic populations, 
as individuals from adjacent communities are known to interbreed. 
Nevertheless, the geographic nature of these areas and long-term 
stability of residency patterns suggest that many of these communities 
exist as functioning units of their ecosystems, and under the MMPA must 
be maintained as such.
    Within the proposed action area, at least three Atlantic bottlenose 
dolphin stocks are expected to occur: the northern GOM northern 
coastal, the Pensacola Bay/East Bay stock, and the Choctawhatchee Bay 
stock (NMFS, 2005). There has been no population assessment for any of 
these stocks for more than eight years. The relatively high number of 
bottlenose dolphin deaths that occurred during mortality events (mostly 
from stranding) since 1990 raises a concern that some of the stocks are 
stressed. Each of these stocks is listed as a strategic stock under the 
MMPA.
    The Atlantic spotted dolphin is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean in 
temperate to tropical waters (Perrin et al., 1994). In the GOM, this 
species occurs primarily from continental shelf waters 10-200 m (32.8 - 
656.2 ft) deep to slope waters <500 m (1,640 ft) deep (Fulling et al., 
2003). Atlantic spotted dolphins were seen in all seasons during 
GulfCet aerial surveys of the northern GOM from 1992 to 1998 (Hansen et 
al., 1996; Mullin and Hoggard, 2003). It has been suggested that this 
species may move inshore seasonally during spring, but data supporting 
this hypothesis are limited (Fritts et al., 1983). The best available 
abundance estimate for the northern GOM stock of the Atlantic spotted 
dolphin is 30,947 (NMFS, 2005).
    More detailed information on the Atlantic bottlenose and spotted 
dolphins can be found in the NMFS Stock Assessment Reports at: http://
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/species.htm.

[[Page 35873]]

Potential Impacts to Marine Mammals

    Potential impacts to marine mammals may occur due to underwater 
noise and direct physical impacts (DPI). Noise is produced by 
underwater detonations in the surf zone and by the operation of 
amphibious vehicles. DPI could result from collisions with amphibious 
vehicles and from ordnance live fire. However, with implementation of 
the mitigation actions discussed later in this document, the potential 
for impacts to marine mammals are anticipated to be de minimus (U.S. 
Air Force, 2005).
    Explosive criteria and thresholds for assessing impacts of 
explosions on marine mammals were discussed by NMFS in detail in its 
issuance of an IHA for Eglin's Precision Strike Weapon testing activity 
(70 FR 48675, August 19, 2005) and are not repeated here. Please refer 
to that document for this background information.

Estimation of Take and Impact

Surf Zone Detonation

    Surf zone detonation noise impacts are considered within two 
categories: overpressure and acoustics. Underwater explosive 
detonations produce a wave of pressure in the water column. This 
pressure wave potentially has lethal and injurious impacts, depending 
on the proximity to the source detonation. Humans and animals receive 
the acoustic signature of noise as sound. Beyond the physical impacts, 
acoustics may cause annoyance and behavior modifications (Goertner, 
1982).
    Estimating the impacts to marine mammals from underwater 
detonations were discussed by NMFS in detail in its notice of receipt 
of application for an IHA for Eglin's Air-to-Surface Gunnery mission in 
the Gulf (71 FR 3474, January 23, 2006) and is not repeated here. 
Please refer to that document for this background information.
    A maximum of one surf zone testing/training mission would be 
completed per year. The impact areas of the proposed action are derived 
from mathematical calculations and models that predict the distances to 
which threshold noise levels would travel. The equations for the models 
consider the amount of net explosive, the properties of detonations 
under water, and environmental factors such as depth of the explosion, 
overall water depth, water temperature, and bottom type.
    The end result of the analysis is an area known as the Zone of 
Influence (ZOI). A ZOI is based on an outward radial distance from the 
point of detonation, extending to the limit of a particular threshold 
level in a 360-degree area. Thus, there are separate ZOIs for 
mortality, injury (hearing-related injury and slight, non-fatal lung 
injury), and harassment (temporary threshold shift, or TTS, and sub-
TTS). Given the radius, and assuming noise spreads outward in a 
spherical manner, the entire area ensonified (i.e., exposed to the 
specific noise level being analyzed) is estimated.
    The radius of each threshold is shown for each shallow water surf 
zone mine clearing system in Table 1. The radius is assumed to extend 
from the point of detonation in all directions, allowing calculation of 
the affected area.
    The number of takes is calculated by applying marine mammal density 
to the ZOI (area) for each detonation type. Species density for most 
cetaceans is based on adjusted GulfCet II aerial survey data, which is 
shown in Table 2. GulfCet II data were conservatively adjusted upward 
to approximately two standard deviations to obtain 99 percent 
confidence, and a submergence correction factor was applied to account 
for the presence of submerged, uncounted animals. However, the actual 
number of marine mammal takes would be even smaller, since up to half 
of the ZOI would be over land and very shallow surf, which is not 
considered marine mammal habitat.

                 Table 1.--Zones of Impact for Underwater Explosive from Four Mine Clearing Systems (Acoustic units are re 1 microPa\2\)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                              ZOI Radius (m)
                                                                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Threshold                                Criteria                SABRE 232 lb   MK-5 MCS 1,750
                                                                                       NEW           lb NEW        DET 130 lb      MK-82 ARRAY 1,372 lb
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
           176 dB 1/3 Octave SEL*                              Level B Behavior           1,440           2,299           1,252                    2,207
           182 dB 1/3 Octave SEL                     Level B TTS Dual Criterion             961           1,658             796                    1,544
                 205 dB SEL                                         Level A PTS             200             478             155                      436
                   23 psi                                 Level B Dual Criteria             857           1,788             761                    1,557
                13 psi-msec                                      Level A Injury              60             100              58                       86
               30.5 psi-msec                                          Mortality              45              68              42                       60
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* SEL - Sound energy level


      Table 2.--Cetacean Densities for Gulf of Mexico Shelf Region
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    Dive      Adjusted
                                    Individuals/  profile     density
              Species                   km\2\      - % at  (Individuals/
                                                  surface     km\2\)*
------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Bottlenose dolphin               0.148         30       0.810
     Atlantic spotted dolphin            0.089         30       0.677
  Bottlenose or Atlantic dolphin         0.007         30       0.053
               Total                     0.244    .......        1.54
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Adjusted for undetected submerged animals to approximately two
  standard deviations.

    Table 3 lists the noise-related dolphin take estimates resulting 
from surf zone detonations associated with the Perferred Alternative of 
the PEA. The take numbers represent the combined total of Atlantic 
bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins, and do not consider any 
mitigation measures. Implementation of mitigation measures discussed 
below would significantly decrease the number of takes. Discussion of 
the amount of take reduction is provided below.

[[Page 35874]]



                   Table 3.--Preferred Alternative Take Estimates from Noise Impacts to Dolphins (Acoustic units are re 1 microPa \2\)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                                   Total
                      Threshold                                     Criteria                     SABRE        MK-5 MCS       DET      MK-82 Array  Takes
                                                                                                                                                     *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                176 dB 1/3 Octave SEL                                              Sub-TTS              10           26            8           24   68
                182 dB 1/3 Octave SEL                         Level B Harassment TTS (dual               5           13            3           12   33
                                                                                criterion)
                       23 psi                                 Level B TTS (dual criterion)               4           15            3           12   34
                  205 dB Total SEL                                             Level A PTS               0            1            0            1    2
                     13 psi-msec                                 Level A Non-lethal Injury               0            0            0            0    0
                    30.5 psi-msec                                                Mortality               0            0            0            0    0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Estimated exposure with no mitigation measures in place

Noise from LCAC

    Noise resulting from LCAC operations was considered under a transit 
mode of operation. The LCAC uses rotary air screw technology to power 
the craft over the water, therefore, noise from the engine is not 
emitted directly into the water. The Navy's acoustic in-water noise 
characterization studies show the noise emitted from the LCAC into the 
water is very similar to that of the MH-53 helicopter operating at low 
altitudes. Based on the Air Force's Excess Sound Attenuation Model for 
the LCAC's engines under ground runup condition, the data estimate that 
the maximum noise level (98 dBA) is at a point 45 degrees from the bow 
of the craft at a distance of 61 m (200 ft) in air. Maximum noise 
levels fall below 90 dBA at a point less than 122 meters (400 ft) from 
the craft in air (U.S. Air Force, 1999).
    Due to the large difference of acoustic impedance between air and 
water, much of the acoustic energy would be reflected at the surface. 
Therefore, the effects of noise from LCAC to marine mammals would be 
negligible.

Collision with Vessels

    During the time that amphibious vehicles are operating in (or, in 
the case of LCACs, just above) the water, encounters with marine 
mammals are possible. A slight possibility exists that such encounters 
could result in a vessel physically striking an animal. However, this 
scenario is considered very unlikely. Dolphins are extremely mobile and 
have keen hearing and would likely leave the vicinity of any vehicle 
traffic. The largest vehicles that would be moving are LCACs, and their 
beam measurement can be used for conservative impact analyses. The 
operation which potentially uses the largest number of LCACs is 
Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) training. 
Based on analysis in the ARG/MEU Readiness Training Environmental 
Assessment (U.S. Air Force, 2003b), LCAC activities (over 10 days) 
could potentially impact 22.25 square miles of the total water surface 
area. The estimated number of bottlenose dolphins in this area is 6.9, 
with an approximately equal number of Atlantic spotted dolphins. These 
species would easily avoid collision because the LCACs produce noise 
that would be detected some distance away, and therefore would be 
avoided as any other boat in the Gulf. In addition, AAVs move very 
slowly and would be easily avoided. The potential for amphibious craft 
colliding with marine mammals and causing injury or death is therefore 
considered remote.
Live Fire Operations
    Live fire operations with munitions directed towards the Gulf have 
the potential to impact marine mammals (primarily bottlenose and 
Atlantic spotted dolphins). Cetacean abundance estimates for the study 
area are derived from CulfCet II aerial surveys in the eastern Gulf 
waters (Davis et al., 2000). To provide a more conservative impact 
analysis, density estimates have been adjusted to account for submerged 
individuals. The percent of time that an animal is submerged versus at 
the surface was obtained from Moore and Clarke (1998), and used to 
determine an adjusted density for each species. The result shows an 
estimated animal density of 1.54 animals/km\2\ (Table 2).
    A maximum of two live fire operations would be conducted in a year, 
and are associated with expanded Special Operations training on SRI. 
Small caliber weapons between 5.56 mm and .50 caliber with low-range 
munitions would be allowed only within designated live fire areas. The 
average range of the munitions is approximately 1 km (0.54 nm). If a 
given live fire area was 1 km (0.54 nm) wide, then approximately 1.5 
dolphins could be vulnerable to a munitions strike. However, even the 
largest live fire area on SRI is considerably less than 1 km (0.54 nm) 
wide. If live fire is conservatively estimated to originate from a 
section of beach 0.2 km (0.11 nm) wide, only 0.3 dolphins would be 
within the area of potential DPI. Finally, the mitigation measures 
discussed below would further reduces the likelihood of direct impacts 
to marine mammals due to live fire operations.
    In addition, given the infrequency of the surf zone detonation 
(maximum of once per year) and the amphibious vehicle and weapon 
testing (maximum of twice per year), NMFS believes there is no 
potential for long-term displacement or behavioral impacts of marine 
mammals within the proposed action area.

Mitigation

    Eglin AFB would employ a number of mitigation measures in an effort 
to substantially decrease the number of animals potentially affected. 
Visual monitoring of the operational area can be a very effective means 
of detecting the presence of marine mammals. This is particularly true 
of the species most likely to be present (bottlenose and Atlantic 
spotted dolphins) due to their tendency to occur in groups, their 
relatively short dive time, and their relatively high level of surface 
activity. In addition, the water clarity in the northeastern GOM is 
typically very high. It is often possible to view the entire water 
column in the water depth that defines the study area (30 feet or 9.1 
m).
    For the surf zone testing/training, missions would only be 
conducted under daylight conditions of suitable visibility and sea 
state of number three or less. Prior to the mission, a trained observer 
aboard a helicopter would survey (visually monitor) the test area, 
which is a very effective method for detecting sea turtles and 
cetaceans. In addition, shipboard personnel would provide supplemental 
observations when available. The size of the area to be surveyed would 
depend on the specific test system, but it would correspond to the ZOI 
for Level B behavior harassment (176 dB 1/3 octave

[[Page 35875]]

SEL) listed in Table 1. The survey would be conducted approximately 250 
feet (76 m) above the sea surface to allow observers to scan a large 
distance. If a marine mammal is sighted within the ZOI, the mission 
would be suspended until the animal is clear of this area. In addition, 
to reduce the potential impacts to sea turtles and manatees, surf zone 
testing would be conducted between 1 November and 1 March whenever 
possible.
    Navy personnel (NSWCPC) would only conduct live fire testing with 
sea surface conditions of sea state 3 or less on the Beaufort scale, 
which is when there is about 33 - 50 percent of surface whitecaps with 
0.6 - 0.9 m (2 - 3 ft) waves. During daytime missions, small boats 
would be used to survey for marine mammals in the proposed action area 
before and after the operations. If a marine mammal is sighted within 
the target or closely adjacent areas, the mission would be suspended 
until the area is clear. No mitigation for marine mammals would be 
feasible for nighttime mission, however, given the remoteness of 
impact, the potential that a marine mammal is injured or killed is 
unlikely.

Monitoring and Reporting

    The Eglin AFB will train personnel to conduct aerial surveys for 
protected species. The aerial survey/monitoring team would consist of 
an observer and a pilot familiar with flying transect patterns. A 
helicopter provides a preferable viewing platform for detection of 
protected marine species. The aerial observer must be experienced in 
marine mammal surveying and be familiar with species that may occur in 
the area. The observer would be responsible for relaying the location 
(latitude and longitude), the species if known, and the number of 
animals sighted. The aerial team would also identify large schools of 
fish, jellyfish aggregations, and any large accumulation of Sargassum 
that could potentially drift into the ZOI. Standard line-transect 
aerial surveying methods would be used. Observed marine mammals and sea 
turtles would be identified to species or the lowest possible taxonomic 
level possible.
    The aerial and (potential) shipboard monitoring teams would have 
proper lines of communication to avoid communication deficiencies. 
Observers would have direct communication via radio with the lead 
scientist. The lead scientist reviews the range conditions and 
recommends a Go/No-Go decision to the Officer in Tactical Command, who 
makes the final Go/No-Go decision.
    Stepwise mitigation procedures for SRI surf zone missions are 
outlined below. All zones (mortality, injury, TTS) would be monitored.

Pre-mission Monitoring

    The purposes of pre-mission monitoring are to (1) evaluate the test 
site for environmental suitability of the mission (e.g., relatively low 
numbers of marine mammals and turtles, few or no patches of Sargassum, 
etc.) and (2) verify that the ZOI is free of visually detectable marine 
mammals, sea turtles, large schools of fish, large flocks of birds, 
large Sargassum mats, and large concentrations of jellyfish (the latter 
two are possible indicators of turtle presence). On the morning of the 
test, the lead scientist would confirm that the test site can support 
the mission and that the weather is adequate to support observations.
(1) One Hour Prior to Mission
    Approximately one hour prior to the mission, or at daybreak, the 
appropriate vessel(s) would be on-site near the location of the 
earliest planned mission point. Personnel onboard the vessel would 
assess the suitability of the test site, based on visual observation of 
marine mammals and sea turtles. This information would be relayed to 
the Lead Scientist.
(2) Fifteen Minutes Prior to Mission
    Aerial monitoring would commence at the test site 15 minutes prior 
to the start of the mission. The entire ZOI would be surveyed by flying 
transects through the area. Shipboard personnel would also monitor the 
area as available. All marine mammal sightings would be reported to the 
Lead Scientist, who would enter all pertinent data into a sighting 
database.
(3) Go/No-Go Decision Process
    The Lead Scientist would record sightings and bearing for all 
protected species detected. This would depict animal sightings relative 
to the mission area. The Lead Scientist would have the authority to 
declare the range fouled and recommend a hold until monitoring 
indicates that the ZOI is and will remain clear of detectable animals.
    The mission would be postponed if any marine mammal or sea turtle 
is visually detected within the ZOI for Level B behavioral harassment. 
The delay would continue until the marine mammal or sea turtle is 
confirmed to be outside the ZOI for Level B behavioral harassment on 
its own.
    In the event of a postponement, pre-mission monitoring would 
continue as long as weather and daylight hours allow. Aerial monitoring 
is limited by fuel and the on-station time of the monitoring aircraft.

Post-mission Monitoring

    Post-mission monitoring is designed to determine the effectiveness 
of pre-mission mitigation by reporting any sightings of dead or injured 
marine mammals or sea turtles. Post-detonation monitoring would 
commence immediately following each detonation and continue for 15 
minutes. The helicopter would resume transects in the area of the 
detonation, concentrating on the area down current of the test site.
    The monitoring team would attempt to document any marine mammals or 
turtles that were found dead or injured after the detonation, and, if 
practicable, recover and examine any dead animals. The species, number, 
location, and behavior of any animals observed by the observation teams 
would be documented and reported to the Lead Scientist.
    Post-mission monitoring activities would also include coordination 
with marine animal stranding networks. The NMFS maintains stranding 
networks along coasts to collect and circulate information about marine 
mammal and sea turtle standings.
    In addition, NMFS proposes to require Eglin to monitor the target 
area for impacts to marine mammals and to report on its activities on 
an annual basis. Accordingly, NMFS' Biological Opinion on this action 
has recommended certain monitoring measures to protect marine life. 
NMFS proposes to require the same requirements under an IHA:
    (1) Eglin will develop and implement a marine species observer-
training program in coordination with NMFS. This program will primarily 
provide expertise to Eglin's testing and training community in the 
identification of protected marine species during surface and aerial 
mission activities in the GOM. Additionally, personnel involved in the 
surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training would 
participate in the proposed species observation training. Observers 
would receive training in protected species survey and identification 
techniques through a NMFS-approved training program.
    (2) Eglin would track their use of the surf zone and amphibious 
vehicle and weapon testing/training for test firing missions and 
protected resources (marine mammal/sea turtle) observations, through 
the use of an observer training sheet.
    (3) A summary annual report of marine mammal/sea turtle 
observations

[[Page 35876]]

and surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training 
activities would be submitted to the NMFS Southeast Regional Office 
(SERO) and the Office of Protected Resources by January 31 of each 
year.
    (4) If any marine mammal or sea turtle is observed or detected to 
be deceased prior to testing, or injured or killed during live fire, a 
report must be made to the NMFS by the following business day.
    (5) Any unauthorized takes of marine mammals (i.e., serious injury 
or mortality) must be immediately reported to the NMFS representative 
and to the respective stranding network representative.

ESA

    Consultation under section 7 of the ESA on Eglin AFB activities was 
completed on December 17, 1998. On March 18, 2005, NMFS Southeast 
Regional Office received a letter from the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Eglin 
AFB, requesting initiation of formal consultation on all potential 
environmental impacts to ESA-listed species from all Eglin AFB mission 
activities on SRI and within the surf zone near SRI. These missions 
include the surf zone detonation and amphibious vehicle and weapon 
testing/training. A NMFS Biological Opinion issued on October 12, 2005, 
concluded that the surf zone and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/
training are unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of species 
listed under the ESA that are within the jurisdiction of NMFS or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The proposed IHA to Eglin 
is a federal action; accordingly, prior to issuance of an IHA, NMFS 
will determine whether additional consultation is necessary.

NEPA

    In March, 2005, the USAF prepared the Santa Rosa Island Mission 
Utilization Plan Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SRI Mission 
PEA). NMFS is reviewing this PEA and will either adopt it or prepare 
its own NEPA document before making a determination on the issuance of 
an IHA and rulemaking. A copy of Eglin's PEA for this activity is 
available upon written request (see ADDRESSES).

Preliminary Conclusions

    NMFS has preliminarily determined that the surf zone and amphibious 
vehicle and weapon testing/training that are proposed by Eglin AFB off 
the coast of SRI, is unlikely to result in the mortality or serious 
injury of marine mammals (see Tables 2 and 3) and, would result in, at 
worst, a temporary modification in behavior by marine mammals. While 
behavioral modifications may be made by these species as a result of 
these surf zone detonation and amphibious vehicle training activities, 
any behavioral change is expected to have a negligible impact on the 
affected species. Also, given the infrequency of these testing/training 
missions (maximum of once per year for surf zone detonation and maximum 
of twice per year for amphibious assault training involving live fire), 
there is no potential for long-term displacement or long-lasting 
behavioral impacts of marine mammals within the proposed action area. 
In addition, the potential for temporary hearing impairment is very low 
and would be mitigated to the lowest level practicable through the 
incorporation of the mitigation measures mentioned in this document.

Proposed Authorization

    NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Eglin AFB for conducting surf zone 
and amphibious vehicle and weapon testing/training off the coast of SRI 
in the northern GOM provided the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the proposed activity is unlikely to 
result in serious injury or mortality to marine mammals; would have no 
more than a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal stocks; and 
would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of 
stocks for subsistence uses.

Information Solicited

    NMFS requests interested persons to submit comments and information 
concerning this proposed IHA and Eglin's application for incidental 
take regulations (see ADDRESSES). NMFS requests interested persons to 
submit comments, information, and suggestions concerning both the 
request and the structure and content of future regulations to allow 
this taking. NMFS will consider this information in developing proposed 
regulations to authorize the taking.

    Dated: June 16, 2006.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. E6-9882 Filed 6-21-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S