Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Training Operations Conducted within the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex, 19205-19207 [E9-9647]

Download as PDF erowe on PROD1PC64 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 28, 2009 / Notices NIST will accept the submission of proposals containing research activities involving human subjects. The human subjects research activities in a proposal will require approval by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) possessing a current registration filed with DHHS and to be performed by institutions possessing a current, valid Federal-wide Assurance (FWA) from DHHS that is linked to the cognizant IRB. In addition, NIST as an institution requires that IRB approval documentation go through a NIST administrative review; therefore, research activities involving human subjects are not authorized to start within an award until approval for the activity is issued in writing from the NIST Grants Officer. NIST will not issue a single project assurance (SPA) for any IRB reviewing any human subjects protocol proposed to NIST. President Obama has issued Exec. 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Administrative Procedure Act/ Regulatory Flexibility Act: Notice and comment are not required under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553) or any other law, for rules relating to public property, loans, grants, benefits or contracts (5 U.S.C. 553(a)). Because notice and comment are not required under 5 U.S.C. 553, or any other law, for rules relating to public property, loans, grants, benefits or contracts (5 U.S.C. 553(a)), a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is not required and PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 19205 has not been prepared for this notice, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. Dated: April 21, 2009. Patrick Gallagher, Deputy Director, NIST. [FR Doc. E9–9650 Filed 4–27–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–13–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XO87 Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Training Operations Conducted within the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of an application for regulations and a letter of authorization; request for comments and information. SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for authorizations for the take of marine mammals incidental to training and operational activities conducted by the Navy Atlantic Fleet within Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX) Range Complex for the period beginning December 3, 2009 and ending December 2, 2014. Pursuant to the implementing regulations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing our receipt of the Navy request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the Navy application and request. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than May 28, 2009. ADDRESSES: Comments on the applications should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910–3225. The mailbox address for providing email comments is PR1.0648– XO87@noaa.gov. NMFS is not responsible for e-mail comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10–megabyte file size. Copies of the Navy application may be obtained by writing to the address specified above (See ADDRESSES), telephoning the E:\FR\FM\28APN1.SGM 28APN1 19206 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 28, 2009 / Notices contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shane Guan, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 713–2289, ext. 137. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 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) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), 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 taking 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. With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines arassment as: erowe on PROD1PC64 with NOTICES (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 October 2, 2008, NMFS received an application from the Navy requesting an authorization for the take of marine mammal species/stocks incidental to the proposed training operations within the GOMEX Range Complex over the course of 5 years. These training activities are classified as military readiness activities. The Navy states that these training activities may cause various impacts to marine mammal species in VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:33 Apr 27, 2009 Jkt 217001 the proposed GOMEX Range Complex Study Area. The Navy requests an authorization to take 9 species of cetaceans annually by Level B harassment, and 1 individual each of pantropical spotted dolphin and spinner dolphin by Level A harassment (injury). Please refer to the take table on page 6– 17 of the LOA application for detailed information of the potential exposures from explosive ordnance (per year) for marine mammals in the GOMEX Range Complex. Description of the Specified Activities The GOMEX Study Area encompasses areas at sea, undersea, and Special Use Airspace (SUA) in the northern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of the U.S. (Figures 1 and 2 of the LOA application). The portions of the GOMEX Study Area to be considered for the proposed action consist of the BOMBEX Hotbox (surface and subsurface waters) located within the Pensacola Operation Area (OPAREA), SUA warning areas W– 151A/B/C and W–155A/B (surface waters), and underwater detonation (UNDET) Area E3 (surface and subsurface waters), located within the territorial waters off Padre Island, Texas, near Corpus Christi NAS. The portions of the GOMEX Study Area addressed in the Navy LOA application encompass: • 1,496 nm2 (5,131 km2) of sea space (BOMBEX Hotbox, where high explosives occur, and UNDET Area E3 where underwater detonations occur); and • 11,714 nm2 (40,178 km2) of SUA warning areas (vessel movements only) The BOMBEX Hotbox is an in-water operating and maneuvers area with defined air, ocean surface, and subsurface areas. The BOMBEX Hotbox is located in the offshore waters of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) adjacent to Florida and Alabama. The northernmost boundary of the BOMBEX Hotbox is located 23 nm (42.6 km) from the coast of the Florida panhandle at latitude 30 N, the eastern boundary is approximately 200 nm (370.4 km) from the coast of the Florida peninsula at longitude 86° 8 W. The SUA warning areas, W–151A/B/ C and W–155A/B, are in-water operating and maneuver areas with defined air and ocean surface. W–151A/B/C and W–155A/B are located in and above the offshore waters of the northeastern GOM adjacent to Florida and Alabama. The UNDET Area E3 is a defined surface and subsurface area located in the waters south of Corpus Christi NAS and offshore of Padre Island, Texas. The westernmost boundary is located 7.5 nm (13.9 km) from the coast of Padre Island at 97° 9′33″ W and 27° 24′26″ N at the PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Western most corner. It lies entirely within the territorial waters (0 to 12 nm, or 0 to 22.2 km) of the U.S. and the majority of it lies within Texas state waters (0 to 9 nm, or 0 to 16.7 km). It is a very shallow water training area with depths ranging from 20 to 26 m. In the application submitted to NMFS, the Navy requests an authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting training operations within the GOMEX Range Complex. These training activities consist of surface warfare. Although vessel movement is also a component of the proposed GOMEX Range Complex training activities, the Navy concludes that it is unlikely marine mammals would be taken by vessel movement with the implementation of mitigation and monitoring measures described in the LOA application. Surface Warfare Surface Warfare (SUW) supports defense of a geographical area (e.g., a zone or barrier) in cooperation with surface, subsurface, and air forces. SUW operations detect, localize, and track surface targets, primarily ships. Detected ships are monitored visually and with radar. Operations include identifying surface contacts, engaging with weapons, disengaging, evasion, and avoiding attack, including implementation of radio silence and deceptive measures. For the proposed GOMEX Range Complex training operations, SUW events involving the use of explosive ordnance include airto-surface Bombing Exercises [BOMBEX (A–S)] and surface-to-surface Gunnery Exercises (GUNEX) that occur at sea. (A) Bombing Exercise (Air-to-Surface) [BOMBEX (A–S)] Strike fighter aircraft, such as F/A– 18s, deliver explosive bombs against atsea surface targets with the goal of destroying the target. BOMBEX (A–S) training in the GOMEX Study Area occurs only during daylight hours in the BOMBEX Hotbox area. For the proposed BOMBEX (A–S), two aircraft will approach an at-sea target from an altitude of between 15,000 ft (4,572 m) to less than 3,000 ft (914.4 m) and release a high explosive (HE) 1,000pound (lb) bomb on the target. MK–83 bombs would be used. MK–83 bombs have a net explosive weight (NEW) of 415.8 lbs. The typical bomb release altitude is below 3,000 ft (914.4 m) and the target is usually a flare. The time in between bomb drops is approximately 3 minutes. E:\FR\FM\28APN1.SGM 28APN1 19207 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 80 / Tuesday, April 28, 2009 / Notices (B)Gunnery Exercise (Surface-toSurface) [GUNEX (S–S)] Boat Gunnery Exercise (S–S) is a part of quarterly reservist training and operational activities for the Mobile Expeditionary Security Group (MESG) that operates out of Corpus Christi Naval Air Station (NAS). The MESG trains with M3A2 (0.5-lb NEW) antiswimmer concussion grenades. The M3A2 grenades are small and contain high explosives in an inert metal or plastic shell. They detonate at about 3 m (9.8 ft) under the water surface within 4 to 5 seconds of being deployed. The detonation depth may be shallower depending upon the speed of the boat at the time the grenade is deployed. GUNNERY (S–S) training in the GOMEX Study Area may occur during day or evening hours in the UNDET Area E3. Table 1 below summarizes the level of Surface Warfare training activities planned in the GOMEX Range Complex for the proposed action. TABLE 1. LEVEL OF SURFACE WARFARE TRAINING ACTIVITIES PLANNED IN THE GOMEX RANGE COMPLEX PER YEAR Operation Platform System/ Ordnance Number of Events Training Area Potential Time of Day Bombing Exercise (BOMBEX) (Air-to-Surface, At-Sea) F/A–18 MK–83 [1,000-lb High Explosive (HE) bomb] 415.8 lbs NEW 1 event (4 bombs) BOMBEX Hotbox Daytime only Vessels such as combat rubber raiding craft, rigid hull inflatable boats, and patrol craft M3A2 concussion grenades (8-oz HE grenade) 0.5 lbs NEW 4 events (20 grenades) UNDET Area E3 Day or night erowe on PROD1PC64 with NOTICES Gunnery Exercise (GUNEX) (Surface-to-Surface) - Boat Vessel Movement Vessel movements are associated with most training and operational activities in the GOMEX Study Area. Currently, the number of Navy vessels operating in the GOMEX Study Area varies based on training schedules and can range from 0 to about 10 vessels at any given time. Vessel sizes range from small boats (<35 ft, or 10.7 m) for a harbor security boat to 1,092 ft (332.8 m) for a CVN (carrier vessel nuclear) and speeds generally range from 10 to 14 knots, but may be considerably faster, for example an aircraft carrier aking wind while launching and recovering aircraft, and for small boat operations. Operations involving vessel movements occur intermittently and are variable in duration, ranging from a few hours up to 2 weeks. These operations are widely dispersed throughout the GOMEX Study Area, which is an area encompassing 11,714 nm2 (40,178 km2). Most vessel movements occur in the offshore OPAREAs, but vessel movements associated with MESG training in the UNDET Area E3 and Commander Naval Installations Command (CNIC) harbor security group training in the Panama City OPAREA occur between shore and 12 nm (22.2 km), including the nearshore zone (<3 nm, or 5.6 km). The Navy logs about 180 total vessel days within the GOMEX Study Area during a typical year. Consequently, the density of Navy vessels within the GOMEX Study Area at any given time is low (i.e., less than 0.0113 ships/nm2 (0.0386 km2)). VerDate Nov<24>2008 15:33 Apr 27, 2009 Jkt 217001 Proposed Monitoring and Mitigation Measures The Navy is developing an Integrated Comprehensive Monitoring Program (ICMP) for marine species to assess the effects of training activities on marine species and investigate population trends in marine species distribution and abundance in various range complexes and geographic locations where Navy training occurs. The primary tools available for monitoring include visual observations, acoustic monitoring, photo identification and tagging, and oceanographic and environmental data collection. A list of proposed mitigation measures and standard operating procedures is described in the application for the proposed training operations. These mitigation measures include personnel training for watchstanders and lookouts in marine mammal monitoring, operating procedures for collision avoidance and a series of measures for specific at-sea training events including surface-tosurface gunnery, etc. A detailed description of the monitoring and mitigation measures is provided in the application. Information Solicited Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning the Navy request (see ADDRESSES). All information, suggestions, and comments related to the Navy GOMEX Range Complex request and NMFS potential PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by the Navy training activities will be considered by NMFS in developing, if appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of letters of authorization. Dated: April 22, 2009. James H. Lecky, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. E9–9647 Filed 4–27–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–S COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION Sunshine Act Meetings TIME AND DATE: 11:00 a.m., Friday, May 1, 2009. PLACE: 1155 21st St., NW., Washington, DC, 9th Floor Commission Conference Room. STATUS: Closed. MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED: Surveillance Matters. CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: Sauntia S. Warfield, 202–418–5084. Sauntia S. Warfield, Assistant Secretary of the Commission. [FR Doc. E9–9696 Filed 4–24–09; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE 6351–01–P E:\FR\FM\28APN1.SGM 28APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 80 (Tuesday, April 28, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 19205-19207]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-9647]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XO87


Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Training Operations Conducted 
within the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex

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

ACTION:  Notice; receipt of an application for regulations and a letter 
of authorization; request for comments and information.

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

SUMMARY:  NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for 
authorizations for the take of marine mammals incidental to training 
and operational activities conducted by the Navy Atlantic Fleet within 
Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX) Range Complex for the period beginning December 
3, 2009 and ending December 2, 2014. Pursuant to the implementing 
regulations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is 
announcing our receipt of the Navy request for the development and 
implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine 
mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the Navy 
application and request.

DATES:  Comments and information must be received no later than May 28, 
2009.

ADDRESSES:  Comments on the applications 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 20910-3225. The mailbox address 
for providing email comments is PR1.0648-XO87@noaa.gov. NMFS is not 
responsible for e-mail comments sent to addresses other than the one 
provided here. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, 
must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size. Copies of the Navy application 
may be obtained by writing to the address specified above (See 
ADDRESSES), telephoning the

[[Page 19206]]

contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting 
the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Shane Guan, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2289, ext. 137.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
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) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if 
the taking is limited to harassment, notice of a proposed authorization 
is provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), 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 taking 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.

    With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines 
arassment as:

    (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 October 2, 2008, NMFS received an application from the Navy 
requesting an authorization for the take of marine mammal species/
stocks incidental to the proposed training operations within the GOMEX 
Range Complex over the course of 5 years. These training activities are 
classified as military readiness activities. The Navy states that these 
training activities may cause various impacts to marine mammal species 
in the proposed GOMEX Range Complex Study Area. The Navy requests an 
authorization to take 9 species of cetaceans annually by Level B 
harassment, and 1 individual each of pantropical spotted dolphin and 
spinner dolphin by Level A harassment (injury). Please refer to the 
take table on page 6-17 of the LOA application for detailed information 
of the potential exposures from explosive ordnance (per year) for 
marine mammals in the GOMEX Range Complex.

Description of the Specified Activities

    The GOMEX Study Area encompasses areas at sea, undersea, and 
Special Use Airspace (SUA) in the northern Gulf of Mexico off the coast 
of the U.S. (Figures 1 and 2 of the LOA application). The portions of 
the GOMEX Study Area to be considered for the proposed action consist 
of the BOMBEX Hotbox (surface and subsurface waters) located within the 
Pensacola Operation Area (OPAREA), SUA warning areas W-151A/B/C and W-
155A/B (surface waters), and underwater detonation (UNDET) Area E3 
(surface and subsurface waters), located within the territorial waters 
off Padre Island, Texas, near Corpus Christi NAS. The portions of the 
GOMEX Study Area addressed in the Navy LOA application encompass:
     1,496 nm\2\ (5,131 km\2\) of sea space (BOMBEX Hotbox, 
where high explosives occur, and UNDET Area E3 where underwater 
detonations occur); and
     11,714 nm\2\ (40,178 km\2\) of SUA warning areas (vessel 
movements only)
    The BOMBEX Hotbox is an in-water operating and maneuvers area with 
defined air, ocean surface, and subsurface areas. The BOMBEX Hotbox is 
located in the offshore waters of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) 
adjacent to Florida and Alabama. The northernmost boundary of the 
BOMBEX Hotbox is located 23 nm (42.6 km) from the coast of the Florida 
panhandle at latitude 30 N, the eastern boundary is approximately 200 
nm (370.4 km) from the coast of the Florida peninsula at longitude 
86[deg] 8 W.
    The SUA warning areas, W-151A/B/C and W-155A/B, are in-water 
operating and maneuver areas with defined air and ocean surface. W-
151A/B/C and W-155A/B are located in and above the offshore waters of 
the northeastern GOM adjacent to Florida and Alabama.
    The UNDET Area E3 is a defined surface and subsurface area located 
in the waters south of Corpus Christi NAS and offshore of Padre Island, 
Texas. The westernmost boundary is located 7.5 nm (13.9 km) from the 
coast of Padre Island at 97[deg] 9'33'' W and 27[deg] 24'26'' N at the 
Western most corner. It lies entirely within the territorial waters (0 
to 12 nm, or 0 to 22.2 km) of the U.S. and the majority of it lies 
within Texas state waters (0 to 9 nm, or 0 to 16.7 km). It is a very 
shallow water training area with depths ranging from 20 to 26 m.
    In the application submitted to NMFS, the Navy requests an 
authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting training 
operations within the GOMEX Range Complex. These training activities 
consist of surface warfare. Although vessel movement is also a 
component of the proposed GOMEX Range Complex training activities, the 
Navy concludes that it is unlikely marine mammals would be taken by 
vessel movement with the implementation of mitigation and monitoring 
measures described in the LOA application.

Surface Warfare

    Surface Warfare (SUW) supports defense of a geographical area 
(e.g., a zone or barrier) in cooperation with surface, subsurface, and 
air forces. SUW operations detect, localize, and track surface targets, 
primarily ships. Detected ships are monitored visually and with radar. 
Operations include identifying surface contacts, engaging with weapons, 
disengaging, evasion, and avoiding attack, including implementation of 
radio silence and deceptive measures. For the proposed GOMEX Range 
Complex training operations, SUW events involving the use of explosive 
ordnance include air-to-surface Bombing Exercises [BOMBEX (A-S)] and 
surface-to-surface Gunnery Exercises (GUNEX) that occur at sea.
(A) Bombing Exercise (Air-to-Surface) [BOMBEX (A-S)]
    Strike fighter aircraft, such as F/A-18s, deliver explosive bombs 
against at-sea surface targets with the goal of destroying the target. 
BOMBEX (A-S) training in the GOMEX Study Area occurs only during 
daylight hours in the BOMBEX Hotbox area.
    For the proposed BOMBEX (A-S), two aircraft will approach an at-sea 
target from an altitude of between 15,000 ft (4,572 m) to less than 
3,000 ft (914.4 m) and release a high explosive (HE) 1,000-pound (lb) 
bomb on the target. MK-83 bombs would be used. MK-83 bombs have a net 
explosive weight (NEW) of 415.8 lbs. The typical bomb release altitude 
is below 3,000 ft (914.4 m) and the target is usually a flare. The time 
in between bomb drops is approximately 3 minutes.

[[Page 19207]]

(B)Gunnery Exercise (Surface-to-Surface) [GUNEX (S-S)] Boat
    Gunnery Exercise (S-S) is a part of quarterly reservist training 
and operational activities for the Mobile Expeditionary Security Group 
(MESG) that operates out of Corpus Christi Naval Air Station (NAS). The 
MESG trains with M3A2 (0.5-lb NEW) anti-swimmer concussion grenades. 
The M3A2 grenades are small and contain high explosives in an inert 
metal or plastic shell. They detonate at about 3 m (9.8 ft) under the 
water surface within 4 to 5 seconds of being deployed. The detonation 
depth may be shallower depending upon the speed of the boat at the time 
the grenade is deployed. GUNNERY (S-S) training in the GOMEX Study Area 
may occur during day or evening hours in the UNDET Area E3.
    Table 1 below summarizes the level of Surface Warfare training 
activities planned in the GOMEX Range Complex for the proposed action.

                            Table 1. Level of Surface Warfare Training Activities Planned in the GOMEX Range Complex Per Year
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                 Training     Potential
            Operation                              Platform                         System/ Ordnance         Number of Events      Area      Time of Day
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bombing Exercise (BOMBEX) (Air-                                      F/A-18          MK-83 [1,000-lb High   1 event (4 bombs)      BOMBEX   Daytime only
 to-Surface, At-Sea)                                                           Explosive (HE) bomb] 415.8                          Hotbox
                                                                                                  lbs NEW
Gunnery Exercise (GUNEX)              Vessels such as combat rubber raiding   M3A2 concussion grenades (8-      4 events (20   UNDET Area   Day or night
 (Surface-to-Surface) - Boat        craft, rigid hull inflatable boats, and    oz HE grenade) 0.5 lbs NEW          grenades)           E3
                                                               patrol craft
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vessel Movement

    Vessel movements are associated with most training and operational 
activities in the GOMEX Study Area. Currently, the number of Navy 
vessels operating in the GOMEX Study Area varies based on training 
schedules and can range from 0 to about 10 vessels at any given time. 
Vessel sizes range from small boats (<35 ft, or 10.7 m) for a harbor 
security boat to 1,092 ft (332.8 m) for a CVN (carrier vessel nuclear) 
and speeds generally range from 10 to 14 knots, but may be considerably 
faster, for example an aircraft carrier aking wind while launching and 
recovering aircraft, and for small boat operations. Operations 
involving vessel movements occur intermittently and are variable in 
duration, ranging from a few hours up to 2 weeks. These operations are 
widely dispersed throughout the GOMEX Study Area, which is an area 
encompassing 11,714 nm\2\ (40,178 km\2\). Most vessel movements occur 
in the offshore OPAREAs, but vessel movements associated with MESG 
training in the UNDET Area E3 and Commander Naval Installations Command 
(CNIC) harbor security group training in the Panama City OPAREA occur 
between shore and 12 nm (22.2 km), including the nearshore zone (<3 nm, 
or 5.6 km). The Navy logs about 180 total vessel days within the GOMEX 
Study Area during a typical year. Consequently, the density of Navy 
vessels within the GOMEX Study Area at any given time is low (i.e., 
less than 0.0113 ships/nm\2\ (0.0386 km\2\)).

Proposed Monitoring and Mitigation Measures

    The Navy is developing an Integrated Comprehensive Monitoring 
Program (ICMP) for marine species to assess the effects of training 
activities on marine species and investigate population trends in 
marine species distribution and abundance in various range complexes 
and geographic locations where Navy training occurs. The primary tools 
available for monitoring include visual observations, acoustic 
monitoring, photo identification and tagging, and oceanographic and 
environmental data collection.
    A list of proposed mitigation measures and standard operating 
procedures is described in the application for the proposed training 
operations. These mitigation measures include personnel training for 
watchstanders and lookouts in marine mammal monitoring, operating 
procedures for collision avoidance and a series of measures for 
specific at-sea training events including surface-to-surface gunnery, 
etc. A detailed description of the monitoring and mitigation measures 
is provided in the application.

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning the Navy request (see ADDRESSES). All information, 
suggestions, and comments related to the Navy GOMEX Range Complex 
request and NMFS potential development and implementation of 
regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by the 
Navy training activities will be considered by NMFS in developing, if 
appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of 
letters of authorization.

    Dated: April 22, 2009.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. E9-9647 Filed 4-27-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S