Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California, 71576-71581 [2013-28651]

Download as PDF 71576 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC350 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental take authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as amended, notification is hereby given that we, NMFS, have issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society) to take four species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, incidental to conducting helicopter operations, and lighthouse renovation and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock (NWSR) offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean, from the period of November 2013 through December 2013. SUMMARY: This authorization is effective from November 25, 2013, through December 31, 2013. ADDRESSES: A copy of the Authorization and application are available by writing to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. An electronic copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the above address, telephoning the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or visiting the internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 Background Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if: (1) We make certain findings; (2) the taking is limited to harassment; and (3) we provide a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for review. We shall allow authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals if we find 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 (where relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such takings. We have 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.’’ Section 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. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for our review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorization for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, we must either issue or deny the authorization and must publish a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of our determination to issue or deny the authorization. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the Marine Mammal Protection Act defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Summary of Request We received an application on May 8, 2012, from the Society for the taking by harassment, of marine mammals, incidental to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) for the 2013 season. We determined that application complete and adequate on November 27, 2012 and made the complete application available for public comment (see ADDRESSES) in January 2013. The Society’s restoration activities would: (1) Restore and preserve the Station on a monthly basis (November through December); and (2) perform periodic, annual maintenance on the Station’s optical light system. The Station, which is listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, is located on NWSR offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The specified activities would occur in the vicinity of a possible pinniped haul out site located on NWSR. Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system); and (4) human presence, may have the potential to cause any pinnipeds hauled out on NWSR to flush into the surrounding water or to cause a short-term behavioral disturbance. These types of disturbances are the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these activities and the Society has requested an authorization to take 204 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus); 36 Pacific Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); 172 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus); and six northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) by Level B harassment. To date, we have issued three 1-year Authorizations to the Society for the conduct of the same activities from 2009 to 2012. This will be the Society’s fourth Authorization for the same activities for the remainder of the 2013 season. Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region The Society would conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse restoration, and light maintenance activities between November 25, 2013, through December 31, 2013, at a maximum frequency of E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices one session per month. The duration for each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The Station is located on a small, rocky islet (41°50′24″ N, 124°22′06″ W) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41°46′48″ N; Longitude: 124°14′11″ W). We outlined the purpose of the Society’s activities in a previous notice for the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013). The proposed activities have not changed between the proposed authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized action, including aircraft and acoustic source specifications, the reader should refer to the notice for the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013). sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Comments and Responses We published a notice of receipt of the Society’s application and proposed Authorization in the Federal Register on January 9, 2013 (78 FR 1838). During the 30-day comment period, we received one comment from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) which recommended that we issue the requested Authorization, provided that the required monitoring and mitigation measures are carried out (e.g., restrictions on the timing and frequency of activities, restrictions on helicopter approaches, timing measures for helicopter landings, and measures to minimize acoustic and visual disturbances) as described in the notice of the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) and the application. We have included all measures proposed in the notice of the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) in the Authorization. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity The marine mammal species likely to be harassed incidental to helicopter operations, lighthouse restoration, and lighthouse maintenance on NWSR are the California sea lion, the Pacific harbor seal, and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal, and the eastern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Steller sea lion which NMFS has removed from the list of threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), effective in November, 2013. Steller sea lions and northern fur seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA but are VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 categorized as depleted under the MMPA. California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA nor are they categorized as depleted under the MMPA. Potential Effects of the Activity on Marine Mammals Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out on NWSR. The effects of sounds from helicopter operations and/ or restoration and maintenance activities might include one of the following: temporary or permanent hearing impairment or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007). The notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) included a discussion of the effects of sounds from: (1) The sound levels produced by the helicopter; (2) behavioral reactions (or lack thereof) of pinnipeds to helicopter operations and light construction noise; (3) hearing impairment and other non-auditory physical effects; (4) behavioral reactions to visual stimuli; (5) and specific observations gathered during previous monitoring of the marine mammals present on NWSR. We have reviewed these data and determined them to be the best available information for the purposes of this Authorization. To summarize, the effects of the Society’s helicopter operations and restoration activities on the marine mammals present on NWSR would range from no response to a short-term startle response. These behavioral changes have the potential to cause the animals to haul-out leading to temporary displacement from the island and we expect no permanent abandonment of NWSR by the animals. Finally, we anticipate that there will be no instances of injury or mortality during the project. No activities would occur on pinniped rookeries and we do not expect mother and pup separation or crushing of pups to occur. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat The notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) included a discussion of the potential effects of this action on marine mammal habitat, including physiological and behavioral effects on marine fish and invertebrates. While we PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71577 anticipate that the specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding NWSR during the helicopter operations and restoration activities, this impact to habitat is temporary and reversible. We consider the impacts of avoidance in the notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) as behavioral modification. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses. The Society has based the mitigation measures which they will implement during the proposed helicopter operations and restoration activities, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous Authorizations for helicopter operations and restoration activities as approved by us; (2) recommended best practices in Richardson et al. (1995); and (3) reasonable and prudent measures implemented by the terms and conditions of previous section 7 ESA Biological Opinion (BiOp) Incidental Take Statement (ITS). To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli associated with the activities, the Society and/or its designees will implement the following mitigation measures for marine mammals: (1) Limit the time and frequency of the restoration activities; (2) Employ helicopter approach and timing techniques; and (3) Avoidance of visual and acoustic contact with marine mammals by the Society and/or its designees. Time and Frequency: The Society will conduct lighthouse restoration activities at maximum frequency of once per month between November 25, 2013 through December 31, 2013. Each restoration session will last no more than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon will occur only in conjunction with restoration activities. Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society shall ensure that helicopter approach patterns to the lighthouse will be such that the timing techniques are least disturbing to marine mammals. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach NWSR when the tide is too E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1 71578 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices high for the marine mammals to haulout on NWSR. Since the most severe impacts (stampede) are precipitated by rapid and direct helicopter approaches, initial approach to the Station must be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 244–305 meters; 800– 1,000 feet,). Before the final approach, the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area where the density of pinnipeds is the lowest. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) such helicopter approach and timing techniques cannot be achieved, the Society must abort the restoration and maintenance activities for that day. Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact With Marine Mammals: The Society’s members and restoration crews shall be instructed to avoid making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to pinnipeds around the base of the lighthouse. The door to the lower platform (which is used at times by pinnipeds) shall remain closed and barricaded. sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Mitigation Conclusions We have carefully evaluated the Society’s proposed mitigation measures and have considered a range of other measures in the context of ensuring that we have prescribed the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, we expect that the successful implementation of the measure would minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s mitigation measures, we have determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The Act’s implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 indicate that requests for an authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area. The Society continues to sponsor marine mammal monitoring to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment authorization. At least once during the period between November 15, 2013 through December 31, 2013, the Society will have a qualified biologist present during all three workdays at the Station. The biologist shall document use of the island by the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances. In the event of any observed Steller sea lion injury, mortality, or the presence of newborn pup, the Society will notify the NMFS SWRO Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources immediately. Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using the project site during human activity periods. The Society will photograph the island from the same helicopter used to transport the Society’s personnel to the island during restoration trips. A skilled photographer shall take photographs of all marine mammals hauled out on the island at an altitude greater than 300 meters (984 feet), prior to the first landing on each visit included in the monitoring program. The Society will provide to us photographic documentation of marine mammals present at the end of each three-day work session for a before and after comparison. The Society will forward these photographs to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. The Society shall provide the data to NMFS in the form of a report with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The Society will also provide the original photographs to us or other marine mammal experts for inspection and further analysis. Reporting The Society’s personnel will record data to document the number of marine PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 mammals exposed to helicopter noise and to document apparent disturbance reactions or lack thereof. The Society and NMFS will use the data to estimate numbers of animals potentially taken by Level B harassment. Interim Monitoring Report The Society will submit interim monitoring reports to the NMFS SWRO Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources no later than 30 days after the conclusion of each monthly session. The interim report will describe the operations that were conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the project. The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. Each interim report will provide: (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all helicopter operations, and restoration and maintenance activities. (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, observed throughout all monitoring activities. (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that are known to have been exposed to acoustic stimuli associated with the helicopter operations, restoration and maintenance activities. (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. Final Monitoring Report In addition to the interim reports, the Society will submit a draft Final Monitoring Report to us no later than 90 days after the project is completed to the Regional Administrator and the Director of Office of Protected Resources at NMFS Headquarters. Within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft Final Monitoring Report, the Society must submit a Final Monitoring Report to the Regional Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources. If the Society receives no comments from us on the draft Final Monitoring Report, we will consider the draft Final Monitoring Report to be the final version. The final report will provide: (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all helicopter operations, and restoration and maintenance activities. (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1 sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices observed throughout all monitoring activities. (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that are known to have been exposed to acoustic stimuli associated with the helicopter operations, restoration and maintenance activities. (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the Authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., stampede), the Society shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427–8401 and/or by email to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Activities will not resume until we are able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the biologist (if present) determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427–8401 and/or by email to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the Southwest Regional Stranding VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 Coordinator at (562) 980–3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead biologist (if present) determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the Authorization (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427–8401 and/or by email to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3230 (Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov), within 24 hours of the discovery. The Society will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the Marine Mammal Protection Act defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. We anticipate and authorize take by Level B harassment only for the proposed helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance activities on NWSR. Acoustic (i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli generated during these proposed activities may have the potential to cause marine mammals in the harbor area to experience temporary, short-term changes in behavior. Based on pinniped survey counts conducted by CCR on NWSR in the spring of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 (CCR, 2001), we estimate that approximately 204 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying the average monthly abundance of California sea lions (zero in April, 1997 and 34 in April,1998) present on NWSR by 6 PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71579 months of the restoration and maintenance activities), 172 Steller sea lions (NMFS’ estimate of the maximum number of Steller sea lions that could be present on NWSR with a 95-percent confidence interval), 36 Pacific harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor seals present on NWSR (6) by 6 months), and 6 northern fur seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals present on NWSR (1) by 6 months) could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the Authorization. Estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected are based on consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations during the course of the activity. For this Authorization, we authorize the take of 204 California sea lions, 172 Stellar sea lions, 36 Pacific harbor seals, and 6 northern fur seals. There is no evidence that the Society’s planned activities could result in injury, serious injury or mortality within the action area. The required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize any potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. Thus, we do not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or mortality. We expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B harassment only. Encouraging and Coordinating Research The Society will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds during the helicopter operations and restoration activities which contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology on NWSR. Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination We typically include our negligible impact and small numbers analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our Federal Register notices. Despite co-locating these terms, we acknowledge that negligible impact and small numbers are distinct standards under the MMPA and treat them as such. The analyses presented below do not conflate the two standards; instead, each standard has been considered independently and we have applied the relevant factors to inform our negligible impact and small numbers determinations. We have defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘* * * an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1 sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 71580 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ In making a negligible impact determination, we consider: (1) The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; (2) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and (3) The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when taking into account successive/ contemporaneous actions when added to baseline data); (4) The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative to the size of the population); (5) Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and (6) The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures. As mentioned previously, we estimate that four species of marine mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the course of this Authorization. For each species, these numbers are small numbers (each, less than or equal to two percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.14 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.06 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. For reasons stated previously in this document and in the notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013), the specified activities associated with the Society’s helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities are not likely to cause permanent threshold shift, or other nonauditory injury, serious injury, or death because: (1) The likelihood that, given sufficient notice through relatively slow helicopter approaches, we expect marine mammals to gradually move away from a noise source that is annoying prior to its becoming potentially injurious; and (2) The potential for temporary or permanent hearing impairment is relatively low and would likely be avoided through the incorporation of the required monitoring and mitigation measures. We do not anticipate takes by Level A harassment, serious injury, or mortality to occur as a result of the Society’s specified activities. We are not authorizing Level A harassment for this VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 specified activity. We only anticipate short-term behavioral disturbance to occur due to the brief and sporadic duration of the activities; the availability of alternate areas near NWSR for marine mammals to avoid the resultant acoustic disturbance; and limited access to NWSR during the pupping season. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. Further, these proposed activities would not take place in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, we have determined that the total taking from the proposed activities will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; and that impacts to affected species or stocks of marine mammals would be mitigated to the lowest level practicable. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study area (northeastern Pacific Ocean) that implicate section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. Endangered Species Act (ESA) On October 23, 2013, NMFS announced the removal of the eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions from the list of threatened species under the ESA. With the delisting, federal agencies proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no longer required to consult with NMFS under section 7 of the ESA. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization to the Society, we prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2010 that was PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 specific to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. The EA, titled ‘‘Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,’’ evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in the specified geographic region. At that time, we concluded that issuance of an Authorization November 1 through April 30, annually would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society’s activities. In conjunction with the Society’s 2013 application, we have again reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the Authorization requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2010 FONSI. An electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available upon request (see ADDRESSES). Determinations We have determined that the impact of conducting the specific helicopter operations and restoration activities described in this notice and in the Authorization request in the specific geographic region in the northeastern Pacific Ocean may result, at worst, in a temporary modification in behavior (Level B harassment) of small numbers of marine mammals. Further, this activity is expected to result in a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks of marine mammals. The provision requiring that the activity not have an unmitigable impact on the availability of the affected species or stock of marine mammals for subsistence uses is not implicated for this action. Authorization As a result of these determinations, we, NMFS, have issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to the Society to conduct helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean from the period of November 25, 2013, through December 31, 2013, provided the previously E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 230 / Friday, November 29, 2013 / Notices mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: November 25, 2013. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–28651 Filed 11–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMITTEE FOR PURCHASE FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND OR SEVERELY DISABLED other compliance requirements for small entities other than the small organizations that will furnish the products and service to the Government. 2. The action will result in authorizing small entities to furnish the products and service to the Government. 3. There are no known regulatory alternatives which would accomplish the objectives of the Javits-WagnerO’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 8501–8506) in connection with the products and service proposed for addition to the Procurement List. Procurement List; Additions and Deletions End of Certification Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. ACTION: Additions to and deletions from the Procurement List. Products AGENCY: This action adds products and a service to the Procurement List that will be furnished by nonprofit agencies employing persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities, and deletes products and services previously furnished by such agencies. DATES: Effective Date: 12/30/2013. ADDRESS: Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, 1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 10800, Arlington, Virginia, 22202–4149. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barry S. Lineback, Telephone: (703) 603–7740, Fax: (703) 603–0655, or email CMTEFedReg@AbilityOne.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Additions On 6/28/2013 (78 FR 38952–38953); 8/9/2013 (78 FR 48656–48657); and 9/ 6/2013 (78 FR 54871), the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled published notices of proposed additions to the Procurement List. After consideration of the material presented to it concerning capability of qualified nonprofit agencies to provide the products and service and impact of the additions on the current or most recent contractors, the Committee has determined that the products and service listed below are suitable for procurement by the Federal Government under 41 U.S.C. 8501–8506 and 41 CFR 51–2.4. Regulatory Flexibility Act Certification I certify that the following action will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. The major factors considered for this certification were: 1. The action will not result in any additional reporting, recordkeeping or VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:56 Nov 27, 2013 Jkt 232001 Accordingly, the following products and service are added to the Procurement List: Binder, Loose-leaf, View Framed, 1⁄2″ NSN: 7510–01–462–1384—Black. NSN: 7510–01–462–1387—White. Binder, Loose-leaf, View Framed, 1″ NSN: 7510–01–462–1388—Navy Blue. NSN: 7510–01–462–1390—Black. Binder, Loose-leaf, View Framed, 11⁄2″ NSN: 7510–01–462–1389, Black. NSN: 7510–01–462–1391 White. NPA: South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Corpus Christi, TX. Contracting Activity: General Services Administration, New York, NY. Coverage: A-List for the Total Government Requirement as aggregated by the General Services Administration. Serving Bowl, Patriotic, Plastic 7Qt/MR 358. Serving Bowl, Holiday, Plastic 7Qt/MR 370. Chip and Dip Bowl, Holiday, Plastic/MR 373. NPA: Industries for the Blind, Inc., West Allis, WI. Contracting Activity: Defense Commissary Agency, Fort Lee, VA. Coverage: C-List for the requirements of military commissaries and exchanges as aggregated by the Defense Commissary Agency. Service Service Type/Location: Courier Service, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, 2002 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX. NPA: Southeast Vocational Alliance, Inc., Houston, TX. Contracting Activity: Department of Veterans Affairs, 580-Houston, Houston, TX. Deletions On 9/20/2013 (78 FR 57844) and 10/ 25/2013 (78 FR 63967–63968), the PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71581 Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled published notice of proposed deletions from the Procurement List. After consideration of the relevant matter presented, the Committee has determined that the products and services listed below are no longer suitable for procurement by the Federal Government under 41 U.S.C. 8501–8506 and 41 CFR 51–2.4. Regulatory Flexibility Act Certification I certify that the following action will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. The major factors considered for this certification were: 1. The action will not result in additional reporting, recordkeeping or other compliance requirements for small entities. 2. The action may result in authorizing small entities to provide the products and services to the Government. 3. There are no known regulatory alternatives which would accomplish the objectives of the Javits-WagnerO’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 8501–8506) in connection with the products and services deleted from the Procurement List. End of Certification Accordingly, the following products and services are deleted from the Procurement List: Products Flexible Erasable Wall Planners NSN: 7510–01–600–8043—Dated 12Month 2-Sided Laminated Wall Planner, 24″ x 37″ NSN: 7510–01–600–8028—Dated 18month Paper Wall Planner, 24″ x 37″ NPA: The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Chicago, IL Contracting Activity: General Services Administration, FSS Household and Industrial Furniture, Arlington, VA. Services Service Type/Location: Integrated Prime Vendor Supply Chain Management Service [to support production, assembly, receipt, storage, packaging, preservation, delivery and related products/services for Expeditionary Force Provider (EFP) Modules and Modification System Cold Weather], US Army, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems, Natick, MA. NPA: ReadyOne Industries, Inc., El Paso, TX. E:\FR\FM\29NON1.SGM 29NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 230 (Friday, November 29, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 71576-71581]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28651]



[[Page 71576]]

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC350


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. 
George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal 
Rock, Del Norte County, California

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of an incidental take authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as amended, notification is hereby given 
that we, NMFS, have issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization 
(Authorization) to the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society 
(Society) to take four species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment 
only, incidental to conducting helicopter operations, and lighthouse 
renovation and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef 
Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock (NWSR) offshore of Crescent City, 
California in the northeast Pacific Ocean, from the period of November 
2013 through December 2013.

DATES: This authorization is effective from November 25, 2013, through 
December 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the Authorization and application are available by 
writing to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, 
Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 
East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. An electronic copy of the 
application containing a list of the references used in this document 
may be obtained by writing to the above address, telephoning the 
contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or visiting 
the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may be 
viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the 
aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 
U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to authorize, 
upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small 
numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by United 
States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if: (1) We 
make certain findings; (2) the taking is limited to harassment; and (3) 
we provide a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for 
review.
    We shall allow authorization for the incidental taking of small 
numbers of marine mammals if we find 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 (where relevant). The authorization must 
set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of effecting 
the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its 
habitat (i.e., mitigation); and requirements pertaining to the 
monitoring and reporting of such takings. We have 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.''
    Section 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. Section 101(a)(5)(D) 
of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for our review of an 
application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on 
any proposed authorization for the incidental harassment of small 
numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public 
comment period, we must either issue or deny the authorization and must 
publish a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of our 
determination to issue or deny the authorization.
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].

Summary of Request

    We received an application on May 8, 2012, from the Society for the 
taking by harassment, of marine mammals, incidental to conducting 
aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance activities on the 
St. George Reef Light Station (Station) for the 2013 season. We 
determined that application complete and adequate on November 27, 2012 
and made the complete application available for public comment (see 
ADDRESSES) in January 2013.
    The Society's restoration activities would: (1) Restore and 
preserve the Station on a monthly basis (November through December); 
and (2) perform periodic, annual maintenance on the Station's optical 
light system. The Station, which is listed in the National Park 
Service's National Register of Historic Places, is located on NWSR 
offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean.
    The specified activities would occur in the vicinity of a possible 
pinniped haul out site located on NWSR. Acoustic and visual stimuli 
generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated 
during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and 
glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and 
automation of the light system); and (4) human presence, may have the 
potential to cause any pinnipeds hauled out on NWSR to flush into the 
surrounding water or to cause a short-term behavioral disturbance. 
These types of disturbances are the principal means of marine mammal 
taking associated with these activities and the Society has requested 
an authorization to take 204 California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus); 36 Pacific Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); 172 Steller 
sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus); and six northern fur seals (Callorhinus 
ursinus) by Level B harassment.
    To date, we have issued three 1-year Authorizations to the Society 
for the conduct of the same activities from 2009 to 2012. This will be 
the Society's fourth Authorization for the same activities for the 
remainder of the 2013 season.

Description of the Specified Activity and Specified Geographic Region

    The Society would conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse 
restoration, and light maintenance activities between November 25, 
2013, through December 31, 2013, at a maximum frequency of

[[Page 71577]]

one session per month. The duration for each session would last no more 
than three days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
    The Station is located on a small, rocky islet (41[deg]50'24'' N, 
124[deg]22'06'' W) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) 
in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California 
(Latitude: 41[deg]46'48'' N; Longitude: 124[deg]14'11'' W).
    We outlined the purpose of the Society's activities in a previous 
notice for the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013). 
The proposed activities have not changed between the proposed 
authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of 
the Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized 
action, including aircraft and acoustic source specifications, the 
reader should refer to the notice for the proposed authorization (78 FR 
1838, January 9, 2013).

Comments and Responses

    We published a notice of receipt of the Society's application and 
proposed Authorization in the Federal Register on January 9, 2013 (78 
FR 1838). During the 30-day comment period, we received one comment 
from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) which recommended that 
we issue the requested Authorization, provided that the required 
monitoring and mitigation measures are carried out (e.g., restrictions 
on the timing and frequency of activities, restrictions on helicopter 
approaches, timing measures for helicopter landings, and measures to 
minimize acoustic and visual disturbances) as described in the notice 
of the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) and the 
application. We have included all measures proposed in the notice of 
the proposed authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013) in the 
Authorization.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    The marine mammal species likely to be harassed incidental to 
helicopter operations, lighthouse restoration, and lighthouse 
maintenance on NWSR are the California sea lion, the Pacific harbor 
seal, and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal, and the 
eastern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of Steller sea lion which 
NMFS has removed from the list of threatened species under the U.S. 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), effective 
in November, 2013. Steller sea lions and northern fur seals are not 
listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA but are categorized as 
depleted under the MMPA. California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals 
are not listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA nor are they 
categorized as depleted under the MMPA.

Potential Effects of the Activity on Marine Mammals

    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/
takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., 
painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance 
activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) 
may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds 
hauled out on NWSR. The effects of sounds from helicopter operations 
and/or restoration and maintenance activities might include one of the 
following: temporary or permanent hearing impairment or behavioral 
disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007).
    The notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 
2013) included a discussion of the effects of sounds from: (1) The 
sound levels produced by the helicopter; (2) behavioral reactions (or 
lack thereof) of pinnipeds to helicopter operations and light 
construction noise; (3) hearing impairment and other non-auditory 
physical effects; (4) behavioral reactions to visual stimuli; (5) and 
specific observations gathered during previous monitoring of the marine 
mammals present on NWSR. We have reviewed these data and determined 
them to be the best available information for the purposes of this 
Authorization.
    To summarize, the effects of the Society's helicopter operations 
and restoration activities on the marine mammals present on NWSR would 
range from no response to a short-term startle response. These 
behavioral changes have the potential to cause the animals to haul-out 
leading to temporary displacement from the island and we expect no 
permanent abandonment of NWSR by the animals. Finally, we anticipate 
that there will be no instances of injury or mortality during the 
project. No activities would occur on pinniped rookeries and we do not 
expect mother and pup separation or crushing of pups to occur.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    The notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 
2013) included a discussion of the potential effects of this action on 
marine mammal habitat, including physiological and behavioral effects 
on marine fish and invertebrates. While we anticipate that the 
specified activity may result in marine mammals avoiding NWSR during 
the helicopter operations and restoration activities, this impact to 
habitat is temporary and reversible. We consider the impacts of 
avoidance in the notice for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, 
January 9, 2013) as behavioral modification.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we must set forth the 
permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other 
means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species 
or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, 
mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and the availability 
of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.
    The Society has based the mitigation measures which they will 
implement during the proposed helicopter operations and restoration 
activities, on the following: (1) Protocols used during previous 
Authorizations for helicopter operations and restoration activities as 
approved by us; (2) recommended best practices in Richardson et al. 
(1995); and (3) reasonable and prudent measures implemented by the 
terms and conditions of previous section 7 ESA Biological Opinion 
(BiOp) Incidental Take Statement (ITS).
    To reduce the potential for disturbance from acoustic and visual 
stimuli associated with the activities, the Society and/or its 
designees will implement the following mitigation measures for marine 
mammals:
    (1) Limit the time and frequency of the restoration activities;
    (2) Employ helicopter approach and timing techniques; and
    (3) Avoidance of visual and acoustic contact with marine mammals by 
the Society and/or its designees.
    Time and Frequency: The Society will conduct lighthouse restoration 
activities at maximum frequency of once per month between November 25, 
2013 through December 31, 2013. Each restoration session will last no 
more than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon will occur only 
in conjunction with restoration activities.
    Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society shall ensure 
that helicopter approach patterns to the lighthouse will be such that 
the timing techniques are least disturbing to marine mammals. To the 
extent possible, the helicopter should approach NWSR when the tide is 
too

[[Page 71578]]

high for the marine mammals to haulout on NWSR.
    Since the most severe impacts (stampede) are precipitated by rapid 
and direct helicopter approaches, initial approach to the Station must 
be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 244-
305 meters; 800-1,000 feet,). Before the final approach, the helicopter 
shall circle lower, and approach from area where the density of 
pinnipeds is the lowest. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind 
condition) such helicopter approach and timing techniques cannot be 
achieved, the Society must abort the restoration and maintenance 
activities for that day.
    Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact With Marine Mammals: The 
Society's members and restoration crews shall be instructed to avoid 
making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to 
pinnipeds around the base of the lighthouse. The door to the lower 
platform (which is used at times by pinnipeds) shall remain closed and 
barricaded.

Mitigation Conclusions

    We have carefully evaluated the Society's proposed mitigation 
measures and have considered a range of other measures in the context 
of ensuring that we have prescribed the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and 
stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included 
consideration of the following factors in relation to one another:
    (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, we expect that 
the successful implementation of the measure would minimize adverse 
impacts to marine mammals;
    (2) The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
    (3) The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's mitigation measures, we 
have determined that the mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impacts on marine mammals 
species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that we 
must set forth ``requirements pertaining to the monitoring and 
reporting of such taking.'' The Act's implementing regulations at 50 
CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for an authorization must 
include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring 
and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species 
and our expectations of the level of taking or impacts on populations 
of marine mammals present in the action area.
    The Society continues to sponsor marine mammal monitoring to 
implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring and 
to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the incidental harassment 
authorization. At least once during the period between November 15, 
2013 through December 31, 2013, the Society will have a qualified 
biologist present during all three workdays at the Station. The 
biologist shall document use of the island by the pinnipeds, frequency, 
(i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, and any 
disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances. In the 
event of any observed Steller sea lion injury, mortality, or the 
presence of newborn pup, the Society will notify the NMFS SWRO 
Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources 
immediately.
    Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of 
documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using 
the project site during human activity periods. The Society will 
photograph the island from the same helicopter used to transport the 
Society's personnel to the island during restoration trips. A skilled 
photographer shall take photographs of all marine mammals hauled out on 
the island at an altitude greater than 300 meters (984 feet), prior to 
the first landing on each visit included in the monitoring program. The 
Society will provide to us photographic documentation of marine mammals 
present at the end of each three-day work session for a before and 
after comparison. The Society will forward these photographs to a 
biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species.
    The Society shall provide the data to NMFS in the form of a report 
with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine 
mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The 
Society will also provide the original photographs to us or other 
marine mammal experts for inspection and further analysis.

Reporting

    The Society's personnel will record data to document the number of 
marine mammals exposed to helicopter noise and to document apparent 
disturbance reactions or lack thereof. The Society and NMFS will use 
the data to estimate numbers of animals potentially taken by Level B 
harassment.

Interim Monitoring Report

    The Society will submit interim monitoring reports to the NMFS SWRO 
Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources no 
later than 30 days after the conclusion of each monthly session. The 
interim report will describe the operations that were conducted and 
sightings of marine mammals near the project. The report will provide 
full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining 
to all monitoring.
    Each interim report will provide:
    (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
helicopter operations, and restoration and maintenance activities.
    (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that 
are known to have been exposed to acoustic stimuli associated with the 
helicopter operations, restoration and maintenance activities.
    (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.

Final Monitoring Report

    In addition to the interim reports, the Society will submit a draft 
Final Monitoring Report to us no later than 90 days after the project 
is completed to the Regional Administrator and the Director of Office 
of Protected Resources at NMFS Headquarters. Within 30 days after 
receiving comments from NMFS on the draft Final Monitoring Report, the 
Society must submit a Final Monitoring Report to the Regional 
Administrator and the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources. 
If the Society receives no comments from us on the draft Final 
Monitoring Report, we will consider the draft Final Monitoring Report 
to be the final version.
    The final report will provide:
    (i) A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
helicopter operations, and restoration and maintenance activities.
    (ii) Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals,

[[Page 71579]]

observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    (iii) An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that 
are known to have been exposed to acoustic stimuli associated with the 
helicopter operations, restoration and maintenance activities.
    (iv) A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
Authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), 
serious injury or mortality (e.g., stampede), the Society shall 
immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the 
incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office 
of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427-8401 and/or by email to 
Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the Southwest 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov).
    The report must include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Activities will not resume until we are able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the Society to 
determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further 
prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not resume 
their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the biologist (if present) determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next 
paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427-8401 and/or by email to 
Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the Southwest 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information 
identified in the paragraph above. Activities may continue while we 
review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with the Society 
to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead biologist (if present) determines that the injury 
or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized 
in the Authorization (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with 
moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society 
will report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301) 427-8401 and/or 
by email to Michael.Payne@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and to the 
Southwest Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3230 
(Sarah.Wilkin@noaa.gov), within 24 hours of the discovery. The Society 
will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us.
Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act defines ``harassment'' as: any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].
    We anticipate and authorize take by Level B harassment only for the 
proposed helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance 
activities on NWSR. Acoustic (i.e., increased sound) and visual stimuli 
generated during these proposed activities may have the potential to 
cause marine mammals in the harbor area to experience temporary, short-
term changes in behavior.
    Based on pinniped survey counts conducted by CCR on NWSR in the 
spring of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 (CCR, 2001), we estimate that 
approximately 204 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying the 
average monthly abundance of California sea lions (zero in April, 1997 
and 34 in April,1998) present on NWSR by 6 months of the restoration 
and maintenance activities), 172 Steller sea lions (NMFS' estimate of 
the maximum number of Steller sea lions that could be present on NWSR 
with a 95-percent confidence interval), 36 Pacific harbor seals 
(calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor seals present 
on NWSR (6) by 6 months), and 6 northern fur seals (calculated by 
multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals present on NWSR 
(1) by 6 months) could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral 
harassment over the course of the Authorization. Estimates of the 
numbers of marine mammals that might be affected are based on 
consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be disturbed 
appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations during the 
course of the activity. For this Authorization, we authorize the take 
of 204 California sea lions, 172 Stellar sea lions, 36 Pacific harbor 
seals, and 6 northern fur seals.
    There is no evidence that the Society's planned activities could 
result in injury, serious injury or mortality within the action area. 
The required mitigation and monitoring measures will minimize any 
potential risk for injury, serious injury, or mortality. Thus, we do 
not propose to authorize any injury, serious injury or mortality. We 
expect all potential takes to fall under the category of Level B 
harassment only.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    The Society will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds 
during the helicopter operations and restoration activities which 
contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology on NWSR.

Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Determination

    We typically include our negligible impact and small numbers 
analyses and determinations under the same section heading of our 
Federal Register notices. Despite co-locating these terms, we 
acknowledge that negligible impact and small numbers are distinct 
standards under the MMPA and treat them as such. The analyses presented 
below do not conflate the two standards; instead, each standard has 
been considered independently and we have applied the relevant factors 
to inform our negligible impact and small numbers determinations.
    We have defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``* * * 
an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is

[[Page 71580]]

not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.'' In making a 
negligible impact determination, we consider:
    (1) The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
    (2) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment; and
    (3) The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of 
significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when 
taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions when added to 
baseline data);
    (4) The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., 
depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative 
to the size of the population);
    (5) Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and
    (6) The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures.
    As mentioned previously, we estimate that four species of marine 
mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment over the 
course of this Authorization. For each species, these numbers are small 
numbers (each, less than or equal to two percent) relative to the 
population size. These incidental harassment take numbers represent 
approximately 0.14 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 
0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 
percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.06 
percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and in the notice 
for the proposed Authorization (78 FR 1838, January 9, 2013), the 
specified activities associated with the Society's helicopter 
operations and restoration/maintenance activities are not likely to 
cause permanent threshold shift, or other non-auditory injury, serious 
injury, or death because:
    (1) The likelihood that, given sufficient notice through relatively 
slow helicopter approaches, we expect marine mammals to gradually move 
away from a noise source that is annoying prior to its becoming 
potentially injurious; and
    (2) The potential for temporary or permanent hearing impairment is 
relatively low and would likely be avoided through the incorporation of 
the required monitoring and mitigation measures.
    We do not anticipate takes by Level A harassment, serious injury, 
or mortality to occur as a result of the Society's specified 
activities. We are not authorizing Level A harassment for this 
specified activity. We only anticipate short-term behavioral 
disturbance to occur due to the brief and sporadic duration of the 
activities; the availability of alternate areas near NWSR for marine 
mammals to avoid the resultant acoustic disturbance; and limited access 
to NWSR during the pupping season.
    These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including 
temporarily vacating the area during the proposed activities to avoid 
the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. Further, these proposed 
activities would not take place in areas of significance for marine 
mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or calving and would not adversely 
impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of 
the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are not expected 
to impact rates of recruitment or survival. Based on the analysis 
contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on 
marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the 
implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, we have 
determined that the total taking from the proposed activities will have 
a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks; and that impacts 
to affected species or stocks of marine mammals would be mitigated to 
the lowest level practicable.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that 
the taking will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the 
availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. 
There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study 
area (northeastern Pacific Ocean) that implicate section 101(a)(5)(D) 
of the MMPA.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    On October 23, 2013, NMFS announced the removal of the eastern 
distinct population segment of Steller sea lions from the list of 
threatened species under the ESA. With the delisting, federal agencies 
proposing actions that may affect the eastern Steller sea lions are no 
longer required to consult with NMFS under section 7 of the ESA.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization 
to the Society, we prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2010 
that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and 
maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. The EA, titled 
``Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine 
Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft Operations, 
Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. George Reef 
Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,'' evaluated the 
impacts on the human environment of our authorization of incidental 
Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in the 
specified geographic region. At that time, we concluded that issuance 
of an Authorization November 1 through April 30, annually would not 
significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a 
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the 
Society's activities. In conjunction with the Society's 2013 
application, we have again reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that 
there are no new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human 
and natural environment associated with the Authorization requiring 
evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, reaffirms the 2010 
FONSI. An electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is 
available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Determinations

    We have determined that the impact of conducting the specific 
helicopter operations and restoration activities described in this 
notice and in the Authorization request in the specific geographic 
region in the northeastern Pacific Ocean may result, at worst, in a 
temporary modification in behavior (Level B harassment) of small 
numbers of marine mammals. Further, this activity is expected to result 
in a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks of marine 
mammals. The provision requiring that the activity not have an 
unmitigable impact on the availability of the affected species or stock 
of marine mammals for subsistence uses is not implicated for this 
action.

Authorization

    As a result of these determinations, we, NMFS, have issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization to the Society to conduct 
helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. 
George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast 
Pacific Ocean from the period of November 25, 2013, through December 
31, 2013, provided the previously

[[Page 71581]]

mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are 
incorporated.

    Dated: November 25, 2013.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-28651 Filed 11-27-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P