Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Air Force Conducting Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program Operational Testing Within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, 17394-17407 [2015-07429]

Download as PDF mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 17394 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices must state why it desires the Secretary to review those particular producers or exporters. If the interested party intends for the Secretary to review sales of merchandise by an exporter (or a producer if that producer also exports merchandise from other suppliers) which was produced in more than one country of origin and each country of origin is subject to a separate order, then the interested party must state specifically, on an order-by-order basis, which exporter(s) the request is intended to cover. Note that, for any party the Department was unable to locate in prior segments, the Department will not accept a request for an administrative review of that party absent new information as to the party’s location. Moreover, if the interested party who files a request for review is unable to locate the producer or exporter for which it requested the review, the interested party must provide an explanation of the attempts it made to locate the producer or exporter at the same time it files its request for review, in order for the Secretary to determine if the interested party’s attempts were reasonable, pursuant to 19 CFR 351.303(f)(3)(ii). As explained in Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Assessment of Antidumping Duties, 68 FR 23954 (May 6, 2003), and NonMarket Economy Antidumping Proceedings: Assessment of Antidumping Duties, 76 FR 65694 (October 24, 2011) the Department clarified its practice with respect to the collection of final antidumping duties on imports of merchandise where intermediate firms are involved. The public should be aware of this clarification in determining whether to request an administrative review of merchandise subject to antidumping findings and orders.3 Further, as explained in Antidumping Proceedings: Announcement of Change in Department Practice for Respondent Selection in Antidumping Duty Proceedings and Conditional Review of the Nonmarket Economy Entity in NME Antidumping Duty Proceedings, 78 FR 65963 (November 4, 2013), the Department clarified its practice with regard to the conditional review of the non-market economy (NME) entity in administrative reviews of antidumping duty orders. The Department will no longer consider the NME entity as an exporter conditionally subject to administrative reviews. Accordingly, the NME entity will not be under review 3 See also the Enforcement and Compliance Web site at http://trade.gov/enforcement/. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 unless the Department specifically receives a request for, or self-initiates, a review of the NME entity.4 In administrative reviews of antidumping duty orders on merchandise from NME countries where a review of the NME entity has not been initiated, but where an individual exporter for which a review was initiated does not qualify for a separate rate, the Department will issue a final decision indicating that the company in question is part of the NME entity. However, in that situation, because no review of the NME entity was conducted, the NME entity’s entries were not subject to the review and the rate for the NME entity is not subject to change as a result of that review (although the rate for the individual exporter may change as a function of the finding that the exporter is part of the NME entity). Following initiation of an antidumping administrative review when there is no review requested of the NME entity, the Department will instruct CBP to liquidate entries for all exporters not named in the initiation notice, including those that were suspended at the NME entity rate. All requests must be filed electronically in Enforcement and Compliance’s Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Centralized Electronic Service System (‘‘ACCESS’’) on Enforcement and Compliance’s ACCESS Web site at http:// access.trade.gov.5 Further, in accordance with 19 CFR 351.303(f)(l)(i), a copy of each request must be served on the petitioner and each exporter or producer specified in the request. The Department will publish in the Federal Register a notice of ‘‘Initiation of Administrative Review of Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Order, Finding, or Suspended Investigation’’ for requests received by the last day of April 2015. If the Department does not receive, by the last day of April 2015, a request for review of entries covered by an order, finding, or suspended investigation listed in this notice and for the period identified above, the Department will instruct CBP to assess antidumping or countervailing duties on those entries at a rate equal to the cash deposit of (or bond for) estimated antidumping or countervailing duties required on those 4 In accordance with 19 CFR 351.213(b)(1), parties should specify that they are requesting a review of entries from exporters comprising the entity, and to the extent possible, include the names of such exporters in their request. 5 See Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Electronic Filing Procedures; Administrative Protective Order Procedures, 76 FR 39263 (July 6, 2011). PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 entries at the time of entry, or withdrawal from warehouse, for consumption and to continue to collect the cash deposit previously ordered. For the first administrative review of any order, there will be no assessment of antidumping or countervailing duties on entries of subject merchandise entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption during the relevant provisional-measures ‘‘gap’’ period of the order, if such a gap period is applicable to the period of review. This notice is not required by statute but is published as a service to the international trading community. Dated: March 25, 2015. Christian Marsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations. [FR Doc. 2015–07496 Filed 3–31–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XD593 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Air Force Conducting Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program Operational Testing Within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act regulations, NMFS hereby gives notice that NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to the U.S. Air Force, Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin AFB), to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to a Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program (Maritime WSEP) within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico from February 5 through April 1, 2015. Eglin AFB’s activities are military readiness activities per the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2004. DATES: Effective February 5, 2015, through April 1, 2015. ADDRESSES: An electronic copy of the final Authorization, Eglin AFB’s SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices application and their final Environmental Assessment (EA) titled, ‘‘Maritime Weapons System Evaluation Program are available by writing to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; by telephoning the contacts listed here, or by visiting the internet at: http://www. nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/ military.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if, after NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for review and comment: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; and (2) the taking is limited to harassment. Through the authority delegated by the Secretary, NMFS shall grant an Authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The Authorization must also prescribe, where applicable, the permissible methods of taking by harassment pursuant to the activity; other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for subsistence uses (where applicable); and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. 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.’’ The National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (NDAA; Pub. L. 108–136) removed the ‘‘small numbers’’ and ‘‘specified geographical region’’ VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:33 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 limitations indicated earlier and amended the definition of harassment as it applies to a ‘‘military readiness activity’’ to read as follows: (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B Harassment]. Summary of Request NMFS received an application on August 5, 2014, from Eglin AFB for the taking, by harassment, of marine mammals, incidental to Maritime WESP operational testing in the spring of 2015 within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range (EGTTR). Eglin AFB submitted a revised application to NMFS on October 20, 2014, which provided updated take estimates for marine mammals based on updated acoustic thresholds for explosive sources. Eglin AFB submitted a second revised application to NMFS on December 1, 2014, which provided updated mitigation zones. NMFS determined the application adequate and complete on December 2, 2014 and published a notice of proposed Authorization on December 8, 2014 (79 FR 72631). The notice afforded the public a 30-day comment period on the proposed MMPA Authorization. Eglin AFB proposes to conduct Maritime WESP missions within the EGTTR airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, specifically within Warning Area 151 (W–151), which is located approximately 17 miles offshore from Santa Rosa Island, specifically sub-area W–151A. The proposed testing activities would occur during the daytime over a three-week period between February and April, 2015. Eglin AFB proposes to use multiple types of live munitions (e.g., gunnery rounds, rockets, missiles, and bombs) against small boat targets in the EGTTR. These activities qualify as a military readiness activities under the MMPA and NDAA. Eglin AFB’s Maritime WSEP operations may potentially impact marine mammals at or near the water surface. Thus, the following specific aspect of the proposed WSEP activities have the potential to take marine mammals: Increased underwater sound and pressure generated during the WSEP testing missions. Marine mammals could potentially be harassed, injured, or killed by exploding and non- PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 17395 exploding projectiles, and falling debris. However, based on analyses provided in Eglin AFB’s final; Environmental Assessment (EA); their Authorization application, including proposed mitigation and monitoring measures; and for reasons discussed later in this document, NMFS does not anticipate that Eglin’s WSEP activities will result in any serious injury or mortality to marine mammals. Eglin AFB has requested authorization to take two cetacean species by Level A and Level B harassment. The requested species include: Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis). Description of the Specified Activity Overview Eglin AFB proposes to conduct live ordnance testing and training in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Maritime WSEP operational testing. The Maritime WSEP test objectives are to evaluate maritime deployment data, evaluate tactics, techniques and procedures, and to determine the impact of techniques and procedures on combat Air Force training. The need to conduct this type of testing has arisen in response to increasing threats at sea posed by operations conducted from small boats which can carry a variety of weapons; can form in large or small numbers; and may be difficult to locate, track, and engage in the marine environment. Because of limited Air Force aircraft and munitions testing on engaging and defeating small boat threats, the Air Force proposes to employ live munitions against boat targets in the EGTTR in order to continue development of techniques and procedures to train Air Force strike aircraft to counter small maneuvering surface vessels. Thus, the Department of Defense considers the Maritime WSEP activities as high priority for national security. The proposed Maritime WSEP missions are similar to Eglin AFB’s Maritime Strike Operations where NMFS issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Eglin AFB related to training exercises around small boat threats (78 FR 52135, August 22, 2013). Dates and Duration Eglin AFB proposes to schedule the Maritime WSEP missions over an approximate two- to three-week period that would begin February 6, 2015, and end by April 1, 2015. The proposed missions would occur on weekdays, during daytime hours only, with one or two missions occurring per day. Some E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17396 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices minor deviation from Eglin AFB’s requested dates is possible and the Authorization, would be effective from February 5, 2015 through April 1, 2015. and remotely-controlled boat targets. Munition types include bombs, missiles, rockets, and gunnery rounds (Table 1). TABLE 1—LIVE MUNITIONS AND AIRCRAFT Specified Activity Area The specific planned mission location is approximately 17 miles (mi) (27.3 kilometers [km]) offshore from Santa Rosa Island, Florida, in nearshore waters of the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. All activities would take place within the EGTTR, defined as the airspace over the Gulf of Mexico controlled by Eglin AFB, beginning at a point three nautical miles (nmi) (3.5 miles [mi]; 5.5 kilometers [km]) from shore. The EGTTR consists of subdivided blocks including Warning Area 151 (W–151) where the proposed activities would occur, specifically in sub-area W–151A. NMFS provided detailed descriptions of the activity area in a previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information has not changed between the proposed Authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization. Detailed Description of Activities The Maritime WSEP operational testing missions, classified as military readiness activities, include the release of multiple types of inert and live munitions from fighter and bomber aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and gunships against small, static, towed, Aircraft (not associated with specific munitions) Munitions GBU–10 laser-guided Mk-84 bomb. GBU–24 laser-guided Mk-84 bomb. GBU–12 laser-guided Mk-82 bomb. GBU–54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (LJDAM), laserguided Mk-82 bomb. CBU–105 (WCMD) .... AGM–65 Maverick airto-surface missile. GBU–38 Small Diameter Bomb II (Laser SDB). AGM–114 Hellfire airto-surface missile. AGM–175 Griffin airto-surface missile. 2.75 Rockets. PGU–13/B high explosive incendiary 30 mm rounds. 7.62 mm/.50 Cal. F–16C fighter aircraft. F–16C+ fighter aircraft. F–15E fighter aircraft. A–10 fighter aircraft. B–1B bomber aircraft. B–52H bomber aircraft. MQ–1/9 unmanned aerial vehicle. AC–130 gunship. The proposed activities involve detonations above the water, near the water surface, and under water within the EGTTR. However, because the tests will focus on weapon/target interaction, Eglin AFB will not specify a particular aircraft for a given test as long as it meets the delivery parameters. Eglin AFB would deploy the munitions against static, towed, and remotely-controlled boat targets within W–151A. Eglin AFB would operate the remote-controlled boats from an instrumentation barge (Gulf Range Armament Test Vessel; GRATV) anchored on site within the test area. The GRATV would provide a platform for cameras and weapons-tracking equipment and Eglin AFB would position the target boats approximately 182.8 m (600 ft) from the GRATV, depending on the munition type. Table 2 provides the number, height, or depth of detonation, explosive material, and net explosive weight (NEW) in pounds (lbs) of each munition proposed for use during the Maritime WSEP activities. Key: AGM = air-to-ground missile; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; LJDAM = Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition; Laser SDB = Laser Small Diameter Bomb; mm = millimeters; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser. TABLE 2—MARITIME WSEP MUNITIONS PROPOSED FOR USE IN THE W–151A TEST AREA. Total number of live munitions Type of munition Warhead—explosive material MK–84—Tritonal ..................................................... MK–82—Tritonal ..................................................... WDU–24/B penetrating blast-fragmentation warhead. 10 BLU–108 sub-munitions each containing 4 projectiles parachute, rocket motor and altimeter. AFX–757 (Insensitive munition) .............................. High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) tandem antiarmor metal augmented charge. 945 lbs. 192 lbs. 86 lbs. Blast fragmentation ................................................. Comp B–4 HEI ........................................................ 30 x 173 mm caliber with aluminized RDX explosive. Designed for GAU–8/A Gun System. N/A .......................................................................... 13 lbs. Up to 12 lbs. 0.1 lbs. GBU–10 or GBU–24 ....................................... GBU–12 or GBU–54 (LJDAM) ........................ AGM–65 (Maverick) ........................................ 2 6 6 Surface ........ Surface ........ Surface ........ CBU–105 (WCMD) ......................................... 4 Airburst ........ GBU–38 (Laser Small Diameter Bomb) ......... AGM–114 (Hellfire) ......................................... 4 15 AGM–176 (Griffin) ........................................... 2.75 Rockets ................................................... PGU–12 HEI 30 mm ....................................... 10 100 1,000 Surface ........ Subsurface (10 msec delay). Surface ........ Surface ........ Surface ........ 7.62 mm/.50 cal .............................................. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Net explosive weight per munition Detonation type 5,000 Surface ........ 83 lbs. 37 lbs. 20 lbs. N/A. Key: AGL = above ground level; AGM = air-to-ground missile; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; JDAM = Joint Direct Attack Munition; LJDAM = Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition; mm = millimeters; msec = millisecond; lbs = pounds; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; HEI = high explosive incendiary. To ensure safety, prior to conducting WSEP activities, Eglin AFB would conduct a pre-test target area clearance VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 procedure for people and protected species. Eglin AFB would deploy support vessels around a defined safety PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 zone to ensure that commercial and recreational boats do not accidentally enter the area. Before delivering the E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices ordnance, mission aircraft would make a dry run over the target area to ensure that it is clear of commercial and recreational boats (at least two aircraft would participate in each test). Due to the limited duration of the flyover and potentially high speed and altitude, pilots will not be able to survey for marine species. NMFS provided detailed descriptions of the WSEP training operations in the previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). This information has not changed between the proposed Authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization. Based on the results from an acoustic impacts analysis for live ordnance detonations, Eglin AFB would establish a separate disturbance zone around the target for the protection of marine species. Eglin AFB will base the size of the zone on the distance to which energy- and pressure-related impacts will extend for the various type of ordnance listed in Table 2. Based on the acoustic modeling result, the largest possible distance from the target would be approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) from the target area, which corresponds to the Level A harassment threshold range. Support vessels would monitor for marine mammals around the target area. WSEP activities will not proceed until Eglin AFB personnel determine that the target area is clear of unauthorized personnel and protected species. In addition to vessel-based monitoring, Eglin AFB will position three video cameras on an instrumentation barge anchored on-site. The cameras, typically used for situational awareness of the target area and surrounding area, would contribute to monitoring the test site for the presence of marine species. A marine species observer would be present in the Eglin control tower, along with mission personnel, to monitor the video feed before and during test activities. After each test, Eglin AFB would inspect floating targets to identify and render safe any unexploded ordnance (UXO), including fuzes or intact munitions. The Eglin AFB Explosive Disposal Team will be on hand for each test. If Eglin AFB personnel cannot remove the UXO, personnel will detonate the UXO in place, which could result in the sinking of the target vessel. Once Eglin AFB deems the area clear for re-entry, test personnel will retrieve target debris. Marine species observers would survey the area for any evidence of adverse impacts to protected species. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 Comments and Responses A notice of receipt of Eglin AFB’s application and NMFS’ proposal to issue an Authorization to the USAF, Eglin AFB, published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2014 (79 FR 72631). During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received comments from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) only. Following are the comments from the Commission and NMFS’ responses. Comment 1: The Commission notes that the Air Force has applied for MMPA authorizations to take marine mammals on an activity-by-activity basis (e.g., naval explosive ordnance disposal school, precision strike weapon, air-to-surface gunnery and maritime strike operation) rather than a programmatic basis. The Commission believes that the agencies should evaluate the impacts of all training and testing activities under a single letter of authorization application and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document rather than segmenting the analyses based on specific types of missions under various authorizations. Response: Both Eglin AFB and NMFS concur with the Commission’s recommendation to streamline the rulemaking process for future activities conducted within the EGGTR. Currently, Eglin AFB personnel are planning to develop a Programmatic Environmental Assessment as well as a Request for a Letter of Authorization for all testing and training activities that will occur in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range over the next five years. These efforts would facilitate a more comprehensive review of actions occurring within the EGGTR that have the potential to take marine mammals incidental to military readiness activities for future MMPA rulemaking requests by Eglin AFB. Comment 2: The Commission states that Eglin AFB estimated the zones of exposure (i.e., zones of influence (ZOI) in two ways: (1) Calculating zones based on a single detonation event of each munition type within a three-week period; and (2) calculating zones based on a representative ordnance expenditure scenario of the maximum number of munitions that Eglin AFB could expend within a single day. The Commission further noted that the latter method was an appropriate method for determining distances to the sound exposure level (SEL) thresholds which are the zones of exposure for implementing mitigation. However, the Commission states that Eglin AFB overestimated marine mammal take because they based PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 17397 estimates on the former method (i.e., calculating zones based on a single detonation event of each munition type within a three-week period) which multiplied the number of animals estimated to be taken by a single detonation of each munition type by the total number of munitions that would be detonated, irrespective of when those detonations would occur. The Commission states that this method does not consider the accumulation of energy in a 24-hour period which would more accurately correspond to zones of exposure for the representative scenario and serve as more a realistic estimate of the numbers of animals that Eglin AFB could potentially take during the WSEP activities. Response: With respect to the first point, Eglin AFB developed an example test day scenario (assumed to be worst case) to calculate impact ranges for all energy metrics in response to the Commission and NMFS’ concerns. This is the basis for the mitigation monitoring plan which NMFS presented in Table 7 of the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). Based on the ranges presented in Table 7 and factoring in operational limitations associated with survey-based vessel support for the missions, Eglin AFB estimates that during pre-mission surveys, the proposed monitoring area would be approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) from the target area, which corresponds to the Level A harassment threshold range. Eglin AFB proposes to survey the same-sized area for each mission day, regardless of the planned munition expenditures. By clearing the Level A harassment threshold range of protected species, animals that may enter the area after the completed premission surveys but prior to detonation would not reach the smaller slight lung injury or mortality zones. With respect to the second point, Eglin AFB’s modeling approach for take estimates treated each munition detonation as a separate event impacting a new set of animals which results in a worst case scenario of potential take and is a precautionary overestimate of potential harassment. Briefly, Eglin AFB’s model treats each ordnance detonation as a single event and sums the estimated potential impacts from each detonation event to provide a total estimate of take for the entire WSEP testing activities event conducted over a period of 3 weeks. This approach assumes for a continuous population refresh of animals (i.e., a new population of animals is impacted) and sums all exposures for each species for all munitions expended during the three-week period. NMFS and Eglin E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 17398 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices AFB acknowledge that this approach contributes to the overestimation of take estimates. This approach has multiple conservative assumptions built into the calculations that contribute the overestimation of take estimates. One assumption included a continuous population refresh approach that treated each munition detonation as a separate event impacting a new set of animals. In actuality, multiple detonations will occur in each mission day, and while Eglin AFB plans to release certain munitions on specific days, past experience has shown that Eglin AFB may not be able to execute the missions according to a set plan. Eglin AFB requires flexibility to make last minute changes to the schedule in order to complete all test requirements in the allotted 3-week timeframe. That may include Eglin AFB releasing additional munitions on one day to make up for days when they could not release planned munitions. Comment 3: In estimating take, the Commission commented Eglin AFB’s model approach was an additive process for estimating each zone of exposure, and thus the associated takes. Effectively, The Commission states that Eglin AFB overestimated the number of take but is unsure to what degree. Further, the Commission recommends that Eglin AFB and NMFS should treat fractions of estimated take appropriately, that is generally, round down if less than 0.50 and round up if greater than or equal to 0.50 before summing the estimates for each species. Response: The Commission is correct in its understanding of how Eglin AFB estimated take based on an additive process. Briefly, Eglin AFB estimated the associated takes by adding the zones of exposure together which leads to a double counting of take. For example, potential take associated with the Level B harassment (behavior) includes estimates for takes by mortality, Level A harassment, and Level B harassment (TTS). The potential take for Level B harassment (TTS) includes takes for Level A harassment and mortality and the potential take for Level A harassment (PTS) includes take for Level A harassment (slight lung injury and GI tract injury) and mortality. NMFS agrees with the Commission’s recommendations and has recalculated the takes by eliminating the double counting of the estimated take for each species and appropriately rounding take estimates before summing the total take. Table 8 in this notice provides the revised number of marine mammals, by species, that Eglin AFB could potentially take incidental to the conduct of Maritime WSEP operations. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 The re-calculation results in zero take by mortality, zero take by slight lung injury, and zero take by gastrointestinal tract injury. Compared to the take levels that NMFS previously proposed (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014), the reestimation has reduced take estimates for Level A harassment (PTS) by approximately five percent to a total of 38 marine mammals; reduced the take estimates for Level B harassment (TTS) by approximately eight percent to a total of 445 marine mammals; and reduced take estimates for Level B harassment (behavioral) by approximately 51 percent to a total of 497 marine mammals. Based on the remodeling of the number of marine mammals potentially affected by maritime strike missions, NMFS would authorize take for Level A and Level B harassment presented in Table 8 of this notice. Comment 4: The Commission states that Eglin AFB proposes to use live-feed video cameras to supplement its effectiveness in detecting marine mammals when implementing mitigation measures. However, the Commission is not convinced that those measures are sufficient to effectively monitor for marine mammals entering the training areas during the 30 minute timeframe prior to detonation. In addition, the Commission states that it does not believe that Eglin AFB cannot deem the Level A harassment zone clear of marine mammals when using only three video cameras for monitoring. Thus, the Commission recommends that NMFS require Eglin AFB to supplement its mitigation measures with passive acoustic monitoring and determine the effectiveness of its suite of mitigation measures for activities at Eglin prior to incorporating presumed mitigation effectiveness into its take estimation analyses or negligible impact determinations. Response: NMFS has worked closely with Eglin AFB over the past several Authorization cycles to develop proper mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements designed to minimize and detect impacts from the specified activities and ensure that NMFS can make the findings necessary for issuance of an Authorization. Monitoring also includes vessel-based observers for marine species up to 30 minutes prior to deploying live munitions in the area. Eglin AFB has submitted annual reports to NMFS every year that describes all activities that occur in the EGTTR. In addition, Eglin AFB submitted annual reports to NMFS at the conclusion of the Maritime Strike Operations testing activities conducted in 2013 and 2014. These missions are similar in nature to the PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 proposed maritime WSEP operations and the Eglin AFB provided information on sighting information and results from post-mission survey observations. Based on those results, NMFS determined that the mitigation measures ensured the least practicable adverse impact to marine mammals. There were no observations of injured marine mammals and no reports of marine mammal mortality during the Maritime Strike Operation activities. The measures proposed for Maritime WSEP are similar, except they will include larger survey areas based on updated acoustic analysis and previous discussions with the Commission and NMFS. Eglin AFB will continue to research the feasibility of supplementing existing monitoring efforts with passive acoustic monitoring devices for future missions. Eglin AFB would be willing to discuss alternatives with the Commission and NMFS during the development of the upcoming environmental planning efforts discussed earlier in Comment 1. Comment 5: The MMC expressed their belief that all permanent hearing loss should be considered a serious injury and recommends that NMFS propose to issue regulations under section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA and a letter of authorization, rather than an incidental harassment authorization, for any proposed activities expected to cause a permanent threshold shift (PTS). Response: NMFS considers PTS to fall under the injury category (Level A Harassment). However, an animal would need to stay very close to the sound source for an extended amount of time to incur a serious degree of PTS, which could increase the probability of mortality. In this case, it would be highly unlikely for this scenario to unfold given the nature of any anticipated acoustic exposures that could potentially result from a mobile marine mammal that NMFS generally expects to exhibit avoidance behavior to loud sounds within the EGTTR. NMFS based PTS thresholds on the onset of PTS, meaning an exposure that causes a 40 dB threshold shift (Ward et al., 1958, 1959; Ward, 1960; Kryter et al., 1996; Miller, 1974; Ahroon et al., 1996; Henderson et al., 2008). An animal would exceed the PTS threshold by either being exposed to the sound at a lower level for a long amount of time (not likely with explosives) or receive a shorter exposure at a much higher level (meaning being closer to the source) in order to incur a significantly more serious degree of PTS, beyond onset, would require exposures of even longer durations or higher levels. Taking into consideration marine mammals would E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices likely avoid an area with high levels of training activities; the intermittent and short duration of the proposed activity (4 hours per day within the span of three weeks); combined with the density of marine mammals, it is unlikely that a marine mammal would randomly enter the area where more severe impacts would be a risk. Additionally, some degree of presbycusis (i.e., agerelated high-frequency hearing loss) is fairly common in the wild especially with older animals (i.e., animals are adapted to continue to perform normal life functions with some level of PTS). NMFS is unaware of data suggesting whether, or at what a reduction in hearing ability might potentially lead to direct or indirect mortality. NMFS has recalculated the takes proposed in the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) and the results of the recalculation show zero takes for mortality, zero takes by slight lung injury, and zero takes by gastrointestinal tract injury. Further, the re-estimation has reduced the number of take by Level A harassment (from PTS) and by Level B harassment (TTS and behavioral). Based on this re-estimation, NMFS does not believe that serious injury will result from this activity and that therefore it is not necessary to issue 17399 regulations through section 101(a)(5)(A), rather, an Incidental Harassment Authorization may be issued. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Table 3 provides the following: marine mammal species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity area (Garrison et al., 2008; Navy, 2007; Davis et al., 2000); information on those species’ status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); and abundance and likelihood of occurrence within the proposed activity area. TABLE 3—MARINE MAMMALS MOST LIKELY TO BE HARASSED INCIDENTAL TO EGLIN AFB’S ACTIVITIES IN W–151A Species Stock name Regulatory status 1 2 Estimated abundance Common bottlenose dolphin ............ Choctawatchee Bay ......................... MMPA—S ........................................ ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—S ........................................ ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—S ........................................ ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—S ........................................ ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—NC ..................................... ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—NC ..................................... ESA—NL .......................................... MMPA—NC ..................................... ESA—NL .......................................... 232 .............. CV = 0.06 3 33 ................ CV = 0.88 4 124 .............. CV = 0.18 4 2,473 ........... CV = 0.25 5 17,777 ......... CV = 0.32 6 5,806 ........... CV = 0.39 7 37,611 8 ....... CV = 0.28 .... Pensacola/East Bay ......................... St. Andrew Bay ................................ Gulf of Mexico Northern Coastal ..... Northern Gulf of Mexico Continental Shelf. Northern Gulf of Mexico Oceanic .... Atlantic spotted dolphin ................... Northern Gulf of Mexico .................. Relative occurrence in W–151 Uncommon Uncommon Uncommon Common Uncommon Uncommon Common 1 MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. et al. 201; 2012 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2013) 4 Blaylock and Hoggard, 1994; 2012 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2013) 5 2007 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014) 6 2000–2001 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014) 7 2009 Line transect surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014) 8 2000–2001 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014) 2 ESA: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 3 Conn An additional 19 cetacean species have confirmed occurrence within the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, mainly occurring at or beyond the shelf break (i.e., water depth of approximately 200 m (656.2 ft)) located beyond the W– 151A test area. NMFS and Eglin AFB consider the 19 species to be rare or extralimital in the W–151A test location area. These species are the Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), pygmy sperm whale (K. breviceps), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella atenuarta), Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Gervais’ beaked whale (M. europaeus), Clymene dolphin (S. clymene), spinner dolphin (S. longirostris), striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba), killer whale (Orcinus orca), false killer whale (Pseudorca VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 crassidens), pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), roughtoothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), and short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Of these species, only the sperm whale is listed as endangered under the ESA and as depleted throughout its range under the MMPA. Sperm whale occurrence within W–151A is unlikely because almost all reported sightings have occurred in water depths greater than 200 m (656.2 ft). Because these species are unlikely to occur within the W–151A area, Eglin AFB has not requested and NMFS has not proposed the issuance of take authorizations for them. Thus, NMFS does not consider these species further in this notice. PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 NMFS has reviewed Eglin AFB’s detailed species descriptions, including life history information, distribution, regional distribution, diving behavior, and acoustics and hearing, for accuracy and completeness. NMFS refers the reader to Sections 3 and 4 of the Authorization application and to Chapter 3 in Eglin AFB’s EA rather than reprinting the information here. Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area The endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) rarely occurs in the area (USAF, 2014). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction over the manatee; therefore, NMFS would not include an authorization to harass manatees and does not discuss this species further in this notice. E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17400 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES This section of the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) included a summary and discussion of the ways that the types of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., ordnance detonation and vessel movement) have been observed to impact marine mammals. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that NMFS expects Eglin AFB to incidentally take during their activities. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the analysis of how this specific activity will impact marine mammals and will consider the content of this section, the ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section, the ‘‘Mitigation’’ section, and the ‘‘Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat’’ section to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and from that on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks. In summary, the Maritime WSEP training exercises proposed for taking of marine mammals under an Authorization have the potential to take marine mammals by exposing them to impulsive noise and pressure waves generated by live ordnance detonation at or near the surface of the water. Exposure to energy or pressure resulting from these detonations could result in Level A harassment (PTS) and by Level B harassment (TTS and behavioral). In addition, NMFS also considered the potential for harassment from vessel operations. The potential effects of impulsive sound sources (underwater detonations) from the proposed training activities may include one or more of the following: tolerance, masking, disturbance, hearing threshold shift, stress response, and mortality. NMFS provided detailed information on these potential effects in the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information presented in that notice has not changed. Anticipated Effects on Habitat Detonations of live ordnance would result in temporary changes to the water environment. Munitions could hit the targets and not explode in the water. However, because the targets are located over the water, in water explosions could occur. An underwater explosion VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 from these weapons could send a shock wave and blast noise through the water, release gaseous by-products, create an oscillating bubble, and cause a plume of water to shoot up from the water surface. However, these effects would be temporary and not expected to last more than a few seconds. Similarly, Eglin AFB does not expect any long-term impacts with regard to hazardous constituents to occur. Eglin AFB considered the introduction of fuel, debris, ordnance, and chemical materials into the water column within its EA. Eglin AFB analyzed the potential effects of each in their EA and determined them to be insignificant. NMFS provided a summary of the analyses in the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information presented in that notice has not changed. Mitigation In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS 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 (where relevant). The NDAA of 2004 amended the MMPA as it relates to military-readiness activities and the incidental take authorization process such that ‘‘least practicable adverse impact’’ shall include consideration of personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. NMFS and Eglin AFB have worked to identify practicable and effective mitigation measures, which include a careful balancing of the likely benefit of any particular measure to the marine mammals with the likely effect of that measure on personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the ‘‘military-readiness activity.’’ NMFS refers the reader to Section 11 of Eglin AFB’s application for more detailed information on the mitigation measures which include the following: Vessel-Based Monitoring: Eglin AFB would station a large number of range clearing boats (approximately 20 to 25) around the test site to prevent nonparticipating vessels from entering the human safety zone. Based on the composite footprint, range clearing boats will be located approximately 15.28 km (9.5 mi) from the detonation PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 point (see Figure 11–1 in Eglin AFB’s application). However, the actual distance will vary based on the size of the munition being deployed. Trained marine species observers would be aboard five of these boats and will conduct protected species surveys before and after each test. The protected species survey vessels will be dedicated solely to observing for marine species during the pre-mission surveys while the remaining safety boats clear the area of non-authorized vessels. The protected species survey vessels will begin surveying the area at sunrise. The area to be surveyed will encompass the largest applicable zone of influence (ZOI), which is the Level A harassment range. Animals that may enter the area after the pre-mission surveys have been completed and prior to detonation would not reach the predicted smaller slight lung injury, gastrointestinal tract, and/or mortality zones Because of human safety issues, observers will be required to leave the test area at least 30 minutes in advance of live weapon deployment and move to a position on the safety zone periphery, approximately 9.5 miles from the detonation point. Observers will continue to scan for marine mammals from the periphery. Video Monitoring: In addition to vessel-based monitoring, three highdefinition video cameras would be positioned on the GRATV anchored onsite, as described earlier, to allow for real-time monitoring for the duration of the mission. The camera configuration and actual number of cameras used would depend on specific mission requirements. In addition to monitoring the area for mission objective issues, the camera(s) would also monitor for the presence of protected species. A trained marine species observer from Eglin Natural Resources would be located in Eglin AFB’s Central Control Facility, along with mission personnel, to view the video feed before and during test activities. The distance to which objects can be detected at the water surface by use of the cameras is considered generally comparable to that of the human eye. The GRATV will be located about 183 m (600 ft) from the target. The larger mortality threshold ranges correspond to the modified Goertner model adjusted for the weight of an Atlantic spotted dolphin calf, and extend from 0 to 237 m (0 to 778 ft) from the target, depending on the ordnance, and the Level A ranges for both common bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins extend from 7 to 965 m (23 to 3,166 ft) from the target, depending on the ordnance and harassment criterion. E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices Given these distances, observers could reasonably be expected to view a substantial portion of the mortality zone in front of the camera, although a small portion would be behind or to the side of the camera view. Some portion of the Level A harassment zone could also be viewed, although it would be less than that of the mortality zone (a large percentage would be behind or to the side of the camera view). If the high-definition video cameras are not operational for any reason, Eglin AFB will not conduct Maritime WSEP missions. In addition to the two types of visual monitoring discussed earlier in this section, Eglin AFB personnel are present within the mission area (on boats and the GRATV) on each day of testing well in advance of weapon deployment, typically near sunrise. They will perform a variety of tasks including target preparation, equipment checks, etc., and will opportunistically observe for marine mammals and indicators as feasible throughout test preparation. However, such observations are considered incidental and would only occur as time and schedule permits. Any sightings would be relayed to the Lead Biologist, as described in the following mitigation sections. Pre-Mission Monitoring: The purposes of pre-mission monitoring are to: (1) Evaluate the mission site for environmental suitability, and (2) verify that the ZOI is free of visually detectable marine mammals, as well as potential indicators of these species. On the morning of the mission, the Test Director and Safety Officer will confirm that there are no issues that would preclude mission execution and that weather is adequate to support mitigation measures. Sunrise or Two Hours Prior to Mission: Eglin AFB range clearing vessels and protected species survey vessels will be on site at least two hours prior to the mission. The Lead Biologist on board one survey vessel will assess the overall suitability of the mission site based on environmental conditions (sea state) and presence/absence of marine mammal indicators. This information will be communicated to Tower Control and relayed to the Safety Officer in Central Control Facility. One and One-Half Hours Prior to Mission: Vessel-based surveys will begin approximately one and one-half hours prior to live weapon deployment. Surface vessel observers will survey the ZOI and relay all marine species and indicator sightings, including the time of sighting, GPS location, and direction of travel, if known, to the Lead VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 Biologist. The lead biologist will document all sighting information on report forms to be submitted to Eglin Natural Resources after each mission. Surveys would continue for approximately one hour. During this time, Eglin AFB personnel in the mission area will also observe for marine species as feasible. If marine mammals or indicators are observed within the ZOI, the range will be declared ‘‘fouled,’’ a term that signifies to mission personnel that conditions are such that a live ordnance drop cannot occur (e.g., protected species or civilian vessels are in the mission area). If no marine mammals or indicators are observed, Eglin AFB would declare the range clear of protected species. One-Half Hour Prior to Mission: At approximately 30 minutes to one hour prior to live weapon deployment, marine species observers will be instructed to leave the mission site and remain outside the safety zone, which on average will be 9.5 miles from the detonation point. The actual size is determined by weapon NEW and method of delivery. The survey team will continue to monitor for protected species while leaving the area. As the survey vessels leave the area, marine species monitoring of the immediate target areas will continue at CCF through the live video feed received from the high definition cameras on the GRATV. Once the survey vessels have arrived at the perimeter of the safety zone (approximately 30 minutes after being instructed to leave, depending on actual travel time) the range will be declared ‘‘green’’ and mission will be allowed to proceed, assuming all nonparticipating vessels have left the safety zone as well. Execution of Mission: Immediately prior to live weapon drop, the Test Director and Safety Officer will communicate to confirm the results of marine mammal surveys and the appropriateness of proceeding with the mission. The Safety Officer will have final authority to proceed with, postpone, or cancel the mission. The mission would be postponed if: • Any of the high-definition video cameras are not operational for any reason. • Any marine mammal is visually detected within the ZOI. Postponement would continue until the animal(s) that caused the postponement is: (1) Confirmed to be outside of the ZOI on a heading away from the targets; or (2) not seen again for 30 minutes and presumed to be outside the ZOI due to the animal swimming out of the range. • Large schools of fish or large flocks of birds feeding at the surface are PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 17401 observed within the ZOI. Postponement would continue until these potential indicators are confirmed to be outside the ZOI. • Any technical or mechanical issues related to the aircraft or target boats. • Non-participating vessels enter the human safety zone prior to weapon release. In the event of a postponement, protected species monitoring would continue from the Central Control Facility through the live video feed. Post-Mission Monitoring Post-mission monitoring is designed to determine the effectiveness of premission mitigation by reporting sightings of any dead or injured marine mammals. Post-detonation monitoring surveys will commence once the mission has ended or, if required, as soon as personnel declare the mission area safe. Vessels will move into the survey area from outside the safety zone and monitor for at least 30 minutes, concentrating on the area down-current of the test site. This area is easily identifiable because of the floating debris in the water from impacted targets. Up to 10 Eglin AFB support vessels will be cleaning debris and collecting damaged targets from this area thus spending many hours in the area once the mission is completed. All vessels will be instructed to report any dead or injured marine mammals to the Lead Biologist. The protected species survey vessels will document any marine mammals that were killed or injured as a result of the mission and, if practicable, recover and examine any dead animals. The species, number, location, and behavior of any animals observed will be documented and reported to Eglin Natural Resources. Mission Delays Due to Weather Eglin AFB would delay or reschedule Maritime WSEP missions if the Beaufort sea state is greater than number 4 at the time of the test. The Lead Biologist aboard one of the survey vessels will make the final determination of whether conditions are conducive for sighting protected species or not. NMFS has carefully evaluated Eglin AFB’s proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. NMFS’ evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 17402 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the general goals listed here: 1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal). 2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or number at biologically important time or location) exposed to training exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed to training exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only). 4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically important time or location) to training exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to a, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only). 5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/ disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time. 6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation. Based on the evaluation of Eglin AFB’s proposed measures, as well as other measures considered, NMFS has determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance while also considering personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 impact of effectiveness of the military readiness activity. Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an Authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that we must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The MMPA 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. Monitoring measures prescribed by us should accomplish one or more of the following general goals: 1. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, both within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation) and during other times and locations, in order to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned later; 2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals would be affected by seismic airguns and other active acoustic sources and the likelihood of associating those exposures with specific adverse effects, such as behavioral harassment, temporary or permanent threshold shift; 3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond to stimuli that we expect to result in take and how those anticipated adverse effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying degrees) may impact the population, species, or stock (specifically through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the following methods: a. Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., we need to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., we need to be able to accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other pertinent information); c. Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli; 4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain mitigation and monitoring measures. The Authorization will require the following measures in the Maritime WSEP Authorization. They are: (1) Eglin will track their use of the EGTTR for test firing missions and protected species observations, through the use of mission reporting forms. (2) A summary annual report of marine mammal observations and Maritime WSEP activities will be submitted to the NMFS Southeast Regional Office (SERO) and the Office of Protected Resources either at the time of a request for renewal of an Authorization or 90 days after expiration of the current Authorization if a new Authorization is not requested. This annual report must include the following information: (i) Date and time of each Maritime WSEP exercise; (ii) a complete description of the pre-exercise and post-exercise activities related to mitigating and monitoring the effects of Maritime WSEP exercises on marine mammal populations; and (iii) results of the Maritime WSEP exercise monitoring, including numbers by species/stock of any marine mammals noted injured or killed as a result of the missions and number of marine mammals (by species if possible) that may have been harassed due to presence within the activity zone. (3) If any dead or injured marine mammals are observed or detected prior to testing, or injured or killed during live fire, a report must be made to NMFS by the following business day. (4) Any unauthorized takes of marine mammals (i.e., injury or mortality) must be immediately reported to NMFS and to the respective stranding network representative. Estimated Numbers of Marine Mammals Taken by Harassment NMFS’ analysis identified the physiological responses, and behavioral responses that could potentially result from exposure to underwater explosive detonations. In this section, we will relate the potential effects to marine mammals from underwater detonation of explosives to the MMPA regulatory definitions of Level A and Level B harassment. This section will also quantify the effects that might occur from the proposed military readiness activities in W–151. Definition of Harassment The NDAA amended the definition of harassment as it applies to a ‘‘military readiness activity’’ to read as follows: (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17403 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices 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]. At NMFS’ recommendation, Eglin AFB updated the thresholds used for onset of temporary threshold shift (TTS; Level B Harassment) and onset of permanent threshold shift (PTS; Level A Harassment) to be consistent with the thresholds outlined in the Navy’s report titled, ‘‘Criteria and Thresholds for U.S. Navy Acoustic and Explosive Effects Analysis Technical Report,’’ which the Navy coordinated with NMFS. NMFS believes that the thresholds outlined in the Navy’s report represent the best available science. The report is available on the internet at: http://aftteis.com/ Portals/4/aftteis/Supporting%20 Technical%20Documents/Criteria_and_ Thresholds_for_US_Navy_Acoustic_ and_Explosive_Effects_Analysis-Apr_ 2012.pdf. Table 4 in this document outlines the revised acoustic thresholds used by NMFS for this Authorization when addressing noise impacts from explosives. TABLE 4—IMPULSIVE SOUND EXPLOSIVE THRESHOLDS USED BY EGLIN AFB IN ITS CURRENT ACOUSTICS IMPACTS MODELING Behavior Slight injury Group Mortality Behavioral Mid-frequency Cetaceans ....... TTS PTS Gastro-intestinal tract Lung 167 dB SEL 172 dB SEL or 23 psi 187 dB SEL or 45.86 psi 104 psi ........ 39.1 M1⁄3 (1+[DRm/ 10.081])1⁄2 Pa-sec. Where: M = mass of the animals in kg. DRm = depth of the receiver (animal) in meters. Eglin AFB conservatively modeled that all explosives would detonate at a 1.2 m (3.9 ft) water depth despite the training goal of hitting the target, resulting in an above water or on land explosion. For sources detonated at shallow depths, it is frequently the case that the explosion may breech the surface with some of the acoustic energy escaping the water column. Table 5 provides the estimated maximum range or radius, from the detonation point to the various thresholds described in Table 4. Eglin AFB uses the range information shown in Table 5 (Table 6.3 in Eglin’s application) to calculate the 91.4 M1⁄3 (1+DRm/10.081])1⁄2 Pa-sec Where: M = mass of the animals in kg DRm = depth of the receiver (animal) in meters total area of the ZOI and combine the calculated ZOIs with density estimates (adjusted for depth distribution) and the number of live munitions to provide an estimate of the number of marine mammals potentially exposed to the various impact thresholds. TABLE 5—DISTANCES (M) TO HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS FROM EGLIN AFB’S EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE Mortality Munition NEW (lbs) Total number Detonation scenario Modified Goertner model 1 Level A harassment Slight lung injury TTS GI track injury Modified Goertner model 2 Level B Harassment Behavioral PTS 237 dB SPL 187 dB SEL 230 dB peak SPL 172 dB SEL 224 dB Peak SPL 167 dB SEL mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Bottlenose Dolphin GBU–10 .............................. or GBU–24 GBU–12 .............................. or GBU–54 AGM–65 (Maverick) ........... GBU–39 .............................. (LSDB) AGM–114 (Hellfire) ............ 945 2 Surface ........ 199 350 340 965 698 1,582 1,280 2,549 192 6 Surface ........ 111 233 198 726 409 2,027 752 2,023 86 37 6 4 Surface ........ Surface ........ 82 59 177 128 150 112 610 479 312 234 1,414 1,212 575 433 1,874 1,543 20 15 110 229 95 378 193 2,070 354 3,096 AGM–175 (Griffin) .............. 2.75 Rockets ...................... PGU–13 .............................. HEI 30 mm 13 12 0.1 10 100 1,000 (10 ft ............ depth) Surface ........ Surface ........ Surface ........ 38 36 0 83 81 7 79 77 16 307 281 24 165 161 33 1,020 1,010 247 305 296 60 1,343 1,339 492 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17404 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices TABLE 5—DISTANCES (M) TO HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS FROM EGLIN AFB’S EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE—Continued Mortality Munition NEW (lbs) Total number Detonation scenario Modified Goertner model 1 Level A harassment Slight lung injury TTS GI track injury Modified Goertner model 2 237 dB SPL Level B Harassment Behavioral PTS 187 dB SEL 230 dB peak SPL 172 dB SEL 224 dB Peak SPL 167 dB SEL Atlantic Spotted Dolphin and Unidentified Dolphin 1 GBU–10 .............................. or GBU–24 GBU–12 .............................. or GBU–54 AGM–65 ............................. (Maverick) GBU–39 .............................. (LSDB) AGM–114 ........................... (Hellfire) AGM–175 ........................... (Griffin) 2.75 Rockets ...................... PGU–13 .............................. HEI 30 mm 945 2 Surface ........ 237 400 340 965 698 1,582 1,280 2,549 192 6 Surface ........ 138 274 198 726 409 2,027 752 2,023 86 6 Surface ........ 101 216 150 610 312 1,414 575 1,874 37 4 Surface ........ 73 158 112 479 234 1,212 433 1,543 20 15 135 277 95 378 193 2,070 354 3,096 13 10 (10 ft ............ depth) Surface ........ 47 104 79 307 165 1,020 305 1,343 12 0.1 100 1,000 Surface ........ Surface ........ 45 0 100 9 77 16 281 24 161 33 1,010 247 296 60 1,339 492 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES AGM = air-to-ground missile; cal = caliber; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; ft = feet; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; HEI = high explosive incendiary; lbs = pounds; mm = millimeters; N/A = not applicable; NEW = net explosive weight; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; SDB = small diameter bomb; PTS = permanent threshold shift; TTS = temporary threshold shift; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser 1 Unidentified dolphin can be either bottlenose or Atlantic spotted dolphin. Eglin AFB based the mortality and slight lung injury criteria on the mass of a newborn Atlantic spotted dolphin. Determination of the Mitigation and Monitoring Zones The ranges presented in Table 5 represent a radius of impact for a given threshold from a single detonation of each munition/detonation scenario. They do not consider accumulated energies from multiple detonation occurring within the same 24-hour time period. For calculating take estimates, the single detonation approach is more conservative because it multiplies the exposures from a single detonation by the number of munitions and assumes a fresh population of marine mammals is being impacted each time. Eglin AFB used this approach because of the uncertainty surrounding which munitions they would release on a given day. Multiple variables, such as weather, aircraft mechanical issues, munition malfunctions, and target availability may prevent planned munitions releases. By treating each detonation as a separate event and summing those impacts accordingly, Eglin AFB would have maximum operational flexibility to conduct the missions without limitations on either the total number of munitions allowed to be dropped in a day, or on the specific combinations of munitions that could be released. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 While this methodology overestimates the overall potential takes presented in the next section, the ranges do not accurately represent the actual area acoustically impacted for a given threshold from multiple detonations in a given mission day. The total acoustic impact area for two identical bombs detonating within a given timeframe is less than twice the impact area of a single bomb’s detonation. This has to do with the accumulated energy from multiple detonations occurring sequentially. When one weapon is detonated, a certain level of transmission loss is required to be calculated to achieve each threshold level which can then be equated to a range. By releasing a second munition in the same event (same place and close in time), even though the total energy is increased, the incremental impact area from the second detonation is slightly less than that of the first; however the impact range for the two munitions is larger than the impact range for one. Since each additional detonation adds energy to the sound exposure level (SEL) metric, all the energy from all munitions released in a day is accumulated. By factoring in the transmission loss of the first detonation added with the incremental increases PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 from the second, third, fourth, etc., the range of the cumulative energy that is below each threshold level can be determined. Unlike the energy component, peak pressure is not an additive factor, therefore Eglin AFB did not consider thresholds expressed as either acoustic impulse or peak SPL metrics (i.e., mortality, slight lung injury, gastrointestinal tract injury) in their calculations. Eglin AFB has created a sample day reflecting the maximum number of munitions that could be released and resulting in the greatest impact in a single mission day. However, this scenario is only a representation and may not accurately reflect how Eglin AFB may conduct actual operations. However, NMFS and Eglin AFB are considering this conservative assumption to calculate the impact range for mitigation monitoring measures. Thus, Eglin AFB has modeled, combined, and compared the sum of all energies from these detonations against thresholds with energy metric criteria to generate the accumulated energy ranges for this scenario. Table 6 displays these ranges which form the basis of the mitigation monitoring thresholds. E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17405 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices TABLE 6—DISTANCES (M) TO HARASSMENT THRESHOLDS FOR AN EXAMPLE MISSION DAY Level A harassment NEW (lbs) Munition GBU–10 or GBU–24 ...................................................... GBU–12 or GBU–54 ...................................................... AGM–65 (Maverick) ....................................................... GBU–39 (LSDB) ............................................................. AGM–114 (Hellfire) ......................................................... AGM–175 (Griffin) .......................................................... 2.75 Rockets .................................................................. PGU–13 HEI 30 mm ...................................................... Total # per day 945 192 86 37 20 13 12 0.1 Detonation scenario 1 1 1 1 3 2 12 125 Level B harassment TTS PTS 187 dB SEL Surface ........ Surface. Surface. Surface. (10 ft depth). Surface. Surface. Surface. 5,120 Behavioral 172 dB SEL 67 dB SEL 12,384 15,960 AGM = air-to-ground missile; cal = caliber; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; ft = feet; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; HEI = high explosive incendiary; lbs = pounds; mm = millimeters; N/A = not applicable; NEW = net explosive weight; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; SDB = small diameter bomb; PTS = permanent threshold shift; TTS = temporary threshold shift; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser. Based on the ranges presented in Table 6 and factoring operational limitations associated with survey-based vessel support for the missions, Eglin AFB estimates that during pre-mission surveys, the proposed monitoring area would be approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) from the target area, which corresponds to the Level A harassment threshold range. Eglin AFB proposes to survey the same-sized area for each mission day, regardless of the planned munition expenditures. By clearing the Level A harassment threshold range of protected species, animals that may enter the area after the completed premission surveys but prior to detonation would not reach the smaller slight lung injury or mortality zones (presented in Table 5). Because of human safety issues, Eglin AFB would require observers to leave the test area at least 30 minutes in advance of live weapon deployment and move to a position on the safety zone periphery, approximately 9.5 miles (15 km) from the detonation point. Observers would continue to scan for marine mammals from the periphery, but effectiveness would be limited as the boat would remain at a designated station. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Density Estimation Density estimates for bottlenose dolphin and spotted dolphin were derived from two sources (Table 7). NMFS provided detailed information on Eglin AFB’s derivation of density estimates for the bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins in the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information presented in that notice has not changed and NMFS refers the reader to Section 3 of Eglin AFB’s application for detailed information on all equations used to calculate densities presented in Table 7. TABLE 7—MARINE MAMMAL DENSITY ESTIMATES WITHIN EGLIN AFB’S EGTTR Density (animals/ km 2) Species Bottlenose dolphin 1 .................. Atlantic spotted dolphin 2 .......... Unidentified bottlenose dolphin/ Atlantic spotted dolphin 2 ...... 1.194 0.265 0.009 1 Source: Garrison, 2008; adjusted for observer and availability bias by the author. 2 Source: Fulling et al., 2003; adjusted for negative bias based on information provided by Barlow (2003; 2006). Take Estimation NMFS recalculated the takes proposed in previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) by eliminating the double counting of the estimated take for each species and appropriately rounding take estimates before summing the total take. Table 8 indicates the modeled potential for lethality, injury, and non- injurious harassment (including behavioral harassment) to marine mammals in the absence of mitigation measures. Table 8 includes the revised number of marine mammals, by species, that Eglin AFB could potentially take incidental to the conduct of Maritime WSEP operations. The re-calculation results in zero take by mortality, zero take by slight lung injury, and zero take by gastrointestinal tract injury. Compared to the take levels that NMFS previously proposed (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014), the re-estimation has reduced take estimates for Level A harassment (PTS) by approximately five percent to a total of 38 marine mammals; reduced the take estimates for Level B harassment (TTS) by approximately eight percent to a total of 445 marine mammals; and reduced take estimates for Level B harassment (behavioral) by approximately 51 percent to a total of 497 marine mammals. Based on the remodeling of the number of marine mammals potentially affected by maritime strike missions, NMFS would authorize take for Level A and Level B harassment presented in Table 8 of this notice. Eglin AFB and NMFS estimate that approximately 38 marine mammals could be exposed to injurious Level A harassment noise levels (187 dB SEL) and approximately 942 animals could be exposed to Level B harassment (TTS and behavioral) noise levels. TABLE 8—RE-MODELED NUMBER OF MARINE MAMMALS POTENTIALLY AFFECTED BY MARITIME WSEP OPERATIONS. AUTHORIZED TAKES FOR LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT ARE THE SAME AS THOSE MODELED. NMFS WOULD NOT AUTHORIZE TAKES FOR MORTALITY OR SERIOUS INJURY. Species Bottlenose dolphin ........................................................................................................... Atlantic spotted dolphin ................................................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Level A harassment (PTS only) Mortality Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Level B harassment (TTS) Level B harassment (behavioral) 33 5 373 68 423 69 0 0 E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 17406 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices TABLE 8—RE-MODELED NUMBER OF MARINE MAMMALS POTENTIALLY AFFECTED BY MARITIME WSEP OPERATIONS. AUTHORIZED TAKES FOR LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT ARE THE SAME AS THOSE MODELED. NMFS WOULD NOT AUTHORIZE TAKES FOR MORTALITY OR SERIOUS INJURY.—Continued Species Level A harassment (PTS only) Mortality Level B harassment (TTS) Level B harassment (behavioral) 0 0 4 5 Total .......................................................................................................................... mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Unidentified bottlenose dolphin/Atlantic spotted dolphin ................................................. 0 38 445 497 Based on the mortality exposure estimates calculated by the acoustic model, zero marine mammals are expected to be affected by pressure levels associated with mortality or serious injury. Zero marine mammals are expected to be exposed to pressure levels associated with slight lung injury or gastrointestinal tract injury. NMFS generally considers PTS to fall under the injury category (Level A Harassment). An animal would need to stay very close to the sound source for an extended amount of time to incur a serious degree of PTS, which could increase the probability of mortality. In this case, it would be highly unlikely for this scenario to unfold given the nature of any anticipated acoustic exposures that could potentially result from a mobile marine mammal that NMFS generally expects to exhibit avoidance behavior to loud sounds within the EGTTR. NMFS has relied on the best available scientific information to support the issuance of Eglin AFB’s authorization. In the case of authorizing Level A harassment, NMFS has estimated that no more than 33 bottlenose dolphins and 5 Atlantic spotted dolphins could, although unlikely, experience minor permanent threshold shifts of hearing sensitivity (PTS). The available data and analyses, as described more fully in notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) include extrapolation results of many studies on marine mammal noiseinduced temporary threshold shifts of hearing sensitivities. An extensive review of TTS studies and experiments prompted NMFS to conclude that possibility of minor PTS in the form of slight upward shift of hearing threshold at certain frequency bands by a few individuals of marine mammals is extremely low, but not unlikely. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination As explained previously, the term ‘‘negligible impact’’ is defined as ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival’’ (50 CFR 216.103). The lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population level effects) forms the basis of a negligible impact finding. Thus, an estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, and the number of estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the species. In making a negligible impact determination, we consider: • The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities; • The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and • 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); • 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); • Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and • The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce the number or severity of incidental take. For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following factors, Eglin AFB’s specified activities are not likely to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, or other nonauditory injury, serious injury, or death. The takes from Level B harassment will be due to potential behavioral disturbance and TTS. The takes from PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Level A harassment will be due to potential PTS. Activities would only occur over a timeframe of two to three weeks in beginning in February, 2015, with one, four-hour mission occurring each day. It is possible that some individuals may be taken more than once if those individuals are located in the exercise area on two different days when exercises are occurring. However, multiple exposures are not anticipated to have effects beyond Level A and Level B harassment. Noise-induced threshold shifts (TS, which includes PTS) are defined as increases in the threshold of audibility (i.e., the sound has to be louder to be detected) of the ear at a certain frequency or range of frequencies (ANSI 1995; Yost 2000). Several important factors relate to the magnitude of TS, such as level, duration, spectral content (frequency range), and temporal pattern (continuous, intermittent) of exposure (Yost 2000; Henderson et al. 2008). TS occurs in terms of frequency range (hertz [Hz] or kHz), hearing threshold level (dB), or both frequency and hearing threshold level (CDC 2004). In addition, there are different degrees of PTS: Ranging from slight/mild to moderate and from severe to profound (Clark 1981). Profound PTS or the complete loss of the ability to hear in one or both ears is commonly referred to as deafness (CDC 2004; WHO 2006). High-frequency PTS, presumably as a normal process of aging that occurs in humans and other terrestrial mammals, has also been demonstrated in captive cetaceans (Ridgway and Carder 1997; Yuen et al. 2005; Finneran et al. 2005a; Houser and Finneran 2006; Finneran et al. 2007a; Schlundt et al. 2011) and in stranded individuals (Mann et al. 2010). In terms of what is analyzed for the potential PTS (Level A harassment) in marine mammals as a result of Eglin AFB’s Maritime WSEP operations, if it occurs, NMFS has determined that the levels would be slight/mild because research shows that most cetaceans show relatively high levels of avoidance. Further, it is uncommon to sight marine mammals within the target area, especially for prolonged durations. E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 62 / Wednesday, April 1, 2015 / Notices Results from monitoring programs associated other Eglin AFB activities have shown the absence of marine mammals within the EGTTR during maritime operations. Avoidance varies among individuals and depends on their activities or reasons for being in the area While animals may be impacted in the immediate vicinity of the activity, because of the short duration of the actual individual explosions themselves (versus continual sound source operation) combined with the short duration of the Maritime WSEP operations, NMFS has determined that there will not be a substantial impact on marine mammals or on the normal functioning of the nearshore or offshore Gulf of Mexico ecosystems. The proposed activity is not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals since neither mortality (which would remove individuals from the population) nor serious injury are anticipated to occur. In addition, the proposed activity would not occur in areas (and/or times) of significance for the marine mammal populations potentially affected by the exercises (e.g., feeding or resting areas, reproductive areas), and the activities would only occur in a small part of their overall range, so the impact of any potential temporary displacement would be negligible and animals would be expected to return to the area after the cessations of activities. Although the proposed activity could result in Level A (PTS only, not slight lung injury or gastrointestinal tract injury) and Level B (behavioral disturbance and TTS) harassment of marine mammals, the level of harassment is not anticipated to impact rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals because the number of exposed animals is expected to be low due to the short-term (i.e., four hours a day) and site-specific nature of the activity, and the severity of effect would not be detrimental to rates of recruitment and survival. Moreover, the mitigation and monitoring measures required by the Authorization (described earlier in this document) are expected to further minimize the potential for harassment. The protected species surveys would require Eglin AFB to search the area for marine mammals, and if any are found in the live fire area, then the exercise would be suspended until the animal(s) has left the area or relocated. Moreover, marine species observers located in the Eglin control tower would monitor the high-definition video feed from cameras located on the instrument barge anchored on-site for the presence of protected species. Furthermore, Maritime WSEP missions would be VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:37 Mar 31, 2015 Jkt 235001 delayed or rescheduled if the sea state is greater than a 4 on the Beaufort Scale at the time of the test. In addition, Maritime WSEP missions would occur no earlier than two hours after sunrise and no later than two hours prior to sunset to ensure adequate daylight for pre- and post-mission monitoring. 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, NMFS finds that Eglin AFB’s Maritime WSEP operations will result in the incidental take of marine mammals, by Level A and Level B harassment only, and that the taking from the Maritime WSEP exercises will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Endangered Species Act (ESA) Eglin AFB initiated consultation with the Southeast Region, NMFS, under section 7 of the ESA regarding the effects of this action on ESA-listed species and critical habitat under the jurisdiction of NMFS. The consultation will be completed and a biological opinion issued prior to any final determinations on the Authorization. Due to the location of the activity, no ESA-listed marine mammal species are likely to be affected; therefore, NMFS has determined that this Authorization would have no effect on ESA-listed marine mammal species. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Eglin AFB provided NMFS with an Environmental Assessment titled, Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program (WSEP) Operational Testing In The Eglin Gulf Testing And Training Range (EGTTR), Florida. The EA analyzes the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of the specified activities on marine mammals. NMFS, after review and evaluation of the Eglin AFB EA for consistency with the regulations PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 17407 published by the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) and NOAA Administrative Order 216–6, Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, adopted the EA. After considering the EA, the information in the IHA application, and the Federal Register notice, as well as public comments, NMFS has determined that the issuance of an Authorization is not likely to result in significant impacts on the human environment and has prepared a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). An Environmental Impact Statement is not required and will not be prepared for the action. Authorization NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Eglin AFB for conducting Maritime WSEP operations in the EGGTR, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: March 23, 2015. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–07429 Filed 3–31–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council: Public Meeting Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Notice of open meeting. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given of a meeting of the Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council (Council). The meeting is open to the public, and participants may provide comments at the appropriate time during the meeting. DATES: The meeting will be held Wednesday, April 22, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Thursday, April 23, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT. An opportunity for public comment will be provided on April 23, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. These times and the agenda topics described below are subject to change. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held in the Hubbard Hall Board Room of the National Geographic Society, 1146 16th Street NW., Washington, DC 20036. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\01APN1.SGM 01APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 62 (Wednesday, April 1, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 17394-17407]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-07429]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XD593


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Air Force Conducting 
Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program Operational Testing Within 
the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range

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

ACTION: Notice; issuance of incidental harassment authorization.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
regulations, NMFS hereby gives notice that NMFS has issued an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to the U.S. Air 
Force, Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin AFB), to take marine mammals, by 
harassment, incidental to a Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program 
(Maritime WSEP) within the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the 
Gulf of Mexico from February 5 through April 1, 2015. Eglin AFB's 
activities are military readiness activities per the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA), as amended by the National Defense Authorization 
Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2004.

DATES: Effective February 5, 2015, through April 1, 2015.

ADDRESSES: An electronic copy of the final Authorization, Eglin AFB's

[[Page 17395]]

application and their final Environmental Assessment (EA) titled, 
``Maritime Weapons System Evaluation Program are available by writing 
to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West 
Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; by telephoning the contacts listed 
here, or by visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/military.htm.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 
as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of 
Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, 
taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population 
stock, by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if, after 
NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for 
review and comment: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; and (2) the taking 
is limited to harassment.
    Through the authority delegated by the Secretary, NMFS shall grant 
an Authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on 
the species or stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse 
impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence 
uses (where relevant).
    The Authorization must also prescribe, where applicable, the 
permissible methods of taking by harassment pursuant to the activity; 
other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the 
species or stock and its habitat, and on the availability of such 
species or stock for taking for subsistence uses (where applicable); 
and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such 
taking. 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.''
    The National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (NDAA; Pub. L. 108-
136) removed the ``small numbers'' and ``specified geographical 
region'' limitations indicated earlier and amended the definition of 
harassment as it applies to a ``military readiness activity'' to read 
as follows: (i) Any act that injures or has the significant potential 
to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption 
of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, 
migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a 
point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly 
altered [Level B Harassment].

Summary of Request

    NMFS received an application on August 5, 2014, from Eglin AFB for 
the taking, by harassment, of marine mammals, incidental to Maritime 
WESP operational testing in the spring of 2015 within the Eglin Gulf 
Test and Training Range (EGTTR). Eglin AFB submitted a revised 
application to NMFS on October 20, 2014, which provided updated take 
estimates for marine mammals based on updated acoustic thresholds for 
explosive sources. Eglin AFB submitted a second revised application to 
NMFS on December 1, 2014, which provided updated mitigation zones. NMFS 
determined the application adequate and complete on December 2, 2014 
and published a notice of proposed Authorization on December 8, 2014 
(79 FR 72631). The notice afforded the public a 30-day comment period 
on the proposed MMPA Authorization.
    Eglin AFB proposes to conduct Maritime WESP missions within the 
EGTTR airspace over the Gulf of Mexico, specifically within Warning 
Area 151 (W-151), which is located approximately 17 miles offshore from 
Santa Rosa Island, specifically sub-area W-151A. The proposed testing 
activities would occur during the daytime over a three-week period 
between February and April, 2015. Eglin AFB proposes to use multiple 
types of live munitions (e.g., gunnery rounds, rockets, missiles, and 
bombs) against small boat targets in the EGTTR. These activities 
qualify as a military readiness activities under the MMPA and NDAA.
    Eglin AFB's Maritime WSEP operations may potentially impact marine 
mammals at or near the water surface. Thus, the following specific 
aspect of the proposed WSEP activities have the potential to take 
marine mammals: Increased underwater sound and pressure generated 
during the WSEP testing missions. Marine mammals could potentially be 
harassed, injured, or killed by exploding and non-exploding 
projectiles, and falling debris. However, based on analyses provided in 
Eglin AFB's final; Environmental Assessment (EA); their Authorization 
application, including proposed mitigation and monitoring measures; and 
for reasons discussed later in this document, NMFS does not anticipate 
that Eglin's WSEP activities will result in any serious injury or 
mortality to marine mammals.
    Eglin AFB has requested authorization to take two cetacean species 
by Level A and Level B harassment. The requested species include: 
Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic spotted 
dolphin (Stenella frontalis).

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

    Eglin AFB proposes to conduct live ordnance testing and training in 
the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Maritime WSEP operational testing. 
The Maritime WSEP test objectives are to evaluate maritime deployment 
data, evaluate tactics, techniques and procedures, and to determine the 
impact of techniques and procedures on combat Air Force training. The 
need to conduct this type of testing has arisen in response to 
increasing threats at sea posed by operations conducted from small 
boats which can carry a variety of weapons; can form in large or small 
numbers; and may be difficult to locate, track, and engage in the 
marine environment. Because of limited Air Force aircraft and munitions 
testing on engaging and defeating small boat threats, the Air Force 
proposes to employ live munitions against boat targets in the EGTTR in 
order to continue development of techniques and procedures to train Air 
Force strike aircraft to counter small maneuvering surface vessels. 
Thus, the Department of Defense considers the Maritime WSEP activities 
as high priority for national security.
    The proposed Maritime WSEP missions are similar to Eglin AFB's 
Maritime Strike Operations where NMFS issued an Incidental Harassment 
Authorization to Eglin AFB related to training exercises around small 
boat threats (78 FR 52135, August 22, 2013).

Dates and Duration

    Eglin AFB proposes to schedule the Maritime WSEP missions over an 
approximate two- to three-week period that would begin February 6, 
2015, and end by April 1, 2015. The proposed missions would occur on 
weekdays, during daytime hours only, with one or two missions occurring 
per day. Some

[[Page 17396]]

minor deviation from Eglin AFB's requested dates is possible and the 
Authorization, would be effective from February 5, 2015 through April 
1, 2015.

Specified Activity Area

    The specific planned mission location is approximately 17 miles 
(mi) (27.3 kilometers [km]) offshore from Santa Rosa Island, Florida, 
in nearshore waters of the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. All 
activities would take place within the EGTTR, defined as the airspace 
over the Gulf of Mexico controlled by Eglin AFB, beginning at a point 
three nautical miles (nmi) (3.5 miles [mi]; 5.5 kilometers [km]) from 
shore. The EGTTR consists of subdivided blocks including Warning Area 
151 (W-151) where the proposed activities would occur, specifically in 
sub-area W-151A.
    NMFS provided detailed descriptions of the activity area in a 
previous notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 
8, 2014). The information has not changed between the proposed 
Authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of 
the Authorization.

Detailed Description of Activities

    The Maritime WSEP operational testing missions, classified as 
military readiness activities, include the release of multiple types of 
inert and live munitions from fighter and bomber aircraft, unmanned 
aerial vehicles, and gunships against small, static, towed, and 
remotely-controlled boat targets. Munition types include bombs, 
missiles, rockets, and gunnery rounds (Table 1).

                  Table 1--Live Munitions and Aircraft
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              Aircraft (not  associated
                 Munitions                    with  specific munitions)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBU-10 laser-guided Mk-84 bomb............  F-16C fighter aircraft.
GBU-24 laser-guided Mk-84 bomb............  F-16C+ fighter aircraft.
GBU-12 laser-guided Mk-82 bomb............  F-15E fighter aircraft.
GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition   A-10 fighter aircraft.
 (LJDAM), laser-guided Mk-82 bomb.
CBU-105 (WCMD)............................  B-1B bomber aircraft.
AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile....  B-52H bomber aircraft.
GBU-38 Small Diameter Bomb II (Laser SDB).  MQ-1/9 unmanned aerial
                                             vehicle.
AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile...  AC-130 gunship.
AGM-175 Griffin air-to-surface missile....
2.75 Rockets..............................
PGU-13/B high explosive incendiary 30 mm
 rounds.
7.62 mm/.50 Cal...........................
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Key: AGM = air-to-ground missile; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; GBU = Guided
  Bomb Unit; LJDAM = Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition; Laser SDB =
  Laser Small Diameter Bomb; mm = millimeters; PGU = Projectile Gun
  Unit; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser.

    The proposed activities involve detonations above the water, near 
the water surface, and under water within the EGTTR. However, because 
the tests will focus on weapon/target interaction, Eglin AFB will not 
specify a particular aircraft for a given test as long as it meets the 
delivery parameters.
    Eglin AFB would deploy the munitions against static, towed, and 
remotely-controlled boat targets within W-151A. Eglin AFB would operate 
the remote-controlled boats from an instrumentation barge (Gulf Range 
Armament Test Vessel; GRATV) anchored on site within the test area. The 
GRATV would provide a platform for cameras and weapons-tracking 
equipment and Eglin AFB would position the target boats approximately 
182.8 m (600 ft) from the GRATV, depending on the munition type.
    Table 2 provides the number, height, or depth of detonation, 
explosive material, and net explosive weight (NEW) in pounds (lbs) of 
each munition proposed for use during the Maritime WSEP activities.

                   Table 2--Maritime WSEP Munitions Proposed for Use in the W-151A Test Area.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Total
                                   number of                           Warhead--explosive       Net explosive
        Type of munition              live        Detonation type           material         weight per munition
                                   munitions
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBU-10 or GBU-24................            2  Surface.............  MK-84--Tritonal.......  945 lbs.
GBU-12 or GBU-54 (LJDAM)........            6  Surface.............  MK-82--Tritonal.......  192 lbs.
AGM-65 (Maverick)...............            6  Surface.............  WDU-24/B penetrating    86 lbs.
                                                                      blast-fragmentation
                                                                      warhead.
CBU-105 (WCMD)..................            4  Airburst............  10 BLU-108 sub-         83 lbs.
                                                                      munitions each
                                                                      containing 4
                                                                      projectiles
                                                                      parachute, rocket
                                                                      motor and altimeter.
GBU-38 (Laser Small Diameter                4  Surface.............  AFX-757 (Insensitive    37 lbs.
 Bomb).                                                               munition).
AGM-114 (Hellfire)..............           15  Subsurface (10 msec   High Explosive Anti-    20 lbs.
                                                delay).               Tank (HEAT) tandem
                                                                      anti-armor metal
                                                                      augmented charge.
AGM-176 (Griffin)...............           10  Surface.............  Blast fragmentation...  13 lbs.
2.75 Rockets....................          100  Surface.............  Comp B-4 HEI..........  Up to 12 lbs.
PGU-12 HEI 30 mm................        1,000  Surface.............  30 x 173 mm caliber     0.1 lbs.
                                                                      with aluminized RDX
                                                                      explosive. Designed
                                                                      for GAU-8/A Gun
                                                                      System.
7.62 mm/.50 cal.................        5,000  Surface.............  N/A...................  N/A.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Key: AGL = above ground level; AGM = air-to-ground missile; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit;
  JDAM = Joint Direct Attack Munition; LJDAM = Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition; mm = millimeters; msec =
  millisecond; lbs = pounds; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; HEI = high explosive incendiary.

    To ensure safety, prior to conducting WSEP activities, Eglin AFB 
would conduct a pre-test target area clearance procedure for people and 
protected species. Eglin AFB would deploy support vessels around a 
defined safety zone to ensure that commercial and recreational boats do 
not accidentally enter the area. Before delivering the

[[Page 17397]]

ordnance, mission aircraft would make a dry run over the target area to 
ensure that it is clear of commercial and recreational boats (at least 
two aircraft would participate in each test). Due to the limited 
duration of the flyover and potentially high speed and altitude, pilots 
will not be able to survey for marine species. NMFS provided detailed 
descriptions of the WSEP training operations in the previous notice for 
the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). This 
information has not changed between the proposed Authorization notice 
and this final notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization.
    Based on the results from an acoustic impacts analysis for live 
ordnance detonations, Eglin AFB would establish a separate disturbance 
zone around the target for the protection of marine species. Eglin AFB 
will base the size of the zone on the distance to which energy- and 
pressure-related impacts will extend for the various type of ordnance 
listed in Table 2. Based on the acoustic modeling result, the largest 
possible distance from the target would be approximately 5 km (3.1 
miles) from the target area, which corresponds to the Level A 
harassment threshold range. Support vessels would monitor for marine 
mammals around the target area. WSEP activities will not proceed until 
Eglin AFB personnel determine that the target area is clear of 
unauthorized personnel and protected species.
    In addition to vessel-based monitoring, Eglin AFB will position 
three video cameras on an instrumentation barge anchored on-site. The 
cameras, typically used for situational awareness of the target area 
and surrounding area, would contribute to monitoring the test site for 
the presence of marine species. A marine species observer would be 
present in the Eglin control tower, along with mission personnel, to 
monitor the video feed before and during test activities.
    After each test, Eglin AFB would inspect floating targets to 
identify and render safe any unexploded ordnance (UXO), including fuzes 
or intact munitions. The Eglin AFB Explosive Disposal Team will be on 
hand for each test. If Eglin AFB personnel cannot remove the UXO, 
personnel will detonate the UXO in place, which could result in the 
sinking of the target vessel. Once Eglin AFB deems the area clear for 
re-entry, test personnel will retrieve target debris. Marine species 
observers would survey the area for any evidence of adverse impacts to 
protected species.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of receipt of Eglin AFB's application and NMFS' proposal 
to issue an Authorization to the USAF, Eglin AFB, published in the 
Federal Register on December 8, 2014 (79 FR 72631). During the 30-day 
public comment period, NMFS received comments from the Marine Mammal 
Commission (Commission) only. Following are the comments from the 
Commission and NMFS' responses.
    Comment 1: The Commission notes that the Air Force has applied for 
MMPA authorizations to take marine mammals on an activity-by-activity 
basis (e.g., naval explosive ordnance disposal school, precision strike 
weapon, air-to-surface gunnery and maritime strike operation) rather 
than a programmatic basis. The Commission believes that the agencies 
should evaluate the impacts of all training and testing activities 
under a single letter of authorization application and National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document rather than segmenting the 
analyses based on specific types of missions under various 
authorizations.
    Response: Both Eglin AFB and NMFS concur with the Commission's 
recommendation to streamline the rulemaking process for future 
activities conducted within the EGGTR. Currently, Eglin AFB personnel 
are planning to develop a Programmatic Environmental Assessment as well 
as a Request for a Letter of Authorization for all testing and training 
activities that will occur in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range 
over the next five years. These efforts would facilitate a more 
comprehensive review of actions occurring within the EGGTR that have 
the potential to take marine mammals incidental to military readiness 
activities for future MMPA rulemaking requests by Eglin AFB.
    Comment 2: The Commission states that Eglin AFB estimated the zones 
of exposure (i.e., zones of influence (ZOI) in two ways: (1) 
Calculating zones based on a single detonation event of each munition 
type within a three-week period; and (2) calculating zones based on a 
representative ordnance expenditure scenario of the maximum number of 
munitions that Eglin AFB could expend within a single day. The 
Commission further noted that the latter method was an appropriate 
method for determining distances to the sound exposure level (SEL) 
thresholds which are the zones of exposure for implementing mitigation.
    However, the Commission states that Eglin AFB overestimated marine 
mammal take because they based estimates on the former method (i.e., 
calculating zones based on a single detonation event of each munition 
type within a three-week period) which multiplied the number of animals 
estimated to be taken by a single detonation of each munition type by 
the total number of munitions that would be detonated, irrespective of 
when those detonations would occur. The Commission states that this 
method does not consider the accumulation of energy in a 24-hour period 
which would more accurately correspond to zones of exposure for the 
representative scenario and serve as more a realistic estimate of the 
numbers of animals that Eglin AFB could potentially take during the 
WSEP activities.
    Response: With respect to the first point, Eglin AFB developed an 
example test day scenario (assumed to be worst case) to calculate 
impact ranges for all energy metrics in response to the Commission and 
NMFS' concerns. This is the basis for the mitigation monitoring plan 
which NMFS presented in Table 7 of the notice for the proposed 
Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). Based on the ranges 
presented in Table 7 and factoring in operational limitations 
associated with survey-based vessel support for the missions, Eglin AFB 
estimates that during pre-mission surveys, the proposed monitoring area 
would be approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) from the target area, which 
corresponds to the Level A harassment threshold range. Eglin AFB 
proposes to survey the same-sized area for each mission day, regardless 
of the planned munition expenditures. By clearing the Level A 
harassment threshold range of protected species, animals that may enter 
the area after the completed pre-mission surveys but prior to 
detonation would not reach the smaller slight lung injury or mortality 
zones.
    With respect to the second point, Eglin AFB's modeling approach for 
take estimates treated each munition detonation as a separate event 
impacting a new set of animals which results in a worst case scenario 
of potential take and is a precautionary overestimate of potential 
harassment. Briefly, Eglin AFB's model treats each ordnance detonation 
as a single event and sums the estimated potential impacts from each 
detonation event to provide a total estimate of take for the entire 
WSEP testing activities event conducted over a period of 3 weeks. This 
approach assumes for a continuous population refresh of animals (i.e., 
a new population of animals is impacted) and sums all exposures for 
each species for all munitions expended during the three-week period. 
NMFS and Eglin

[[Page 17398]]

AFB acknowledge that this approach contributes to the overestimation of 
take estimates. This approach has multiple conservative assumptions 
built into the calculations that contribute the overestimation of take 
estimates. One assumption included a continuous population refresh 
approach that treated each munition detonation as a separate event 
impacting a new set of animals. In actuality, multiple detonations will 
occur in each mission day, and while Eglin AFB plans to release certain 
munitions on specific days, past experience has shown that Eglin AFB 
may not be able to execute the missions according to a set plan. Eglin 
AFB requires flexibility to make last minute changes to the schedule in 
order to complete all test requirements in the allotted 3-week 
timeframe. That may include Eglin AFB releasing additional munitions on 
one day to make up for days when they could not release planned 
munitions.
    Comment 3: In estimating take, the Commission commented Eglin AFB's 
model approach was an additive process for estimating each zone of 
exposure, and thus the associated takes. Effectively, The Commission 
states that Eglin AFB overestimated the number of take but is unsure to 
what degree. Further, the Commission recommends that Eglin AFB and NMFS 
should treat fractions of estimated take appropriately, that is 
generally, round down if less than 0.50 and round up if greater than or 
equal to 0.50 before summing the estimates for each species.
    Response: The Commission is correct in its understanding of how 
Eglin AFB estimated take based on an additive process. Briefly, Eglin 
AFB estimated the associated takes by adding the zones of exposure 
together which leads to a double counting of take. For example, 
potential take associated with the Level B harassment (behavior) 
includes estimates for takes by mortality, Level A harassment, and 
Level B harassment (TTS). The potential take for Level B harassment 
(TTS) includes takes for Level A harassment and mortality and the 
potential take for Level A harassment (PTS) includes take for Level A 
harassment (slight lung injury and GI tract injury) and mortality.
    NMFS agrees with the Commission's recommendations and has 
recalculated the takes by eliminating the double counting of the 
estimated take for each species and appropriately rounding take 
estimates before summing the total take. Table 8 in this notice 
provides the revised number of marine mammals, by species, that Eglin 
AFB could potentially take incidental to the conduct of Maritime WSEP 
operations. The re-calculation results in zero take by mortality, zero 
take by slight lung injury, and zero take by gastrointestinal tract 
injury. Compared to the take levels that NMFS previously proposed (79 
FR 72631, December 8, 2014), the re-estimation has reduced take 
estimates for Level A harassment (PTS) by approximately five percent to 
a total of 38 marine mammals; reduced the take estimates for Level B 
harassment (TTS) by approximately eight percent to a total of 445 
marine mammals; and reduced take estimates for Level B harassment 
(behavioral) by approximately 51 percent to a total of 497 marine 
mammals. Based on the remodeling of the number of marine mammals 
potentially affected by maritime strike missions, NMFS would authorize 
take for Level A and Level B harassment presented in Table 8 of this 
notice.
    Comment 4: The Commission states that Eglin AFB proposes to use 
live-feed video cameras to supplement its effectiveness in detecting 
marine mammals when implementing mitigation measures. However, the 
Commission is not convinced that those measures are sufficient to 
effectively monitor for marine mammals entering the training areas 
during the 30 minute timeframe prior to detonation. In addition, the 
Commission states that it does not believe that Eglin AFB cannot deem 
the Level A harassment zone clear of marine mammals when using only 
three video cameras for monitoring. Thus, the Commission recommends 
that NMFS require Eglin AFB to supplement its mitigation measures with 
passive acoustic monitoring and determine the effectiveness of its 
suite of mitigation measures for activities at Eglin prior to 
incorporating presumed mitigation effectiveness into its take 
estimation analyses or negligible impact determinations.
    Response: NMFS has worked closely with Eglin AFB over the past 
several Authorization cycles to develop proper mitigation, monitoring, 
and reporting requirements designed to minimize and detect impacts from 
the specified activities and ensure that NMFS can make the findings 
necessary for issuance of an Authorization.
    Monitoring also includes vessel-based observers for marine species 
up to 30 minutes prior to deploying live munitions in the area. Eglin 
AFB has submitted annual reports to NMFS every year that describes all 
activities that occur in the EGTTR. In addition, Eglin AFB submitted 
annual reports to NMFS at the conclusion of the Maritime Strike 
Operations testing activities conducted in 2013 and 2014. These 
missions are similar in nature to the proposed maritime WSEP operations 
and the Eglin AFB provided information on sighting information and 
results from post-mission survey observations. Based on those results, 
NMFS determined that the mitigation measures ensured the least 
practicable adverse impact to marine mammals. There were no 
observations of injured marine mammals and no reports of marine mammal 
mortality during the Maritime Strike Operation activities. The measures 
proposed for Maritime WSEP are similar, except they will include larger 
survey areas based on updated acoustic analysis and previous 
discussions with the Commission and NMFS.
    Eglin AFB will continue to research the feasibility of 
supplementing existing monitoring efforts with passive acoustic 
monitoring devices for future missions. Eglin AFB would be willing to 
discuss alternatives with the Commission and NMFS during the 
development of the upcoming environmental planning efforts discussed 
earlier in Comment 1.
    Comment 5: The MMC expressed their belief that all permanent 
hearing loss should be considered a serious injury and recommends that 
NMFS propose to issue regulations under section 101(a)(5)(A) of the 
MMPA and a letter of authorization, rather than an incidental 
harassment authorization, for any proposed activities expected to cause 
a permanent threshold shift (PTS).
    Response: NMFS considers PTS to fall under the injury category 
(Level A Harassment). However, an animal would need to stay very close 
to the sound source for an extended amount of time to incur a serious 
degree of PTS, which could increase the probability of mortality. In 
this case, it would be highly unlikely for this scenario to unfold 
given the nature of any anticipated acoustic exposures that could 
potentially result from a mobile marine mammal that NMFS generally 
expects to exhibit avoidance behavior to loud sounds within the EGTTR.
    NMFS based PTS thresholds on the onset of PTS, meaning an exposure 
that causes a 40 dB threshold shift (Ward et al., 1958, 1959; Ward, 
1960; Kryter et al., 1996; Miller, 1974; Ahroon et al., 1996; Henderson 
et al., 2008). An animal would exceed the PTS threshold by either being 
exposed to the sound at a lower level for a long amount of time (not 
likely with explosives) or receive a shorter exposure at a much higher 
level (meaning being closer to the source) in order to incur a 
significantly more serious degree of PTS, beyond onset, would require 
exposures of even longer durations or higher levels. Taking into 
consideration marine mammals would

[[Page 17399]]

likely avoid an area with high levels of training activities; the 
intermittent and short duration of the proposed activity (4 hours per 
day within the span of three weeks); combined with the density of 
marine mammals, it is unlikely that a marine mammal would randomly 
enter the area where more severe impacts would be a risk. Additionally, 
some degree of presbycusis (i.e., age-related high-frequency hearing 
loss) is fairly common in the wild especially with older animals (i.e., 
animals are adapted to continue to perform normal life functions with 
some level of PTS). NMFS is unaware of data suggesting whether, or at 
what a reduction in hearing ability might potentially lead to direct or 
indirect mortality.
    NMFS has recalculated the takes proposed in the notice for the 
proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) and the results 
of the recalculation show zero takes for mortality, zero takes by 
slight lung injury, and zero takes by gastrointestinal tract injury. 
Further, the re-estimation has reduced the number of take by Level A 
harassment (from PTS) and by Level B harassment (TTS and behavioral). 
Based on this re-estimation, NMFS does not believe that serious injury 
will result from this activity and that therefore it is not necessary 
to issue regulations through section 101(a)(5)(A), rather, an 
Incidental Harassment Authorization may be issued.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Table 3 provides the following: marine mammal species with possible 
or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity area (Garrison et al., 
2008; Navy, 2007; Davis et al., 2000); information on those species' 
status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); and abundance and likelihood of occurrence within 
the proposed activity area.

        Table 3--Marine Mammals Most Likely To Be Harassed Incidental to Eglin AFB's Activities in W-151A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Regulatory status                            Relative
            Species                  Stock name            \1\ \2\       Estimated abundance   occurrence in W-
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------151-------
Common bottlenose dolphin......  Choctawatchee Bay.  MMPA--S...........  232................  Uncommon
                                                     ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.06 \3\......
                                 Pensacola/East Bay  MMPA--S...........  33.................  Uncommon
                                                     ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.88 \4\......
                                 St. Andrew Bay....  MMPA--S...........  124................  Uncommon
                                                     ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.18 \4\......
                                 Gulf of Mexico      MMPA--S...........  2,473..............  Common
                                  Northern Coastal.  ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.25 \5\......
                                 Northern Gulf of    MMPA--NC..........  17,777.............  Uncommon
                                  Mexico             ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.32 \6\......
                                  Continental Shelf.
                                 Northern Gulf of    MMPA--NC..........  5,806..............  Uncommon
                                  Mexico Oceanic.    ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.39 \7\......
Atlantic spotted dolphin.......  Northern Gulf of    MMPA--NC..........  37,611 \8\.........  Common
                                  Mexico.            ESA--NL...........  CV = 0.28..........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\2\ ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ Conn et al. 201; 2012 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2013)
\4\ Blaylock and Hoggard, 1994; 2012 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2013)
\5\ 2007 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014)
\6\ 2000-2001 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014)
\7\ 2009 Line transect surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014)
\8\ 2000-2001 Aerial surveys reported in the 2013 NMFS Stock Assessment Report (Waring et al., 2014)

    An additional 19 cetacean species have confirmed occurrence within 
the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, mainly occurring at or beyond the 
shelf break (i.e., water depth of approximately 200 m (656.2 ft)) 
located beyond the W-151A test area. NMFS and Eglin AFB consider the 19 
species to be rare or extralimital in the W-151A test location area. 
These species are the Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera edeni), sperm whale 
(Physeter macrocephalus), dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), pygmy sperm 
whale (K. breviceps), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella atenuarta), 
Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), Cuvier's beaked 
whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Gervais' beaked whale (M. europaeus), 
Clymene dolphin (S. clymene), spinner dolphin (S. longirostris), 
striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba), killer whale (Orcinus orca), false 
killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), pygmy killer whale (Feresa 
attenuata), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), Fraser's dolphin 
(Lagenodelphis hosei), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), 
rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), and short-finned pilot whale 
(Globicephala macrorhynchus).
    Of these species, only the sperm whale is listed as endangered 
under the ESA and as depleted throughout its range under the MMPA. 
Sperm whale occurrence within W-151A is unlikely because almost all 
reported sightings have occurred in water depths greater than 200 m 
(656.2 ft).
    Because these species are unlikely to occur within the W-151A area, 
Eglin AFB has not requested and NMFS has not proposed the issuance of 
take authorizations for them. Thus, NMFS does not consider these 
species further in this notice.
    NMFS has reviewed Eglin AFB's detailed species descriptions, 
including life history information, distribution, regional 
distribution, diving behavior, and acoustics and hearing, for accuracy 
and completeness. NMFS refers the reader to Sections 3 and 4 of the 
Authorization application and to Chapter 3 in Eglin AFB's EA rather 
than reprinting the information here.
Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area
    The endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) rarely 
occurs in the area (USAF, 2014). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 
jurisdiction over the manatee; therefore, NMFS would not include an 
authorization to harass manatees and does not discuss this species 
further in this notice.

[[Page 17400]]

Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    This section of the notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 
72631, December 8, 2014) included a summary and discussion of the ways 
that the types of stressors associated with the specified activity 
(e.g., ordnance detonation and vessel movement) have been observed to 
impact marine mammals. The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' 
section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of 
the number of individuals that NMFS expects Eglin AFB to incidentally 
take during their activities. The ``Negligible Impact Analysis'' 
section will include the analysis of how this specific activity will 
impact marine mammals and will consider the content of this section, 
the ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section, the 
``Mitigation'' section, and the ``Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal 
Habitat'' section to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of 
this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of 
individuals and from that on the affected marine mammal populations or 
stocks.
    In summary, the Maritime WSEP training exercises proposed for 
taking of marine mammals under an Authorization have the potential to 
take marine mammals by exposing them to impulsive noise and pressure 
waves generated by live ordnance detonation at or near the surface of 
the water. Exposure to energy or pressure resulting from these 
detonations could result in Level A harassment (PTS) and by Level B 
harassment (TTS and behavioral). In addition, NMFS also considered the 
potential for harassment from vessel operations.
    The potential effects of impulsive sound sources (underwater 
detonations) from the proposed training activities may include one or 
more of the following: tolerance, masking, disturbance, hearing 
threshold shift, stress response, and mortality. NMFS provided detailed 
information on these potential effects in the notice for the proposed 
Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information 
presented in that notice has not changed.

Anticipated Effects on Habitat

    Detonations of live ordnance would result in temporary changes to 
the water environment. Munitions could hit the targets and not explode 
in the water. However, because the targets are located over the water, 
in water explosions could occur. An underwater explosion from these 
weapons could send a shock wave and blast noise through the water, 
release gaseous by-products, create an oscillating bubble, and cause a 
plume of water to shoot up from the water surface. However, these 
effects would be temporary and not expected to last more than a few 
seconds.
    Similarly, Eglin AFB does not expect any long-term impacts with 
regard to hazardous constituents to occur. Eglin AFB considered the 
introduction of fuel, debris, ordnance, and chemical materials into the 
water column within its EA. Eglin AFB analyzed the potential effects of 
each in their EA and determined them to be insignificant. NMFS provided 
a summary of the analyses in the notice for the proposed Authorization 
(79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information presented in that 
notice has not changed.

Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS 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 (where relevant).
    The NDAA of 2004 amended the MMPA as it relates to military-
readiness activities and the incidental take authorization process such 
that ``least practicable adverse impact'' shall include consideration 
of personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the 
effectiveness of the military readiness activity.
    NMFS and Eglin AFB have worked to identify practicable and 
effective mitigation measures, which include a careful balancing of the 
likely benefit of any particular measure to the marine mammals with the 
likely effect of that measure on personnel safety, practicality of 
implementation, and impact on the ``military-readiness activity.'' NMFS 
refers the reader to Section 11 of Eglin AFB's application for more 
detailed information on the mitigation measures which include the 
following:
    Vessel-Based Monitoring: Eglin AFB would station a large number of 
range clearing boats (approximately 20 to 25) around the test site to 
prevent non-participating vessels from entering the human safety zone. 
Based on the composite footprint, range clearing boats will be located 
approximately 15.28 km (9.5 mi) from the detonation point (see Figure 
11-1 in Eglin AFB's application). However, the actual distance will 
vary based on the size of the munition being deployed.
    Trained marine species observers would be aboard five of these 
boats and will conduct protected species surveys before and after each 
test. The protected species survey vessels will be dedicated solely to 
observing for marine species during the pre-mission surveys while the 
remaining safety boats clear the area of non-authorized vessels. The 
protected species survey vessels will begin surveying the area at 
sunrise. The area to be surveyed will encompass the largest applicable 
zone of influence (ZOI), which is the Level A harassment range. Animals 
that may enter the area after the pre-mission surveys have been 
completed and prior to detonation would not reach the predicted smaller 
slight lung injury, gastrointestinal tract, and/or mortality zones
    Because of human safety issues, observers will be required to leave 
the test area at least 30 minutes in advance of live weapon deployment 
and move to a position on the safety zone periphery, approximately 9.5 
miles from the detonation point. Observers will continue to scan for 
marine mammals from the periphery.
    Video Monitoring: In addition to vessel-based monitoring, three 
high-definition video cameras would be positioned on the GRATV anchored 
on-site, as described earlier, to allow for real-time monitoring for 
the duration of the mission. The camera configuration and actual number 
of cameras used would depend on specific mission requirements. In 
addition to monitoring the area for mission objective issues, the 
camera(s) would also monitor for the presence of protected species. A 
trained marine species observer from Eglin Natural Resources would be 
located in Eglin AFB's Central Control Facility, along with mission 
personnel, to view the video feed before and during test activities. 
The distance to which objects can be detected at the water surface by 
use of the cameras is considered generally comparable to that of the 
human eye.
    The GRATV will be located about 183 m (600 ft) from the target. The 
larger mortality threshold ranges correspond to the modified Goertner 
model adjusted for the weight of an Atlantic spotted dolphin calf, and 
extend from 0 to 237 m (0 to 778 ft) from the target, depending on the 
ordnance, and the Level A ranges for both common bottlenose and 
Atlantic spotted dolphins extend from 7 to 965 m (23 to 3,166 ft) from 
the target, depending on the ordnance and harassment criterion.

[[Page 17401]]

Given these distances, observers could reasonably be expected to view a 
substantial portion of the mortality zone in front of the camera, 
although a small portion would be behind or to the side of the camera 
view. Some portion of the Level A harassment zone could also be viewed, 
although it would be less than that of the mortality zone (a large 
percentage would be behind or to the side of the camera view).
    If the high-definition video cameras are not operational for any 
reason, Eglin AFB will not conduct Maritime WSEP missions.
    In addition to the two types of visual monitoring discussed earlier 
in this section, Eglin AFB personnel are present within the mission 
area (on boats and the GRATV) on each day of testing well in advance of 
weapon deployment, typically near sunrise. They will perform a variety 
of tasks including target preparation, equipment checks, etc., and will 
opportunistically observe for marine mammals and indicators as feasible 
throughout test preparation. However, such observations are considered 
incidental and would only occur as time and schedule permits. Any 
sightings would be relayed to the Lead Biologist, as described in the 
following mitigation sections.
    Pre-Mission Monitoring: The purposes of pre-mission monitoring are 
to: (1) Evaluate the mission site for environmental suitability, and 
(2) verify that the ZOI is free of visually detectable marine mammals, 
as well as potential indicators of these species. On the morning of the 
mission, the Test Director and Safety Officer will confirm that there 
are no issues that would preclude mission execution and that weather is 
adequate to support mitigation measures.
    Sunrise or Two Hours Prior to Mission: Eglin AFB range clearing 
vessels and protected species survey vessels will be on site at least 
two hours prior to the mission. The Lead Biologist on board one survey 
vessel will assess the overall suitability of the mission site based on 
environmental conditions (sea state) and presence/absence of marine 
mammal indicators. This information will be communicated to Tower 
Control and relayed to the Safety Officer in Central Control Facility.
    One and One-Half Hours Prior to Mission: Vessel-based surveys will 
begin approximately one and one-half hours prior to live weapon 
deployment. Surface vessel observers will survey the ZOI and relay all 
marine species and indicator sightings, including the time of sighting, 
GPS location, and direction of travel, if known, to the Lead Biologist. 
The lead biologist will document all sighting information on report 
forms to be submitted to Eglin Natural Resources after each mission. 
Surveys would continue for approximately one hour. During this time, 
Eglin AFB personnel in the mission area will also observe for marine 
species as feasible. If marine mammals or indicators are observed 
within the ZOI, the range will be declared ``fouled,'' a term that 
signifies to mission personnel that conditions are such that a live 
ordnance drop cannot occur (e.g., protected species or civilian vessels 
are in the mission area). If no marine mammals or indicators are 
observed, Eglin AFB would declare the range clear of protected species.
    One-Half Hour Prior to Mission: At approximately 30 minutes to one 
hour prior to live weapon deployment, marine species observers will be 
instructed to leave the mission site and remain outside the safety 
zone, which on average will be 9.5 miles from the detonation point. The 
actual size is determined by weapon NEW and method of delivery. The 
survey team will continue to monitor for protected species while 
leaving the area. As the survey vessels leave the area, marine species 
monitoring of the immediate target areas will continue at CCF through 
the live video feed received from the high definition cameras on the 
GRATV. Once the survey vessels have arrived at the perimeter of the 
safety zone (approximately 30 minutes after being instructed to leave, 
depending on actual travel time) the range will be declared ``green'' 
and mission will be allowed to proceed, assuming all non-participating 
vessels have left the safety zone as well.
    Execution of Mission: Immediately prior to live weapon drop, the 
Test Director and Safety Officer will communicate to confirm the 
results of marine mammal surveys and the appropriateness of proceeding 
with the mission. The Safety Officer will have final authority to 
proceed with, postpone, or cancel the mission. The mission would be 
postponed if:
     Any of the high-definition video cameras are not 
operational for any reason.
     Any marine mammal is visually detected within the ZOI. 
Postponement would continue until the animal(s) that caused the 
postponement is: (1) Confirmed to be outside of the ZOI on a heading 
away from the targets; or (2) not seen again for 30 minutes and 
presumed to be outside the ZOI due to the animal swimming out of the 
range.
     Large schools of fish or large flocks of birds feeding at 
the surface are observed within the ZOI. Postponement would continue 
until these potential indicators are confirmed to be outside the ZOI.
     Any technical or mechanical issues related to the aircraft 
or target boats.
     Non-participating vessels enter the human safety zone 
prior to weapon release.
    In the event of a postponement, protected species monitoring would 
continue from the Central Control Facility through the live video feed.

Post-Mission Monitoring

    Post-mission monitoring is designed to determine the effectiveness 
of pre-mission mitigation by reporting sightings of any dead or injured 
marine mammals. Post-detonation monitoring surveys will commence once 
the mission has ended or, if required, as soon as personnel declare the 
mission area safe. Vessels will move into the survey area from outside 
the safety zone and monitor for at least 30 minutes, concentrating on 
the area down-current of the test site. This area is easily 
identifiable because of the floating debris in the water from impacted 
targets. Up to 10 Eglin AFB support vessels will be cleaning debris and 
collecting damaged targets from this area thus spending many hours in 
the area once the mission is completed. All vessels will be instructed 
to report any dead or injured marine mammals to the Lead Biologist. The 
protected species survey vessels will document any marine mammals that 
were killed or injured as a result of the mission and, if practicable, 
recover and examine any dead animals. The species, number, location, 
and behavior of any animals observed will be documented and reported to 
Eglin Natural Resources.

Mission Delays Due to Weather

    Eglin AFB would delay or reschedule Maritime WSEP missions if the 
Beaufort sea state is greater than number 4 at the time of the test. 
The Lead Biologist aboard one of the survey vessels will make the final 
determination of whether conditions are conducive for sighting 
protected species or not.
    NMFS has carefully evaluated Eglin AFB's proposed mitigation 
measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal 
species and stocks and their habitat. NMFS' evaluation of potential 
measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to 
one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is

[[Page 17402]]

expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to 
accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on 
current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of 
the general goals listed here:
    1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals 
wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).
    2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or 
number at biologically important time or location) exposed to training 
exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).
    3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at 
biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed 
to training exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine 
mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing 
harassment takes only).
    4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number 
or number at biologically important time or location) to training 
exercises that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this 
goal may contribute to a, above, or to reducing the severity of 
harassment takes only).
    5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal 
habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that 
block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, 
permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance 
of habitat during a biologically important time.
    6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation--an increase in 
the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more 
effective implementation of the mitigation.
    Based on the evaluation of Eglin AFB's proposed measures, as well 
as other measures considered, NMFS has determined that the proposed 
mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least 
practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance while also considering personnel safety, 
practicality of implementation, and the impact of effectiveness of the 
military readiness activity.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an Authorization for an activity, section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that we must set forth ``requirements 
pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA 
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.
    Monitoring measures prescribed by us should accomplish one or more 
of the following general goals:
    1. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, both 
within the mitigation zone (thus allowing for more effective 
implementation of the mitigation) and during other times and locations, 
in order to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned 
later;
    2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals 
would be affected by seismic airguns and other active acoustic sources 
and the likelihood of associating those exposures with specific adverse 
effects, such as behavioral harassment, temporary or permanent 
threshold shift;
    3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond 
to stimuli that we expect to result in take and how those anticipated 
adverse effects on individuals (in different ways and to varying 
degrees) may impact the population, species, or stock (specifically 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival) through any 
of the following methods:
    a. Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to 
observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., we need to be able to 
accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other 
pertinent information);
    b. Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared 
to observations in the absence of stimuli (i.e., we need to be able to 
accurately predict received level, distance from source, and other 
pertinent information);
    c. Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with 
concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli;
    4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; and
    5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain 
mitigation and monitoring measures.
    The Authorization will require the following measures in the 
Maritime WSEP Authorization. They are:
    (1) Eglin will track their use of the EGTTR for test firing 
missions and protected species observations, through the use of mission 
reporting forms.
    (2) A summary annual report of marine mammal observations and 
Maritime WSEP activities will be submitted to the NMFS Southeast 
Regional Office (SERO) and the Office of Protected Resources either at 
the time of a request for renewal of an Authorization or 90 days after 
expiration of the current Authorization if a new Authorization is not 
requested. This annual report must include the following information: 
(i) Date and time of each Maritime WSEP exercise; (ii) a complete 
description of the pre-exercise and post-exercise activities related to 
mitigating and monitoring the effects of Maritime WSEP exercises on 
marine mammal populations; and (iii) results of the Maritime WSEP 
exercise monitoring, including numbers by species/stock of any marine 
mammals noted injured or killed as a result of the missions and number 
of marine mammals (by species if possible) that may have been harassed 
due to presence within the activity zone.
    (3) If any dead or injured marine mammals are observed or detected 
prior to testing, or injured or killed during live fire, a report must 
be made to NMFS by the following business day.
    (4) Any unauthorized takes of marine mammals (i.e., injury or 
mortality) must be immediately reported to NMFS and to the respective 
stranding network representative.
Estimated Numbers of Marine Mammals Taken by Harassment
    NMFS' analysis identified the physiological responses, and 
behavioral responses that could potentially result from exposure to 
underwater explosive detonations. In this section, we will relate the 
potential effects to marine mammals from underwater detonation of 
explosives to the MMPA regulatory definitions of Level A and Level B 
harassment. This section will also quantify the effects that might 
occur from the proposed military readiness activities in W-151.

Definition of Harassment

    The NDAA amended the definition of harassment as it applies to a 
``military readiness activity'' to read as follows: (i) Any act that 
injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine

[[Page 17403]]

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].
    At NMFS' recommendation, Eglin AFB updated the thresholds used for 
onset of temporary threshold shift (TTS; Level B Harassment) and onset 
of permanent threshold shift (PTS; Level A Harassment) to be consistent 
with the thresholds outlined in the Navy's report titled, ``Criteria 
and Thresholds for U.S. Navy Acoustic and Explosive Effects Analysis 
Technical Report,'' which the Navy coordinated with NMFS. NMFS believes 
that the thresholds outlined in the Navy's report represent the best 
available science. The report is available on the internet at: http://aftteis.com/Portals/4/aftteis/Supporting%20Technical%20Documents/Criteria_and_Thresholds_for_US_Navy_Acoustic_and_Explosive_Effects_Analysis-Apr_2012.pdf.
    Table 4 in this document outlines the revised acoustic thresholds 
used by NMFS for this Authorization when addressing noise impacts from 
explosives.

                        Table 4--Impulsive Sound Explosive Thresholds Used by Eglin AFB in its Current Acoustics Impacts Modeling
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Behavior                                         Slight injury
                                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Group                                                                               Gastro-intestinal                         Mortality
                                      Behavioral              TTS                  PTS                 tract               Lung
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mid-frequency Cetaceans........  167 dB SEL.........  172 dB SEL or 23     187 dB SEL or 45.86  104 psi...........  39.1 M\1/3\        91.4 M\1/3\
                                                       psi                  psi                                      (1+[DRm/           (1+DRm/
                                                                                                                     10.081])\1/2\ Pa-  10.081])\1/2\ Pa-
                                                                                                                     sec.               sec
                                                                                                                    Where: M = mass    Where: M = mass
                                                                                                                     of the animals     of the animals
                                                                                                                     in kg.             in kg
                                                                                                                    DRm = depth of     DRm = depth of
                                                                                                                     the receiver       the receiver
                                                                                                                     (animal) in        (animal) in
                                                                                                                     meters.            meters
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Eglin AFB conservatively modeled that all explosives would detonate 
at a 1.2 m (3.9 ft) water depth despite the training goal of hitting 
the target, resulting in an above water or on land explosion. For 
sources detonated at shallow depths, it is frequently the case that the 
explosion may breech the surface with some of the acoustic energy 
escaping the water column. Table 5 provides the estimated maximum range 
or radius, from the detonation point to the various thresholds 
described in Table 4. Eglin AFB uses the range information shown in 
Table 5 (Table 6.3 in Eglin's application) to calculate the total area 
of the ZOI and combine the calculated ZOIs with density estimates 
(adjusted for depth distribution) and the number of live munitions to 
provide an estimate of the number of marine mammals potentially exposed 
to the various impact thresholds.

                                   Table 5--Distances (m) to Harassment Thresholds from Eglin AFB's Explosive Ordnance
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                            Mortality           Level A harassment               Level B Harassment
                                                                           -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                        Slight      GI           PTS               TTS        Behavioral
                                                                                         lung     track  -----------------------------------------------
             Munition                NEW     Total    Detonation scenario    Modified   injury    injury
                                    (lbs)    number                          Goertner -------------------           230 dB            224 dB
                                                                             model 1   Modified            187 dB    peak    172 dB    Peak   167 dB SEL
                                                                                       Goertner   237 dB    SEL      SPL      SEL      SPL
                                                                                        model 2    SPL
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Bottlenose Dolphin
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBU-10...........................      945        2  Surface..............       199        350      340      965      698    1,582    1,280      2,549
or GBU-24........................
GBU-12...........................      192        6  Surface..............       111        233      198      726      409    2,027      752      2,023
or GBU-54........................
AGM-65 (Maverick)................       86        6  Surface..............        82        177      150      610      312    1,414      575      1,874
GBU-39...........................       37        4  Surface..............        59        128      112      479      234    1,212      433      1,543
(LSDB)...........................
AGM-114 (Hellfire)...............       20       15  (10 ft...............       110        229       95      378      193    2,070      354      3,096
                                                     depth)...............
AGM-175 (Griffin)................       13       10  Surface..............        38         83       79      307      165    1,020      305      1,343
2.75 Rockets.....................       12      100  Surface..............        36         81       77      281      161    1,010      296      1,339
PGU-13...........................      0.1    1,000  Surface..............         0          7       16       24       33      247       60        492
HEI 30 mm........................
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 17404]]

 
                                                  Atlantic Spotted Dolphin and Unidentified Dolphin \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBU-10...........................      945        2  Surface..............       237        400      340      965      698    1,582    1,280      2,549
or GBU-24........................
GBU-12...........................      192        6  Surface..............       138        274      198      726      409    2,027      752      2,023
or GBU-54........................
AGM-65...........................       86        6  Surface..............       101        216      150      610      312    1,414      575      1,874
(Maverick).......................
GBU-39...........................       37        4  Surface..............        73        158      112      479      234    1,212      433      1,543
(LSDB)...........................
AGM-114..........................       20       15  (10 ft...............       135        277       95      378      193    2,070      354      3,096
(Hellfire).......................                    depth)...............
AGM-175..........................       13       10  Surface..............        47        104       79      307      165    1,020      305      1,343
(Griffin)........................
2.75 Rockets.....................       12      100  Surface..............        45        100       77      281      161    1,010      296      1,339
PGU-13...........................      0.1    1,000  Surface..............         0          9       16       24       33      247       60        492
HEI 30 mm........................
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AGM = air-to-ground missile; cal = caliber; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; ft = feet; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; HEI = high explosive incendiary; lbs = pounds;
  mm = millimeters; N/A = not applicable; NEW = net explosive weight; PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; SDB = small diameter bomb; PTS = permanent threshold
  shift; TTS = temporary threshold shift; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser
\1\ Unidentified dolphin can be either bottlenose or Atlantic spotted dolphin. Eglin AFB based the mortality and slight lung injury criteria on the mass
  of a newborn Atlantic spotted dolphin.

Determination of the Mitigation and Monitoring Zones

    The ranges presented in Table 5 represent a radius of impact for a 
given threshold from a single detonation of each munition/detonation 
scenario. They do not consider accumulated energies from multiple 
detonation occurring within the same 24-hour time period. For 
calculating take estimates, the single detonation approach is more 
conservative because it multiplies the exposures from a single 
detonation by the number of munitions and assumes a fresh population of 
marine mammals is being impacted each time. Eglin AFB used this 
approach because of the uncertainty surrounding which munitions they 
would release on a given day. Multiple variables, such as weather, 
aircraft mechanical issues, munition malfunctions, and target 
availability may prevent planned munitions releases. By treating each 
detonation as a separate event and summing those impacts accordingly, 
Eglin AFB would have maximum operational flexibility to conduct the 
missions without limitations on either the total number of munitions 
allowed to be dropped in a day, or on the specific combinations of 
munitions that could be released.
    While this methodology overestimates the overall potential takes 
presented in the next section, the ranges do not accurately represent 
the actual area acoustically impacted for a given threshold from 
multiple detonations in a given mission day. The total acoustic impact 
area for two identical bombs detonating within a given timeframe is 
less than twice the impact area of a single bomb's detonation. This has 
to do with the accumulated energy from multiple detonations occurring 
sequentially. When one weapon is detonated, a certain level of 
transmission loss is required to be calculated to achieve each 
threshold level which can then be equated to a range. By releasing a 
second munition in the same event (same place and close in time), even 
though the total energy is increased, the incremental impact area from 
the second detonation is slightly less than that of the first; however 
the impact range for the two munitions is larger than the impact range 
for one. Since each additional detonation adds energy to the sound 
exposure level (SEL) metric, all the energy from all munitions released 
in a day is accumulated. By factoring in the transmission loss of the 
first detonation added with the incremental increases from the second, 
third, fourth, etc., the range of the cumulative energy that is below 
each threshold level can be determined. Unlike the energy component, 
peak pressure is not an additive factor, therefore Eglin AFB did not 
consider thresholds expressed as either acoustic impulse or peak SPL 
metrics (i.e., mortality, slight lung injury, gastrointestinal tract 
injury) in their calculations.
    Eglin AFB has created a sample day reflecting the maximum number of 
munitions that could be released and resulting in the greatest impact 
in a single mission day. However, this scenario is only a 
representation and may not accurately reflect how Eglin AFB may conduct 
actual operations. However, NMFS and Eglin AFB are considering this 
conservative assumption to calculate the impact range for mitigation 
monitoring measures. Thus, Eglin AFB has modeled, combined, and 
compared the sum of all energies from these detonations against 
thresholds with energy metric criteria to generate the accumulated 
energy ranges for this scenario. Table 6 displays these ranges which 
form the basis of the mitigation monitoring thresholds.

[[Page 17405]]



                   Table 6--Distances (m) to Harassment Thresholds for an Example Mission Day
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Level A       Level B harassment
                                                                            harassment -------------------------
           Munition             NEW (lbs)   Total # per     Detonation    -------------     TTS       Behavioral
                                                day          scenario       PTS 187 dB -------------------------
                                                                               SEL       172 dB SEL   67 dB SEL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GBU-10 or GBU-24.............          945            1  Surface.........        5,120       12,384       15,960
GBU-12 or GBU-54.............          192            1  Surface.........
AGM-65 (Maverick)............           86            1  Surface.........
GBU-39 (LSDB)................           37            1  Surface.........
AGM-114 (Hellfire)...........           20            3  (10 ft depth)...
AGM-175 (Griffin)............           13            2  Surface.........
2.75 Rockets.................           12           12  Surface.........
PGU-13 HEI 30 mm.............          0.1          125  Surface.........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AGM = air-to-ground missile; cal = caliber; CBU = Cluster Bomb Unit; ft = feet; GBU = Guided Bomb Unit; HEI =
  high explosive incendiary; lbs = pounds; mm = millimeters; N/A = not applicable; NEW = net explosive weight;
  PGU = Projectile Gun Unit; SDB = small diameter bomb; PTS = permanent threshold shift; TTS = temporary
  threshold shift; WCMD = wind corrected munition dispenser.

    Based on the ranges presented in Table 6 and factoring operational 
limitations associated with survey-based vessel support for the 
missions, Eglin AFB estimates that during pre-mission surveys, the 
proposed monitoring area would be approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) from 
the target area, which corresponds to the Level A harassment threshold 
range. Eglin AFB proposes to survey the same-sized area for each 
mission day, regardless of the planned munition expenditures. By 
clearing the Level A harassment threshold range of protected species, 
animals that may enter the area after the completed pre-mission surveys 
but prior to detonation would not reach the smaller slight lung injury 
or mortality zones (presented in Table 5). Because of human safety 
issues, Eglin AFB would require observers to leave the test area at 
least 30 minutes in advance of live weapon deployment and move to a 
position on the safety zone periphery, approximately 9.5 miles (15 km) 
from the detonation point. Observers would continue to scan for marine 
mammals from the periphery, but effectiveness would be limited as the 
boat would remain at a designated station.

Density Estimation

    Density estimates for bottlenose dolphin and spotted dolphin were 
derived from two sources (Table 7). NMFS provided detailed information 
on Eglin AFB's derivation of density estimates for the bottlenose and 
Atlantic spotted dolphins in the notice for the proposed Authorization 
(79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014). The information presented in that 
notice has not changed and NMFS refers the reader to Section 3 of Eglin 
AFB's application for detailed information on all equations used to 
calculate densities presented in Table 7.

    Table 7--Marine Mammal Density Estimates Within Eglin AFB's EGTTR
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               Density
                          Species                            (animals/km
                                                                  2)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bottlenose dolphin \1\.....................................        1.194
Atlantic spotted dolphin \2\...............................        0.265
Unidentified bottlenose dolphin/Atlantic spotted dolphin           0.009
 \2\.......................................................
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Source: Garrison, 2008; adjusted for observer and availability bias
  by the author.
\2\ Source: Fulling et al., 2003; adjusted for negative bias based on
  information provided by Barlow (2003; 2006).

Take Estimation

    NMFS recalculated the takes proposed in previous notice for the 
proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 8, 2014) by eliminating 
the double counting of the estimated take for each species and 
appropriately rounding take estimates before summing the total take.
    Table 8 indicates the modeled potential for lethality, injury, and 
non-injurious harassment (including behavioral harassment) to marine 
mammals in the absence of mitigation measures. Table 8 includes the 
revised number of marine mammals, by species, that Eglin AFB could 
potentially take incidental to the conduct of Maritime WSEP operations. 
The re-calculation results in zero take by mortality, zero take by 
slight lung injury, and zero take by gastrointestinal tract injury. 
Compared to the take levels that NMFS previously proposed (79 FR 72631, 
December 8, 2014), the re-estimation has reduced take estimates for 
Level A harassment (PTS) by approximately five percent to a total of 38 
marine mammals; reduced the take estimates for Level B harassment (TTS) 
by approximately eight percent to a total of 445 marine mammals; and 
reduced take estimates for Level B harassment (behavioral) by 
approximately 51 percent to a total of 497 marine mammals. Based on the 
remodeling of the number of marine mammals potentially affected by 
maritime strike missions, NMFS would authorize take for Level A and 
Level B harassment presented in Table 8 of this notice.
    Eglin AFB and NMFS estimate that approximately 38 marine mammals 
could be exposed to injurious Level A harassment noise levels (187 dB 
SEL) and approximately 942 animals could be exposed to Level B 
harassment (TTS and behavioral) noise levels.

 Table 8--Re-Modeled Number of Marine Mammals Potentially Affected by Maritime WSEP Operations. Authorized Takes
 for Level A and Level B Harassment Are the Same as Those Modeled. NMFS Would Not Authorize Takes for Mortality
                                               or Serious Injury.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                            Level A      Level B       Level B
                          Species                             Mortality    harassment   harassment   harassment
                                                                           (PTS only)     (TTS)     (behavioral)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bottlenose dolphin.........................................            0           33          373           423
Atlantic spotted dolphin...................................            0            5           68            69

[[Page 17406]]

 
Unidentified bottlenose dolphin/Atlantic spotted dolphin...            0            0            4             5
                                                            ----------------------------------------------------
    Total..................................................            0           38          445           497
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Based on the mortality exposure estimates calculated by the 
acoustic model, zero marine mammals are expected to be affected by 
pressure levels associated with mortality or serious injury. Zero 
marine mammals are expected to be exposed to pressure levels associated 
with slight lung injury or gastrointestinal tract injury.
    NMFS generally considers PTS to fall under the injury category 
(Level A Harassment). An animal would need to stay very close to the 
sound source for an extended amount of time to incur a serious degree 
of PTS, which could increase the probability of mortality. In this 
case, it would be highly unlikely for this scenario to unfold given the 
nature of any anticipated acoustic exposures that could potentially 
result from a mobile marine mammal that NMFS generally expects to 
exhibit avoidance behavior to loud sounds within the EGTTR.
    NMFS has relied on the best available scientific information to 
support the issuance of Eglin AFB's authorization. In the case of 
authorizing Level A harassment, NMFS has estimated that no more than 33 
bottlenose dolphins and 5 Atlantic spotted dolphins could, although 
unlikely, experience minor permanent threshold shifts of hearing 
sensitivity (PTS). The available data and analyses, as described more 
fully in notice for the proposed Authorization (79 FR 72631, December 
8, 2014) include extrapolation results of many studies on marine mammal 
noise-induced temporary threshold shifts of hearing sensitivities. An 
extensive review of TTS studies and experiments prompted NMFS to 
conclude that possibility of minor PTS in the form of slight upward 
shift of hearing threshold at certain frequency bands by a few 
individuals of marine mammals is extremely low, but not unlikely.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    As explained previously, the term ``negligible impact'' is defined 
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'' (50 CFR 216.103). The lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population 
level effects) forms the basis of a negligible impact finding. Thus, an 
estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not 
enough information on which to base an impact determination. In 
addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that 
might be ``taken'' through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider 
other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their 
intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical 
reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number 
and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, and the number of 
estimated mortalities, effects on habitat, and the status of the 
species.
    In making a negligible impact determination, we consider:
     The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
     The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment; and
     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);
     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);
     Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/
survival; and
     The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures to 
reduce the number or severity of incidental take.
    For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the 
following factors, Eglin AFB's specified activities are not likely to 
cause long-term behavioral disturbance, or other non-auditory injury, 
serious injury, or death.
    The takes from Level B harassment will be due to potential 
behavioral disturbance and TTS. The takes from Level A harassment will 
be due to potential PTS. Activities would only occur over a timeframe 
of two to three weeks in beginning in February, 2015, with one, four-
hour mission occurring each day. It is possible that some individuals 
may be taken more than once if those individuals are located in the 
exercise area on two different days when exercises are occurring. 
However, multiple exposures are not anticipated to have effects beyond 
Level A and Level B harassment.
    Noise-induced threshold shifts (TS, which includes PTS) are defined 
as increases in the threshold of audibility (i.e., the sound has to be 
louder to be detected) of the ear at a certain frequency or range of 
frequencies (ANSI 1995; Yost 2000). Several important factors relate to 
the magnitude of TS, such as level, duration, spectral content 
(frequency range), and temporal pattern (continuous, intermittent) of 
exposure (Yost 2000; Henderson et al. 2008). TS occurs in terms of 
frequency range (hertz [Hz] or kHz), hearing threshold level (dB), or 
both frequency and hearing threshold level (CDC 2004).
    In addition, there are different degrees of PTS: Ranging from 
slight/mild to moderate and from severe to profound (Clark 1981). 
Profound PTS or the complete loss of the ability to hear in one or both 
ears is commonly referred to as deafness (CDC 2004; WHO 2006). High-
frequency PTS, presumably as a normal process of aging that occurs in 
humans and other terrestrial mammals, has also been demonstrated in 
captive cetaceans (Ridgway and Carder 1997; Yuen et al. 2005; Finneran 
et al. 2005a; Houser and Finneran 2006; Finneran et al. 2007a; Schlundt 
et al. 2011) and in stranded individuals (Mann et al. 2010).
    In terms of what is analyzed for the potential PTS (Level A 
harassment) in marine mammals as a result of Eglin AFB's Maritime WSEP 
operations, if it occurs, NMFS has determined that the levels would be 
slight/mild because research shows that most cetaceans show relatively 
high levels of avoidance. Further, it is uncommon to sight marine 
mammals within the target area, especially for prolonged durations.

[[Page 17407]]

Results from monitoring programs associated other Eglin AFB activities 
have shown the absence of marine mammals within the EGTTR during 
maritime operations. Avoidance varies among individuals and depends on 
their activities or reasons for being in the area
    While animals may be impacted in the immediate vicinity of the 
activity, because of the short duration of the actual individual 
explosions themselves (versus continual sound source operation) 
combined with the short duration of the Maritime WSEP operations, NMFS 
has determined that there will not be a substantial impact on marine 
mammals or on the normal functioning of the nearshore or offshore Gulf 
of Mexico ecosystems. The proposed activity is not expected to impact 
rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals since neither 
mortality (which would remove individuals from the population) nor 
serious injury are anticipated to occur. In addition, the proposed 
activity would not occur in areas (and/or times) of significance for 
the marine mammal populations potentially affected by the exercises 
(e.g., feeding or resting areas, reproductive areas), and the 
activities would only occur in a small part of their overall range, so 
the impact of any potential temporary displacement would be negligible 
and animals would be expected to return to the area after the 
cessations of activities. Although the proposed activity could result 
in Level A (PTS only, not slight lung injury or gastrointestinal tract 
injury) and Level B (behavioral disturbance and TTS) harassment of 
marine mammals, the level of harassment is not anticipated to impact 
rates of recruitment or survival of marine mammals because the number 
of exposed animals is expected to be low due to the short-term (i.e., 
four hours a day) and site-specific nature of the activity, and the 
severity of effect would not be detrimental to rates of recruitment and 
survival.
    Moreover, the mitigation and monitoring measures required by the 
Authorization (described earlier in this document) are expected to 
further minimize the potential for harassment. The protected species 
surveys would require Eglin AFB to search the area for marine mammals, 
and if any are found in the live fire area, then the exercise would be 
suspended until the animal(s) has left the area or relocated. Moreover, 
marine species observers located in the Eglin control tower would 
monitor the high-definition video feed from cameras located on the 
instrument barge anchored on-site for the presence of protected 
species. Furthermore, Maritime WSEP missions would be delayed or 
rescheduled if the sea state is greater than a 4 on the Beaufort Scale 
at the time of the test. In addition, Maritime WSEP missions would 
occur no earlier than two hours after sunrise and no later than two 
hours prior to sunset to ensure adequate daylight for pre- and post-
mission monitoring.
    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, NMFS finds that Eglin AFB's Maritime WSEP operations will 
result in the incidental take of marine mammals, by Level A and Level B 
harassment only, and that the taking from the Maritime WSEP exercises 
will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks.

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

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated 
by this action. Therefore, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the 
total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an 
unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or 
stocks for taking for subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Eglin AFB initiated consultation with the Southeast Region, NMFS, 
under section 7 of the ESA regarding the effects of this action on ESA-
listed species and critical habitat under the jurisdiction of NMFS. The 
consultation will be completed and a biological opinion issued prior to 
any final determinations on the Authorization. Due to the location of 
the activity, no ESA-listed marine mammal species are likely to be 
affected; therefore, NMFS has determined that this Authorization would 
have no effect on ESA-listed marine mammal species. Therefore, NMFS has 
determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    Eglin AFB provided NMFS with an Environmental Assessment titled, 
Maritime Weapon Systems Evaluation Program (WSEP) Operational Testing 
In The Eglin Gulf Testing And Training Range (EGTTR), Florida. The EA 
analyzes the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of 
the specified activities on marine mammals. NMFS, after review and 
evaluation of the Eglin AFB EA for consistency with the regulations 
published by the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) and NOAA 
Administrative Order 216-6, Environmental Review Procedures for 
Implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, adopted the EA. 
After considering the EA, the information in the IHA application, and 
the Federal Register notice, as well as public comments, NMFS has 
determined that the issuance of an Authorization is not likely to 
result in significant impacts on the human environment and has prepared 
a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). An Environmental Impact 
Statement is not required and will not be prepared for the action.

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Eglin AFB 
for conducting Maritime WSEP operations in the EGGTR, provided the 
previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
are incorporated.

    Dated: March 23, 2015.
 Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-07429 Filed 3-31-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P