Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California, 65201-65214 [2015-27117]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices privilege only for subject merchandise that the respondent both produced and exported. To assist in its analysis of the bona fides of Qingdao Barry’s sales, upon initiation of this NSR, the Department will require Qingdao Barry to submit on an ongoing basis complete transaction information concerning any sales of subject merchandise to the United States that were made subsequent to the POR. Interested parties requiring access to proprietary information in this new shipper review should submit applications for disclosure under administrative protective order in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305 and 19 CFR 351.306. This initiation and notice are in accordance with section 751(a)(2)(B) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.214 and 19 CFR 351.221(c)(1)(i). Dated: October 20, 2015. Christian Marsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations. [FR Doc. 2015–27156 Filed 10–23–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Groundfish Advisory Panel to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. DATES: This meeting will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. SUMMARY: The meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring Street, Portland, ME 04101; phone: (207) 775–2311; fax: (207) 772–4017. Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465–0492. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 The items of discussion on the agenda are: The panel will receive an overview from the Groundfish Plan Development Team (PDT) on draft alternatives in Framework Adjustment 55 (FW 55) specifications, changes to the groundfish monitoring program, other management measures and draft impacts analysis. They also plan to develop recommendations to the Groundfish Committee regarding alternatives in FW 55. The panel will also develop recommendations to the Groundfish Committee for 2016 Council priorities. They will also discuss other business as necessary. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the MagnusonStevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: October 21, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–27134 Filed 10–23–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE233 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00007 Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. ACTION: Special Accommodations New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting ADDRESSES: Agenda 65201 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 NMFS has received an application from the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society), for an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment incidental to conducting aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The proposed dates for this action would be late November 2015 through November 2016. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting comments on our proposal to issue an Authorization to the Society to incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, marine mammals during the specified activity. DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information on or before November 25, 2015. ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments is ITP.Cody@ noaa.gov. Please include 0648–XE233 in the subject line. Comments sent via email to ITP.Cody@noaa.gov, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public record and NMFS will post them to http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. To obtain an electronic copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document, write to the previously mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/construction.htm. The Environmental Assessment (EA) specific to conducting aircraft operations, restoration, and maintenance work on the light station is also available at the same internet SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 65202 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices address. Information in the EA and this notice collectively provide the environmental information related to the proposed issuance of the Authorization for public review and comment. The public may also view documents cited in this notice, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeannine Cody, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427– 8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 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. An Authorization shall be granted 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 set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat; 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.’’ Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 Summary of Request On October 1, 2015, from the Society requesting that we issue an Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting restoration activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. NMFS determined the application complete and adequate on October 7, 2015. The Society proposes to conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and periodic maintenance on the Station’s optical light system on a monthly basis. The proposed activity would occur on a monthly basis over one weekend, November 2015 through April 2016 and again for one weekend in November 2016. The following specific aspects of the proposed activities would likely to result in the take of marine mammals: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system); and (4) human presence. Thus, NMFS anticipates that take, by Level B harassment only, of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus); Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of the eastern U.S. Stock; and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) could result from the specified activity. Description of the Specified Activity Overview To date, NMFS has issued four Authorizations to the Society for the conduct of the same activities from 2010 to 2015 (75 FR 4774, January 29, 2010; 76 FR 10564, February 25, 2011; 77 FR 8811, February 15, 2012; and 79 FR 6179, February 3, 2014). This is the Society’s fifth request for an annual Authorization as their last Authorization expired on April 10, 2015. The Station, listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, is located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The Station, built in 1892, rises 45.7 meters (m) (150 feet (ft)) above sea level. The structure consists of hundreds of granite blocks topped with a cast iron lantern room and covers much of the surface of the islet. The purpose of the project is to restore the lighthouse and to conduct annual and emergency maintenance on the Station’s optical light system. PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Dates and Duration The Society proposes to conduct the activities (aircraft operations, lighthouse restoration, and maintenance activities) at a maximum frequency of one session per month. The proposed duration for each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The proposed Authorization, if issued, would be effective from November 27, 2015 through November 26, 2016 with restrictions on the Society conducting activities from May 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016. NMFS refers the reader to the Detailed Description of Activities section later in this notice for more information on the scope of the proposed activities. Specified Geographic Region The Station is located on a small, rocky islet (41°50′24″ N., 124°22′06″ W.) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41°46′48″ N.; Longitude: 124°14′11″ W.). NWSR is approximately 91.4 m (300 ft) in diameter that peaks at 5.18 m (17 ft) above mean sea level. Detailed Description of Activities Aircraft Operations Because Northwest Seal Rock has no safe landing area for boats, the proposed restoration activities would require the Society to transport personnel and equipment from the California mainland to Northwest Seal Rock by a small helicopter. Helicopter landings take place on top of the engine room (caisson) which is approximately 15 m (48 ft) above the surface of the rocks on Northwest Seal Rock. The Society plans to charter a Raven R44 helicopter, owned and operated by Air Shasta Rotor and Wing, LLC. The Raven R44, which seats three passengers and one pilot, is a compact-sized (1134 kilograms (kg), 2500 pounds (lbs)) helicopter with twobladed main and tail rotors. Both sets of rotors are fitted with noise-attenuating blade tip caps that would decrease flyover noise. The Society proposes to transport no more than 15 work crew members and equipment to Northwest Seal Rock for each session and estimates that each session would require no more than 36 helicopter landings/takeoffs per month. During landing, the helicopter would land on the caisson to allow the work crew members to disembark and retrieve their equipment located in a basket attached to the underside of the helicopter. The helicopter would then return to the mainland to pick up additional personnel and equipment. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices Proposed schedule: The Society would conduct a maximum of 16 flights (eight arrivals and eight departures) for the first day. The first flight would depart from Crescent City Airport at approximately 9 a.m. for a 6-minute flight to Northwest Seal Rock. The helicopter would land and takeoff immediately after offloading personnel and equipment every 20 minutes (min). The total duration of the first day’s aerial operations could last for approximately 3 hours (hrs) and 26 min and would end at approximately 12:34 p.m. Crew members would remain overnight at the Station and would not return to the mainland on the first day. For the second day, the Society would conduct a maximum of 10 flights (five arrivals and five departures) to transport additional materials on and off the islet. The first flight would depart from Crescent City Airport at 9 a.m. for a 6minute flight to Northwest Seal Rock. The total duration of the second day’s aerial operations could last up to three hours. For the final day of operations, the Society could conduct a maximum of eight helicopter flights (four arrivals and four departures) to transport the remaining crew members and equipment/material back to the Crescent City Airport. The total duration of the third day’s helicopter operations in support of restoration could last up to 2 hrs and 14 min. Lighthouse Restoration Activities Restoration and maintenance activities would involve the removal of peeling paint and plaster, restoration of interior plaster and paint, refurbishing structural and decorative metal, reworking original metal support beams throughout the lantern room and elsewhere, replacing glass as necessary, upgrading the present electrical system; and annual light beacon maintenance. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Emergency Light Maintenance If the beacon light fails, the Society proposes to send a crew of two to three people to the Station by helicopter to repair the beacon light. For each emergency repair event, the Society proposes to conduct a maximum of four flights (two arrivals and two departures) to transport equipment and supplies. The helicopter may remain on site or transit back to shore and make a second landing to pick up the repair personnel. In the case of an emergency repair between May 1, 2016, and October 31, 2016, the Society would consult with the NMFS’ Western Regional Office (WRO) biologists to best determine the timing of the trips to the lighthouse, on a case-by-case basis, based upon the existing environmental conditions and the abundance and distribution of any marine mammals present on NWSR. The regional biologists would have realtime knowledge regarding the animal use and abundance of the NWSR at the time of the repair request and would make a decision regarding when the Society could conduct trips to the lighthouse during the emergency repair time window that would have the least practicable adverse impact to marine mammals. The WRO biologists would also ensure that the Society’s request for incidental take during emergency repairs would not exceed the number of incidental take authorized in the proposed Authorization. Sound Sources and Sound Characteristics NMFS expects that acoustic stimuli resulting from the proposed helicopter operations; noise from maintenance and restoration activities; and human presence have the potential to harass marine mammals, incidental to the conduct of the proposed activities. This section includes a brief explanation of the sound measurements frequently used in the discussions of acoustic effects in this notice. Sound pressure is the sound force per unit area, and is usually measured in micropascals (mPa), where 1 pascal (Pa) is the pressure resulting from a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square meter. Sound pressure level (SPL) is the ratio of a measured sound pressure and a reference level. The commonly used reference pressure is 1 mPa for under water, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 1 mPa. The commonly used reference pressure is 20 mPa for in air, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 20 mPa. SPL (in decibels (dB)) = 20 log (pressure/reference pressure). SPL is an instantaneous measurement expressed as the peak, the peak-peak (pp), or the root mean square (rms). Root 65203 mean square is the square root of the arithmetic average of the squared instantaneous pressure values. All references to SPL in this document refer to the root mean square unless otherwise noted. SPL does not take into account the duration of a sound. R44 Helicopter Sound Characteristics Noise testing performed on the R44 Raven Helicopter, as required for Federal Aviation Administration approval, required an overflight at 150 m (492 ft) above ground level, 109 knots and a maximum gross weight of 1,134 kg (2,500 lbs). The noise levels measured on the ground at this distance and speed were 81.9 decibels (dB) re: 20 mPa (A-weighted) for the model R44 Raven I, or 81.0 dB re: 20 mPa (Aweighted) for the model R44 Raven II (NMFS, 2007). Based on this information, we expect that the received sound levels at the landing area on the Station’s caisson would increase above 81–81.9 dB re: 20 mPa (A-weighted). Restoration and Maintenance Sound Characteristics Any noise associated with these activities is likely to be from light construction (e.g., sanding, hammering, or use of hand drills). The Society proposes to confine all restoration activities to the existing structure which would occur on the upper levels of the Station. Pinnipeds hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock do not have access to the upper levels of the Station. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity Table 1 provides the following information: All marine mammal species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity area; information on those species’ regulatory status under the MMPA and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); abundance; occurrence and seasonality in the activity area. NMFS refers the public the 2015 draft NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Report available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ for further information on the biology and distribution of these species. TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT ON NORTHWEST SEAL ROCK, NOVEMBER 2015 THROUGH NOVEMBER 2016 Species Stock Regulatory status 1 2 Stock abundance 3 California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) ........ U.S. .............................. MMPA–NC ................... ESA–NL ....................... 296,750 VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 Occurrence and seasonality Year-round presence. 65204 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices TABLE 1—GENERAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY HAUL OUT ON NORTHWEST SEAL ROCK, NOVEMBER 2015 THROUGH NOVEMBER 2016—Continued Occurrence and seasonality Species Stock Regulatory status 1 2 Stock abundance 3 Northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) ............... California ...................... Breeding ....................... California ...................... MMPA–D ...................... ESA–NL ....................... MMPA–NC ................... ESA–NL ....................... MMPA–D ...................... ESA–DL ....................... 14,050 Rare. 30,968 Occasional, spring. Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) ..................... Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) .................. Eastern Distinct ............ Population Segment ..... 60,131–74,448 Year-round presence. 1 MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified. EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed. 3 2015 draft NMFS Stock Assessment Reports: Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015). 2 ESA: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Eastern Distinct Population Segment of Steller Sea Lions Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: The western and eastern distinct population segments (DPS) divided at 144° West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). The western segment of Steller sea lions inhabit central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, as well as coastal waters and breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and Russia). The eastern segment includes sea lions living in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon. The eastern DPS includes animals born east of Cape Suckling, AK (144° W) and the latest abundance estimate for the stock is 60,131 to 74,448 animals (Muto and Angliss, 2015). Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern Japan to California (Loughlin et al., 1984), with centers of abundance and distribution in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas. The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and California. There are no rookeries located in Washington state. Steller sea lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a couple of weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and spring of the following year. Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the range in southern VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 California and new rookeries established in southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007). Overall, counts of non-pups at trend sites in California and Oregon have been relatively stable or increasing slowly since the 1980s (Allen and Angliss, 2012). Steller sea lion numbers at Northwest Seal Rock ranged from 20 to 355 animals (CCR, 2001). Counts of Steller sea lions during the spring (April–May), summer (June–August), and fall (September–October), averaged 68, 110, and 56, respectively (CCR, 2001). A multi-year survey at NWSR between 2000 and 2004 showed Steller sea lion numbers ranging from 175 to 354 in July (M. Lowry, NMFS/SWFSC, unpubl. data). The Society presumes that winter use of NWSR by Steller sea lion to be minimal, due to inundation of the natural portion of the island by large swells. For the 2010 season, the Society reported that no Steller sea lions were present in the vicinity of Northwest Seal Rock during restoration activities (SGRLPS, 2010). Based on the monitoring report for the 2011 season, the maximum numbers of Steller sea lions present during the April and November 2011, work sessions was 2 and 150 animals, respectively (SGRLPS, 2012). During the 2012 season, the Society did not observe any Steller sea lions present on Northwest Seal Rock during restoration activities. The Society did not conduct any operations for the 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 seasons. California Sea Lion The estimated population of the U.S. stock of California sea lion is approximately 296,750 animals and the current maximum population growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et. al., 2015). California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions inhabit southern PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente (Carretta et. al., 2015). Males establish breeding territories during May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate feeding trips with nursing bouts until weaning between four and 10 months of age (NMML, 2010). Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California waters in the nonbreeding season. In warm water (El ˜ Nino) years, some females range as far north as Washington and Oregon, presumably following prey. Crescent Coastal Research (CCR) conducted a three-year (1998–2000) survey of the wildlife species on NWSR for the Society. They reported that counts of California sea lions on NWSR varied greatly (from six to 541) during the observation period from April 1997 through July 2000. CCR reported that counts for California sea lions during the spring (April–May), summer (June– August), and fall (September–October), averaged 60, 154, and 235, respectively (CCR, 2001). The most current counts for the month of July by NMFS (2000 through 2004) have been relatively low as the total number of California sea lions recorded in 2000 and 2003 was 3 and 11, respectively (M. Lowry, NMFS, SWFSC, unpublished data). Based on the monitoring report for the 2011 season, the maximum numbers of California sea lions present during the April and November, 2011 work sessions was 2 and 90 animals, respectively (SGRLPS, 2012). There were no California sea lions present E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices during the March, 2012 work session (SGRLPS, 2012). asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Northern Fur Seal Northern fur seals occur from southern California north to the Bering Sea and west to the Sea of Okhotsk and Honshu Island of Japan. NMFS recognizes two separate stocks of northern fur seals within U.S. waters: An Eastern Pacific stock distributed among sites in Alaska, British Columbia; and a San Miguel Island stock distributed along the west coast of the continental U.S. The estimated population of the San Miguel Island stock is 9,968 animals with a maximum population growth rate of 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015). Northern fur seals may temporarily haul out on land at other sites in Alaska, British Columbia, and on islets along the west coast of the continental United States, but generally this occurs outside of the breeding season (Fiscus, 1983). Northern fur seals breed in Alaska and migrate along the west coast during fall and winter. Due to their pelagic habitat, they are rarely seen from shore in the continental U.S., but individuals occasionally come ashore on islands well offshore (i.e., Farallon Islands and Channel Islands in California). During the breeding season, approximately 74 percent of the worldwide population inhabits the Pribilof Islands in Alaska, with the remaining animals spread throughout the North Pacific Ocean (Lander and Kajimura, 1982). CCR observed one male northern fur seal on Northwest Seal Rock in October, 1998 (CCR, 2001). It is possible that a few animals may use the island more often that indicated by the CCR surveys, if they were mistaken for other otariid species(i.e., eared seals or fur seals and sea lions) (M. DeAngelis, NMFS, pers. comm.). For the 2010, 2011, and 2012 work seasons, the Society has not observed any northern fur seals present on Northwest Seal Rock during restoration activities (SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012). Pacific Harbor Seal The estimated population of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals is approximately 30,196 animals (Carretta et. al., 2015). There is no current estimate of abundance available for the Oregon/Washington stock (Carretta et. al., 2015). The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific harbor seals consist of two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the western North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 northeast Pacific Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate stocks, inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, including: The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; Washington state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters. Two of these stocks, the California stock and Oregon/ Washington coast stock, of Pacific harbor seals are identified off the coast of Oregon and California for management purposes under the MMPA. However, the stock boundary is difficult to distinguish because of the continuous distribution of harbor seals along the west coast and any rigid boundary line is (to a greater or lesser extent) arbitrary, from a biological perspective (Carretta et. al., 2015). Due to the location of the proposed project which is situated near the border of Oregon and California, both stocks could be present within the proposed project area. In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). Harbor seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Females nurse their pups for an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after being born. Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and rookery size varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups. The nearest harbor seal rookery relative to the proposed project site is at Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, located approximately located 965 m (0.6 mi) south of Point St. George, and 2.4 km (1.5 mi) north of the Crescent City Harbor in Del Norte County, California (USFWS, 2007). CCR noted that harbor seal use of Northwest Seal Rock was minimal, with only one sighting of a group of six animals, during 20 observation surveys. They hypothesized that harbor seals may avoid the islet because of its distance from shore, relatively steep topography, and full exposure to rough and frequently turbulent sea swells. For the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Society did not observe any Pacific harbor seals present on Northwest Seal Rock during restoration activities (SGRLPS, 2010; 2011). During the 2012 season, the Society reported sighting a total of two harbor seals present on Northwest Seal Rock (SGRLPS, 2012). PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65205 Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, usually range in coastal waters within two km (1.2 mi) of the mainland shoreline. Neither CCR nor the Society has encountered California sea otters on Northwest Seal Rock during the course of the four-year wildlife study (CCR, 2001; SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012)) nor has the Society encountered this species during the course of the previous four Authorizations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages the sea otter and NMFS will not consider this species further in this notice. Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that the types of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., personnel presence) have been observed to impact marine mammals. This discussion may also include reactions that NMFS considers to rise to the level of a take and those that we do not consider to rise to the level of a take. This section serves as a background of potential effects and does not consider either the specific manner in which the applicant will carry out the activity or the mitigation that will be implemented, and how either of those will shape the anticipated impacts from this specific activity. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document will include a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that NMFS expects the Society to take during this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis’’ section will include the analysis of how this specific activity would impact marine mammals. NMFS will consider the content of the following sections: Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment; Proposed Mitigation; and Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals—and from that consideration—the likely impacts of this activity on the affected marine mammal populations or stocks. Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) may have the potential to cause the following: Temporary or permanent E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 65206 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES hearing impairment and/or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 2007). Potential Effects of Aircraft Presence and Noise on Marine Mammals Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and underwater noise generated by the engine of the aircraft (Born, Riget, Dietz, & Andriashek, 1999; Richardson, Greene, Malme, & Thomson, 1995). Data on underwater TTS-onset in pinnipeds exposed to pulses are limited to a single study which exposed two California sea lions to single underwater pulses from an arc-gap transducer and found no measurable TTS following exposures up to 183 dB re: 1 mPa (peak-to-peak) (Finneran, Dear, Carder, & Ridgway, 2003). Researchers have demonstrated temporary threshold shift (TTS) in certain captive odontocetes and pinnipeds exposed to strong sounds (reviewed in Southall et al., 2007). In 2004, researchers measured auditory fatigue to airborne sound in harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern elephant seals after exposure to nonpulse noise for 25 minutes (Kastak, Southall, Holt, Kastak, & Schusterman, 2004). In the study, the harbor seal experienced approximately 6 dB of TTS at 99 dB re: 20 mPa. The authors identified onset of TTS in the California sea lion at 122 dB re: 20 mPa. The northern elephant seal experienced TTS-onset at 121 dB re: 20 mPa (Kastak, et al., 2004). There is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of helicopter overflights on pinniped hearing and communication (Richardson, et al., 1995) and to NMFS’ knowledge, there has been no specific documentation of TTS, let alone permanent threshold shift (PTS), in free-ranging pinnipeds exposed to helicopter operations during realistic field conditions (Baker, Jensz, & Chilvers, 2012; Scheidat et al., 2011). In 2008, NMFS issued an Authorization to the USFWS for the take of small numbers of Steller sea lions and Pacific harbor seals, incidental to rodent eradication activities on an islet offshore of Rat Island, AK conducted by helicopter. The 15-minute aerial treatment consisted of the helicopter slowly approaching the islet at an elevation of over 1,000 feet (304.8 m); gradually decreasing altitude in slow circles; and applying the rodenticide in a single pass and returning to Rat Island. The gradual and deliberate approach to the islet resulted in the sea lions present initially becoming aware of the helicopter and calmly moving into the water. Further, the USFWS reported that all responses fell well within the range VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 of Level B harassment (i.e., limited, short-term displacement resulting from aircraft noise due to helicopter overflights). As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 dB re: 20 mPa) non-pulse sounds often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily (minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Per Richardson et al. (1995), approaching aircraft generally flush animals into the water and noise from a helicopter is typically directed down in a ‘‘cone’’ underneath the aircraft. It is likely that the initial helicopter approach to Northwest Seal Rock would cause a subset, or all of the marine mammals hauled out to depart the rock and flush into the water. The physical presence of aircraft could also lead to non-auditory effects on marine mammals involving visual or other cues. Airborne sound from a low-flying helicopter or airplane may be heard by marine mammals while at the surface or underwater. In general, helicopters tend to be noisier than fixed wing aircraft of similar size and underwater sounds from aircraft are strongest just below the surface and directly under the aircraft. Noise from aircraft would not be expected to cause direct physical effects but have the potential to affect behavior. The primary factor that may influence abrupt movements of animals is engine noise, specifically changes in engine noise. Responses by mammals could include hasty dives or turns, change in course, or flushing and stampeding from a haul out site. There are few well documented studies of the impacts of aircraft overflight over pinniped haul out sites or rookeries, and many of those that exist, are specific to military activities (Efroymson et al., 2001). Several factors complicate the analysis of long- and short-term effects for aircraft overflights. Information on behavioral effects of overflights by military aircraft (or component stressors) on most wildlife species is sparse. Moreover, models that relate behavioral changes to abundance or reproduction, and those that relate behavioral or hearing effects thresholds from one population to another are generally not available. In addition, the aggregation of sound frequencies, durations, and the view of the aircraft into a single exposure metric is not always the best predictor of effects and it may also be difficult to calculate. Overall, there has been no indication that single or occasional aircraft flying above pinnipeds in water cause long term displacement of these animals (Richardson et al., 1995). The Lowest PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Observed Adverse Effects Levels (LOAELs) are rather variable for pinnipeds on land, ranging from just over 150 m (492 ft) to about 2,000 m (6,562 ft) (Efroymson et al., 2001). A conservative (90th percentile) distance effects level is 1,150 m (3,773 ft). Most thresholds represent movement away from the overflight. Bowles and Stewart (1980) estimated an LOAEL of 305 m (1,000 ft) for helicopters (low and landing) in California sea lions and harbor seals observed on San Miguel Island, CA; animals responded to some degree by moving within the haul out and entering into the water, stampeding into the water, or clearing the haul out completely. Both species always responded with the raising of their heads. California sea lions appeared to react more to the visual cue of the helicopter than the noise. If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, it is likely that a helicopter landing at the Station would cause some number of the pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock to flush; however, when present, they appear to show rapid habituation to helicopter landing and departure (Crescent Coastal Research, 2001; Guy Towers, SGRLPS, pers. com.). According to the CCR Report (2001), while up to 40 percent of the California and Steller sea lions present on Northwest Seal Rock have been observed to enter the water on the first of a series of helicopter landings, as few as zero percent have flushed on subsequent landings on the same date. In fact, the Society reported that during the November 2011 work session, Steller sea lions and California sea lions exhibited minimal ingress and egress from Northwest Seal Rock during helicopter approaches and departures (SGRLPS, 2011). Potential Effects of Human Presence on Marine Mammals The appearance of Society personnel may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of marine mammals hauled out on the small island in the proposed action area. Disturbance includes a variety of effects, including subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and displacement. Disturbance may result in reactions ranging from an animal simply becoming alert to the presence of the Society’s restoration personnel (e.g., turning the head, assuming a more upright posture) to flushing from the haul-out site into the water. NMFS does not consider the lesser reactions to constitute behavioral harassment, or Level B harassment takes, but rather assumes that pinnipeds that move greater than 1 meter (m) (3.3 feet (ft)) or E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices change the speed or direction of their movement in response to the presence of surveyors are behaviorally harassed, and thus subject to Level B taking. Animals that respond to the presence of the Society’s restoration personnel by becoming alert, but do not move or change the nature of locomotion as described, are not considered to have been subject to behavioral harassment. Reactions to human presence, if any, depend on species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, time of day, and many other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). These behavioral reactions are often shown as: Changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior; avoidance of areas; and/or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into the water from haul-outs or rookeries). If a marine mammal does react briefly to human presence by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if visual stimuli from human presence displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007). Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and Trites, 2006). Numerous studies have shown that human activity can flush harbor seals off haulout sites (Allen et al., 1984; Calambokidis et al., 1991; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et al., 2000) or lead to Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi) avoidance of beach areas The Hawaiian monk seal avoiding beaches (Kenyon, 1972). In one case, human disturbance appeared to cause Steller sea lions to desert a breeding area at Northeast Point on St. Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 1962). In cases where vessels actively approached marine mammals (e.g., whale watching or dolphin watching boats), scientists have documented that animals exhibit altered behavior such as increased swimming speed, erratic movement, and active avoidance VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 behavior (Bursk, 1983; Acevedo, 1991; Baker and MacGibbon, 1991; Trites and Bain, 2000; Williams et al., 2002; Constantine et al., 2003), reduced blow interval (Ritcher et al., 2003), disruption of normal social behaviors (Lusseau, 2003; 2006), and the shift of behavioral activities which may increase energetic costs (Constantine et al., 2003; 2004). In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) on harbor seal haulout behavior in Metis Bay, Quebec, Canada. During that study, the authors noted that the most frequent disturbances (n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks, and canoes (33.3 percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) conducting high speed passes. The seal’s flight reactions could be linked to a surprise factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, quietly and low on water making them look like predators. However, the authors note that once the animals were disturbed, there did not appear to be any significant lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to their pre-disturbance levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat traffic at current levels has only a temporary effect on the haulout behavior of harbor seals in the Metis Bay area. In 2004, Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez (2007) evaluated the efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haulout sites on Yellow Island, Washington. The authors estimated the minimum distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; categorized the vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the disturbances. During the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors recorded 14 human-related disturbances which were associated with stopped powerboats and kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals became noticeably active and moved into the water. The flushing occurred when stopped kayaks and powerboats were at distances as far as 453 and 1,217 ft (138 and 371 m) respectively. The authors note that the seals were unaffected by passing powerboats, even those approaching as close as 128 ft (39 m), possibly indicating that the animals had become tolerant of the brief presence of the vessels and ignored them. The authors reported that on average, the seals quickly recovered from the disturbances and returned to the haulout site in less than or equal to 60 minutes. Seal numbers did not return to pre-disturbance levels within 180 minutes of the disturbance less than one quarter of the time observed. The study PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65207 concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-disturbance levels and the relatively regular seasonal cycle in abundance throughout the area counter the idea that disturbances from powerboats may result in site abandonment (Johnson and AcevedoGutierrez, 2007). As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 mPa) non-pulsed sounds often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily (minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Stampede There are other ways in which disturbance, as described previously, could result in more than Level B harassment of marine mammals. They are most likely to be consequences of stampeding, a potentially dangerous occurrence in which large numbers of animals succumb to mass panic and rush away from a stimulus. These situations are: (1) Falling when entering the water at high-relief locations; (2) extended separation of mothers and pups; and (3) crushing of pups by large males during a stampede. However, NMFS does not expect any of these scenarios to occur at Northwest Seal Rock. There is the risk of injury if animals stampede towards shorelines with precipitous relief (e.g., cliffs). However, there are no cliffs on Northwest Seal Rock. The haulout sites consist of ridges with unimpeded and non-obstructive access to the water. If disturbed, the small number of hauledout adult animals may move toward the water without risk of encountering barriers or hazards that would otherwise prevent them from leaving the area. Moreover, the proposed area would not be crowded with large numbers of Steller sea lions, further eliminating the possibility of potentially injurious mass movements of animals attempting to vacate the haulout. Thus, in this case, NMFS considers the risk of injury, serious injury, or death to hauled-out animals as very low. Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat The only habitat modification associated with the proposed activity is the restoration of a light station which would occur on the upper levels of Northwest Seal Rock which are not used by marine mammals. Thus, NMFS does not expect that the proposed activity would have any effects on marine mammal habitat and NMFS expects that there will be no long- or short-term physical impacts to pinniped habitat on Northwest Seal Rock. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 65208 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES The Society would remove all waste, discarded materials and equipment from the island after each visit. The proposed activities will not result in any permanent impact on habitats used by marine mammals, including prey species and foraging habitat. The main impact associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals (i.e., the potential for temporary abandonment of the site), previously discussed in this notice. NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed restoration activities would result in any permanent effects on the habitats used by the marine mammals in the proposed area, including the food sources they use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). Based on the preceding discussion, NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activity would have any habitat-related effects that could cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. Proposed 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 on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant). Time and Frequency: The Society would conduct restoration activities at maximum of once per month between November 27, 2015, through November 26, 2016. Each restoration session would last no more than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon would occur only in conjunction with restoration activities. The Society would not conduct restoration activities between May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016. Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society would ensure that its helicopter approach patterns to the Station and timing techniques do not disturb marine mammals as most practicable. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach Northwest Seal Rock when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on Northwest Seal Rock. Since the most severe impacts (stampede) precede rapid and direct helicopter approaches, the Society’s initial approach to the Station must be offshore from the island at a relatively VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 high altitude (e.g., 800–1,000 ft, or 244– 305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area with the lowest pinniped density. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) the Society cannot conduct these types of helicopter approach and timing techniques, they must postpone the restoration and maintenance activities for that day. Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact with People on Island: The Society would instruct its members and restoration crews to avoid making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to pinnipeds around the base of the Station. Although CCR reported no impacts from these activities in the 2001 CCR study, it is relatively simple for the Society to avoid this potential impact. The door to the lower platform (which is used at times by pinnipeds) shall remain closed and barricaded to all tourists and other personnel. Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated the Society’s proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of affecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. The 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 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 vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 important time or location) individuals exposed to vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 vessel or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 the Society’s proposed measures, NMFS has preliminarily 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. Proposed Monitoring In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS 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 Authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that NMFS expects to be present in the proposed action area. The Society submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 13 of their Authorization application. NMFS or the Society may modify or supplement the plan based on comments or new information received from the public during the public comment period. Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or more of the following general goals: E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices 1. An increase in our understanding of the likely occurrence of marine mammal species in the vicinity of the action, (i.e., presence, abundance, distribution, and/or density of species). 2. An increase in our understanding of the nature, scope, or context of the likely exposure of marine mammal species to any of the potential stressor(s) associated with the action (e.g., sound or visual stimuli), through better understanding of one or more of the following: The action itself and its environment (e.g., sound source characterization, propagation, and ambient noise levels); the affected species (e.g., life history or dive pattern); the likely co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action (in whole or part) associated with specific adverse effects; and/or the likely biological or behavioral context of exposure to the stressor for the marine mammal (e.g., age class of exposed animals or known pupping, calving or feeding areas). 3. An increase in our understanding of how individual marine mammals respond (behaviorally or physiologically) to the specific stressors associated with the action (in specific contexts, where possible, e.g., at what distance or received level). 4. An increase in our understanding of how anticipated individual responses, to individual stressors or anticipated combinations of stressors, may impact either: The long-term fitness and survival of an individual; or the population, species, or stock (e.g. through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival). 5. An increase in our understanding of how the activity affects marine mammal habitat, such as through effects on prey sources or acoustic habitat (e.g., through characterization of longer-term contributions of multiple sound sources to rising ambient noise levels and assessment of the potential chronic effects on marine mammals). 6. An increase in understanding of the impacts of the activity on marine mammals in combination with the impacts of other anthropogenic activities or natural factors occurring in the region. 7. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of mitigation and monitoring measures. 8. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals (through improved technology or methodology), both specifically within the safety zone (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation) and in general, to better achieve the above goals. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 As part of its Authorization application, the Society proposes to sponsor marine mammal monitoring, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the proposed Authorization. These include: At least once during the period between November 27, 2015 through November 26, 2016, a qualified biologist shall be present during all three workdays at the Station. The qualified biologist hired will be subject to approval by us and they shall document use of the island by the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances. Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using the project site during human activity periods. The Society should complete aerial photo coverage of the island from the same helicopter used to transport the Society’s personnel to the island during restoration trips. The Society would take photographs of all marine mammals hauled out on the island at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) by a skilled photographer, prior to the first landing on each visit included in the monitoring program. Photographic documentation of marine mammals present at the end of each three-day work session shall also be made for a before and after comparison. These photographs will be forwarded to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. Data shall be provided to us in the form of a report with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The original photographs can be made available to us or other marine mammal experts for inspection and further analysis. Proposed monitoring requirements in relation to the Society’s proposed activities would include species counts, numbers of observed disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the restoration activities, including location, date, and time of the event. In addition, the Society would record observations regarding the number and species of any marine mammals either observed in the water or hauled out. The Society can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the proposed action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up research can be conducted by PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65209 the appropriate personnel; (2) tagbearing carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of marine mammals for agency follow-up. If at any time injury, serious injury, or mortality of the species for which take is authorized should occur, or if take of any kind of any other marine mammal occurs, and such action may be a result of the Society’s activities, the Society would suspend survey activities and contact NMFS immediately to determine how best to proceed to ensure that another injury or death does not occur and to ensure that the applicant remains in compliance with the MMPA. Summary of Previous Monitoring The Society complied with the mitigation and monitoring required under the previous authorizations (2010–2013). They did not conduct any operations for the 2013 season. However, in compliance with the 2012 Authorization, the Society submitted a final report on the activities at the Station, covering the period of February 15, 2012 through April 30, 2012. During the effective dates of the 2012 IHA, the Society conducted one work session in March, 2012. The Society’s aircraft operations and restoration activities on NWSR did not exceed the activity levels analyzed under the 2012 authorization. During the March 2012 work session, the Society observed two harbor seals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock. Both animals (a juvenile and an adult) departed the rock, entered the water, and did not return to the Station during the duration of the activities. Proposed Reporting The Society would submit a draft report to NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the expiration of the proposed Authorization, if issued. The report will include a summary of the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set forth in the proposed Authorization. The Society will submit a final report to the NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If the Society receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will consider the draft report to be the final report. The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. The report will provide: E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 65210 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices 1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all research activities. 2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals observed throughout all monitoring activities. 3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to human presence associated with the Society’s activities. 4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., stampede), Society personnel shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301–427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable); • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). The Society shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), the Society will immediately report the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264 within 24 hours of the discovery. Society personnel will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. The Society can continue their survey activities while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of injurious or lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by injury, serious injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the presence of Society personnel could disturb of animals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock and that the animals may alter their behavior or attempt to move away from the Society’s personnel. As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been harassed if it PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the Society’s presence or if the animal was already moving and changed direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as harassed. Based on the Society’s previous monitoring reports, NMFS estimates that approximately 960 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying the maximum number California sea lions present on NWSR (160) by 6 months of the restoration and maintenance activities), 172 Steller sea lions (NMFS’ estimate of the maximum number of Steller sea lions that could be present on NWSR with a 95-percent confidence interval), 36 Pacific harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor seals present on NWSR (6) by 6 months), and 6 northern fur seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals present on NWSR (1) by 6 months) could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the Authorization. NMFS bases these estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected on consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations during the course of the activity. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. However, actual take may be slightly less if animals decide to haul out at a different location for the day or if animals are foraging at the time of the survey activities. Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that some pinnipeds will avoid the area, NMFS does not expect any injury or mortality to pinnipeds to occur and NMFS has not authorized take by Level A harassment for this proposed activity. Encouraging and Coordinating Research The Society would share observations and counts of marine mammals and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and federal agencies at the conclusion of the survey. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices Analysis and Preliminary Determinations asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Negligible Impact Negligible impact is ‘‘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. 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 considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, and effects on habitat. Although the Society’s survey activities may disturb a small number of marine mammals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS expects those impacts to occur to a small, localized group of animals for a limited duration (e.g., six hours in one day). Marine mammals would likely become alert or, at most, flush into the water in reaction to the presence of the Society’s personnel during the proposed activities. Disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing marine mammals to reoccupy Northwest Seal Rock within a short amount of time. Thus, the proposed action is unlikely to result in long-term impacts such as permanent abandonment of the area because of the availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the restoration activities and helicopter operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned Northwest Seal Rock and did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after the Society conducted their activities. The Society’s activities would occur during the least sensitive time (e.g., November through April, outside of the pupping season) for hauled out pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock. Thus, pups or breeding adults would not be present during the proposed oneday survey. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 Moreover, the Society’s mitigation measures regarding helicopter approaches and restoration site ingress and egress would minimize the potential for stampedes and large-scale movements. Thus, the potential for large-scale movements and stampede leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality is low. Any noise attributed to the Society’s proposed helicopter operations on NWSR would be short-term (approximately 5 min per trip). We would expect the ambient noise levels to return to a baseline state when helicopter operations have ceased for the day. As the helicopter landings take place 15 m (48 ft) above the surface of the rocks on NWSR, NMFS presumes that the received sound levels would increase above 81–81.9 dB re: 20 mPa (Aweighted) at the landing pad. However, we do not expect that the increased received levels of sound from the helicopter would cause TTS or PTS because the pinnipeds would flush before the helicopter approached NWSR; thus increasing the distance between the pinnipeds and the received sound levels on NWSR during the proposed action. If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, Level B behavioral harassment of pinnipeds may occur during helicopter landing and takeoff from NWSR due to the pinnipeds temporarily moving from the rocks and lower structure of the Station into the sea due to the noise and appearance of helicopter during approaches and departures. It is expected that all or a portion of the marine mammals hauled out on the island will depart the rock and slowly move into the water upon initial helicopter approaches. The movement to the water would be gradual due to the required controlled helicopter approaches (see ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ for more details), the small size of the aircraft, the use of noiseattenuating blade tip caps on the rotors, and behavioral habituation on the part of the animals as helicopter trips continue throughout the day. During the sessions of helicopter activity, if present on NWSR, some animals may be temporarily displaced from the island and either raft in the water or relocate to other haul-outs. Sea lions have shown habituation to helicopter flights within a day at the project site and most animals are expected to return soon after helicopter activities cease for that day. By clustering helicopter arrival/departures within a short time period, we expect animals present to show less response to subsequent landings. NMFS anticipates no impact on the population size or PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65211 breeding stock of Steller sea lions, California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, or northern fur seals. In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds during the Society’s proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., less than three days a month) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality to occur (see ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ for more details). 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 proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the Society’s proposed survey activities will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that the Society’s proposed activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, four species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For each species, these estimates are small numbers (each, less than or equal to one percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. Based on the analysis contained in this notice 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 preliminarily finds that the Society’s proposed activities would take small numbers of marine mammals relative to the populations of 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 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. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 65212 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices Endangered Species Act (ESA) NMFS does not expect that the Society’s proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities would affect any species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization to the Society, NMFS has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2010 that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. The EA, titled ‘‘Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,’’ evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in the specified geographic region. At that time, NMFS concluded that issuance of an annual Authorization would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society’s activities. In conjunction with the Society’s 2015 application, NMFS has again reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the IHA requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, intends to preliminarily reaffirm the 2010 FONSI. An electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available upon request (see ADDRESSES). asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes issuing an Authorization to the Society for conducting helicopter operations and restoration activities on the St. George Light Station in the northeast Pacific Ocean, November 27, 2015, through November 26 2016, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements. Draft Proposed Authorization This section contains the draft text for the proposed Authorization. NMFS proposes to include this language in the Authorization if issued. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 Proposed Authorization Language The St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society), P.O. Box 577, Crescent City, CA 95531, is hereby authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) and 50 CFR 216.107, to harass marine mammals incidental to conducting helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean. 1. This Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is valid from November 27, 2015, through November 26, 2016. The Society may not conduct operations from May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016. 2. This IHA is valid only for activities associated with helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance activities (See items 2(a)–(d)) on the Station on Northwest Seal Rock (41°50′24″ N., 124°22′06″ W.) in the northeast Pacific Ocean. a. The use of a small, compact, 4person helicopter with two-bladed main and tail rotors fitted with noiseattenuating blade tip caps to transit to and from Northwest Seal Rock; b. Restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing) conducted on the Station; c. Maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) conducted on the Station; and d. Emergency repair events (e.g., the failure of the PATON beacon light) outside of the three-day work session. 3. General Conditions a. A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of the Society, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of this IHA. b. The species authorized for taking are the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), Pacific Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), the eastern Distinct Population Segment of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus). c. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the species listed in condition 3(b). Authorized take: California sea lion (960); Steller sea lion (172); Pacific harbor seal (36); and northern fur seal (6). d. The taking by Level A harassment, injury or death of any of the species listed in item 3(b) of the Authorization or the taking by harassment, injury or death of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA. PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 e. In the case of an emergency repair event (i.e., failure of the PATON beacon light) between May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016, the Society will consult with the ARA, Western Region, NMFS, to best determine the timing of an emergency repair trip to the Station. a. The Western Region NMFS marine mammal biologist will make a decision regarding when the Society can schedule helicopter trips to the Northwest Seal Rock during the emergency repair time window and will ensure that such operations will have the least practicable adverse impact to marine mammals. b. The ARA, Western Region, NMFS will also ensure that the Society’s request for incidental take during an emergency repair event would not exceed the number of incidental take authorized in this IHA. 4. Cooperation The holder of this Authorization is required to cooperate with the NMFS and any other Federal, state, or local agency authorized to monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals. 5. Mitigation Measures In order to ensure the least practicable impact on the species listed in condition 3(b), the holder of this Authorization is required to: a. Conduct restoration and maintenance activities at the Station at a maximum of one session per month between November 27, 2015, through November 26, 2016. Each restoration session will be no more than three days in duration. Maintenance of the light beacon will occur only in conjunction with the monthly restoration activities. b. Ensure that helicopter approach patterns to the Northwest Seal Rock will be such that the timing techniques are least disturbing to marine mammals. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach Northwest Seal Rock when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on Northwest Seal Rock. c. Avoid rapid and direct approaches by the helicopter to the station by approaching Northwest Seal Rock at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 800–1,000 ft; 244–305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area where the density of pinnipeds is the lowest. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind conditions or visibility) such helicopter approach and timing techniques cannot be achieved, the Society must abort the restoration and maintenance session for that day. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices d. Provide instructions to the Society’s members, the restoration crew, and if applicable, to tourists, on appropriate conduct when in the vicinity of hauled-out marine mammals. The Society’s members, the restoration crew, and if applicable, tourists, will avoid making unnecessary noise while on Northwest Seal Rock and must not view pinnipeds around the base of the Station. e. Ensure that the door to the Station’s lower platform shall remain closed and barricaded at all times. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 6. Monitoring The holder of this Authorization is required to: a. Have a NMFS-approved biologist present during all three workdays at the Station at least once during the period of November 27, 2015, through November 26, 2016. This requirement may be modified depending on the results of the monthly monitoring reports. The biologist shall document use of the island by the marine mammals (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, frequency of use, weather conditions, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances. b. Record the date, time, and location (or closest point of ingress) of each visit to the Northwest Seal Rock. c. Collect the following information for each visit: i. Information on the numbers (by species) of marine mammals observed during the activities; ii. The estimated number of marine mammals (by species) that may have been harassed during the activities; iii. Any behavioral responses or modifications of behaviors that may be attributed to the specific activities (e.g., flushing into water, becoming alert and moving, rafting); and iv. Information on the weather, including the tidal state and horizontal visibility. d. Employ a skilled, aerial photographer to document marine mammals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock for comparing marine mammal presence on Northwest Seal Rock preand post-restoration. i. The photographer will complete a photographic survey of Northwest Seal Rock using the same helicopter that will transport Society personnel to the island during restoration trips. ii. For a pre-restoration survey, photographs of all marine mammals hauled-out on the island shall be taken at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) during the first arrival flight to Northwest Seal Rock. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 iii. For the post-restoration survey, photographs of all marine mammals hauled-out on the island shall be taken at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) during the last departure flight from Northwest Seal Rock; iv. The Society and/or its designees will forward the photographs to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. The Society shall provide the data to us in the form of a report with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The Society will make available the original photographs to NMFS or to other marine mammal experts for inspection and further analysis. 7. Reporting Requirements Final Report: The holder of this authorization is required to submit a draft monitoring report to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East West Highway, 13th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427–8401 no later than 90 days after the project is completed. The report must contain the following information: a. A summary of the dates, times, and weather during all helicopter operations, restoration, and maintenance activities. b. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, observed throughout all monitoring activities. c. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that are known to have been exposed to visual and acoustic stimuli associated with the helicopter operations, restoration, and maintenance activities. d. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the IHA and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring. 8. Reporting Prohibited Take In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), the Society shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65213 The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; • Name and type of vessel involved; • Vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; • Description of the incident; • Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Water depth; • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). The Society shall not resume its activities until we are able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with the Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone. 9. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal With an Unknown Cause of Death In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, at 301–427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980–3264. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1 65214 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 206 / Monday, October 26, 2015 / Notices 10. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal Not Related to the Society’s Activities In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, at 301–427–8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980– 3264, within 24 hours of the discovery. The Society’s staff will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to us. 11. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if the authorized taking is having a more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals. Request for Public Comments NMFS requests comments on our analysis, the draft authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed Authorization for the proposed activities. Please include any supporting data or literature citations with your comments to help inform our final decision on the Society’s request for an Authorization. Dated: October 20, 2015. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–27117 Filed 10–23–15; 8:45 am] The meeting will be held via webinar. Webinar connection details will be available at: http:// www.mafmc.org. Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; telephone: (302) 674–2331 or on their Web site at www.mafmc.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, telephone: (302) 526–5255. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Council has undertaken a short-term collaborative research initiative and intends to provide funding for several projects that address specific, Councildefined collaborative research topics pertaining to mid-Atlantic fisheries. The purpose of this Collaborative Research Committee meeting is to develop a list of 4–6 research priorities which will be used to guide the solicitation of proposals and selection of projects to receive funding. A detailed agenda and background documents will be made available on the Council’s Web site (www.mafmc.org) prior to the meeting. ADDRESSES: Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526–5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Dated: October 21, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2015–27132 Filed 10–23–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE252 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (Council) Collaborative Research Committee will hold a public meeting. DATES: The meeting will be held on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:53 Oct 23, 2015 Jkt 238001 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Rehabilitation of the Jetty System at the Mouth of the Columbia River, Washington and Oregon National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application for letter of authorization; request for comments and information. AGENCY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Portland District (Corps) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the rehabilitation of the jetty system at the mouth of the Columbia River (MCR) including the North Jetty, South Jetty, and Jetty A. The Corps is requesting a Letter of Authorization (LOA) for pile installation and removal associated with construction of temporary offloading facilities at the North Jetty, South Jetty, and Jetty A over the course of 5 years; approximately September 2017 through August 2022. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of the Corps’ request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the Corps’ application and request. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than November 25, 2015. ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Pauline@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to the Internet at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Pauline, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Availability A copy of the Corps’ application may be obtained by writing to the address specified above (see ADDRESSES), telephoning the contact listed above (see E:\FR\FM\26OCN1.SGM 26OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 206 (Monday, October 26, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 65201-65214]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-27117]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE233


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

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments.

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

SUMMARY: NMFS has received an application from the St. George Reef 
Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society), for an Incidental Harassment 
Authorization (Authorization) to take marine mammals, by harassment 
incidental to conducting aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, 
and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station 
on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The proposed 
dates for this action would be late November 2015 through November 
2016. Per the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we are requesting comments 
on our proposal to issue an Authorization to the Society to 
incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, marine mammals during 
the specified activity.

DATES: NMFS must receive comments and information on or before November 
25, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Address comments on the application to Jolie Harrison, 
Division Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email 
comments is ITP.Cody@noaa.gov. Please include 0648-XE233 in the subject 
line. Comments sent via email to ITP.Cody@noaa.gov, including all 
attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. NMFS is not 
responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than the one 
provided here.
    Instructions: All submitted comments are a part of the public 
record and NMFS will post them to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/research.htm without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    To obtain an electronic copy of the application containing a list 
of the references used in this document, write to the previously 
mentioned address, telephone the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or visit the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm.
    The Environmental Assessment (EA) specific to conducting aircraft 
operations, restoration, and maintenance work on the light station is 
also available at the same internet

[[Page 65202]]

address. Information in the EA and this notice collectively provide the 
environmental information related to the proposed issuance of the 
Authorization for public review and comment. The public may also view 
documents cited in this notice, by appointment, during regular business 
hours, at the aforementioned address.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 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.
    An Authorization shall be granted 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 set forth the permissible methods of taking; other means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock 
and its habitat; 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.''
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].

Summary of Request

    On October 1, 2015, from the Society requesting that we issue an 
Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting 
restoration activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) 
located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in 
the northeast Pacific Ocean. NMFS determined the application complete 
and adequate on October 7, 2015.
    The Society proposes to conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse 
renovation, and periodic maintenance on the Station's optical light 
system on a monthly basis. The proposed activity would occur on a 
monthly basis over one weekend, November 2015 through April 2016 and 
again for one weekend in November 2016. The following specific aspects 
of the proposed activities would likely to result in the take of marine 
mammals: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during 
restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and 
glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and 
automation of the light system); and (4) human presence. Thus, NMFS 
anticipates that take, by Level B harassment only, of California sea 
lions (Zalophus californianus); Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); 
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of the eastern U.S. Stock; and 
northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) could result from the 
specified activity.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview
    To date, NMFS has issued four Authorizations to the Society for the 
conduct of the same activities from 2010 to 2015 (75 FR 4774, January 
29, 2010; 76 FR 10564, February 25, 2011; 77 FR 8811, February 15, 
2012; and 79 FR 6179, February 3, 2014). This is the Society's fifth 
request for an annual Authorization as their last Authorization expired 
on April 10, 2015.
    The Station, listed in the National Park Service's National 
Register of Historic Places, is located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore 
of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The 
Station, built in 1892, rises 45.7 meters (m) (150 feet (ft)) above sea 
level. The structure consists of hundreds of granite blocks topped with 
a cast iron lantern room and covers much of the surface of the islet. 
The purpose of the project is to restore the lighthouse and to conduct 
annual and emergency maintenance on the Station's optical light system.
Dates and Duration
    The Society proposes to conduct the activities (aircraft 
operations, lighthouse restoration, and maintenance activities) at a 
maximum frequency of one session per month. The proposed duration for 
each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, 
Saturday, and Sunday). The proposed Authorization, if issued, would be 
effective from November 27, 2015 through November 26, 2016 with 
restrictions on the Society conducting activities from May 1, 2016 to 
October 31, 2016. NMFS refers the reader to the Detailed Description of 
Activities section later in this notice for more information on the 
scope of the proposed activities.
Specified Geographic Region
    The Station is located on a small, rocky islet (41[deg]50'24'' N., 
124[deg]22'06'' W.) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) 
in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California 
(Latitude: 41[deg]46'48'' N.; Longitude: 124[deg]14'11'' W.). NWSR is 
approximately 91.4 m (300 ft) in diameter that peaks at 5.18 m (17 ft) 
above mean sea level.

Detailed Description of Activities

Aircraft Operations
    Because Northwest Seal Rock has no safe landing area for boats, the 
proposed restoration activities would require the Society to transport 
personnel and equipment from the California mainland to Northwest Seal 
Rock by a small helicopter. Helicopter landings take place on top of 
the engine room (caisson) which is approximately 15 m (48 ft) above the 
surface of the rocks on Northwest Seal Rock. The Society plans to 
charter a Raven R44 helicopter, owned and operated by Air Shasta Rotor 
and Wing, LLC. The Raven R44, which seats three passengers and one 
pilot, is a compact-sized (1134 kilograms (kg), 2500 pounds (lbs)) 
helicopter with two-bladed main and tail rotors. Both sets of rotors 
are fitted with noise-attenuating blade tip caps that would decrease 
flyover noise.
    The Society proposes to transport no more than 15 work crew members 
and equipment to Northwest Seal Rock for each session and estimates 
that each session would require no more than 36 helicopter landings/
takeoffs per month. During landing, the helicopter would land on the 
caisson to allow the work crew members to disembark and retrieve their 
equipment located in a basket attached to the underside of the 
helicopter. The helicopter would then return to the mainland to pick up 
additional personnel and equipment.

[[Page 65203]]

    Proposed schedule: The Society would conduct a maximum of 16 
flights (eight arrivals and eight departures) for the first day. The 
first flight would depart from Crescent City Airport at approximately 9 
a.m. for a 6-minute flight to Northwest Seal Rock. The helicopter would 
land and takeoff immediately after offloading personnel and equipment 
every 20 minutes (min). The total duration of the first day's aerial 
operations could last for approximately 3 hours (hrs) and 26 min and 
would end at approximately 12:34 p.m. Crew members would remain 
overnight at the Station and would not return to the mainland on the 
first day.
    For the second day, the Society would conduct a maximum of 10 
flights (five arrivals and five departures) to transport additional 
materials on and off the islet. The first flight would depart from 
Crescent City Airport at 9 a.m. for a 6-minute flight to Northwest Seal 
Rock. The total duration of the second day's aerial operations could 
last up to three hours.
    For the final day of operations, the Society could conduct a 
maximum of eight helicopter flights (four arrivals and four departures) 
to transport the remaining crew members and equipment/material back to 
the Crescent City Airport. The total duration of the third day's 
helicopter operations in support of restoration could last up to 2 hrs 
and 14 min.

Lighthouse Restoration Activities

    Restoration and maintenance activities would involve the removal of 
peeling paint and plaster, restoration of interior plaster and paint, 
refurbishing structural and decorative metal, reworking original metal 
support beams throughout the lantern room and elsewhere, replacing 
glass as necessary, upgrading the present electrical system; and annual 
light beacon maintenance.
Emergency Light Maintenance
    If the beacon light fails, the Society proposes to send a crew of 
two to three people to the Station by helicopter to repair the beacon 
light. For each emergency repair event, the Society proposes to conduct 
a maximum of four flights (two arrivals and two departures) to 
transport equipment and supplies. The helicopter may remain on site or 
transit back to shore and make a second landing to pick up the repair 
personnel.
    In the case of an emergency repair between May 1, 2016, and October 
31, 2016, the Society would consult with the NMFS' Western Regional 
Office (WRO) biologists to best determine the timing of the trips to 
the lighthouse, on a case-by-case basis, based upon the existing 
environmental conditions and the abundance and distribution of any 
marine mammals present on NWSR. The regional biologists would have 
real-time knowledge regarding the animal use and abundance of the NWSR 
at the time of the repair request and would make a decision regarding 
when the Society could conduct trips to the lighthouse during the 
emergency repair time window that would have the least practicable 
adverse impact to marine mammals. The WRO biologists would also ensure 
that the Society's request for incidental take during emergency repairs 
would not exceed the number of incidental take authorized in the 
proposed Authorization.

Sound Sources and Sound Characteristics

    NMFS expects that acoustic stimuli resulting from the proposed 
helicopter operations; noise from maintenance and restoration 
activities; and human presence have the potential to harass marine 
mammals, incidental to the conduct of the proposed activities.
    This section includes a brief explanation of the sound measurements 
frequently used in the discussions of acoustic effects in this notice. 
Sound pressure is the sound force per unit area, and is usually 
measured in micropascals ([mu]Pa), where 1 pascal (Pa) is the pressure 
resulting from a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square 
meter. Sound pressure level (SPL) is the ratio of a measured sound 
pressure and a reference level. The commonly used reference pressure is 
1 [mu]Pa for under water, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 1 [mu]Pa. 
The commonly used reference pressure is 20 [mu]Pa for in air, and the 
units for SPLs are dB re: 20 [mu]Pa.
    SPL (in decibels (dB)) = 20 log (pressure/reference pressure).
    SPL is an instantaneous measurement expressed as the peak, the 
peak-peak (p-p), or the root mean square (rms). Root mean square is the 
square root of the arithmetic average of the squared instantaneous 
pressure values. All references to SPL in this document refer to the 
root mean square unless otherwise noted. SPL does not take into account 
the duration of a sound.

R44 Helicopter Sound Characteristics

    Noise testing performed on the R44 Raven Helicopter, as required 
for Federal Aviation Administration approval, required an overflight at 
150 m (492 ft) above ground level, 109 knots and a maximum gross weight 
of 1,134 kg (2,500 lbs). The noise levels measured on the ground at 
this distance and speed were 81.9 decibels (dB) re: 20 [mu]Pa (A-
weighted) for the model R44 Raven I, or 81.0 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa (A-
weighted) for the model R44 Raven II (NMFS, 2007).
    Based on this information, we expect that the received sound levels 
at the landing area on the Station's caisson would increase above 81-
81.9 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa (A-weighted).

Restoration and Maintenance Sound Characteristics

    Any noise associated with these activities is likely to be from 
light construction (e.g., sanding, hammering, or use of hand drills). 
The Society proposes to confine all restoration activities to the 
existing structure which would occur on the upper levels of the 
Station. Pinnipeds hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock do not have access 
to the upper levels of the Station.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Table 1 provides the following information: All marine mammal 
species with possible or confirmed occurrence in the proposed activity 
area; information on those species' regulatory status under the MMPA 
and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); 
abundance; occurrence and seasonality in the activity area. NMFS refers 
the public the 2015 draft NMFS Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Report 
available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/ for further 
information on the biology and distribution of these species.

 Table 1--General Information on Marine Mammals That Could Potentially Haul Out on Northwest Seal Rock, November
                                           2015 Through November 2016
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Regulatory status 1       Stock          Occurrence and
             Species                     Stock                  2            abundance \3\       seasonality
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
California sea lion (Zalophus     U.S................  MMPA-NC............         296,750   Year-round
 californianus).                                       ESA-NL.............                    presence.

[[Page 65204]]

 
Northern fur seal (Callorhinus    California.........  MMPA-D.............          14,050   Rare.
 ursinus).                        Breeding...........  ESA-NL.............
Pacific harbor seal (Phoca        California.........  MMPA-NC............          30,968   Occasional, spring.
 vitulina).                                            ESA-NL.............
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias      Eastern Distinct...  MMPA-D.............   60,131-74,448   Year-round
 jubatus).                        Population Segment.  ESA-DL.............                    presence.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ MMPA: D = Depleted, S = Strategic, NC = Not Classified.
\2\ ESA: EN = Endangered, T = Threatened, DL = Delisted, NL = Not listed.
\3\ 2015 draft NMFS Stock Assessment Reports: Carretta et al. (2015) and Muto and Angliss (2015).

Eastern Distinct Population Segment of Steller Sea Lions

    Steller sea lions consist of two distinct population segments: The 
western and eastern distinct population segments (DPS) divided at 
144[deg] West longitude (Cape Suckling, Alaska). The western segment of 
Steller sea lions inhabit central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian 
Islands, as well as coastal waters and breed in Asia (e.g., Japan and 
Russia). The eastern segment includes sea lions living in southeast 
Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon. The eastern DPS 
includes animals born east of Cape Suckling, AK (144[deg] W) and the 
latest abundance estimate for the stock is 60,131 to 74,448 animals 
(Muto and Angliss, 2015).
    Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern 
Japan to California (Loughlin et al., 1984), with centers of abundance 
and distribution in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, 
respectively. The species is not known to migrate, but individuals 
disperse widely outside of the breeding season (late May through early 
July), thus potentially intermixing with animals from other areas.
    The eastern distinct population segment of Steller sea lions breeds 
on rookeries located in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and 
California. There are no rookeries located in Washington state. Steller 
sea lions give birth in May through July and breeding commences a 
couple of weeks after birth. Pups are weaned during the winter and 
spring of the following year.
    Despite the wide-ranging movements of juveniles and adult males in 
particular, exchange between rookeries by breeding adult females and 
males (other than between adjoining rookeries) appears low, although 
males have a higher tendency to disperse than females (NMFS, 1995; 
Trujillo et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2006). A northward shift in the 
overall breeding distribution has occurred, with a contraction of the 
range in southern California and new rookeries established in 
southeastern Alaska (Pitcher et al., 2007). Overall, counts of non-pups 
at trend sites in California and Oregon have been relatively stable or 
increasing slowly since the 1980s (Allen and Angliss, 2012).
    Steller sea lion numbers at Northwest Seal Rock ranged from 20 to 
355 animals (CCR, 2001). Counts of Steller sea lions during the spring 
(April-May), summer (June-August), and fall (September-October), 
averaged 68, 110, and 56, respectively (CCR, 2001). A multi-year survey 
at NWSR between 2000 and 2004 showed Steller sea lion numbers ranging 
from 175 to 354 in July (M. Lowry, NMFS/SWFSC, unpubl. data). The 
Society presumes that winter use of NWSR by Steller sea lion to be 
minimal, due to inundation of the natural portion of the island by 
large swells.
    For the 2010 season, the Society reported that no Steller sea lions 
were present in the vicinity of Northwest Seal Rock during restoration 
activities (SGRLPS, 2010). Based on the monitoring report for the 2011 
season, the maximum numbers of Steller sea lions present during the 
April and November 2011, work sessions was 2 and 150 animals, 
respectively (SGRLPS, 2012). During the 2012 season, the Society did 
not observe any Steller sea lions present on Northwest Seal Rock during 
restoration activities. The Society did not conduct any operations for 
the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.

California Sea Lion

    The estimated population of the U.S. stock of California sea lion 
is approximately 296,750 animals and the current maximum population 
growth rate is 12 percent (Carretta et. al., 2015).
    California sea lion breeding areas are on islands located in 
southern California, in western Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf 
of California. During the breeding season, most California sea lions 
inhabit southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in southern 
California are limited to the San Miguel Islands and the southerly 
Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente 
(Carretta et. al., 2015). Males establish breeding territories during 
May through July on both land and in the water. Females come ashore in 
mid-May and June where they give birth to a single pup approximately 
four to five days after arrival and will nurse pups for about a week 
before going on their first feeding trip. Females will alternate 
feeding trips with nursing bouts until weaning between four and 10 
months of age (NMML, 2010).
    Adult and juvenile males will migrate as far north as British 
Columbia, Canada while females and pups remain in southern California 
waters in the non-breeding season. In warm water (El Ni[ntilde]o) 
years, some females range as far north as Washington and Oregon, 
presumably following prey.
    Crescent Coastal Research (CCR) conducted a three-year (1998-2000) 
survey of the wildlife species on NWSR for the Society. They reported 
that counts of California sea lions on NWSR varied greatly (from six to 
541) during the observation period from April 1997 through July 2000. 
CCR reported that counts for California sea lions during the spring 
(April-May), summer (June-August), and fall (September-October), 
averaged 60, 154, and 235, respectively (CCR, 2001).
    The most current counts for the month of July by NMFS (2000 through 
2004) have been relatively low as the total number of California sea 
lions recorded in 2000 and 2003 was 3 and 11, respectively (M. Lowry, 
NMFS, SWFSC, unpublished data). Based on the monitoring report for the 
2011 season, the maximum numbers of California sea lions present during 
the April and November, 2011 work sessions was 2 and 90 animals, 
respectively (SGRLPS, 2012). There were no California sea lions present

[[Page 65205]]

during the March, 2012 work session (SGRLPS, 2012).

Northern Fur Seal

    Northern fur seals occur from southern California north to the 
Bering Sea and west to the Sea of Okhotsk and Honshu Island of Japan. 
NMFS recognizes two separate stocks of northern fur seals within U.S. 
waters: An Eastern Pacific stock distributed among sites in Alaska, 
British Columbia; and a San Miguel Island stock distributed along the 
west coast of the continental U.S. The estimated population of the San 
Miguel Island stock is 9,968 animals with a maximum population growth 
rate of 12 percent (Carretta et al., 2015).
    Northern fur seals may temporarily haul out on land at other sites 
in Alaska, British Columbia, and on islets along the west coast of the 
continental United States, but generally this occurs outside of the 
breeding season (Fiscus, 1983).
    Northern fur seals breed in Alaska and migrate along the west coast 
during fall and winter. Due to their pelagic habitat, they are rarely 
seen from shore in the continental U.S., but individuals occasionally 
come ashore on islands well offshore (i.e., Farallon Islands and 
Channel Islands in California). During the breeding season, 
approximately 74 percent of the worldwide population inhabits the 
Pribilof Islands in Alaska, with the remaining animals spread 
throughout the North Pacific Ocean (Lander and Kajimura, 1982).
    CCR observed one male northern fur seal on Northwest Seal Rock in 
October, 1998 (CCR, 2001). It is possible that a few animals may use 
the island more often that indicated by the CCR surveys, if they were 
mistaken for other otariid species(i.e., eared seals or fur seals and 
sea lions) (M. DeAngelis, NMFS, pers. comm.).
    For the 2010, 2011, and 2012 work seasons, the Society has not 
observed any northern fur seals present on Northwest Seal Rock during 
restoration activities (SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012).

Pacific Harbor Seal

    The estimated population of the California stock of Pacific harbor 
seals is approximately 30,196 animals (Carretta et. al., 2015). There 
is no current estimate of abundance available for the Oregon/Washington 
stock (Carretta et. al., 2015).
    The animals inhabit near-shore coastal and estuarine areas from 
Baja California, Mexico, to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Pacific 
harbor seals consist of two subspecies: P. v. stejnegeri in the western 
North Pacific, near Japan, and P. v. richardsi in the northeast Pacific 
Ocean. The latter subspecies, recognized as three separate stocks, 
inhabits the west coast of the continental United States, including: 
The outer coastal waters of Oregon and Washington states; Washington 
state inland waters; and Alaska coastal and inland waters. Two of these 
stocks, the California stock and Oregon/Washington coast stock, of 
Pacific harbor seals are identified off the coast of Oregon and 
California for management purposes under the MMPA. However, the stock 
boundary is difficult to distinguish because of the continuous 
distribution of harbor seals along the west coast and any rigid 
boundary line is (to a greater or lesser extent) arbitrary, from a 
biological perspective (Carretta et. al., 2015). Due to the location of 
the proposed project which is situated near the border of Oregon and 
California, both stocks could be present within the proposed project 
area.
    In California, over 500 harbor seal haulout sites are widely 
distributed along the mainland and offshore islands, and include rocky 
shores, beaches and intertidal sandbars (Lowry et al., 2005). Harbor 
seals mate at sea and females give birth during the spring and summer, 
although, the pupping season varies with latitude. Females nurse their 
pups for an average of 24 days and are ready to swim minutes after 
being born. Harbor seal pupping takes place at many locations and 
rookery size varies from a few pups to many hundreds of pups. The 
nearest harbor seal rookery relative to the proposed project site is at 
Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, located approximately located 965 
m (0.6 mi) south of Point St. George, and 2.4 km (1.5 mi) north of the 
Crescent City Harbor in Del Norte County, California (USFWS, 2007).
    CCR noted that harbor seal use of Northwest Seal Rock was minimal, 
with only one sighting of a group of six animals, during 20 observation 
surveys. They hypothesized that harbor seals may avoid the islet 
because of its distance from shore, relatively steep topography, and 
full exposure to rough and frequently turbulent sea swells. For the 
2010 and 2011 seasons, the Society did not observe any Pacific harbor 
seals present on Northwest Seal Rock during restoration activities 
(SGRLPS, 2010; 2011). During the 2012 season, the Society reported 
sighting a total of two harbor seals present on Northwest Seal Rock 
(SGRLPS, 2012).

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as 
threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, 
usually range in coastal waters within two km (1.2 mi) of the mainland 
shoreline. Neither CCR nor the Society has encountered California sea 
otters on Northwest Seal Rock during the course of the four-year 
wildlife study (CCR, 2001; SGRLPS, 2010; 2011; 2012)) nor has the 
Society encountered this species during the course of the previous four 
Authorizations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages the 
sea otter and NMFS will not consider this species further in this 
notice.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activities on Marine Mammals

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that the 
types of stressors associated with the specified activity (e.g., 
personnel presence) have been observed to impact marine mammals. This 
discussion may also include reactions that NMFS considers to rise to 
the level of a take and those that we do not consider to rise to the 
level of a take. This section serves as a background of potential 
effects and does not consider either the specific manner in which the 
applicant will carry out the activity or the mitigation that will be 
implemented, and how either of those will shape the anticipated impacts 
from this specific activity. The ``Estimated Take by Incidental 
Harassment'' section later in this document will include a quantitative 
analysis of the number of individuals that NMFS expects the Society to 
take during this activity. The ``Negligible Impact Analysis'' section 
will include the analysis of how this specific activity would impact 
marine mammals. NMFS will consider the content of the following 
sections: Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment; Proposed Mitigation; 
and Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat, to draw conclusions 
regarding the likely impacts of this activity on the reproductive 
success or survivorship of individuals--and from that consideration--
the likely impacts of this activity on the affected marine mammal 
populations or stocks.
    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/
takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., 
painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance 
activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) 
may have the potential to cause the following: Temporary or permanent

[[Page 65206]]

hearing impairment and/or behavioral disturbance (Southall, et al., 
2007).

Potential Effects of Aircraft Presence and Noise on Marine Mammals

    Pinnipeds have the potential to be disturbed by airborne and 
underwater noise generated by the engine of the aircraft (Born, Riget, 
Dietz, & Andriashek, 1999; Richardson, Greene, Malme, & Thomson, 1995). 
Data on underwater TTS-onset in pinnipeds exposed to pulses are limited 
to a single study which exposed two California sea lions to single 
underwater pulses from an arc-gap transducer and found no measurable 
TTS following exposures up to 183 dB re: 1 [mu]Pa (peak-to-peak) 
(Finneran, Dear, Carder, & Ridgway, 2003).
    Researchers have demonstrated temporary threshold shift (TTS) in 
certain captive odontocetes and pinnipeds exposed to strong sounds 
(reviewed in Southall et al., 2007). In 2004, researchers measured 
auditory fatigue to airborne sound in harbor seals, California sea 
lions, and northern elephant seals after exposure to non-pulse noise 
for 25 minutes (Kastak, Southall, Holt, Kastak, & Schusterman, 2004). 
In the study, the harbor seal experienced approximately 6 dB of TTS at 
99 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa. The authors identified onset of TTS in the 
California sea lion at 122 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa. The northern elephant seal 
experienced TTS-onset at 121 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa (Kastak, et al., 2004).
    There is a dearth of information on acoustic effects of helicopter 
overflights on pinniped hearing and communication (Richardson, et al., 
1995) and to NMFS' knowledge, there has been no specific documentation 
of TTS, let alone permanent threshold shift (PTS), in free-ranging 
pinnipeds exposed to helicopter operations during realistic field 
conditions (Baker, Jensz, & Chilvers, 2012; Scheidat et al., 2011).
    In 2008, NMFS issued an Authorization to the USFWS for the take of 
small numbers of Steller sea lions and Pacific harbor seals, incidental 
to rodent eradication activities on an islet offshore of Rat Island, AK 
conducted by helicopter. The 15-minute aerial treatment consisted of 
the helicopter slowly approaching the islet at an elevation of over 
1,000 feet (304.8 m); gradually decreasing altitude in slow circles; 
and applying the rodenticide in a single pass and returning to Rat 
Island. The gradual and deliberate approach to the islet resulted in 
the sea lions present initially becoming aware of the helicopter and 
calmly moving into the water. Further, the USFWS reported that all 
responses fell well within the range of Level B harassment (i.e., 
limited, short-term displacement resulting from aircraft noise due to 
helicopter overflights).
    As a general statement from the available information, pinnipeds 
exposed to intense (approximately 110 to 120 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa) non-
pulse sounds often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily 
(minutes to a few hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007). Per 
Richardson et al. (1995), approaching aircraft generally flush animals 
into the water and noise from a helicopter is typically directed down 
in a ``cone'' underneath the aircraft.
    It is likely that the initial helicopter approach to Northwest Seal 
Rock would cause a subset, or all of the marine mammals hauled out to 
depart the rock and flush into the water. The physical presence of 
aircraft could also lead to non-auditory effects on marine mammals 
involving visual or other cues. Airborne sound from a low-flying 
helicopter or airplane may be heard by marine mammals while at the 
surface or underwater. In general, helicopters tend to be noisier than 
fixed wing aircraft of similar size and underwater sounds from aircraft 
are strongest just below the surface and directly under the aircraft. 
Noise from aircraft would not be expected to cause direct physical 
effects but have the potential to affect behavior. The primary factor 
that may influence abrupt movements of animals is engine noise, 
specifically changes in engine noise. Responses by mammals could 
include hasty dives or turns, change in course, or flushing and 
stampeding from a haul out site. There are few well documented studies 
of the impacts of aircraft overflight over pinniped haul out sites or 
rookeries, and many of those that exist, are specific to military 
activities (Efroymson et al., 2001).
    Several factors complicate the analysis of long- and short-term 
effects for aircraft overflights. Information on behavioral effects of 
overflights by military aircraft (or component stressors) on most 
wildlife species is sparse. Moreover, models that relate behavioral 
changes to abundance or reproduction, and those that relate behavioral 
or hearing effects thresholds from one population to another are 
generally not available. In addition, the aggregation of sound 
frequencies, durations, and the view of the aircraft into a single 
exposure metric is not always the best predictor of effects and it may 
also be difficult to calculate. Overall, there has been no indication 
that single or occasional aircraft flying above pinnipeds in water 
cause long term displacement of these animals (Richardson et al., 
1995). The Lowest Observed Adverse Effects Levels (LOAELs) are rather 
variable for pinnipeds on land, ranging from just over 150 m (492 ft) 
to about 2,000 m (6,562 ft) (Efroymson et al., 2001). A conservative 
(90th percentile) distance effects level is 1,150 m (3,773 ft). Most 
thresholds represent movement away from the overflight. Bowles and 
Stewart (1980) estimated an LOAEL of 305 m (1,000 ft) for helicopters 
(low and landing) in California sea lions and harbor seals observed on 
San Miguel Island, CA; animals responded to some degree by moving 
within the haul out and entering into the water, stampeding into the 
water, or clearing the haul out completely. Both species always 
responded with the raising of their heads. California sea lions 
appeared to react more to the visual cue of the helicopter than the 
noise.
    If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, it is likely that 
a helicopter landing at the Station would cause some number of the 
pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock to flush; however, when present, they 
appear to show rapid habituation to helicopter landing and departure 
(Crescent Coastal Research, 2001; Guy Towers, SGRLPS, pers. com.). 
According to the CCR Report (2001), while up to 40 percent of the 
California and Steller sea lions present on Northwest Seal Rock have 
been observed to enter the water on the first of a series of helicopter 
landings, as few as zero percent have flushed on subsequent landings on 
the same date. In fact, the Society reported that during the November 
2011 work session, Steller sea lions and California sea lions exhibited 
minimal ingress and egress from Northwest Seal Rock during helicopter 
approaches and departures (SGRLPS, 2011).

Potential Effects of Human Presence on Marine Mammals

    The appearance of Society personnel may have the potential to cause 
Level B harassment of marine mammals hauled out on the small island in 
the proposed action area. Disturbance includes a variety of effects, 
including subtle to conspicuous changes in behavior, movement, and 
displacement. Disturbance may result in reactions ranging from an 
animal simply becoming alert to the presence of the Society's 
restoration personnel (e.g., turning the head, assuming a more upright 
posture) to flushing from the haul-out site into the water. NMFS does 
not consider the lesser reactions to constitute behavioral harassment, 
or Level B harassment takes, but rather assumes that pinnipeds that 
move greater than 1 meter (m) (3.3 feet (ft)) or

[[Page 65207]]

change the speed or direction of their movement in response to the 
presence of surveyors are behaviorally harassed, and thus subject to 
Level B taking. Animals that respond to the presence of the Society's 
restoration personnel by becoming alert, but do not move or change the 
nature of locomotion as described, are not considered to have been 
subject to behavioral harassment.
    Reactions to human presence, if any, depend on species, state of 
maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, time of 
day, and many other factors (Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 
2004; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007). These behavioral 
reactions are often shown as: Changing durations of surfacing and 
dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; 
reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain 
behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle 
response or aggressive behavior; avoidance of areas; and/or flight 
responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into the water from haul-outs or 
rookeries). If a marine mammal does react briefly to human presence by 
changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the 
change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the 
stock or population. However, if visual stimuli from human presence 
displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for 
a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be 
significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007).
    Disturbances resulting from human activity can impact short- and 
long-term pinniped haul out behavior (Renouf et al., 1981; Schneider 
and Payne, 1983; Terhune and Almon, 1983; Allen et al., 1984; Stewart, 
1984; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; Mortenson et al., 2000; and Kucey and 
Trites, 2006). Numerous studies have shown that human activity can 
flush harbor seals off haulout sites (Allen et al., 1984; Calambokidis 
et al., 1991; Suryan and Harvey, 1999; and Mortenson et al., 2000) or 
lead to Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi) avoidance of beach 
areas The Hawaiian monk seal avoiding beaches (Kenyon, 1972). In one 
case, human disturbance appeared to cause Steller sea lions to desert a 
breeding area at Northeast Point on St. Paul Island, Alaska (Kenyon, 
1962).
    In cases where vessels actively approached marine mammals (e.g., 
whale watching or dolphin watching boats), scientists have documented 
that animals exhibit altered behavior such as increased swimming speed, 
erratic movement, and active avoidance behavior (Bursk, 1983; Acevedo, 
1991; Baker and MacGibbon, 1991; Trites and Bain, 2000; Williams et 
al., 2002; Constantine et al., 2003), reduced blow interval (Ritcher et 
al., 2003), disruption of normal social behaviors (Lusseau, 2003; 
2006), and the shift of behavioral activities which may increase 
energetic costs (Constantine et al., 2003; 2004).
    In 1997, Henry and Hammil (2001) conducted a study to measure the 
impacts of small boats (i.e., kayaks, canoes, motorboats and sailboats) 
on harbor seal haulout behavior in Metis Bay, Quebec, Canada. During 
that study, the authors noted that the most frequent disturbances 
(n=73) were caused by lower speed, lingering kayaks, and canoes (33.3 
percent) as opposed to motorboats (27.8 percent) conducting high speed 
passes. The seal's flight reactions could be linked to a surprise 
factor by kayaks-canoes which approach slowly, quietly and low on water 
making them look like predators. However, the authors note that once 
the animals were disturbed, there did not appear to be any significant 
lingering effect on the recovery of numbers to their pre-disturbance 
levels. In conclusion, the study showed that boat traffic at current 
levels has only a temporary effect on the haulout behavior of harbor 
seals in the Metis Bay area.
    In 2004, Johnson and Acevedo-Gutierrez (2007) evaluated the 
efficacy of buffer zones for watercraft around harbor seal haulout 
sites on Yellow Island, Washington. The authors estimated the minimum 
distance between the vessels and the haul-out sites; categorized the 
vessel types; and evaluated seal responses to the disturbances. During 
the course of the seven-weekend study, the authors recorded 14 human-
related disturbances which were associated with stopped powerboats and 
kayaks. During these events, hauled out seals became noticeably active 
and moved into the water. The flushing occurred when stopped kayaks and 
powerboats were at distances as far as 453 and 1,217 ft (138 and 371 m) 
respectively. The authors note that the seals were unaffected by 
passing powerboats, even those approaching as close as 128 ft (39 m), 
possibly indicating that the animals had become tolerant of the brief 
presence of the vessels and ignored them. The authors reported that on 
average, the seals quickly recovered from the disturbances and returned 
to the haulout site in less than or equal to 60 minutes. Seal numbers 
did not return to pre-disturbance levels within 180 minutes of the 
disturbance less than one quarter of the time observed. The study 
concluded that the return of seal numbers to pre-disturbance levels and 
the relatively regular seasonal cycle in abundance throughout the area 
counter the idea that disturbances from powerboats may result in site 
abandonment (Johnson and Acevedo-Gutierrez, 2007). As a general 
statement from the available information, pinnipeds exposed to intense 
(approximately 110 to 120 decibels re: 20 [mu]Pa) non-pulsed sounds 
often leave haulout areas and seek refuge temporarily (minutes to a few 
hours) in the water (Southall et al., 2007).

Stampede

    There are other ways in which disturbance, as described previously, 
could result in more than Level B harassment of marine mammals. They 
are most likely to be consequences of stampeding, a potentially 
dangerous occurrence in which large numbers of animals succumb to mass 
panic and rush away from a stimulus. These situations are: (1) Falling 
when entering the water at high-relief locations; (2) extended 
separation of mothers and pups; and (3) crushing of pups by large males 
during a stampede. However, NMFS does not expect any of these scenarios 
to occur at Northwest Seal Rock. There is the risk of injury if animals 
stampede towards shorelines with precipitous relief (e.g., cliffs). 
However, there are no cliffs on Northwest Seal Rock. The haulout sites 
consist of ridges with unimpeded and non-obstructive access to the 
water. If disturbed, the small number of hauled-out adult animals may 
move toward the water without risk of encountering barriers or hazards 
that would otherwise prevent them from leaving the area. Moreover, the 
proposed area would not be crowded with large numbers of Steller sea 
lions, further eliminating the possibility of potentially injurious 
mass movements of animals attempting to vacate the haulout. Thus, in 
this case, NMFS considers the risk of injury, serious injury, or death 
to hauled-out animals as very low.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    The only habitat modification associated with the proposed activity 
is the restoration of a light station which would occur on the upper 
levels of Northwest Seal Rock which are not used by marine mammals. 
Thus, NMFS does not expect that the proposed activity would have any 
effects on marine mammal habitat and NMFS expects that there will be no 
long- or short-term physical impacts to pinniped habitat on Northwest 
Seal Rock.

[[Page 65208]]

    The Society would remove all waste, discarded materials and 
equipment from the island after each visit. The proposed activities 
will not result in any permanent impact on habitats used by marine 
mammals, including prey species and foraging habitat. The main impact 
associated with the proposed activity will be temporarily elevated 
noise levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals (i.e., 
the potential for temporary abandonment of the site), previously 
discussed in this notice.
    NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed restoration activities 
would result in any permanent effects on the habitats used by the 
marine mammals in the proposed area, including the food sources they 
use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). Based on the preceding discussion, 
NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activity would have any 
habitat-related effects that could cause significant or long-term 
consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations.

Proposed 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 on the availability of such species 
or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant).
    Time and Frequency: The Society would conduct restoration 
activities at maximum of once per month between November 27, 2015, 
through November 26, 2016. Each restoration session would last no more 
than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon would occur only in 
conjunction with restoration activities. The Society would not conduct 
restoration activities between May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016.
    Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques: The Society would ensure 
that its helicopter approach patterns to the Station and timing 
techniques do not disturb marine mammals as most practicable. To the 
extent possible, the helicopter should approach Northwest Seal Rock 
when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on 
Northwest Seal Rock.
    Since the most severe impacts (stampede) precede rapid and direct 
helicopter approaches, the Society's initial approach to the Station 
must be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 
800-1,000 ft, or 244-305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter 
shall circle lower, and approach from area with the lowest pinniped 
density. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) the Society 
cannot conduct these types of helicopter approach and timing 
techniques, they must postpone the restoration and maintenance 
activities for that day.
    Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact with People on Island: The 
Society would instruct its members and restoration crews to avoid 
making unnecessary noise and not expose themselves visually to 
pinnipeds around the base of the Station. Although CCR reported no 
impacts from these activities in the 2001 CCR study, it is relatively 
simple for the Society to avoid this potential impact. The door to the 
lower platform (which is used at times by pinnipeds) shall remain 
closed and barricaded to all tourists and other personnel.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated the Society's proposed mitigation 
measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of 
affecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal 
species and stocks and their habitat. The 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 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 vessel or 
visual presence that NMFS expects 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 exposed to vessel 
or visual presence that NMFS expects 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 vessel or 
visual presence that NMFS expects 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 the Society's proposed measures, NMFS 
has preliminarily 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.

Proposed Monitoring

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization for an activity, 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS 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 Authorizations must include the suggested 
means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will 
result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking 
or impacts on populations of marine mammals that NMFS expects to be 
present in the proposed action area.
    The Society submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan in section 13 
of their Authorization application. NMFS or the Society may modify or 
supplement the plan based on comments or new information received from 
the public during the public comment period.
    Monitoring measures prescribed by NMFS should accomplish one or 
more of the following general goals:

[[Page 65209]]

    1. An increase in our understanding of the likely occurrence of 
marine mammal species in the vicinity of the action, (i.e., presence, 
abundance, distribution, and/or density of species).
    2. An increase in our understanding of the nature, scope, or 
context of the likely exposure of marine mammal species to any of the 
potential stressor(s) associated with the action (e.g., sound or visual 
stimuli), through better understanding of one or more of the following: 
The action itself and its environment (e.g., sound source 
characterization, propagation, and ambient noise levels); the affected 
species (e.g., life history or dive pattern); the likely co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action (in whole or part) associated 
with specific adverse effects; and/or the likely biological or 
behavioral context of exposure to the stressor for the marine mammal 
(e.g., age class of exposed animals or known pupping, calving or 
feeding areas).
    3. An increase in our understanding of how individual marine 
mammals respond (behaviorally or physiologically) to the specific 
stressors associated with the action (in specific contexts, where 
possible, e.g., at what distance or received level).
    4. An increase in our understanding of how anticipated individual 
responses, to individual stressors or anticipated combinations of 
stressors, may impact either: The long-term fitness and survival of an 
individual; or the population, species, or stock (e.g. through effects 
on annual rates of recruitment or survival).
    5. An increase in our understanding of how the activity affects 
marine mammal habitat, such as through effects on prey sources or 
acoustic habitat (e.g., through characterization of longer-term 
contributions of multiple sound sources to rising ambient noise levels 
and assessment of the potential chronic effects on marine mammals).
    6. An increase in understanding of the impacts of the activity on 
marine mammals in combination with the impacts of other anthropogenic 
activities or natural factors occurring in the region.
    7. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of 
mitigation and monitoring measures.
    8. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals 
(through improved technology or methodology), both specifically within 
the safety zone (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the 
mitigation) and in general, to better achieve the above goals.
    As part of its Authorization application, the Society proposes to 
sponsor marine mammal monitoring, in order to implement the mitigation 
measures that require real-time monitoring, and to satisfy the 
monitoring requirements of the proposed Authorization. These include:
    At least once during the period between November 27, 2015 through 
November 26, 2016, a qualified biologist shall be present during all 
three workdays at the Station. The qualified biologist hired will be 
subject to approval by us and they shall document use of the island by 
the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, 
numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to 
potential disturbances.
    Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of 
documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using 
the project site during human activity periods. The Society should 
complete aerial photo coverage of the island from the same helicopter 
used to transport the Society's personnel to the island during 
restoration trips. The Society would take photographs of all marine 
mammals hauled out on the island at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 
ft) by a skilled photographer, prior to the first landing on each visit 
included in the monitoring program. Photographic documentation of 
marine mammals present at the end of each three-day work session shall 
also be made for a before and after comparison. These photographs will 
be forwarded to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal 
species. Data shall be provided to us in the form of a report with a 
data table, any other significant observations related to marine 
mammals, and a report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The 
original photographs can be made available to us or other marine mammal 
experts for inspection and further analysis.
    Proposed monitoring requirements in relation to the Society's 
proposed activities would include species counts, numbers of observed 
disturbances, and descriptions of the disturbance behaviors during the 
restoration activities, including location, date, and time of the 
event. In addition, the Society would record observations regarding the 
number and species of any marine mammals either observed in the water 
or hauled out.
    The Society can add to the knowledge of pinnipeds in the proposed 
action area by noting observations of: (1) Unusual behaviors, numbers, 
or distributions of pinnipeds, such that any potential follow-up 
research can be conducted by the appropriate personnel; (2) tag-bearing 
carcasses of pinnipeds, allowing transmittal of the information to 
appropriate agencies and personnel; and (3) rare or unusual species of 
marine mammals for agency follow-up.
    If at any time injury, serious injury, or mortality of the species 
for which take is authorized should occur, or if take of any kind of 
any other marine mammal occurs, and such action may be a result of the 
Society's activities, the Society would suspend survey activities and 
contact NMFS immediately to determine how best to proceed to ensure 
that another injury or death does not occur and to ensure that the 
applicant remains in compliance with the MMPA.

Summary of Previous Monitoring

    The Society complied with the mitigation and monitoring required 
under the previous authorizations (2010-2013). They did not conduct any 
operations for the 2013 season. However, in compliance with the 2012 
Authorization, the Society submitted a final report on the activities 
at the Station, covering the period of February 15, 2012 through April 
30, 2012. During the effective dates of the 2012 IHA, the Society 
conducted one work session in March, 2012. The Society's aircraft 
operations and restoration activities on NWSR did not exceed the 
activity levels analyzed under the 2012 authorization. During the March 
2012 work session, the Society observed two harbor seals hauled out on 
Northwest Seal Rock. Both animals (a juvenile and an adult) departed 
the rock, entered the water, and did not return to the Station during 
the duration of the activities.

Proposed Reporting

    The Society would submit a draft report to NMFS' Office of 
Protected Resources no later than 90 days after the expiration of the 
proposed Authorization, if issued. The report will include a summary of 
the information gathered pursuant to the monitoring requirements set 
forth in the proposed Authorization. The Society will submit a final 
report to the NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources within 30 
days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft report. If the 
Society receives no comments from NMFS on the report, NMFS will 
consider the draft report to be the final report.
    The report will describe the operations conducted and sightings of 
marine mammals near the proposed project. The report will provide full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring. The report will provide:

[[Page 65210]]

    1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all 
research activities.
    2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed 
to human presence associated with the Society's activities.
    4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full 
documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all 
monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, 
or mortality (e.g., stampede), Society personnel shall immediately 
cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to 
the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional 
Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264. The report must include the 
following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Description and location of the incident (including water 
depth, if applicable);
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    The Society shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We will work with the 
Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Society may not 
resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or 
telephone.
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next 
paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional 
Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264. The report must include the 
same information identified in the paragraph above this section. 
Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the 
incident. NMFS would work with the Society to determine whether 
modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the 
incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western 
Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264 within 24 hours of the 
discovery. Society personnel will provide photographs or video footage 
(if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting 
to us. The Society can continue their survey activities while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment].
    All anticipated takes would be by Level B harassment, involving 
temporary changes in behavior. NMFS expects that the proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures would minimize the possibility of 
injurious or lethal takes. NMFS considers the potential for take by 
injury, serious injury, or mortality as remote. NMFS expects that the 
presence of Society personnel could disturb of animals hauled out on 
Northwest Seal Rock and that the animals may alter their behavior or 
attempt to move away from the Society's personnel.
    As discussed earlier, NMFS considers an animal to have been 
harassed if it moved greater than 1 m (3.3 ft) in response to the 
Society's presence or if the animal was already moving and changed 
direction and/or speed, or if the animal flushed into the water. NMFS 
does not consider animals that became alert without such movements as 
harassed.
    Based on the Society's previous monitoring reports, NMFS estimates 
that approximately 960 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying 
the maximum number California sea lions present on NWSR (160) by 6 
months of the restoration and maintenance activities), 172 Steller sea 
lions (NMFS' estimate of the maximum number of Steller sea lions that 
could be present on NWSR with a 95-percent confidence interval), 36 
Pacific harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of 
harbor seals present on NWSR (6) by 6 months), and 6 northern fur seals 
(calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals 
present on NWSR (1) by 6 months) could be potentially affected by Level 
B behavioral harassment over the course of the Authorization. NMFS 
bases these estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be 
affected on consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be 
disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations 
during the course of the activity. These incidental harassment take 
numbers represent approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of 
California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller 
sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, 
and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. 
However, actual take may be slightly less if animals decide to haul out 
at a different location for the day or if animals are foraging at the 
time of the survey activities.
    Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that 
some pinnipeds will avoid the area, NMFS does not expect any injury or 
mortality to pinnipeds to occur and NMFS has not authorized take by 
Level A harassment for this proposed activity.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

    The Society would share observations and counts of marine mammals 
and all observed disturbances to the appropriate state and federal 
agencies at the conclusion of the survey.

[[Page 65211]]

Analysis and Preliminary Determinations

Negligible Impact

    Negligible impact is ``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. 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 considers other 
factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, 
duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive 
time or location, migration), as well as the number and nature of 
estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated 
mortalities, and effects on habitat.
    Although the Society's survey activities may disturb a small number 
of marine mammals hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock, NMFS expects those 
impacts to occur to a small, localized group of animals for a limited 
duration (e.g., six hours in one day). Marine mammals would likely 
become alert or, at most, flush into the water in reaction to the 
presence of the Society's personnel during the proposed activities. 
Disturbance will be limited to a short duration, allowing marine 
mammals to reoccupy Northwest Seal Rock within a short amount of time. 
Thus, the proposed action is unlikely to result in long-term impacts 
such as permanent abandonment of the area because of the availability 
of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and 
visual disturbances from the restoration activities and helicopter 
operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the 
pinnipeds returned Northwest Seal Rock and did not permanently abandon 
haul-out sites after the Society conducted their activities.
    The Society's activities would occur during the least sensitive 
time (e.g., November through April, outside of the pupping season) for 
hauled out pinnipeds on Northwest Seal Rock. Thus, pups or breeding 
adults would not be present during the proposed one-day survey.
    Moreover, the Society's mitigation measures regarding helicopter 
approaches and restoration site ingress and egress would minimize the 
potential for stampedes and large-scale movements. Thus, the potential 
for large-scale movements and stampede leading to injury, serious 
injury, or mortality is low.
    Any noise attributed to the Society's proposed helicopter 
operations on NWSR would be short-term (approximately 5 min per trip). 
We would expect the ambient noise levels to return to a baseline state 
when helicopter operations have ceased for the day. As the helicopter 
landings take place 15 m (48 ft) above the surface of the rocks on 
NWSR, NMFS presumes that the received sound levels would increase above 
81-81.9 dB re: 20 [mu]Pa (A-weighted) at the landing pad. However, we 
do not expect that the increased received levels of sound from the 
helicopter would cause TTS or PTS because the pinnipeds would flush 
before the helicopter approached NWSR; thus increasing the distance 
between the pinnipeds and the received sound levels on NWSR during the 
proposed action.
    If pinnipeds are present on Northwest Seal Rock, Level B behavioral 
harassment of pinnipeds may occur during helicopter landing and takeoff 
from NWSR due to the pinnipeds temporarily moving from the rocks and 
lower structure of the Station into the sea due to the noise and 
appearance of helicopter during approaches and departures. It is 
expected that all or a portion of the marine mammals hauled out on the 
island will depart the rock and slowly move into the water upon initial 
helicopter approaches. The movement to the water would be gradual due 
to the required controlled helicopter approaches (see ``Proposed 
Mitigation'' for more details), the small size of the aircraft, the use 
of noise-attenuating blade tip caps on the rotors, and behavioral 
habituation on the part of the animals as helicopter trips continue 
throughout the day. During the sessions of helicopter activity, if 
present on NWSR, some animals may be temporarily displaced from the 
island and either raft in the water or relocate to other haul-outs.
    Sea lions have shown habituation to helicopter flights within a day 
at the project site and most animals are expected to return soon after 
helicopter activities cease for that day. By clustering helicopter 
arrival/departures within a short time period, we expect animals 
present to show less response to subsequent landings. NMFS anticipates 
no impact on the population size or breeding stock of Steller sea 
lions, California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, or northern fur 
seals.
    In summary, NMFS anticipates that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds 
during the Society's proposed helicopter operations and restoration/
maintenance activities would be behavioral harassment of limited 
duration (i.e., less than three days a month) and limited intensity 
(i.e., temporary flushing at most). NMFS does not expect stampeding, 
and therefore injury or mortality to occur (see ``Proposed Mitigation'' 
for more details). 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 proposed 
monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the 
total marine mammal take from the Society's proposed survey activities 
will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or 
stocks.

Small Numbers

    As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that the Society's proposed 
activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, four 
species of marine mammal under our jurisdiction. For each species, 
these estimates are small numbers (each, less than or equal to one 
percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment 
take numbers represent approximately 0.32 percent of the U.S. stock of 
California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller 
sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, 
and 0.05 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal.
    Based on the analysis contained in this notice 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 preliminarily finds that the Society's 
proposed activities would take small numbers of marine mammals relative 
to the populations of 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 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.

[[Page 65212]]

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    NMFS does not expect that the Society's proposed helicopter 
operations and restoration/maintenance activities would affect any 
species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a 
section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization 
to the Society, NMFS has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 
2010 that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and 
restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. 
The EA, titled ``Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to 
Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft 
Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. 
George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,'' 
evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of 
incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in 
the specified geographic region. At that time, NMFS concluded that 
issuance of an annual Authorization would not significantly affect the 
quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society's activities. In 
conjunction with the Society's 2015 application, NMFS has again 
reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, 
indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment 
associated with the IHA requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and 
NMFS, therefore, intends to preliminarily reaffirm the 2010 FONSI. An 
electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available 
upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes 
issuing an Authorization to the Society for conducting helicopter 
operations and restoration activities on the St. George Light Station 
in the northeast Pacific Ocean, November 27, 2015, through November 26 
2016, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements.

Draft Proposed Authorization

    This section contains the draft text for the proposed 
Authorization. NMFS proposes to include this language in the 
Authorization if issued.

Proposed Authorization Language

    The St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society), P.O. 
Box 577, Crescent City, CA 95531, is hereby authorized under section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 
1371(a)(5)(D)) and 50 CFR 216.107, to harass marine mammals incidental 
to conducting helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance 
work on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) on Northwest Seal 
Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean.
    1. This Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is valid from 
November 27, 2015, through November 26, 2016. The Society may not 
conduct operations from May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016.
    2. This IHA is valid only for activities associated with helicopter 
operations and restoration and maintenance activities (See items 2(a)-
(d)) on the Station on Northwest Seal Rock (41[deg]50'24'' N., 
124[deg]22'06'' W.) in the northeast Pacific Ocean.
    a. The use of a small, compact, 4-person helicopter with two-bladed 
main and tail rotors fitted with noise-attenuating blade tip caps to 
transit to and from Northwest Seal Rock;
    b. Restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and 
glazing) conducted on the Station;
    c. Maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of 
the light system) conducted on the Station; and
    d. Emergency repair events (e.g., the failure of the PATON beacon 
light) outside of the three-day work session.
3. General Conditions
    a. A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of the Society, its 
designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of 
this IHA.
    b. The species authorized for taking are the California sea lion 
(Zalophus californianus), Pacific Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), the 
eastern Distinct Population Segment of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias 
jubatus), and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal 
(Callorhinus ursinus).
    c. The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
species listed in condition 3(b). Authorized take: California sea lion 
(960); Steller sea lion (172); Pacific harbor seal (36); and northern 
fur seal (6).
    d. The taking by Level A harassment, injury or death of any of the 
species listed in item 3(b) of the Authorization or the taking by 
harassment, injury or death of any other species of marine mammal is 
prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or 
revocation of this IHA.
    e. In the case of an emergency repair event (i.e., failure of the 
PATON beacon light) between May 1, 2016 through October 31, 2016, the 
Society will consult with the ARA, Western Region, NMFS, to best 
determine the timing of an emergency repair trip to the Station.
    a. The Western Region NMFS marine mammal biologist will make a 
decision regarding when the Society can schedule helicopter trips to 
the Northwest Seal Rock during the emergency repair time window and 
will ensure that such operations will have the least practicable 
adverse impact to marine mammals.
    b. The ARA, Western Region, NMFS will also ensure that the 
Society's request for incidental take during an emergency repair event 
would not exceed the number of incidental take authorized in this IHA.
4. Cooperation
    The holder of this Authorization is required to cooperate with the 
NMFS and any other Federal, state, or local agency authorized to 
monitor the impacts of the activity on marine mammals.
5. Mitigation Measures
    In order to ensure the least practicable impact on the species 
listed in condition 3(b), the holder of this Authorization is required 
to:
    a. Conduct restoration and maintenance activities at the Station at 
a maximum of one session per month between November 27, 2015, through 
November 26, 2016. Each restoration session will be no more than three 
days in duration. Maintenance of the light beacon will occur only in 
conjunction with the monthly restoration activities.
    b. Ensure that helicopter approach patterns to the Northwest Seal 
Rock will be such that the timing techniques are least disturbing to 
marine mammals. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach 
Northwest Seal Rock when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to 
haul-out on Northwest Seal Rock.
    c. Avoid rapid and direct approaches by the helicopter to the 
station by approaching Northwest Seal Rock at a relatively high 
altitude (e.g., 800-1,000 ft; 244-305 m). Before the final approach, 
the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area where the 
density of pinnipeds is the lowest. If for any safety reasons (e.g., 
wind conditions or visibility) such helicopter approach and timing 
techniques cannot be achieved, the Society must abort the restoration 
and maintenance session for that day.

[[Page 65213]]

    d. Provide instructions to the Society's members, the restoration 
crew, and if applicable, to tourists, on appropriate conduct when in 
the vicinity of hauled-out marine mammals. The Society's members, the 
restoration crew, and if applicable, tourists, will avoid making 
unnecessary noise while on Northwest Seal Rock and must not view 
pinnipeds around the base of the Station.
    e. Ensure that the door to the Station's lower platform shall 
remain closed and barricaded at all times.
6. Monitoring
    The holder of this Authorization is required to:
    a. Have a NMFS-approved biologist present during all three workdays 
at the Station at least once during the period of November 27, 2015, 
through November 26, 2016. This requirement may be modified depending 
on the results of the monthly monitoring reports. The biologist shall 
document use of the island by the marine mammals (i.e., dates, time, 
tidal height, species, numbers present, frequency of use, weather 
conditions, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential 
disturbances.
    b. Record the date, time, and location (or closest point of 
ingress) of each visit to the Northwest Seal Rock.
    c. Collect the following information for each visit:
    i. Information on the numbers (by species) of marine mammals 
observed during the activities;
    ii. The estimated number of marine mammals (by species) that may 
have been harassed during the activities;
    iii. Any behavioral responses or modifications of behaviors that 
may be attributed to the specific activities (e.g., flushing into 
water, becoming alert and moving, rafting); and
    iv. Information on the weather, including the tidal state and 
horizontal visibility.
    d. Employ a skilled, aerial photographer to document marine mammals 
hauled out on Northwest Seal Rock for comparing marine mammal presence 
on Northwest Seal Rock pre- and post-restoration.
    i. The photographer will complete a photographic survey of 
Northwest Seal Rock using the same helicopter that will transport 
Society personnel to the island during restoration trips.
    ii. For a pre-restoration survey, photographs of all marine mammals 
hauled-out on the island shall be taken at an altitude greater than 300 
m (984 ft) during the first arrival flight to Northwest Seal Rock.
    iii. For the post-restoration survey, photographs of all marine 
mammals hauled-out on the island shall be taken at an altitude greater 
than 300 m (984 ft) during the last departure flight from Northwest 
Seal Rock;
    iv. The Society and/or its designees will forward the photographs 
to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. The Society 
shall provide the data to us in the form of a report with a data table, 
any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a 
report of restoration activities (see Reporting). The Society will make 
available the original photographs to NMFS or to other marine mammal 
experts for inspection and further analysis.
7. Reporting Requirements
    Final Report: The holder of this authorization is required to 
submit a draft monitoring report to the Chief, Permits and Conservation 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East West Highway, 
13th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427-8401 no later than 
90 days after the project is completed. The report must contain the 
following information:
    a. A summary of the dates, times, and weather during all helicopter 
operations, restoration, and maintenance activities.
    b. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, 
observed throughout all monitoring activities.
    c. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals that 
are known to have been exposed to visual and acoustic stimuli 
associated with the helicopter operations, restoration, and maintenance 
activities.
    d. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the 
monitoring and mitigation measures of the IHA and full documentation of 
methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring.
8. Reporting Prohibited Take
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the 
authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), 
serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), the 
Society shall immediately cease the specified activities and 
immediately report the incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and the 
Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264.
    The report must include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the 
incident;
     Name and type of vessel involved;
     Vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
     Description of the incident;
     Status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding 
the incident;
     Water depth;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    The Society shall not resume its activities until we are able to 
review the circumstances of the prohibited take. We shall work with the 
Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act 
compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified 
by us via letter, email, or telephone.
9. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal With an Unknown Cause of 
Death
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next 
paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the 
Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding 
Coordinator at (562) 980-3264. The report must include the same 
information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities 
may continue while we review the circumstances of the incident. We will 
work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the 
activities are appropriate.
    The report must include the same information identified in the 
paragraph above. Activities may continue while we review the 
circumstances of the incident. We will work with the Society to 
determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.

[[Page 65214]]

10. Reporting an Injured or Dead Marine Mammal Not Related to the 
Society's Activities
    In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the 
incident to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, at 301-427-8401 and the Assistant Western Regional 
Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264, within 24 hours of the 
discovery.
    The Society's staff will provide photographs or video footage (if 
available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to 
us.
    11. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if 
the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if 
the authorized taking is having a more than a negligible impact on the 
species or stock of affected marine mammals.

Request for Public Comments

    NMFS requests comments on our analysis, the draft authorization, 
and any other aspect of this notice of proposed Authorization for the 
proposed activities. Please include any supporting data or literature 
citations with your comments to help inform our final decision on the 
Society's request for an Authorization.

    Dated: October 20, 2015.
Perry F. Gayaldo,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-27117 Filed 10-23-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P