RIN 0648-BA21, 37576-37578 [2016-13661]

Download as PDF 37576 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 112 / Friday, June 10, 2016 / Notices account late renewal form—15 minutes; QS transfer—10 minutes; QP transfer from QS account to vessel account—8 minutes; vessel account registration request—15 minutes; vessel account online renewal—10 minutes; vessel account late renewal form—15 minutes; QP transfer from vessel account to another vessel account—8 minutes; trawl identification of ownership interest form for new entrants—45 minutes; trawl identification of ownership interest form for renewals— 5 minutes; first receiver site license application form for new entrants—210 minutes; first receiver site license application form for re-registering license holders—110 minutes; mothership permit renewal form—20 minutes; mothership permit change of vessel registration, permit owner, or vessel owner application form—45 minutes; mothership cooperative permit application form—240 minutes; change of mothership catcher vessel endorsement and catch history assignment registration form—45 minutes; mutual agreement exception— 60 minutes; mothership withdrawal— 120 minutes; catcher/processor cooperative permit application form— 120 minutes; QS abandonment request—10 minutes. Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 640. Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $12,475. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES IV. Request for Comments Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record. Dated: June 7, 2016. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2016–13748 Filed 6–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:02 Jun 09, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE614 Endangered Species; File No. 20114 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Department of Lands & Natural Resources, Sea Turtle Program, Caller Box 10007 Saipan, MP 96950 Northern Mariana Islands [Responsible Party: Richard B. Seman,], has applied in due form for a permit to take green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles for purposes of scientific research. DATES: Written, telefaxed, or email comments must be received on or before July 11, 2016. ADDRESSES: The application and related documents are available for review by selecting ‘‘Records Open for Public Comment’’ from the ‘‘Features’’ box on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS) home page, https://apps.nmfs.noaa.gov, and then selecting File No. 20114 from the list of available applications. These documents are also available upon written request or by appointment in the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427–8401; fax (301) 713–0376. Written comments on this application should be submitted to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, at the address listed above. Comments may also be submitted by facsimile to (301) 713–0376, or by email to NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov. Please include the File No. in the subject line of the email comment. Those individuals requesting a public hearing should submit a written request to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division at the address listed above. The request should set forth the specific reasons why a hearing on this application would be appropriate. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Arturo Herrera or Amy Hapeman (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The subject permit is requested under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the regulations SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 governing the taking, importing, and exporting of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR parts 222–226). The applicant requests a five-year permit to research green and hawksbill sea turtles within the U.S. CNMI. The purpose of the project is to characterize the population structure, size class composition, foraging ecology, health, and migration patterns of green and hawksbill turtles in the region. Researchers would be authorized to capture 265 green and 40 hawksbill sea turtles annually by hand-capture and perform the following procedures: Examine; measure; photograph; video; weigh; flipper and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag; temporary carapace mark; oral swab, tissue, and blood sample. 235 green and 20 hawksbill sea turtles will receive scute sampling, while 30 captured hawksbills and 20 greens will have satellite transmitters attached by epoxy. In addition, dead carcasses, tissues and parts may be salvaged from up to 15 greens and 10 hawksbills annually. Dated: June 6, 2016. Julia Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–13713 Filed 6–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–BA21 Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Expansion for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary; Announcement of Public Meetings Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Notice of availability and public meetings. AGENCY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed actions of boundary expansion, and application of existing regulations and management plan actions to new geographic areas of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS or sanctuary). The purpose of this action is to provide sanctuary SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\10JNN1.SGM 10JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 112 / Friday, June 10, 2016 / Notices protection for a number of nationally significant reefs and banks in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico. Five alternatives to implement these proposed actions are analyzed for potential effects on the human environment. NOAA is soliciting public comment on the draft environmental impact statement. DATES: Comments on this draft environmental impact statement will be considered if received by August 19, 2016. Public meetings will be held in the following locations and times as indicated below: (1) Galveston, Texas Date: July 12, 2016 Location: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Office Address: 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551 Time: 5:30–7:30 p.m. (2) Houston, Texas Date: July 13, 2016 Location: Trini Mendenhall Community Center Address: 1414 Wirt Rd., Houston, TX 77055 Time: 5:30–7:30 p.m. (3) New Orleans, Louisiana Date: July 19, 2016 Location: Hilton New Orleans Airport, Segnette Room Address: 901 Airline Drive, Kenner, LA 70062 Time: 5:30–7:30 p.m. (4) Mobile, Alabama Date: July 20, 2016 Location: Five Rivers Delta Center Address: 30945 Five Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort, AL 36527 Time: 5:30–7:30 p.m. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (5) Lafayette, Louisiana Date: July 21, 2016 Location: Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center Address: 646 Cajundome Blvd., Lafayette, LA 70506 Time: 5:30–7:30 p.m. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NOS–2016–0059, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-20160059, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:02 Jun 09, 2016 Jkt 238001 Galveston, TX 77551, Attn: George Schmahl, Superintendent. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelly Drinnen, Education and Outreach Specialist, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary at 409–621– 5151 ext. 102 or via email at fgbexpansion@noaa.gov. Copies of the draft environmental impact statement can be downloaded or viewed on the internet at www.regulations.gov (search for docket #NOAA–NOS–2016–0059) or at http:// flowergarden.noaa.gov. Copies can also be obtained by contacting the person identified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS or sanctuary) currently includes three separate undersea features: East Flower Garden Bank; West Flower Garden Bank; and Stetson Bank. The banks range in depth from 55 feet to nearly 500 feet and provide a wide range of habitat conditions that support several distinct biological communities, including the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. These and similar formations throughout the north central Gulf of Mexico provide the foundation for significant habitat for a variety of species. The combination of location and geology makes FGBNMS extremely productive and diverse, and presents a unique set of challenges for managing and protecting its natural wonders. East and West Flower Garden Banks were designated a national marine sanctuary in 1992 for purposes of protecting and managing the conservation, ecological, recreational, research, education, historic and aesthetic resources and qualities of PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 37577 these areas. Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary by Congress in 1996 (Pub. Law 104–283). The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) is required to periodically review sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary sites continue to best conserve, protect and enhance their nationally significant living and cultural resources. In 2012 NOAA updated and revised the 1991 Flower Garden Banks Management Plan to address recent scientific discoveries, advancements in managing marine resources, and new resource management issues. As a result of this review, the FGBNMS Advisory Council recommended expanding the sanctuary to provide similar protections to additional banks in the north central Gulf of Mexico. On February 3, 2015 NOAA initiated the public scoping process (80 FR 5699) to consider expanding FGBNMS to include additional areas in the Gulf of Mexico. The public scoping period ended on April 6, 2015, during which time three public hearings were held and NOAA received both written and oral comments on the concept of expanding the boundaries of the sanctuary. NOAA received approximately 200 comments during that scoping period, generally supportive of the concept to expand the sanctuary boundary. Some comments were supportive with conditions tied to specific issues such as access to oil and gas resources and fisheries concerns. This information was considered during the development of the range of alternatives in the expansion proposal. The expansion of the sanctuary to include additional nationally significant habitat is supported for a number of reasons. In general, the northern Gulf of Mexico is a heavily utilized and industrialized region, and there is a significant concern about impacts from bottom-disturbing activities (e.g. some activities related to oil and gas exploration and production, fishing with bottom tending gear, vessel anchoring, and salvage activities) on the sensitive biological resources and geological features associated with many reefs and banks in the area. Additional opportunities for research, exploration, and education related to these significant ocean resources is critical for understanding changes occurring in the environment, fostering a stewardship ethic, and developing an understanding of the ecosystem services these resources provide for communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico region. E:\FR\FM\10JNN1.SGM 10JNN1 37578 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 112 / Friday, June 10, 2016 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE NOAA is releasing for public comment a DEIS that analyzes a proposed action to expand the FGBNMS boundary to include additional bank and reef areas in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico and to apply the existing sanctuary regulations and management regime to the expanded area. NOAA developed five alternatives for expanding the FGBNMS boundary. The alternatives range from taking no action to adding as much as an additional approximate 880 square miles. NOAA’s preferred alternative (Alternative 3) is the expansion of the existing boundaries from ∼56 square miles to an area that encompasses ∼383 square miles of waters in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. This alternative would add 15 additional banks ranging from 70 to 120 miles offshore that are comprised of reefs and bottom features that provide habitat for fish and other biological resources that serve as engines of sustainability for much of the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed sanctuary expansion advances NOAA’s mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources and furthers the FGBNMS mission to identify, protect, conserve, and enhance the natural and cultural resources, values, and qualities of FGBNMS and its regional environment for this and future generations. The need for the proposed sanctuary expansion is informed by widespread acute and chronic threats to marine habitat in the north central Gulf of Mexico that can most effectively be addressed through NOAA’s evaluation and implementation of the comprehensive suite of habitat conservation and management actions made possible by FGBNMS expansion to ensure that valuable natural resources are available to future generations of Americans. NOAA is seeking public comment on the DEIS which is available at http:// flowergarden.noaa.gov/ or may be obtained by contacting the individual listed under the heading FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES II. NOAA Proposed Action National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq. Dated: June 1, 2016. John Armor, Acting Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. [FR Doc. 2016–13661 Filed 6–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–NK–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:02 Jun 09, 2016 Jkt 238001 RIN 0648–XE404 and 0648–XE486 Marine Mammals; File Nos. 18978 and 19768 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of permits. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that permits have been issued to the following entities for research on marine mammal parts: File No. 18978: Pam Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, 505 West Northern Lights Blvd., Suite 205, Anchorage, AK 99503; and File No. 19768: Evin Hildebrandt, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Avenue, S3– 221, Worcester, MA 01655. ADDRESSES: The permits and related documents are available for review upon written request or by appointment in the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427–8401; fax (301) 713–0376. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Skidmore or Amy Sloan, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On March 8, 2016 (File No. 18978; 81 FR 12075) and March 11, 2016 (File No. 19768; 81 FR 12879), notices were published in the Federal Register that requests for permits to conduct research on marine mammal parts had been submitted by the above-named applicants. The requested permits have been issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals (50 CFR part 216), the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and the regulations governing the taking, importing, and exporting of endangered and threatened species (50 CFR parts 222–226). File No. 18978 (Miller) authorizes the receipt and export of subsistence hunted marine mammal parts. Researchers will work with Yupik households and local hunters on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, to obtain samples from up to 8 animals per year from ringed seal (Pusa hispida); bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus); and ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) and 9 animals per year from bowhead whale SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (Balaena mysticetus) and spotted seal (Phoca largha). Samples would be measured for contaminant levels to determine marine mammal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers and perfluorinated compounds. No live animals would be affected. The permit is valid through April 30, 2021. File No. 19768 (Hildebrandt) authorizes the receipt of cell lines from other researchers and the creation of cell lines from animal tissues obtained from the stranding network under a regional authorization letter for scientific research purposes. Up to 15 cell lines would be received or created annually from certain cetacean species. These cell lines would be used to study the evolution of endogenous viruses (viruses that integrate into the genome of the host) using the DNA and RNA sequencing. No live animals would be affected. The permit is valid through May 31, 2021. In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), a final determination has been made that the activities proposed are categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. As required by the ESA, issuance of these permits was based on a finding that such permits: (1) Were applied for in good faith; (2) will not operate to the disadvantage of such endangered species; and (3) are consistent with the purposes and policies set forth in section 2 of the ESA. Dated: June 6, 2016. Julia Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–13714 Filed 6–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE619 Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries; Application for Exempted Fishing Permits National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: The Assistant Regional Administrator for Sustainable Fisheries, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\10JNN1.SGM 10JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 112 (Friday, June 10, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 37576-37578]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-13661]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


RIN 0648-BA21

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
for the Proposed Expansion for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine 
Sanctuary; Announcement of Public Meetings

AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean 
Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce (DOC).

ACTION: Notice of availability and public meetings.

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

SUMMARY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has 
prepared a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed 
actions of boundary expansion, and application of existing regulations 
and management plan actions to new geographic areas of the Flower 
Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS or sanctuary). The 
purpose of this action is to provide sanctuary

[[Page 37577]]

protection for a number of nationally significant reefs and banks in 
the northcentral Gulf of Mexico. Five alternatives to implement these 
proposed actions are analyzed for potential effects on the human 
environment. NOAA is soliciting public comment on the draft 
environmental impact statement.

DATES: Comments on this draft environmental impact statement will be 
considered if received by August 19, 2016. Public meetings will be held 
in the following locations and times as indicated below:

(1) Galveston, Texas

Date: July 12, 2016
Location: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Office
Address: 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

(2) Houston, Texas

Date: July 13, 2016
Location: Trini Mendenhall Community Center
Address: 1414 Wirt Rd., Houston, TX 77055
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

(3) New Orleans, Louisiana

Date: July 19, 2016
Location: Hilton New Orleans Airport, Segnette Room
Address: 901 Airline Drive, Kenner, LA 70062
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

(4) Mobile, Alabama

Date: July 20, 2016
Location: Five Rivers Delta Center
Address: 30945 Five Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort, AL 36527
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

(5) Lafayette, Louisiana

Date: July 21, 2016
Location: Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center
Address: 646 Cajundome Blvd., Lafayette, LA 70506
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NOS-2016-0059, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2016-0059, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, 
4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551, Attn: George Schmahl, 
Superintendent.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelly Drinnen, Education and Outreach 
Specialist, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary at 409-621-
5151 ext. 102 or via email at fgbexpansion@noaa.gov.
    Copies of the draft environmental impact statement can be 
downloaded or viewed on the internet at www.regulations.gov (search for 
docket #NOAA-NOS-2016-0059) or at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov. Copies 
can also be obtained by contacting the person identified under FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

    Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, 70 to 115 miles off the 
coasts of Texas and Louisiana, Flower Garden Banks National Marine 
Sanctuary (FGBNMS or sanctuary) currently includes three separate 
undersea features: East Flower Garden Bank; West Flower Garden Bank; 
and Stetson Bank. The banks range in depth from 55 feet to nearly 500 
feet and provide a wide range of habitat conditions that support 
several distinct biological communities, including the northernmost 
coral reefs in the continental United States. These and similar 
formations throughout the north central Gulf of Mexico provide the 
foundation for significant habitat for a variety of species. The 
combination of location and geology makes FGBNMS extremely productive 
and diverse, and presents a unique set of challenges for managing and 
protecting its natural wonders. East and West Flower Garden Banks were 
designated a national marine sanctuary in 1992 for purposes of 
protecting and managing the conservation, ecological, recreational, 
research, education, historic and aesthetic resources and qualities of 
these areas. Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary by Congress in 
1996 (Pub. Law 104-283).
    The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) is required to 
periodically review sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary 
sites continue to best conserve, protect and enhance their nationally 
significant living and cultural resources. In 2012 NOAA updated and 
revised the 1991 Flower Garden Banks Management Plan to address recent 
scientific discoveries, advancements in managing marine resources, and 
new resource management issues. As a result of this review, the FGBNMS 
Advisory Council recommended expanding the sanctuary to provide similar 
protections to additional banks in the north central Gulf of Mexico.
    On February 3, 2015 NOAA initiated the public scoping process (80 
FR 5699) to consider expanding FGBNMS to include additional areas in 
the Gulf of Mexico. The public scoping period ended on April 6, 2015, 
during which time three public hearings were held and NOAA received 
both written and oral comments on the concept of expanding the 
boundaries of the sanctuary. NOAA received approximately 200 comments 
during that scoping period, generally supportive of the concept to 
expand the sanctuary boundary. Some comments were supportive with 
conditions tied to specific issues such as access to oil and gas 
resources and fisheries concerns. This information was considered 
during the development of the range of alternatives in the expansion 
proposal.
    The expansion of the sanctuary to include additional nationally 
significant habitat is supported for a number of reasons. In general, 
the northern Gulf of Mexico is a heavily utilized and industrialized 
region, and there is a significant concern about impacts from bottom-
disturbing activities (e.g. some activities related to oil and gas 
exploration and production, fishing with bottom tending gear, vessel 
anchoring, and salvage activities) on the sensitive biological 
resources and geological features associated with many reefs and banks 
in the area. Additional opportunities for research, exploration, and 
education related to these significant ocean resources is critical for 
understanding changes occurring in the environment, fostering a 
stewardship ethic, and developing an understanding of the ecosystem 
services these resources provide for communities throughout the Gulf of 
Mexico region.

[[Page 37578]]

II. NOAA Proposed Action

    NOAA is releasing for public comment a DEIS that analyzes a 
proposed action to expand the FGBNMS boundary to include additional 
bank and reef areas in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico and to apply the 
existing sanctuary regulations and management regime to the expanded 
area. NOAA developed five alternatives for expanding the FGBNMS 
boundary. The alternatives range from taking no action to adding as 
much as an additional approximate 880 square miles.
    NOAA's preferred alternative (Alternative 3) is the expansion of 
the existing boundaries from ~56 square miles to an area that 
encompasses ~383 square miles of waters in the northwestern Gulf of 
Mexico. This alternative would add 15 additional banks ranging from 70 
to 120 miles off-shore that are comprised of reefs and bottom features 
that provide habitat for fish and other biological resources that serve 
as engines of sustainability for much of the Gulf of Mexico.
    The proposed sanctuary expansion advances NOAA's mission to 
conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources and 
furthers the FGBNMS mission to identify, protect, conserve, and enhance 
the natural and cultural resources, values, and qualities of FGBNMS and 
its regional environment for this and future generations. The need for 
the proposed sanctuary expansion is informed by widespread acute and 
chronic threats to marine habitat in the north central Gulf of Mexico 
that can most effectively be addressed through NOAA's evaluation and 
implementation of the comprehensive suite of habitat conservation and 
management actions made possible by FGBNMS expansion to ensure that 
valuable natural resources are available to future generations of 
Americans.
    NOAA is seeking public comment on the DEIS which is available at 
http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ or may be obtained by contacting the 
individual listed under the heading FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.

    Dated: June 1, 2016.
John Armor,
Acting Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
[FR Doc. 2016-13661 Filed 6-9-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P