Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment on the Issuance of Incidental Take Authorizations in Cook Inlet, Alaska, 66639-66640 [2016-23327]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 188 / Wednesday, September 28, 2016 / Notices Endangered Species Act (ESA) The Navy initiated informal consultation under section 7 of the ESA with NMFS Southwest Regional Office (now West Coast Regional Office) on March 5, 2013. NMFS concluded on May 16, 2013, that the proposed action may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, WNP gray whales. The Navy has not requested authorization of the incidental take of WNP gray whales and no such authorization was proposed, and there are no other ESA-listed marine mammals found in the action area. Therefore, no consultation under the ESA is required. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as implemented by the regulations published by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR parts 1500–1508), the Navy prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the direct, indirect and cumulative effects to the human environment resulting from the pier replacement project. NMFS made the Navy’s EA available to the public for review and comment, in relation to its suitability for adoption by NMFS in order to assess the impacts to the human environment of issuance of an IHA to the Navy. Also in compliance with NEPA and the CEQ regulations, as well as NOAA Administrative Order 216–6, NMFS has reviewed the Navy’s EA, determined it to be sufficient, and adopted that EA and signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on July 8, 2013. We have reviewed the Navy’s application for a renewed IHA for ongoing construction activities for 2016–17 and the 2015–16 monitoring report. Based on that review, we have determined that the proposed action is very similar to that considered in the previous IHAs. In addition, no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns have been identified. Thus, we have determined that the preparation of a new or supplemental NEPA document is not necessary, and, after review of public comments determine that the existing EA and FONSI provide adequate analysis related to the potential environmental effects of issuing an IHA to the Navy. The 2013 NEPA documents are available for review at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ permits/incidental/construction.htm. 18:04 Sep 27, 2016 Jkt 238001 Dated: September 23, 2016. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–23389 Filed 9–27–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) VerDate Sep<11>2014 Authorization As a result of these determinations, we have issued an IHA to the Navy for conducting the described pier replacement activities in San Diego Bay, from October 8, 2016 through October 7, 2017, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XE887 Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment on the Issuance of Incidental Take Authorizations in Cook Inlet, Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; Intent to prepare and Environmental Assessment. AGENCY: The National Marine Fisheries Service announces: (1) Its intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the environmental impacts of issuing annual incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) for the taking of marine mammals incidental to anthropogenic activities in the waters of Cook Inlet, Alaska, for the 2017 season; and (2) its intent to continue an annual cycle for issuing MMPA IHAs in Cook Inlet such that companies planning to submit IHA applications for work to be conducted in Cook Inlet in 2017 do so by no later than October 15, 2016. Further, we refer prospective applicants to our new Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/ guidelines.htm), which should be used in the analysis of auditory effects. DATES: Applicants should submit applications to the Permits and Conservation Division in the Office of Protected Resources by October 15, 2016. ADDRESSES: Applications should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66639 Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing applications is itp.youngkin@ noaa.gov. Applications sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. NMFS is not responsible for applications sent to addresses other than those provided here. Instructions: All applications received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm. 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. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dale Youngkin, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8426. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101 (a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment for a period of one year or less, a notice of proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. The term ‘‘take’’ under the MMPA means ‘‘to harass, hunt, capture or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill.’’ 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).’’ Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of E:\FR\FM\28SEN1.SGM 28SEN1 66640 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 188 / Wednesday, September 28, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Concern for Cook Inlet Beluga Whales Cook Inlet is a semi-enclosed tidal estuary located in southcentral Alaska and home to the Cook Inlet beluga whale, a small resident population that was designated as depleted under the MMPA and listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008. The stock has not recovered, despite implementing subsistence hunting regulations in 1999, and cessation of hunting in 2007. In light of this, and in recognition of the increasing industrial activity and development in Cook Inlet, NMFS has taken a number of actions that reflect the high level of concern for the species, including: (1) On October 14, 2014, NMFS announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act to analyze the effects on the human environment of issuing authorizations for the incidental take of marine mammals from activities occurring in both the state and Federal waters of Cook Inlet, AK, from Knik Arm in the northern part of the Inlet to the southern edge of Kachemak Bay on the southeastern part of the Inlet and to the southern edge of Cape Douglas on the southwestern part of the Inlet (‘‘Cook Inlet beluga EIS’’). NMFS included a 75-day public comment period for the Notice of Intent and conducted a scoping meeting in Anchorage Alaska on November 3, 2014. (2) On November 3, 2014, NMFS convened a multi-stakeholder meeting in Anchorage Alaska: Conservation and Recovery of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales in the Context of Continued Development. The purpose of the meeting was to engage stakeholders and begin exploring Cook Inlet specific solutions for mitigating and monitoring adverse effects on belugas, while also allowing for sustainable development. The first day of the two-day workshop was devoted to background and updates related to the status, ecology, and stressors of Cook Inlet belugas and the standards set by the MMPA and the ESA. The second day included an exploration of measures and strategies to minimize anthropogenic impacts, promote recovery, and increase understanding of impacts, as well as a discussion of these objectives in the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Sep 27, 2016 Jkt 238001 context of ensuring MMPA and ESA compliance for future activities. (3) In May 2015, NMFS unveiled its ‘‘Species in the Spotlight: Survive to Thrive’’ initiative. This initiative includes targeted efforts vital for stabilizing eight species—including the Cook Inlet beluga whale—identified among the most at risk for extinction. The approach involves intensive human efforts to stabilize these species, with the goal that they will become candidates for recovery. (4) On May 15, 2015, NMFS released the Draft Recovery Plan for Cook Inlet Beluga Whale. The population continues to show a negative trend, despite the cessation of subsistence since 2007. Although the exact cause of the continued decline in the absence of subsistence hunting is unknown, the Recovery Plan identifies likely threats, including three threats of high relative concern: Noise, catastrophic events, and the cumulative and synergistic effects of multiple stressors. Threats of medium relative concern include disease, habitat loss or degradation, reduction in prey, and unauthorized take. Due to an incomplete understanding of the threats facing Cook Inlet beluga whales, NMFS is unable to identify with certainty the actions that will most immediately encourage recovery. Until we know which threats are limiting recovery, the strategy of the Recovery Plan is to focus on threats identified as medium or high concern. Announcements The actions summarized above are multi-year efforts that are not likely to result in substantial changes in the short-term. NMFS announces here additional steps to help inform agency decision making in the interim. The preparation of an EIS is a lengthy and intensive process that, in the case of the for Cook Inlet beluga EIS, will likely take two or more years. Accordingly, in recognition of our ongoing concern over Cook Inlet belugas, while the Cook Inlet beluga EIS is being prepared, NMFS will develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the effects of issuing of multiple, concurrent, one-year MMPA authorizations to take Cook Inlet beluga whales. An EA will aid us in more effectively assessing the cumulative effects of multiple activities and to more comprehensively consider a range of mitigation and monitoring measures in the context of the multiple activities. MMPA Authorization Cycle (Application Deadlines) To support NMFS’ efforts to prepare an EA that covers multiple MMPA PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 incidental harassment authorizations, NMFS is continuing an application cycle for incidental harassment authorizations that include Cook Inlet beluga whales for the 2017 open water season. NMFS requests all prospective MMPA incidental harassment authorization applicants for a given open water season to submit their applications by October 15th of the preceding calendar year (unless the activity is scheduled to occur before May, in which case they should be submitted earlier). Further, we refer potential applicants to our new Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/ guidelines.htm), which should be used in the analysis of auditory effects in an application. Receipt of those MMPA applications by October 15th will aid NMFS in the development of a timely and well-informed EA and related MMPA authorizations. Dated: September 22, 2016. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2016–23327 Filed 9–27–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P COMMITTEE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TEXTILE AGREEMENTS Limitations of Duty- and Quota-Free Imports of Apparel Articles Assembled in Beneficiary Sub-Saharan African Countries From Regional and ThirdCountry Fabric Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA). ACTION: Publishing the New 12-Month Cap on Duty- and Quota-Free Benefits. AGENCY: DATES: Effective Date: October 1, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Homer Boyer, International Trade Specialist, Office of Textiles and Apparel, U.S. Department of Commerce, (202) 482–5156. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority: Title I, Section 112(b)(3) of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 (TDA 2000), Public Law (Pub. L.) 106–200, as amended by Division B, Title XXI, section 3108 of the Trade Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107– 210; Section 7(b)(2) of the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004, Pub. L. 108–274; Division D, Title VI, section 6002 of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (TRHCA 2006), Pub.L. 109–432, and section 1 of The African Growth and Opportunity Amendments (Pub. L. 112–163), August 10, E:\FR\FM\28SEN1.SGM 28SEN1

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[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 188 (Wednesday, September 28, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66639-66640]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-23327]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XE887


Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment on the 
Issuance of Incidental Take Authorizations in Cook Inlet, Alaska

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

ACTION: Notice; Intent to prepare and Environmental Assessment.

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

SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service announces: (1) Its 
intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the 
environmental impacts of issuing annual incidental harassment 
authorizations (IHAs) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
(MMPA) for the taking of marine mammals incidental to anthropogenic 
activities in the waters of Cook Inlet, Alaska, for the 2017 season; 
and (2) its intent to continue an annual cycle for issuing MMPA IHAs in 
Cook Inlet such that companies planning to submit IHA applications for 
work to be conducted in Cook Inlet in 2017 do so by no later than 
October 15, 2016. Further, we refer prospective applicants to our new 
Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on 
Marine Mammal Hearing (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm), which should be used in the analysis of auditory 
effects.

DATES: Applicants should submit applications to the Permits and 
Conservation Division in the Office of Protected Resources by October 
15, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Applications should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, 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 applications is 
itp.youngkin@noaa.gov. Applications sent via email, including all 
attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. NMFS is not 
responsible for applications sent to addresses other than those 
provided here.
    Instructions: All applications received are a part of the public 
record and will generally be posted to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. 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.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dale Youngkin, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8426.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101 (a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain 
findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking 
is limited to harassment for a period of one year or less, a notice of 
proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. The term 
``take'' under the MMPA means ``to harass, hunt, capture or kill, or 
attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill.'' 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).''
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting of

[[Page 66640]]

such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 
50 CFR 216.103 as ``an impact resulting from the specified activity 
that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, 
adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates 
of recruitment or survival.''

Concern for Cook Inlet Beluga Whales

    Cook Inlet is a semi-enclosed tidal estuary located in southcentral 
Alaska and home to the Cook Inlet beluga whale, a small resident 
population that was designated as depleted under the MMPA and listed as 
an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008. 
The stock has not recovered, despite implementing subsistence hunting 
regulations in 1999, and cessation of hunting in 2007. In light of 
this, and in recognition of the increasing industrial activity and 
development in Cook Inlet, NMFS has taken a number of actions that 
reflect the high level of concern for the species, including:
    (1) On October 14, 2014, NMFS announced its intent to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act to analyze the effects on the human 
environment of issuing authorizations for the incidental take of marine 
mammals from activities occurring in both the state and Federal waters 
of Cook Inlet, AK, from Knik Arm in the northern part of the Inlet to 
the southern edge of Kachemak Bay on the southeastern part of the Inlet 
and to the southern edge of Cape Douglas on the southwestern part of 
the Inlet (``Cook Inlet beluga EIS''). NMFS included a 75-day public 
comment period for the Notice of Intent and conducted a scoping meeting 
in Anchorage Alaska on November 3, 2014.
    (2) On November 3, 2014, NMFS convened a multi-stakeholder meeting 
in Anchorage Alaska: Conservation and Recovery of Cook Inlet Beluga 
Whales in the Context of Continued Development. The purpose of the 
meeting was to engage stakeholders and begin exploring Cook Inlet 
specific solutions for mitigating and monitoring adverse effects on 
belugas, while also allowing for sustainable development. The first day 
of the two-day workshop was devoted to background and updates related 
to the status, ecology, and stressors of Cook Inlet belugas and the 
standards set by the MMPA and the ESA. The second day included an 
exploration of measures and strategies to minimize anthropogenic 
impacts, promote recovery, and increase understanding of impacts, as 
well as a discussion of these objectives in the context of ensuring 
MMPA and ESA compliance for future activities.
    (3) In May 2015, NMFS unveiled its ``Species in the Spotlight: 
Survive to Thrive'' initiative. This initiative includes targeted 
efforts vital for stabilizing eight species--including the Cook Inlet 
beluga whale--identified among the most at risk for extinction. The 
approach involves intensive human efforts to stabilize these species, 
with the goal that they will become candidates for recovery.
    (4) On May 15, 2015, NMFS released the Draft Recovery Plan for Cook 
Inlet Beluga Whale. The population continues to show a negative trend, 
despite the cessation of subsistence since 2007. Although the exact 
cause of the continued decline in the absence of subsistence hunting is 
unknown, the Recovery Plan identifies likely threats, including three 
threats of high relative concern: Noise, catastrophic events, and the 
cumulative and synergistic effects of multiple stressors. Threats of 
medium relative concern include disease, habitat loss or degradation, 
reduction in prey, and unauthorized take. Due to an incomplete 
understanding of the threats facing Cook Inlet beluga whales, NMFS is 
unable to identify with certainty the actions that will most 
immediately encourage recovery. Until we know which threats are 
limiting recovery, the strategy of the Recovery Plan is to focus on 
threats identified as medium or high concern.

Announcements

    The actions summarized above are multi-year efforts that are not 
likely to result in substantial changes in the short-term. NMFS 
announces here additional steps to help inform agency decision making 
in the interim.
    The preparation of an EIS is a lengthy and intensive process that, 
in the case of the for Cook Inlet beluga EIS, will likely take two or 
more years. Accordingly, in recognition of our ongoing concern over 
Cook Inlet belugas, while the Cook Inlet beluga EIS is being prepared, 
NMFS will develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the 
effects of issuing of multiple, concurrent, one-year MMPA 
authorizations to take Cook Inlet beluga whales. An EA will aid us in 
more effectively assessing the cumulative effects of multiple 
activities and to more comprehensively consider a range of mitigation 
and monitoring measures in the context of the multiple activities.

MMPA Authorization Cycle (Application Deadlines)

    To support NMFS' efforts to prepare an EA that covers multiple MMPA 
incidental harassment authorizations, NMFS is continuing an application 
cycle for incidental harassment authorizations that include Cook Inlet 
beluga whales for the 2017 open water season. NMFS requests all 
prospective MMPA incidental harassment authorization applicants for a 
given open water season to submit their applications by October 15th of 
the preceding calendar year (unless the activity is scheduled to occur 
before May, in which case they should be submitted earlier). Further, 
we refer potential applicants to our new Technical Guidance for 
Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing 
(http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm), which should be 
used in the analysis of auditory effects in an application. Receipt of 
those MMPA applications by October 15th will aid NMFS in the 
development of a timely and well-informed EA and related MMPA 
authorizations.

    Dated: September 22, 2016.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-23327 Filed 9-27-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P