Scoping Meeting for Protective Regulations for Killer Whales in the Inland Waters of Washington State, 57015-57016 [2019-23183]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 206 / Thursday, October 24, 2019 / Notices the issuance of the 2018–2019 IHA for the POK’s Port of Kalama Expansion Project (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018), the Federal Register notice of proposed IHA for the 2018–2019 IHA (83 FR 35220; July 25, 2018), the corrected Federal Register notice of proposed IHA for the 2018–2019 IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018), the Federal Register notice of the issuance of the 2017–2018 IHA (81 FR 89436, December 12, 2016), the Federal Register notice of the proposed IHA (81 FR 15064, March 21, 2016), POK’s application (and 2018 application addendum), and all associated references and documents. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Determinations POK will conduct activities identical to those analyzed in the previous 2018 IHA. As described above, the number of authorized takes of the same species and stocks of marine mammals are identical to the numbers that were found to meet the negligible impact and small numbers standards and authorized under the 2018 IHA and no new information has emerged that would change those findings. The re-issued 2019 IHA includes identical required mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures as the 2018 IHA, and there is no new information suggesting that our analysis or findings should change. Based on the information contained here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has determined the following: (1) The required mitigation measures will effect the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks; (3) the authorized takes represent small numbers of marine mammals relative to the affected stock abundances; and (4) POK’s activities will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this action. National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action with respect to environmental consequences on the human environment. Accordingly, NMFS has determined that the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in CE B4 of the Companion Manual for VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Oct 23, 2019 Jkt 250001 NOAA Administrative Order 216–6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. No incidental take of ESA-listed marine mammal species is expected to result from this activity, and none would be authorized. Therefore, NMFS has determined that consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. Authorization NMFS has issued an IHA to POK for in-water construction activities associated with the POK Expansion Project from October 19, 2019 through October 18, 2020. All previously described mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements from the 2018 IHA are incorporated. Dated: October 18, 2019. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–23184 Filed 10–23–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XW010 Scoping Meeting for Protective Regulations for Killer Whales in the Inland Waters of Washington State National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meeting, request for comments. AGENCY: This notice informs the public of an upcoming scoping process, including a scoping meeting, to solicit SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 57015 public comments on whether, based on best available information, existing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulations and other measures adequately protect killer whales from the impacts of vessels and noise in the inland waters of Washington State and, if not, what actions NMFS should take. To inform comments, information on existing regulations and other protective measures are available at: https:// archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/wcr/ protected_species/marine_mammals/ killer_whale/vessel_regulations.html. DATES: Written or electronic scoping comments must be received by December 23, 2019. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments by sending an email to OrcaRecovery.WCR@ noaa.gov using the subject line ‘‘Comments on Protective Regulations for Killer Whales Scoping.’’ • Mail: Submit written comments to Seattle Branch Chief, Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Building 1, Seattle, WA 98115, Attn: SRKW Vessel Regulation Revision. Comments can also be provided in person during the scoping meeting, listed below. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Grace Ferrara, West Coast Region, National Marine Fisheries Service. Telephone: 206–526–6172. Email: grace.ferrara@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Dates, Times, and Locations The date, time, and location of the scoping meeting is scheduled as follows: Tuesday, November 12th, 2019— Friday Harbor, WA, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Brickworks Event Center, 150 Nichols St., Friday Harbor, WA 98250. Background NMFS listed the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005 (70 FR 69903; November 18, 2005). During the listing of Southern Residents and the development of the 2008 Recovery Plan, vessel impacts were identified as one of the three main threats to recovery (NMFS, 2008). While in the inland waters of Washington State, this population is the target of an active transboundary commercial whale watch industry. In 2009, NMFS concluded that the voluntary guidelines in place to E:\FR\FM\24OCN1.SGM 24OCN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES 57016 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 206 / Thursday, October 24, 2019 / Notices reduce vessel impacts on the whales were not adequately addressing this threat and initiated a formal rulemaking process to establish mandatory regulations. The final rule published in 2011 consisted of two measures: (1) A prohibition on approaching any killer whale within 200 yards, and (2) a prohibition on parking in the path of any killer whale within 400 yards. These regulations apply to all killer whales in the inland waters of Washington State. When NMFS implemented these protective vessel regulations in 2011, we committed to evaluating their effectiveness post-implementation. NMFS completed this evaluation in 2017 and the Technical Memo (Ferrara et al., 2017) can be found here: https:// archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/wcr/ publications/protected_species/marine_ mammals/killer_whales/noaa_ techmemo_nmfsopr-58_dec2017.pdf. Although received noise levels were variable and not significantly lower after the regulations were put in place (Holt et al., 2017), the conclusions of this evaluation indicate that there have been some benefits to having protective regulations in place (Ferrara et al., 2017). An economic analysis showed that, based on a review of multiple indicators for the ecotourism industry, the regulations did not have a negative impact on the commercial whale watch industry, but rather that the industry continued to grow after the regulations were put in place (Industrial Economics, 2015). These results indicate that additional protective measures could provide a greater biological benefit to the whales without necessarily harming the commercial whale watch industry. Since the implementation of the 2011 vessel regulations, NMFS has continued to participate in efforts to develop and receive public input for protective measures to reduce vessel impacts on killer whales in Washington’s inland waters. NMFS has partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to enforce the regulations, providing funding through three ESA grants from 2013 to the present to expand WDFW’s involvement in protecting Southern Resident killer whales. A killer whale protection workshop held by NMFS in 2013 brought scientists, enforcement officers, non-governmental organizations, industry, and members of the public together to review existing protections for the whales as well as the role of monitoring, enforcement of boater education efforts, identify data gaps, and provide an opportunity for stakeholder input on next steps to address vessel effects on killer whales. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:34 Oct 23, 2019 Jkt 250001 In late 2016, NMFS received a petition to establish a Whale Protection Zone (WPZ) on the west side of San Juan Island. In response to that petition, NMFS sought public comment and, during a 90-day comment period in 2017, members of the public, local and state government, federal agencies, tribal organizations, NGOs, and industry submitted comments on the proposed WPZ design as well as protected areas for Southern Residents in general. NMFS also engaged in broader efforts to study and develop measures to reduce vessel impacts. In March 2018, the Washington State Governor established the Southern Resident Orca Task Force to identify immediate actions to benefit Southern Residents as well as develop a long-term action plan for recovery. NMFS serves on this Task Force as well as in its Vessel Working Group. In its first year, the Task Force made 12 recommendations to fulfill the goal of reducing disturbance from vessels to Southern Residents. The full list of recommendations can be found here: https://www.governor.wa.gov/ sites/default/files/OrcaTaskForce_ reportandrecommendations_ 11.16.18.pdf. Several of these recommendations were taken up by the Washington State legislature in 2019, including the recommendations to increase the approach distance and establish a go-slow zone around Southern Residents. Since 2017 NMFS has also served on the Advisory Working Group and the Acoustic Technical Committee for a voluntary slow-down trial, called ECHO, for piloted vessels transiting through Haro Strait. This trial has provided valuable insight into the impact of reducing the speed of large ships on the ambient noise level in an important foraging area for Southern Resident killer whales, as well as the impact of displacing vessel traffic away from an area frequented by Southern Residents. When compared to the pretrial period, the acoustic intensity of ambient noise in the area of the west coast of San Juan Island was reduced by as much as 44 percent (corresponding to a 2.5 DB reduction in media sound pressure level) when vessel slowed down through the Strait (Joy et al., 2019). Results of the lateral displacement trials are pending. Public Comments This scoping process aims to gather input regarding the need to revise the existing regulations, the scope of actions to be proposed for any rulemaking, the development of alternatives to that would be analyzed in the NEPA analysis, and the potential impact of PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 management actions. NMFS is soliciting information from the public, governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, environmental entities, and any other interested parties. In particular, we request information and comments concerning: (1) The advisability of and need for changes to the existing regulations; (2) alternative management options for regulating vessel interactions with killer whales; (3) scientific and commercial information regarding the effect of vessels on killer whales and their habitat; (4) potential economic impacts of management options; and (5) any additional relevant information that NMFS should consider should it undertake rulemaking. In any future rulemaking, NMFS would consider existing voluntary and regulatory efforts to protect the whales, effectiveness and consistency of protective measures, transboundary coordination, the best available scientific information and public input in developing any amendments to the current federal vessel regulations. Comments and suggestions received as part of this scoping process will be considered when developing the alternatives for analysis. Comments that were submitted to NMFS regarding the 2010 Environmental Assessment or previous proposed rule will be considered and do not need to be resubmitted. Authority: 40 CFR 1501.2, 1501.7; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f)) and MMPA section 112(a) (16 U.S.C. 1382(a)). Dated: October 18, 2019. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–23183 Filed 10–23–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XR039 Marine Mammals; File No. 22677 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; receipt of application. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Hawaiian monk seal Research Program (Responsible Party, Charles Littnan), has applied in due form for a permit to conduct research and SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\24OCN1.SGM 24OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 206 (Thursday, October 24, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 57015-57016]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-23183]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XW010


Scoping Meeting for Protective Regulations for Killer Whales in 
the Inland Waters of Washington State

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

ACTION: Notice of public meeting, request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: This notice informs the public of an upcoming scoping process, 
including a scoping meeting, to solicit public comments on whether, 
based on best available information, existing National Marine Fisheries 
Service (NMFS) regulations and other measures adequately protect killer 
whales from the impacts of vessels and noise in the inland waters of 
Washington State and, if not, what actions NMFS should take. To inform 
comments, information on existing regulations and other protective 
measures are available at: https://archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/wcr/protected_species/marine_mammals/killer_whale/vessel_regulations.html.

DATES: Written or electronic scoping comments must be received by 
December 23, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document by either of the 
following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments by sending an email to [email protected] using the 
subject line ``Comments on Protective Regulations for Killer Whales 
Scoping.''
     Mail: Submit written comments to Seattle Branch Chief, 
Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Building 1, Seattle, WA 
98115, Attn: SRKW Vessel Regulation Revision.
    Comments can also be provided in person during the scoping meeting, 
listed below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Grace Ferrara, West Coast Region, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Telephone: 206-526-6172. Email: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Dates, Times, and Locations

    The date, time, and location of the scoping meeting is scheduled as 
follows:
    Tuesday, November 12th, 2019--Friday Harbor, WA, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., 
Brickworks Event Center, 150 Nichols St., Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

Background

    NMFS listed the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population 
segment as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005 
(70 FR 69903; November 18, 2005). During the listing of Southern 
Residents and the development of the 2008 Recovery Plan, vessel impacts 
were identified as one of the three main threats to recovery (NMFS, 
2008). While in the inland waters of Washington State, this population 
is the target of an active transboundary commercial whale watch 
industry. In 2009, NMFS concluded that the voluntary guidelines in 
place to

[[Page 57016]]

reduce vessel impacts on the whales were not adequately addressing this 
threat and initiated a formal rulemaking process to establish mandatory 
regulations. The final rule published in 2011 consisted of two 
measures: (1) A prohibition on approaching any killer whale within 200 
yards, and (2) a prohibition on parking in the path of any killer whale 
within 400 yards. These regulations apply to all killer whales in the 
inland waters of Washington State.
    When NMFS implemented these protective vessel regulations in 2011, 
we committed to evaluating their effectiveness post-implementation. 
NMFS completed this evaluation in 2017 and the Technical Memo (Ferrara 
et al., 2017) can be found here: https://archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/wcr/publications/protected_species/marine_mammals/killer_whales/noaa_techmemo_nmfsopr-58_dec2017.pdf. Although received noise levels 
were variable and not significantly lower after the regulations were 
put in place (Holt et al., 2017), the conclusions of this evaluation 
indicate that there have been some benefits to having protective 
regulations in place (Ferrara et al., 2017). An economic analysis 
showed that, based on a review of multiple indicators for the 
ecotourism industry, the regulations did not have a negative impact on 
the commercial whale watch industry, but rather that the industry 
continued to grow after the regulations were put in place (Industrial 
Economics, 2015). These results indicate that additional protective 
measures could provide a greater biological benefit to the whales 
without necessarily harming the commercial whale watch industry.
    Since the implementation of the 2011 vessel regulations, NMFS has 
continued to participate in efforts to develop and receive public input 
for protective measures to reduce vessel impacts on killer whales in 
Washington's inland waters. NMFS has partnered with the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to enforce the regulations, 
providing funding through three ESA grants from 2013 to the present to 
expand WDFW's involvement in protecting Southern Resident killer 
whales. A killer whale protection workshop held by NMFS in 2013 brought 
scientists, enforcement officers, non-governmental organizations, 
industry, and members of the public together to review existing 
protections for the whales as well as the role of monitoring, 
enforcement of boater education efforts, identify data gaps, and 
provide an opportunity for stakeholder input on next steps to address 
vessel effects on killer whales. In late 2016, NMFS received a petition 
to establish a Whale Protection Zone (WPZ) on the west side of San Juan 
Island. In response to that petition, NMFS sought public comment and, 
during a 90-day comment period in 2017, members of the public, local 
and state government, federal agencies, tribal organizations, NGOs, and 
industry submitted comments on the proposed WPZ design as well as 
protected areas for Southern Residents in general.
    NMFS also engaged in broader efforts to study and develop measures 
to reduce vessel impacts. In March 2018, the Washington State Governor 
established the Southern Resident Orca Task Force to identify immediate 
actions to benefit Southern Residents as well as develop a long-term 
action plan for recovery. NMFS serves on this Task Force as well as in 
its Vessel Working Group. In its first year, the Task Force made 12 
recommendations to fulfill the goal of reducing disturbance from 
vessels to Southern Residents. The full list of recommendations can be 
found here: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/OrcaTaskForce_reportandrecommendations_11.16.18.pdf. Several of these 
recommendations were taken up by the Washington State legislature in 
2019, including the recommendations to increase the approach distance 
and establish a go-slow zone around Southern Residents.
    Since 2017 NMFS has also served on the Advisory Working Group and 
the Acoustic Technical Committee for a voluntary slow-down trial, 
called ECHO, for piloted vessels transiting through Haro Strait. This 
trial has provided valuable insight into the impact of reducing the 
speed of large ships on the ambient noise level in an important 
foraging area for Southern Resident killer whales, as well as the 
impact of displacing vessel traffic away from an area frequented by 
Southern Residents. When compared to the pre-trial period, the acoustic 
intensity of ambient noise in the area of the west coast of San Juan 
Island was reduced by as much as 44 percent (corresponding to a 2.5 DB 
reduction in media sound pressure level) when vessel slowed down 
through the Strait (Joy et al., 2019). Results of the lateral 
displacement trials are pending.

Public Comments

    This scoping process aims to gather input regarding the need to 
revise the existing regulations, the scope of actions to be proposed 
for any rulemaking, the development of alternatives to that would be 
analyzed in the NEPA analysis, and the potential impact of management 
actions. NMFS is soliciting information from the public, governmental 
agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, environmental 
entities, and any other interested parties. In particular, we request 
information and comments concerning: (1) The advisability of and need 
for changes to the existing regulations; (2) alternative management 
options for regulating vessel interactions with killer whales; (3) 
scientific and commercial information regarding the effect of vessels 
on killer whales and their habitat; (4) potential economic impacts of 
management options; and (5) any additional relevant information that 
NMFS should consider should it undertake rulemaking. In any future 
rulemaking, NMFS would consider existing voluntary and regulatory 
efforts to protect the whales, effectiveness and consistency of 
protective measures, transboundary coordination, the best available 
scientific information and public input in developing any amendments to 
the current federal vessel regulations.
    Comments and suggestions received as part of this scoping process 
will be considered when developing the alternatives for analysis. 
Comments that were submitted to NMFS regarding the 2010 Environmental 
Assessment or previous proposed rule will be considered and do not need 
to be resubmitted.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1501.2, 1501.7; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f)) and MMPA 
section 112(a) (16 U.S.C. 1382(a)).

    Dated: October 18, 2019.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-23183 Filed 10-23-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P