Proposed Expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 25359-25378 [2020-08128]

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Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to Information Collection Clearance Officer, Federal Aviation Administration, 10101 Hillwood Parkway, Fort Worth, TX 76177–1524. (j) Related Information (1) For information about EASA AD 2020– 0050, contact the EASA, Konrad-AdenauerUfer 3, 50668 Cologne, Germany; phone: +49 221 89990 6017; email: ADs@easa.europa.eu; internet: www.easa.europa.eu. You may find this EASA AD on the EASA website at https://ad.easa.europa.eu. You may view this material at the FAA, Airworthiness Products Section, Operational Safety Branch, 2200 South 216th St., Des Moines, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 206–231–3195. This material may be found in the AD docket on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA–2020–0347. (2) For more information about this AD, contact Dan Rodina, Aerospace Engineer, Large Aircraft Section, International Validation Branch, FAA, 2200 South 216th St., Des Moines, WA 98198; phone and fax: 206–231–3225; email: dan.rodina@faa.gov. VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 Issued on April 23, 2020. Gaetano A. Sciortino, Deputy Director for Strategic Initiatives, Compliance & Airworthiness Division, Aircraft Certification Service. [FR Doc. 2020–09139 Filed 4–30–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 15 CFR Part 922 [Docket No. 200330–0093] RIN 0648–BA21 Proposed Expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC). ACTION: Proposed rule; request for public comments. AGENCY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposes to expand the boundaries of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) and revise the sanctuary’s terms of designation. The purpose of this action is to expand the sanctuary to include portions of 14 additional reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, representing a 104 square mile increase in area. The existing FGBNMS regulations would be applied to the expanded locations. NOAA is soliciting public comment on the proposed rule. DATES: NOAA will consider all comments received by July 3, 2020. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary will hold three virtual public hearings on the following dates and times: June 8, 2020 1:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m. CDT and 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT and June 11, 2020 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NOS–2019–0033, by: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-20190033, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Written comments may also be mailed to: George P. Schmahl, Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25359 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, Texas 77551. 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 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), 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). To participate in the public hearings, online registration is requested in advance via the following links. If you are unable to participate online, you can also connect to the public hearings using the phone numbers provided below. (1) June 8, 2020, 1:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m. CDT Registration: https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 9162740973626770700 Phone: +1 (213) 929–4232 PIN: 704– 409–034 (2) June 8, 2020, 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT Registration: https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 1668176149101021196 Phone: +1 (213) 929–4232 PIN: 682– 728–246 (3) June 11, 2020, 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT Registration: https:// attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/ 5569362151706075916 Phone: +1 (415) 655–0052 PIN: 486– 551–096 If you would like to provide comment during the hearings, please sign up in advance. Select ‘‘yes’’ during the online registration. The line-up of speakers will be based on your date and time of registration. If you will be participating by phone, please send an email to fgbexpansion@ noaa.gov to add your name to the speaker list. For more details on the public hearings, please visit https:// flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/ expansionnpr.html. Copies of the proposed rule, the DEIS, maps of the proposed expansion areas, and additional background materials can be found on the FGBNMS website at https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ management/expansionnpr.html. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) can also be downloaded or viewed on E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25360 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules the internet at www.regulations.gov (search for docket # NOAA–NOS–2016– 0059 and NOAA–NOS–2019–0033). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: George P. Schmahl, Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, Texas, at 409–356–0383, or fgbexpansion@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: amended to improve administrative efficiencies and increase the precision of all boundary coordinates based on new positioning technology (65 FR 81175, Dec. 22, 2000). Current FGBNMS regulations can be found at 15 CFR part 922, subpart L, and the existing sanctuary management plan may be found at https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ management/2012mgmtplan.html. I. Introduction 2. Need for Action 1. 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 encompasses approximately 56 square miles and includes three separate undersea features: East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Bank. The banks range in depth from 55 feet (17 meters) to nearly 500 feet (152 meters), and are geological formations created by the movement of ancient salt deposits pushed up through overlying sedimentary layers. The banks provide a wide range of habitat conditions that support several distinct biological communities, including the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States and mesophotic coral habitats. These and similar formations throughout the northwestern Gulf of Mexico provide the foundation for essential habitat for numerous marine species, including a variety of fish species of commercial and recreational importance, and several endangered or threatened species, including sea turtles and manta rays. The combination of location and geology makes the sanctuary an extremely productive and diverse ecosystem. NOAA issued a final rule to implement the designation of FGBNMS on December 5, 1991 (56 FR 63634). Congress subsequently passed a law recognizing the designation on January 17, 1992 (Pub. L. 102–251, Title I, Sec. 101). At that time, the sanctuary consisted of two areas known as East and West Flower Garden Banks (56 FR 63634). Among other things, FGBNMS regulated a narrow range of activities, established permit and certification procedures, and exempted certain U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) activities from the sanctuary’s prohibitions (56 FR 63634). Those regulations became effective on January 18, 1994 (58 FR 65664). In 1996, Congress added Stetson Bank to the sanctuary (Pub. L. 104–283). The boundaries of Stetson Bank and West Flower Garden Bank were later The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to designate and protect as national marine sanctuaries areas of the marine environment that are of special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, educational, or aesthetic qualities. Day-to-day management of national marine sanctuaries is delegated by the Secretary to ONMS. The primary objective of the NMSA is to protect nationally significant marine resources, including biological features such as coral reefs, and cultural resources, such as historic shipwrecks and archaeological sites. The mission of FGBNMS is to identify, protect, conserve, and enhance the natural and cultural resources, values, and qualities of the sanctuary and its regional environment for this and future generations. The proposed action responds to the need to provide additional protection of sensitive underwater features and marine habitats associated with continental shelf-edge reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The current jurisdictional regime divides authority among several governmental entities that regulate offshore energy exploration (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)), fishing (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC)), and water quality (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)). This current jurisdictional regime does not provide comprehensive and effective management for the full range of activities that impact the sensitive reefs and banks in the region. For example, BOEM’s prohibitions in the No Activity Zones (NAZs) apply only to anchoring by vessels engaged in development activities and platform services, while anchoring by other vessels remains unregulated. Further, these anchoring regulations in the NAZs apply only on a lease-by-lease basis. Other vessel ground tackle (including anchors, chains, and cables) and marine salvage activities are currently unregulated and have caused significant VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 injury to sensitive biological communities. The areas proposed for sanctuary expansion are recognized as hotspots of marine biodiversity that provide vital habitat for many important species in the Gulf of Mexico region. They are home to the most significant examples of coral and algal reefs, mesophotic and deepwater coral communities, and other biological assemblages in the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, these areas provide important habitat for notable species such as manta rays, sea turtles, and whale sharks, while serving as nurseries for numerous fish species of commercial and recreational importance. As such, most of these areas have also been identified as nationally significant through their designation as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) by the GMFMC and as NAZs by BOEM. These habitats are vulnerable to a variety of known and potential impacts, including large vessel anchoring, marine salvage operations, fishing techniques that may injure benthic habitat (i.e., trawling, bottomtending gear), and certain oil and gas exploration and development activities. These impacts can more effectively be addressed within the expanded areas through the comprehensive habitat conservation and management authorities under the NMSA. The protection of these ecologically significant sites would increase the resilience of marine ecosystems, and enhance the sustainability of the region’s thriving recreation, tourism, and commercial economies. Ultimately, expanding FGBNMS would help ensure that valuable marine resources remain available for the use and enjoyment of future generations of Americans. The proposed sanctuary expansion is the logical outcome of decades of scientific research and growing public recognition of the need for coordinated protection of significant offshore marine places in the northern Gulf of Mexico region. Protecting additional habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico emerged as one of the highest priorities identified during a vigorous public review process of FGBNMS management issues. Subsequently, ‘‘Sanctuary Expansion’’ was incorporated as a discrete action plan in the 2012 revision of the sanctuary’s management plan. The region is heavily utilized for a variety of recreational, commercial, and industrial purposes, and there are ongoing impacts from bottom-disturbing activities, such as large vessel anchoring and marine salvage, on the sensitive biological resources and geological features associated with many reefs and banks in E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules the area. Therefore, pursuant to the NMSA’s purpose to ‘‘facilitate to the extent compatible with the primary objective of resource protection, all public and private uses of the resources of these marine areas,’’ FGBNMS can further resource protection while balancing multiple uses. The proposed action would expand FGBNMS by incorporating portions of selected reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. In doing so, the proposed action would provide management of and protection for nationally significant areas with biological, ecological, and/or structural links to the existing sanctuary, including vulnerable mesophotic and deep benthic habitat sites, while providing important opportunities for research and recovery of resources from observed impacts. These areas contain the most significant examples of mesophotic coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico, including some of the highest known densities of mesophotic corals (colonies per square meter). Many banks in the proposed expansion are also nationally significant, in part, because they have been historically recognized by BOEM and GMFMC, as stated above. II. History of the FGBNMS Expansion Process 1. Management Plan Review NOAA is required by NMSA Section 304(e) to periodically review sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary management continues to effectively conserve, protect, and enhance the nationally significant living and cultural resources at each site. Management plans generally outline regulatory goals, describe boundaries, identify staffing and budget needs, and set priorities and performance measures for resource protection, research, and education programs. Management plans also guide the development of future management activities. The FGBNMS management plan review process began in 2006 with a series of scoping meetings to obtain information about the public’s interests and priorities for FGBNMS management (71 FR 52757; September 7, 2006). Subsequently, NOAA worked with the FGBNMS Advisory Council to prioritize issues and develop appropriate management strategies and activities for the preparation of a draft revised management plan. Protecting additional nationally significant habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico emerged as one of the highest priority issues for the sanctuary during the FGBNMS management plan review process. VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 In 2007, the FGBNMS Advisory Council, using information developed by its Boundary Expansion Working Group (BEWG), recommended a range of sanctuary boundary expansion alternatives. Based on this input, and information obtained through a subsequent public process, NOAA prepared a revised management plan (77 FR 25060, April 27, 2012) that contained six action plans, including one that specifically addressed sanctuary expansion. The Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan outlined a strategy to expand the protected areas to include additional reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and to develop a DEIS to evaluate appropriate expansion alternatives. The recommended expansion alternative, as identified by the FGBNMS Advisory Council in 2007, was included in the Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan. This recommendation included nine additional reefs and banks, encompassing approximately 281 square miles. 2. Boundary Expansion Notice of Intent On February 3, 2015, NOAA published a Notice of Intent to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for expanding FGBNMS boundaries (80 FR 5699). That Notice solicited public input on the range and significance of issues related to sanctuary expansion, including potential boundary configurations, resources to be protected, other issues NOAA should consider, and any information that should be included in the resource analysis. The public scoping period was open through April 6, 2015, during which time ONMS held three public hearings and interested parties submitted both written and oral comments. NOAA received approximately 200 comments during the scoping period. Most commenters were strongly supportive of the concept of sanctuary expansion. In addition to broad general support, some comments expressed conditional support while raising user concerns primarily relating to the potential impact of sanctuary expansion on the offshore oil and gas industry and historic fishing practices. Other commenters recommended that NOAA consider a broader geographical area than the Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan identified, especially in light of the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill and new information that became available since the 2007 FGBNMS Advisory Council recommendation. This information was considered during the development of the expansion alternatives in the DEIS. PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25361 3. Draft Environmental Impact Statement In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the NMSA (NMSA, 16 U.S.C. 1434), NOAA prepared and released a DEIS (81 FR 37576, June 10, 2016). The DEIS considered alternatives for the proposed expansion of boundaries at FGBNMS and application of the existing sanctuary regulations and management actions to the expanded area. The DEIS evaluated the environmental consequences of the alternatives and provided an in-depth resource assessment. The action alternatives in the DEIS would expand the network of protected areas within FGBNMS by incorporating selected reefs, banks, and other features in the north central Gulf of Mexico. The DEIS evaluated five alternatives, ranging from ‘‘no action’’ (maintaining the current boundaries) to one that included a total of 45 discrete boundary units and encompassed approximately 935 square miles. The proposed action discussed in this rulemaking falls within the bounds of the DEIS alternatives as discussed below in part II, section 5 of this proposed rule and in the supplemental information report which is available at the FGBMNS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. The 2007 Advisory Council recommendation (Alternative 2) was included in the range of alternatives. All alternatives were consistent with NOAA’s mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, would further 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,’’ would provide for more comprehensive management and protection of important and vulnerable ecological and cultural resources across the north central Gulf of Mexico, and would provide important opportunities for research and recovery of resources from observed impacts. No significant adverse impacts to the human environment were identified under any alternative considered in the DEIS. NOAA’s preferred alternative in the 2016 DEIS (Alternative 3) sought to expand the existing sanctuary from approximately 56 square miles to approximately 383 square miles, including additional important and E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25362 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules sensitive marine habitat areas in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. This alternative would have applied the existing sanctuary regulations and management actions to the expanded area. The 2016 preferred alternative included 15 reefs and banks (in addition to those contained within the existing 3 sanctuary units) encompassed within 11 discrete boundary polygons. The 2016 preferred alternative would have also modified the existing Stetson Bank boundary and incorporated the existing East and West Flower Garden Banks in a single new sanctuary unit that included an additional feature known as Horseshoe Bank. The preferred alternative also would have established new discontiguous boundaries encompassing seven individual banks (McGrail, Geyer, Sonnier, Alderdice, MacNeil, Elvers, and Parker) and two additional habitat complexes comprising multiple reefs and banks (the Bright-Rankin-28 Fathom complex and the Bouma-Bryant-RezakSidner complex). NOAA developed this alternative based on similar criteria used by the FGBNMS Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) in their 2007 recommendation for boundary expansion, supplemented since that time by information obtained from current research, consultation with other federal and state agencies, and public comment. The 2016 preferred alternative was also informed by the impacts and restoration plans resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and information on biological communities obtained from in situ surveys contributed to the analysis. Evaluation criteria were applied for standardization and quality control. 4. Comments Received on the DEIS a. Public Comments NOAA accepted public comments on the DEIS from June 2016 to August 2016 through https://www.Regulations.gov, by mail, and in person during public hearings in Galveston, TX; Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; Lafayette, LA; and Mobile, AL. Public comments are available for review at https:// www.regulations.gov, docket # NOAA– NOS–2016–0059. NOAA received 1,421 separate comments during the public comment period, including three letter campaigns and one petition, each with multiple signatories, for a total of 8,491 comments. for Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative) and 9 for Alternative 2 (the 2007 SAC Recommendation). The public comments are summarized below, and a comprehensive characterization of public comments will be included in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS). Public comments identified specific geographic locations of concern within the range of proposed alternatives, and additional areas of concern that were not included in the range of proposed alternatives. Comments raised concerns regarding fish spawning aggregations, open water areas between banks, shipwrecks, mesophotic/deepwater coral ecosystems, artificial reefs, sea turtles, corals, commercial fish, sharks, rays, and whales. Comments supportive of the proposed expansion referred to industrial, environmental, and global impacts. Opposing comments cited existing protections for sensitive resources; restriction to use/access; safety, budget, and management concerns; and socioeconomic consequences. b. Agency Consultations and Other Coordination i. BOEM Consultation Pursuant to NMSA Section 304(a)(2)(B)(ii) and through the Cooperative Agency Agreement dated September 2015, FGBNMS consulted with BOEM during the development of the DEIS to evaluate the impacts to the oil and gas industry. After NOAA released the DEIS and in a report dated November 2, 2016, BOEM provided additional analysis of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas affected by Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative) and Alternative 5. In that report, BOEM provided information on: (1) Discovered, contingent and undiscovered oil and gas resource potential beneath proposed expansion areas; (2) rough cost estimates for directional drilling from outside the sanctuary; (3) potential economic loss to the Federal government from a reduction in OCS leasing if affected sanctuary blocks are not leased; (4) identification of currently leased OCS blocks in the expansion area; (5) rough cost estimates to route new pipelines around the expanded sanctuary area; and (6) areas within the proposed expansion beyond what BOEM currently protects. Characterization of Public Comments ii. Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Consultation In support of expansion, 4,579 expressed support for Alternative 5 (the most comprehensive alternative), 1,501 Pursuant to NMSA Section 304(a)(5), ONMS sent a formal letter, dated June 17, 2016, to initiate consultation with VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 GMFMC. NOAA also provided multiple updates at GMFMC meetings over the course of the development of the DEIS and this proposed rule. Sites in the 2016 DEIS preferred alternative (Alternative 3) were analyzed by GMFMC, and in a communication dated November 9, 2016, GMFMC recommended that NOAA use a ‘‘tiered approach’’ for application of fishing regulations within most banks of the expanded sanctuary (see 2, below). The general concept of this approach is based on utilization of areas previously designated by BOEM as NAZs and that are associated with most of the bank features included in the 2016 DEIS Preferred Alternative. The NAZs are defined pursuant to a Gulf of Mexico OCS lease stipulation contained in Notice to Lessees (NTL) No. 2009– G39. The GMFMC recommendations are as follows: (1) Maintain current fishing regulations within existing Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs). East and West Flower Garden, Stetson and McGrail Banks are HAPCs with regulations that prohibit fishing with bottom longline, bottom trawl, buoy gear, dredge, pot or trap, and bottom anchoring by fishing vessels. (2) For other banks in the proposed expansion, establish a ‘‘tiered’’ approach for application of fishing regulations as follows: Tier One—areas within existing BOEM NAZs would be established as ‘‘no bottom tending gear’’ zones, in which only traditional hook and line fishing (including bandit rigs) would be allowed, and anchoring would be prohibited; Tier Two—areas outside the BOEM NAZs but inside FGBNMS boundaries where bottom tending gear and anchoring by fishing vessels with an endorsement (see 3, below) would be allowed, but bottom trawling, traps, and dredges would be prohibited; Tier Three—outside of sanctuary boundaries—no sanctuary restrictions. The GMFMC also recommended establishing a truncated ‘‘no bottom tending gear zone’’ for banks without an NAZ. (3) For those areas of soft sediment outside of the ‘‘no bottom tending gear zone,’’ create an endorsement program to allow anchoring by commercial vessels. This endorsement would require the use of a vessel monitoring system (VMS) and the use of anchor systems equipped with a weak link environmental safeguard. The endorsement would require an education program for operators of commercial vessels and the use of mooring buoys by recreational vessels. E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules (4) Place mooring buoys within the ‘‘no bottom tending gear zones’’ to allow for public access. (5) Alter boundaries for several specific banks. iii. NOAA Fisheries Coordination Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the possession and use of fishing gear with the exception of conventional hook and line gear. Pelagic longline gear is used to target yellowfin tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed sanctuary expansion areas. In an August 2016 letter, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, requested that an exemption for pelagic longline gear be added to the current exemption for conventional hook and line gear in the expanded sanctuary area. c. FGBNMS Advisory Council Review Prior to the release of the DEIS, the FGBNMS Advisory Council reestablished the Boundary Expansion Working Group (BEWG) to provide additional review of NOAA’s expansion proposal and make recommendations to the full Advisory Council. The BEWG consisted of 10 Advisory Council members and was co-chaired by representatives of the Oil and Gas Industry and Commercial Fishing constituent groups. Between July 2016 and May 2018, the BEWG met 21 times, and considered a variety of topics, including a range of boundary and regulatory issues. At the request of FGBNMS and in consultation with the BEWG, beginning in April 2017, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Science (NCCOS) developed an analysis tool to assist the BEWG in their boundary discussions. As part of this analysis, NCCOS synthesized available information on biology, ecology, human use, and management designations for the study area, and created a geodatabase that helped visualize and evaluate various boundary expansion options. The analysis used a geospatial planning software tool known as Marxan, which is designed to help decision makers find solutions to conservation planning issues. A variety of geospatial datasets were included in the analysis, including commercial fishing vessel activity, oil and gas infrastructure, known locations of sensitive biological communities, shipping activity, and existing management zones. The various data components were assigned weights, as determined by the BEWG, to give priority and identify potential outcomes. The analysis focused on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 locations of the BOEM designated NAZs. NAZs are areas within which no operations, anchoring, or structures are allowed for oil and gas operations. These areas are outlined in BOEM’s Western and Central Gulf of Mexico Topographic Features Stipulation Map Package, and further described Notice to Lessees (NTL) No. 2009–G39. The NAZs were developed in the 1970–1980’s to protect the shallowest portion of the reefs and banks (i.e., ‘‘topographic features’’) under consideration for oil and gas development. The focus on the NAZs by the BEWG was in response to concerns raised primarily by the oil and gas industry regarding potential impacts to offshore energy operations from FGBNMS expansion in this portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, the BEWG considered the NAZs as the primary geographically bound characteristic by which to develop recommendations for revisions to the proposed sanctuary expansion boundaries. In April and May 2019, the BEWG adopted a series of recommendations for expansion of 14 of the 15 additional banks proposed in the 2016 DEIS preferred alternative. The BEWG presented its revised FGBNMS expansion boundaries recommendation to the full FGBNMS Advisory Council (SAC) on May 9, 2018, and the recommendation was accepted by the SAC as proposed. 5. NOAA’s Revised Preferred Alternative and Supplemental Information Report Based primarily on the May 2018 recommendation from the FGBNMS Advisory Council, along with input received from public comments, and consultation with the GMFMC and various Federal agencies, NOAA is revising its preferred alternative for sanctuary expansion. The original 2016 DEIS Preferred Alternative would have added 15 banks, for a total of 18 banks, represented in 11 polygons (including 3 multi-bank complexes). This would have resulted in an increase of the existing sanctuary area from approximately 56 square miles to approximately 383 square miles. NOAA’s revised preferred alternative presented in this proposed rule would add 14 banks, for a total of 17 banks, represented in 19 polygons (including 3 banks with multipolygons). This would increase the current sanctuary area from approximately 56 square miles to approximately 160 square miles. NOAA has reduced the size of the expansion areas proposed in the 2016 DEIS preferred alternative, to promote compatibility with users and reduce PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25363 potential economic impacts to the offshore energy industry. The supplemental information report (SIR), which is available at the FGBNMS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document, describes NOAA’s development of the revised preferred alternative. In summary, through the SIR, NOAA evaluated changes to the 2016 preferred alternative. As detailed in the SIR, the revised preferred alternative boundaries are more tightly drawn around the shallowest portions of the geological features of interest, and the new polygons include all of the same reefs and banks that were represented in the 2016 preferred alternative, with one exception, Bryant Bank, which is not included in the revised preferred alternative. Bryant Bank is a small area in the Bouma-Bryant-Rezak-Sidner Bank complex. Moreover, the SIR evaluated new circumstances and information related to fishing activity and oil & gas activity. Ultimately, NOAA determined that the changes reflected in the revised preferred alternative are not ‘‘substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns’’ (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(i)). NOAA further found that the comments received on the 2016 DEIS do not ‘‘constitute significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts’’ (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(ii). As such, NOAA determined that preparing a supplement to the 2016 DEIS is neither required, nor necessary under NEPA. Pursuant to applicable CEQ guidance, NOAA will document the agency’s rationale for revising the preferred alternative and provide updated information on the affected environment in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and related Record of Decision (ROD). NOAA submits that the revised preferred alternative, as presented herein, minimizes the impact to offshore energy exploration and production while providing substantial protection to sensitive marine habitats of national significance and meeting the expansion objectives as identified in the 2012 FGBNMS management plan and 2016 DEIS. a. Additional Consultations i. Executive Order 13795— Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy On April 28, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13795— E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25364 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. The proposed action is subject to the criteria contained within Section 4 of that order, which directs the Secretary of Commerce to refrain from designating or expanding any national marine sanctuary unless the proposal includes a full accounting from the Department of the Interior (DOI) of any energy or mineral resource potential (including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, and any other sources that the Secretary of Commerce deems appropriate) within the proposed area, and the potential impact of the expansion on the energy or mineral resource potential within the area proposed to be designated. On November 6, 2018, NOAA submitted a letter to BOEM, requesting the analysis required by the Executive Order for the revised preferred alternative boundary developed in response to public comment and a recommendation by the FGBNMS Advisory Council described above in part II, section 5 of this proposed rule. On February 25, 2019, BOEM responded with a review of offshore energy and mineral resource potential located within the revised proposed expansion areas. BOEM’s report is available at the Supporting Document section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. The BOEM analysis indicated that the proposed expansion could impact the development of OCS oil and gas resources leading to a potential reduction in Federal revenue from leasing revenue and royalties. BOEM expressed concern that expansion would potentially: (1) Restrict new wells from being drilled in areas that would be inside new sanctuary boundaries, but that are currently outside the existing BOEM-designated NAZs, primarily due to the triggering of the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit discharge restriction; (2) incorporate some sandy and muddy seafloor that BOEM considers to be available for development under current guidelines; (3) make it more difficult and costly for OCS oil- and gas-related activities to occur; and (4) increase costs on leases in an expanded sanctuary, potentially deterring current lease holders from developing oil and gas resources, as well as reducing future leasing within the sanctuary, which could result in an economic loss to the federal government. BOEM’s analysis stated that areas within the proposed expansion boundaries contain approximately 0.11 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMBOE) reserves, 3.86 MMBOE of VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 contingent resources, and 4.50 MMBOE of undiscovered resources. The oil reserves estimated in BOEM’s analysis represent approximately 0.002% of known oil and gas reserves, 0.07% of the contingent resources, and 0.008% of undiscovered resources in the OCS Gulf of Mexico. This is well below the impacts expressed in the 2016 FGBNMS DEIS, in which NOAA estimated that the proposed expansion had the potential to overlap with approximately 0.25% of known oil and gas reserves. BOEM’s analysis of the revised preferred alternative found that the expansion of FGBNMS would affect 65 additional whole or partial OCS blocks (by incorporation into the FGBNMS and/or by distancing requirements for bottom disturbing activity), which contain eight active oil and gas leases. Most of this area (73%) is already located within BOEM-designated NAZs. As an indication of the potential value of leases in this area, BOEM reports that the total amount of bonus bids collected for the eight active lease blocks affected by the preferred alternative for sanctuary expansion from 1972 through 2018 was $97 million. Section 304(c) of the NMSA provides that: ‘‘Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as terminating or granting to the Secretary the right to terminate any valid lease, permit, license, or right of subsistence use or of access that is in existence on the date of designation of any national marine sanctuary.’’ This provision is implemented by National Marine Sanctuary Program Regulations at 15 CFR 922.47, which would apply to the expanded area. Accordingly, anyone who has a pre-existing activity that falls within the ambit of section 304(c) of the NMSA may request certification of that activity by filing a formal application to NOAA within 90 days of the effective date of the final rule to expand the boundaries of FGBNMS. BOEM reports that there are also portions of 57 unleased OCS blocks affected by the preferred alternative for the proposed sanctuary expansion that could experience more restrictive oil and gas activity conditions if they are leased following expansion of FGBNMS. NOAA notes that of this area, less than 27% is included in the proposed sanctuary expansion boundaries, and 61% of that area is already included within BOEM NAZs. Therefore, sanctuary designation will not impact most of the lease block area analyzed by BOEM, and it is unlikely that the affected OCS blocks will be rendered un-leasable in the future. However, in the event that these blocks become unavailable for leasing, or if operators choose not to lease them because of PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Sanctuary designation (e.g. due to the need for directional drilling or relocation), BOEM estimates that there could be a potential loss of revenue to the Federal Government. Under this scenario and, based on a minimum bid amount for the entire unleased acreage, BOEM calculated a potential future cumulative value of $12 million in lost bonuses for leases could be associated with FGBNMS expansion. When considered in context, this amount is less than significant. For example, in the previous 10 years prior to this analysis, approximately $7.7 billion in bonus bids have been collected for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. BOEM reported that if technically and economically feasible, access to the affected oil and gas resources could be obtained through directional drilling technology at a potential total increase in cost of $3.24 million to the oil and gas industry for all future wells impacted by Sanctuary designation. Considering that average offshore well costs range from $10 to $50 million in water depth between 50 and 500 ft (15.2—152 m), with drill depths between 5,000 and 20,000 ft (1524— 6096 m), the additional cost related to directional drilling for all future wells that could be impacted by sanctuary expansion is not significant. Finally, BOEM estimates that from $8.1 million to $40.5 million in total potential future lease royalties could be forgone related to the recovery of undiscovered resources in the proposed FGBNMS expansion areas. However, NOAA notes that, based on historical records, lease blocks that are partially within or adjacent to East and West Flower Garden Banks have continued to be leased and developed since designation of FGBNMS in 1992. BOEM’s February 2019 analysis further clarifies the extent of potential for oil and gas development within the proposed sanctuary boundaries and supports the assessment that the proposed action would not have a significant negative economic impact on OCS oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico. ii. GMFMC’s Response to the Revised Preferred Alternative In October 2018, NOAA provided the revised preferred alternative boundaries, which is described above in Part II, section 5 of this proposed rule, to the GMFMC for reconsideration. The GMFMC sent revised comments to ONMS in a letter dated November 7, 2018, supporting the revised boundary proposal and indicating that the previously recommended tiered approach was no longer needed. For E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules more information on the revised preferred alternative, please refer to part II, section 5 of this rulemaking and the Supplemental Information Report, which is available at the FGBMNS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/ management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. GMFMC also submitted a request to allow spearfishing in the new expansion areas, as well as encouragement for implementing an endorsement program in order to allow fishing inside the sanctuary, and the installation of additional mooring buoys. The GMFMC suggested also that the FGBNMS investigate the potential impacts that the use of ‘‘bandit rig’’ gear could have on coral. The request to allow the use of spearfishing gear in the expanded areas will be vetted through public comment solicitation in part VI section 2 of this proposed rule. iii. Ongoing Coordination With NOAA Fisheries Following its review of the revised preferred alternative, NOAA Fisheries has maintained its request for an exemption to allow the use of pelagic longline gear in the expanded sanctuary areas. ONMS is seeking the public’s view on this request as described in part VI section 2 of this proposed rule. III. Summary of Regulatory Amendments 1. Sanctuary Boundary Expansion NOAA is proposing to amend the existing sanctuary boundary descriptions at 15 CFR part 922, subpart L, and the terms of designation in order to expand the current boundaries of FGBNMS to include portions of 14 additional reefs and banks in the sanctuary, adding approximately 104 square miles, bringing the total area to 160.4 square miles. The proposed boundary changes were selected through a public process to identify and assess marine areas that could more effectively complement current management authorities or enhance natural and cultural resource values. Collectively, these new areas capture a greater diversity of habitats and biological resources than currently protected by FGBNMS. Inclusion of these areas within the sanctuary system would provide additional regulatory protection, resources for management, and improved public awareness of their natural resource values. Detailed maps of these proposed changes are available on our website at https:// VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/ expansionnpr.html. Under this action NOAA is proposing to expand the boundaries of the sanctuary from 56.2 square miles to 160.4 square miles as follows: a. Stetson Bank—increase of area by 0.6 square miles from 0.8 square miles to 1.4 square miles b. West Flower Garden Bank—increase of area by 7.2 square miles from 29.9 square miles to 37.2 square miles c. East Flower Garden Bank—increase of area by 2.4 square miles from 25.4 square miles to 27.8 square miles d. Horseshoe Bank—28.7 square miles e. MacNeil Bank—2.7 square miles f. Rankin/28 Fathom Banks—5.6 square miles g. Bright Bank— 7.7 square miles h. Geyer Bank—11.5 square miles i. Elvers Bank—4.6 square miles j. McGrail Bank—4.7 square miles k. Sonnier Bank—3.1 square miles l. Bouma Bank—7.7 square miles m. Rezak Bank—3.7 square miles n. Sidner Bank—2.0 square miles o. Alderdice Bank—5.0 square miles p. Parker Bank—7.0 square miles 2. Apply the Existing Sanctuary Regulations and Management Action to the Expanded Area NOAA also proposes to apply the existing sanctuary regulations (including regulatory prohibitions set forth in section 922.122) and management action to the expanded sanctuary boundary in order to provide for more comprehensive management and protection of sensitive underwater features and marine habitats associated with continental shelf-edge reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Accordingly, 15 CFR 922.122(e) would be updated to reflect the effective date of the sanctuary expansion, and no further amendments of the regulatory text in 15 CFR part 922 would be necessary to implement this action as proposed. 3. Additional Amendments Based on Comments Received As discussed in part VI, NOAA is seeking comment on the proposed boundaries and on the requests for exemption of spearfishing and pelagic longlining and may revise the final rule as appropriate. IV. Summary of Proposed Changes to the Sanctuary Terms of Designation Amending Subpart L Section 304(a)(4) of the NMSA requires that the terms of designation include the geographic area of the sanctuary; the characteristics of the area PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25365 that give it conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational, or aesthetic value; and the types of activities that will be subject to regulation by the Secretary of Commerce to protect these characteristics. Section 304(a)(4) also specifies that the terms of designation may be modified only by the same procedures by which the original designation was made. The terms of designation for FGBNMS was first published in 1991 (56 FR 63637), and became effective in 1994 (58 FR 65664). The terms of designation were not incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations, and, whenever there was a proposed regulatory change, NOAA and the general public had to search the preamble of the 1991 final rule to understand the nature and scope of the terms of designation. With this action, NOAA is proposing to make the terms of designation more readily available to the general public by amending the FGBNMS regulations at 15 CFR part 922, subpart L, to incorporate the terms of designation as a new Appendix B to the FGBNMS regulations, and update Article II. Description of the Area to include Stetson Bank (added by Congress in 1996 pursuant to Pub. L. 104–283) and the additional reefs and banks proposed for expansion, add a new section relating to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) exemption, and (as described below) revise the ‘‘Consistency with International Law’’ section of the terms of designation. To read the entire terms of designation, please refer to Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922 in the draft regulatory text. This action does not propose to change the scope of the activities subject to regulation or change the DoD exemption as set forth in the terms of designation. NOAA has consulted with the State Department on the development of NMSA regulations for more than 40 years. For example, in 1979 NOAA responded to a commentator who ‘‘felt that NOAA should specify the manner in which recognized principles of international law would be applied where sanctuaries include areas outside the territorial sea,’’ by stating: ‘‘Following consultation with the State Department, NOAA has determined that such application must be made on a case-by-case basis to ensure conformance with the evolving principles involved.’’ 44 FR 44831, 44833 (July 31, 1979) (Designation and Management of Marine Sanctuaries: Final Rule). Pursuant to State Department advice, NOAA is revising Article IV, Section 2 of the FGBNMS terms of designation to reflect NOAA’s long-standing interpretation of 16 U.S.C. E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25366 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules 1435(a). Accordingly, NOAA proposes to add language to the FGBNMS terms of designation indicating that, based on the legislative history of the NMSA, NOAA has long interpreted the text of 16 U.S.C. 1435(a) as encompassing international law, including customary international law. V. Classification A. National Marine Sanctuaries Act Section 301(b) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1431) provides authority for comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management of national marine sanctuaries in coordination with other resource management authorities. Section 304(a)(4) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1434) requires that the procedures specified in Section 304 for designating a national marine sanctuary be followed for modifying any term of designation. This action is revising the terms of designation (e.g., scope of regulations) for the FGBNMS. In accordance with Section 304, the documents relevant to the proposed expansion of Flower Garden Banks are being submitted to the House Resources Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Section 304(a)(5) of the NMSA also requires that NOAA consult with the appropriate Federal fishery management council on any action proposing to regulate fishing in federal waters. Consultation with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) is discussed above in part II sections 4 and 5, and NOAA is soliciting comments on potential exemptions for pelagic longline and spearfishing in the expanded area. B. National Environmental Policy Act In accordance with Section 304(a)(2) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1434(a)(2)), and the provisions of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321–4370), NOAA has prepared a DEIS to evaluate the impacts of this proposed action. For more information on the DEIS and steps leading to the revised preferred alternative, please refer above to part II, section 5 of this rulemaking and the Supplemental Information Report, which is available at the FGBMNS website https:// flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/ expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. The DEIS contains a statement of the purpose and need for the project, description of proposed alternatives, including the no action alternative, description of the affected environment, and evaluation and comparison of environmental VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 consequences including cumulative impacts. Upon review, NOAA finds that no significant adverse impacts to resources and the human environment are anticipated. Rather, long-term beneficial impacts are anticipated if the proposed action is implemented. Copies of the DEIS are available at the address and website listed in the ADDRESSES section of this proposed rule and on regulations.gov. After review of the comments received on the 2016 DEIS, NOAA is revising the 2016 preferred alternative (See part II, section 5 for more information on this revision). Compared to the 2016 Preferred Alternative (Alt. 3), the revised preferred alternative would reduce the total size of the proposed sanctuary expansion by 223 square miles (from approximately 383 mi2 to 160 mi2), reduce the number of additional banks from 15 to 14, and increase the number of new polygons from 8 larger areas (several of which encompassed multiple features) to 16 smaller areas more closely bounding the shallowest portions of the geological features of interest. This action would increase the total number of banks to 17, and increase the total number of polygons to 19. The boundaries of the revised preferred alternative include no new reefs and banks from the original preferred alternative (Alt. 3) in the 2016 DEIS. The smaller bounded areas established under the revised preferred alternative were developed from the recommendations of the FGBNMS Advisory Council (with minor corrections to the Stetson Bank Boundary consistent with Pub. L. 104– 283 (Oct. 11, 1996)). Applying applicable NEPA regulations and guidance, NOAA finds that these revisions are within the range of the alternatives already analyzed in the 2016 DEIS, the changes reflected in the revised preferred alternative are not ‘‘substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns’’ (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(i)), and that this revision does not constitute ‘‘significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts’’ (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(ii)). Therefore, these revisions do not require that NOAA prepare a Supplemental DEIS. NOAA will document the rationale for revising the preferred alternative in the FEIS and related Record of Decision. To further document this, NOAA prepared a Supplemental Information Report, which is summarized above in part II section 5 of this rulemaking. PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 C. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Impact The Office of Management and Budget has determined this rule is significant under Executive Order 12866. This rule is also regulatory under Executive Order 13771. NOAA anticipates the associated costs with this proposed rule will be de minimis as explained more fully in the Regulatory Flexibility Act certification. D. Executive Order 13132: Federalism Assessment NOAA has concluded this regulatory action does not have federalism implications sufficient to warrant preparation of a federalism assessment under Executive Order 13132. The area that is the subject of the proposed rule is located entirely within federal waters outside of state or local jurisdiction. This proposed rule will not have a substantial or direct effect on states or local governments. E. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments This Executive Order reaffirms the Federal government’s commitment to tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and self-government. Its purpose is to ensure that all Executive departments and agencies consult with Indian tribes and respect tribal sovereignty as they develop policies on issues that impact Indian communities. This proposed action is not anticipated to have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibility between the Federal government and Indian tribes. F. Executive Order 13795: Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy Executive Order 13795 directs the Secretary of Commerce to refrain from designating or expanding any national marine sanctuary unless the proposal includes a full accounting from the Department of the Interior (DOI) of any energy or mineral resource potential (including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, and any other sources that the Secretary of Commerce deems appropriate) within the proposed area, and the potential impact of the expansion on energy or mineral resource potential within the designated area. Information pursuant to this directive is included in part II section 5 of this proposed rule. G. Regulatory Flexibility Act The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires Federal agencies to prepare an E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules analysis of a rule’s impact on small entities whenever the agency is required to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking, unless the agency can certify, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), that the action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This proposed rule announces that NOAA’s ONMS seeks to expand the boundary of FGBNMS, and apply the existing sanctuary regulations and management actions to the expanded area. The types of small organizations that may be impacted by this proposed rule include consumptive and nonconsumptive recreational charter businesses, commercial fishing businesses, sightseeing businesses, and diving businesses operating within the waters approximately 70 to 120 miles offshore of Texas and Louisiana in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The Small Business Administration designates a scenic, sightseeing, sports, or recreational (NAICS code 487210) business as a small business if it has annual receipts of less than $8 million (13 CFR 121.201). A finfish business (NAICS code 114111) is also designated as a small business if it has annual receipts of less than $22 million (13 CFR 121.201). Oil and gas businesses (NAICS codes 21311 and 213112) are designated as small businesses if they hire less than 1000 employees and have annual receipts less than $41.5 million. NOAA has not identified any small entities that are in the oil and gas sector. Methodology. Due to the lack of quantitative data on the number of businesses directly affected by the proposed regulations and their levels of revenues, costs, and profits from their activities in the FGBNMS expansion area, the assessment here is qualitative. As described in the 2016 DEIS and in Leeworthy et al. (2016), using Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, NOAA identified 76 unique commercial fishing vessels in the northern Gulf of Mexico representing 40 fishing operators from Texas to Florida. These commercial fishing operators were surveyed (Leeworthy et al. 2016), and survey results of these operators revealed that six firms were using fishing areas in the vicinity of the banks in the 2016 DEIS, and those interests were considered as close to a census as practical of all commercial fishing operations targeting the banks in the proposed expansion areas. Therefore, NOAA determined that fishing occurred with low frequency within the proposed expansion areas of the sanctuary. In this analysis, NOAA concluded that impacts to the small business entities that were analyzed would be no VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 effect or negligible. No effect means that the proposed action would have no impact on small businesses, and negligible means that the proposed action would cause less than 1% change to small businesses and no likely impact to revenue, costs, and profits. The 2016 DEIS analyzed five spatial alternatives (identified as Alternatives 1–5) for the proposed expansion of FGBNMS. Existing sanctuary regulations would apply in the newly expanded area regardless of which spatial alternative is adopted. Oil and gas regulations and other related regulations addressed in the 2016 DEIS are not discussed since the oil and gas industry operating within the northern Gulf of Mexico would not be deemed a small business under applicable SBA regulations. This analysis focuses on the application of existing sanctuary regulations to new areas that would impose fishing gear restrictions, prohibit anchoring and mooring of certain vessels in the sanctuary, and protect sanctuary resources. The proposed action is expected to have negligible impact on small entities due to the low level of fishing effort observed in the proposed expansion areas. Fishing Gear Regulations in the Expanded Sanctuary Boundaries. Under the existing sanctuary regulations, which would be applied in the expanded area if the proposed rule is adopted, only conventional hook and line gear may be used in the expanded sanctuary boundaries. The term ‘‘conventional hook and line gear’’ means any fishing apparatus operated aboard a vessel and composed of a single line terminated by a combination of sinkers and hooks or lures and spooled upon a reel that may be handor electronically operated, hand-held or mounted; and this term does not include bottom longlines (15 CFR 922.3). Applying these regulations, fishing with bottom-tending gear, nets, trawls, and speargun would be prohibited in the expanded sanctuary boundaries. NOAA determined that the proposed regulations would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of recreational or commercial fishing entities. According to Leeworthy et al. (2016), six commercial fishing and eight for-hire recreational entities use reefs and banks in or near the proposed expansion area for some portion of their operations. Each of these firms were shown to operate in an area considerably larger than the proposed expansion area; therefore, in none of the cases studied, were the amounts of impacts a significant portion of the business of any of the firms potentially affected. PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25367 This analysis is also explained in the 2016 DEIS, and the economic effects of the revised preferred alternative are bounded within the results of the DEIS alternatives. Moreover, fishers would likely be able to harvest from similar areas near the proposed expansion area through spatial substitution. In the DEIS, NOAA used hardbottom substrate as a proxy for habitat areas targeted by the commercial fishing industry, and estimated that for the DEIS alternatives, between 0.59% and 7.15% of hardbottom habitat in the study area (north central Gulf of Mexico) would be subject to additional fishing restrictions, and the DEIS preferred alternative overlapped with 4.01% of the hardbottom substrate in the study area. Additionally, the area of the proposed expansion, under the revised preferred alternative, is considerably smaller than the 2016 preferred alternative. As such, fishers could use areas within the same reefs and banks adjacent to the sanctuary expansion areas. For recreational fisheries, the prohibition on spearfishing in the expanded area might be similarly offset by spatial substitution. This is especially true given the fact that the banks studied showed very little spearfishing activity in the proposed action area. Increased visitation to the sanctuary for recreation and tourism could result in positive long-term regional economic impacts as a result of increased visitor spending in coastal communities from which the sanctuary is accessed. Anchoring and Mooring Regulations in the Expanded Sanctuary Boundaries. The existing sanctuary regulations, which would be applied in the expanded area if the proposed rule is adopted, prohibit anchoring any vessel within the sanctuary. Mooring any vessel that is greater than 100 feet in registered length to a mooring buoy in the sanctuary is also prohibited. NOAA anticipates that the prohibition on bottom disturbing activities (such as anchoring) would reduce or eliminate opportunities to engage in some activities by commercial and recreational fishing vessels. However, the installation of mooring buoys for small vessels, measuring less than 100 feet in registered length, would potentially reduce the associated impacts. The impact of the anchoring prohibition and mooring restriction would also be none to negligible on commercial vessels (regardless of the vessel length) because commercial vessels are very unlikely to anchor or moor in the expansion area. Recreational vessels would not be E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25368 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules significantly impacted by these restrictions because they would be allowed to use moorings, due to the infrequency with which they use these areas, and mitigating factors, which are described below. Additionally, a portion (14%) of the proposed expanded area, including the modified boundaries of East and West Flower Garden and Stetson Banks, and the entire area of McGrail Bank, fall within existing coral Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC), which already prohibit anchoring by fishing vessels and use of bottom tending gear. Sanctuary expansion and the extension of the sanctuary regulations to the expanded area could also benefit small business diving and recreational fishing entities by enhancing the access to these areas through mooring buoy installation. The prohibition on the use of bottom disturbing gear (such as anchoring) would also have a negligible impact, and potential impacts may be offset by spatial substitution (i.e., fishers could operate in similar areas nearby, which is also referred to as displacement) (Leeworthy et al. 2016). Please refer to the above analysis regarding spatial substitution. This negligible impact would be further reduced by mitigating factors (i.e., potential for gear substitution, mooring buoy installations made possible by sanctuary designation). For example, though fishing for reef fish using bandit rigs would be allowed, prohibitions on anchoring may make this activity more difficult due to the need to anchor in specific locations to better target fish aggregations. Although anchoring prohibitions would make such fishing activities more difficult, NOAA concludes that the impact to relevant business is negligible because of the low intensity of fishing in the proposed expansion areas and because these areas make up a small portion of these businesses’ overall area of use. Moreover, the fishing operators surveyed in Leeworthy et al. (2016) did not identify the expansion area as a primary or principle fishing area. Fishing from mooring buoys would also continue to be allowed provided the vessel does not exceed the prohibited length. Regulations Protecting Sanctuary Resources. Existing regulations applied to the expanded sanctuary area would prohibit injury, removal (or attempt to remove), or possession (regardless of where collected, caught, harvested or removed) of any coral or other bottom formation, coralline algae or other plant, marine invertebrate, brine-seep biota or carbonate rock, or fish (except for fish caught by use of conventional hook and VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 line gear) within the sanctuary. Recreational diving businesses may be impacted negligibly by these existing regulations if applied to the expanded sanctuary area as proposed. Spearfishing, collection of souvenirs (shells, rocks, etc.), and fish feeding by scuba or breath-hold divers may be very minimally impacted. The extent of this type of activity is unknown but thought to be extremely limited due to the fact that only 0.013% of the proposed expansion area is within typical recreational diving depth ranges (depths of 130 feet or less) and the significant distance (more than 50 miles offshore) to the expansion areas. Divers prefer to visit shallower areas where manmade structures such as oil rigs and sunken ships are present (e.g., Ditton et al. 2002). Therefore, the extent of this impact would be mitigated by spatial substitution (artificial reefs) and through the promotion of best practices for divers within the sanctuary. Based on the analysis presented above, the Chief Counsel for Regulations for the Department of Commerce has certified to the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that the modifications of the regulations at 15 CFR part 922 will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This proposed rule also does not establish any new reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements. H. Paperwork Reduction Act The existing FGBNMS regulations contain a collection-of-information requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), approved by The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), under control number 0648– 0141, for collection-of-information for reporting and recordkeeping requirements under 15 CFR part 922. This proposed rule would not increase or otherwise revise the existing paperwork burdens. The public reporting burden for national marine sanctuary general permit applications is estimated to average 1 hour 30 minutes per application, including the time for reviewing the application instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. For special use permits, a collection-of information requirement is necessary to determine whether the proposed activities are consistent with the terms and conditions of special use permits prescribed by the NMSA. The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 twenty four (24) hours per response (application, annual report, and financial report), including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. This estimate does not include additional time that may be required should the applicant be required to provide information to NOAA for the preparation of documentation that may be required under NEPA (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.). NOAA does not expect that this proposed rule would appreciably change the average annual number of respondents or the reporting burden for the information requirements supporting special use or research permits because few activities requiring new permits are expected for the proposed areas. Much of the research is expected to be conducted by the sanctuary, and other uses that require permits are anticipated with very low intensity in the proposed expansion areas. NOAA believes that the proposed regulations do not necessitate a modification to its information collection approval by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. However, an increase in the number of ONMS permit requests would require a change to the reporting burden certified for OMB control number 0648–0141. While not expected, if such permit requests do increase, an update to this control number for the processing of ONMS permits would be requested. Comments regarding this burden estimate, or any other aspect of this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, may be sent to NOAA (see ADDRESSES above) and to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by email to OIRA_submission@ omb.eop.gov or fax to (202) 395–7285. Before an agency submits a collection of information to OMB for approval, the agency shall provide 60-day notice in the Federal Register, and otherwise consult with members of the public and affected agencies concerning each proposed collection of information, to solicit comments to: (i) Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (ii) Evaluate the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules (iii) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (iv) Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. I. National Historic Preservation Act The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA; 16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) is intended to preserve historical and archaeological sites in the United States of America. The act created the National Register of Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks, and the State Historic Preservation Offices. Section 106 of the NHPA requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) a reasonable opportunity to comment. The historic preservation review process mandated by Section 106 is outlined in regulations issued by ACHP (36 CFR part 800). In coordinating its responsibilities under the NHPA, NOAA has solicited for and identified consulting parties, and will complete the identification of historic properties and the assessment of the effects of the undertaking on such properties in scheduled consultations with those identified parties. By this notice, NOAA seeks to solicit public input, particularly regarding the identification of historic properties within the proposed areas of potential effect. Pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(l)(1), historic properties includes: ‘‘any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object included in, or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places maintained by the Secretary of the Interior.’’ The term includes artifacts, records, and remains that are related to and located within such properties. Responses to comments received on this proposed rule and results of Section 106 consultations will be published in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and in the final rule. J. Coastal Zone Management Act Section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA; 16 U.S.C. 1456) requires Federal agencies to consult with a state’s coastal program on potential Federal regulations having an effect on state waters. Copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement were provided to the Gulf Coast States, VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 soliciting feedback on reasonably foreseeable effects on coastal resources and uses. Responses were received from Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Texas General Land Office indicating no objection to the proposed boundary changes or the DEIS. The information received from these states will be used by NOAA to prepare determinations, as appropriate, in compliance with the CZMA. VI. Request for Comments Comments are welcome on any and all aspects of the proposed rule, and we request any data that may further inform impacts of the proposed action. We specifically solicit information on the following elements for consideration. 1. Changes to the Proposed Boundaries in the Revised Preferred Alternative Based on the Sanctuary Advisory Council recommendations in response to the DEIS, NOAA has made a number of changes to the boundaries of the polygons surrounding the banks and submerged features. NOAA is soliciting public comment on the revised boundaries. 2. Pelagic Longline Exemption Request Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the possession and use of fishing gear with the exception of conventional hook and line gear. Pelagic longline gear is used to target yellowfin tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico, including in the proposed sanctuary expansion areas. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, has submitted a request for an exemption for pelagic longline gear to be added to the current exemption for conventional hook and line gear in the sanctuary. NOAA is soliciting public input on this request. 3. Spearfishing Exemption Request Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the possession and use of spearfishing equipment. During the public comment period for the DEIS, NOAA received several requests for an exemption to this prohibition for new expansion areas. Additionally, the Sanctuary Advisory Council’s 2018 recommendation for sanctuary expansion also included a recommendation to allow free-diving spearfishing at all new banks, but not within the 3 banks of the existing sanctuary. Additionally, the SAC requested an exemption for the possession of spearguns (stowed and not available for immediate use) on board a vessel within the boundaries of the PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25369 current FGBNMS, but the vessel may not be in possession of any reef fish species (with the exception of bait fish). Finally, the GMFMC also recommended that NOAA consider an exemption for the possession and use of spearfishing equipment in the sanctuary. NOAA is soliciting public input on this request. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, NOAA is proposing to amend Part 922, title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows: List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 922 Administrative practice and procedure, Coastal zone, Fishing gear, Marine resources, Natural resources, Penalties, Recreation and recreation areas, Wildlife. Nicole R. LeBoeuf, Acting Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management,National Ocean Service. PART 922—NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY PROGRAM REGULATIONS 1. The authority citation for part 922 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq. Subpart L—Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary ■ 2. Revise § 922.120 to read as follows: § 922.120 Boundary. The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary) boundary encompasses a total area of approximately 121 square nautical miles (160.35 square miles) of offshore ocean waters, and submerged lands thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The entire sanctuary boundary is comprised of 19 unique polygons. The precise boundary coordinates for each polygon are listed in Appendix A to this subpart. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 922.121 revise the term ‘‘No Activity Zone’’ to read as follows: § 922.121 Definitions. * * * * * No Activity Zone (applicable only to oil and gas industry activities) means the geographic areas delineated by the Department of the Interior in Topographic Features Stipulations for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease sales as defined by a bathymetric contour (isobath) ranging from 55–85m in depth, with the exception of Stetson Bank (52m) and East and West Flower Garden Banks (100m). The Notice to Lessees (NTL) No. 2009–039 provides E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25370 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules block rather than the actual underlying isobath. The precise aliquot part description of these areas around East and West Flower Garden Banks are provided in Appendix A of this subpart. * * * * * ■ 4. Revise § 922.122 paragraph (e)(1) to read as follows: and consolidates guidance for the avoidance and protection of biologically sensitive features and areas (i.e. topographic features, pinnacles, live bottoms (low relief features)) and other potentially sensitive biological features (PSBFs) when conducting operations in water depths shallower than 980 feet (300 meters) in the Gulf of Mexico. NTL 2009–039 remains in effect pursuant to NTL No. 2015–N02. The no-activity zones are based on depth contours as noted for the following Banks: Stetson Bank (52 meters), MacNeil Bank (82 meters), Rankin Banks (including 28 Fathom Bank) (85 meters), Bright Bank (85 meters), Geyer Bank (85 meters), Elvers Bank (85 meters), McGrail Bank (85 meters), Bouma Bank (85 meters), Rezak Bank (85 meters), Sidner Bank (85 meters), Sonnier Bank (55 meters), Alderdice Bank (80 meters), and Parker Bank (85 meters). For East and West Flower Garden Banks, the no-activity zones are based on the ‘‘1⁄4 1⁄4 1⁄4’’ aliquot system formerly used by the Department of the Interior, a method that delineates a specific portion of a * * * * * (e)(1) The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section do not apply to activities being carried out by the Department of Defense as of the effective date of Sanctuary designation (EFFECTIVE DATE OF REGULATIONS). Such activities shall be carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section do not apply to any new activities carried out by the Department of Defense that do not have the potential for any significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. Such activities shall be carried Polygon ID No. Point ID No. 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson Stetson 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... West West West West West West West West West West West West West West 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe 08:06 May 01, 2020 Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922— Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Coordinates Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Coordinates listed in this appendix are unprojected (Geographic Coordinate System) and based on the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83). Bank(s) 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 § 922.122 Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities. out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. New activities with the potential for significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities may be exempted from the prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section by the Director after consultation between the Director and the Department of Defense. If it is determined that an activity may be carried out, such activity shall be carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. * * * * * ■ 5. Revise Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922 to read as follows: Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Jkt 250001 Latitude 28.15673 28.15661 28.15862 28.16950 28.17386 28.17583 28.17543 28.17284 28.16924 28.16428 28.16274 28.15796 28.15673 ¥94.29673 ¥94.30312 ¥94.30888 ¥94.30839 ¥94.30257 ¥94.29445 ¥94.29327 ¥94.28952 ¥94.28677 ¥94.28681 ¥94.28756 ¥94.29047 ¥94.29673 .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. .............................................................................. 27.84363 27.81750 27.81752 27.83069 27.81735 27.83220 27.85854 27.87925 27.92626 27.92620 27.91801 27.90969 27.88644 27.84363 ¥93.78549 ¥93.81056 ¥93.84752 ¥93.86271 ¥93.87490 ¥93.89185 ¥93.89369 ¥93.87853 ¥93.82011 ¥93.81759 ¥93.80801 ¥93.77939 ¥93.77939 ¥93.78549 .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. 27.82317 27.80927 27.80568 27.79429 27.78357 27.79640 27.81855 27.82742 27.81868 27.83143 27.84699 27.87165 ¥93.62789 ¥93.63578 ¥93.65541 ¥93.66555 ¥93.68846 ¥93.70534 ¥93.75198 ¥93.74743 ¥93.68868 ¥93.68941 ¥93.70079 ¥93.73947 ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank PO 00000 Longitude Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Frm 00045 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Polygon ID No. Point ID No. 13 14 15 16 Bank(s) ¥93.73294 ¥93.64648 ¥93.63908 ¥93.62789 ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... ............................................................................... 27.89455 27.87999 27.88003 27.89330 27.92101 27.95899 27.97485 27.98177 27.98554 27.95206 27.92151 27.89455 ¥93.57040 ¥93.61309 ¥93.62961 ¥93.64172 ¥93.64747 ¥93.64490 ¥93.63086 ¥93.60996 ¥93.58188 ¥93.57810 ¥93.56880 ¥93.57040 .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. .................................................................................................. 28.00226 27.99707 28.00136 28.00518 28.01694 28.01883 28.03670 28.03724 28.03113 28.01300 28.00331 28.00226 ¥93.51550 ¥93.52669 ¥93.52423 ¥93.52425 ¥93.52233 ¥93.51264 ¥93.50300 ¥93.49844 ¥93.49199 ¥93.49624 ¥93.50725 ¥93.51550 .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... .................................................................... 27.92554 27.92039 27.92035 27.91387 27.90829 27.90641 27.90489 27.89549 27.88892 27.88072 27.87676 27.88449 27.88803 27.88794 27.89234 27.89971 27.90910 27.92847 27.93407 27.93599 27.92554 ¥93.40593 ¥93.41021 ¥93.42474 ¥93.43165 ¥93.42234 ¥93.42535 ¥93.44219 ¥93.44396 ¥93.43403 ¥93.42805 ¥93.42787 ¥93.44458 ¥93.45159 ¥93.45905 ¥93.46410 ¥93.45571 ¥93.45343 ¥93.45335 ¥93.44743 ¥93.44215 ¥93.40593 Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................... 27.87310 27.86549 27.87300 27.89058 27.89839 27.90336 27.91010 27.91634 27.91263 27.90354 27.90253 27.89927 27.87310 ¥93.27056 ¥93.29462 ¥93.31055 ¥93.32193 ¥93.31987 ¥93.30953 ¥93.30562 ¥93.29292 ¥93.28816 ¥93.28386 ¥93.27238 ¥93.26729 ¥93.27056 Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... 27.78848 27.79458 27.83313 27.85306 27.86328 27.86908 ¥93.07794 ¥93.08448 ¥93.07913 ¥93.08279 ¥93.07885 ¥93.06974 3 3 3 3 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe Horseshoe 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... East East East East East East East East East East East East 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil MacNeil 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 16 ................... 17 ................... 18 ................... 19 ................... 20 ................... 21 ................... 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin Rankin 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright Bright 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 8 8 8 8 8 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Longitude 27.88602 27.87252 27.85861 27.82317 ................... ................... ................... ................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Latitude 25371 Bank Bank Bank Bank Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Flower Jkt 250001 .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Garden Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom 28-Fathom PO 00000 Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Frm 00046 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25372 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Polygon ID No. Point ID No. 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 16 ................... 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 9A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... 27.82285 27.82087 27.82009 27.81869 27.81690 27.81615 27.80645 27.81221 27.81599 27.81934 27.82250 27.82809 27.83973 27.83972 27.83003 27.82285 ¥92.88605 ¥92.88600 ¥92.88670 ¥92.89235 ¥92.89404 ¥92.89653 ¥92.90884 ¥92.92082 ¥92.93908 ¥92.93940 ¥92.92465 ¥92.91359 ¥92.89876 ¥92.88038 ¥92.86983 ¥92.88605 ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... 27.85645 27.85662 27.85334 27.85076 27.84903 27.85145 27.85645 ¥92.92310 ¥92.91922 ¥92.91631 ¥92.91727 ¥92.92097 ¥92.92524 ¥92.92310 ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. 27.97684 27.97749 27.97475 27.97304 27.95173 27.94849 27.96632 27.96792 27.95989 27.95409 27.94951 27.94920 27.95846 27.97286 27.98096 27.97684 ¥92.58489 ¥92.57716 ¥92.56753 ¥92.56191 ¥92.53902 ¥92.54254 ¥92.56116 ¥92.58152 ¥92.58187 ¥92.57057 ¥92.57135 ¥92.57994 ¥92.60274 ¥92.61901 ¥92.60158 ¥92.58489 ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. ............................................................................................. 27.94116 27.94180 27.94010 27.93616 27.93481 27.93529 27.93859 27.94116 ¥92.54750 ¥92.54543 ¥92.54202 ¥92.54151 ¥92.54398 ¥92.54803 ¥92.54901 ¥92.54750 .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... 28.07909 28.07370 28.07370 28.06544 28.05162 28.03846 28.03463 28.03114 28.02915 28.03154 28.04166 28.04525 ¥92.47305 ¥92.44900 ¥92.44891 ¥92.43518 ¥92.43380 ¥92.44065 ¥92.45289 ¥92.45537 ¥92.46338 ¥92.47259 ¥92.47229 ¥92.46717 .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A 9B 9B 9B 9B 9B 9B 9B .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Elvers Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 16 ................... 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A 10A ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10B 10B 10B 10B 10B 10B 10B 10B ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail McGrail Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 Longitude ¥93.05944 ¥93.05391 ¥93.05725 ¥93.04312 ¥93.04276 ¥93.03412 ¥93.04096 ¥93.05384 ¥93.07794 Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Latitude 27.86556 27.85211 27.83713 27.82540 27.82490 27.80846 27.78997 27.78602 27.78848 Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer Geyer ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... Bank(s) ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Point ID No. Polygon ID No. Bank(s) Latitude 25373 Longitude ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bouma Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... 28.04751 28.04676 28.04866 28.05687 28.06388 28.07018 28.06974 28.06594 28.07109 28.07683 28.07909 ¥92.47310 ¥92.48308 ¥92.48462 ¥92.48145 ¥92.49262 ¥92.49141 ¥92.48613 ¥92.48098 ¥92.47708 ¥92.48071 ¥92.47305 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 16 ................... 17 ................... 18 ................... 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Sonnier Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... ................................................................................................... 28.32652 28.32495 28.32501 28.32796 28.33523 28.34453 28.34840 28.35256 28.35416 28.35456 28.35351 28.35174 28.34852 28.34303 28.34048 28.33584 28.33068 28.32652 ¥92.45356 ¥92.45647 ¥92.45965 ¥92.46626 ¥92.47536 ¥92.47511 ¥92.47439 ¥92.47181 ¥92.46784 ¥92.46135 ¥92.45729 ¥92.45107 ¥92.44564 ¥92.44045 ¥92.44024 ¥92.44669 ¥92.44985 ¥92.45356 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Rezak Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... 27.95420 27.95847 27.95629 27.97297 27.97892 27.98869 27.99372 27.98603 27.98022 27.97442 27.96006 27.95420 ¥92.36641 ¥92.37739 ¥92.38599 ¥92.39248 ¥92.39845 ¥92.39964 ¥92.38244 ¥92.36697 ¥92.36429 ¥92.36996 ¥92.36854 ¥92.36641 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Sidner Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................... 27.93046 27.91368 27.91462 27.91976 27.92306 27.94525 27.94166 27.94231 27.93046 ¥92.36762 ¥92.37398 ¥92.38530 ¥92.39427 ¥92.38792 ¥92.38305 ¥92.37565 ¥92.37189 ¥92.36762 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A 15A ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Parker Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A Bank—A .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. 27.95067 27.94177 27.93547 27.92937 27.93224 27.93401 27.93958 27.95012 27.96214 27.96630 27.96869 27.96925 27.96678 27.95067 ¥92.00294 ¥91.99762 ¥91.99568 ¥91.99981 ¥92.02999 ¥92.03946 ¥92.05015 ¥92.05050 ¥92.05407 ¥92.04745 ¥92.04120 ¥92.02758 ¥92.02175 ¥92.00294 1 2 3 4 15B 15B 15B 15B ................ ................ ................ ................ Parker Parker Parker Parker Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. 27.96082 27.96432 27.96566 27.96385 ¥91.99450 ¥91.99285 ¥91.99014 ¥91.98600 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25374 Point ID No. 5 6 7 8 ..................... ..................... ..................... ..................... 1 ..................... 2 ..................... 3 ..................... 4 ..................... 5 ..................... 6 ..................... 7 ..................... 8 ..................... 9 ..................... 10 ................... 11 ................... 12 ................... 13 ................... 14 ................... 15 ................... 16 ................... 17 ................... 18 ................... Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Polygon ID No. 15B 15B 15B 15B 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 ................ ................ ................ ................ ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... ................... Bank(s) Parker Parker Parker Parker Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank Bank 6. Revise Appendix B to Subpart L of Part 922 to read as follows: Appendix B to Subpart L of Part 922 Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary—Terms of Designation Preamble Under the authority of title III of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, as amended (‘‘the Act’’), 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq., 19 separate unique polygon areas of ocean waters and the submerged lands thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, as described in Article II, are hereby designated as Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary for the purposes of protecting and managing the conservation, ecological, recreation, research, education, historic and aesthetic resources and qualities of these areas. Article I—Effect of Designation The Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to issue such final regulations as are necessary and reasonable to implement the designation, including managing and protecting the conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational, and esthetic resources and qualities of a sanctuary. Section 1 of Article IV of this Designation Document lists those activities that may be regulated on the effective date of designation or at some later date in order to protect Sanctuary resources and qualities. Thus, the act of designation empowers the Secretary of Commerce to regulate the activities VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 Longitude .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. .............................................................................................. 27.96149 27.95931 27.95824 27.96082 ¥91.98639 ¥91.98760 ¥91.99183 ¥91.99450 ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................................ 28.09726 28.09474 28.09569 28.09184 28.08410 28.07506 28.07053 28.06959 28.06819 28.07026 28.07562 28.08058 28.08463 28.09024 28.09487 28.09627 28.09507 28.09726 ¥91.99328 ¥91.98619 ¥91.97526 ¥91.97361 ¥91.97273 ¥91.97457 ¥91.98465 ¥91.99347 ¥92.00512 ¥92.01321 ¥92.02032 ¥92.02436 ¥92.02577 ¥92.02296 ¥92.01231 ¥92.00735 ¥92.00008 ¥91.99328 Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Bank—B Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Alderdice Latitude listed in Section 1. Listing does not necessarily mean that an activity will be regulated; however, if an activity is not listed it may not be regulated, except on an emergency basis, unless Section 1 of Article IV is amended by the same procedures by which the original designation was made. Article II—Description of the Area The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary) boundary encompasses a total area of approximately 121 square nautical miles (160 square miles) of offshore ocean waters, and submerged lands thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The entire sanctuary boundary is composed of 19 unique polygons. The precise boundary coordinates for each polygon are listed in Appendix A to this subpart. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 1 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 13 and contains the submerged feature of Stetson Bank with an area of approximately 1.1 square nautical miles (1.5 square miles), located approximately 71 nautical miles (82 miles) south-southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 2 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 14 and contains the submerged feature of West Flower Garden Bank with an area of approximately 28.0 square nautical miles (37.1 square miles), located approximately 97 nautical miles (111 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 3 begins at Point 1 and continues in PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 numerical order to Point 16 and contains the submerged feature of Horseshoe Bank with an area of approximately 21.7 square nautical miles (28.7 square miles), located approximately 102 nautical miles (117 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 4 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 12 and contains the submerged feature of East Flower Garden Bank with an area of approximately 21.0 square nautical miles (27.8 square miles), located approximately 101 nautical miles (116 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 5 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 12 and contains the submerged feature of MacNeil Bank with an area of approximately 2.1 square nautical miles (2.7 square miles), located approximately 103 nautical miles (118 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 6 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 21 and contains the submerged features of Rankin Bank and 28 Fathom Bank with an area of approximately 4.2 square nautical miles (5.6 square miles), located approximately 109 nautical miles (126 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 7 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 13 and contains the submerged features of Bright Bank with an area of approximately 5.8 square nautical miles (7.6 square miles), located approximately 115 nautical miles (133 E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 8 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 15 and contains the submerged feature of Geyer Bank within an area of approximately 8.7 square nautical miles (11.5 square miles), located approximately 126 nautical miles (145 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 9A begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 16 and contains part of the submerged feature of Elvers Bank within an area of approximately 3.3 square nautical miles (4.4 square miles), located approximately 134 nautical miles (154 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 9B begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 7 and also contains part of the submerged feature of Elvers Bank within an area of approximately 0.1 square nautical miles (0.2 square miles), located approximately 133 nautical miles (153 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 10A begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 16 and contains part of the submerged feature of McGrail Bank with an area of approximately 3.4 square nautical miles (4.5 square miles), located approximately 142 nautical miles (163 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 10B begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 8 and also contains part of the submerged feature of McGrail Bank with an area of approximately 0.1 square nautical miles (0.2 square miles), located approximately 146 nautical miles (168 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 11 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 23 and contains the submerged feature of Bouma Bank with an area of approximately 5.8 square nautical miles (7.7 square miles), located approximately 145 nautical miles (167 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 12 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 18 and contains the submerged feature of Sonnier Bank with an area of approximately 2.3 square nautical miles (3.1 square miles), located approximately 138 nautical miles (159 miles) east-southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 13 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 12 and contains the submerged feature of Rezak Bank with an area of VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 approximately 2.8 square nautical miles (3.7 square miles), located approximately 151 nautical miles (174 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 14 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 9 and contains the submerged feature of Sidner Bank with an area of approximately 1.5 square nautical miles (2.0 square miles), located approximately 153 nautical miles (177 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 15A begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 14 and contains part of the submerged feature of Parker Bank within an area of approximately 5.2 square nautical miles (6.8 square miles), located approximately 168 nautical miles (194 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 15B begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 8 and also contains part of the submerged feature of Parker Bank within an area of approximately 0.1 square nautical miles (0.2 square miles), located approximately 171 nautical miles (197 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 16 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 18 and contains the submerged feature of Alderdice Bank within an area of approximately 3.8 square nautical miles (5.0 square miles), located approximately 166 nautical miles (191 miles) east-southeast of Galveston, Texas. Article III—Characteristics of Area That Give it Particular Value The Sanctuary contains a series of underwater features located along the edge of the continental shelf in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. These features are of interest from both a geological and biological perspective. Formed as the result of the movement of underlying salt deposits (also called salt domes or salt diapirs), and bathed by waters of tropical origin, they contain important geological features, biological habitats and other marine resources of national significance. They contain highly productive marine ecosystems that support a variety of fish and invertebrate communities of biological and economic importance. The reefs and banks of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico are structurally complex and contain a range of marine habitats, including coral reefs, coralline algal reefs, algal nodule beds, mesophotic and deepwater reefs, and softbottom communities. The composition, diversity and vertical distribution of benthic communities on PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25375 the banks are strongly influenced by the physical environment, including water temperature, turbidity and current regime. Geological features of interest include brine seeps, exposed basalt, methane seeps, and mud volcanoes. East and West Flower Garden Banks, the most well-known of the features, sustain the northernmost living coral reefs on the U.S. continental shelf, considered among the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic region. A deeper water coral reef also exists at McGrail Bank, consisting primarily of large heads of blushing star coral (Stephanocoenia intersepta) at depths between 140 and 160 feet. These coral reefs are isolated from other reef systems by over 300 nautical miles (342 miles) and exist under hydrographic conditions generally near the northern limit for tropical reef formation. Several other banks, including Stetson, Sonnier, Geyer, and Bright Banks, contain various combinations of non-reef building coral species known collectively as coral communities, comprised of sponges, stony corals, fire coral, leafy algae and coralline algae. The deeper portions of the banks host thriving mid-depth (or ‘‘mesophotic’’) coral habitats characterized by the presence of both light-dependent and deepwater corals, including black corals, gorgonian corals, and associated organisms. Biological communities are distributed among several interrelated biotic zones, including a coralline algae zone, deep reef rocky outcrops, and soft bottom communities. The complex and biologically productive ecological communities of the banks offer a combination of aesthetic appeal and recreational and research opportunity matched in few other ocean areas. The following are qualitative descriptions of the individual reefs and banks within the Sanctuary; specific boundary coordinates can be found in Appendix A. a. Stetson Bank, Depth Range 56ft–194ft Boundaries encompass a claystone/ siltstone ring feature of mesophotic coral habitat revealed by high resolution multibeam bathymetric surveys, and subsequently ground-truthed by remotely operated vehicle surveys. These features are surface expressions of the salt dome associated with the feature, and provide habitat for sponges, gorgonians, stony branching corals, black corals, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. b. West Flower Garden Bank, Depth Range 59ft–545ft Boundaries encompass mesophotic coral patch reefs to the north, E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25376 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules southwest, and east of the existing sanctuary. These reefs provide coralline algae reef habitat for black corals, gorgonians, stony branching corals, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. c. East Flower Garden Bank, Depth Range 52ft–446ft Boundaries to encompass mesophotic coral patch reefs to the north and southeast of the existing sanctuary. These reefs provide deep coral habitat for dense populations of black corals, gorgonians, stony branching corals, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. d. Horseshoe Bank, Depth Range 243ft– 614ft Extensive deepwater habitat and coralline algae reefs in the form of hundreds of patchy outcroppings covering an area of approximately 1.9miles (3km) wide and having 16.4– 49.2ft (5–15m) of relief above the seafloor, with dense assemblages of mesophotic black coral, gorgonians, stony branching corals, sponges, algae invertebrates, and fish; several conicalshaped mud volcanoes clustered near the center of the feature, with one rising 328ft (100m) above the sea floor. e. MacNeil Bank, Depth Range 210ft– 315ft Deep reef bedrock outcrops and coralline algae patch reefs harboring populations of black corals and gorgonians, sponges, fish, and mobile invertebrates. f. Rankin/28 Fathom Banks, Depth Range 164ft–571ft Rankin Bank is just north of 28 Fathom Bank, and separated from it by a long trough, approximately 1,640-foot (500 m) wide, approximately 6,070-foot (1,850 m) which extends to a depth of approximately 570ft (174 m). The boundaries encompass the shallowest portions of Rankin and 28 Fathom Banks, which harbor coral algae reefs and deep coral reefs with populations of gorgonians, black corals, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. g. Bright Bank, Depth Range 112ft–384ft Bright Bank previously harbored a coral reef on the very shallowest portions of the bank, which sustained extensive damage from salvage and mining activities employing dynamite for excavation activities. The cap is now considered a coral community, and in spite of these impacts, nine species of shallow water scleractinian corals survive, along with two deeper water species. The feature also harbors extensive coralline algae reefs, providing habitat for populations of VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 gorgonians, black corals, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. h. Geyer Bank, Depth Range 128ft–722ft Geyer Bank is a broad, relatively flat fault-bounded structure situated on an active salt diaper. This feature supports a coral community, as well as extensive coralline algae reefs and fields of algal nodules including dense fields of macro-algae, black corals, gorgonians, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. Seasonal spawning aggregations of fish are associated with this bank, including enormous numbers of reef butterflyfish. i. Elvers Bank, Depth Range 213ft–686ft Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of Elvers Bank: A larger polygon encompassing 4.43 square miles on the south side of the feature, and a small polygon, encompassing 0.19 square miles on the north side of the feature. The shallow areas of the bank feature coralline algae reefs and algal nodule fields, and the deeper areas in the southern polygon harbor large deep reef outcroppings, both providing habitat for black corals, gorgonians, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. The deep reefs also harbor glass sponge fields, a feature not documented in any other areas of the sanctuary, as well as a previously undescribed species of black coral. j. McGrail Bank, Depth Range 144ft– 512ft Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of McGrail Bank: A larger claw shaped polygon reaching from northwest to southeast, encompassing 4.54 square miles, and a smaller polygon, encompassing 0.17 square miles, situated on the southeast of the feature that wraps around a conical shaped mound. This bank features unique areas of coral reefs dominated by large colonies of the blushing star coral, Stephanocoenia intersepta, with 28% live coral cover in discrete areas (no other known coral reef is dominated by this species). Pinnacles varying in diameter from ∼80 to 395 feet (24–120 m) and as tall as ∼25 feet (8 m) are found on the southwest rim of the main feature, along east- and southeasttrending scarps leading away from the bank and in concentric fields to the south and southeast of the bank. A significant portion of the depth zone between 145 and 170 feet is dominated by coral colonies up to 5 feet tall, covering an area of approximately 37 acres. At least 14 species of stony corals have been recorded. Deeper portions of this site harbor mesophotic coral habitat PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 for deep coral, coralline algae reefs, and fields of algal nodules. Dense populations of black corals, gorgonians, macro-algae fields, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates are present. k. Sonnier Bank, Depth Range 62ft–210ft Sonnier Bank consists of a series of isolated clusters of pinnacles comprised of uplifted siltstone and claystone, that rise mostly around the perimeter of a single, roughly circular ring 1.9miles (3.2km) in diameter. Two peaks are accessible and popular with recreational scuba divers. The peaks are dominated by coral communities featuring fire coral, sponges, and algae. The deeper portions of the feature are fairly heavily silted, but provide habitat for black corals, gorgonians, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. l. Bouma Bank, Depth Range 187ft–322ft Bouma Bank is dominated by coralline algae reefs and algal nodule fields, providing habitat for populations of black corals, gorgonians, algae, branching stony coral, clusters of cup coral, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. m. Rezak Bank, Depth Range 197ft–430ft Rezak Bank is dominated by coralline algae reefs and extensive algal nodule fields, providing habitat for populations of black corals, gorgonians, algae, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. n. Sidner Bank, Depth Range 190ft– 420ft Dominated by coralline algae reefs and extensive algal nodule fields providing habitat for populations of black corals, gorgonians, algae, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. o. Alderdice Bank, Depth Range 200ft– 322ft This feature includes spectacular basalt outcrops of Late Cretaceous origin (approximately 77 million years old) representing the oldest rock exposed on the continental shelf offshore of Louisiana and Texas. The outcrops at Alderdice Bank bear diverse, extremely dense assemblages of gorgonians and black corals, sponges, and swarms of reef fish. Mesophotic coralline algae reef habitats below the spires, silted over in areas, provide habitat for dense populations of black corals, gorgonians, sponges, branching stony corals, fields of macro-algae, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. p. Parker Bank, Depth Range 187ft–387ft Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of Parker E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules Bank. A larger polygon bounding the central portion of the features, encompassing 6.82 square miles, and a smaller polygon to the east, encompassing 0.14 square miles. These boundaries protect the shallowest portions of the bank, which harbor coralline algae reefs and algal nodule fields and support populations of plating stony corals, black corals, gorgonians, sponges, macro-algae, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. Article IV—Scope of Regulations Section 1. Activities Subject to Regulation The following activities are subject to regulation, including prohibition, to the extent necessary and reasonable to ensure the protection and management of the conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational and esthetic resources and qualities of the area: a. Anchoring or otherwise mooring within the Sanctuary; b. Discharging or depositing, from within the boundaries of the Sanctuary, any material or other matter; c. Discharging or depositing, from beyond the boundaries of the Sanctuary, any material or other matter; d. Drilling into, dredging or otherwise altering the seabed of the Sanctuary; or constructing, placing or abandoning any structure, material or other matter on the seabed of the Sanctuary; e. Exploring for, developing or producing oil, gas or minerals within the Sanctuary; f. Taking, removing, catching, collecting, harvesting, feeding, injuring, destroying or causing the loss of, or attempting to take, remove, catch, collect, harvest, feed, injure, destroy or cause the loss of, a Sanctuary resource; g. Possessing within the Sanctuary a Sanctuary resource or any other resource, regardless of where taken, removed, caught, collected or harvested, that, if it had been found within the Sanctuary, would be a Sanctuary resource. h. Possessing or using within the Sanctuary any fishing gear, device, equipment or other apparatus. i. Possessing or using airguns or explosives or releasing electrical charges within the Sanctuary. j. Interfering with, obstructing, delaying or preventing an investigation, search, seizure or disposition of seized property in connection with enforcement of the Act or any regulation or permit issued under the Act. VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 Section 2. Consistency With International Law Any regulation of activities listed in Section 1 of this Article will be applied and enforced as mandated by 16 U.S.C. 1435(a).1 Section 3. Emergency Regulations Where necessary to prevent or minimize the destruction of, loss of, or injury to a Sanctuary resource or quality, or minimize the imminent risk of such destruction, loss or injury, any and all activities, including those not listed in section 1 of this Article, are subject to immediate temporary regulation, including prohibition. Article V—Effect on Other Regulations, Leases, Permits, Licenses, and Rights Section 1. Fishing Regulations, Licenses, and Permits The regulation of fishing is authorized under Article IV. All regulatory programs pertaining to fishing, including fishery management plans promulgated under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., shall remain in effect. Where a valid regulation promulgated under these programs conflicts with a Sanctuary regulation, the regulation deemed by the Secretary of Commerce or designee as more protective of Sanctuary resources and qualities shall govern. Section 2. Other Licenses, Regulations, and Permits If any valid regulation issued by any Federal authority of competent jurisdiction, regardless of when issued, conflicts with a Sanctuary regulation, the regulation deemed by the Secretary of Commerce or designee as more protective of Sanctuary resources and qualities shall govern. Pursuant to section 304(c)(1) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1434(c)(1), no valid lease, permit, license, approval, or other authorization issued by any Federal authority of competent jurisdiction, or any valid right of subsistence use or access, may be terminated by the Secretary of Commerce or designee as a result of this designation or as a result of any Sanctuary regulation if such authorization or right was in existence on the effective date of this designation. However, the Secretary of Commerce or designee may regulate the exercise of such authorization or right consistent with the purposes for which the Sanctuary is designated. 1 Based on the legislative history of the NMSA, NOAA has long interpreted the text of 16 U.S.C. 1435(a) as encompassing international law, including customary international law. PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 25377 Accordingly, the prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary regulations shall not apply to any activity authorized by any valid lease, permit, license, approval, or other authorization in existence on the effective date of Sanctuary designation and issued by any Federal authority of competent jurisdiction, or by any valid right of subsistence use or access in existence on the effective date of Sanctuary designation, provided that the holder of such authorization or right complies with Sanctuary regulations regarding the certification of such authorizations and rights (e.g., notifies the Secretary or designee of the existence of, requests certification of, and provides requested information regarding such authorization or right) and complies with any terms and conditions on the exercise of such authorization or right imposed as a condition of certification by the Secretary or designee as he or she deems necessary to achieve the purposes for which the Sanctuary was designated. Pending final agency action on the certification request, such holder may exercise such authorization or right without being in violation of any prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary regulations, provided the holder is in compliance with Sanctuary regulations regarding certifications. The prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary regulations shall not apply to any activity conducted in accordance with the scope, purpose, terms, and conditions of the National Marine Sanctuary permit issued by the Secretary or designee in accordance with the Sanctuary regulations. Such permits may only be issued if the Secretary or designee finds that the activity for which the permit is applied will: Further research related to Sanctuary resources; further the educational, natural or historical resource value of the Sanctuary; further salvage or recovery operations in or near the Sanctuary in connection with a recent air or marine casualty; or assist in managing the Sanctuary. The prohibitions set forth in the sanctuary regulations shall not apply to any activity conducted in accordance with the scope, purpose, terms, and conditions of a Special Use permit issued by the Secretary or designee in accordance with section 310 of the Act. However, in areas where sanctuary regulations prohibit oil, gas, or mineral exploration, development or production, the Secretary or designee may in no event, permit or otherwise, approve such activities in that area. Any leases, licenses, permits, approvals, or other authorizations issued after [EFFECTIVE DATE SANCTUARY E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1 25378 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 85 / Friday, May 1, 2020 / Proposed Rules DESIGNATION] authorizing the exploration or production of oil, gas, or minerals in that area shall be invalid. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Section 3. Department of Defense Activities 26 CFR Part 1 [REG–105495–19] The prohibitions in § 922.122(a)(2) through (11) do not apply to activities being carried out by the Department of Defense as of the effective date of Sanctuary designation [insert effective date of Sanctuary expansion]. Such activities shall be carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section do not apply to any new activities carried out by the Department of Defense that do not have the potential for any significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. Such activities shall be carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. New activities with the potential for significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities may be exempted from the prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section by the Director after consultation between the Director and the Department of Defense. If it is determined that an activity may be carried out, such activity shall be carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. In the event of threatened or actual destruction of, loss of, or injury to a Sanctuary resource or quality resulting from an untoward incident, including but not limited to spills and groundings, caused by a component of the Department of Defense, the cognizant component shall promptly coordinate with the Director for the purpose of taking appropriate actions to respond to and mitigate the harm and, if possible, restore or replace the Sanctuary resource or quality. Article VI—Alterations to This Designation The terms of designation may be modified only by the same procedures by which the original designation is made, including public hearings, consultation with any appropriate Federal, State, regional and local agencies, review by the appropriate Congressional committees and approval by the Secretary of Commerce or designee. [FR Doc. 2020–08128 Filed 4–30–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–NK–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 08:06 May 01, 2020 Jkt 250001 Internal Revenue Service RIN 1545–BP21 Guidance Related to the Allocation and Apportionment of Deductions and Foreign Taxes, Financial Services Income, Foreign Tax Redeterminations, Foreign Tax Credit Disallowance Under Section 965(g), and Consolidated Groups; Hearing Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury. ACTION: Proposed rule; notification of hearing. AGENCY: This document provides a notice of public hearing on proposed regulations that provide guidance relating to the allocation and apportionment of deductions and creditable foreign taxes, the definition of financial services income, foreign tax redeterminations, availability of foreign tax credits under the transition tax, and the application of the foreign tax credit limitation to consolidated groups. DATES: The public hearing is being held on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. The IRS must receive speakers’ outlines of the topics to be discussed at the public hearing by Monday, May 11, 2020. If no outlines are received by May 11, 2020, the public hearing will be cancelled. ADDRESSES: The public hearing is being held by teleconference. Individuals who want to testify (by telephone) at the public hearing must send an email to publichearings@irs.gov to receive the telephone number and access code for the hearing. The subject line of the email must contain the regulation number REG–105495–19 and the word TESTIFY. For example, the subject line may say: Request to TESTIFY at Hearing for REG–105495–19. The email should also include a copy of the speaker’s public comments and outline of topics. The email must be received by May 11, 2020. Individuals who want to attend (by telephone) the public hearing must also send an email to publichearings@irs.gov to receive the telephone number and access code for the hearing. The subject line of the email must contain the regulation number REG–105495–19 and the word ATTEND. For example, the subject line may say: Request to ATTEND Hearing for REG–105495–19. The email requesting to attend the public hearing must be received by 5:00 SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 p.m. two (2) business days before the date that the hearing is scheduled. The telephonic hearing will be made accessible to people with disabilities. To request special assistance during the telephonic hearing please contact the Publications and Regulations Branch of the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration) by sending an email to publichearings@ irs.gov (preferred) or by telephone at (202) 317–5177 (not a toll-free number) at least three (3) days prior to the date that the telephonic hearing is scheduled. Any questions regarding speaking at or attending a public hearing may also be emailed to publichearings@irs.gov. Send outline submissions electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov (IRS REG–105495– 19). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Concerning the proposed regulations, Jeffrey Cowan at (202) 317- 4924; concerning submissions of comments, the hearing and/access code to attend the hearing by teleconferencing, Regina Johnson at (202) 317–5177 (not toll-free numbers) or publichearings@irs.gov. The subject of the public hearing is the notice of proposed rulemaking REG– 105495–19 that was published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2019, 84 FR 69124. The rules of 26 CFR 601.601(a)(3) apply to the hearing. Persons who wish to present oral comments telephonically at the hearing that submitted written comments by February 18, 2020, must submit an outline of the topics to be addressed and the amount of time to be devoted to each topic by May 11, 2020. A period of 10 minutes is allotted to each person for presenting oral comments. After the deadline for receiving outlines has passed, the IRS will prepare an agenda containing the schedule of speakers. Copies of the agenda will be made available, on Regulations.gov, search IRS and REG– 105495–19, or by emailing your request to publichearings@irs.gov. Please put ‘‘REG–105495–19 Agenda Request’’ in the subject line of the email. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Martin V. Franks, Branch Chief, Publications and Regulations Branch, Legal Processing Division, Associate Chief Counsel, (Procedure and Administration). [FR Doc. 2020–08842 Filed 4–30–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830–01–P E:\FR\FM\01MYP1.SGM 01MYP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 85 (Friday, May 1, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 25359-25378]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-08128]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

[Docket No. 200330-0093]
RIN 0648-BA21


Proposed Expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine 
Sanctuary

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

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for public comments.

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

SUMMARY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 
proposes to expand the boundaries of Flower Garden Banks National 
Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) and revise the sanctuary's terms of 
designation. The purpose of this action is to expand the sanctuary to 
include portions of 14 additional reefs and banks in the northwestern 
Gulf of Mexico, representing a 104 square mile increase in area. The 
existing FGBNMS regulations would be applied to the expanded locations. 
NOAA is soliciting public comment on the proposed rule.

DATES: NOAA will consider all comments received by July 3, 2020. Flower 
Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary will hold three virtual public 
hearings on the following dates and times: June 8, 2020 1:00 p.m.--3:00 
p.m. CDT and 6:00 p.m.--8:00 p.m. CDT and June 11, 2020 6:00 p.m.--8:00 
p.m. CDT.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NOS-2019-0033, by:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2019-0033, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Written comments may also be mailed to: George P. Schmahl, 
Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 
Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, Texas 77551.
    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 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), 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).
    To participate in the public hearings, online registration is 
requested in advance via the following links. If you are unable to 
participate online, you can also connect to the public hearings using 
the phone numbers provided below.
(1) June 8, 2020, 1:00 p.m.--3:00 p.m. CDT
    Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9162740973626770700
    Phone: +1 (213) 929-4232 PIN: 704-409-034
(2) June 8, 2020, 6:00 p.m.--8:00 p.m. CDT
    Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1668176149101021196
    Phone: +1 (213) 929-4232 PIN: 682-728-246
(3) June 11, 2020, 6:00 p.m.--8:00 p.m. CDT
    Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5569362151706075916
    Phone: +1 (415) 655-0052 PIN: 486-551-096
    If you would like to provide comment during the hearings, please 
sign up in advance. Select ``yes'' during the online registration. The 
line-up of speakers will be based on your date and time of 
registration.
    If you will be participating by phone, please send an email to 
[email protected] to add your name to the speaker list.
    For more details on the public hearings, please visit https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html.
    Copies of the proposed rule, the DEIS, maps of the proposed 
expansion areas, and additional background materials can be found on 
the FGBNMS website at https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) can also be 
downloaded or viewed on

[[Page 25360]]

the internet at www.regulations.gov (search for docket # NOAA-NOS-2016-
0059 and NOAA-NOS-2019-0033).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: George P. Schmahl, Superintendent, 
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 Avenue U, Building 
216, Galveston, Texas, at 409-356-0383, or [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Introduction

1. 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 encompasses approximately 56 
square miles and includes three separate undersea features: East Flower 
Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Bank. The banks range 
in depth from 55 feet (17 meters) to nearly 500 feet (152 meters), and 
are geological formations created by the movement of ancient salt 
deposits pushed up through overlying sedimentary layers.
    The banks provide a wide range of habitat conditions that support 
several distinct biological communities, including the northernmost 
coral reefs in the continental United States and mesophotic coral 
habitats. These and similar formations throughout the northwestern Gulf 
of Mexico provide the foundation for essential habitat for numerous 
marine species, including a variety of fish species of commercial and 
recreational importance, and several endangered or threatened species, 
including sea turtles and manta rays. The combination of location and 
geology makes the sanctuary an extremely productive and diverse 
ecosystem.
    NOAA issued a final rule to implement the designation of FGBNMS on 
December 5, 1991 (56 FR 63634). Congress subsequently passed a law 
recognizing the designation on January 17, 1992 (Pub. L. 102-251, Title 
I, Sec. 101). At that time, the sanctuary consisted of two areas known 
as East and West Flower Garden Banks (56 FR 63634). Among other things, 
FGBNMS regulated a narrow range of activities, established permit and 
certification procedures, and exempted certain U.S. Department of 
Defense (DOD) activities from the sanctuary's prohibitions (56 FR 
63634). Those regulations became effective on January 18, 1994 (58 FR 
65664). In 1996, Congress added Stetson Bank to the sanctuary (Pub. L. 
104-283). The boundaries of Stetson Bank and West Flower Garden Bank 
were later amended to improve administrative efficiencies and increase 
the precision of all boundary coordinates based on new positioning 
technology (65 FR 81175, Dec. 22, 2000). Current FGBNMS regulations can 
be found at 15 CFR part 922, subpart L, and the existing sanctuary 
management plan may be found at https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/2012mgmtplan.html.
2. Need for Action
    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) 
authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to designate and 
protect as national marine sanctuaries areas of the marine environment 
that are of special national significance due to their conservation, 
recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, 
archeological, educational, or aesthetic qualities. Day-to-day 
management of national marine sanctuaries is delegated by the Secretary 
to ONMS. The primary objective of the NMSA is to protect nationally 
significant marine resources, including biological features such as 
coral reefs, and cultural resources, such as historic shipwrecks and 
archaeological sites. The mission of FGBNMS is to identify, protect, 
conserve, and enhance the natural and cultural resources, values, and 
qualities of the sanctuary and its regional environment for this and 
future generations.
    The proposed action responds to the need to provide additional 
protection of sensitive underwater features and marine habitats 
associated with continental shelf-edge reefs and banks in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The current jurisdictional regime divides 
authority among several governmental entities that regulate offshore 
energy exploration (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)), fishing 
(Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC)), and water quality 
(Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)). This current jurisdictional 
regime does not provide comprehensive and effective management for the 
full range of activities that impact the sensitive reefs and banks in 
the region. For example, BOEM's prohibitions in the No Activity Zones 
(NAZs) apply only to anchoring by vessels engaged in development 
activities and platform services, while anchoring by other vessels 
remains unregulated. Further, these anchoring regulations in the NAZs 
apply only on a lease-by-lease basis. Other vessel ground tackle 
(including anchors, chains, and cables) and marine salvage activities 
are currently unregulated and have caused significant injury to 
sensitive biological communities.
    The areas proposed for sanctuary expansion are recognized as 
hotspots of marine biodiversity that provide vital habitat for many 
important species in the Gulf of Mexico region. They are home to the 
most significant examples of coral and algal reefs, mesophotic and 
deepwater coral communities, and other biological assemblages in the 
Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, these areas provide important habitat for 
notable species such as manta rays, sea turtles, and whale sharks, 
while serving as nurseries for numerous fish species of commercial and 
recreational importance. As such, most of these areas have also been 
identified as nationally significant through their designation as 
Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) by the GMFMC and as NAZs by 
BOEM. These habitats are vulnerable to a variety of known and potential 
impacts, including large vessel anchoring, marine salvage operations, 
fishing techniques that may injure benthic habitat (i.e., trawling, 
bottom-tending gear), and certain oil and gas exploration and 
development activities. These impacts can more effectively be addressed 
within the expanded areas through the comprehensive habitat 
conservation and management authorities under the NMSA. The protection 
of these ecologically significant sites would increase the resilience 
of marine ecosystems, and enhance the sustainability of the region's 
thriving recreation, tourism, and commercial economies. Ultimately, 
expanding FGBNMS would help ensure that valuable marine resources 
remain available for the use and enjoyment of future generations of 
Americans.
    The proposed sanctuary expansion is the logical outcome of decades 
of scientific research and growing public recognition of the need for 
coordinated protection of significant offshore marine places in the 
northern Gulf of Mexico region. Protecting additional habitat in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico emerged as one of the highest priorities 
identified during a vigorous public review process of FGBNMS management 
issues. Subsequently, ``Sanctuary Expansion'' was incorporated as a 
discrete action plan in the 2012 revision of the sanctuary's management 
plan. The region is heavily utilized for a variety of recreational, 
commercial, and industrial purposes, and there are ongoing impacts from 
bottom-disturbing activities, such as large vessel anchoring and marine 
salvage, on the sensitive biological resources and geological features 
associated with many reefs and banks in

[[Page 25361]]

the area. Therefore, pursuant to the NMSA's purpose to ``facilitate to 
the extent compatible with the primary objective of resource 
protection, all public and private uses of the resources of these 
marine areas,'' FGBNMS can further resource protection while balancing 
multiple uses. The proposed action would expand FGBNMS by incorporating 
portions of selected reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of 
Mexico. In doing so, the proposed action would provide management of 
and protection for nationally significant areas with biological, 
ecological, and/or structural links to the existing sanctuary, 
including vulnerable mesophotic and deep benthic habitat sites, while 
providing important opportunities for research and recovery of 
resources from observed impacts. These areas contain the most 
significant examples of mesophotic coral communities in the Gulf of 
Mexico, including some of the highest known densities of mesophotic 
corals (colonies per square meter). Many banks in the proposed 
expansion are also nationally significant, in part, because they have 
been historically recognized by BOEM and GMFMC, as stated above.

II. History of the FGBNMS Expansion Process

1. Management Plan Review
    NOAA is required by NMSA Section 304(e) to periodically review 
sanctuary management plans to ensure that sanctuary management 
continues to effectively conserve, protect, and enhance the nationally 
significant living and cultural resources at each site. Management 
plans generally outline regulatory goals, describe boundaries, identify 
staffing and budget needs, and set priorities and performance measures 
for resource protection, research, and education programs. Management 
plans also guide the development of future management activities.
    The FGBNMS management plan review process began in 2006 with a 
series of scoping meetings to obtain information about the public's 
interests and priorities for FGBNMS management (71 FR 52757; September 
7, 2006). Subsequently, NOAA worked with the FGBNMS Advisory Council to 
prioritize issues and develop appropriate management strategies and 
activities for the preparation of a draft revised management plan. 
Protecting additional nationally significant habitat in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico emerged as one of the highest priority 
issues for the sanctuary during the FGBNMS management plan review 
process.
    In 2007, the FGBNMS Advisory Council, using information developed 
by its Boundary Expansion Working Group (BEWG), recommended a range of 
sanctuary boundary expansion alternatives. Based on this input, and 
information obtained through a subsequent public process, NOAA prepared 
a revised management plan (77 FR 25060, April 27, 2012) that contained 
six action plans, including one that specifically addressed sanctuary 
expansion. The Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan outlined a strategy to 
expand the protected areas to include additional reefs and banks in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and to develop a DEIS to evaluate 
appropriate expansion alternatives. The recommended expansion 
alternative, as identified by the FGBNMS Advisory Council in 2007, was 
included in the Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan. This recommendation 
included nine additional reefs and banks, encompassing approximately 
281 square miles.
2. Boundary Expansion Notice of Intent
    On February 3, 2015, NOAA published a Notice of Intent to prepare a 
draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for expanding FGBNMS 
boundaries (80 FR 5699). That Notice solicited public input on the 
range and significance of issues related to sanctuary expansion, 
including potential boundary configurations, resources to be protected, 
other issues NOAA should consider, and any information that should be 
included in the resource analysis. The public scoping period was open 
through April 6, 2015, during which time ONMS held three public 
hearings and interested parties submitted both written and oral 
comments.
    NOAA received approximately 200 comments during the scoping period. 
Most commenters were strongly supportive of the concept of sanctuary 
expansion. In addition to broad general support, some comments 
expressed conditional support while raising user concerns primarily 
relating to the potential impact of sanctuary expansion on the offshore 
oil and gas industry and historic fishing practices. Other commenters 
recommended that NOAA consider a broader geographical area than the 
Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan identified, especially in light of the 
2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill and new information that became 
available since the 2007 FGBNMS Advisory Council recommendation. This 
information was considered during the development of the expansion 
alternatives in the DEIS.
3. Draft Environmental Impact Statement
    In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the NMSA (NMSA, 16 U.S.C. 1434), NOAA prepared 
and released a DEIS (81 FR 37576, June 10, 2016). The DEIS considered 
alternatives for the proposed expansion of boundaries at FGBNMS and 
application of the existing sanctuary regulations and management 
actions to the expanded area. The DEIS evaluated the environmental 
consequences of the alternatives and provided an in-depth resource 
assessment. The action alternatives in the DEIS would expand the 
network of protected areas within FGBNMS by incorporating selected 
reefs, banks, and other features in the north central Gulf of Mexico.
    The DEIS evaluated five alternatives, ranging from ``no action'' 
(maintaining the current boundaries) to one that included a total of 45 
discrete boundary units and encompassed approximately 935 square miles. 
The proposed action discussed in this rulemaking falls within the 
bounds of the DEIS alternatives as discussed below in part II, section 
5 of this proposed rule and in the supplemental information report 
which is available at the FGBMNS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of 
the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. The 
2007 Advisory Council recommendation (Alternative 2) was included in 
the range of alternatives. All alternatives were consistent with NOAA's 
mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and 
resources, would further 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,'' would provide for more comprehensive management and 
protection of important and vulnerable ecological and cultural 
resources across the north central Gulf of Mexico, and would provide 
important opportunities for research and recovery of resources from 
observed impacts. No significant adverse impacts to the human 
environment were identified under any alternative considered in the 
DEIS.
    NOAA's preferred alternative in the 2016 DEIS (Alternative 3) 
sought to expand the existing sanctuary from approximately 56 square 
miles to approximately 383 square miles, including additional important 
and

[[Page 25362]]

sensitive marine habitat areas in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. This 
alternative would have applied the existing sanctuary regulations and 
management actions to the expanded area. The 2016 preferred alternative 
included 15 reefs and banks (in addition to those contained within the 
existing 3 sanctuary units) encompassed within 11 discrete boundary 
polygons.
    The 2016 preferred alternative would have also modified the 
existing Stetson Bank boundary and incorporated the existing East and 
West Flower Garden Banks in a single new sanctuary unit that included 
an additional feature known as Horseshoe Bank. The preferred 
alternative also would have established new discontiguous boundaries 
encompassing seven individual banks (McGrail, Geyer, Sonnier, 
Alderdice, MacNeil, Elvers, and Parker) and two additional habitat 
complexes comprising multiple reefs and banks (the Bright-Rankin-28 
Fathom complex and the Bouma-Bryant-Rezak-Sidner complex). NOAA 
developed this alternative based on similar criteria used by the FGBNMS 
Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) in their 2007 recommendation for 
boundary expansion, supplemented since that time by information 
obtained from current research, consultation with other federal and 
state agencies, and public comment.
    The 2016 preferred alternative was also informed by the impacts and 
restoration plans resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, 
and information on biological communities obtained from in situ surveys 
contributed to the analysis. Evaluation criteria were applied for 
standardization and quality control.
4. Comments Received on the DEIS
a. Public Comments
    NOAA accepted public comments on the DEIS from June 2016 to August 
2016 through https://www.Regulations.gov, by mail, and in person during 
public hearings in Galveston, TX; Houston, TX; New Orleans, LA; 
Lafayette, LA; and Mobile, AL. Public comments are available for review 
at https://www.regulations.gov, docket # NOAA-NOS-2016-0059. NOAA 
received 1,421 separate comments during the public comment period, 
including three letter campaigns and one petition, each with multiple 
signatories, for a total of 8,491 comments.
Characterization of Public Comments
    In support of expansion, 4,579 expressed support for Alternative 5 
(the most comprehensive alternative), 1,501 for Alternative 3 
(Preferred Alternative) and 9 for Alternative 2 (the 2007 SAC 
Recommendation). The public comments are summarized below, and a 
comprehensive characterization of public comments will be included in 
the final environmental impact statement (FEIS).
    Public comments identified specific geographic locations of concern 
within the range of proposed alternatives, and additional areas of 
concern that were not included in the range of proposed alternatives. 
Comments raised concerns regarding fish spawning aggregations, open 
water areas between banks, shipwrecks, mesophotic/deepwater coral 
ecosystems, artificial reefs, sea turtles, corals, commercial fish, 
sharks, rays, and whales. Comments supportive of the proposed expansion 
referred to industrial, environmental, and global impacts. Opposing 
comments cited existing protections for sensitive resources; 
restriction to use/access; safety, budget, and management concerns; and 
socioeconomic consequences.
b. Agency Consultations and Other Coordination
i. BOEM Consultation
    Pursuant to NMSA Section 304(a)(2)(B)(ii) and through the 
Cooperative Agency Agreement dated September 2015, FGBNMS consulted 
with BOEM during the development of the DEIS to evaluate the impacts to 
the oil and gas industry. After NOAA released the DEIS and in a report 
dated November 2, 2016, BOEM provided additional analysis of the Outer 
Continental Shelf (OCS) areas affected by Alternative 3 (Preferred 
Alternative) and Alternative 5. In that report, BOEM provided 
information on: (1) Discovered, contingent and undiscovered oil and gas 
resource potential beneath proposed expansion areas; (2) rough cost 
estimates for directional drilling from outside the sanctuary; (3) 
potential economic loss to the Federal government from a reduction in 
OCS leasing if affected sanctuary blocks are not leased; (4) 
identification of currently leased OCS blocks in the expansion area; 
(5) rough cost estimates to route new pipelines around the expanded 
sanctuary area; and (6) areas within the proposed expansion beyond what 
BOEM currently protects.
ii. Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Consultation
    Pursuant to NMSA Section 304(a)(5), ONMS sent a formal letter, 
dated June 17, 2016, to initiate consultation with GMFMC. NOAA also 
provided multiple updates at GMFMC meetings over the course of the 
development of the DEIS and this proposed rule. Sites in the 2016 DEIS 
preferred alternative (Alternative 3) were analyzed by GMFMC, and in a 
communication dated November 9, 2016, GMFMC recommended that NOAA use a 
``tiered approach'' for application of fishing regulations within most 
banks of the expanded sanctuary (see 2, below). The general concept of 
this approach is based on utilization of areas previously designated by 
BOEM as NAZs and that are associated with most of the bank features 
included in the 2016 DEIS Preferred Alternative. The NAZs are defined 
pursuant to a Gulf of Mexico OCS lease stipulation contained in Notice 
to Lessees (NTL) No. 2009-G39.
    The GMFMC recommendations are as follows:
    (1) Maintain current fishing regulations within existing Habitat 
Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs).
    East and West Flower Garden, Stetson and McGrail Banks are HAPCs 
with regulations that prohibit fishing with bottom longline, bottom 
trawl, buoy gear, dredge, pot or trap, and bottom anchoring by fishing 
vessels.
    (2) For other banks in the proposed expansion, establish a 
``tiered'' approach for application of fishing regulations as follows: 
Tier One--areas within existing BOEM NAZs would be established as ``no 
bottom tending gear'' zones, in which only traditional hook and line 
fishing (including bandit rigs) would be allowed, and anchoring would 
be prohibited; Tier Two--areas outside the BOEM NAZs but inside FGBNMS 
boundaries where bottom tending gear and anchoring by fishing vessels 
with an endorsement (see 3, below) would be allowed, but bottom 
trawling, traps, and dredges would be prohibited; Tier Three--outside 
of sanctuary boundaries--no sanctuary restrictions. The GMFMC also 
recommended establishing a truncated ``no bottom tending gear zone'' 
for banks without an NAZ.
    (3) For those areas of soft sediment outside of the ``no bottom 
tending gear zone,'' create an endorsement program to allow anchoring 
by commercial vessels. This endorsement would require the use of a 
vessel monitoring system (VMS) and the use of anchor systems equipped 
with a weak link environmental safeguard. The endorsement would require 
an education program for operators of commercial vessels and the use of 
mooring buoys by recreational vessels.

[[Page 25363]]

    (4) Place mooring buoys within the ``no bottom tending gear zones'' 
to allow for public access.
    (5) Alter boundaries for several specific banks.
iii. NOAA Fisheries Coordination
    Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the 
possession and use of fishing gear with the exception of conventional 
hook and line gear. Pelagic longline gear is used to target yellowfin 
tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed sanctuary 
expansion areas. In an August 2016 letter, NOAA's National Marine 
Fisheries Service, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management 
Division, requested that an exemption for pelagic longline gear be 
added to the current exemption for conventional hook and line gear in 
the expanded sanctuary area.
c. FGBNMS Advisory Council Review
    Prior to the release of the DEIS, the FGBNMS Advisory Council re-
established the Boundary Expansion Working Group (BEWG) to provide 
additional review of NOAA's expansion proposal and make recommendations 
to the full Advisory Council. The BEWG consisted of 10 Advisory Council 
members and was co-chaired by representatives of the Oil and Gas 
Industry and Commercial Fishing constituent groups. Between July 2016 
and May 2018, the BEWG met 21 times, and considered a variety of 
topics, including a range of boundary and regulatory issues.
    At the request of FGBNMS and in consultation with the BEWG, 
beginning in April 2017, NOAA's National Centers for Coastal and Ocean 
Science (NCCOS) developed an analysis tool to assist the BEWG in their 
boundary discussions. As part of this analysis, NCCOS synthesized 
available information on biology, ecology, human use, and management 
designations for the study area, and created a geodatabase that helped 
visualize and evaluate various boundary expansion options. The analysis 
used a geospatial planning software tool known as Marxan, which is 
designed to help decision makers find solutions to conservation 
planning issues. A variety of geospatial datasets were included in the 
analysis, including commercial fishing vessel activity, oil and gas 
infrastructure, known locations of sensitive biological communities, 
shipping activity, and existing management zones. The various data 
components were assigned weights, as determined by the BEWG, to give 
priority and identify potential outcomes. The analysis focused on the 
locations of the BOEM designated NAZs. NAZs are areas within which no 
operations, anchoring, or structures are allowed for oil and gas 
operations. These areas are outlined in BOEM's Western and Central Gulf 
of Mexico Topographic Features Stipulation Map Package, and further 
described Notice to Lessees (NTL) No. 2009-G39. The NAZs were developed 
in the 1970-1980's to protect the shallowest portion of the reefs and 
banks (i.e., ``topographic features'') under consideration for oil and 
gas development. The focus on the NAZs by the BEWG was in response to 
concerns raised primarily by the oil and gas industry regarding 
potential impacts to offshore energy operations from FGBNMS expansion 
in this portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, the BEWG considered 
the NAZs as the primary geographically bound characteristic by which to 
develop recommendations for revisions to the proposed sanctuary 
expansion boundaries. In April and May 2019, the BEWG adopted a series 
of recommendations for expansion of 14 of the 15 additional banks 
proposed in the 2016 DEIS preferred alternative.
    The BEWG presented its revised FGBNMS expansion boundaries 
recommendation to the full FGBNMS Advisory Council (SAC) on May 9, 
2018, and the recommendation was accepted by the SAC as proposed.
5. NOAA's Revised Preferred Alternative and Supplemental Information 
Report
    Based primarily on the May 2018 recommendation from the FGBNMS 
Advisory Council, along with input received from public comments, and 
consultation with the GMFMC and various Federal agencies, NOAA is 
revising its preferred alternative for sanctuary expansion.
    The original 2016 DEIS Preferred Alternative would have added 15 
banks, for a total of 18 banks, represented in 11 polygons (including 3 
multi-bank complexes). This would have resulted in an increase of the 
existing sanctuary area from approximately 56 square miles to 
approximately 383 square miles. NOAA's revised preferred alternative 
presented in this proposed rule would add 14 banks, for a total of 17 
banks, represented in 19 polygons (including 3 banks with multi-
polygons). This would increase the current sanctuary area from 
approximately 56 square miles to approximately 160 square miles. NOAA 
has reduced the size of the expansion areas proposed in the 2016 DEIS 
preferred alternative, to promote compatibility with users and reduce 
potential economic impacts to the offshore energy industry.
    The supplemental information report (SIR), which is available at 
the FGBNMS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket 
identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document, describes NOAA's 
development of the revised preferred alternative. In summary, through 
the SIR, NOAA evaluated changes to the 2016 preferred alternative. As 
detailed in the SIR, the revised preferred alternative boundaries are 
more tightly drawn around the shallowest portions of the geological 
features of interest, and the new polygons include all of the same 
reefs and banks that were represented in the 2016 preferred 
alternative, with one exception, Bryant Bank, which is not included in 
the revised preferred alternative. Bryant Bank is a small area in the 
Bouma-Bryant-Rezak-Sidner Bank complex. Moreover, the SIR evaluated new 
circumstances and information related to fishing activity and oil & gas 
activity. Ultimately, NOAA determined that the changes reflected in the 
revised preferred alternative are not ``substantial changes in the 
proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns'' (40 CFR 
1502.9(c)(1)(i)). NOAA further found that the comments received on the 
2016 DEIS do not ``constitute significant new circumstances or 
information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the 
proposed action or its impacts'' (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(ii). As such, 
NOAA determined that preparing a supplement to the 2016 DEIS is neither 
required, nor necessary under NEPA. Pursuant to applicable CEQ 
guidance, NOAA will document the agency's rationale for revising the 
preferred alternative and provide updated information on the affected 
environment in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and 
related Record of Decision (ROD).
    NOAA submits that the revised preferred alternative, as presented 
herein, minimizes the impact to offshore energy exploration and 
production while providing substantial protection to sensitive marine 
habitats of national significance and meeting the expansion objectives 
as identified in the 2012 FGBNMS management plan and 2016 DEIS.
a. Additional Consultations
i. Executive Order 13795--Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy 
Strategy
    On April 28, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 
13795--

[[Page 25364]]

Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. The proposed 
action is subject to the criteria contained within Section 4 of that 
order, which directs the Secretary of Commerce to refrain from 
designating or expanding any national marine sanctuary unless the 
proposal includes a full accounting from the Department of the Interior 
(DOI) of any energy or mineral resource potential (including offshore 
energy from wind, oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, and any other 
sources that the Secretary of Commerce deems appropriate) within the 
proposed area, and the potential impact of the expansion on the energy 
or mineral resource potential within the area proposed to be 
designated.
    On November 6, 2018, NOAA submitted a letter to BOEM, requesting 
the analysis required by the Executive Order for the revised preferred 
alternative boundary developed in response to public comment and a 
recommendation by the FGBNMS Advisory Council described above in part 
II, section 5 of this proposed rule.
    On February 25, 2019, BOEM responded with a review of offshore 
energy and mineral resource potential located within the revised 
proposed expansion areas. BOEM's report is available at the Supporting 
Document section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of 
this document. The BOEM analysis indicated that the proposed expansion 
could impact the development of OCS oil and gas resources leading to a 
potential reduction in Federal revenue from leasing revenue and 
royalties. BOEM expressed concern that expansion would potentially: (1) 
Restrict new wells from being drilled in areas that would be inside new 
sanctuary boundaries, but that are currently outside the existing BOEM-
designated NAZs, primarily due to the triggering of the EPA's National 
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit discharge 
restriction; (2) incorporate some sandy and muddy seafloor that BOEM 
considers to be available for development under current guidelines; (3) 
make it more difficult and costly for OCS oil- and gas-related 
activities to occur; and (4) increase costs on leases in an expanded 
sanctuary, potentially deterring current lease holders from developing 
oil and gas resources, as well as reducing future leasing within the 
sanctuary, which could result in an economic loss to the federal 
government.
    BOEM's analysis stated that areas within the proposed expansion 
boundaries contain approximately 0.11 million barrels of oil equivalent 
(MMBOE) reserves, 3.86 MMBOE of contingent resources, and 4.50 MMBOE of 
undiscovered resources. The oil reserves estimated in BOEM's analysis 
represent approximately 0.002% of known oil and gas reserves, 0.07% of 
the contingent resources, and 0.008% of undiscovered resources in the 
OCS Gulf of Mexico. This is well below the impacts expressed in the 
2016 FGBNMS DEIS, in which NOAA estimated that the proposed expansion 
had the potential to overlap with approximately 0.25% of known oil and 
gas reserves.
    BOEM's analysis of the revised preferred alternative found that the 
expansion of FGBNMS would affect 65 additional whole or partial OCS 
blocks (by incorporation into the FGBNMS and/or by distancing 
requirements for bottom disturbing activity), which contain eight 
active oil and gas leases. Most of this area (73%) is already located 
within BOEM-designated NAZs. As an indication of the potential value of 
leases in this area, BOEM reports that the total amount of bonus bids 
collected for the eight active lease blocks affected by the preferred 
alternative for sanctuary expansion from 1972 through 2018 was $97 
million. Section 304(c) of the NMSA provides that: ``Nothing in this 
chapter shall be construed as terminating or granting to the Secretary 
the right to terminate any valid lease, permit, license, or right of 
subsistence use or of access that is in existence on the date of 
designation of any national marine sanctuary.'' This provision is 
implemented by National Marine Sanctuary Program Regulations at 15 CFR 
922.47, which would apply to the expanded area. Accordingly, anyone who 
has a pre-existing activity that falls within the ambit of section 
304(c) of the NMSA may request certification of that activity by filing 
a formal application to NOAA within 90 days of the effective date of 
the final rule to expand the boundaries of FGBNMS.
    BOEM reports that there are also portions of 57 unleased OCS blocks 
affected by the preferred alternative for the proposed sanctuary 
expansion that could experience more restrictive oil and gas activity 
conditions if they are leased following expansion of FGBNMS. NOAA notes 
that of this area, less than 27% is included in the proposed sanctuary 
expansion boundaries, and 61% of that area is already included within 
BOEM NAZs. Therefore, sanctuary designation will not impact most of the 
lease block area analyzed by BOEM, and it is unlikely that the affected 
OCS blocks will be rendered un-leasable in the future. However, in the 
event that these blocks become unavailable for leasing, or if operators 
choose not to lease them because of Sanctuary designation (e.g. due to 
the need for directional drilling or relocation), BOEM estimates that 
there could be a potential loss of revenue to the Federal Government. 
Under this scenario and, based on a minimum bid amount for the entire 
unleased acreage, BOEM calculated a potential future cumulative value 
of $12 million in lost bonuses for leases could be associated with 
FGBNMS expansion. When considered in context, this amount is less than 
significant. For example, in the previous 10 years prior to this 
analysis, approximately $7.7 billion in bonus bids have been collected 
for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
    BOEM reported that if technically and economically feasible, access 
to the affected oil and gas resources could be obtained through 
directional drilling technology at a potential total increase in cost 
of $3.24 million to the oil and gas industry for all future wells 
impacted by Sanctuary designation. Considering that average offshore 
well costs range from $10 to $50 million in water depth between 50 and 
500 ft (15.2--152 m), with drill depths between 5,000 and 20,000 ft 
(1524--6096 m), the additional cost related to directional drilling for 
all future wells that could be impacted by sanctuary expansion is not 
significant.
    Finally, BOEM estimates that from $8.1 million to $40.5 million in 
total potential future lease royalties could be forgone related to the 
recovery of undiscovered resources in the proposed FGBNMS expansion 
areas. However, NOAA notes that, based on historical records, lease 
blocks that are partially within or adjacent to East and West Flower 
Garden Banks have continued to be leased and developed since 
designation of FGBNMS in 1992.
    BOEM's February 2019 analysis further clarifies the extent of 
potential for oil and gas development within the proposed sanctuary 
boundaries and supports the assessment that the proposed action would 
not have a significant negative economic impact on OCS oil and gas 
development in the Gulf of Mexico.
ii. GMFMC's Response to the Revised Preferred Alternative
    In October 2018, NOAA provided the revised preferred alternative 
boundaries, which is described above in Part II, section 5 of this 
proposed rule, to the GMFMC for reconsideration.
    The GMFMC sent revised comments to ONMS in a letter dated November 
7, 2018, supporting the revised boundary proposal and indicating that 
the previously recommended tiered approach was no longer needed. For

[[Page 25365]]

more information on the revised preferred alternative, please refer to 
part II, section 5 of this rulemaking and the Supplemental Information 
Report, which is available at the FGBMNS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting 
Documents section of the docket identified in the ADDRESSES section of 
this document. GMFMC also submitted a request to allow spearfishing in 
the new expansion areas, as well as encouragement for implementing an 
endorsement program in order to allow fishing inside the sanctuary, and 
the installation of additional mooring buoys. The GMFMC suggested also 
that the FGBNMS investigate the potential impacts that the use of 
``bandit rig'' gear could have on coral. The request to allow the use 
of spearfishing gear in the expanded areas will be vetted through 
public comment solicitation in part VI section 2 of this proposed rule.
iii. Ongoing Coordination With NOAA Fisheries
    Following its review of the revised preferred alternative, NOAA 
Fisheries has maintained its request for an exemption to allow the use 
of pelagic longline gear in the expanded sanctuary areas. ONMS is 
seeking the public's view on this request as described in part VI 
section 2 of this proposed rule.

III. Summary of Regulatory Amendments

1. Sanctuary Boundary Expansion
    NOAA is proposing to amend the existing sanctuary boundary 
descriptions at 15 CFR part 922, subpart L, and the terms of 
designation in order to expand the current boundaries of FGBNMS to 
include portions of 14 additional reefs and banks in the sanctuary, 
adding approximately 104 square miles, bringing the total area to 160.4 
square miles. The proposed boundary changes were selected through a 
public process to identify and assess marine areas that could more 
effectively complement current management authorities or enhance 
natural and cultural resource values. Collectively, these new areas 
capture a greater diversity of habitats and biological resources than 
currently protected by FGBNMS. Inclusion of these areas within the 
sanctuary system would provide additional regulatory protection, 
resources for management, and improved public awareness of their 
natural resource values. Detailed maps of these proposed changes are 
available on our website at https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html.
    Under this action NOAA is proposing to expand the boundaries of the 
sanctuary from 56.2 square miles to 160.4 square miles as follows:
a. Stetson Bank--increase of area by 0.6 square miles from 0.8 square 
miles to 1.4 square miles
b. West Flower Garden Bank--increase of area by 7.2 square miles from 
29.9 square miles to 37.2 square miles
c. East Flower Garden Bank--increase of area by 2.4 square miles from 
25.4 square miles to 27.8 square miles
d. Horseshoe Bank--28.7 square miles
e. MacNeil Bank--2.7 square miles
f. Rankin/28 Fathom Banks--5.6 square miles
g. Bright Bank-- 7.7 square miles
h. Geyer Bank--11.5 square miles
i. Elvers Bank--4.6 square miles
j. McGrail Bank--4.7 square miles
k. Sonnier Bank--3.1 square miles
l. Bouma Bank--7.7 square miles
m. Rezak Bank--3.7 square miles
n. Sidner Bank--2.0 square miles
o. Alderdice Bank--5.0 square miles
p. Parker Bank--7.0 square miles
2. Apply the Existing Sanctuary Regulations and Management Action to 
the Expanded Area
    NOAA also proposes to apply the existing sanctuary regulations 
(including regulatory prohibitions set forth in section 922.122) and 
management action to the expanded sanctuary boundary in order to 
provide for more comprehensive management and protection of sensitive 
underwater features and marine habitats associated with continental 
shelf-edge reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. 
Accordingly, 15 CFR 922.122(e) would be updated to reflect the 
effective date of the sanctuary expansion, and no further amendments of 
the regulatory text in 15 CFR part 922 would be necessary to implement 
this action as proposed.
3. Additional Amendments Based on Comments Received
    As discussed in part VI, NOAA is seeking comment on the proposed 
boundaries and on the requests for exemption of spearfishing and 
pelagic longlining and may revise the final rule as appropriate.

IV. Summary of Proposed Changes to the Sanctuary Terms of Designation 
Amending Subpart L

    Section 304(a)(4) of the NMSA requires that the terms of 
designation include the geographic area of the sanctuary; the 
characteristics of the area that give it conservation, recreational, 
ecological, historical, research, educational, or aesthetic value; and 
the types of activities that will be subject to regulation by the 
Secretary of Commerce to protect these characteristics. Section 
304(a)(4) also specifies that the terms of designation may be modified 
only by the same procedures by which the original designation was made.
    The terms of designation for FGBNMS was first published in 1991 (56 
FR 63637), and became effective in 1994 (58 FR 65664). The terms of 
designation were not incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations, 
and, whenever there was a proposed regulatory change, NOAA and the 
general public had to search the preamble of the 1991 final rule to 
understand the nature and scope of the terms of designation. With this 
action, NOAA is proposing to make the terms of designation more readily 
available to the general public by amending the FGBNMS regulations at 
15 CFR part 922, subpart L, to incorporate the terms of designation as 
a new Appendix B to the FGBNMS regulations, and update Article II. 
Description of the Area to include Stetson Bank (added by Congress in 
1996 pursuant to Pub. L. 104-283) and the additional reefs and banks 
proposed for expansion, add a new section relating to the U.S. 
Department of Defense (DoD) exemption, and (as described below) revise 
the ``Consistency with International Law'' section of the terms of 
designation. To read the entire terms of designation, please refer to 
Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922 in the draft regulatory text. This 
action does not propose to change the scope of the activities subject 
to regulation or change the DoD exemption as set forth in the terms of 
designation.
    NOAA has consulted with the State Department on the development of 
NMSA regulations for more than 40 years. For example, in 1979 NOAA 
responded to a commentator who ``felt that NOAA should specify the 
manner in which recognized principles of international law would be 
applied where sanctuaries include areas outside the territorial sea,'' 
by stating: ``Following consultation with the State Department, NOAA 
has determined that such application must be made on a case-by-case 
basis to ensure conformance with the evolving principles involved.'' 44 
FR 44831, 44833 (July 31, 1979) (Designation and Management of Marine 
Sanctuaries: Final Rule). Pursuant to State Department advice, NOAA is 
revising Article IV, Section 2 of the FGBNMS terms of designation to 
reflect NOAA's long-standing interpretation of 16 U.S.C.

[[Page 25366]]

1435(a). Accordingly, NOAA proposes to add language to the FGBNMS terms 
of designation indicating that, based on the legislative history of the 
NMSA, NOAA has long interpreted the text of 16 U.S.C. 1435(a) as 
encompassing international law, including customary international law.

V. Classification

A. National Marine Sanctuaries Act

    Section 301(b) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1431) provides authority for 
comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management of national 
marine sanctuaries in coordination with other resource management 
authorities. Section 304(a)(4) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1434) requires 
that the procedures specified in Section 304 for designating a national 
marine sanctuary be followed for modifying any term of designation. 
This action is revising the terms of designation (e.g., scope of 
regulations) for the FGBNMS. In accordance with Section 304, the 
documents relevant to the proposed expansion of Flower Garden Banks are 
being submitted to the House Resources Committee and the Senate 
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Section 304(a)(5) 
of the NMSA also requires that NOAA consult with the appropriate 
Federal fishery management council on any action proposing to regulate 
fishing in federal waters. Consultation with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery 
Management Council (GMFMC) is discussed above in part II sections 4 and 
5, and NOAA is soliciting comments on potential exemptions for pelagic 
longline and spearfishing in the expanded area.

B. National Environmental Policy Act

    In accordance with Section 304(a)(2) of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 
1434(a)(2)), and the provisions of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370), NOAA has 
prepared a DEIS to evaluate the impacts of this proposed action. For 
more information on the DEIS and steps leading to the revised preferred 
alternative, please refer above to part II, section 5 of this 
rulemaking and the Supplemental Information Report, which is available 
at the FGBMNS website https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionnpr.html, and the Supporting Documents section of the docket 
identified in the ADDRESSES section of this document. The DEIS contains 
a statement of the purpose and need for the project, description of 
proposed alternatives, including the no action alternative, description 
of the affected environment, and evaluation and comparison of 
environmental consequences including cumulative impacts. Upon review, 
NOAA finds that no significant adverse impacts to resources and the 
human environment are anticipated. Rather, long-term beneficial impacts 
are anticipated if the proposed action is implemented. Copies of the 
DEIS are available at the address and website listed in the ADDRESSES 
section of this proposed rule and on regulations.gov.
    After review of the comments received on the 2016 DEIS, NOAA is 
revising the 2016 preferred alternative (See part II, section 5 for 
more information on this revision). Compared to the 2016 Preferred 
Alternative (Alt. 3), the revised preferred alternative would reduce 
the total size of the proposed sanctuary expansion by 223 square miles 
(from approximately 383 mi\2\ to 160 mi\2\), reduce the number of 
additional banks from 15 to 14, and increase the number of new polygons 
from 8 larger areas (several of which encompassed multiple features) to 
16 smaller areas more closely bounding the shallowest portions of the 
geological features of interest. This action would increase the total 
number of banks to 17, and increase the total number of polygons to 19. 
The boundaries of the revised preferred alternative include no new 
reefs and banks from the original preferred alternative (Alt. 3) in the 
2016 DEIS. The smaller bounded areas established under the revised 
preferred alternative were developed from the recommendations of the 
FGBNMS Advisory Council (with minor corrections to the Stetson Bank 
Boundary consistent with Pub. L. 104-283 (Oct. 11, 1996)).
    Applying applicable NEPA regulations and guidance, NOAA finds that 
these revisions are within the range of the alternatives already 
analyzed in the 2016 DEIS, the changes reflected in the revised 
preferred alternative are not ``substantial changes in the proposed 
action that are relevant to environmental concerns'' (40 CFR 
1502.9(c)(1)(i)), and that this revision does not constitute 
``significant new circumstances or information relevant to 
environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its 
impacts'' (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)(ii)). Therefore, these revisions do not 
require that NOAA prepare a Supplemental DEIS. NOAA will document the 
rationale for revising the preferred alternative in the FEIS and 
related Record of Decision. To further document this, NOAA prepared a 
Supplemental Information Report, which is summarized above in part II 
section 5 of this rulemaking.

C. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Impact

    The Office of Management and Budget has determined this rule is 
significant under Executive Order 12866. This rule is also regulatory 
under Executive Order 13771. NOAA anticipates the associated costs with 
this proposed rule will be de minimis as explained more fully in the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act certification.

D. Executive Order 13132: Federalism Assessment

    NOAA has concluded this regulatory action does not have federalism 
implications sufficient to warrant preparation of a federalism 
assessment under Executive Order 13132. The area that is the subject of 
the proposed rule is located entirely within federal waters outside of 
state or local jurisdiction. This proposed rule will not have a 
substantial or direct effect on states or local governments.

E. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian 
Tribal Governments

    This Executive Order reaffirms the Federal government's commitment 
to tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and self-government. Its 
purpose is to ensure that all Executive departments and agencies 
consult with Indian tribes and respect tribal sovereignty as they 
develop policies on issues that impact Indian communities. This 
proposed action is not anticipated to have substantial direct effects 
on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal 
government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and 
responsibility between the Federal government and Indian tribes.

F. Executive Order 13795: Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy 
Strategy

    Executive Order 13795 directs the Secretary of Commerce to refrain 
from designating or expanding any national marine sanctuary unless the 
proposal includes a full accounting from the Department of the Interior 
(DOI) of any energy or mineral resource potential (including offshore 
energy from wind, oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, and any other 
sources that the Secretary of Commerce deems appropriate) within the 
proposed area, and the potential impact of the expansion on energy or 
mineral resource potential within the designated area. Information 
pursuant to this directive is included in part II section 5 of this 
proposed rule.

G. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires Federal agencies to prepare 
an

[[Page 25367]]

analysis of a rule's impact on small entities whenever the agency is 
required to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking, unless the agency 
can certify, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), that the action will not have 
a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.
    This proposed rule announces that NOAA's ONMS seeks to expand the 
boundary of FGBNMS, and apply the existing sanctuary regulations and 
management actions to the expanded area. The types of small 
organizations that may be impacted by this proposed rule include 
consumptive and non-consumptive recreational charter businesses, 
commercial fishing businesses, sightseeing businesses, and diving 
businesses operating within the waters approximately 70 to 120 miles 
offshore of Texas and Louisiana in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
    The Small Business Administration designates a scenic, sightseeing, 
sports, or recreational (NAICS code 487210) business as a small 
business if it has annual receipts of less than $8 million (13 CFR 
121.201). A finfish business (NAICS code 114111) is also designated as 
a small business if it has annual receipts of less than $22 million (13 
CFR 121.201). Oil and gas businesses (NAICS codes 21311 and 213112) are 
designated as small businesses if they hire less than 1000 employees 
and have annual receipts less than $41.5 million. NOAA has not 
identified any small entities that are in the oil and gas sector.
    Methodology. Due to the lack of quantitative data on the number of 
businesses directly affected by the proposed regulations and their 
levels of revenues, costs, and profits from their activities in the 
FGBNMS expansion area, the assessment here is qualitative. As described 
in the 2016 DEIS and in Leeworthy et al. (2016), using Vessel 
Monitoring System (VMS) data, NOAA identified 76 unique commercial 
fishing vessels in the northern Gulf of Mexico representing 40 fishing 
operators from Texas to Florida. These commercial fishing operators 
were surveyed (Leeworthy et al. 2016), and survey results of these 
operators revealed that six firms were using fishing areas in the 
vicinity of the banks in the 2016 DEIS, and those interests were 
considered as close to a census as practical of all commercial fishing 
operations targeting the banks in the proposed expansion areas. 
Therefore, NOAA determined that fishing occurred with low frequency 
within the proposed expansion areas of the sanctuary.
    In this analysis, NOAA concluded that impacts to the small business 
entities that were analyzed would be no effect or negligible. No effect 
means that the proposed action would have no impact on small 
businesses, and negligible means that the proposed action would cause 
less than 1% change to small businesses and no likely impact to 
revenue, costs, and profits.
    The 2016 DEIS analyzed five spatial alternatives (identified as 
Alternatives 1-5) for the proposed expansion of FGBNMS. Existing 
sanctuary regulations would apply in the newly expanded area regardless 
of which spatial alternative is adopted. Oil and gas regulations and 
other related regulations addressed in the 2016 DEIS are not discussed 
since the oil and gas industry operating within the northern Gulf of 
Mexico would not be deemed a small business under applicable SBA 
regulations. This analysis focuses on the application of existing 
sanctuary regulations to new areas that would impose fishing gear 
restrictions, prohibit anchoring and mooring of certain vessels in the 
sanctuary, and protect sanctuary resources. The proposed action is 
expected to have negligible impact on small entities due to the low 
level of fishing effort observed in the proposed expansion areas.
    Fishing Gear Regulations in the Expanded Sanctuary Boundaries. 
Under the existing sanctuary regulations, which would be applied in the 
expanded area if the proposed rule is adopted, only conventional hook 
and line gear may be used in the expanded sanctuary boundaries. The 
term ``conventional hook and line gear'' means any fishing apparatus 
operated aboard a vessel and composed of a single line terminated by a 
combination of sinkers and hooks or lures and spooled upon a reel that 
may be hand- or electronically operated, hand-held or mounted; and this 
term does not include bottom longlines (15 CFR 922.3). Applying these 
regulations, fishing with bottom-tending gear, nets, trawls, and 
speargun would be prohibited in the expanded sanctuary boundaries. NOAA 
determined that the proposed regulations would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of recreational or commercial 
fishing entities. According to Leeworthy et al. (2016), six commercial 
fishing and eight for-hire recreational entities use reefs and banks in 
or near the proposed expansion area for some portion of their 
operations. Each of these firms were shown to operate in an area 
considerably larger than the proposed expansion area; therefore, in 
none of the cases studied, were the amounts of impacts a significant 
portion of the business of any of the firms potentially affected. This 
analysis is also explained in the 2016 DEIS, and the economic effects 
of the revised preferred alternative are bounded within the results of 
the DEIS alternatives.
    Moreover, fishers would likely be able to harvest from similar 
areas near the proposed expansion area through spatial substitution. In 
the DEIS, NOAA used hardbottom substrate as a proxy for habitat areas 
targeted by the commercial fishing industry, and estimated that for the 
DEIS alternatives, between 0.59% and 7.15% of hardbottom habitat in the 
study area (north central Gulf of Mexico) would be subject to 
additional fishing restrictions, and the DEIS preferred alternative 
overlapped with 4.01% of the hardbottom substrate in the study area. 
Additionally, the area of the proposed expansion, under the revised 
preferred alternative, is considerably smaller than the 2016 preferred 
alternative. As such, fishers could use areas within the same reefs and 
banks adjacent to the sanctuary expansion areas.
    For recreational fisheries, the prohibition on spearfishing in the 
expanded area might be similarly offset by spatial substitution. This 
is especially true given the fact that the banks studied showed very 
little spearfishing activity in the proposed action area.
    Increased visitation to the sanctuary for recreation and tourism 
could result in positive long-term regional economic impacts as a 
result of increased visitor spending in coastal communities from which 
the sanctuary is accessed.
    Anchoring and Mooring Regulations in the Expanded Sanctuary 
Boundaries. The existing sanctuary regulations, which would be applied 
in the expanded area if the proposed rule is adopted, prohibit 
anchoring any vessel within the sanctuary. Mooring any vessel that is 
greater than 100 feet in registered length to a mooring buoy in the 
sanctuary is also prohibited. NOAA anticipates that the prohibition on 
bottom disturbing activities (such as anchoring) would reduce or 
eliminate opportunities to engage in some activities by commercial and 
recreational fishing vessels. However, the installation of mooring 
buoys for small vessels, measuring less than 100 feet in registered 
length, would potentially reduce the associated impacts. The impact of 
the anchoring prohibition and mooring restriction would also be none to 
negligible on commercial vessels (regardless of the vessel length) 
because commercial vessels are very unlikely to anchor or moor in the 
expansion area. Recreational vessels would not be

[[Page 25368]]

significantly impacted by these restrictions because they would be 
allowed to use moorings, due to the infrequency with which they use 
these areas, and mitigating factors, which are described below. 
Additionally, a portion (14%) of the proposed expanded area, including 
the modified boundaries of East and West Flower Garden and Stetson 
Banks, and the entire area of McGrail Bank, fall within existing coral 
Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC), which already prohibit 
anchoring by fishing vessels and use of bottom tending gear. Sanctuary 
expansion and the extension of the sanctuary regulations to the 
expanded area could also benefit small business diving and recreational 
fishing entities by enhancing the access to these areas through mooring 
buoy installation.
    The prohibition on the use of bottom disturbing gear (such as 
anchoring) would also have a negligible impact, and potential impacts 
may be offset by spatial substitution (i.e., fishers could operate in 
similar areas nearby, which is also referred to as displacement) 
(Leeworthy et al. 2016). Please refer to the above analysis regarding 
spatial substitution. This negligible impact would be further reduced 
by mitigating factors (i.e., potential for gear substitution, mooring 
buoy installations made possible by sanctuary designation). For 
example, though fishing for reef fish using bandit rigs would be 
allowed, prohibitions on anchoring may make this activity more 
difficult due to the need to anchor in specific locations to better 
target fish aggregations. Although anchoring prohibitions would make 
such fishing activities more difficult, NOAA concludes that the impact 
to relevant business is negligible because of the low intensity of 
fishing in the proposed expansion areas and because these areas make up 
a small portion of these businesses' overall area of use. Moreover, the 
fishing operators surveyed in Leeworthy et al. (2016) did not identify 
the expansion area as a primary or principle fishing area. Fishing from 
mooring buoys would also continue to be allowed provided the vessel 
does not exceed the prohibited length.
    Regulations Protecting Sanctuary Resources. Existing regulations 
applied to the expanded sanctuary area would prohibit injury, removal 
(or attempt to remove), or possession (regardless of where collected, 
caught, harvested or removed) of any coral or other bottom formation, 
coralline algae or other plant, marine invertebrate, brine-seep biota 
or carbonate rock, or fish (except for fish caught by use of 
conventional hook and line gear) within the sanctuary. Recreational 
diving businesses may be impacted negligibly by these existing 
regulations if applied to the expanded sanctuary area as proposed. 
Spearfishing, collection of souvenirs (shells, rocks, etc.), and fish 
feeding by scuba or breath-hold divers may be very minimally impacted. 
The extent of this type of activity is unknown but thought to be 
extremely limited due to the fact that only 0.013% of the proposed 
expansion area is within typical recreational diving depth ranges 
(depths of 130 feet or less) and the significant distance (more than 50 
miles offshore) to the expansion areas. Divers prefer to visit 
shallower areas where manmade structures such as oil rigs and sunken 
ships are present (e.g., Ditton et al. 2002). Therefore, the extent of 
this impact would be mitigated by spatial substitution (artificial 
reefs) and through the promotion of best practices for divers within 
the sanctuary.
    Based on the analysis presented above, the Chief Counsel for 
Regulations for the Department of Commerce has certified to the Office 
of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that the modifications 
of the regulations at 15 CFR part 922 will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This 
proposed rule also does not establish any new reporting, recordkeeping, 
or other compliance requirements.

H. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The existing FGBNMS regulations contain a collection-of-information 
requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), approved by 
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), under control number 0648-
0141, for collection-of-information for reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements under 15 CFR part 922. This proposed rule would not 
increase or otherwise revise the existing paperwork burdens.
    The public reporting burden for national marine sanctuary general 
permit applications is estimated to average 1 hour 30 minutes per 
application, including the time for reviewing the application 
instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the 
collection of information. For special use permits, a collection-of 
information requirement is necessary to determine whether the proposed 
activities are consistent with the terms and conditions of special use 
permits prescribed by the NMSA. The public reporting burden for this 
collection of information is estimated to average twenty four (24) 
hours per response (application, annual report, and financial report), 
including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data 
sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and 
reviewing the collection of information. This estimate does not include 
additional time that may be required should the applicant be required 
to provide information to NOAA for the preparation of documentation 
that may be required under NEPA (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.).
    NOAA does not expect that this proposed rule would appreciably 
change the average annual number of respondents or the reporting burden 
for the information requirements supporting special use or research 
permits because few activities requiring new permits are expected for 
the proposed areas. Much of the research is expected to be conducted by 
the sanctuary, and other uses that require permits are anticipated with 
very low intensity in the proposed expansion areas. NOAA believes that 
the proposed regulations do not necessitate a modification to its 
information collection approval by the Office of Management and Budget 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act. However, an increase in the number 
of ONMS permit requests would require a change to the reporting burden 
certified for OMB control number 0648-0141. While not expected, if such 
permit requests do increase, an update to this control number for the 
processing of ONMS permits would be requested.
    Comments regarding this burden estimate, or any other aspect of 
this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, 
may be sent to NOAA (see ADDRESSES above) and to the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) by email to [email protected] or 
fax to (202) 395-7285. Before an agency submits a collection of 
information to OMB for approval, the agency shall provide 60-day notice 
in the Federal Register, and otherwise consult with members of the 
public and affected agencies concerning each proposed collection of 
information, to solicit comments to:
    (i) Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is 
necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility;
    (ii) Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden 
of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of 
the methodology and assumptions used;

[[Page 25369]]

    (iii) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information 
to be collected; and
    (iv) Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those 
who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic 
submission of responses.

I. National Historic Preservation Act

    The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA; 16 U.S.C. 470 et 
seq.) is intended to preserve historical and archaeological sites in 
the United States of America. The act created the National Register of 
Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks, and the State 
Historic Preservation Offices. Section 106 of the NHPA requires Federal 
agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on 
historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic 
Preservation (ACHP) a reasonable opportunity to comment. The historic 
preservation review process mandated by Section 106 is outlined in 
regulations issued by ACHP (36 CFR part 800).
    In coordinating its responsibilities under the NHPA, NOAA has 
solicited for and identified consulting parties, and will complete the 
identification of historic properties and the assessment of the effects 
of the undertaking on such properties in scheduled consultations with 
those identified parties. By this notice, NOAA seeks to solicit public 
input, particularly regarding the identification of historic properties 
within the proposed areas of potential effect. Pursuant to 36 CFR 
800.16(l)(1), historic properties includes: ``any prehistoric or 
historic district, site, building, structure or object included in, or 
eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places 
maintained by the Secretary of the Interior.'' The term includes 
artifacts, records, and remains that are related to and located within 
such properties. Responses to comments received on this proposed rule 
and results of Section 106 consultations will be published in the Final 
Environmental Impact Statement and in the final rule.

J. Coastal Zone Management Act

    Section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA; 16 U.S.C. 
1456) requires Federal agencies to consult with a state's coastal 
program on potential Federal regulations having an effect on state 
waters. Copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement were 
provided to the Gulf Coast States, soliciting feedback on reasonably 
foreseeable effects on coastal resources and uses. Responses were 
received from Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Texas 
General Land Office indicating no objection to the proposed boundary 
changes or the DEIS. The information received from these states will be 
used by NOAA to prepare determinations, as appropriate, in compliance 
with the CZMA.

VI. Request for Comments

    Comments are welcome on any and all aspects of the proposed rule, 
and we request any data that may further inform impacts of the proposed 
action. We specifically solicit information on the following elements 
for consideration.
1. Changes to the Proposed Boundaries in the Revised Preferred 
Alternative
    Based on the Sanctuary Advisory Council recommendations in response 
to the DEIS, NOAA has made a number of changes to the boundaries of the 
polygons surrounding the banks and submerged features. NOAA is 
soliciting public comment on the revised boundaries.
2. Pelagic Longline Exemption Request
    Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the 
possession and use of fishing gear with the exception of conventional 
hook and line gear. Pelagic longline gear is used to target yellowfin 
tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico, including in the proposed 
sanctuary expansion areas. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, 
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, has submitted a 
request for an exemption for pelagic longline gear to be added to the 
current exemption for conventional hook and line gear in the sanctuary. 
NOAA is soliciting public input on this request.
3. Spearfishing Exemption Request
    Existing protections for FGBNMS include a prohibition on the 
possession and use of spearfishing equipment. During the public comment 
period for the DEIS, NOAA received several requests for an exemption to 
this prohibition for new expansion areas. Additionally, the Sanctuary 
Advisory Council's 2018 recommendation for sanctuary expansion also 
included a recommendation to allow free-diving spearfishing at all new 
banks, but not within the 3 banks of the existing sanctuary. 
Additionally, the SAC requested an exemption for the possession of 
spearguns (stowed and not available for immediate use) on board a 
vessel within the boundaries of the current FGBNMS, but the vessel may 
not be in possession of any reef fish species (with the exception of 
bait fish). Finally, the GMFMC also recommended that NOAA consider an 
exemption for the possession and use of spearfishing equipment in the 
sanctuary. NOAA is soliciting public input on this request.
    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, NOAA is proposing to 
amend Part 922, title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 922

    Administrative practice and procedure, Coastal zone, Fishing gear, 
Marine resources, Natural resources, Penalties, Recreation and 
recreation areas, Wildlife.

Nicole R. LeBoeuf,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone 
Management,National Ocean Service.

PART 922--NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY PROGRAM REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 922 continues to read as follows:

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

Subpart L--Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

0
2. Revise Sec.  922.120 to read as follows:


Sec.  922.120  Boundary.

    The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary) 
boundary encompasses a total area of approximately 121 square nautical 
miles (160.35 square miles) of offshore ocean waters, and submerged 
lands thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The entire sanctuary boundary is comprised 
of 19 unique polygons. The precise boundary coordinates for each 
polygon are listed in Appendix A to this subpart.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  922.121 revise the term ``No Activity Zone'' to read as 
follows:


Sec.  922.121  Definitions.

* * * * *
    No Activity Zone (applicable only to oil and gas industry 
activities) means the geographic areas delineated by the Department of 
the Interior in Topographic Features Stipulations for Outer Continental 
Shelf (OCS) lease sales as defined by a bathymetric contour (isobath) 
ranging from 55-85m in depth, with the exception of Stetson Bank (52m) 
and East and West Flower Garden Banks (100m). The Notice to Lessees 
(NTL) No. 2009-039 provides

[[Page 25370]]

and consolidates guidance for the avoidance and protection of 
biologically sensitive features and areas (i.e. topographic features, 
pinnacles, live bottoms (low relief features)) and other potentially 
sensitive biological features (PSBFs) when conducting operations in 
water depths shallower than 980 feet (300 meters) in the Gulf of 
Mexico. NTL 2009-039 remains in effect pursuant to NTL No. 2015-N02. 
The no-activity zones are based on depth contours as noted for the 
following Banks: Stetson Bank (52 meters), MacNeil Bank (82 meters), 
Rankin Banks (including 28 Fathom Bank) (85 meters), Bright Bank (85 
meters), Geyer Bank (85 meters), Elvers Bank (85 meters), McGrail Bank 
(85 meters), Bouma Bank (85 meters), Rezak Bank (85 meters), Sidner 
Bank (85 meters), Sonnier Bank (55 meters), Alderdice Bank (80 meters), 
and Parker Bank (85 meters). For East and West Flower Garden Banks, the 
no-activity zones are based on the ``\1/4\ \1/4\ \1/4\'' aliquot system 
formerly used by the Department of the Interior, a method that 
delineates a specific portion of a block rather than the actual 
underlying isobath. The precise aliquot part description of these areas 
around East and West Flower Garden Banks are provided in Appendix A of 
this subpart.
* * * * *
0
4. Revise Sec.  922.122 paragraph (e)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  922.122  Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities.

* * * * *
    (e)(1) The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this 
section do not apply to activities being carried out by the Department 
of Defense as of the effective date of Sanctuary designation (EFFECTIVE 
DATE OF REGULATIONS). Such activities shall be carried out in a manner 
that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. 
The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section do 
not apply to any new activities carried out by the Department of 
Defense that do not have the potential for any significant adverse 
impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities. Such activities shall be 
carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary 
resources or qualities. New activities with the potential for 
significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities may be 
exempted from the prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of 
this section by the Director after consultation between the Director 
and the Department of Defense. If it is determined that an activity may 
be carried out, such activity shall be carried out in a manner that 
minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources or qualities.
* * * * *
0
5. Revise Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922 to read as follows:

Appendix A to Subpart L of Part 922--Flower Garden Banks National 
Marine Sanctuary Boundary Coordinates

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

    Coordinates listed in this appendix are unprojected (Geographic 
Coordinate System) and based on the North American Datum of 1983 
(NAD83).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Point ID No.               Polygon ID No.                Bank(s)             Latitude        Longitude
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.15673       -94.29673
2..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.15661       -94.30312
3..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.15862       -94.30888
4..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.16950       -94.30839
5..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.17386       -94.30257
6..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.17583       -94.29445
7..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.17543       -94.29327
8..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.17284       -94.28952
9..........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.16924       -94.28677
10.........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.16428       -94.28681
11.........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.16274       -94.28756
12.........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.15796       -94.29047
13.........................  1.........................  Stetson Bank...........        28.15673       -94.29673
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.84363       -93.78549
2..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.81750       -93.81056
3..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.81752       -93.84752
4..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.83069       -93.86271
5..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.81735       -93.87490
6..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.83220       -93.89185
7..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.85854       -93.89369
8..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.87925       -93.87853
9..........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.92626       -93.82011
10.........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.92620       -93.81759
11.........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.91801       -93.80801
12.........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.90969       -93.77939
13.........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.88644       -93.77939
14.........................  2.........................  West Flower Garden Bank        27.84363       -93.78549
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.82317       -93.62789
2..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.80927       -93.63578
3..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.80568       -93.65541
4..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.79429       -93.66555
5..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.78357       -93.68846
6..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.79640       -93.70534
7..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.81855       -93.75198
8..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.82742       -93.74743
9..........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.81868       -93.68868
10.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.83143       -93.68941
11.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.84699       -93.70079
12.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.87165       -93.73947

[[Page 25371]]

 
13.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.88602       -93.73294
14.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.87252       -93.64648
15.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.85861       -93.63908
16.........................  3.........................  Horseshoe Bank.........        27.82317       -93.62789
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.89455       -93.57040
2..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.87999       -93.61309
3..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.88003       -93.62961
4..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.89330       -93.64172
5..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.92101       -93.64747
6..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.95899       -93.64490
7..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.97485       -93.63086
8..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.98177       -93.60996
9..........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.98554       -93.58188
10.........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.95206       -93.57810
11.........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.92151       -93.56880
12.........................  4.........................  East Flower Garden Bank        27.89455       -93.57040
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.00226       -93.51550
2..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        27.99707       -93.52669
3..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.00136       -93.52423
4..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.00518       -93.52425
5..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.01694       -93.52233
6..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.01883       -93.51264
7..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.03670       -93.50300
8..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.03724       -93.49844
9..........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.03113       -93.49199
10.........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.01300       -93.49624
11.........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.00331       -93.50725
12.........................  5.........................  MacNeil Bank...........        28.00226       -93.51550
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.92554       -93.40593
                                                          Bank.
2..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.92039       -93.41021
                                                          Bank.
3..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.92035       -93.42474
                                                          Bank.
4..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.91387       -93.43165
                                                          Bank.
5..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.90829       -93.42234
                                                          Bank.
6..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.90641       -93.42535
                                                          Bank.
7..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.90489       -93.44219
                                                          Bank.
8..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.89549       -93.44396
                                                          Bank.
9..........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.88892       -93.43403
                                                          Bank.
10.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.88072       -93.42805
                                                          Bank.
11.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.87676       -93.42787
                                                          Bank.
12.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.88449       -93.44458
                                                          Bank.
13.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.88803       -93.45159
                                                          Bank.
14.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.88794       -93.45905
                                                          Bank.
15.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.89234       -93.46410
                                                          Bank.
16.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.89971       -93.45571
                                                          Bank.
17.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.90910       -93.45343
                                                          Bank.
18.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.92847       -93.45335
                                                          Bank.
19.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.93407       -93.44743
                                                          Bank.
20.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.93599       -93.44215
                                                          Bank.
21.........................  6.........................  Rankin Bank & 28-Fathom        27.92554       -93.40593
                                                          Bank.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.87310       -93.27056
2..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.86549       -93.29462
3..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.87300       -93.31055
4..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.89058       -93.32193
5..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.89839       -93.31987
6..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.90336       -93.30953
7..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.91010       -93.30562
8..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.91634       -93.29292
9..........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.91263       -93.28816
10.........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.90354       -93.28386
11.........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.90253       -93.27238
12.........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.89927       -93.26729
13.........................  7.........................  Bright Bank............        27.87310       -93.27056
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.78848       -93.07794
2..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.79458       -93.08448
3..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.83313       -93.07913
4..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.85306       -93.08279
5..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.86328       -93.07885
6..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.86908       -93.06974

[[Page 25372]]

 
7..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.86556       -93.05944
8..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.85211       -93.05391
9..........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.83713       -93.05725
10.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.82540       -93.04312
11.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.82490       -93.04276
12.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.80846       -93.03412
13.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.78997       -93.04096
14.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.78602       -93.05384
15.........................  8.........................  Geyer Bank.............        27.78848       -93.07794
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82285       -92.88605
2..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82087       -92.88600
3..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82009       -92.88670
4..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81869       -92.89235
5..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81690       -92.89404
6..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81615       -92.89653
7..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.80645       -92.90884
8..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81221       -92.92082
9..........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81599       -92.93908
10.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.81934       -92.93940
11.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82250       -92.92465
12.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82809       -92.91359
13.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.83973       -92.89876
14.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.83972       -92.88038
15.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.83003       -92.86983
16.........................  9A........................  Elvers Bank--A.........        27.82285       -92.88605
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85645       -92.92310
2..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85662       -92.91922
3..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85334       -92.91631
4..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85076       -92.91727
5..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.84903       -92.92097
6..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85145       -92.92524
7..........................  9B........................  Elvers Bank--B.........        27.85645       -92.92310
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97684       -92.58489
2..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97749       -92.57716
3..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97475       -92.56753
4..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97304       -92.56191
5..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.95173       -92.53902
6..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.94849       -92.54254
7..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.96632       -92.56116
8..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.96792       -92.58152
9..........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.95989       -92.58187
10.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.95409       -92.57057
11.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.94951       -92.57135
12.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.94920       -92.57994
13.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.95846       -92.60274
14.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97286       -92.61901
15.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.98096       -92.60158
16.........................  10A.......................  McGrail Bank--A........        27.97684       -92.58489
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.94116       -92.54750
2..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.94180       -92.54543
3..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.94010       -92.54202
4..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.93616       -92.54151
5..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.93481       -92.54398
6..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.93529       -92.54803
7..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.93859       -92.54901
8..........................  10B.......................  McGrail Bank--B........        27.94116       -92.54750
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07909       -92.47305
2..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07370       -92.44900
3..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07370       -92.44891
4..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.06544       -92.43518
5..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.05162       -92.43380
6..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.03846       -92.44065
7..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.03463       -92.45289
8..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.03114       -92.45537
9..........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.02915       -92.46338
10.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.03154       -92.47259
11.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.04166       -92.47229
12.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.04525       -92.46717

[[Page 25373]]

 
13.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.04751       -92.47310
14.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.04676       -92.48308
15.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.04866       -92.48462
16.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.05687       -92.48145
17.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.06388       -92.49262
18.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07018       -92.49141
19.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.06974       -92.48613
20.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.06594       -92.48098
21.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07109       -92.47708
22.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07683       -92.48071
23.........................  11........................  Bouma Bank.............        28.07909       -92.47305
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.32652       -92.45356
2..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.32495       -92.45647
3..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.32501       -92.45965
4..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.32796       -92.46626
5..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.33523       -92.47536
6..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.34453       -92.47511
7..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.34840       -92.47439
8..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.35256       -92.47181
9..........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.35416       -92.46784
10.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.35456       -92.46135
11.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.35351       -92.45729
12.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.35174       -92.45107
13.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.34852       -92.44564
14.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.34303       -92.44045
15.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.34048       -92.44024
16.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.33584       -92.44669
17.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.33068       -92.44985
18.........................  12........................  Sonnier Bank...........        28.32652       -92.45356
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.95420       -92.36641
2..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.95847       -92.37739
3..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.95629       -92.38599
4..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.97297       -92.39248
5..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.97892       -92.39845
6..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.98869       -92.39964
7..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.99372       -92.38244
8..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.98603       -92.36697
9..........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.98022       -92.36429
10.........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.97442       -92.36996
11.........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.96006       -92.36854
12.........................  13........................  Rezak Bank.............        27.95420       -92.36641
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.93046       -92.36762
2..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.91368       -92.37398
3..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.91462       -92.38530
4..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.91976       -92.39427
5..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.92306       -92.38792
6..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.94525       -92.38305
7..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.94166       -92.37565
8..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.94231       -92.37189
9..........................  14........................  Sidner Bank............        27.93046       -92.36762
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.95067       -92.00294
2..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.94177       -91.99762
3..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.93547       -91.99568
4..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.92937       -91.99981
5..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.93224       -92.02999
6..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.93401       -92.03946
7..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.93958       -92.05015
8..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.95012       -92.05050
9..........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.96214       -92.05407
10.........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.96630       -92.04745
11.........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.96869       -92.04120
12.........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.96925       -92.02758
13.........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.96678       -92.02175
14.........................  15A.......................  Parker Bank--A.........        27.95067       -92.00294
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96082       -91.99450
2..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96432       -91.99285
3..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96566       -91.99014
4..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96385       -91.98600

[[Page 25374]]

 
5..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96149       -91.98639
6..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.95931       -91.98760
7..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.95824       -91.99183
8..........................  15B.......................  Parker Bank--B.........        27.96082       -91.99450
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09726       -91.99328
2..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09474       -91.98619
3..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09569       -91.97526
4..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09184       -91.97361
5..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.08410       -91.97273
6..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.07506       -91.97457
7..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.07053       -91.98465
8..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.06959       -91.99347
9..........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.06819       -92.00512
10.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.07026       -92.01321
11.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.07562       -92.02032
12.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.08058       -92.02436
13.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.08463       -92.02577
14.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09024       -92.02296
15.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09487       -92.01231
16.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09627       -92.00735
17.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09507       -92.00008
18.........................  16........................  Alderdice Bank.........        28.09726       -91.99328
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    6. Revise Appendix B to Subpart L of Part 922 to read as follows:

Appendix B to Subpart L of Part 922 Flower Garden Banks National Marine 
Sanctuary--Terms of Designation

Preamble

    Under the authority of title III of the Marine Protection, 
Research, and Sanctuaries Act, as amended (``the Act''), 16 U.S.C. 1431 
et seq., 19 separate unique polygon areas of ocean waters and the 
submerged lands thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge 
in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, as described in Article II, are 
hereby designated as Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary for 
the purposes of protecting and managing the conservation, ecological, 
recreation, research, education, historic and aesthetic resources and 
qualities of these areas.

Article I--Effect of Designation

    The Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to issue such final 
regulations as are necessary and reasonable to implement the 
designation, including managing and protecting the conservation, 
recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational, and 
esthetic resources and qualities of a sanctuary. Section 1 of Article 
IV of this Designation Document lists those activities that may be 
regulated on the effective date of designation or at some later date in 
order to protect Sanctuary resources and qualities. Thus, the act of 
designation empowers the Secretary of Commerce to regulate the 
activities listed in Section 1. Listing does not necessarily mean that 
an activity will be regulated; however, if an activity is not listed it 
may not be regulated, except on an emergency basis, unless Section 1 of 
Article IV is amended by the same procedures by which the original 
designation was made.

Article II--Description of the Area

    The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary) 
boundary encompasses a total area of approximately 121 square nautical 
miles (160 square miles) of offshore ocean waters, and submerged lands 
thereunder, along the continental shelf and shelf edge in the 
northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The entire sanctuary boundary is composed 
of 19 unique polygons. The precise boundary coordinates for each 
polygon are listed in Appendix A to this subpart.
    The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 1 begins at Point 1 and 
continues in numerical order to Point 13 and contains the submerged 
feature of Stetson Bank with an area of approximately 1.1 square 
nautical miles (1.5 square miles), located approximately 71 nautical 
miles (82 miles) south-southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary 
boundary for Polygon 2 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical 
order to Point 14 and contains the submerged feature of West Flower 
Garden Bank with an area of approximately 28.0 square nautical miles 
(37.1 square miles), located approximately 97 nautical miles (111 
miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for 
Polygon 3 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 
16 and contains the submerged feature of Horseshoe Bank with an area of 
approximately 21.7 square nautical miles (28.7 square miles), located 
approximately 102 nautical miles (117 miles) southeast of Galveston, 
Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 4 begins at Point 1 and 
continues in numerical order to Point 12 and contains the submerged 
feature of East Flower Garden Bank with an area of approximately 21.0 
square nautical miles (27.8 square miles), located approximately 101 
nautical miles (116 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary 
boundary for Polygon 5 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical 
order to Point 12 and contains the submerged feature of MacNeil Bank 
with an area of approximately 2.1 square nautical miles (2.7 square 
miles), located approximately 103 nautical miles (118 miles) southeast 
of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 6 begins at 
Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 21 and contains the 
submerged features of Rankin Bank and 28 Fathom Bank with an area of 
approximately 4.2 square nautical miles (5.6 square miles), located 
approximately 109 nautical miles (126 miles) southeast of Galveston, 
Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 7 begins at Point 1 and 
continues in numerical order to Point 13 and contains the submerged 
features of Bright Bank with an area of approximately 5.8 square 
nautical miles (7.6 square miles), located approximately 115 nautical 
miles (133

[[Page 25375]]

miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for 
Polygon 8 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 
15 and contains the submerged feature of Geyer Bank within an area of 
approximately 8.7 square nautical miles (11.5 square miles), located 
approximately 126 nautical miles (145 miles) southeast of Galveston, 
Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 9A begins at Point 1 and 
continues in numerical order to Point 16 and contains part of the 
submerged feature of Elvers Bank within an area of approximately 3.3 
square nautical miles (4.4 square miles), located approximately 134 
nautical miles (154 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary 
boundary for Polygon 9B begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical 
order to Point 7 and also contains part of the submerged feature of 
Elvers Bank within an area of approximately 0.1 square nautical miles 
(0.2 square miles), located approximately 133 nautical miles (153 
miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for 
Polygon 10A begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 
16 and contains part of the submerged feature of McGrail Bank with an 
area of approximately 3.4 square nautical miles (4.5 square miles), 
located approximately 142 nautical miles (163 miles) southeast of 
Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 10B begins at 
Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 8 and also contains 
part of the submerged feature of McGrail Bank with an area of 
approximately 0.1 square nautical miles (0.2 square miles), located 
approximately 146 nautical miles (168 miles) southeast of Galveston, 
Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 11 begins at Point 1 and 
continues in numerical order to Point 23 and contains the submerged 
feature of Bouma Bank with an area of approximately 5.8 square nautical 
miles (7.7 square miles), located approximately 145 nautical miles (167 
miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for 
Polygon 12 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 
18 and contains the submerged feature of Sonnier Bank with an area of 
approximately 2.3 square nautical miles (3.1 square miles), located 
approximately 138 nautical miles (159 miles) east-southeast of 
Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 13 begins at Point 
1 and continues in numerical order to Point 12 and contains the 
submerged feature of Rezak Bank with an area of approximately 2.8 
square nautical miles (3.7 square miles), located approximately 151 
nautical miles (174 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary 
boundary for Polygon 14 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical 
order to Point 9 and contains the submerged feature of Sidner Bank with 
an area of approximately 1.5 square nautical miles (2.0 square miles), 
located approximately 153 nautical miles (177 miles) southeast of 
Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for Polygon 15A begins at 
Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 14 and contains part 
of the submerged feature of Parker Bank within an area of approximately 
5.2 square nautical miles (6.8 square miles), located approximately 168 
nautical miles (194 miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary 
boundary for Polygon 15B begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical 
order to Point 8 and also contains part of the submerged feature of 
Parker Bank within an area of approximately 0.1 square nautical miles 
(0.2 square miles), located approximately 171 nautical miles (197 
miles) southeast of Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary boundary for 
Polygon 16 begins at Point 1 and continues in numerical order to Point 
18 and contains the submerged feature of Alderdice Bank within an area 
of approximately 3.8 square nautical miles (5.0 square miles), located 
approximately 166 nautical miles (191 miles) east-southeast of 
Galveston, Texas.

Article III--Characteristics of Area That Give it Particular Value

    The Sanctuary contains a series of underwater features located 
along the edge of the continental shelf in the northwestern Gulf of 
Mexico. These features are of interest from both a geological and 
biological perspective. Formed as the result of the movement of 
underlying salt deposits (also called salt domes or salt diapirs), and 
bathed by waters of tropical origin, they contain important geological 
features, biological habitats and other marine resources of national 
significance. They contain highly productive marine ecosystems that 
support a variety of fish and invertebrate communities of biological 
and economic importance.
    The reefs and banks of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico are 
structurally complex and contain a range of marine habitats, including 
coral reefs, coralline algal reefs, algal nodule beds, mesophotic and 
deepwater reefs, and softbottom communities. The composition, diversity 
and vertical distribution of benthic communities on the banks are 
strongly influenced by the physical environment, including water 
temperature, turbidity and current regime. Geological features of 
interest include brine seeps, exposed basalt, methane seeps, and mud 
volcanoes. East and West Flower Garden Banks, the most well-known of 
the features, sustain the northernmost living coral reefs on the U.S. 
continental shelf, considered among the healthiest coral reefs in the 
Caribbean and Western Atlantic region. A deeper water coral reef also 
exists at McGrail Bank, consisting primarily of large heads of blushing 
star coral (Stephanocoenia intersepta) at depths between 140 and 160 
feet. These coral reefs are isolated from other reef systems by over 
300 nautical miles (342 miles) and exist under hydrographic conditions 
generally near the northern limit for tropical reef formation. Several 
other banks, including Stetson, Sonnier, Geyer, and Bright Banks, 
contain various combinations of non-reef building coral species known 
collectively as coral communities, comprised of sponges, stony corals, 
fire coral, leafy algae and coralline algae. The deeper portions of the 
banks host thriving mid-depth (or ``mesophotic'') coral habitats 
characterized by the presence of both light-dependent and deepwater 
corals, including black corals, gorgonian corals, and associated 
organisms. Biological communities are distributed among several 
interrelated biotic zones, including a coralline algae zone, deep reef 
rocky outcrops, and soft bottom communities. The complex and 
biologically productive ecological communities of the banks offer a 
combination of aesthetic appeal and recreational and research 
opportunity matched in few other ocean areas.
    The following are qualitative descriptions of the individual reefs 
and banks within the Sanctuary; specific boundary coordinates can be 
found in Appendix A.
a. Stetson Bank, Depth Range 56ft-194ft
    Boundaries encompass a claystone/siltstone ring feature of 
mesophotic coral habitat revealed by high resolution multibeam 
bathymetric surveys, and subsequently ground-truthed by remotely 
operated vehicle surveys. These features are surface expressions of the 
salt dome associated with the feature, and provide habitat for sponges, 
gorgonians, stony branching corals, black corals, and associated fish 
and mobile invertebrates.
b. West Flower Garden Bank, Depth Range 59ft-545ft
    Boundaries encompass mesophotic coral patch reefs to the north,

[[Page 25376]]

southwest, and east of the existing sanctuary. These reefs provide 
coralline algae reef habitat for black corals, gorgonians, stony 
branching corals, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
c. East Flower Garden Bank, Depth Range 52ft-446ft
    Boundaries to encompass mesophotic coral patch reefs to the north 
and southeast of the existing sanctuary. These reefs provide deep coral 
habitat for dense populations of black corals, gorgonians, stony 
branching corals, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
d. Horseshoe Bank, Depth Range 243ft-614ft
    Extensive deepwater habitat and coralline algae reefs in the form 
of hundreds of patchy outcroppings covering an area of approximately 
1.9miles (3km) wide and having 16.4-49.2ft (5-15m) of relief above the 
seafloor, with dense assemblages of mesophotic black coral, gorgonians, 
stony branching corals, sponges, algae invertebrates, and fish; several 
conical-shaped mud volcanoes clustered near the center of the feature, 
with one rising 328ft (100m) above the sea floor.
e. MacNeil Bank, Depth Range 210ft-315ft
    Deep reef bedrock outcrops and coralline algae patch reefs 
harboring populations of black corals and gorgonians, sponges, fish, 
and mobile invertebrates.
f. Rankin/28 Fathom Banks, Depth Range 164ft-571ft
    Rankin Bank is just north of 28 Fathom Bank, and separated from it 
by a long trough, approximately 1,640-foot (500 m) wide, approximately 
6,070-foot (1,850 m) which extends to a depth of approximately 570ft 
(174 m). The boundaries encompass the shallowest portions of Rankin and 
28 Fathom Banks, which harbor coral algae reefs and deep coral reefs 
with populations of gorgonians, black corals, sponges, and associated 
fish and mobile invertebrates.
g. Bright Bank, Depth Range 112ft-384ft
    Bright Bank previously harbored a coral reef on the very shallowest 
portions of the bank, which sustained extensive damage from salvage and 
mining activities employing dynamite for excavation activities. The cap 
is now considered a coral community, and in spite of these impacts, 
nine species of shallow water scleractinian corals survive, along with 
two deeper water species. The feature also harbors extensive coralline 
algae reefs, providing habitat for populations of gorgonians, black 
corals, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
h. Geyer Bank, Depth Range 128ft-722ft
    Geyer Bank is a broad, relatively flat fault-bounded structure 
situated on an active salt diaper. This feature supports a coral 
community, as well as extensive coralline algae reefs and fields of 
algal nodules including dense fields of macro-algae, black corals, 
gorgonians, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. 
Seasonal spawning aggregations of fish are associated with this bank, 
including enormous numbers of reef butterflyfish.
i. Elvers Bank, Depth Range 213ft-686ft
    Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of 
Elvers Bank: A larger polygon encompassing 4.43 square miles on the 
south side of the feature, and a small polygon, encompassing 0.19 
square miles on the north side of the feature. The shallow areas of the 
bank feature coralline algae reefs and algal nodule fields, and the 
deeper areas in the southern polygon harbor large deep reef 
outcroppings, both providing habitat for black corals, gorgonians, 
sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates. The deep reefs 
also harbor glass sponge fields, a feature not documented in any other 
areas of the sanctuary, as well as a previously undescribed species of 
black coral.
j. McGrail Bank, Depth Range 144ft-512ft
    Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of 
McGrail Bank: A larger claw shaped polygon reaching from northwest to 
southeast, encompassing 4.54 square miles, and a smaller polygon, 
encompassing 0.17 square miles, situated on the southeast of the 
feature that wraps around a conical shaped mound. This bank features 
unique areas of coral reefs dominated by large colonies of the blushing 
star coral, Stephanocoenia intersepta, with 28% live coral cover in 
discrete areas (no other known coral reef is dominated by this 
species). Pinnacles varying in diameter from ~80 to 395 feet (24-120 m) 
and as tall as ~25 feet (8 m) are found on the southwest rim of the 
main feature, along east- and southeast-trending scarps leading away 
from the bank and in concentric fields to the south and southeast of 
the bank. A significant portion of the depth zone between 145 and 170 
feet is dominated by coral colonies up to 5 feet tall, covering an area 
of approximately 37 acres. At least 14 species of stony corals have 
been recorded. Deeper portions of this site harbor mesophotic coral 
habitat for deep coral, coralline algae reefs, and fields of algal 
nodules. Dense populations of black corals, gorgonians, macro-algae 
fields, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates are present.
k. Sonnier Bank, Depth Range 62ft-210ft
    Sonnier Bank consists of a series of isolated clusters of pinnacles 
comprised of uplifted siltstone and claystone, that rise mostly around 
the perimeter of a single, roughly circular ring 1.9miles (3.2km) in 
diameter. Two peaks are accessible and popular with recreational scuba 
divers. The peaks are dominated by coral communities featuring fire 
coral, sponges, and algae. The deeper portions of the feature are 
fairly heavily silted, but provide habitat for black corals, 
gorgonians, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
l. Bouma Bank, Depth Range 187ft-322ft
    Bouma Bank is dominated by coralline algae reefs and algal nodule 
fields, providing habitat for populations of black corals, gorgonians, 
algae, branching stony coral, clusters of cup coral, and associated 
fish and mobile invertebrates.
m. Rezak Bank, Depth Range 197ft-430ft
    Rezak Bank is dominated by coralline algae reefs and extensive 
algal nodule fields, providing habitat for populations of black corals, 
gorgonians, algae, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
n. Sidner Bank, Depth Range 190ft-420ft
    Dominated by coralline algae reefs and extensive algal nodule 
fields providing habitat for populations of black corals, gorgonians, 
algae, sponges, and associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
o. Alderdice Bank, Depth Range 200ft-322ft
    This feature includes spectacular basalt outcrops of Late 
Cretaceous origin (approximately 77 million years old) representing the 
oldest rock exposed on the continental shelf offshore of Louisiana and 
Texas. The outcrops at Alderdice Bank bear diverse, extremely dense 
assemblages of gorgonians and black corals, sponges, and swarms of reef 
fish. Mesophotic coralline algae reef habitats below the spires, silted 
over in areas, provide habitat for dense populations of black corals, 
gorgonians, sponges, branching stony corals, fields of macro-algae, and 
associated fish and mobile invertebrates.
p. Parker Bank, Depth Range 187ft-387ft
    Two discreet polygons have been developed to protect portions of 
Parker

[[Page 25377]]

Bank. A larger polygon bounding the central portion of the features, 
encompassing 6.82 square miles, and a smaller polygon to the east, 
encompassing 0.14 square miles. These boundaries protect the shallowest 
portions of the bank, which harbor coralline algae reefs and algal 
nodule fields and support populations of plating stony corals, black 
corals, gorgonians, sponges, macro-algae, and associated fish and 
mobile invertebrates.

Article IV--Scope of Regulations

Section 1. Activities Subject to Regulation

    The following activities are subject to regulation, including 
prohibition, to the extent necessary and reasonable to ensure the 
protection and management of the conservation, recreational, 
ecological, historical, research, educational and esthetic resources 
and qualities of the area:
    a. Anchoring or otherwise mooring within the Sanctuary;
    b. Discharging or depositing, from within the boundaries of the 
Sanctuary, any material or other matter;
    c. Discharging or depositing, from beyond the boundaries of the 
Sanctuary, any material or other matter;
    d. Drilling into, dredging or otherwise altering the seabed of the 
Sanctuary; or constructing, placing or abandoning any structure, 
material or other matter on the seabed of the Sanctuary;
    e. Exploring for, developing or producing oil, gas or minerals 
within the Sanctuary;
    f. Taking, removing, catching, collecting, harvesting, feeding, 
injuring, destroying or causing the loss of, or attempting to take, 
remove, catch, collect, harvest, feed, injure, destroy or cause the 
loss of, a Sanctuary resource;
    g. Possessing within the Sanctuary a Sanctuary resource or any 
other resource, regardless of where taken, removed, caught, collected 
or harvested, that, if it had been found within the Sanctuary, would be 
a Sanctuary resource.
    h. Possessing or using within the Sanctuary any fishing gear, 
device, equipment or other apparatus.
    i. Possessing or using airguns or explosives or releasing 
electrical charges within the Sanctuary.
    j. Interfering with, obstructing, delaying or preventing an 
investigation, search, seizure or disposition of seized property in 
connection with enforcement of the Act or any regulation or permit 
issued under the Act.

Section 2. Consistency With International Law

    Any regulation of activities listed in Section 1 of this Article 
will be applied and enforced as mandated by 16 U.S.C. 1435(a).\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Based on the legislative history of the NMSA, NOAA has long 
interpreted the text of 16 U.S.C. 1435(a) as encompassing 
international law, including customary international law.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 3. Emergency Regulations

    Where necessary to prevent or minimize the destruction of, loss of, 
or injury to a Sanctuary resource or quality, or minimize the imminent 
risk of such destruction, loss or injury, any and all activities, 
including those not listed in section 1 of this Article, are subject to 
immediate temporary regulation, including prohibition.

Article V--Effect on Other Regulations, Leases, Permits, Licenses, and 
Rights

Section 1. Fishing Regulations, Licenses, and Permits

    The regulation of fishing is authorized under Article IV. All 
regulatory programs pertaining to fishing, including fishery management 
plans promulgated under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., shall remain in effect. Where a 
valid regulation promulgated under these programs conflicts with a 
Sanctuary regulation, the regulation deemed by the Secretary of 
Commerce or designee as more protective of Sanctuary resources and 
qualities shall govern.

Section 2. Other Licenses, Regulations, and Permits

    If any valid regulation issued by any Federal authority of 
competent jurisdiction, regardless of when issued, conflicts with a 
Sanctuary regulation, the regulation deemed by the Secretary of 
Commerce or designee as more protective of Sanctuary resources and 
qualities shall govern.
    Pursuant to section 304(c)(1) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1434(c)(1), no 
valid lease, permit, license, approval, or other authorization issued 
by any Federal authority of competent jurisdiction, or any valid right 
of subsistence use or access, may be terminated by the Secretary of 
Commerce or designee as a result of this designation or as a result of 
any Sanctuary regulation if such authorization or right was in 
existence on the effective date of this designation. However, the 
Secretary of Commerce or designee may regulate the exercise of such 
authorization or right consistent with the purposes for which the 
Sanctuary is designated.
    Accordingly, the prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary 
regulations shall not apply to any activity authorized by any valid 
lease, permit, license, approval, or other authorization in existence 
on the effective date of Sanctuary designation and issued by any 
Federal authority of competent jurisdiction, or by any valid right of 
subsistence use or access in existence on the effective date of 
Sanctuary designation, provided that the holder of such authorization 
or right complies with Sanctuary regulations regarding the 
certification of such authorizations and rights (e.g., notifies the 
Secretary or designee of the existence of, requests certification of, 
and provides requested information regarding such authorization or 
right) and complies with any terms and conditions on the exercise of 
such authorization or right imposed as a condition of certification by 
the Secretary or designee as he or she deems necessary to achieve the 
purposes for which the Sanctuary was designated.
    Pending final agency action on the certification request, such 
holder may exercise such authorization or right without being in 
violation of any prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary regulations, 
provided the holder is in compliance with Sanctuary regulations 
regarding certifications.
    The prohibitions set forth in the Sanctuary regulations shall not 
apply to any activity conducted in accordance with the scope, purpose, 
terms, and conditions of the National Marine Sanctuary permit issued by 
the Secretary or designee in accordance with the Sanctuary regulations. 
Such permits may only be issued if the Secretary or designee finds that 
the activity for which the permit is applied will: Further research 
related to Sanctuary resources; further the educational, natural or 
historical resource value of the Sanctuary; further salvage or recovery 
operations in or near the Sanctuary in connection with a recent air or 
marine casualty; or assist in managing the Sanctuary.
    The prohibitions set forth in the sanctuary regulations shall not 
apply to any activity conducted in accordance with the scope, purpose, 
terms, and conditions of a Special Use permit issued by the Secretary 
or designee in accordance with section 310 of the Act. However, in 
areas where sanctuary regulations prohibit oil, gas, or mineral 
exploration, development or production, the Secretary or designee may 
in no event, permit or otherwise, approve such activities in that area. 
Any leases, licenses, permits, approvals, or other authorizations 
issued after [EFFECTIVE DATE SANCTUARY

[[Page 25378]]

DESIGNATION] authorizing the exploration or production of oil, gas, or 
minerals in that area shall be invalid.

Section 3. Department of Defense Activities

    The prohibitions in Sec.  922.122(a)(2) through (11) do not apply 
to activities being carried out by the Department of Defense as of the 
effective date of Sanctuary designation [insert effective date of 
Sanctuary expansion]. Such activities shall be carried out in a manner 
that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. 
The prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of this section do 
not apply to any new activities carried out by the Department of 
Defense that do not have the potential for any significant adverse 
impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. Such activities shall be 
carried out in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary 
resources and qualities. New activities with the potential for 
significant adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities may be 
exempted from the prohibitions in paragraphs (a)(2) through (11) of 
this section by the Director after consultation between the Director 
and the Department of Defense. If it is determined that an activity may 
be carried out, such activity shall be carried out in a manner that 
minimizes any adverse impact on Sanctuary resources and qualities. In 
the event of threatened or actual destruction of, loss of, or injury to 
a Sanctuary resource or quality resulting from an untoward incident, 
including but not limited to spills and groundings, caused by a 
component of the Department of Defense, the cognizant component shall 
promptly coordinate with the Director for the purpose of taking 
appropriate actions to respond to and mitigate the harm and, if 
possible, restore or replace the Sanctuary resource or quality.

Article VI--Alterations to This Designation

    The terms of designation may be modified only by the same 
procedures by which the original designation is made, including public 
hearings, consultation with any appropriate Federal, State, regional 
and local agencies, review by the appropriate Congressional committees 
and approval by the Secretary of Commerce or designee.

[FR Doc. 2020-08128 Filed 4-30-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P