Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Renewal of U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Activities on San Nicolas Island, 33124-33129 [2020-11719]

Download as PDF 33124 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices NOAA and the State of Connecticut (State) intend to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Management Plan (DMP) for the proposed Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). The DEIS will consider the human and environmental consequences of federally designating the State’s proposed site and alternatives, and identify a final boundary. The DMP will provide a framework for operating the proposed site if approved by NOAA and will include plans for administration, research, education, and facilities. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Erica Seiden, Office for Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, NOAA, 1305 East West Highway, N/ OCM, Silver Spring, MD 20910, Phone: 240–533–0781 or Email: erica.seiden@ noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In accordance with Section 315 of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended, and its implementing regulations (15 CFR part 921), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, NOAA and the State intend to prepare a DEIS and DMP for the proposed Connecticut NERR. NOAA received the State’s nomination of the proposed site on January 3, 2019. NOAA evaluated the nomination package and found that the proposed site met the NERR System requirements. (See 16 U.S.C. 1461(b).) NOAA informed the State on September 27, 2019, that it was accepting the nomination and that the next step would be to prepare a DEIS and DMP. The DEIS will consider the human and environmental consequences of designating the State’s recommended site and alternatives, as well as identify a final boundary. The DMP will set a course for operating the reserve once approved and will include plans for administration, research, education, and facilities of the proposed site. (See 15 CFR 921.13.) The proposed site consists of the following State-owned properties: Lord Cove Wildlife Management Area; Great Island Wildlife Management Area; Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve and Natural Area Preserve; Haley Farm State Park; and public trust waters including portions of Long Island Sound, the lower Thames River, and the lower Connecticut River. The proposed site resulted from a comprehensive evaluation process that sought the views of the public, affected landowners, and other interested parties. The State held an informal, widely-publicized kick-off meeting on jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 April 12, 2016, to describe the NERR System, explain the rationale for establishing a reserve in Connecticut, and identify a process for selecting and nominating a site to NOAA. Following the kick-off meeting, the State assembled a Site Selection Team composed of State agency representatives, academia, nongovernmental organizations, members of the public, and federal agencies. The team conducted preliminary screening, detailed screening, and scoring of potential sites that led to the preferred site. The State and NOAA held a public meeting on November 13, 2018, to solicit comments on the preferred site. (See 83 FR 54572.) A separate Federal Register notice will be published to announce a public scoping meeting to solicit comments on issues related to the proposed action. (See 15 CFR 921.13(c).) Options for the type, location, and date of a public scoping meeting are being evaluated. Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog Number 11.420 (Coastal Zone Management) Research Reserves requested comments on both the proposed IHA and the potential for renewing the initial authorization if certain requirements were satisfied. The Renewal requirements have been satisfied, and NMFS is now providing an additional 15-day comment period to allow for any additional comments on the proposed Renewal not previously provided during the initial 30-day comment period. The Navy’s activities are considered military readiness activities pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (NDAA). DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than June 16, 2020. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.DeJoseph@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, Jeffrey L. Payne, to any other address or individual, or Director, Office for Coastal Management, received after the end of the comment National Ocean Service, National Oceanic period. All comments received are a and Atmospheric Administration. part of the public record and will [FR Doc. 2020–11680 Filed 5–29–20; 8:45 am] generally be posted online at https:// BILLING CODE 3510–JE–P www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act without DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) National Oceanic and Atmospheric voluntarily submitted by the commenter Administration may be publicly accessible. Do not [RTID 0648–XA169] submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to protected information. Specified Activities; Taking Marine FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mammals Incidental to the Renewal of Bonnie DeJoseph, Office of Protected U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Activities on San Nicolas Island Electronic copies of the original AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries application, Renewal request, and Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and supporting documents (including NMFS Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Register notices of the original Commerce. proposed and final authorizations, and ACTION: Notice; request for comments on the previous IHA), as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may proposed Renewal incidental be obtained online at: https:// harassment authorization. www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ SUMMARY: NMFS received a request from incidental-take-authorizations-underthe U.S. Navy (Navy) for the Renewal of marine-mammal-protection-act. In case their currently active incidental of problems accessing these documents, harassment authorization (IHA) to take please call the contact listed above. marine mammals incidental to target SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: and missile launch activities on San Nicolas Island (SNI). These activities are Background identical to those covered in the current The Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization. Pursuant to the Marine (MMPA) prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine Mammal Protection Act, prior to issuing mammals, with certain exceptions. the currently active IHA, NMFS Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed incidental take authorization is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other ‘‘means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact’’ on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to here as ‘‘mitigation measures’’). Monitoring and reporting of such takings are also required. The meaning of key terms such as ‘‘take,’’ ‘‘harassment,’’ and ‘‘negligible impact’’ can be found in section 3 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1362) and the agency’s regulations at 50 CFR 216.103. NMFS’ regulations implementing the MMPA at 50 CFR 216.107(e) indicate that IHAs may be renewed for additional periods of time not to exceed one year for each reauthorization. In the notice of proposed IHA for the initial authorization, NMFS described the circumstances under which we would consider issuing a Renewal for this activity, and requested public comment on a potential Renewal under those circumstances. Specifically, on a caseby-case basis, NMFS may issue a oneyear Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15 days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical, or nearly identical, activities as described in the Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts section of the notice is planned or (2) the activities as described in the Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts section of the notice would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a Renewal would allow for completion of the activities beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section of the notice, provided all of the following conditions are met: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 • A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from expiration of the initial IHA). • The request for renewal must include the following: (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take). (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized. Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid. An additional public comment period of 15 days (for a total of 45 days), with direct notice by email, phone, or postal service to commenters on the initial IHA, is provided to allow for any additional comments on the proposed Renewal. A description of the Renewal process may be found on our website at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentalharassment-authorization-renewals. Any comments received on the potential Renewal, along with relevant comments on the initial IHA, have been considered in the development of this proposed IHA Renewal, and a summary of agency responses to applicable comments is included in this notice. NMFS will consider any additional public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested Renewal, and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. The NDAA (Pub. L. 108–136) removed the ‘‘small numbers’’ and ‘‘specified geographical region’’ limitations indicated above and amended the definition of ‘‘harassment’’ as it applies to a ‘‘military readiness activity.’’ The activity for which incidental take of marine mammals is PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 33125 being requested addressed here qualifies as a military readiness activity. National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an IHA) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or mortality) of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216– 6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has determined that the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. History of Request On June 19, 2019, NMFS issued an IHA to the Navy to take marine mammals incidental to U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Activities on San Nicolas Island, California (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019), effective from June 12, 2019 through June 11, 2020. On April 14, 2020, NMFS received an application for the Renewal of that initial IHA. As described in the application for Renewal IHA, the activities for which incidental take is requested are identical. As required, the applicant also provided a preliminary monitoring report (available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ action/incidental-take-authorization-usnavy-target-and-missile-launchactivities-san-nicolas-0) which confirms that the applicant has implemented the required mitigation and monitoring, and which also shows that no impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized have occurred as a result of the activities conducted. Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts The Navy proposes to continue a target and missile launch program from two launch sites on SNI. Missiles vary from tactical and developmental weapons to target missiles used to test defensive strategies and other weapons systems. Some launch events involve a single missile, while others involve the launch of multiple missiles in quick succession. The Navy proposes to conduct a maximum of 40 missile launch events from SNI, but the total may be less than 40 depending on E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1 33126 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices operational requirements. No more than 25 launches have occurred in any single year since 2001 (Table 1). would be no sonic booms that could affect pinnipeds hauled out at sites on SNI. Neither Navy nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity. TABLE 1—THE TOTAL NUMBER OF LAUNCHES THAT HAVE OCCURRED Detailed Description of the Activity SINCE 2001 AT SNI A detailed description of the target and missile launch activities for which Time period take is proposed here may be found in the Notices of the Proposed and Final August 2001 to October 2005 .... 69 IHAs for the initial authorization. The February 2006 to December location, timing, and nature of the 2009 ........................................ 11 activities, including the types of January 2010 to December 2014 36 equipment planned for use, are identical December 2015 to November 2018 ........................................ 30 to those described in the previous June 2019 to March 2020 .......... 12 notices. The proposed Renewal would be effective for a period of one year from the date of issuance. Launch timing will be determined by operational, meteorological, and Description of Marine Mammals logistical factors. Up to 10 of the 40 A description of the marine mammals launches may occur at night; night in the area of the activities for which launches are also dependent on authorization of take is proposed here, operational requirements and will only including information on abundance, be conducted when required by test objectives. These proposed activities are status, distribution, and hearing, may be found in the Notices of the Proposed identical to those in the Initial IHA and and Final IHAs for the initial are described in detail in the Initial authorization. NMFS has reviewed the Proposed IHA (84 FR 18809; May 2, monitoring data from the initial IHA, 2019). recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, Anticipated impacts, which would consist of Level B harassment of marine information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and other scientific mammals, would also be identical to literature, and determined that neither those analyzed and authorized in the Initial IHA (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019). this nor any other new information affects which species or stocks have the The Navy’s request is for take of potential to be affected or the pertinent California sea lions (Zalophus information in the Description of the californianus), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), and northern elephant seals Marine Mammals in the Area of (Mirounga angustirostris) by Level B Specified Activities section contained in harassment only. All flights over SNI the supporting documents for the initial would be subsonic; therefore, there IHA. Number of launches Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat A description of the potential effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat for the activities for which take is proposed here may be found in the Notices of the Proposed IHA for the initial authorization. NMFS has reviewed the monitoring data from the initial IHA, recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and other scientific literature, and determined that neither this nor any other new information affects our initial analysis of impacts on marine mammals and their habitat. Estimated Take A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate take for the specified activity are found in the Notices of the Proposed and Final IHAs for the initial authorization. Specifically, the source levels, days of operation, and marine mammal occurrence data applicable to this authorization remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA. Further, the 2019 monitoring data received from the Navy suggests that the actual number of marine mammals taken during the Navy launches remained well under the number authorized in the initial IHA and proposed in this Renewal IHA. The stocks taken, methods of take, and types of take remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA, as do the number of takes, which are indicated below in Table 2. TABLE 2—PROPOSED LEVEL B HARASSMENT TAKE FOR PINNIPEDS ON SNI Authorized Level B harassment Species California sea lion ....................................................................... Harbor seal ................................................................................. Northern elephant seal ............................................................... jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Description of Proposed Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 257,606 (4.27 percent). 30,968 (less than 2 percent). 179,000 (less than 1 percent). Proposed Mitigation Operation Restrictions The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures included as requirements in this authorization are identical to those included in the Federal Register Notice announcing the issuance of the initial IHA, and the discussion of the least practicable adverse impact included in that document remains accurate. The following measures are proposed for this renewal: VerDate Sep<11>2014 11,000 480 40 Percent of stock abundance taken by Level B harassment (assuming each instance is different individual) Personnel must not enter pinniped haulouts. Personnel may be adjacent to pinniped haulouts prior to and following a launch for monitoring purposes. All aircraft and helicopter flight paths must maintain a minimum distance of 305 meters (m) from recognized seal haulouts and rookeries, to the maximum extent practicable. Missiles must not cross over pinniped haulouts at elevations less than 305 m (1,000 ft). PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or a species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, the Navy must consult with NMFS before the next launch event. The Navy must review the launch procedure and monitoring methods, in cooperation with NMFS, if any incidents of injury or mortality of a pinniped are discovered during postlaunch surveys, or if surveys indicate possible effects to the distribution, size, or productivity of the affected pinniped populations as a result of the specified E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices activities. If necessary, appropriate changes must be made through modification to this Authorization prior to conducting the next launch of the same vehicle. Timing Restrictions The Navy may not conduct more than 10 launch events at night. Launches must not occur during February through April, to the maximum extent practicable. Launches must be limited during January through February and June through July, to the maximum extent practicable. Proposed Monitoring Measures The Navy must obtain visual, video and audio, and acoustic data from up to three pinniped haulout monitoring sites during each launch event, to the maximum extent practicable. The holder of this IHA is required to abide by the following marine mammal and acoustic monitoring requirements: jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Visual Monitoring Marine mammal monitoring must be conducted by qualified, trained protected species observers. The following visual monitoring measures will be conducted during preparations for video and acoustic monitoring, as described in Video and Audio Monitoring section below: (1) Visual monitoring must be conducted before and after launches, including scanning the affected haulout beaches and counting the number and species of pinnipeds over a 15–30 minute period; (2) Prior to a launch event, Navy personnel must make observations of the monitored pinniped haulout and record the numbers and species of pinnipeds observed on field data sheets; and (3) After a launch event, Navy personnel must return to the monitored pinniped haulout and record the numbers and species of pinnipeds that remain on the haulout sites and any notable changes. Video and Audio Monitoring Before each launch, Navy personnel must set up or activate up to three video cameras (either high-definition video cameras, or Forward-Looking Infrared Radiometer (FLIR) thermal imaging cameras for night launch events) such that they overlook the monitoring sites. Each camera will be set to record a focal group of pinnipeds within the haulout for the maximum recording time permitted by the camera capacity. Video and audio monitoring must be conducted by recording continuously from a minimum of two hours before the event to approximately one hour after the event in order to: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Determine the composition of the focal subgroup of pinnipeds (approximate numbers and sexes of each age class). Describe the launch event, including documenting the occurrence of a launch event, the type of target/missile launched, the timing of the event, and duration of audibility. Document movements of pinnipeds, including number and proportion moving, direction and distance moved, and pace of movement (slow or vigorous). In addition, the following variables concerning the circumstances of the observations must also be recorded from the videotape or from direct observations at the site: 1. Study location, 2. Local time, 3. Weather (including an estimate of wind strength and direction, and presence of precipitation), and 4. Tide state. Identify and document any change in behavior or movements of pinnipeds that occurs at the time of the launch event. Compare received levels of launch sound with pinniped responses, based on acoustic and behavioral data from up to three monitoring sites at different distances from the launch site and missile path during each launch; from the data accumulated across a series of launches, to attempt to establish the ‘‘dose-response’’ relationship for launch sounds under different launch conditions if possible. Ascertain periods or launch conditions when pinnipeds are most and least responsive to launch activities. Lastly, document take by harassment: (1) Pinnipeds that are exposed to launch sounds strong enough to cause a temporary threshold shift (TTS); or (2) Pinnipeds that leave the haulout site, or exhibit prolonged movement (greater than 10 m) or prolonged behavioral changes (such as pups separated from mothers) relative to their behavior immediately prior to the launch. Acoustic Monitoring The Navy must use up to four autonomous audio recorders to make acoustical measurements. During each launch, these must be located as close as practicable to pinniped haulout monitoring sites and near the launch pad itself. The monitored pinniped haulout sites must typically include one site as close as possible to the missile’s planned flight path and one or two locations farther from the flight path within the area of potential impact with pinnipeds present. Autonomous Terrestrial Acoustic Recorders must be deployed at the recording locations on PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 33127 the launch day well before the launch time, and must be retrieved later the same day. Acoustic measurements must be collected and reported consistent with section 13.2 of the Navy’s application. Reporting A draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA must be submitted within 90 calendar days of the completion of marine mammal and acoustic monitoring or 60 days prior to the issuance of any subsequent IHA or incidental take regulations for this project, whichever comes first. A final report must be prepared and submitted within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report from NMFS. This report must contain the informational elements described in Section 5 of the Authorization. Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, such as serious injury, or mortality, the Navy must immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources (301–427–8401) and the West Coast Stranding Coordinator (562–980–3230). The report must include the following information: 1. Time and date of the incident; 2. Description of the incident; 3. Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, cloud cover, and visibility); 4. Description of all marine mammal observations and active sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; 5. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; 6. Fate of the animal(s); and 7. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Activities must not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Navy may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. In the event the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), the Navy must immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1 33128 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES and the West Coast Region Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the same information identified in 6(b)(i) of this IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate. In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead large whale or other cetaceans, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the specified activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Navy must report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Region Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals. Public Comments As noted previously, NMFS published a notice of a proposed IHA (84 FR 18809; May 2, 2019) and solicited public comments on both our proposal to issue the initial IHA for target and missile launch activities and on the potential for a Renewal IHA, should certain requirements be met. All public comments were addressed in the notice announcing the issuance of the initial IHA (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019). Below, we describe how we have addressed, with updated information where appropriate, any comments received that specifically pertain to the Renewal of the 2019 IHA. Comment: The Marine Mammal Commission (the Commission) questioned whether the public notice provisions for IHA Renewals fully satisfy the public notice and comment provision in the MMPA and discussed the potential burden on reviewers of reviewing key documents and developing comments quickly. Additionally, the Commission recommended that NMFS use the IHA Renewal process sparingly and selectively for activities expected to have the lowest levels of impacts to marine mammals and that require less complex analysis. Response: The Commission has submitted this comment multiple times, and NMFS has responded multiple VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 times, including, for example, more recently in the notice of issuance of an IHA to ;rsted Wind Power LLC (84 FR 52464, October 2, 2019), and we refer the Commission to that response. We also include NMFS’ original response to the comment received on the 2019 Chevron proposed IHA here: NMFS has taken a number of steps to ensure the public has adequate notice, time, and information to be able to comment effectively on Renewal IHAs within the limitations of processing IHA applications efficiently. Federal Register notices for the proposed initial IHAs identified the conditions under which a one-year Renewal IHA might be appropriate. This information is presented in the Request for Public Comments section and thus encourages submission of comments on the potential of a one-year renewal as well as the initial IHA during the 30-day comment period. In addition, when we receive an application for a Renewal IHA, we will publish notice of the proposed IHA Renewal in the Federal Register and provide an additional 15 days for public comment, making a total of 45 days of public comment. We also directly contact all commenters on the initial IHA by email, phone, or, if the commenter did not provide email or phone information, by postal service to provide them the opportunity to submit any additional comments on the proposed Renewal IHA. Where the commenter has already had the opportunity to review and comment on the potential for a Renewal in the initial proposed IHA for these activities, the abbreviated additional comment period is sufficient for consideration of the results of the preliminary monitoring report and new information (if any) from the past year. NMFS also strives to ensure the public has access to key information needed to submit comments on a proposed IHA, whether an initial IHA or a Renewal IHA. The agency’s website includes information for all projects under consideration, including the application, references, and other supporting documents. Each Federal Register notice also includes contact information in the event a commenter has questions or cannot find the information they seek. For more information, NMFS has published a description of the Renewal process on our website (available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-harassment-authorizationrenewals). PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Preliminary Determinations The proposed action of this Renewal IHA, target and missile launch activities, would be identical to the activities analyzed in the Initial IHA. Based on the analysis detailed in the Notice of the Initial IHA authorization of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS found that the total marine mammal take from the activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new information suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from those reached for the initial IHA. Based on the information and analysis contained here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has determined the following: (1) The required mitigation measures will affect the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks; (3) the authorized takes represent small numbers of marine mammals relative to the affected stock abundances; (4) the Navy’s activities will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this action, and; (5) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are included. Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. Proposed Renewal IHA and Request for Public Comment As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue a Renewal IHA to the Navy for conducting target and missile launch activities on SNI, California from June 12, 2020 through June 11, 2021, provided the previously described E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 105 / Monday, June 1, 2020 / Notices mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed and final initial IHA can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. We request comment on our analyses, the proposed Renewal IHA, and any other aspect of this Notice. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. Dated: May 26, 2020. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–11719 Filed 5–29–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XR106] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Floating Dry Dock Project at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to the U.S. Navy (Navy) to incidentally take, by Level B harassment, one species of marine mammal during the Floating Dry Dock Project at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California. DATES: This Authorization is effective from September 15, 2020 through September 14, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wendy Piniak, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the authorization, application, and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. In case of problems accessing jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:40 May 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The MMPA prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine mammals, with certain exceptions. Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed IHA may be provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other ‘‘means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact’’ on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as ‘‘mitigation’’); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of the takings are set forth. The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. Summary of Request On November 26, 2019, NMFS received a request from the Navy for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to the Floating Dry Dock Project at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California. We received a revised application on February 10, 2020. The application was deemed adequate and complete on March 17, 2020. The Navy’s request is for take of a small number of California sea lions by Level B harassment only. Neither the Navy nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. Description of Activity Overview The Navy requested authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 33129 in-water activities associated with the Floating Dry Dock Project at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California. The Navy plans to construct a floating dry dock and associated pier-side access in the south-central portion of San Diego Bay. The floating dry dock is needed to ensure the Naval Base San Diego’s capability to conduct berth-side repair and maintenance of vessels. Implementation of the project requires installation of two mooring dolphins, including vertical and angled structural piles, as well as fender piles, installation of a concrete ramp wharf and vehicle bridge, and dredging at the floating dry dock location. In-water construction will include installation of a maximum of 56 24-inch concrete piles using impact pile driving and highpressure water jetting and a maximum of 20 24-inch steel pipe piles using impact and vibratory pile driving. Sounds produced by these activities may result in take, by Level B harassment, of marine mammals located in San Diego Bay, California. In-water pile-driving activities are anticipated to occur for 60 days during the period from September 15, 2020 to September 14, 2021. Dates and Duration In-water activities (pile installation) associated with the project are anticipated to begin September 15, 2020, and be completed by September 14, 2021. Pile driving activities will occur for 60 days during the planned project dates. In-water activities will occur during daylight hours only. Detailed Description of Specific Activity A detailed description of the planned activities is provided in the Federal Register notice announcing the proposed IHA (85 FR 21179; April 16, 2020). Since that time, the Navy has revised the number of 24-inch steel pipe piles required for the project (and therefore the number of days required to complete the project), and the revised description of this component of the project (construction of two mooring dolphins) is provided below. No other revisions have been made to the Navy’s planned activities. Please refer to the proposed IHA Federal Register notice for a detailed description of the activity. The Navy will construct a floating dry dock and associated pier-side access in the south-central portion of San Diego Bay. Implementation of the project requires in-water activities that will produce sounds that may result in take of marine mammals located in the San Diego Bay including dredging, installation of two mooring dolphins, including vertical and angled structural E:\FR\FM\01JNN1.SGM 01JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 105 (Monday, June 1, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 33124-33129]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-11719]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA169]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Renewal of U.S. Navy Target and 
Missile Launch Activities on San Nicolas Island

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

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

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

SUMMARY: NMFS received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for the 
Renewal of their currently active incidental harassment authorization 
(IHA) to take marine mammals incidental to target and missile launch 
activities on San Nicolas Island (SNI). These activities are identical 
to those covered in the current authorization. Pursuant to the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act, prior to issuing the currently active IHA, NMFS 
requested comments on both the proposed IHA and the potential for 
renewing the initial authorization if certain requirements were 
satisfied. The Renewal requirements have been satisfied, and NMFS is 
now providing an additional 15-day comment period to allow for any 
additional comments on the proposed Renewal not previously provided 
during the initial 30-day comment period. The Navy's activities are 
considered military readiness activities pursuant to the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA), as amended by the National Defense Authorization 
Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (NDAA).

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than June 16, 
2020.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 
1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments 
should be sent to [email protected].
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the 
commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bonnie DeJoseph, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the original 
application, Renewal request, and supporting documents (including NMFS 
Federal Register notices of the original proposed and final 
authorizations, and the previous IHA), as well as a list of the 
references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act. In case of problems accessing these 
documents, please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits the ``take'' of 
marine mammals, with certain exceptions. Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) 
of the

[[Page 33125]]

MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as 
delegated to NMFS) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not 
intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens 
who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) 
within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and 
either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to 
harassment, a notice of a proposed incidental take authorization is 
provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses 
(where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods 
of taking and other ``means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact'' on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for 
taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to here as ``mitigation 
measures''). Monitoring and reporting of such takings are also 
required. The meaning of key terms such as ``take,'' ``harassment,'' 
and ``negligible impact'' can be found in section 3 of the MMPA (16 
U.S.C. 1362) and the agency's regulations at 50 CFR 216.103.
    NMFS' regulations implementing the MMPA at 50 CFR 216.107(e) 
indicate that IHAs may be renewed for additional periods of time not to 
exceed one year for each reauthorization. In the notice of proposed IHA 
for the initial authorization, NMFS described the circumstances under 
which we would consider issuing a Renewal for this activity, and 
requested public comment on a potential Renewal under those 
circumstances. Specifically, on a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a 
one-year Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an 
additional 15 days for public comments when (1) up to another year of 
identical, or nearly identical, activities as described in the 
Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts section 
of the notice is planned or (2) the activities as described in the 
Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts section 
of the notice would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a 
Renewal would allow for completion of the activities beyond that 
described in the Dates and Duration section of the notice, provided all 
of the following conditions are met:
     A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days 
prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the 
Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from 
expiration of the initial IHA).
     The request for renewal must include the following:
    (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the 
requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under 
the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so 
minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the 
previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take 
estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take).
    (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the 
required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the 
monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not 
previously analyzed or authorized.
    Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the affected 
species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS determines 
that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the 
mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and 
appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid.
    An additional public comment period of 15 days (for a total of 45 
days), with direct notice by email, phone, or postal service to 
commenters on the initial IHA, is provided to allow for any additional 
comments on the proposed Renewal. A description of the Renewal process 
may be found on our website at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-harassment-authorization-renewals. Any 
comments received on the potential Renewal, along with relevant 
comments on the initial IHA, have been considered in the development of 
this proposed IHA Renewal, and a summary of agency responses to 
applicable comments is included in this notice. NMFS will consider any 
additional public comments prior to making any final decision on the 
issuance of the requested Renewal, and agency responses will be 
summarized in the final notice of our decision.
    The NDAA (Pub. L. 108-136) removed the ``small numbers'' and 
``specified geographical region'' limitations indicated above and 
amended the definition of ``harassment'' as it applies to a ``military 
readiness activity.'' The activity for which incidental take of marine 
mammals is being requested addressed here qualifies as a military 
readiness activity.

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an IHA) 
with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action 
is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical 
Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or mortality) of 
the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216-6A, which do not 
individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts 
on the quality of the human environment and for which we have not 
identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this 
categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has determined that the 
issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further 
NEPA review.

History of Request

    On June 19, 2019, NMFS issued an IHA to the Navy to take marine 
mammals incidental to U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Activities on 
San Nicolas Island, California (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019), effective 
from June 12, 2019 through June 11, 2020. On April 14, 2020, NMFS 
received an application for the Renewal of that initial IHA. As 
described in the application for Renewal IHA, the activities for which 
incidental take is requested are identical. As required, the applicant 
also provided a preliminary monitoring report (available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/incidental-take-authorization-us-navy-target-and-missile-launch-activities-san-nicolas-0) which confirms that 
the applicant has implemented the required mitigation and monitoring, 
and which also shows that no impacts of a scale or nature not 
previously analyzed or authorized have occurred as a result of the 
activities conducted.

Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts

    The Navy proposes to continue a target and missile launch program 
from two launch sites on SNI. Missiles vary from tactical and 
developmental weapons to target missiles used to test defensive 
strategies and other weapons systems. Some launch events involve a 
single missile, while others involve the launch of multiple missiles in 
quick succession. The Navy proposes to conduct a maximum of 40 missile 
launch events from SNI, but the total may be less than 40 depending on

[[Page 33126]]

operational requirements. No more than 25 launches have occurred in any 
single year since 2001 (Table 1).

 Table 1--The Total Number of Launches That Have Occurred Since 2001 at
                                   SNI
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               Number of
                         Time period                           launches
------------------------------------------------------------------------
August 2001 to October 2005.................................          69
February 2006 to December 2009..............................          11
January 2010 to December 2014...............................          36
December 2015 to November 2018..............................          30
June 2019 to March 2020.....................................          12
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Launch timing will be determined by operational, meteorological, 
and logistical factors. Up to 10 of the 40 launches may occur at night; 
night launches are also dependent on operational requirements and will 
only be conducted when required by test objectives. These proposed 
activities are identical to those in the Initial IHA and are described 
in detail in the Initial Proposed IHA (84 FR 18809; May 2, 2019).
    Anticipated impacts, which would consist of Level B harassment of 
marine mammals, would also be identical to those analyzed and 
authorized in the Initial IHA (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019). The Navy's 
request is for take of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), 
harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga 
angustirostris) by Level B harassment only. All flights over SNI would 
be subsonic; therefore, there would be no sonic booms that could affect 
pinnipeds hauled out at sites on SNI. Neither Navy nor NMFS expects 
serious injury or mortality to result from this activity.

Detailed Description of the Activity

    A detailed description of the target and missile launch activities 
for which take is proposed here may be found in the Notices of the 
Proposed and Final IHAs for the initial authorization. The location, 
timing, and nature of the activities, including the types of equipment 
planned for use, are identical to those described in the previous 
notices. The proposed Renewal would be effective for a period of one 
year from the date of issuance.

Description of Marine Mammals

    A description of the marine mammals in the area of the activities 
for which authorization of take is proposed here, including information 
on abundance, status, distribution, and hearing, may be found in the 
Notices of the Proposed and Final IHAs for the initial authorization. 
NMFS has reviewed the monitoring data from the initial IHA, recent 
draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual 
Mortality Events, and other scientific literature, and determined that 
neither this nor any other new information affects which species or 
stocks have the potential to be affected or the pertinent information 
in the Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified 
Activities section contained in the supporting documents for the 
initial IHA.

Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat

    A description of the potential effects of the specified activity on 
marine mammals and their habitat for the activities for which take is 
proposed here may be found in the Notices of the Proposed IHA for the 
initial authorization. NMFS has reviewed the monitoring data from the 
initial IHA, recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on 
relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and other scientific literature, and 
determined that neither this nor any other new information affects our 
initial analysis of impacts on marine mammals and their habitat.

Estimated Take

    A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate 
take for the specified activity are found in the Notices of the 
Proposed and Final IHAs for the initial authorization. Specifically, 
the source levels, days of operation, and marine mammal occurrence data 
applicable to this authorization remain unchanged from the previously 
issued IHA. Further, the 2019 monitoring data received from the Navy 
suggests that the actual number of marine mammals taken during the Navy 
launches remained well under the number authorized in the initial IHA 
and proposed in this Renewal IHA. The stocks taken, methods of take, 
and types of take remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA, as 
do the number of takes, which are indicated below in Table 2.

     Table 2--Proposed Level B Harassment Take for Pinnipeds on SNI
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Percent of stock
                                                     abundance taken by
                                     Authorized      Level B harassment
             Species                   Level B         (assuming each
                                     harassment    instance is different
                                                        individual)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
California sea lion..............          11,000  257,606 (4.27
                                                    percent).
Harbor seal......................             480  30,968 (less than 2
                                                    percent).
Northern elephant seal...........              40  179,000 (less than 1
                                                    percent).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Description of Proposed Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures

    The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures 
included as requirements in this authorization are identical to those 
included in the Federal Register Notice announcing the issuance of the 
initial IHA, and the discussion of the least practicable adverse impact 
included in that document remains accurate. The following measures are 
proposed for this renewal:

Proposed Mitigation

Operation Restrictions

    Personnel must not enter pinniped haulouts. Personnel may be 
adjacent to pinniped haulouts prior to and following a launch for 
monitoring purposes. All aircraft and helicopter flight paths must 
maintain a minimum distance of 305 meters (m) from recognized seal 
haulouts and rookeries, to the maximum extent practicable. Missiles 
must not cross over pinniped haulouts at elevations less than 305 m 
(1,000 ft).
    If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or a 
species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized 
takes are met, the Navy must consult with NMFS before the next launch 
event.
    The Navy must review the launch procedure and monitoring methods, 
in cooperation with NMFS, if any incidents of injury or mortality of a 
pinniped are discovered during post-launch surveys, or if surveys 
indicate possible effects to the distribution, size, or productivity of 
the affected pinniped populations as a result of the specified

[[Page 33127]]

activities. If necessary, appropriate changes must be made through 
modification to this Authorization prior to conducting the next launch 
of the same vehicle.

Timing Restrictions

    The Navy may not conduct more than 10 launch events at night. 
Launches must not occur during February through April, to the maximum 
extent practicable. Launches must be limited during January through 
February and June through July, to the maximum extent practicable.

Proposed Monitoring Measures

    The Navy must obtain visual, video and audio, and acoustic data 
from up to three pinniped haulout monitoring sites during each launch 
event, to the maximum extent practicable. The holder of this IHA is 
required to abide by the following marine mammal and acoustic 
monitoring requirements:

Visual Monitoring

    Marine mammal monitoring must be conducted by qualified, trained 
protected species observers. The following visual monitoring measures 
will be conducted during preparations for video and acoustic 
monitoring, as described in Video and Audio Monitoring section below: 
(1) Visual monitoring must be conducted before and after launches, 
including scanning the affected haulout beaches and counting the number 
and species of pinnipeds over a 15-30 minute period; (2) Prior to a 
launch event, Navy personnel must make observations of the monitored 
pinniped haulout and record the numbers and species of pinnipeds 
observed on field data sheets; and (3) After a launch event, Navy 
personnel must return to the monitored pinniped haulout and record the 
numbers and species of pinnipeds that remain on the haulout sites and 
any notable changes.

Video and Audio Monitoring

    Before each launch, Navy personnel must set up or activate up to 
three video cameras (either high-definition video cameras, or Forward-
Looking Infrared Radiometer (FLIR) thermal imaging cameras for night 
launch events) such that they overlook the monitoring sites. Each 
camera will be set to record a focal group of pinnipeds within the 
haulout for the maximum recording time permitted by the camera 
capacity. Video and audio monitoring must be conducted by recording 
continuously from a minimum of two hours before the event to 
approximately one hour after the event in order to:
    Determine the composition of the focal subgroup of pinnipeds 
(approximate numbers and sexes of each age class).
    Describe the launch event, including documenting the occurrence of 
a launch event, the type of target/missile launched, the timing of the 
event, and duration of audibility.
    Document movements of pinnipeds, including number and proportion 
moving, direction and distance moved, and pace of movement (slow or 
vigorous). In addition, the following variables concerning the 
circumstances of the observations must also be recorded from the 
videotape or from direct observations at the site:
    1. Study location,
    2. Local time,
    3. Weather (including an estimate of wind strength and direction, 
and presence of precipitation), and
    4. Tide state.
    Identify and document any change in behavior or movements of 
pinnipeds that occurs at the time of the launch event.
    Compare received levels of launch sound with pinniped responses, 
based on acoustic and behavioral data from up to three monitoring sites 
at different distances from the launch site and missile path during 
each launch; from the data accumulated across a series of launches, to 
attempt to establish the ``dose-response'' relationship for launch 
sounds under different launch conditions if possible.
    Ascertain periods or launch conditions when pinnipeds are most and 
least responsive to launch activities. Lastly, document take by 
harassment: (1) Pinnipeds that are exposed to launch sounds strong 
enough to cause a temporary threshold shift (TTS); or (2) Pinnipeds 
that leave the haulout site, or exhibit prolonged movement (greater 
than 10 m) or prolonged behavioral changes (such as pups separated from 
mothers) relative to their behavior immediately prior to the launch.

Acoustic Monitoring

    The Navy must use up to four autonomous audio recorders to make 
acoustical measurements. During each launch, these must be located as 
close as practicable to pinniped haulout monitoring sites and near the 
launch pad itself. The monitored pinniped haulout sites must typically 
include one site as close as possible to the missile's planned flight 
path and one or two locations farther from the flight path within the 
area of potential impact with pinnipeds present. Autonomous Terrestrial 
Acoustic Recorders must be deployed at the recording locations on the 
launch day well before the launch time, and must be retrieved later the 
same day. Acoustic measurements must be collected and reported 
consistent with section 13.2 of the Navy's application.

Reporting

    A draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA must be 
submitted within 90 calendar days of the completion of marine mammal 
and acoustic monitoring or 60 days prior to the issuance of any 
subsequent IHA or incidental take regulations for this project, 
whichever comes first. A final report must be prepared and submitted 
within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report 
from NMFS. This report must contain the informational elements 
described in Section 5 of the Authorization.

Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals

    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, 
such as serious injury, or mortality, the Navy must immediately cease 
the specified activities and report the incident to the NMFS Office of 
Protected Resources (301-427-8401) and the West Coast Stranding 
Coordinator (562-980-3230). The report must include the following 
information:
    1. Time and date of the incident;
    2. Description of the incident;
    3. Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, cloud 
cover, and visibility);
    4. Description of all marine mammal observations and active sound 
source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident;
    5. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;
    6. Fate of the animal(s); and
    7. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).
    Activities must not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with the Navy to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The Navy may not 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS.
    In the event the Navy discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death 
is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a 
moderate state of decomposition), the Navy must immediately report the 
incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS,

[[Page 33128]]

and the West Coast Region Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must 
include the same information identified in 6(b)(i) of this IHA. 
Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the 
incident. NMFS will work with the Navy to determine whether additional 
mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that the Navy discovers an injured or dead large whale 
or other cetaceans, and the lead observer determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the specified activities 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Navy must report the incident 
to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Region 
Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery.
    This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the 
holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS 
determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible 
impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.

Public Comments

    As noted previously, NMFS published a notice of a proposed IHA (84 
FR 18809; May 2, 2019) and solicited public comments on both our 
proposal to issue the initial IHA for target and missile launch 
activities and on the potential for a Renewal IHA, should certain 
requirements be met.
    All public comments were addressed in the notice announcing the 
issuance of the initial IHA (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019). Below, we 
describe how we have addressed, with updated information where 
appropriate, any comments received that specifically pertain to the 
Renewal of the 2019 IHA.
    Comment: The Marine Mammal Commission (the Commission) questioned 
whether the public notice provisions for IHA Renewals fully satisfy the 
public notice and comment provision in the MMPA and discussed the 
potential burden on reviewers of reviewing key documents and developing 
comments quickly. Additionally, the Commission recommended that NMFS 
use the IHA Renewal process sparingly and selectively for activities 
expected to have the lowest levels of impacts to marine mammals and 
that require less complex analysis.
    Response: The Commission has submitted this comment multiple times, 
and NMFS has responded multiple times, including, for example, more 
recently in the notice of issuance of an IHA to [Oslash]rsted Wind 
Power LLC (84 FR 52464, October 2, 2019), and we refer the Commission 
to that response. We also include NMFS' original response to the 
comment received on the 2019 Chevron proposed IHA here:
    NMFS has taken a number of steps to ensure the public has adequate 
notice, time, and information to be able to comment effectively on 
Renewal IHAs within the limitations of processing IHA applications 
efficiently. Federal Register notices for the proposed initial IHAs 
identified the conditions under which a one-year Renewal IHA might be 
appropriate. This information is presented in the Request for Public 
Comments section and thus encourages submission of comments on the 
potential of a one-year renewal as well as the initial IHA during the 
30-day comment period. In addition, when we receive an application for 
a Renewal IHA, we will publish notice of the proposed IHA Renewal in 
the Federal Register and provide an additional 15 days for public 
comment, making a total of 45 days of public comment. We also directly 
contact all commenters on the initial IHA by email, phone, or, if the 
commenter did not provide email or phone information, by postal service 
to provide them the opportunity to submit any additional comments on 
the proposed Renewal IHA. Where the commenter has already had the 
opportunity to review and comment on the potential for a Renewal in the 
initial proposed IHA for these activities, the abbreviated additional 
comment period is sufficient for consideration of the results of the 
preliminary monitoring report and new information (if any) from the 
past year.
    NMFS also strives to ensure the public has access to key 
information needed to submit comments on a proposed IHA, whether an 
initial IHA or a Renewal IHA. The agency's website includes information 
for all projects under consideration, including the application, 
references, and other supporting documents. Each Federal Register 
notice also includes contact information in the event a commenter has 
questions or cannot find the information they seek.
    For more information, NMFS has published a description of the 
Renewal process on our website (available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-harassment-authorization-renewals).

Preliminary Determinations

    The proposed action of this Renewal IHA, target and missile launch 
activities, would be identical to the activities analyzed in the 
Initial IHA. Based on the analysis detailed in the Notice of the 
Initial IHA authorization of the likely effects of the specified 
activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the monitoring and mitigation 
measures, NMFS found that the total marine mammal take from the 
activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal 
species or stocks.
    NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new information 
suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from those 
reached for the initial IHA. Based on the information and analysis 
contained here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has determined the 
following: (1) The required mitigation measures will affect the least 
practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their 
habitat; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the 
affected marine mammal species or stocks; (3) the authorized takes 
represent small numbers of marine mammals relative to the affected 
stock abundances; (4) the Navy's activities will not have an 
unmitigable adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no 
relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this 
action, and; (5) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are 
included.

Endangered Species Act

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed 
for authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, 
NMFS has determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA 
is not required for this action.

Proposed Renewal IHA and Request for Public Comment

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue a Renewal IHA to the Navy for conducting target and missile 
launch activities on SNI, California from June 12, 2020 through June 
11, 2021, provided the previously described

[[Page 33129]]

mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. A 
draft of the proposed and final initial IHA can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act. We request comment on our analyses, the 
proposed Renewal IHA, and any other aspect of this Notice. Please 
include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations 
to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA 
authorization.

    Dated: May 26, 2020.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-11719 Filed 5-29-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P