Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Activities on San Nicolas Island, 23689-23692 [2021-09376]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 84 / Tuesday, May 4, 2021 / Notices khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES and as individual parcels are acquired for the reserve system. The framework and final monitoring program are intended to verify take is not being exceeded, ensure compliance with PCCP requirements, assess the status of Covered Species and natural communities within the reserve system, evaluate the effects of management actions, and assess whether the PCCP’s biological goals and objectives are being achieved. There are three main sources of funding for the PCCP: Plan development fees (includes land conversion fee, special habitat fees, and temporary effects fee), local funding, and state and Federal funding. NMFS considers the PCCP’s development fees as an assured source of funding because Placer County and the City of Lincoln will adopt ordinances to implement the fees described in the habitat conservation plan. Permit 25641 NMFS authorizes the following lethal incidental takes of CCV steelhead (threatened) and CV fall- and late fallrun Chinook salmon (unlisted): • Trapping and handling for research and monitoring: 5 CCV steelhead juveniles and 10 Chinook salmon per year; • Fish capture and relocation: less than 3% incident mortality; • Responses that result from habitat disturbance (i.e., contaminants, turbidity, construction disturbance, acoustic impacts, disturbance to riparian and riverine habitat; take measured via surrogate of permanent physical disturbance): 655 acres or temporary disturbance of 165 acres of combined riparian/riverine habitat; and • Take of fish or eggs from other activities (measures via surrogate trail acreage): Approximately 50 acres of trails. To ensure that the mitigation and minimization strategies are effective, the PCCP incorporates a variety of monitoring, research, and reporting components that will provide feedback for use by adaptive management provisions. Based on this information, adjustments can be made to the conservation management activities set forth in chapter 5 of the PCCP. Take authorization will become effective for the currently unlisted species covered by this permit concurrent with the listing of those species under the ESA. Authority Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the ‘‘taking’’ of a species listed as endangered or VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 May 03, 2021 Jkt 253001 threatened. The ESA defines ‘‘take’’ to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. NMFS may issue permits, under limited circumstances, to take listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA provides for authorizing incidental take of listed species. NMFS regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR 222.307. Dated: April 28, 2021. Margaret H. Miller, Acting Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–09297 Filed 5–3–21; 8:45 am] 23689 butterfish, longfin squid, and Illex squid fisheries. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to Kathy Collins at (302) 526–5253, at least 5 days prior to any meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: April 29, 2021. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–09334 Filed 5–3–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE BILLING CODE 3510–22–P National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB057] Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; public meeting. AGENCY: The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish (MSB) Monitoring Committee will meet via webinar to develop recommendations for MSB specifications. SUMMARY: The meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held via webinar. Details on the proposed agenda, connection information, and briefing materials will be posted via the MAFMC website calendar at: www.mafmc.org. Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; telephone: (302) 674–2331; www.mafmc.org. DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, telephone: (302) 526–5255. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The MSB Monitoring Committee will develop recommendations for future MSB specifications, focusing on the PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 [RTID 0648–XB047] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Navy Target and Missile Launch Activities on San Nicolas Island National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed issuance of an incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, during target and missile launch activities on San Nicolas Island (SNI). The Navy is requesting, and NMFS is proposing to issue, an IHA authorizing incidental take of marine mammals during continuation of target and missile launch activities identical to those already analyzed in a 2019 IHA issued on June 12, 2019 and a currently active Renewal IHA issued on June 19, 2020, which expires on June 11, 2021. The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures remain the same as prescribed in the previous IHAs. This IHA would be effective from June 12, 2021 through June 11, 2022. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an IHA to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\04MYN1.SGM 04MYN1 23690 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 84 / Tuesday, May 4, 2021 / Notices khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notification of our decision. The Navy’s activities are considered military readiness activities pursuant to the 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 3, 2021. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Written comments should be submitted via email to ITP.egger@noaa.gov. 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. Comments, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. 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-undermarine-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: Stephanie Egger, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the original application 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-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. In case of problems accessing 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 May 03, 2021 Jkt 253001 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 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 such 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 such takings are set forth. 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 preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notification prior to concluding our PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request. History of Request On March 1, 2021, NMFS received an adequate and complete application from the Navy, requesting the take of marine mammals incidental to target and missile launch activities on SNI. NMFS previously issued an IHA for this activity on June 12, 2019 (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019) as well as a Renewal IHA on June 19, 2020 (85 FR 38863; June 29, 2020). The activities for which incidental take is requested are identical to those covered under the previous IHAs. Navy complied with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) of the previous authorizations and information regarding their monitoring results may be found in the Potential Effects of Specified Activity on Marine Mammals and their Habitat and Estimated Take section of the previous authorization (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019) as well https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-military-readinessactivities#active-authorizations. This proposed IHA would cover one year of an on-going activity for which Navy obtained prior authorizations, specifically continuation of target and missile launches on SNI. Of note, the Navy also submitted a revised and complete application on August 28, 2020 for a 7-year rulemaking and Letter of Authorization (LOA) for the same target and missile launch activities on SNI, as well as other Navy testing and training activities in the same area. On September 4, 2020, NMFS published a notice of receipt of application in the Federal Register (85 FR 55257) requesting comments and information related to the Navy’s request. However, NMFS is unable to make determinations regarding the requested LOA prior to the expiration of the currently active Renewal IHA, which would leave a lapse in coverage for the Navy for target and missile launch activities on SNI after it expires on June 11, 2021. This IHA is intended to provide coverage during this period and would be valid for one year from issuance. Description of the Proposed Activity and Anticipated Impacts The Navy proposes to continue a target and missile launch program on SNI, located in Southern California and part of the Channel Islands, which is identical to the program covered under the previous authorizations. The Navy has been conducting this program since 2001, which supports testing and E:\FR\FM\04MYN1.SGM 04MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 84 / Tuesday, May 4, 2021 / Notices training activities associated with operations on the Point Mugu Sea Range (PMSR). The PMSR is used by the U.S. and allied military services to test and evaluate sea, land, and air weapon systems; to provide realistic training opportunities; and to maintain operational readiness of these forces. 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 and are launched from two launch sites on SNI. As before, the Navy proposes to conduct up to 40 missile launch events from SNI, but the total may be less than 40 depending on operational requirements. Launch timing will be determined by operational, meteorological, and logistical factors. Up to 10 of the 40 launches may occur at night, but this is also dependent on operational requirements and only conducted when required by test objectives. The specified activities are expected to result in the take of three marine mammal species: California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) by Level B harassment, primarily in the form of behavioral disturbance, as a result of the airborne noise produced during launch activities. To support public review and comment on the IHA that NMFS is proposing to issue here, we refer the reader to the documents related to the previously issued IHAs (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019 and 85 FR 38863; June 29, 2020) and discuss any new or changed information here. A detailed description of the proposed target and missile launch activities can be found in these documents. We also refer the reader to the Navy’s current and previous applications and monitoring reports which can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-military-readinessactivities#active-authorizations. Detailed Description of the Action A detailed description of the proposed target and missile launch activities is found in these previous documents. The location, timing, and nature of the activities, including the types of missiles planned for use, are identical to those described in the previous notifications. 23691 authorizations. NMFS has also reviewed the Navy’s monitoring reports and they support the current take estimates and our findings. Therefore, no change in the take estimates is warranted. Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat A description of the potential effects of the specified activities on marine mammals and their habitat may be found in the documents supporting the previous IHAs, which remains applicable to the issuance of this proposed IHA. There is no new information on potential effects. Estimated Take Description of Marine Mammals A description of the marine mammals in the area of the activities is found in these previous documents, which remains applicable to this proposed IHA as well. In addition, NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and recent scientific literature, and determined that no new information affects our original analysis of impacts under the previous A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate authorized take is found in these previous documents. The methods of estimating take for the proposed IHA are identical to those used in the previous IHAs. The source levels, number of launches, and the marine mammal abundance on SNI used to calculate take remain unchanged from the previously issued IHAs. Regarding proposed authorized take, the stocks taken, types of take, and methods of taking remain unchanged from the previously issued IHAs. The same is true for the number of takes, which are indicated below in Table 1. As before, no serious injury or mortality is anticipated to result from the Navy’s activity. TABLE 1—REQUESTED TAKE AMOUNT, PER SPECIES, RELATIVE TO POPULATION SIZE Authorized Level B harassment Species California sea lion ........................................................................................... Harbor seal ..................................................................................................... Northern elephant seal ................................................................................... khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Description of Proposed Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures proposed here are identical to those included in the previous IHAs. The discussion of the least practicable adverse impact included in that document remains accurate. All mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures in the previous IHA are carried over to this proposed IHA and summarized below: D Personnel Mitigation—Personnel will not enter pinniped haulouts. Personnel will be adjacent to pinniped haulouts below the predicted missile path for two hours prior to a launch only for monitoring purposes. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 May 03, 2021 Jkt 253001 11,000 480 40 Stock abundance (percent taken by Level B harassment) 257,606 (4.27 percent). 30,968 (less than 2 percent). 179,000 (less than 1 percent). D Launch Mitigation—Missiles will not cross over pinniped haulouts at elevations less than 305 m (1,000 ft). Launches at night will be limited. Launches will be avoided during harbor seal pupping season (February through April) unless constrained by mission objectives. Launches will be limited during the pupping season for northern elephant seal (January through February) and California sea lion (June through July) unless constrained by mission objectives or certain other factors. It is vital that the Navy effectively executes readiness activities to ensure naval forces can effectively execute military operations. PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 D Aircraft Operation Mitigation—All aircraft and helicopter flight paths must maintain a minimum distance of 1,000 ft (305 m) from recognized seal haulouts and rookeries), except in emergencies. D Non-Authorized Take Prohibited— 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. D Visual and Video Camera Monitoring—The Navy proposes to conduct marine mammal monitoring during launches from SNI, using visual monitoring as well as simultaneous autonomous audio recording of launch E:\FR\FM\04MYN1.SGM 04MYN1 23692 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 84 / Tuesday, May 4, 2021 / Notices khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES sounds and video recording of pinniped behavior. Visual monitoring, before and after launches, is a scan of the haulout beaches to count pinnipeds over a wider field of view than can be captured by a stationary video camera. This is typically done over a 15–30 minute period. Visual monitoring is conducted while the equipment is being set up and broken down for video and acoustic monitoring. Video monitoring is conducted by recording continuously from a minimum of two hours before the event to approximately one hour after the event. These video and audio records will be used to document pinniped responses to the launches. D Acoustic Monitoring—Acoustical recordings will be obtained during each monitored launch. These recordings will be suitable for quantitative analysis of the levels and characteristics of the received launch sounds. D Reporting—A technical report will be submitted to the NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources within 90 days from the date the IHA expires. This report will provide full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring tasks for launches activities at SNI that are covered under this IHA. Preliminary Determinations The Navy proposes target and missile launch activities identical to those covered in the previous IHAs. The methods of taking and effects of the action resulting in Level B harassment only remains the same as what was previously analyzed. When issuing the previous IHAs, NMFS found the Navy’s target and missile launch activities would have a negligible impact to species or stocks’ rates of recruitment and survival. This proposed IHA also carries over identical required mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures as required under the previous IHAs. NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new information suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from those reached for the previous IHAs. Based on the analysis in the previous IHAs, the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, as well as the previous monitoring results at SNI, NMFS likewise finds that the total marine mammal take from this proposed activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Based on the information contained here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has preliminarily determined the following: (1) The required mitigation measures will effect the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:13 May 03, 2021 Jkt 253001 stocks and their habitat; (2) the proposed authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks; and (3) 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 (4) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are included. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Endangered Species Act (ESA) AGENCY: 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 authorized or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA was not required for this action. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to the Navy for conducting target and missile launches on SNI, effective from June 12, 2021 through June 11, 2022, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. Request for Public Comments Dated: April 29, 2021. Catherine Marzin, Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–09376 Filed 5–3–21; 8:45 am] PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Energy Conservation Program: Notification of Petition for Waiver of Vinotemp International Corp. From the Department of Energy Walk-in Coolers and Walk-in Freezers Test Procedure and Notification of Grant of Interim Waiver Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy. ACTION: Notification of petition for waiver and grant of an interim waiver; request for comments. This document announces receipt of and publishes a petition for waiver and interim waiver from Vinotemp International Corp. (‘‘Vinotemp’’), which seeks a waiver for specified walk-in cooler refrigeration system basic models from the U.S. Department of Energy (‘‘DOE’’) test procedure used to determine the efficiency and energy consumption of walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers. DOE also gives notice of an Interim Waiver Order that requires Vinotemp to test and rate the specified walk-in cooler refrigeration system basic models in accordance with the alternate test procedure set forth in the Interim Waiver Order, which modifies the alternate test procedure suggested by Vinotemp. DOE solicits comments, data, and information concerning Vinotemp’s petition, its suggested alternate test procedure, and the alternate test procedure specified in the Interim Waiver Order so as to inform DOE’s final decision on Vinotemp’s waiver request. SUMMARY: The Interim Waiver Order is effective on May 4, 2021. Written comments and information are requested and will be accepted on or before June 3, 2021. ADDRESSES: Interested persons are encouraged to submit comments using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Alternatively, interested persons may submit comments, identified by docket number EERE–2020–BT–WAV–0022, by any of the following methods: 1. Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. 2. Email: to Vinotemp2020WAV0022@ ee.doe.gov. Include docket number EERE–2020–BT–WAV–0022 in the subject line of the message. No telefacsimiles (‘‘faxes’’) will be accepted. For detailed instructions on DATES: We request comment on our analyses (included in both this document and the referenced documents supporting the previous IHAs), the proposed authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for the proposed target and missile launch activities on SNI. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P [Case Number 2020–005; EERE–2020–BT– WAV–0022] E:\FR\FM\04MYN1.SGM 04MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 84 (Tuesday, May 4, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 23689-23692]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-09376]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB047]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the 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; proposed issuance of an incidental harassment 
authorization; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for an 
incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine 
mammals, by Level B harassment only, during target and missile launch 
activities on San Nicolas Island (SNI). The Navy is requesting, and 
NMFS is proposing to issue, an IHA authorizing incidental take of 
marine mammals during continuation of target and missile launch 
activities identical to those already analyzed in a 2019 IHA issued on 
June 12, 2019 and a currently active Renewal IHA issued on June 19, 
2020, which expires on June 11, 2021. The proposed mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting measures remain the same as prescribed in the 
previous IHAs. This IHA would be effective from June 12, 2021 through 
June 11, 2022. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 
NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an IHA to 
incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS 
will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the 
issuance of the requested MMPA

[[Page 23690]]

authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final 
notification of our decision. The Navy's activities are considered 
military readiness activities pursuant to the 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 3, 
2021.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Written comments should be submitted 
via email 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. Comments, including all attachments, must 
not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments to comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. 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: Stephanie Egger, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the original 
application 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 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 incidental take authorization 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 such 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 such takings are set forth.
    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 preliminarily determined 
that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically 
excluded from further NEPA review.
    We will review all comments submitted in response to this 
notification prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final 
decision on the IHA request.

History of Request

    On March 1, 2021, NMFS received an adequate and complete 
application from the Navy, requesting the take of marine mammals 
incidental to target and missile launch activities on SNI. NMFS 
previously issued an IHA for this activity on June 12, 2019 (84 FR 
28462; June 19, 2019) as well as a Renewal IHA on June 19, 2020 (85 FR 
38863; June 29, 2020). The activities for which incidental take is 
requested are identical to those covered under the previous IHAs.
    Navy complied with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting) of the previous authorizations and 
information regarding their monitoring results may be found in the 
Potential Effects of Specified Activity on Marine Mammals and their 
Habitat and Estimated Take section of the previous authorization (84 FR 
28462; June 19, 2019) as well https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-military-readiness-activities#active-authorizations. This proposed IHA would 
cover one year of an on-going activity for which Navy obtained prior 
authorizations, specifically continuation of target and missile 
launches on SNI. Of note, the Navy also submitted a revised and 
complete application on August 28, 2020 for a 7-year rulemaking and 
Letter of Authorization (LOA) for the same target and missile launch 
activities on SNI, as well as other Navy testing and training 
activities in the same area. On September 4, 2020, NMFS published a 
notice of receipt of application in the Federal Register (85 FR 55257) 
requesting comments and information related to the Navy's request. 
However, NMFS is unable to make determinations regarding the requested 
LOA prior to the expiration of the currently active Renewal IHA, which 
would leave a lapse in coverage for the Navy for target and missile 
launch activities on SNI after it expires on June 11, 2021. This IHA is 
intended to provide coverage during this period and would be valid for 
one year from issuance.

Description of the Proposed Activity and Anticipated Impacts

    The Navy proposes to continue a target and missile launch program 
on SNI, located in Southern California and part of the Channel Islands, 
which is identical to the program covered under the previous 
authorizations. The Navy has been conducting this program since 2001, 
which supports testing and

[[Page 23691]]

training activities associated with operations on the Point Mugu Sea 
Range (PMSR). The PMSR is used by the U.S. and allied military services 
to test and evaluate sea, land, and air weapon systems; to provide 
realistic training opportunities; and to maintain operational readiness 
of these forces. 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 and are 
launched from two launch sites on SNI. As before, the Navy proposes to 
conduct up to 40 missile launch events from SNI, but the total may be 
less than 40 depending on operational requirements. Launch timing will 
be determined by operational, meteorological, and logistical factors. 
Up to 10 of the 40 launches may occur at night, but this is also 
dependent on operational requirements and only conducted when required 
by test objectives. The specified activities are expected to result in 
the take of three marine mammal species: California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), and northern elephant 
seals (Mirounga angustirostris) by Level B harassment, primarily in the 
form of behavioral disturbance, as a result of the airborne noise 
produced during launch activities.
    To support public review and comment on the IHA that NMFS is 
proposing to issue here, we refer the reader to the documents related 
to the previously issued IHAs (84 FR 28462; June 19, 2019 and 85 FR 
38863; June 29, 2020) and discuss any new or changed information here. 
A detailed description of the proposed target and missile launch 
activities can be found in these documents. We also refer the reader to 
the Navy's current and previous applications and monitoring reports 
which can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-military-readiness-activities#active-authorizations.

Detailed Description of the Action

    A detailed description of the proposed target and missile launch 
activities is found in these previous documents. The location, timing, 
and nature of the activities, including the types of missiles planned 
for use, are identical to those described in the previous 
notifications.

Description of Marine Mammals

    A description of the marine mammals in the area of the activities 
is found in these previous documents, which remains applicable to this 
proposed IHA as well. In addition, NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock 
Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, 
and recent scientific literature, and determined that no new 
information affects our original analysis of impacts under the previous 
authorizations. NMFS has also reviewed the Navy's monitoring reports 
and they support the current take estimates and our findings. 
Therefore, no change in the take estimates is warranted.

Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat

    A description of the potential effects of the specified activities 
on marine mammals and their habitat may be found in the documents 
supporting the previous IHAs, which remains applicable to the issuance 
of this proposed IHA. There is no new information on potential effects.

Estimated Take

    A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate 
authorized take is found in these previous documents. The methods of 
estimating take for the proposed IHA are identical to those used in the 
previous IHAs. The source levels, number of launches, and the marine 
mammal abundance on SNI used to calculate take remain unchanged from 
the previously issued IHAs. Regarding proposed authorized take, the 
stocks taken, types of take, and methods of taking remain unchanged 
from the previously issued IHAs. The same is true for the number of 
takes, which are indicated below in Table 1. As before, no serious 
injury or mortality is anticipated to result from the Navy's activity.

                    Table 1--Requested Take Amount, per Species, Relative to Population Size
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Authorized
            Species                  Level B          Stock abundance (percent taken by Level B harassment)
                                   harassment
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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 
proposed here are identical to those included in the previous IHAs. The 
discussion of the least practicable adverse impact included in that 
document remains accurate. All mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
measures in the previous IHA are carried over to this proposed IHA and 
summarized below:
    [ssquf] Personnel Mitigation--Personnel will not enter pinniped 
haulouts. Personnel will be adjacent to pinniped haulouts below the 
predicted missile path for two hours prior to a launch only for 
monitoring purposes.
    [ssquf] Launch Mitigation--Missiles will not cross over pinniped 
haulouts at elevations less than 305 m (1,000 ft). Launches at night 
will be limited. Launches will be avoided during harbor seal pupping 
season (February through April) unless constrained by mission 
objectives. Launches will be limited during the pupping season for 
northern elephant seal (January through February) and California sea 
lion (June through July) unless constrained by mission objectives or 
certain other factors. It is vital that the Navy effectively executes 
readiness activities to ensure naval forces can effectively execute 
military operations.
    [ssquf] Aircraft Operation Mitigation--All aircraft and helicopter 
flight paths must maintain a minimum distance of 1,000 ft (305 m) from 
recognized seal haulouts and rookeries), except in emergencies.
    [ssquf] Non-Authorized Take Prohibited--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.
    [ssquf] Visual and Video Camera Monitoring--The Navy proposes to 
conduct marine mammal monitoring during launches from SNI, using visual 
monitoring as well as simultaneous autonomous audio recording of launch

[[Page 23692]]

sounds and video recording of pinniped behavior. Visual monitoring, 
before and after launches, is a scan of the haulout beaches to count 
pinnipeds over a wider field of view than can be captured by a 
stationary video camera. This is typically done over a 15-30 minute 
period. Visual monitoring is conducted while the equipment is being set 
up and broken down for video and acoustic monitoring. Video monitoring 
is conducted by recording continuously from a minimum of two hours 
before the event to approximately one hour after the event. These video 
and audio records will be used to document pinniped responses to the 
launches.
    [ssquf] Acoustic Monitoring--Acoustical recordings will be obtained 
during each monitored launch. These recordings will be suitable for 
quantitative analysis of the levels and characteristics of the received 
launch sounds.
    [ssquf] Reporting--A technical report will be submitted to the 
NMFS' Office of Protected Resources within 90 days from the date the 
IHA expires. This report will provide full documentation of methods, 
results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring tasks for 
launches activities at SNI that are covered under this IHA.

Preliminary Determinations

    The Navy proposes target and missile launch activities identical to 
those covered in the previous IHAs. The methods of taking and effects 
of the action resulting in Level B harassment only remains the same as 
what was previously analyzed. When issuing the previous IHAs, NMFS 
found the Navy's target and missile launch activities would have a 
negligible impact to species or stocks' rates of recruitment and 
survival. This proposed IHA also carries over identical required 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures as required under the 
previous IHAs. NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new 
information suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from 
those reached for the previous IHAs. Based on the analysis in the 
previous IHAs, the likely effects of the specified activity on marine 
mammals and their habitat, as well as the previous monitoring results 
at SNI, NMFS likewise finds that the total marine mammal take from this 
proposed activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine 
mammal species or stocks.
    Based on the information contained here and in the referenced 
documents, NMFS has preliminarily determined the following: (1) The 
required mitigation measures will effect the least practicable impact 
on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat; (2) the proposed 
authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine 
mammal species or stocks; and (3) 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 (4) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are 
included.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

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

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to the Navy for conducting target and missile launches on 
SNI, effective from June 12, 2021 through June 11, 2022, provided the 
previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses (included in both this document 
and the referenced documents supporting the previous IHAs), the 
proposed authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed 
IHA for the proposed target and missile launch activities on SNI. 
Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature 
citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA 
authorization.

    Dated: April 29, 2021.
Catherine Marzin,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-09376 Filed 5-3-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P