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Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Space Vehicle and Test Flight Activities from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), California

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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


Notice; receipt of application for letter of authorization; request for comments and information.


NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for authorization for the take of marine mammals incidental to launching space launch vehicles, intercontinental ballistic and small missiles, and aircraft and helicopter operations at VAFB for the period of February 2009 through February 2014. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of the USAF's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the USAF's application and request.


Comments and information must be received no later than August 25, 2008.


Comments on the application should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225. The mailbox address for providing email comments is Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size.

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Candace Nachman, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2289, ext. 156.

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A copy of the USAF's application may be obtained by writing to the address specified above (see ADDRESSES), telephoning the contact listed above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at:​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm#applications.


Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.

Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for certain subsistence uses, and that the permissible methods of taking and Start Printed Page 43411requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set forth.

NMFS has defined “negligible impact” in 50 CFR 216.103 as:

an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.

With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines “harassment” as:

(i) any act that injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered [Level B Harassment].

Summary of Request

On March 21, 2008, NMFS received an application from the USAF requesting authorization for the take of four species of marine mammals incidental to space vehicle and test flight activities from VAFB, which would impact pinnipeds on VAFB and the Northern Channel Islands, over the course of 5 years. These training activities are classified as military readiness activities. Marine mammals may be exposed to continuous noise due mostly to combustion effects of aircraft and launch vehicles and impulsive noise due to sonic boom effects. The USAF requests authorization to take four pinniped species by Level B Harassment.

Specified Activities

There are currently six active space launch vehicle facilities at VAFB used to launch satellites into polar orbit. These facilities support the launch programs for space vehicles, including the Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon, Minotaur, and Taurus. There are also a variety of small missiles launched from North VAFB, including the Minuteman III and several types of interceptor and target vehicles for the Missile Defense Agency program. The VAFB runway, located on north VAFB, supports various aircraft operations. A full description of the activities to be conducted by the USAF at VAFB, including descriptions of the different space vehicles and missiles, are described in the USAF's application.

Information Solicited

Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning the USAF's request (see ADDRESSES). All information, suggestions, and comments related to the USAF's request and NMFS' potential development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by the USAF on and around VAFB will be considered by NMFS in developing, if appropriate, regulations governing the issuance of letters of authorization.

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Dated: July 21, 2008.

Helen M. Golde,

Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. E8-17112 Filed 7-24-08; 8:45 am]