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Notice

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School Training Operations Activities at Eglin Air Force Base, FL

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Notice; receipt of application for a Letter of Authorization; request for comments and information.

SUMMARY:

NMFS has received an application from the U.S. Department of the Air Force, Headquarters 96th Air Base Wing (U.S. Air Force), Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin AFB) for authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (NEODS) training operations, military readiness activities, at Eglin AFB, FL from approximately October, 2010, to October, 2015. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of the U.S. Air Force's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, suggestions, and comments on the U.S. Air Force's application and request. NMFS issued annual Incidental Harassment Authorizations pursuant to the MMPA, for similar specified activities in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. No activities have occurred to date.

DATES:

Comments and information must be received no later than February 16, 2010.

ADDRESSES:

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 PR1.0648-XT29 @noaa.gov. NMFS is not responsible for e-mail comments sent to addresses other than the one provided here. Comments sent via e-mail, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size.

Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the address specified above, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Howard Goldstein or Jolie Harrison, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 301-713-2289, ext. 172.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability

A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the address specified above, telephoning the contact listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT), or visiting the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm.

Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address.

Background

In the case of military readiness activities (as defined by Subsection 315(f) of Public Law 107-314; 16 U.S.C. 703 note), subparagraphs 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) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and regulations are issued, or if the taking is limited to harassment an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is issued. Upon making a finding that an application for incidental take is adequate and complete, NMFS commences the incidental take authorization process by publishing in the Federal Register a notice of a receipt of an application for the implementation of regulations or a proposed IHA.

An authorization for the incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds that the taking during the period of the authorization will have a negligible Start Printed Page 2491impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth to achieve the least practicable adverse impact.

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 behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered (Level B harassment).”

Summary of Request

On November 6, 2009, NMFS received an application from the U.S. Air Force requesting an authorization for the take of marine mammals incidental to NEODS training operations. The requested regulations would establish a framework for authorizing incidental take future Letters of Authorization (LOA). These LOAs, if approved, would authorize the take, by Level B (behavioral) harassment, of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) incidental to NEODS training operations and testing at Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range at property off Santa Rosa Island, FL, in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Based on the application, pre-mitigation take would average approximately 10 animals per year; approximately 50 animals over the five year period. NMFS issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) for the same activity in 2005 (70 FR 51341; August 30, 2005), 2006 (70 FR 60693; October 16, 2006), 2007 (72 FR 58290; October 15, 2007), and 2008 (73 FR 56800, September 30, 2008). The past missions have been delayed due to safety issues concerning bringing demolition charges under a bridge and no missions have occurred to date under any of the IHAs. NEODS missions would involve underwater detonations of small, live explosive charges adjacent to inert mines. The NEODS training activities are classified as military readiness activities. The U.S. Air Force states that noise associated with underwater detonation of the specified explosive charges may expose bottlenose dolphins in the area to noise and pressure resulting in non-injurious temporary threshold shift (TTS) (temporary hearing loss).

Specified Activities

The NEODS may conduct up to eight two-day demolition training events annually; these missions may occur at any time of the year, although the U.S. Air Force anticipates that 60 percent of the specified activities will occur during summer months while 40 percent will occur during winter months. Each demolition training event involves a maximum of five detonations. Up to 20 five-pound (lb) charges (five lbs net explosive weight [NEW] per charge) and 20 ten-lb charges (ten lbs NEW per charge) would be detonated annually in the GOM, approximately three nautical miles (5.6 kilometers) offshore of Eglin AFB. Detonations would be conducted on the sea floor, adjacent to an inert mine, at a depth of approximately 60 feet (18.3 meters). Additional information on the NEODS training operations is contained in the application, which is available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Information Solicited

Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments related to the U.S. Air Force's request (see ADDRESSES). All information, suggestions, and comments related to the U.S. Air Force's NEODS training operations request and NMFS' potential development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by Eglin AFB's NEODS training operations will be considered by NMFS in developing, if appropriate, the most effective regulations governing the issuance of Letters of Authorization.

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Dated: January 11, 2010.

James H. Lecky,

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

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[FR Doc. 2010-722 Filed 1-14-10; 8:45 am]

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