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Notice

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; St. George Reef Light Station Restoration and Maintenance at Northwest Seal Rock, Del Norte County, California

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; issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulations, we hereby give notification that the National Marine Fisheries Service has issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization (Authorization) to St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society (Society), to take by harassment incidental to conducting aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and light maintenance activities on the St. George Reef Light Station on Northwest Seal Rock in the northeast Pacific Ocean.

DATES:

Effective April 11 2014, through April 10, 2015.

ADDRESSES:

The public may obtain an electronic copy of the Society's application, supporting documentation, the authorization, and a list of the references cited in this document by visiting: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits/​incidental.htm#applications. In the case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed here (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

The Environmental Assessment and associated Finding of No Significant Impact, prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, are also available at the same site.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jeannine Cody, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301) 427-8401.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if: (1) NMFS makes certain findings; (2) the taking is limited to harassment; and (3) NMFS provides a notice of a proposed authorization to the public for review.

NMFS shall grant an authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals if we find 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 subsistence uses (where relevant). Also, the authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such takings. 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.”

Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines “harassment” as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].

Summary of Request

On December 14, 2013, NMFS received an application from the Society requesting that NMFS issue an Authorization for the take of marine mammals, incidental to conducting restoration activities on the St. George Reef Light Station (Station) located on Northwest Seal Rock offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. NMS determined the application complete and adequate on January 13, 2014. The Society proposes to conduct aircraft operations, lighthouse renovation, and Start Printed Page 20176periodic maintenance on the Station's optical light system on a monthly basis. The proposed activity would occur on a monthly basis over one weekend, April 11 through April 30, 2014 and November 1, 2014, through April 10, 2015.

The following specific aspects of the proposed activities have the potential to take marine mammals: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system); and (4) human presence. Thus, we anticipate that take, by Level B harassment only, of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus); Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), eastern distinct population segment (DPS); and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) could result from the specified activity.

To date, NMFS has issued four Authorizations to the Society for the conduct of the same activities from 2010 to 2013 (75 FR 4774, January 29, 2010; 76 FR 10564, February 25, 2011; 77 FR 8811, February 15, 2012; and 79 FR 6179, February 3, 2014). This is the Society's fifth request for an annual Authorization as their last Authorization expired on December 31, 2013.

Description of the Specified Activity

Overview

The Station, listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, is located on Northwest Seal Rock (NWSR) offshore of Crescent City, California in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The Station, built in 1892, rises 45.7 meters (m) (150 feet (ft)) above sea level. The structure consists of hundreds of granite blocks topped with a cast iron lantern room and covers much of the surface of the islet.

Dates and Duration

The Authorization would be effective from April 11 through April 30, 2014 and November 1, 2014, through April 10, 2015. Following is a brief summary of the dates and duration of the activities.

The purpose of the project is to restore the lighthouse and to conduct annual and emergency maintenance on the Station's optical light system. The Society proposes to conduct the activities (aircraft operations, lighthouse restoration, and maintenance activities) from the period of April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, at a maximum frequency of one session per month. The proposed duration for each session would last no more than three days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

Specified Geographic Region

The Station is located on a small, rocky islet (41°50′24″ N, 124°22′06″ W) approximately nine kilometers (km) (6.0 miles (mi)) in the northeast Pacific Ocean, offshore of Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41°46′48″ N; Longitude: 124°14′11″ W). NWSR is approximately 91.4 m (300 ft) in diameter that peaks at 5.18 m (17 ft) above mean sea level.

Detailed Description of Activities

We outlined the purpose of the Society's activities in a previous notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014). The proposed activities have not changed between the proposed authorization notice and this final notice announcing the issuance of the Authorization. For a more detailed description of the authorized action, we refer the reader to the notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014).

Comments and Responses

We published a notice of receipt of the Society's application and proposed Authorization in the Federal Register on February 18, 2014 (79 FR 9170). During the 30-day comment period, we received one comment from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) which recommended that NMFS issue the requested Authorization, provided that the Society carries out the required monitoring and mitigation measures as described in the notice of the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014) and the application. We have included all measures proposed in the notice of the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014) in the Authorization.

Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of the Proposed Specified Activity

The marine mammals most likely to be harassed incidental to the Society's helicopter operations, lighthouse restoration, and lighthouse maintenance on NWSR are primarily Steller and California sea lions and to a lesser extent the Pacific harbor seal and the eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal. NMFS refers the public to Carretta et al., (2013) and Allen and Angliss (2013) for general information on these species which we presented in the notice of the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014). The publications are available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​sars/​pdf/​po2012.pdf and http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​sars/​pdf/​ak2012.pdf.

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), listed as threatened under the ESA and categorized as depleted under the MMPA, usually range in coastal waters within two km (1.2 mi) of the mainland shore. The Society has not encountered the species during the course of the previous four Authorizations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages this species and NMFS does not consider it further in this notice of issuance of an Authorization.

Potential Effects on Marine Mammals

Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by: (1) Helicopter landings/takeoffs; (2) noise generated during restoration activities (e.g., painting, plastering, welding, and glazing); and (3) maintenance activities (e.g., bulb replacement and automation of the light system) may have the potential to cause California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and Steller sea lions hauled out on NWSR to flush into the surrounding water or to cause a short-term behavioral disturbance for marine mammals.

NMFS expects that acoustic and visual stimuli resulting from the Society's proposed activities have the potential to harass marine mammals. NMFS also expects that these disturbances would be temporary and result, at worst, in a temporary modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological effects (Level B harassment) of certain species of marine mammals.

We included a summary and discussion of the ways that the types of stressors associated with the Society's specified activities (i.e., visual and acoustic disturbances) have the potential to impact marine mammals in a previous notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014).

Rookeries: There are no rookeries for California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and Steller sea lions on NWSR and there are no reports of these species breeding on the islet.

Anticipated Effects on Habitat

NMFS considered these impacts in detail in the notice for the proposed authorization (79 FR 9170, February 18, 2014). Briefly, NMFS does not anticipate that the proposed activities would result in any significant or long-term effects on the habitats used by the marine mammals in the proposed area, Start Printed Page 20177including the food sources they use (i.e., fish and invertebrates). While NMFS anticipates that the specified activity could potentially result in marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary ensonification and human presence, this impact to habitat is temporary and reversible. NMFS does not consider behavioral modification to cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations.

Mitigation

In order to issue an incidental take authorization under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (where relevant).

As a way to reduce or minimize adverse impacts that would result from the proposed project to the lowest level practicable, NMFS requires the following mitigation measures.

Time and Frequency

The Society would conduct restoration activities at a maximum of once per month between April 11 through April 30, 2014 and November 1, 2014, through April 10, 2015. Each restoration session would last no more than three days. Maintenance of the light beacon would occur only in conjunction with restoration activities.

Helicopter Approach and Timing Techniques

The Society would ensure that its helicopter approach patterns to the Station and timing techniques do not disturb marine mammals as most practicable. To the extent possible, the helicopter should approach NWSR when the tide is too high for the marine mammals to haul-out on NWSR. Since the most severe impacts (stampede) precede rapid and direct helicopter approaches, the Society's initial approach to the Station must be offshore from the island at a relatively high altitude (e.g., 800-1,000 ft, or 244-305 m). Before the final approach, the helicopter shall circle lower, and approach from area with the lowest pinniped density. If for any safety reasons (e.g., wind condition) the Society cannot conduct these types of helicopter approach and timing techniques, they must abort the restoration and maintenance activities for that day.

The Authorization would limit the Society's access to NWSR from May 1, 2014, through October 31, 2014 in the event that mothers and pups haul out on the islet. NMFS estimates that the likelihood of mother-pup separation during helicopter overflights would be rare as the authorized activities would occur outside of the breeding season for the pinnipeds present on NWSR

Avoidance of Visual and Acoustic Contact With People

The Society would instruct its members and restoration crews to avoid making unnecessary noise and not present themselves visually to pinnipeds around the base of the Station. The door to the lower platform (which the pinnipeds occasionally use to rest) shall remain closed and barricaded to all tourists and other personnel.

Mitigation Conclusions

NMFS has carefully evaluated the Society's proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that we prescribe the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. NMFS' evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another:

  • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals;
  • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
  • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation.

Any mitigation measure(s) prescribed by NMFS should be able to accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the general goals listed here:

1. Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).

2. A reduction in the numbers of marine mammals (total number or number at biologically important time or location) exposed to helicopter operations and human presence that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).

3. A reduction in the number of times (total number or number at biologically important time or location) individuals would be exposed to helicopter operations or human presence that we expect to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing harassment takes only).

4. A reduction in the intensity of exposures (either total number or number at biologically important time or location) to helicopter operations or human presence that NMFS expects to result in the take of marine mammals (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of harassment takes only).

5. Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying special attention to the food base, activities that block or limit passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary destruction/disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time.

6. For monitoring directly related to mitigation—an increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation.

Based on the evaluation of the Society's proposed measures, NMFS has determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring

In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth “requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.” The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for Authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that NMFS expects to be present in the proposed action area.

As part of its 2013 application, the Society proposed to sponsor marine mammal monitoring during the present project, in order to implement the mitigation measures that require real-time monitoring, and to satisfy the monitoring requirements of the Authorization.

At least once during the period between April 11 through April 30, 2014 and November 1, 2014, through Start Printed Page 20178April 10, 2015, a qualified biologist will be present during all three workdays at the Station. The qualified biologist hired will be subject to approval by NMFS. He/she shall document use of the island by the pinnipeds, frequency, (i.e., dates, time, tidal height, species, numbers present, and any disturbances), and note any responses to potential disturbances.

Aerial photographic surveys may provide the most accurate means of documenting species composition, age and sex class of pinnipeds using the project site during human activity periods. The Society should complete aerial photo coverage of the island from the same helicopter used to transport the Society's personnel to the island during restoration trips. The Society will take photographs of all marine mammals hauled out on the island at an altitude greater than 300 m (984 ft) by a skilled photographer, prior to the first landing on each visit included in the monitoring program. Photographic documentation of marine mammals present at the end of each three-day work session shall also be made for a before and after comparison. The Society will forward the photographs to a biologist capable of discerning marine mammal species. The Society shall provide the data to NMFS in the form of a report with a data table, any other significant observations related to marine mammals, and a report of restoration activities.

The Society complied with the mitigation and monitoring required under the previous authorizations (2010-2013). They did not conduct any operations for the 2013 season and have not exceeded activity levels analyzed under previous Authorizations. The results from previous monitoring reports support our findings that the proposed mitigation measures, which NMFS also required under the 2010-2013 Authorizations provide the means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock.

Reporting

The Society will submit a draft Monitoring Report to us no later than 90 days after they complete the project to the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources. Within 30 days after receiving comments from NMFS on the draft Final Monitoring Report, the Society must submit a Final Monitoring Report to the NMFS Director of Office of Protected Resources. If the Society receives no comments from NMFS on the draft Monitoring Report, then NMFS will consider the draft Monitoring Report to be the Final Monitoring Report. The final report will provide:

1. A summary and table of the dates, times, and weather during all helicopter operations, and restoration and maintenance activities.

2. Species, number, location, and behavior of any marine mammals, observed throughout all monitoring activities.

3. An estimate of the number (by species) of marine mammals exposed to acoustic or visual stimuli associated with the helicopter operations, restoration, and maintenance activities.

4. A description of the implementation and effectiveness of the monitoring and mitigation measures of the Authorization and full documentation of methods, results, and interpretation pertaining to all monitoring.

In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the authorization (if issued), such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality (e.g., vessel-strike, stampede, etc.), the Society shall immediately cease the specified activities and immediately report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264 (Justin.Greenman@noaa.gov). The report must include the following information:

  • Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;
  • Description and location of the incident (including water depth, if applicable);
  • Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
  • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;
  • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;
  • Fate of the animal(s); and
  • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available).

The Society shall not resume its activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with the Society to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure Marine Mammal Protection Act compliance. The Society may not resume their activities until notified by us via letter, email, or telephone.

In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as we describe in the next paragraph), the Society will immediately report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264 (Justin.Greenman@noaa.gov). The report must include the same information identified in the paragraph above this section. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with the Society to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.

In the event that the Society discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead visual observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the authorized activities (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), the Society will report the incident to the Incidental Take Program Supervisor, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and ITP.Cody@noaa.gov and the Assistant Western Regional Stranding Coordinator at (562) 980-3264 (Justin.Greenman@noaa.gov) within 24 hours of the discovery. The Society's staff will provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines “harassment” as:

any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].

NMFS anticipates that the helicopter operations and restoration and maintenance activities have the potential to harass (Level B only) marine mammals that may be present on NWSR. Thus NMFS will only authorize take by Level B harassment as a result of the helicopter operations and Start Printed Page 20179restoration and maintenance activities on NWSR.

Based on pinniped survey counts conducted the Society on NWSR in the spring of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 (CCR, 2001), NMFS estimates that approximately 204 California sea lions (calculated by multiplying the average monthly abundance of California sea lions (zero in April, 1997 and 34 in April,1998) present on NWSR by 6 months of the restoration and maintenance activities), 172 Steller sea lions (NMFS' estimate of the maximum number of Steller sea lions that could be present on NWSR with a 95-percent confidence interval), 36 Pacific harbor seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of harbor seals present on NWSR (6) by 6 months), and 6 northern fur seals (calculated by multiplying the maximum number of northern fur seals present on NWSR (1) by 6 months) could be potentially affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of the Authorization. NMFS bases these estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected on consideration of the number of marine mammals that could be disturbed appreciably by approximately 51 hours of aircraft operations during the course of the activity. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.14 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.06 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal.

Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that some pinnipeds would avoid the area, NMFS does not expect any injury or mortality to pinnipeds to occur and NMFS has not authorized take by Level A harassment for this activity.

Encouraging and Coordinating Research

The Society will continue to coordinate monitoring of pinnipeds during the helicopter operations and restoration activities which contribute to the basic knowledge of marine mammal biology on NWSR.

Analysis and Determinations

Negligible Impact

Negligible impact' is “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” (50 CFR 216.103). The lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population level effects) forms the basis of a negligible impact finding. Thus, an estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes, alone, is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be “taken” through behavioral harassment, NMFS must consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (their intensity, duration, etc.), the context of any responses (critical reproductive time or location, migration, etc.), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, and the number of estimated mortalities, and effects on habitat.

In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers:

  • The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities;
  • The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and
  • The context in which the takes occur (e.g., impacts to areas of significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions when added to baseline data);
  • The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative to the size of the population);
  • Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and
  • The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures.

For reasons stated previously in this document and based on the following factors, the Society's specified activities are not likely to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, abandonment of the haulout area, injury, serious injury, or mortality because:

(1) The effects of the Society's operations would be limited to no responses, short-term startle responses, or temporary behavioral changes due to the short and sporadic duration of the restoration activities. Minor and brief responses, such as short-duration startle or alert reactions, are not likely to constitute disruption of behavioral patterns, such as migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

(2) The availability of alternate areas for pinnipeds to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances from the restoration activities and helicopter operations. Results from previous monitoring reports also show that the pinnipeds returned to the various sites and did not permanently abandon haul-out sites after the Society conducted their activities.

(3) There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to injury, serious injury, or mortality because the Society must delay ingress onto NWSR until after the pinnipeds present have slowly entered the water.

NMFS does not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or mortalities would occur as a result of the Society's proposed activities, and NMFS is not authorizing injury, serious injury, or mortality. These species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily vacating the area during the proposed helicopter operations and restoration activities to avoid the resultant acoustic and visual disturbances. Further, these activities will not take place in areas of significance for marine mammal feeding, resting, breeding, or calving and would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat. Due to the nature, degree, and context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival.

Based on this notice's analysis of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the Society's proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

As mentioned previously, NMFS estimates that the Society's activities could potentially affect, by Level B harassment only, four species of marine mammals under our jurisdiction. For each species, these estimates are small (each, less than or equal to one percent) relative to the population size. These incidental harassment take numbers represent approximately 0.14 percent of the U.S. stock of California sea lion, 0.42 percent of the eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lion, 0.11 percent of the California stock of Pacific harbor seals, and 0.06 percent of the San Miguel Island stock of northern fur seal. Because of the required mitigation measures and the likelihood that some pinnipeds will avoid the area, no injury or mortality to pinnipeds is expected nor requested. The proposed taking would be limited to small numbers of marine mammals, relative to the population sizes of the affected species or stocks (i.e., for each species, these numbers are less than one percent).Start Printed Page 20180

Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS finds that the Society's helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities will take small numbers of marine mammals relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses

There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

NMFS does not expect that the Society's proposed helicopter operations and restoration/maintenance activities would affect any species listed under the ESA. Therefore, NMFS has determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

To meet our NEPA requirements for the issuance of an Authorization to the Society, NMFS prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2010 that was specific to conducting aircraft operations and restoration and maintenance work on the St. George Reef Light Station. The EA, titled “Issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization to Take Marine Mammals by Harassment Incidental to Conducting Aircraft Operations, Lighthouse Restoration and Maintenance Activities on St. George Reef Lighthouse Station in Del Norte County, California,” evaluated the impacts on the human environment of our authorization of incidental Level B harassment resulting from the specified activity in the specified geographic region. At that time, NMFS concluded that issuance of an annual Authorization would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010 EA regarding the Society's activities. In conjunction with the Society's 2014 application, NMFS has again reviewed the 2010 EA and determined that there are no new direct, indirect or cumulative impacts to the human and natural environment associated with the Authorization requiring evaluation in a supplemental EA and NMFS, therefore, intends to reaffirm the 2010 FONSI. An electronic copy of the EA and the FONSI for this activity is available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

Authorization

As a result of these determinations, NMFS has issued an Authorization to the Society for conducting helicopter operations and restoration activities on the St. George Light Station in the northeast Pacific Ocean, April 11 through April 30, 2014 and November 1, 2014, through April 10, 2015, provided they incorporate the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements.

Start Signature

Dated: April 7, 2014.

Donna S. Wieting,

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

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2014-08157 Filed 4-10-14; 8:45 am]

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