National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce.
Notice of availability; extension of public comment period.
We, NMFS, announce the extension of the comment period for the Proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) Recovery Plan for Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon (Proposed Plan) published on November 2, 2015. The Proposed Plan addresses the Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) evolutionarily significant unit (ESU), which is listed as threatened under the ESA. The geographic area covered by the Proposed Plan is the lower and middle mainstem Snake River and tributaries as well as the mainstem Columbia River below its confluence with the Snake River. As required under the ESA, the Proposed Plan contains objective, measurable delisting criteria, site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the Proposed Start Printed Page 78720Plan's goals, and estimates of the time and costs required to implement recovery actions. We are soliciting review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the Proposed Plan. The close of the comment period is being extended—from January 4, 2016, to February 5, 2016—to provide additional opportunity for public comment.
The deadline for receipt of comments on the Proposed Recovery Plan published on November 2, 2015 (80 FR 67386), is extended to close of business on February 5, 2016.
You may submit comments on the Proposed Recovery Plan by the following methods:
Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Comments on Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan” in the subject line of the email.
Facsimile: (503) 230-5441.
Mail: Patricia Dornbusch, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1201 NE. Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232.
Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that they are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.
Electronic copies of the Proposed Plan are available at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/recovery_planning_and_implementation/snake_river/current_snake_river_recovery_plan_documents.html.
Persons wishing to obtain an electronic copy on CD ROM of the Proposed Plan may do so by calling Bonnie Hossack at (503) 736-4741 or by emailing a request to email@example.com with the subject line “CD ROM Request for Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan.”
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Patricia Dornbusch, NMFS Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon Recovery Coordinator, at (503) 230-5430, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Extension of Comment Period
On November 2, 2015 (80 FR 67386) we (NMFS) published in the Federal Register a request for public comment on the Proposed Endangered Species Act Recovery Plan for Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon. The public comment period for this action is set to end on January 4, 2016. The comment period is being extended through February 5, 2016, to provide additional opportunity for public comment.
We are responsible for developing and implementing recovery plans for Pacific salmon and steelhead listed under the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The ESA requires the development of recovery plans for each listed species unless such a plan would not promote its recovery.
We believe it is essential to have local support of recovery plans by those whose activities directly affect the listed species and whose continued commitment and leadership will be needed to implement the necessary recovery actions. We therefore support and participate in collaborative efforts to develop recovery plans that involve state, tribal, and federal entities, local communities, and other stakeholders. For this Proposed Plan for threatened Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon, we worked collaboratively with state, tribal, and federal partners to produce a recovery plan that satisfies the ESA requirements. We have determined that this Proposed ESA Recovery Plan for Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon meets the statutory requirements for a recovery plan and we are proposing to adopt it as the ESA recovery plan for this threatened species. Section 4(f) of the ESA, as amended in 1988, requires that public notice and an opportunity for public review and comment be provided prior to final approval of a recovery plan. This notice solicits comments on this Proposed Plan.
Development of the Proposed Plan
For the purpose of recovery planning for the ESA-listed species of Pacific salmon and steelhead in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, NMFS designated five geographically based “recovery domains.” The Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon ESU spawning range is in the Interior Columbia domain. For each domain, NMFS appointed a team of scientists, nominated for their geographic and species expertise, to provide a solid scientific foundation for recovery plans. The Interior Columbia Technical Recovery Team included biologists from NMFS, other federal agencies, states, tribes, and academic institutions.
A primary task for the Interior Columbia Technical Recovery Team was to recommend criteria for determining when each component population within an ESU or distinct population segment (DPS) should be considered viable (i.e., when they are have a low risk of extinction over a 100-year period) and when ESUs or DPSs have a risk of extinction consistent with no longer needing the protections of the ESA. All Technical Recovery Teams used the same biological principles for developing their recommendations; these principles are described in the NOAA technical memorandum Viable Salmonid Populations and the Recovery of Evolutionarily Significant Units (McElhany et al., 2000). Viable salmonid populations (VSP) are defined in terms of four parameters: abundance, productivity or growth rate, spatial structure, and diversity.
We also collaborated with state, tribal, and federal biologists and resource managers to provide technical information used to develop the Proposed Plan. In addition, NMFS established a multi-state (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), tribal, and federal partners' regional forum called the Snake River Coordination Group that addresses the four ESA-listed Snake River salmon and steelhead species. They met twice a year to be briefed and provide technical and policy information to NMFS. We presented regular updates on the status of this Proposed Plan to the Snake River Coordination Group and posted draft chapters on NMFS' West Coast Region Snake River recovery planning Web page. We also made full drafts of the Proposed Plan available for review to the state, tribal, and Federal entities with which we collaborated to develop the plan.
In addition to the Proposed Plan, we developed and incorporated the Module for the Ocean Environment (Fresh et al. 2014) as Appendix D to address Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon recovery needs in the Columbia River estuary, plume, and Pacific Ocean. To address recovery needs related to the Columbia River Hydropower System, we developed and incorporated the Supplemental Recovery Plan Module for Snake River Salmon and Steelhead Mainstem Columbia River Hydropower Projects (NMFS 2014b) as Appendix E of this Proposed Plan. To address recovery needs related to the Lower Columbia River mainstem and estuary, we incorporated the Columbia River Estuary ESA Recovery Plan Module for Salmon and Steelhead (NMFS 2011a) as Appendix F. To address recovery needs for fishery harvest management in the mainstem Snake and Columbia Rivers, Columbia River estuary, and ocean, we developed and incorporated the Snake Start Printed Page 78721River Harvest Module (NMFS 2014a) as Appendix G.
The Public Draft Recovery Plan
The Proposed Plan contains biological background and contextual information that includes description of the ESU, the planning area, and the context of the plan's development. It presents relevant information on ESU structure, guidelines for assessing salmonid population and ESU status, and a brief summary of Interior Columbia Technical Recovery Team products on population structure and species status. It also presents NMFS' proposed biological viability criteria and threats criteria for delisting.
As described in Chapter 2 of the Proposed Plan, the historical Snake River fall Chinook salmon ESU consisted of two populations. The population above the Hells Canyon Dam Complex is extirpated, leaving only one extant population—the Lower Mainstem Snake River population. An ESU with a single population would be at greater extinction risk than an ESU with multiple populations. This is a key consideration in the proposed Snake River fall Chinook salmon biological viability criteria, since there is more than one possible scenario for achieving the criteria. The proposed viability criteria include two possible scenarios and a placeholder for developing additional scenarios that would be consistent with delisting. Scenario A focuses on achieving ESA delisting with two populations (i.e., the extant Lower Mainstem Snake River population and a recovered Middle Snake population above the Hells Canyon Complex). Scenario B illustrates a single-population pathway to delisting. The placeholder scenario describes a framework under which additional single-population scenarios could be developed that would involve developing natural production emphasis areas that would have a low percentage of hatchery-origin spawners. NMFS is interested in comments on how such additional scenarios might be developed, potentially for inclusion in the final recovery plan.
The Proposed Plan also describes specific information on the following: current status of Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon; limiting factors and threats throughout the life cycle that have contributed to the species decline; recovery strategies and actions addressing these limiting factors and threats; and a proposed research, monitoring, and evaluation program for adaptive management. For recovery actions, the Proposed Plan includes a table summarizing each proposed action, life stage affected, estimated costs, timing, and potential implementing entities. It also describes how implementation, prioritization of actions, and adaptive management will proceed. The Proposed Plan also summarizes time and costs (Chapter 9) required to implement recovery actions. In some cases, costs of implementing actions could not be determined at this time and NMFS is interested in additional information regarding scale, scope, and costs of these actions. We are also particularly interested in comments on establishing appropriate forums to coordinate implementation of the recovery plan.
Public Comments Solicited
We are soliciting written comments on the Proposed Plan. All substantive comments received by the date specified above will be considered and incorporated, as appropriate, prior to our decision whether to approve the plan. While we invite comments on all aspects of the Proposed Plan, we are particularly interested in comments on developing specific scenarios to address the placeholder recovery scenario, comments on the cost of recovery actions for which we have not yet determined implementation costs, and comments on establishing an appropriate implementation forum for the plan. We will issue a news release announcing the adoption and availability of the final plan. We will post on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site (www.wcr.noaa.gov) a summary of, and responses to, the comments received, along with electronic copies of the final plan and its appendices.
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Dated: December 14, 2015.
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-31748 Filed 12-16-15; 8:45 am]
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