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Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Russian River Estuary Management Activities

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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


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


NMFS has received a request from the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to conducting estuary management activities in the Russian River, CA, over the course of five years. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of SCWA's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals. NMFS invites the public to provide information, suggestions, and comments on SCWA's application and request.


Comments and information must be received no later than October 20, 2016.


Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to

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 received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic 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​pr/​permits/​incidental/​construction.htm 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.

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Ben Laws, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

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Electronic copies of SCWA's application and separate monitoring plan may be obtained by visiting the Internet at:​pr/​permits/​incidental/​construction.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above.


Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) 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) if certain findings are made and regulations are issued.

Incidental taking shall be allowed if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) affected and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses, and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 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.” 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 September 2, 2016, NMFS received an adequate and complete application from SCWA requesting authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to Russian River estuary management activities in Sonoma County, California. The requested regulations would be valid for five years, from April 21, 2017, through April 20, 2022. The proposed action requires the use of heavy equipment (e.g., bulldozer, excavator) and increased human presence, as well as the use of small boats. As a result, pinnipeds hauled out on the beach or at peripheral haul-outs in the estuary may exhibit behavioral responses that indicate incidental take by Level B harassment under the MMPA. Start Printed Page 64441Therefore, SCWA requests authorization to incidentally take marine mammals.

NMFS has previously issued seven consecutive one-year incidental harassment authorizations (IHA) to SCWA, for take of marine mammals incidental to similar specified activities. SCWA was first issued an IHA, effective on April 1, 2010 (75 FR 17382), and was subsequently issued one-year IHAs for incidental take associated with the same activities, effective on April 21, 2011 (76 FR 23306), April 21, 2012 (77 FR 24471), April 21, 2013 (78 FR 23746), April 21, 2014 (79 FR 20180), April 21, 2015 (80 FR 24237), and April 21, 2016 (81 FR 22050). Monitoring reports submitted to NMFS as a condition of previously-issued IHAs are available online at:​pr/​permits/​incidental/​construction.htm.

Specified Activities

SCWA plans to manage the naturally-formed barrier beach at the mouth of the Russian River in order to minimize potential for flooding adjacent to the estuary and to enhance habitat for juvenile salmonids, as well as to conduct biological and physical monitoring of the barrier beach and estuary. Flood control-related breaching of barrier beach at the mouth of the river may include artificial breaches, as well as construction and maintenance of a lagoon outlet channel. The latter activity, an alternative management technique conducted to mitigate impacts of flood control on rearing habitat for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmonids, occurs only from May 15 through October 15 (the “lagoon management period”). Artificial breaching and monitoring activities may occur at any time during the period of validity of the proposed regulations.

Information Solicited

Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning SCWA's request (see ADDRESSES). NMFS will consider all information, suggestions, and comments related to the request during the development of proposed regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals by SCWA, if appropriate.

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Dated: September 13, 2016.

Donna S. Wieting,

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

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[FR Doc. 2016-22583 Filed 9-19-16; 8:45 am]