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Notice

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Navy Construction at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia

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AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

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

SUMMARY:

NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for authorization to take small numbers of marine mammals incidental to construction activities including marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and select waterfront improvements at Naval Station Norfolk over the course of five years from the date of issuance. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of the Navy'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 the Navy's application and request.

DATES:

Comments and information must be received no later than July 9, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

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 ITP.Davis@noaa.gov.

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. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/​national/​marine-mammal-protection/​incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities 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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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Leah Davis, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. An electronic copy of the Navy's application may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/​national/​marine-mammal-protection/​incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) 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) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.

An incidental take authorization shall 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 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.

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.

The MMPA states that the term “take” means to harass, hunt, capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.

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

In February 2020, NMFS received an application from the Navy requesting authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to construction activities including marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and select waterfront improvements at Naval Station Norfolk. NMFS reviewed the Navy's application, and the Navy provided an updated version addressing NMFS' questions and comments on May 22, 2020. The requested regulations would be valid for five years, from 2021 through 2025. The Navy plans to conduct necessary work, including impact and vibratory pile driving, to repair and upgrade waterfront structures. The proposed action may incidentally expose marine mammals occurring in the vicinity to elevated levels of underwater sound, potentially resulting in incidental take, by harassment only. Therefore, the Navy requests authorization to incidentally take marine mammals.Start Printed Page 35268

Specified Activities

The Navy is proposing to upgrade two waterfront facilities on Naval Station Norfolk: the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Marina and the V-Area. The Navy is also proposing to conduct general marine structure maintenance, pile replacement, and upgrade activities, as needed, at waterfront facilities at Naval Station Norfolk, Defense Fuel Supply Point Craney Island, and Lambert's Point Deperming Station. The Navy expects construction will require approximately 574 in-water workdays over the five-year period. Five species of marine mammals have been observed in the area and have the potential to be taken by the Navy's activities.

Information Solicited

Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and comments concerning the Navy'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 the Navy, if appropriate.

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Dated: June 4, 2020.

Donna Wieting,

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

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[FR Doc. 2020-12466 Filed 6-8-20; 8:45 am]

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