[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 125 (Friday, June 28, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 38848-38850]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-15488]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

[Docket No. 130405334-3334-01]
RIN 0648-BD20

Re-establishing the Sanctuary Nomination Process

AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean 
Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce (DOC).

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for public comments.


SUMMARY: NOAA's ONMS is announcing that it is re-establishing the 
sanctuary nomination process and is proposing to amend its regulations 
governing the process for nominating and evaluating sites for 
eligibility as a national marine sanctuary. This action would replace 
the currently inactive Sanctuary Evaluation List (SEL) with a new 
process for local communities and other interested parties to provide 
NOAA with robust, criteria-driven proposals for new national marine 
sanctuaries. To implement this process, NOAA is seeking public comment 
on proposed changes to the sanctuary nomination and designation 
procedures, and on the criteria by which the agency would analyze 
nominations for potential new national marine sanctuaries. Once these 
criteria have been made final, NOAA intends to solicit nominations for 
areas of the marine and Great Lakes environments that satisfy those 
criteria for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary.

DATES: Comments on this proposed rule must be received no later than 
August 27, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-BD20, by any 
one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2013-0091, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach 
your comments.
     Mail: Matt Brookhart, Chief, Policy & Planning Division, 
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 1305 East-West Highway, 11th 
Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
    All comments received are a part of the public record and will be 
posted to http://www.regulations.gov 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. ONMS will accept anonymous comments (for electronic 
comments submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, enter N/A in 
the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to 
electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, 
WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Brookhart, Chief, Policy & 
Planning Division, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 1305 
East-West Highway, 11th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910, (301) 713-7247.


Electronic Access

    This Federal Register document is also accessible via the Internet 
at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su-docs/aces/aces140.html.

I. Background

    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA or Act, 16 U.S.C. 1431 et 
seq.) authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to, among other things, 
identify and designate as national marine sanctuaries areas of the 
marine environment, including the Great Lakes, which are of special 
national significance; to manage these areas as the National Marine 
Sanctuary System (NMSS); and to provide for the comprehensive and 
coordinated conservation and management of these areas and the 
activities affecting them in a manner which complements existing 
regulatory authorities. Section 1433 of the NMSA provides sanctuary 
designation standards and factors to consider in determining whether an 
area qualifies for consideration as a potential sanctuary, and section 
1434 establishes procedures for sanctuary designation and 
implementation. Day-to-day management of the NMSS has been delegated by 
the Secretary to the ONMS. Regulations implementing the NMSA and each 
sanctuary are codified in Title 15 Part 922 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR).
    NOAA first developed a formal process for identifying and 
evaluating sites for consideration as potential national marine 
sanctuaries in the late 1970s. In 1983, NOAA replaced this process with 
the Site Evaluation List (SEL) (48 FR 24295). As described in NOAA 
regulations at 15 CFR 922.3, the SEL was a list of natural and 
historical marine resource sites selected by the Secretary as 
qualifying for further evaluation for possible designation as national 
marine sanctuaries. The SEL included detailed criteria, relied on 
regional review panels, and was intended to be reviewed and updated 
every five years. When it was published in 1983, the SEL included 29 
sites (48 FR 35568), four of which were subsequently designated as 
sanctuaries: Flower Garden Banks (1991), Stellwagen Bank (1992), 
Western Washington Outer Coast (renamed Olympic Coast, 1994), and 
Thunder Bay (2000) national marine sanctuaries (NMS). The list of sites 
on the SEL can be found at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/management/fr/54_fr_53432.pdf.

[[Page 38849]]

    When the SEL was established, the criteria for nominating sites to 
the list focused primarily on the natural resource qualities that made 
an area eligible for sanctuary designation. The Marine Sanctuaries 
Amendments Act of 1984 (Pub. L. 98-496) added historical, research and 
educational qualities to the list of designation criteria. In 1988, 
NOAA issued a final rule (53 FR 43801) reflecting these amendments and, 
in 1989, announced that it would consider new sites for the SEL 
consistent with these revised criteria (54 FR 53432).
    In 1995, the ONMS Director deactivated the SEL (60 FR 66875) to 
focus on management of the existing sanctuaries, which at that time 
there were a total of twelve national marine sanctuaries. Since then, 
only one national marine sanctuary, Thunder Bay National Marine 
Sanctuary, has been added to the NMSS. Public interest in the 
designation of new national marine sanctuaries has, however, remained 
strong. A variety of individuals, local, state, and tribal governments, 
academic institutions, citizen groups, and non-government organizations 
from coastal communities around the country have requested NOAA, the 
Department of Commerce, and the President to consider designating 
additional sanctuaries. These requests often reference the many and 
diverse benefits that coastal communities realize from an adjacent 
national marine sanctuary, including, but not limited to: Meaningful 
protection of nationally significant marine resources; significant 
social and economic benefits from expanded travel, tourism, and 
recreation, as well as ocean-related jobs; increased opportunity for, 
and access to, federal research focused on local marine resources; 
education programs to promote ocean literacy, sustainable uses, and 
stewardship; and community-driven problem solving for a myriad of ocean 

II. Description of Action

    The purpose of this proposed rulemaking is to:
    (1) Provide public notice that NOAA is re-establishing the public 
process to nominate areas of the marine and Great Lakes environments 
for consideration as national marine sanctuaries;
    (2) Seek public comment on proposed changes to various sections of 
the ONMS regulations at 15 CFR 922; and
    (3) Seek public comment on the criteria and process NOAA proposes 
using to evaluate new sanctuary nominations.
    This proposed rule proposes criteria, process, and regulatory 
changes necessary to provide the American public an opportunity to 
nominate marine areas that NOAA may consider for designation as a 
national marine sanctuary. This new sanctuary nomination process 
intends to focus on proposals generated and driven by local and 
regional community groups and coalitions. As such, it would replace the 
old SEL process--which tended towards an agency-driven, ``top-down'' 
approach--with a more grassroots, ``bottom-up'' approach to sanctuary 
nominations. NOAA is, therefore, proposing to remove all terminology 
referencing the SEL in order to ensure that the sanctuary nomination 
process ultimately implemented by NOAA is more community driven, open 
to public input and analysis, and that any sites ultimately designated 
as national marine sanctuaries have widespread community support. NOAA 
will begin accepting new nominations following issuance of a final 
rule, which will be published after consideration of public comment on 
the proposed criteria and regulations below. NOAA is not accepting 
nominations for new national marine sanctuaries at this time, nor is it 
considering evaluation of sites from the deactivated SEL. If NOAA 
determines that a nominated site meets the final criteria, the agency 
may then choose to begin the public process for national marine 
sanctuary designation.
    The public may re-nominate sites from the deactivated SEL, per the 
final evaluation criteria, and resubmit these areas for NOAA's 
consideration. The final criteria will be consistent with the existing 
standards in section 303(b) of the NMSA, but they may not mirror them 
exactly. In deciding to pursue an eligible site for designation, NOAA 
can, and will, contemplate additional criteria or clarifications of 
existing criteria, such as the ONMS' fiscal capability to manage any 
area as a national marine sanctuary. Ultimately, the agency seeks to 
have the most robust means possible for designating areas of special 
national significance as new national marine sanctuaries.

III. Request for Public Comments

    NOAA requests public comment on: (1) The completeness and utility 
of the following twelve criteria for evaluating areas of the marine 
environment as possible new national marine sanctuaries; (2) NOAA's 
proposed process steps for receiving sanctuary nominations; and (3) 
proposed amendments to ONMS regulations.

Proposed Nomination Criteria

    NOAA will analyze the comments on these criteria and any additional 
criteria proposed by the public and publish the final evaluation 
criteria in its final rule on this process. The twelve criteria NOAA 
proposes to evaluate ares of the marine environment as possible new 
national marine sanctuaries are:
    (1) The area's natural resource and ecological qualities, including 
its contribution to biological productivity, maintenance of ecosystem 
structure, maintenance of ecologically or commercially important or 
threatened species or species assemblages, maintenance of critical 
habitat of endangered species, and the biogeographic representation of 
the site.
    (2) The area's historical, cultural, archaeological, or 
paleontological significance.
    (3) The present and potential uses of the area that depend on 
maintenance of the area's resources, including commercial and 
recreational fishing, subsistence uses, other commercial and 
recreational activities, and research and education.
    (4) The present and potential activities that may adversely affect 
the significance, values, qualities, resources and uses identified 
    (5) The existing State and Federal regulatory and management 
authorities applicable to the area and the adequacy of those 
authorities to fulfill the purposes and policies of the NMSA.
    (6) The manageability of the area, including such factors as its 
size, its ability to be identified as a discrete ecological unit with 
definable boundaries, its accessibility, and its suitability for 
monitoring and enforcement activities.
    (7) The public benefits to be derived from sanctuary status, with 
emphasis on the benefits of long-term protection of nationally 
significant resources, vital habitats, and resources which generate 
    (8) The negative impacts produced by management restrictions on 
income-generating activities such as living and nonliving resources 
    (9) The socioeconomic effects of sanctuary designation.
    (10) The area's scientific value and value for monitoring the 
resources and natural processes that occur there.
    (11) The feasibility of employing innovative management approaches 
to protect sanctuary resources or to manage compatible uses.
    (12) The value of the area as an addition to the System.

Proposed Sanctuary Nomination Process

    As part of the new sanctuary nomination process, NOAA is 
contemplating the following procedures and protocols:

[[Page 38850]]

    (1) A nomination must have broad community support, including a 
combination of such entities as local government organizations, elected 
officials, tribes, stakeholder groups (e.g., industry or non-
governmental organizations), or academia.
    (2) In nominating an area for national marine sanctuary 
consideration, a coalition of advocates should strive to provide 
documentation and/or analyses that address as many of the final 
evaluation criteria as possible. (NOAA will publish the final 
evaluation criteria in its final rule on this process.)
    (3) NOAA will maintain a publically transparent inventory on the 
ONMS Web site of those nominations that have successfully demonstrated 
eligibility for national marine sanctuary designation. These 
nominations would not automatically equate to sanctuary designation.
    (4) NOAA would implement any new sanctuary designation as a 
separate process from the nomination process, and under the highly 
participatory standards enacted by the NMSA and the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Proposed Regulatory Amendments

    In this rulemaking, NOAA proposes to revise 15 CFR 922.10 to codify 
a statement that NOAA is once again accepting nominations for national 
marine sanctuary designation. NOAA is also proposing to eliminate all 
regulations related to the SEL by removing 15 CFR 922.21 and 922.23, 
and removing SEL from the Definitions section at 15 CFR 922.3.
    Note that, through a separate rulemaking action (78 FR 5998, 
January 28, 2013), NOAA is also proposing to revise regulations 
regarding the SEL as part of a comprehensive regulatory review pursuant 
to Executive Order 13563. NOAA will resolve any inconsistencies between 
these two rules in the respective final rules.

IV. Classification

A. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. A description of this action, its purpose, and its legal 
basis are described in the preamble to this proposed rule and is not 
repeated here. The factual basis for this certification is as follows:
    This rule proposes administrative changes to the regulations. The 
proposed action will only modify the procedural regulations to 
reactivate the sanctuary nomination process and set forth the 
nomination process and evaluation criteria for evaluating areas of the 
marine environment as possible new national marine sanctuaries.
    The types of small entities that may be impacted by this rulemaking 
are local government organizations, tribes, stakeholder groups (e.g., 
industry or non-governmental organizations), or academia who wish to 
nominate areas of the marine environment for consideration as a 
national marine sanctuary. The agency, however, does not currently have 
data reflecting how many of these entities would submit nominations for 
possible designation as a new national marine sanctuary, but it 
anticipates that it would be a very small number. The impacts of this 
rulemaking would also be very small, as the proposed provisions merely 
set forth the proposed nomination process and evaluation criteria. The 
submission of nominations is purely voluntary, and this rulemaking does 
not impose any costs or requirements beyond those related to the 
preparation of documentation in support of the nomination. This action 
does not include any decisions or determinations on future sanctuary 
site designations. The impact of future potential national marine 
sanctuary designations will be evaluated individually on a case-by-case 
basis and will be subject to a Regulatory Flexibility Act review at 
that time. Therefore, it is not expected that the modifications of the 
regulations at 15 CFR 922.10 will have a significant economic impact on 
a substantial number of small entities.
    This proposed rule does not establish any new reporting, record-
keeping, or other compliance requirements.

B. Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    This proposed rule has been determined to not be significant within 
the meaning of Executive Order 12866.

List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 922

    Administrative practice and procedure, Amendments, Appeals, 
Appellant, Application requirements, Authorizations, Definitions, 
Designation, Environmental protection, Marine resources, Motorized 
personal watercraft, Natural resources, Permitting, Permit procedures, 
Prohibited activities, Special use permit, Stowed and not available for 
immediate use, Resources, Research, Traditional fishing, Water 

    Dated: June 24, 2013.
Holly A. Bamford,
Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management.
    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, NOAA proposes to 
amend 15 CFR part 922 as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 922 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.
2. Amend Sec.  922.3 by removing the definitions of ``Active 
Candidate'' and ``Site Evaluation List.''
3. Revise Subpart B to part 922 to read as follows:

Subpart B--Sanctuary Nomination Process

Sec.  922.10  General.

    (a) The sanctuary nomination process is currently active.
    (b) To find out how to submit a nomination, contact ONMS by 
visiting www.sanctuaries.noaa.gov.
    (c) The Director will evaluate all nominations according to the 
criteria identified in section 303(b) of the National Marine 
Sanctuaries Act, Sanctuary Designation Standards (16 U.S.C. 1433), and 
any further guidance issued by NOAA.
    (d) The Director will maintain a publically available inventory of 
sites that NOAA has determined to be eligible for sanctuary 
    (e) A determination that a site is eligible for sanctuary 
designation, by itself shall not subject the site to any regulatory 
control under the Act. Such controls may only be imposed after 

Subpart C--Designation of National Marine Sanctuaries

Sec.  922.21  [Removed and Reserved]

4. Remove and reserve Sec.  922.21.

Sec.  922.23  [Removed and Reserved]

5. Remove and reserve Sec.  922.23.

[FR Doc. 2013-15488 Filed 6-27-13; 8:45 am]