[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 158 (Thursday, August 15, 2013)]
[Pages 49729-49730]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19840]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC781

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; U.S. 
Air Force Launches, Aircraft and Helicopter Operations, and Harbor 
Activities Related to Launch Vehicles From Vandenberg Air Force Base 
(VAFB), California

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. Air Force (USAF) for 
authorization to take marine mammals incidental to launching space 
launch vehicles, intercontinental ballistic and small missiles, 
aircraft and helicopter operations, and harbor activities related to 
the Delta IV/Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) at VAFB, CA, from 
February 2014 through February 2019. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is announcing our receipt of the USAF's 
request for the development and implementation of regulations governing 
the incidental taking of marine mammals and inviting information, 
suggestions, and comments on the USAF's application and request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than 
September 16, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the application should be addressed to Michael 
Payne, Chief, Permits and

[[Page 49730]]

Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The 
mailbox address for providing email comments is [email protected]. 
NMFS is not responsible for email comments sent to addresses other than 
the one provided here. Comments sent via email, including all 
attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm 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.
    A copy of the USAF's application may be obtained by visiting the 
internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. 
Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the aforementioned address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.



    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity 
(other than commercial fishing) within a specific 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.
    Authorization for incidental takings 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.''
    With respect to military readiness activities, the MMPA defines 
``harassment'' as: ``(i) any act that injures or has the significant 
potential to injure a marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A 
Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is likely to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption 
of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, 
migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a 
point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly 
altered [Level B Harassment].''

Summary of Request

    On June 24, 2013, NMFS received an application from the USAF 
requesting a letter of authorization (LOA) for the take of five species 
of pinnipeds incidental to USAF launch, aircraft, and helicopter 
operations from VAFB launch complexes and Delta Mariner operations, 
cargo unloading activities, and harbor maintenance dredging in support 
of the Delta IV/EELV launch activity on south VAFB. The USAF is 
requesting a 5-year LOA for these activities. These activities are 
classified as military readiness activities. The USAF states that these 
activities may result in take of marine mammals from noise or visual 
disturbance from rocket and missile launches, as well as from the use 
of heavy equipment during the Delta Mariner off-loading operations, 
cargo movement activities, increased presence of personnel, and harbor 
maintenance dredging. The USAF requests to take five pinniped species 
by Level B harassment.

Description of the Specified Activity

    There are currently six active space launch vehicle facilities at 
VAFB used to launch satellites into polar orbit. These facilities 
support launch programs for the Atlas V, Delta II, Delta IV, Falcon 9, 
Minotaur, and Taurus. There are also a variety of small missiles 
launched from various facilities on North VAFB, including the Minuteman 
III and several types of interceptor and target vehicles for the 
Missile Defense Agency. The VAFB airfield, located on north VAFB, 
supports various aircraft operations. A full description of the 
activities to be conducted by the USAF at VAFB, including descriptions 
of the different space vehicles and missiles, are described in the 
USAF's application. Additionally, United Launch Alliance, on behalf of 
the USAF, proposes to conduct Delta IV/EELV activities (transport 
vessel operations, harbor maintenance dredging, and cargo movement 
activities). These activities are described in Appendix A of the USAF's 

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning the USAF's request (see ADDRESSES). All input 
related to the USAF's request and NMFS' role in governing the 
incidental taking of marine mammals will be considered by NMFS when 
developing, if appropriate, the most effective regulations governing 
the issuance of an LOA.

    Dated: August 9, 2013.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 2013-19840 Filed 8-14-13; 8:45 am]