[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 99 (Monday, May 23, 2016)]
[Pages 32349-32350]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-12036]

[[Page 32349]]



Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and 
Initiate Section 106 Consultation for Proposed Changes to Arecibo 
Observatory Operations, Arecibo, Puerto Rico and Notice of Public 
Scoping Meetings and Comment Period

AGENCY: National Science Foundation.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
and initiate Section 106 consultation for proposed changes to Arecibo 
Observatory operations, Arecibo, Puerto Rico and notice of public 
scoping meetings and comment period.


SUMMARY: In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended, the National Science Foundation (NSF) intends to 
prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate potential 
environmental effects of proposed changes to operations at Arecibo 
Observatory, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. (See supplementary information 
below for more detail.) By this notice, NSF is announcing the beginning 
of the scoping process to solicit public comments and identify issues 
to be analyzed in the EIS. NSF also intends to initiate consultation 
under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to evaluate 
potential effects to the Arecibo Observatory, which is a historic 
property listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

DATES: This notice initiates the public scoping process for the EIS and 
the initiation of public involvement under Section 106 per 36 CFR 
800.2(d). Comments on issues may be submitted verbally during scoping 
meetings scheduled for June 7, 2016 (see details below) or in writing 
until June 23, 2016. To be eligible for inclusion in the Draft EIS, all 
comments must be received prior to the close of the scoping period. NSF 
will provide additional opportunities for public participation upon 
publication of the Draft EIS.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments related to this proposal by either 
of the following methods:
     Email to: [email protected], with subject line ``Arecibo 
     Mail to: Ms. Elizabeth Pentecost, RE: Arecibo Observatory, 
National Science Foundation, Suite 1045, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 
VA 22230.
    Scoping Meetings: NSF will host two public scoping meetings.
     Daytime meeting: June 7, 2016, at 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., 
DoubleTree by Hilton San Juan, 105 Avenida De Diego, San Juan, PR, 
Phone: (787) 721-6500.
     Evening meeting: June 7, 2016, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., 
Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico/Puerto Rico 
Professional College of Engineers and Land Surveyors (Arecibo Chapter), 
Ave. Manuel T. Guill[aacute]n Urd[aacute]z, Conector 129 Carr. 10, 
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Phone: (787) 758-2250.
    Comments will be transcribed by a court reporter. Spanish language 
translation will be provided for simultaneous translation of 
presentations. Please contact NSF at least one week in advance of the 
meeting if you would like to request special accommodations (i.e., sign 
language interpretation, etc.).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information regarding the 
EIS process or Section 106 consultation, please contact: Ms. Elizabeth 
Pentecost, National Science Foundation, Division of Astronomical 
Sciences, Suite 1045, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230; 
telephone: (703) 292-4907; email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Arecibo Observatory is an NSF-owned 
scientific research and education facility located in Puerto Rico. In 
2011, NSF awarded a five-year Cooperative Agreement to SRI 
International (SRI), which together with Universities Space Research 
Association (USRA) and Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) have formed the 
Arecibo Management Team to operate and maintain the Arecibo Observatory 
for the benefit of research communities. Arecibo Observatory enables 
research in three scientific disciplines: Space and atmospheric 
sciences, radio astronomy, and solar system radar studies; the last of 
these is largely funded through a research award to USRA from the 
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. An education and public 
outreach program complements the Arecibo Observatory scientific 
program. A key component of the Arecibo Observatory research facility 
is a 305-meter diameter, fixed, spherical reflector. Arecibo 
Observatory infrastructure includes instrumentation for radio and radar 
astronomy, ionospheric physics, office and laboratory buildings, a 
heavily utilized visitor and education facility, and lodging facilities 
for visiting scientists.
    Through a series of academic community-based reviews, NSF has 
identified the need to divest several facilities from its portfolio in 
order to retain the balance of capabilities needed to deliver the best 
performance on the key science of the present decade and beyond. In 
2012, NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences' (AST's) portfolio review 
committee recommended that ``continued AST involvement in Arecibo . . . 
be re-evaluated later in the decade in light of the science 
opportunities and budget forecasts at that time.'' In 2016, NSF's 
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences' (AGS') portfolio review 
committee recommended significantly decreasing funding for the Space 
and Atmospheric Sciences portion of the Arecibo mission. In response to 
these evolving recommendations, in 2016, NSF completed a feasibility 
study to inform and define options for the observatory's future 
disposition that would involve significantly decreasing or eliminating 
NSF funding of Arecibo. Concurrently, NSF sought viable concepts of 
operations from the scientific community via a Dear Colleague Letter 
NSF 16-005 (see www.nsf.gov/AST), with responses due by January 15, 
2016. Alternatives to be evaluated in the EIS will be refined through 
continued public input, with preliminary alternatives that include the 

 Continued NSF investment for science-focused operations (No-
Action Alternative)
 Collaboration with interested parties for continued science-
focused operations
 Collaboration with interested parties for transition to 
education-focused operations
 Mothballing of facilities (suspension of operations in a 
manner such that operations could resume efficiently at some future 
 Deconstruction and site restoration

    The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant 
issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, 
including identification of viable alternatives, and guide the process 
for developing the EIS. At present, NSF has identified the following 
preliminary resource areas for analysis of potential impacts: Air 
quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geological 
resources, solid waste generation, health and safety, socioeconomics, 
traffic, and groundwater resources. NSF will consult under Section 106 
of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 7 of the 
Endangered Species Act in coordination with this EIS process, as 
appropriate. Federal, state, and local agencies, along with other 
stakeholders that may be interested or affected by NSF's decision on 
this proposal are invited to participate in the scoping

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process and, if eligible, may request to participate as a cooperating 
    Proposal Information: Information will be posted, throughout the 
EIS process, at www.nsf.gov/AST.

    Dated: May 18, 2016.
Suzanne H. Plimpton,
Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation.
[FR Doc. 2016-12036 Filed 5-20-16; 8:45 am]