[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 215 (Wednesday, November 10, 2021)]
[Pages 62512-62516]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-24609]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping and To Prepare a Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Chumash Heritage 
National Marine Sanctuary

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

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a draft environmental impact 
statement and hold public scoping meetings; request for comments.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA), 
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is 
initiating a process to consider designating a portion of waters along 
and offshore of the central coast of California as a national marine 
sanctuary. NOAA is initiating this process based on the area's 
qualities and boundaries as described in the community-based nomination 
\1\ submitted on July 17, 2015, excluding any geographical overlap of 
the boundaries proposed for the Morro Bay 399 Area as described in the 
July 29,

[[Page 62513]]

2021 Federal Register notice.\2\ The designation process will be 
conducted concurrently with a public process under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to prepare an environmental impact 
statement. NOAA is initiating this public scoping process to invite 
comments on the scope and significance of issues to be addressed in the 
environmental impact statement that are related to designating this 
area as a national marine sanctuary. The results of this scoping 
process will assist NOAA in moving forward with the designation 
process, including preparation and release of draft designation 
documents, and in formulating alternatives for the draft environmental 
impact statement, including developing national marine sanctuary 
boundaries, regulations, and a management plan. This scoping process 
will also inform the initiation of any consultations with federal, 
state, or local agencies, tribes, and other interested parties, as 

    \1\ https://nmsnominate.blob.core.windows.net/nominate-prod/media/documents/nomination_chumash_heritage_071715.pdf.
    \2\ https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/07/29/2021-16134/commercial-leasing-for-wind-power-development-on-the-outer-continental-shelf-ocs-offshore-morro-bay.

DATES: Comments are due by January 10, 2022. NOAA will host virtual 
public scoping meetings at the following dates and times:

 Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Pacific Time
 Monday, December 13, 2021, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Pacific Time
 Thursday, January 6, 2022, 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Pacific Time

    NOAA may end a meeting before the time noted above if all those 
participating have completed their oral comments.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document by any of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter ``NOAA-NOS-2021-0080'' in the Search box. 
Click on the ``Comment'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter 
or attach your comments.
     Mail: Send any hard copy public comments by mail to: Paul 
Michel, NOAA Sanctuaries West Coast Regional Office, 99 Pacific Street, 
Building 100F, Monterey, CA 93940.
     Public Scoping Meetings: Provide oral comments during 
virtual public scoping meetings, as described under DATES. Webinar 
registration details and additional information about how to 
participate in these public scoping meetings is available at 
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
https://www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (for example, name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the commenter will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept 
anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to 
remain anonymous).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Michel, (831) 241-4217, 
[email protected], West Coast Region Policy Coordinator.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background on Sanctuary Nomination.
    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA), 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq., 
authorizes the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to designate and 
protect as national marine sanctuaries areas of the marine environment 
that are of special national significance due to their conservation, 
recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, 
archeological, educational, or aesthetic qualities. Day-to-day 
management of national marine sanctuaries has been delegated by the 
Secretary to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS). The 
primary objective of the NMSA is to protect the resources of the 
National Marine Sanctuary System.
    In July 2015, Fred Collins, on behalf of the Northern Chumash 
Tribal Council, submitted a nomination to NOAA through the Sanctuary 
Nomination Process (79 FR 33851), asking NOAA to consider designating 
an area on the central California coast as a national marine sanctuary. 
The nomination has been endorsed by a diverse coalition of 
organizations and individuals at tribal, local, state, regional, and 
national levels including elected officials, businesses, recreational 
users, conservation groups, fishing associations, tourism companies, 
museums, historical societies, and education groups. The submitted 
nomination package is available at: https://nominate.noaa.gov/nominations/. The nomination asks NOAA to protect this nationally 
significant area for its culturally and biologically important 
resources. The nomination also identifies opportunities for NOAA to 
expand upon existing local and state efforts to study, interpret, and 
manage the area's unique cultural and biological resources.
    NOAA added the area to the inventory of nominations that are 
eligible for designation in October 2015 and extended it on the 
inventory in September 2020 at the five-year interval after a review of 
the nomination (85 FR 61935). NOAA is now initiating the process to 
potentially designate the nominated area, excluding any geographical 
overlap of the boundaries proposed for the Morro Bay 399 Area in the 
July 29, 2021 Federal Register Notice of Commercial Leasing for Wind 
Power Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Offshore Morro 
Bay, California, East and West Extensions--Call for Information and 
Nominations (86 FR 40869), as a national marine sanctuary. The proposed 
designation is consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration's 
complementary goals to tackle the climate crisis per Executive Order 
14008,\3\ including by conserving and restoring ocean and coastal 
habitats, supporting tribally and locally led stewardship, and 
advancing offshore wind and other clean energy projects.

    \3\ https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/01/2021-02177/tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad.

    The proposed national marine sanctuary would run along the mean 
high tide line from approximately Cambria at the terminal boundary of 
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), south along the San 
Luis Obispo County coast, excluding Morro Bay harbor and Port San Luis, 
and then further south to include the coast of Santa Barbara County to 
approximately Gaviota Creek, then offshore in a southwest direction 
along the western end of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary 
(CINMS), southward to include Rodriguez Seamount and shifting to the 
northwest to include the Santa Lucia Bank, to reconnect with the 
boundary for MBNMS offshore Cambria, and following that boundary 
eastward to the point of origin at the shoreline. As stated above, the 
proposed sanctuary designation excludes the area that geographically 
overlaps the proposed Morro Bay 399 Area. NOAA estimates the area 
encompassed in the proposed designation is approximately 7,000 square 
miles. A map of the proposed area can be found at https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/chumash-heritage.
    The area contains unique and diverse ecosystems essential to the 
heritage of the Chumash, one of the few ocean-going bands among the 
First Peoples of the Pacific Coast. The marine

[[Page 62514]]

environment provides a special sense of place to coastal communities 
and visitors because of its significant historic, archaeological, 
cultural, aesthetic and biological resources. The area has special 
ecological qualities as well, shaped by significant offshore geologic 
features (e.g., Rodriguez Seamount, Santa Lucia Bank and Arguello 
Canyon). Seasonal upwelling serves as the engine of the area's high 
biological productivity, supporting dense aggregations of marine life. 
The presence of a biogeographic transition zone, where temperate waters 
from the north meet the subtropics, creates an area of nationally 
significant biodiversity in sea birds, marine mammals, invertebrates, 
and fishes. The area is also known for its extensive kelp forests, 
seagrass beds, and wetlands that serve as nurseries for numerous 
commercial fish species and as important habitat for many threatened 
and endangered species such as humpback whales, blue whales, the 
southern sea otter, black abalone, snowy plovers and leatherback sea 
    The area being considered for sanctuary designation also contains 
more than 200 known shipwrecks. The area off Point Conception is a 
significant feature in California's long maritime history, with vessels 
regularly traversing the coast and, on occasion, sinking in this 
region. This collection of shipwrecks and overall maritime landscape 
are nationally significant because of the representativeness of the 
shipwrecks, their location on one of the nation's most historically 
important transportation corridors, and the potential for the discovery 
of other shipwrecks and submerged pre-contact cultural sites.
    Proponents of the national marine sanctuary have also highlighted 
the maritime history and cultural heritage of the Chumash Tribal nation 
with the sanctuary proposal. Some of the earliest documented human 
habitation of North America is in this region and various bands of 
Chumash and other indigenous Tribes have deep cultural connections to 
this area of central California. While much of the coast of San Luis 
Obispo and Santa Barbara counties has been surveyed for Native American 
artifacts and settlements, the continental shelf may well hold yet 
undiscovered paleoshorelines and archaeological resources worthy of 
study and conservation.
    Coastal communities are spread along the coastline of San Luis 
Obispo County. There are two primary entry points for vessels--Morro 
Bay and Port San Luis. Further south in Santa Barbara County, the coast 
is remote with more limited access, such as in and around Vandenberg 
Space Force Base or Hollister Ranch. Current human uses include 
commercial and recreational fishing, kayaking, surfing, diving, 
wildlife watching, research and general recreation such as beach 
walking or boating.

I. Purpose and Need for Sanctuary Designation

    The purpose and need for the designation is to fulfill the purposes 
and policies outlined in Section 301(b) of the NMSA, 16 U.S.C. 1431(b), 
including to identify and designate as national marine sanctuaries 
areas of the marine environment which are of special national 
significance, provide authority for comprehensive and coordinated 
conservation and management of these marine areas, and to protect the 
resources of these areas. In particular, the proposed designation 
     Develop coordinated and collaborative marine science, 
education and outreach, cultural heritage programs to assist in 
managing the area's nationally significant resources;
     Highlight the many diverse human activities, cultural 
connections and maritime heritage of the area, from the various First 
Nations to existing activities in the area;
     Respond to community interest in conserving the natural 
environments, wildlife and cultural resources of this area; and
     Provide additional conservation and comprehensive 
ecosystem-based management to address threats to the nationally 
significant resources of the proposed sanctuary.

II. Preliminary Description of Proposed Action and Alternatives

    NOAA's proposed action is to consider designating Chumash Heritage 
National Marine Sanctuary, as described in, Background on Sanctuary 
Nomination, via the sanctuary designation process detailed in section 
304 of the NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1434). As part of the sanctuary designation 
process, NOAA will develop draft designation documents including a 
draft sanctuary management plan, proposed sanctuary regulations, and 
proposed terms of designation. Each national marine sanctuary has 
management programs developed with public input and crafted to meet the 
specific issues and resources found in that sanctuary. The NEPA process 
for sanctuary designation will include preparation of a draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS) to consider alternatives and 
describe potential effects of the sanctuary designation on the human 
environment. The DEIS will evaluate a reasonable range of action 
alternatives that could include different options for sanctuary 
regulations, potential boundaries, and management plan goals. The DEIS 
will also consider a No Action Alternative, wherein NOAA would not 
designate the proposed sanctuary. The results of this scoping process 
will assist NOAA in formulating alternatives for the DEIS, including 
options for sanctuary boundaries, regulations, and a management plan. 
Reasonable alternatives that are identified during the scoping period 
will be evaluated in the DEIS.

III. Summary of Expected Impacts of Sanctuary Designation

    The DEIS will identify and describe the potential effects of the 
Proposed Action, and reasonable alternatives, on the human environment. 
Potential impacts may include, but are not limited to, impacts on the 
area's: Natural marine resources, including habitats, plants, birds, 
sea turtles, marine mammals, and special status species; maritime, 
cultural and historic resources, including Traditional Cultural 
Properties and archaeological sites; human uses and socioeconomics of 
the area, such as research, recreation, education, energy development, 
cultural practices, fishing. Based on a preliminary evaluation of the 
resources listed above, NOAA expects potential impacts of enhanced 
protection of the area's natural, cultural and historic resources; 
improved planning and coordination of research, monitoring, and 
management actions; reducing harmful human activities and disturbance 
of special status species; restoration of native habitat and species 
populations; reducing threats and stressors to resources; and minimal 
disturbance during research or restoration actions.

IV. Process for Sanctuary Designation and Environmental Review

    The designation process includes the following well-established and 
highly participatory stages:
    1. Public Scoping Process--Information collection and 
characterization, including the consideration of public comments 
received during scoping;
    2. Preparation of Draft Documents--Preparation and release of draft 
designation documents, including: A DEIS, prepared pursuant to NEPA, 
that identifies boundary and/or regulatory alternatives; a draft 
management plan; and a notice of proposed rulemaking to define proposed 
sanctuary regulations. Draft documents would be used to

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initiate consultations with federal, state, or local agencies, tribes 
and other interested parties, as appropriate;
    3. Public Comment--Through public meetings and in writing, allow 
for public review and comment on the DEIS, draft management plan, and 
notice of proposed rulemaking;
    4. Preparation of Final Documents--Preparation and release of a 
final environmental impact statement (FEIS), final management plan, 
including a response to public comments, and a final rule and 
    5. The sanctuary designation and regulations would take effect 
after the end of a review period of forty-five days of a continuous 
session of Congress. During this same period, should the designation 
include state waters, the Governor of the state has the opportunity to 
concurrently review the terms of designation including boundaries 
within state waters.

Schedule for the Decision-Making Process

    NOAA expects to make the DEIS and other draft documents available 
to the public by late 2022. NOAA expects to make the FEIS available to 
the public in Fall 2023. A Record of Decision and the final management 
plan and final rule will be completed no sooner than 30 days after the 
FEIS is made available to the public, in accordance with 40 CFR 

NEPA Lead and Cooperating Agency Roles

    NOAA is the lead federal agency for the NEPA process for the 
Proposed Action. NOAA may invite other federal, Tribal, or State and 
local government agencies to become cooperating agencies in the 
preparation of this EIS. NEPA regulations specify that a cooperating 
agency means any Federal agency (and a State, Tribal, or local agency 
with agreement of the lead agency) that has jurisdiction by law or 
special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved in 
a proposal (or a reasonable alternative) (40 CFR 1508.1(e)).

V. Public Scoping Process

    With this notice, NOAA is initiating a public scoping process to 
gather input from individuals, organizations, federal agencies, and 
state, tribal, and local governments on the proposed designation of 
Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA intends to use this 
process to determine the scope and significant issues to be analyzed in 
depth in the DEIS, with consideration of the scoping factors and 
responsibilities provided in 40 CFR 1501.9. NOAA specifically requests 
comments on the following topics, including the identification of 
potential alternatives, information, and analyses relevant to the 
proposed action:
     The spatial extent of the proposed sanctuary and boundary 
alternatives NOAA should consider, starting with the boundary as 
described in Section. Background on Sanctuary Nomination;
     the location, nature, and value of the resources, 
including natural and submerged cultural resources as well as the 
indigenous heritage of the area, that would be protected by a 
     potential positive and negative impacts to those 
     the management plan and regulatory framework most 
appropriate to the resources in the area, including compatible and 
incompatible uses;
     the potential socioeconomic, cultural, and biological 
impacts of designation;
     the potential to highlight the indigenous history and 
culture of the area;
     the potential to support research and advance scientific 
     information regarding historic properties in the area and 
the potential effects to those historic properties to support National 
Historic Preservation Act compliance under Section 106;
     opportunities to benefit the ``blue economy'' of the 
region, including promoting sustainable tourism and recreation;
     potential name for the new sanctuary;
     the potential to advance multiple, complementary 
priorities of the Federal administration, the Department of Commerce, 
and NOAA, including conserving and restoring ocean and coastal 
habitats, supporting Tribally and locally led stewardship, and 
advancing offshore wind and other clean energy projects;
     the potential location of an administrative office as well 
as coastal education facilities including possibly a visitor center; 
     other information relevant to the designation and 
management of a new sanctuary in this proposed area.
    Comments may be submitted to NOAA by January 10, 2022 using the 
methods described in ADDRESSES. NOAA will host public scoping meetings 
during the public comment period, as described under DATES.

VI. Anticipated Permits, Authorizations, and Consultations

    Federal, state, and local permits, authorizations, or consultations 
may be required for the Proposed Action, including consultation or 
review under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 
1801 et seq., National Historic Preservation Act, 54 U.S.C. 300101 et 
seq., and Executive Order 13175, consistency review under the Coastal 
Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq., and possibly reviews under 
other laws and regulations determined to be applicable to the proposed 
action. To the fullest extent possible, NOAA will prepare the DEIS 
concurrently with and integrated with analyses required by other 
Federal environmental review requirements, and the DEIS will list all 
Federal permits, licenses, and other authorizations that must be 
obtained in implementing the proposed action. See 40 CFR 1502.24.

Consultation Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation 
Act and Executive Order 13175

    This notice confirms that NOAA will coordinate its responsibilities 
under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act during the 
sanctuary designation process and is soliciting public and stakeholder 
input to meet section 106 compliance requirements. The section 106 
consultation process specifically applies to any agency undertaking 
that may affect historic properties. Pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(1)(1), 
historic properties include: ``Any prehistoric or historic district, 
site, building, structure or object included in, or eligible for 
inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places maintained by 
the Secretary of the Interior. The term includes artifacts, records, 
and remains that are related to and located within such properties. The 
term includes properties of traditional religious and cultural 
importance to an Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and that 
meet the National Register criteria.''
    This notice also confirms that, with respect to the proposed 
sanctuary designation process, NOAA will fulfill its responsibilities 
under Executive Order 13175, ``Consultation and Coordination with 
Indian Tribal Governments,'' and NOAA implementing policy and 
procedures. Executive Order 13175 requires federal agencies to 
establish procedures for meaningful consultation and coordination with 
Tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have 
Tribal implications. NOAA implements Executive Order 13175 through the 
NOAA Administrative Order 218-8 (Policy on Government-to-Government 
Consultation with Federally Recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native 
Corporations), and the

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NOAA Tribal Consultation Handbook. Under these policies and procedures, 
NOAA offers affected federally recognized Tribes government-to-
government consultation at the earliest practicable time it can 
reasonably anticipate that a proposed policy or initiative may have 
Tribal implications.
    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; 40 CFR 
1500-1508 (NEPA Implementing Regulations); Companion Manual for NOAA 
Administrative Order 216-6A.

John Armor,
Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Ocean 
Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
[FR Doc. 2021-24609 Filed 11-9-21; 8:45 am]