[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 74 (Monday, April 19, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 20344-20346]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-8974]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XV64


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to Rocket Launches from Kodiak, AK

AGENCY:  National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, Commerce.

ACTION:  Notice; Issuance of a Letter of Authorization.

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SUMMARY:  In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 
and implementing regulations, notification is hereby given that a 
Letter of Authorization (LOA) has been issued to the Alaska Aerospace 
Corporation (AAC, formerly known as the Alaska Aerospace Development 
Corporation), to take Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and 
Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) incidental to rocket 
launches from the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC).

DATES: Effective April 15, 2010, through February 28, 2011.

ADDRESSES:  The LOA and supporting documentation are available by 
writing to Michael Payne, Chief, Permits, Conservation, and Education 
Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225, by 
telephoning one of the contacts listed here (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT), or online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. Documents cited in this notice may be viewed, 
by appointment, during regular business hours, at the aforementioned 
address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Howard Goldstein or Jaclyn Daly, 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 713-2289, or Brad Smith, 
Alaska Regional Office, NMFS, (907) 271-3023.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs 
the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to allow, on 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 regulations are issued. Under the MMPA, the term 
``taking'' means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill or to attempt to 
harass, hunt, capture or kill marine mammals.
    Authorization may be granted for periods up to five years if NMFS 
finds, after notification and opportunity for public comment, that the 
taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) of 
marine mammals and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses. In 
addition, NMFS must prescribe regulations that include permissible 
methods of taking and other means effecting the least practicable 
adverse impact on the species and its habitat and on the availability 
of the species for subsistence uses, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. The 
regulations must include requirements for monitoring and reporting of 
such taking.

[[Page 20345]]

    Regulations governing the taking of Steller sea lions and harbor 
seals, by harassment, incidental to rocket launches at KLC, became 
effective on February 27, 2006 (71 FR 4297), and remain in effect until 
February 28, 2011. For detailed information on this action, please 
refer to that document. These regulations include mitigation, 
monitoring, and reporting requirements for the incidental taking of 
marine mammals during rocket launches at KLC.

Summary of Request

    NMFS received a request for an LOA pursuant to the aforementioned 
regulations that would authorize, for a period not to exceed 1 year, 
take of marine mammals incidental to rocket launches at KLC.
    Summary of Activity and Monitoring Under the Current LOA
    No launch operations were conducted at KLC in 2009, and none were 
predicted or scheduled prior to expiration of the current LOA. As such, 
the most recent reports concerning activity and monitoring at KLC were 
submitted in compliance with the 2008 LOA. A summary of those reports 
(R&M Consultants, 2008) follows.

FTX-03 Mission

    Two launches were conducted at KLC between March 12, 2008, and 
March 11, 2009. The first was a monitored launch of a Flight Test 
Experimental-03 (FTX-03) long range ballistic missile on July 18, 2008 
at 1:47:00 a.m. ADT. Aerial surveys to document marine mammals in the 
primary survey area (6-mile radius of the KLC launch pads) were flown 
using single-engine fixed-wing aircraft 1 day prior to (July 17), the 
day of (July 18), and 3 days (July 19-21) post launch. On July 17, 
2008, video equipment and a noise monitor were deployed on the 
northeast side of Ugak Island, 4.2 miles (6.8 km) from the launch site, 
and another noise monitor was deployed on Narrow Cape , 0.9 miles (1.4 
km) from the launch site. Sound level monitoring equipment at Ugak 
Island registered noise above general ambient levels for one minute 
thirty three seconds with an SEL of 89.6 dBA. The one-second broadband 
peak noise level was 108.3 dBC. The 1/3 octave broadband noise level 
peaked between 63 and 250 Hz with a maximum noise level of 90.7 dB at 
100 Hz. Sound level monitoring equipment at Narrow Cape registered 
noise above general ambient levels for one minute fifty seconds with an 
SEL of 112.6 dBA. The one-second broadband peak noise level was 145.6 
dBC. The 1/3 octave broadband noise level peaked between 63 and 400 Hz 
with a maximum noise level at 105.8 dB at 315 Hz.
    Video equipment was focused on the Steller sea lion haulout on the 
east side of Ugak Island because no seal lions were present at the 
traditional haulout on the gravel spit at Ugak. This haulout was 
occupied by 1-5 seal lions during the aerial surveys, and 0-3 sea lions 
during video monitoring. However, the camera battery was depleted about 
two hours before the launch so the immediate effects of the launch on 
Steller sea lions could not be determined. However, three sea lions 
were seen at the haulout during the aerial survey conducted within two 
hours after the launch, the same number recorded when the camera 
battery died; therefore, if any behavioral impacts did occur, they were 
short lived.
    Harbor seals were the most abundant marine mammal counted. Daily 
totals ranged from 610 seals on July 20, 2008 to 1,534 seals on July 
21, 2008. The count of harbor seals before the launch (853 seals) was 
similar immediately post launch (840 seals). For the three days after 
launch, 744, 610, and 1,534 harbor seals, respectively, were sighted in 
the primary study area. Therefore, NMFS does not expect that the launch 
had a long term impact on harbor seals in the action area.

FTG-05 Mission

    The second monitored launch of an Flight Test Ground-based 
Interceptor-05 (FTG-05) ballistic missile was conducted at KLC on 
December 5, 2008 at 11:04 a.m. ADT. Five monitoring surveys were 
scheduled between December 4-8, 2008; however, foul weather precluded 
flying from all but one day. No monitoring survey was completed pre-
launch and only one survey was completed post-launch; however, one 
aerial survey was flown over part of the primary study area three days 
before the launch (December 2) prior to the designated monitoring 
surveys. Foul weather precluded helicopter access to Ugak Island, 
therefore no video equipment or sound monitoring device was deployed at 
this location. However, a sound level monitor was deployed on Narrow 
Cape. This noise monitoring device registered noise above general 
ambient levels for one minute forty one seconds with an SEL of 112.4 
dBA. The one-second broadband peak noise level was 126.1 dBC. The 1/3 
octave broadband noise level peaked between 63 and 400 Hz with a 
maximum noise level at 106.6 dB at 200 Hz.
    Steller sea lions did not use the spit on northern Ugak Island (the 
traditional haulout site) during the December 7 survey; however, this 
has been the trend during the past few years. One sea lion was sighted 
during that day on the suprtidal rock on the eastern side of Ugak, the 
same location where they were sighted during the FTX-03 launch, as 
described above.
    During the December 7 survey, 971 harbor seals were sighted in the 
primary study area. All were sighted on Ugak Island with the largest 
single haulout located on the northeast side of the island with 444 
seals. Because only one survey was completed and no video monitoring 
system was set up during the FTG-05 launch, the actual impacts to 
Steller sea lions and harbor seals can not be determined. However, AAC 
did collect video monitoring data of Steller sea lions during a FTG-02 
launch in 2006. During that launch, two sea lions were present on Ugak 
Rock. The animals raised their heads in response to launch noise, which 
peaked at 105.6 dBC and had an SEL of 90.1dBA over one minute and eight 
seconds; however, they did not flush into the water. For comparative 
purposes, the Narrow Cape the peak noise level during this launch was 
128 dBC with a SEL of 112.5dBA over one minute 23-seconds which is 
comparable to the December FTG-05 launch, as described above. 
Therefore, NMFS anticipates that reactions of Steller sea lions, if 
present, were likely similar to those recorded previously.
    In summary, NMFS concludes the impacts from the FTX-03 and FTG-05 
flight were similar based on similar acoustic monitoring measurements 
from both launches. No mortality or injury was observed during the FTX-
03 launch and likely did not occur during the FTG-05 launch. As 
described in reporting from the 2008 LOA, the applicant conducted 
activities as described in the rule, implemented mitigation measures as 
stipulated in the LOA, and conducted monitoring required under the LOA. 
Monitoring reports indicated that take of marine mammals did not exceed 
numbers or level authorized by the LOA and analyzed in the associated 
rule. During the period of the current LOA, the applicant has not 
conducted any launch activities, and none are scheduled prior to 
expiration of the current LOA. As such, the applicant has conformed to 
the stipulations of the LOA. Based on these actions, the findings of 
negligible impact, no unmitigable adverse impact, and take of only 
small numbers are still applicable.

Authorization

    Accordingly, NMFS has issued an LOA to AAC authorizing takes of 
marine mammals incidental to rocket launches

[[Page 20346]]

at the KLC. Issuance of this LOA is based on findings, described in the 
preamble to the final rule (71 FR 4297, January 26, 2006) and supported 
by information contained in AAC's required 2008 annual report (no 
launch activities took place in 2009), that the activities described 
under this LOA will result in the take of small numbers of marine 
mammals, have a negligible impact on marine mammal stocks, and will not 
have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the affected 
marine mammal stocks for subsistence uses.

    Dated: April 12, 2010.
James H. Lecky,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-8974 Filed 4-19-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S