[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 174 (Thursday, September 8, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 55673-55675]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-22993]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-9460-8; Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2011-0485]


Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the Climate Ready 
Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using Expert Judgment, Volume I: 
Results for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership and Volume II: 
Results for the Massachusetts Bays Program

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of Public Comment Period and Letter Peer-Review.

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SUMMARY: EPA is announcing a 30-day public comment period for the draft 
documents titled, Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the Climate 
Ready Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using Expert Judgment, Volume 
I: Results for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership (EPA/600/R-11/
058a) and Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the Climate Ready 
Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using Expert Judgment, Volume II: 
Results for the Massachusetts Bays Program (EPA/600/R-11/058b). The EPA 
also is announcing that Eastern Research Group, an EPA contractor for 
external scientific peer review, will select two independent groups of 
experts to conduct a letter peer-review of the same draft documents. 
The documents were prepared by the National Center for Environmental 
Assessment within EPA's Office of Research and Development, in 
collaboration with the San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP), the 
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and the 
Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP). The reports are pilot ecological 
vulnerability assessments using a novel methodology, based on expert 
judgment, to inform adaptation planning under EPA's

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Climate Ready Estuaries Program. To demonstrate the novel methodology, 
two ecosystem processes were selected for each assessment: sediment 
retention in salt marshes (for both SFEP and MBP) and community 
interactions (of wading shorebirds and their mudflat prey for SFEP, and 
of the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow and key species of nesting 
habitat grasses for MBP). This study assesses (1) Relationships among 
key physical and ecological variables that regulate each process, (2) 
relative sensitivities of these relationships under current and future 
climate change scenarios, (3) degree of confidence about these 
relationships, and (4) implications for management. The results of this 
study are designed to support the SFEP's and MBP's adaptation planning 
efforts as well as those of other estuary managers.
    EPA intends to forward the public comments that are submitted in 
accordance with this notice to the external peer-reviewers for their 
consideration during the letter review. When finalizing the draft 
document, EPA intends to consider any public comments received in 
accordance with this notice. EPA is releasing these draft documents for 
the purpose of pre-dissemination peer review under applicable 
information quality guidelines. These documents have not been formally 
disseminated by EPA. They do not represent and should not be construed 
to represent any Agency policy or determination.
    The draft documents are available via the Internet on the NCEA home 
page under the Recent Additions and the Data and Publications menus at 
http://www.epa.gov/ncea.

DATES: The 30-day public comment period begins September 8, 2011, and 
ends October 11, 2011. Technical comments should be in writing and must 
be received by EPA by October 11, 2011.

ADDRESSES: The two draft documents, Vulnerability Assessments in 
Support of the Climate Ready Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using 
Expert Judgment, Volume I: Results for the San Francisco Estuary 
Partnership and Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the Climate 
Ready Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using Expert Judgment, Volume 
II: Results for the Massachusetts Bays Program, are available primarily 
via the Internet on the National Center for Environmental Assessment's 
home page under the Recent Additions and the Data and Publications 
menus at http://www.epa.gov/ncea. A limited number of paper copies are 
available from the Information Management Team, NCEA; telephone: 703-
347-8561; facsimile: 703-347-8691. If you are requesting a paper copy, 
please provide your name, mailing address, the EPA number of the 
requested publication, and the document title, Vulnerability 
Assessments in Support of the Climate Ready Estuaries Program: A Novel 
Approach Using Expert Judgment, Volume I: Results for the San Francisco 
Estuary Partnership or Vulnerability Assessments in Support of the 
Climate Ready Estuaries Program: A Novel Approach Using Expert 
Judgment, Volume II: Results for the Massachusetts Bays Program.
    Comments may be submitted electronically via http://www.regulations.gov, by mail, by facsimile, or by hand delivery/
courier. Please follow the detailed instructions provided in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the public comment 
period, contact the Office of Environmental Information Docket; 
telephone: 202-566-1752; facsimile: 202-566-1753; or e-mail: 
ORD.Docket@epa.gov.
    For technical information, contact Jordan West, NCEA; telephone: 
703-347-8584; facsimile: 703-347-8694; or e-mail: west.jordan@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Information About the Project/Document

    For this project, an exercise was designed to elicit judgments from 
experts in a workshop setting, regarding climate change effects on two 
ecosystem processes for each pilot assessment: sediment retention and 
community interactions. This method is based on a novel application of 
expert elicitation (a process for obtaining the judgments of groups of 
experts to characterize each expert's beliefs about relationships of 
interest) for use in a two-day workshop using two groups of seven 
expert participants each. EPA has investigated the utility of expert 
elicitation and provides recommendations for ``best practices'' through 
an Expert Elicitation Task Force White Paper (see http://www.epa.gov/spc/expertelicitation/index.htm).
    The exercise involved elicitation of qualitative judgments about 
the sensitivity of ecosystem processes to physical and ecological 
variables, using ``influence diagrams'' to depict the relationships 
among variables. For each ecosystem process, an influence diagram was 
developed that identified the key process variables and their 
interrelationships (influences). Using a coding scheme, each expert 
characterized the type and sensitivity of each influence under both 
current and future climate change scenarios.
    The experts also discussed the high impact of certain influences on 
sediment retention and community interactions, relative to other 
influences in the diagram, and the potential for threshold changes.
    These reports show how climate-sensitive pathways can be identified 
and linked to management options in the context of planning documents 
in order to support adaptation to climate change.

II. How To Submit Technical Comments to the Docket at http://www.regulations.gov

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD 2011-
0485, by one of the following methods:
     http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line 
instructions for submitting comments;
     E-mail: ORD.Docket@epa.gov;
     Fax: 202-566-1753;
     Mail: Office of Environmental Information (OEI) Docket 
(Mail Code: 2822T), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 
Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460. The phone number is 202-
566-1752; and
     Hand Delivery: The OEI Docket is located in the EPA 
Headquarters Docket Center, Room 3334 EPA West Building, 1301 
Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC. The EPA Docket Center's Public 
Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public 
Reading Room is 202-566-1744. Deliveries are only accepted during the 
docket's normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should be 
made for deliveries of boxed information.
    If you provide comments by mail or hand delivery, please submit one 
unbound original with pages numbered consecutively and three copies of 
the comments. For attachments, provide an index, number pages 
consecutively with the comments, and submit an unbound original and 
three copies.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-
2011-0485. Please ensure that your comments are submitted within the 
specified comment period. Comments received after the closing date will 
be marked ``late,'' and may only be considered if time permits. It is 
EPA's policy to include all comments it receives in the public docket 
without change and to make the comments available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided,

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unless a comment includes information claimed to be Confidential 
Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to 
be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or e-
mail. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous 
access'' system, which means EPA will not know your identity or contact 
information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you 
send an e-mail comment directly to EPA without going through http://www.regulations.gov, your e-mail address will be automatically captured 
and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket 
and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic 
comment, EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact 
information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you 
submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties 
and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to 
consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special 
characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or 
viruses. For additional information about EPA's public docket visit the 
EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.
    Docket: Documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some 
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other materials, 
such as copyrighted material, are publicly available only in hard copy. 
Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically 
at http://www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the OEI Docket in the 
EPA Headquarters Docket Center.

     Dated: August 12, 2011.
Darrell A. Winner,
Acting Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment.
[FR Doc. 2011-22993 Filed 9-7-11; 8:45 am]
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