[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 159 (Friday, August 16, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 50030-50032]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19946]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Implementation of New Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, 
Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program

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

ACTION: Notice; implementation of competitive research program.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NOAA announces the implementation, under the authority of the 
Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and 
Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) of 2012, 
of a new competitive science program to ensure the long-term 
sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the communities that 
depend on it.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Russ Beard, Acting Program Director, 
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and 
Technology Program, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOS.
    Email: NOAARestoreScience@noaa.gov.
    Phone: 228.688.2936.
    Mailing Address: 1021 Balch Boulevard, Suite 1003, Stennis Space 
Center, MS 39529.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Introduction

    The Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, 
and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) of 
2012 authorized the establishment of a science, observation, monitoring 
and technology program on ecosystem restoration (RESTORE Act Science 
Program). Under Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act, the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been designated with 
responsibilities to establish the Program which is to be funded by 2.5% 
of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund plus twenty-five 
percent of the Trust Fund accrued interest.

II. Program Administration

    The Program will be housed within the National Ocean Service's 
National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). NCCOS's experience 
running competitive science programs focused on pressing coastal and 
ocean issues, its experience working in the Gulf of Mexico, and its 
demonstrated ability to transfer research results to resource managers 
makes it a logical home for the Program. In addition, NOAA established 
an Executive Oversight Board consisting of senior executives 
representing each of the NOAA Line Offices, as well as a senior 
executive from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to oversee continuing 
development and implementation of the program, provide strategic and 
programmatic guidance to a Program Support Team and eventual approval 
of the Science and Engagement Plans developed by the Support Team. The 
Program and the Executive Oversight Board will consult with the RESTORE 
Act Council, science advisory bodies that may be established pursuant 
to the Act, and other entities as deemed appropriate by NOAA or the 
Department of Commerce.

[[Page 50031]]

III. Guiding Principles, Goals and Focus Areas

    The RESTORE Act Science Program, including development of a Science 
Plan, will be guided by a suite of principles, including:
    1. Requiring an ecosystem approach, considering the entirety and 
connectivity of the system;
    2. Integrating and building on existing research, monitoring, and 
modeling efforts and plans (e.g., NRDA science, Gulf of Mexico States' 
Centers of Excellence, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, Gulf Coast 
Ecosystem Restoration Strategy and associated Science Needs 
Assessment);
    3. Leveraging partnerships established among federal, state, 
academics, and NGOs, and develop new partnerships as appropriate;
    4. Working within a management and policy framework developed with 
other entities in the Gulf, including USFWS, the Commission, and FMC; 
and
    5. Designing a scalable and modular approach that adapts to funding 
availability, defines the unique roles and responsibilities of NOAA and 
avoids duplication with federal, state, academic, and NGO activities or 
NRDA science efforts.
    Numerous documents have been developed in recent years that 
identify science needs in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these documents 
were produced with extensive stakeholder input and in consultation with 
resource managers throughout the Gulf states. In development of the 
Goals for this program these documents were referenced to ensure high 
priority and recurring needs were captured. The DRAFT goals presented 
here were constructed to be responsive to Section 1604 of the Act and 
consistent with science needs identified previously in the region. The 
RESTORE Act Science Program will enable the collection and 
dissemination of scientific information to better inform decision 
making related to the following DRAFT goals:
    1. Support Healthy, Diverse and Resilient Coastal Habitats
    2. Support Healthy, Diverse and Sustainable Living Coastal and 
Marine Resources
    3. Support Sustainably Managed Fisheries
    4. Support Healthy and Well-managed Offshore Environments
    5. Support Healthy, Sustainable, and Resilient Coastal Communities 
able to adapt to a changing environment.
    Focusing the activities supported by this program will help ensure 
that the science, observation, monitoring, and technology advancement 
are coordinated, complement existing and future science efforts 
supported and implemented collaboratively, and address in an integrated 
and holistic manner the critical knowledge needed for Gulf of Mexico 
ecosystem restoration and management. The Focus areas do not define 
specific science needs, but rather encompass a suite of approaches of 
scientific study which, when taken together, will meet the desired 
outcome of improved holistic understanding of the Gulf of Mexico 
ecosystem. The focus areas are:
     Periodic ``State of health'' assessments for the Gulf, 
incorporating environmental, socio-economic, and human well-being 
information
     Integrated analysis and synthesis of data--Synthesis and 
analysis of existing and new data to understand interconnections, 
inform ecosystem perspective, and produce policy-relevant information
     Ecosystem processes, functioning and connectivity through 
integrative field/laboratory efforts to provide foundational 
information to support restoration planning and implementation and 
fisheries science
     Holistic approaches to observing and monitoring that 
encompass the next generation of observing and monitoring technologies, 
including those for fisheries and other natural resources, and data 
integration tools focused on the observing needs in the Gulf of Mexico

IV. Program Consultation and Coordination

    Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act specifies that NOAA shall 
coordinate with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and with ``other 
existing Federal and State science and technology programs in the 
States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, as well 
as between the Centers of Excellence.'' The Act also requires that NOAA 
consult with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and Gulf 
States Marine Fisheries Commission ``in carrying out the program''. 
Although such a provision is not included in the guidance to the 
Centers of Excellence under Section 1605, or in the criminal settlement 
agreements funding science programs for the National Academy of 
Sciences, these and other groups also have acknowledged the need for 
coordination.
    The USFWS was an active partner during the program development 
process and they continue to engage fully on the Executive Oversight 
Board and on engagement and science planning working groups. During the 
program development, NOAA reached out to both the Regional Gulf of 
Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries 
Commission for their input and feedback to the process. NOAA will 
continue direct consultation with both the Commission and the Council 
as it develops and executes the program.
    Additionally, several other groups have or are anticipated to 
receive funding as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NOAA 
believes that it is imperative that all recipients of settlement funds 
derived from the spill money coordinate science activities to maximize 
the benefit to the environment and people of the Gulf of Mexico. As the 
RESTORE Act Science Program is implemented, NOAA will continue to 
actively engage partners, stakeholders and the public.

V. Next Steps

    Development of the Program will be guided by application of the 
language of the Act to the science needs of the region as described by 
resource managers, researchers, residents, and other stakeholders. 
Given that the amount of funds to be made available and the science 
priorities of other programs established under the Act have yet to be 
defined, NOAA envisions that its science investments will evolve over 
time, adapting to changing information and knowledge. As noted 
previously, considerable work to identify science needs has been 
conducted in the region and provides an opportune starting point to 
frame an investment strategy. With additional engagement of partners in 
the region, NOAA will develop a science plan that seeks to achieve a 
holistic understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem that will 
contribute significantly to the science needed for the long-term 
sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its 
fisheries, and help inform restoration and management efforts.
    NOAA is following a series of steps to implement the Program 
including:
     Conducting a review and assessment of science needs to 
support sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem that have been 
determined previously;
     Developing a Science Plan framework that describes the 
program and lists a set of draft Goals for consideration to assist 
engagement with partners and stakeholders;
     Engaging partners to identify and prioritize ecosystem and 
management science requirements and gaps, including but not limited to 
coordination with other Trust Fund recipients;

[[Page 50032]]

     Identifying strategic early investments to assist the 
integration and synthesis of science priorities and to address known 
priority gaps;
     Conducting competitive processes for issuing awards for 
addressing the science needs;
     Continuing refinement of Science plan in coordination with 
partners through the life of the Program.
    NOAA anticipates being able to issue a focused Federal Funding 
Opportunity (FFO)sometime in Fall/Winter, 2013, contingent upon the 
regulations governing the Trust Fund being finalized. The FFO will be 
targeted towards focused areas of investment derived from reviews of 
existing plans and engagement efforts with Gulf stakeholders being 
conducted this summer. This FFO will be announced through the Federal 
Register and grants.gov. Future FFOs will be announced on grants.gov.

 VI. Additional Information

    Additional information on the Program, the draft science framework, 
and engagement opportunities can be found on the Program Web site: 
restoreactscienceprogram.noaa.gov.

    Dated: August 12, 2013.
Mary C. Erickson,
Director, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Ocean 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-19946 Filed 8-15-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-JE-P