[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 236 (Monday, December 9, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 73794-73815]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29203]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 217

[Docket No. 130820738-3738-01]
RIN 0648-BD62


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to U.S. Air Force Launches, Aircraft and Helicopter 
Operations, and Harbor Activities Related To Launch Vehicles From 
Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), California

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for 
authorization to take marine mammals, specifically pinnipeds, by 
harassment, incidental to launches, aircraft and helicopter operations 
from VAFB launch complexes and Delta Mariner operations, cargo 
unloading activities, and harbor maintenance dredging in support of the 
Delta IV/Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch activity on 
south VAFB from February 2014 to February 2019. Pursuant to the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its 
proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letters of Authorization 
(LOAs) to the USAF to incidentally harass marine mammals.

[[Page 73795]]


DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January 
8, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
0648-BD62, by any one of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to: 
www.regulations.gov, enter 0648-BD62 in the ``Search'' box, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to P. Michael Payne, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: 301-713-0376, Attn: Candace Nachman.
    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 NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential 
Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. 
NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields 
if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments 
will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.
    A copy of the application containing a list of references used in 
this document may be obtained by visiting the Internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Documents 
cited in this proposed rule may also be viewed, by appointment, during 
regular business hours at the above address. To help NMFS process and 
review comments more efficiently, please use only one method to submit 
comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Candace Nachman, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
(MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce 
(Secretary) to allow, upon 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 either 
regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, 
notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for 
review.
    Authorization for incidental takings may be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for certain subsistence uses, 
and that the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining 
to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking are set 
forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as: 
``an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.''
    The National Defense Authorization Act of 2004 (NDAA) (Pub. L. 108-
136) removed the ``small numbers'' and ``specified geographical 
region'' limitations and amended the definition of ``harassment'' as it 
applies to a ``military readiness activity'' to read as follows 
(Section 3(18)(B) of the MMPA): ``(i) Any act that injures or has the 
significant potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock 
in the wild [Level A Harassment]; or (ii) any act that disturbs or is 
likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by 
causing disruption of natural behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or 
significantly altered [Level B Harassment].''
    Based on a previous request from the USAF, NMFS issued regulations 
and LOAs to the USAF to allow it to take species of pinnipeds at the 
VAFB. Those regulations and LOAs expire on February 6, 2014.

Summary of Request

    On June 24, 2013, NMFS received an application from the USAF 
requesting an LOA for the take of five species of pinnipeds incidental 
to USAF launch, aircraft, and helicopter operations from VAFB launch 
complexes and Delta Mariner operations, cargo unloading activities, and 
harbor maintenance dredging. The Delta Mariner operations, cargo 
unloading, and harbor maintenance dredging are conducted in support of 
the Delta IV/EELV launch activity from Space Launch Complex 6 on south 
VAFB. NMFS proposes regulations to govern these activities, to be 
effective from February 7, 2014, through February 7, 2019. The USAF is 
requesting a 5-year LOA for these activities. These training activities 
are classified as military readiness activities. The USAF states that 
these activities may result in take of marine mammals from noise or 
visual disturbance from rocket and missile launches, as well as from 
the use of heavy equipment during the Delta Mariner off-loading 
operations, cargo movement activities, increased presence of personnel, 
and harbor maintenance dredging. The USAF requests authorization to 
take annually five pinniped species by Level B Harassment.
    Activities relating to the Delta Mariner operations have been 
previously authorized by NMFS under annual Incidental Harassment 
Authorizations (IHAs). To date, we have issued 10 IHAs to United Launch 
Alliance (working on behalf of the USAF) to take marine mammals 
incidental to conducting operations in support of Delta IV/EELV launch 
activity from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 6. The most recent IHAs was 
effective from September 26, 2012, through September 25, 2013. Through 
this proposed rulemaking, NMFS and the USAF are incorporating the Delta 
Mariner operations into the rulemaking for the launch, aircraft, and 
helicopter operations at VAFB. Delta Mariner operations will not resume 
until a final rule and subsequent LOA are issued to cover the 
incidental take of marine mammals in the vicinity of the proposed 
operations.

Description of the Specified Activity

VAFB Launch Activities and Aircraft and Helicopter Operations

    VAFB (see Figure 1 in the USAF application) is headquarters to the 
30th Space Wing (SW), the Air Force Space Command unit that operates 
VAFB and the Western Range. VAFB operates as a missile test base and 
aerospace center, supporting west coast space launch activities for the 
USAF, Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration, and commercial contractors. VAFB is the main west coast 
launch facility for placing commercial, government, and military 
satellites into polar orbit on expendable (unmanned) launch vehicles, 
and for testing and evaluating intercontinental ballistic missiles 
(ICBM) and sub-orbital target and interceptor missiles. In

[[Page 73796]]

addition to space vehicle and missile launch activities at VAFB, there 
are helicopter and aircraft operations for purposes such as search-and-
rescue, delivery of space vehicle components, launch mission support, 
security reconnaissance, and training flights. The USAF anticipates 
that the space and missile launch frequency will not exceed a combined 
total of 50 launches (35 rockets and 15 missiles) per year from VAFB. 
Table 1 in this document outlines the numbers of rocket and missile 
launches that occurred in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Although subject to 
change, Table 2 presents preliminary estimates of the numbers of rocket 
and missile launches from VAFB during calendar years 2014 through 2019. 
Estimates for the earlier years are likely more accurate than those for 
the last two to three years. However, as noted earlier, the launch 
frequency is not anticipated to exceed 50 launches in a given year. Any 
launches over this amount would require additional coordination between 
NMFS and the USAF before they occur.

        Table 1--Numbers of Rocket and Missile Launches in Calendar Years 2011, 2012, and 2013, From VAFB
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Year                            Rocket launches                        Missile launches
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2011............................  7.....................................  2.
2012............................  2.....................................  2.
2013............................  4 (as of Sept. 24, 2013, 3 rockets      5 (as of Sept. 24, 2013, 3 missiles
                                   launched with 1 additional planned      launched with 2 additional planned
                                   before Dec. 31).                        before Dec. 31).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Table 2--Preliminary Numbers of Projected Rocket and Missile Launches in
               Calendar Years 2014 Through 2019 From VAFB
[The projections for calendar years 2018 and 2019 are highly preliminary
                              at this time]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Rocket      Missile
                     Year                         launches     launches
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2014..........................................            6            6
2015..........................................            9            5
2016..........................................            9            6
2017..........................................            4            5
2018..........................................            9            6
2019..........................................           12            7
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There are currently six active facilities at VAFB used to launch 
satellites into polar orbit. These facilities support launch programs 
for the Atlas V, Delta II, Delta IV, Falcon 9, Minotaur, and Taurus 
rockets. Various booster and fuel packages can be configured to 
accommodate payloads. Details on the vehicle types and the sound 
exposure levels (SELs) produced by each missile or rocket are described 
in the following sections.
(1) Atlas V
    The Atlas V vehicle is launched from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3E 
on south VAFB. This SLC is approximately 9.9 km (6.2 mi) from the main 
haul-out area on VAFB, known as North Rocky Point (see Figure 2 in the 
USAF application), which encompasses several smaller pinniped haul-out 
sites. SLC-3E is approximately 11.1 km (6.9 mi) from the closest north 
VAFB haul-out, known as the Spur Road haul-out site (Figure 3 in the 
application) and 13.5 km (8.4 mi) from the next closest haul-out, the 
nearby Purisima Point haul-out site (Figure 3 in the application).
    The Atlas V is a medium lift vehicle that can be flown in two 
series of configurations--the Atlas V400 series and the Atlas V500 
series. Both series use the Standard Booster as the single body 
booster. The V400 series accommodates a 4.2 m (13.8 ft) payload fairing 
and as many as three solid rocket boosters. The V500 series 
accommodates a 5.4 m (17.7 ft) fairing and as many as five solid rocket 
boosters. The Atlas V400 series will lift as much as 7,800 kg (17,196 
lbs) into geosynchronous transfer orbit or as much as 13,620 kg (30,027 
lbs) into low earth orbit. The Atlas V500 series will lift as much as 
8,700 kg (19,180 lbs) into geosynchronous transfer orbit or as much as 
21,050 kg (46,407 lbs) into low earth orbit. The Atlas V consists of a 
common booster core (CBC) 3.8 m (12.5 ft) in diameter and 32.5 m (106.6 
ft) high) powered by an RD180 engine that burns a liquid propellant 
fuel consisting of liquid oxygen and RP1 fuel (kerosene). The RD180 
engine provides 840,000 lbs of thrust on liftoff. There is a Centaur 
upper stage (3.1 m (10.2 ft) in diameter and 12.7 m (41.7 ft) high) 
powered by a liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel.
    The first Atlas V launch occurred on March 13, 2008. Acoustic 
monitoring was conducted for this launch at VAFB. However, an equipment 
malfunction during the launch prevented the proper functioning of the 
digital audio tape (DAT) recorder during the launch. Since acoustic 
data was only gathered with the sound level meter (SLM), not all 
metrics were obtained for that launch. The Atlas V launch had an A-
weighted SEL (ASEL) of 96.5 dB (MSRS, 2008c). The Atlas V was predicted 
to create a sonic boom of as much as 7.2 pounds per square foot (psf), 
impacting the NCI including San Miguel Island (SMI). The size of the 
actual sonic boom depends on meteorological conditions, which can vary 
by day and season and with the trajectory of the vehicle. A sonic boom 
greater than 1 psf was predicted for the initial Atlas V launch; thus, 
acoustic monitoring was performed on SMI. Measurements conducted at 
Cardwell Point indicated a sonic boom of 1.24 psf with a rise time of 
2.4 milliseconds (ms).
    Because of the equipment malfunction, VAFB conducted acoustic 
modeling of the second Atlas V launch, which occurred on October 18, 
2009. Acoustic measurements at VAFB were made at Oil Well Canyon (see 
Figure 2 in USAF's application) approximately 9.8 km (6.1 mi) southwest 
of SLC-3E (MSRS, 2009). The DAT recorder provided detailed information 
on the launch noise. The A-weighted 1-hour average sound levels at VAFB 
in the Oil Well Canyon area typically range from 35 to 60 dB with an 
average of 52 dB (Thorson et al., 2001). During the launch, the 
unweighted SEL was 125.2 db, while the C-weighted SEL was 119.0 db and 
the A-weighted SEL was 95.2 db. The unweighted peak level was 118.6 db 
and the A-weighted peak level was 116.2 db. The majority of the sound 
from the Atlas V DMSP-18 was produced within the first 120 seconds of 
the launch, but some low-frequency rumbling and crackling was audible 
for over 5 minutes after launch (MSRS, 2009).
    VAFB conducted another Atlas V launch on April 14, 2011, with 
acoustic monitoring conducted at SMI. As described in VAFB (2011), 
testing indicated that the sonic boom consisted of two positive peaks 
separated by approximately 100 milliseconds (about one-tenth of a 
second), followed by a negative spike (underpressure) in which the two 
corresponding arrival times of the positive peaks nearly coincided. 
This represented the compression and release of air from a double shock 
wave from a sonic boom. The maximum overpressure at the recording site 
on SMI was 1.01398 psf, and the

[[Page 73797]]

unweighted peak was 109.4 dB re 20 [micro]Pa at 2.66 Hz. The frequency 
spectrum of the acoustic energy was predominantly low frequency, with 
unweighted peak levels exceeding 80 dB re 20 [micro]Pa below 500 Hz. 
The highest energy was below 100 Hz.
(2) Delta II
    The Delta II is launched from SLC-2 on north VAFB (see Figure 3 in 
the USAF application) approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) from the Spur Road 
harbor seal haul-out site and 2.3 km (1.4 mi) from the Purisima Point 
haul-out site. The Delta II is a medium-sized launch vehicle 
approximately 38 m (124.7 ft) tall. The Delta II uses a Rocketdyne RS-
27A main liquid propellant engine and additional solid rocket strap-on 
graphite epoxy motors (GEMs) during liftoff. A total of three, four, or 
nine GEMs can be attached for added boost during liftoff. When nine 
GEMs are used, six are ignited at liftoff, and three are lit once the 
rocket is airborne. When three or four GEMs are used they are all 
ignited at liftoff. The number of GEMs attached to each vehicle will 
determine the amount of sound power produced by the vehicle.
    Eight Delta II launches have been acoustically quantified near the 
Spur Road harbor seal haul-out site. The Delta II is the second loudest 
of the space launch vehicles (SLVs) at the Spur Road haul-out site, the 
Taurus vehicle being the loudest. The Delta II has an unweighted SEL 
measurements (based on the six initial acoustically-measured launches) 
ranging from 126.5 to 128.8 dB and averaging 127.4 dB, as measured by 
the DAT recorder. The C-weighted SEL (CSEL) ranged from 124.3 to 126.7 
dB with an average of 125.4 dB (DAT). The ASEL measurements from both a 
SLM and the DAT were similar, ranged from 111.8 to 118.2 dB, and had an 
average of 114.5 dB (DAT). The maximum fast A-weighted sound level 
(Lmax) values ranged from 104.2 to 112.5 dB and averaged 109.5 dB.
    Sonic booms have been measured on SMI from three Delta II launches: 
the EO-1, Iridium MS-12, and AURA (November 2000, February 2002, and 
July 2004, respectively). Both the Iridium MS-12 and AURA had two small 
sonic booms impact the Point Bennett area of SMI. Iridium MS-12 had 
peak overpressures of 0.47 and 0.64 psf and rise times of 18 and 91 ms, 
while AURA had peak overpressures of 0.79 and 1.34 psf and rise times 
of 9.5 and 10.5 ms. The Delta II EO 1 had a single sonic boom with a 
peak overpressure of 0.4 psf and rise time of .041 ms.
(3) Delta IV
    The Delta IV is launched from SLC-6, which is 2.3 km (1.4 mi) north 
of the main harbor seal haul-out site at North Rocky Point (see Figure 
2 in the USAF application). The Delta IV family of launch vehicles 
consists of five launch vehicle configurations utilizing a CBC first 
stage (liquid fueled) and zero, two, or four strap on solid rocket 
GEMs. The Delta IV comes in four medium lift configurations and one 
heavy lift configuration consisting of multiple CBCs. The Delta IV can 
carry payloads from 4,210 to 13,130 kg (9,281 to 28,947 lbs) into 
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
    Because the Delta IV was predicted to be the loudest vehicle at the 
south VAFB harbor seal haul-out site, it was required that acoustic and 
biological monitoring be conducted for its first three launches. In 
addition, harbor seal hearing tests were required before and after each 
of the first three launches that were not scheduled during pupping 
season.
    The first two Delta IV launches occurred in 2006. Although the 
Delta IV is larger than the Athena (the vehicle previously launched 
from this site), it was found after its initial launch (NROL-22, June 
2006) that the Delta IV had similar noise levels to the Athena vehicle. 
As measured by the DAT, the unweighted SEL was 127.7 dB, while the CSEL 
was 122.9 dB, and the ASEL was 106.2 dB (Fillmore et al., 2006). The 
Lmax was found to be 103.1 dB (Fillmore et al., 2006).
    During the second Delta IV launch (DMSP-17, November 2006), the DAT 
recorder was located at the VAFB Boathouse (near where the harbor seal 
hearing tests were performed), rather than at the more usual sound 
monitoring location of Oil Well Canyon, where an SLM was placed. The 
DAT measured the unweighted SEL at 131.3 dB, the CSEL at 127.5 dB, and 
the ASEL at 111.3 dB. The Lmax was measured at 102.6 dB (Thorson et 
al., 2007).
    During the third Delta IV launch (Heavy NROL-49, January 20, 2011), 
noise levels recorded were in a very similar frequency domain compared 
to noise levels from the two Delta II launches in 2006, although the 
Delta IV Heavy launch was somewhat louder. Most sound energy from the 
rocket launches was below 1 kHz (1000 Hz). With the Delta IV rocket, 
the highest levels were below 100 Hz. Unweighted peak levels were 131.8 
dB re 20 [mu]Pa (MSRS, 2011a).
    The Delta IV was predicted to create maximum sonic booms of as much 
as 7.2 psf for the largest of the medium configurations and 8 to 9 psf 
for the heavy configuration. The size of the actual sonic boom depends 
on meteorological conditions, which can vary by day and season, and 
with the trajectory of the vehicle. A sonic boom greater than one psf 
was predicted for the initial Delta IV launch; thus, acoustic 
monitoring was performed on SMI. An equipment malfunction resulted in 
uncertainty regarding the amplitude of the sonic boom that was recorded 
for the launch, and the peak overpressure from the boom could have 
ranged from 0.77 psf to as much as 3.36 psf. The rise time was able to 
be determined and was measured at 8.7 ms. Because sonic booms were not 
predicted for the second or third Delta IV launches, monitoring was not 
performed on SMI for either launch.
    Capture attempts of harbor seals for the initial Delta IV launch 
were unsuccessful; therefore, no hearing tests were performed on seals 
for that launch. Capture attempts for the second Delta IV launch were 
successful, and hearing tests were performed. There was no evidence 
that the launch noise from the Delta IV DMSP 17 caused a loss in harbor 
seal hearing acuity. However, given a 2-hour delay in starting the 
hearing test due to safety constraints, it is possible that a mild 
temporary threshold shift (TTS) could have been fully recovered by the 
time the testing was started. Even so, no long-term hearing loss from 
the Delta IV launch noise was found (Thorson et al., 2007).
    Capture attempts were also successful for the January 20, 2011 
Delta IV Heavy launch. Three healthy juvenile harbor seals were 
captured near Pt. Conception 28 hrs before the launch, and hearing 
tests were performed (VAFB, 2011). Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) 
testing was conducted the day before the launch and nearly 3 hours 
after the launch. (The delay in post-launch testing was because access 
to the site was limited after the launch because of personnel safety 
issues.) The animals showed no change in hearing sensitivity as a 
result of the tests, although it is possible that a mild TTS, from 
which the seals had already recovered, could have occurred (MSRS, 
2011a). Capture attempts of harbor seals for the fourth Delta IV launch 
(August 2013) were unsuccessful; therefore, no hearing tests were 
performed on seals for that launch.
(4) Falcon
    The Falcon is the launch vehicle for Space Exploration Technologies 
(Space X). Space X is a commercial program planning to launch small 
payloads into low earth orbit from VAFB. The Space X launch vehicle 
includes the Falcon I SLV, classified as a light-lift vehicle. It

[[Page 73798]]

is a two-stage liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene powered launch 
vehicle and is 21.3 m (69.9 ft) in length and 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in 
diameter (Space X, 2007). The Falcon 1e vehicle is also 1.7 m (5.6 ft) 
in diameter and has an extended first stage and is 26.8 m (87.9 ft) in 
length (Space X, 2007). The Falcon I has a thrust of 105,500 lbs (in 
vacuum), and the Falcon 1e has 115,000 lbs (in vacuum) and are capable 
of delivering approximately 554 kg (1,221 lbs) into sun synchronous low 
earth orbit (Space X, 2007). The first Falcon launch from VAFB occurred 
in September 2013 (VAFB, 2013).
(5) Minotaur
    The Orbital Suborbital Program launch vehicle, known as Minotaur I, 
is launched from SLC-8 on south VAFB (see Figure 2 in the USAF 
application), approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) from the North Rocky Point 
haul-out site. The Minotaur I is a four stage, all solid propellant 
ground launch vehicle (Orbital Sciences Corporation, 2006a). The launch 
vehicle consists of modified Minuteman II Stage I and Stage II 
segments, mated with Pegasus upper stages (Orbital Sciences 
Corporation, 2006a). The Minotaur is a small vehicle, approximately 
19.2 m (63 ft) tall (Orbital Sciences Corporation 2006b), with 
approximately 215,000 lbs of thrust.
    Two Minotaur launches were acoustically monitored at VAFB (January 
2000 and July 2000). The unweighted SEL measurements varied by 3.5 dB 
between the two launches and were measured to be 119.4 and 122.9 dB. 
The CSELs varied less and were measured at 116.6 and 117.9 dB. From the 
DAT and SLM measurements, the ASEL ranged from 104.9 to 107 dB. The 
launch noise reached an Lmax level of 101.7 and 103.4 dB. No sonic 
booms of greater than one psf were predicted to impact the NCI for 
these two launches nor for a third launch for which only biological 
monitoring was performed at VAFB given that acoustics had been 
previously quantified.
    An additional test launch of a Minotaur IV is currently planned for 
late 2015 from north VAFB test-pad 01, which is currently being 
renovated. The Minotaur IV combines U.S. Government-furnished solid 
rocket motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs with technologies 
from other Orbital-built launch vehicles, including the Minotaur I, 
Pegasus, and Taurus. The Minotaur IV launch vehicle consists of an 
SR118 first stage, SR119 second stage, SR120 third stage, and Orion 38 
fourth stage. The payload is 1,735 kg (3,825 lbs). The first Minotaur 
IV launched from VAFB occurred on April 22, 2010.
(6) Taurus
    The Taurus SLV is launched from 576E on north VAFB, approximately 
0.5 km (0.3 mi) from the Spur Road harbor seal haul-out site and 2.3 km 
(1.4 mi) from the Purisima Point haul-out site (see Figure 3 in the 
USAF application). The standard Taurus is a small launch vehicle, at 
approximately 24.7 m (81 ft) tall and is launched in two different 
configurations (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and 
standard) with different first stages providing 500,000 or 400,000 lbs 
of thrust, respectively. The different vehicle configurations have 
different thrust characteristics, with the standard configuration 
providing less thrust than DARPA.
    The launch noise from five Taurus launches has been measured near 
the Spur Road haul-out site. The Taurus is the loudest of the launch 
vehicles at the Spur Road haul-out site, due to the close proximity of 
its launch pad to the haul-out site. The unweighted SEL measurements 
from the four initially measured Taurus vehicles ranged from 135.8 to 
136.8 and averaged 136.4 dB. The CSEL measurements were slightly lower 
than expected, ranging from 133.8 to 134.8 dB and averaged 134.5 dB. 
The ASEL measurements ranged from 123.5 to 128.9 dB with an average of 
126.6 dB (SLM). The Lmax values were measured to range from 118.3 to 
122.9 dB and averaged 120.9 dB (SLM). No sonic booms greater than one 
psf were predicted to impact the NCI for any of the eight Taurus 
launches monitored since 1998. However, as of October 2013, the Taurus 
Program is suspended.
(7) ICBM and Missile Defense Agency Interceptor and Target Vehicles
    There are a variety of small missiles launched from north VAFB, 
including the Minuteman III and several types of interceptor and target 
vehicles for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program. Active missile 
launch facilities (LFs) are spread throughout northern VAFB (see Figure 
3 in the application), and are within approximately 0.5 to 2.7 km (0.3 
to 1.7 mi) of the Little Sal and Lion's Head haul-out sites, 
respectively, and approximately 11 to 16.5 km (6.8 to 10.3 mi) north of 
the Spur Road and Purisima Point haul-out sites. The trajectories of 
ICBM and MDA launches are generally westward and therefore do not cause 
sonic boom impacts on the NCI.
    ICBM: The Minuteman III missile is an ICBM developed as part of the 
U.S. strategic deterrence force. The Minuteman III is launched from an 
underground silo. It is composed of three rocket motors and is 18 m (59 
ft) in length by 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in diameter with a first stage thrust 
of 202,600 lbs.
    The launch noise from the June 7, 2002, launch from LF-26 (see 
Figure 3 in the USAF application) was measured at the Lion's Head haul-
out site. This LF is approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) away from the haul-out 
site. The ASEL measurement of the launch noise was 100.6 dB and the 
Lmax value of 98.2 dB.
    The launch noise from the May 24, 2000, launch from LF-09 (Figure 3 
in the application) was measured at the Spur Road haul-out site. At a 
distance of over 15 km from LF-09, the unweighted SEL measurement was 
114.7 dB and the CSEL measurement was 111.6 dB. The ASEL measurement 
was 26 dB down from the unweighted value and was measured at 88.7 dB. 
The Lmax was measured to be 83.3 dB.
    MDA Interceptor and Target Vehicles: The MDA continues development 
of various systems and elements, including the Ballistic Missile 
Defense System (BMDS), the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element 
of BMDS and the Air-Borne Laser (ABL) element.
    The BMDS' mission is to defend against threat missiles in each 
phase or segment of the missile's flight. MDA has been conducting and 
will continue to conduct BMDS testing at VAFB through 2019 and beyond.
    All of the target and interceptor missiles are smaller than the 
Minuteman III or Peacekeeper missiles previously or currently launched 
from VAFB. The MDA notes that the actual heights of the missiles will 
vary depending on the payload and associated electronic packages (e.g., 
flight termination system) or special modifications. Many of the 
missile types have interchangeable first or second stage motors; 
therefore, most may have similar noise characteristics, depending on 
their configuration. Missiles for which acoustic measurements have 
previously been made, as well as vehicle size, are included in Table 3 
of this document.

[[Page 73799]]



             Table 3--Comparison of Size and Sound Produced by Acoustically Measured MDA Missiles and the Minuteman and Peacekeeper Vehicles
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                            A-weighted
                    Missile                                      Program                    Height  (m)    Diameter  (m)  sound exposure    Lmax  (dB)
                                                                                                                            level  (dB)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Orbital Boost Vehicle..........................  GBI....................................            11.3             0.9           114.5           113.8
Booster Verification Test......................  GBI....................................            15.8             1.4           114.7           113.8
Minuteman III..................................  USAF Strategic Deterrence Force........            18.0             1.7           117.7           112.2
Peacekeeper....................................  USAF Strategic Deterrence Force........            21.8             2.3           122.5           117.0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: The Minuteman III and Peacekeeper missiles are provided as a comparison to the smaller MDA missiles. Sound levels are from actual launches and
  were extrapolated to the distance of 1 km to compare each missile.

    The main missile programs and missile types are described herein, 
but others may be implemented before this permit expires. The USAF 
would notify NMFS of any new missile programs that would be implemented 
at VAFB. Completely new types of missiles would be monitored 
acoustically and biologically, during their first launch, even if the 
launch occurs outside of the pupping season, using the standard launch 
monitoring protocol for VAFB. However, configuration changes in 
existing missiles would only be monitored during the pupping season, as 
is done for all other missile launches.
    The MDA's BMDS test plans, including those involving tests from 
VAFB, are subject to constant change as the BMDS is being developed. 
Therefore, it is difficult for the MDA to predict with accuracy its 
future launch schedule or number of launches over the next five years. 
However, due to test resource limitations, the MDA does not envision 
conducting more than three missile tests per quarter (on average) over 
the next five years from VAFB, and none of the missiles would be larger 
than the Minuteman III. This limitation (i.e., three missiles per 
quarter and none being larger than the Minuteman III) can be used to 
establish the potential impacts posed by the MDA testing at VAFB over 
the next five years. Additionally, Table 2 in this document outlined no 
more than seven missile launches to be reasonably likely during the 
proposed period of these regulations and LOA.
    In order to compare launch noise from past and current SLVs, as it 
was received near the north and south VAFB marine mammal haul-out 
sites, Tables 4 through 6 in this document provide information on the 
SELs that were measured during previous launch events. Table 4 provides 
a comparison of SELs as measured at the sound monitoring site by the 
south VAFB marine mammal haul-out site. Table 5 provides the SELs as 
measured at the sound monitoring site by the north VAFB Spur Road 
marine mammal haul-out site. Finally, Table 6 provides the SELs as 
measured at the sound monitoring site by the north VAFB Lion's Head 
marine mammal haul-out site. Figures 2 and 3 in the USAF application 
depict the locations of the haul-out sites.

       Table 4--Sound Levels From Launches on VAFB, as Measured by the Digital Audio Tape Recorder Near the South VAFB Marine Mammal Haul-Out Site
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         Dist. to
        Launch vehicle              Satellite        Launch complex      Launch date     haul-out  TSEL (dB)  CSEL (dB)  ASEL (dB)    TPeak    Lmax (dB)
                                                                                           (km)                                        (dB)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Delta IV......................  DMSP-17..........  SLC-6............  4-Nov-06........        2.7      131.3      127.5      111.3      129.0      102.6
Titan IV......................  B-34.............  SLC-4E...........  5-Oct-01........        8.5      130.2      124.2      104.5      125.0      100.6
Athena II.....................  Ikonos-1.........  SLC-6............  27-Apr-99.......        2.8      127.9      123.7      107.3      125.6       99.9
Delta IV......................  NROL-22..........  SLC-6............  27-Jun-06.......        2.7      127.7      122.9      106.2      130.0      103.1
Titan IV......................  B-12.............  SLC-4E...........  22-May-99.......        8.5      127.6      121.9      103.6      123.7       97.0
Athena I......................  Lewis............  SLC-6............  22-Aug-97.......        2.8      127.0      121.3      107.3      126.8      101.0
Titan IV......................  B-28 NRO.........  SLC-4E...........  17-Aug-00.......        8.5      126.8      119.9       99.0      123.5       91.5
Athena II.....................  Ikonos-2.........  SLC-6............  24-Sep-99.......        2.8      125.9      123.4      107.8      124.6      102.2
Titan IV......................  A-18.............  SLC-4E...........  23-Oct-97.......        8.5      125.9      119.0       96.6      121.8       88.2
Atlas IIAS....................  AC-141 Terra.....  SLC-3E...........  18-Dec-99.......        9.9      124.2      113.6       87.3      120.3       76.4
Minotaur......................  MightySat........  SLC-8............  19-Jul-00.......        2.3      122.9      117.9      107.0      122.0      101.7
Titan II......................  G-7..............  SLC-4W...........  19-Jun-99.......        8.5      120.3      112.3       87.7      121.4       79.1
Minotaur......................  JAWSAT...........  SLC-8............  26-Jan-00.......        2.3      119.4      116.6      105.4      125.0      103.4
Titan II......................  G-12.............  SLC-4W...........  13-May-98.......        8.5      119.3      115.0       95.4      113.0       85.9
Delta II......................  MS-9.............  SLC-2............  17-May-98.......       22.0      118.1      103.1       72.4      113.9       61.8
Atlas IIAS....................  MLV-10...........  SLC-3E...........  8-Sep-01........        9.9      118.0      112.1       88.5      112.6       80.8
Titan II......................  G-6..............  SLC-4W...........  4-Apr-97........        8.5      116.5      112.4       88.5      111.3       76.1
Titan II......................  G-13.............  SLC-4W...........  21-Sep-00.......        8.5      116.3      109.6       83.5      109.5       74.9
Taurus........................  KOMPSAT..........  SLC-576..........  20-Dec-99.......       20.3      106.4      101.3       76.4      102.9       65.0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: km = kilometers; TSEL = unweighted SEL; dB = decibels; CSEL = C-weighted SEL; ASEL = A-weighted SEL; Tpeak = unweighted peak sound level; Lmax =
  maximum fast A-weighted sound level.


[[Page 73800]]


  Table 5--Sound Levels From Launches on VAFB, as Measured by the Digital Audio Tape Recorder Near the North VAFB Spur Road Marine Mammal Haul-Out Site
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         Dist. to
        Launch vehicle              Satellite        Launch complex      Launch date     haul-out  TSEL (dB)  CSEL (dB)  ASEL (dB)    TPeak    Lmax (dB)
                                                                                           (km)                                        (dB)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Taurus........................  MTI..............  SLC-576..........  12-Mar-00.......       0.55      136.8      134.8      125.6      141.8      120.6
Taurus........................  STEX.............  SLC-576..........  3-Oct-98........       0.55      136.7      134.7      124.8      142.1      121.4
Taurus........................  T6...............  SLC-576..........  21-Sep-01.......       0.50      135.8      133.8      123.8      141.5      119.8
Taurus........................  Lite.............  SLC-576..........  6-Feb-03........       0.55      133.8      133.1      125.4      144.8  .........
Delta II......................  MS-9.............  SLC-2............  17-May-98.......       1.92      128.9      126.7      116.9      137.3      112.5
Delta II......................  JASON/TIMED......  SLC-2............  7-Dec-01........       2.00      127.7      125.8      114.8      133.0      111.0
Delta II......................  IMAGE............  SLC-2............  25-Mar-00.......       2.06      126.9      125.1      113.9      129.4      109.2
Delta II......................  Quickbird2.......  SLC-2............  18-Oct-01.......       2.06      126.9      124.2      111.8      128.7      104.2
Delta II......................  Landsat..........  SLC-2............  15-Apr-99.......       2.02      126.5      124.3      114.1      133.3      108.8
Atlas IIAS....................  AC-141 Terra.....  SLC-3E...........  18-Dec-99.......      11.10      117.2      110.0       86.1      113.0       75.2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: km = kilometers; TSEL = unweighted SEL; dB = decibels; CSEL = C-weighted SEL; ASEL = A-weighted SEL; Tpeak = unweighted peak sound level; Lmax =
  maximum fast A-weighted sound level.


  Table 6--Sound Levels From Launches on VAFB, as Measured by the Sound Level Meter Near the North VAFB Lion's
                                        Head Marine Mammal Haul-Out Site
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Dist. to
        Launch vehicle          Launch complex     Launch date     haul-out    ASEL (dB)  Tpeak (dB)   Lmax (dB)
                                                                     (km)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Minuteman III................  LF-04...........  11-Jun-03......        1.15       114.9       131.2       112.1
Peacekeeper..................  LF-02...........  12-Mar-03......        3.70       106.1       128.8       100.9
BV...........................  LF-23...........  16-Aug-03......  ..........       105.5       125.9       102.5
Peacekeeper..................  LF-02...........  3-Jun-02.......        3.70       102.4       126.6        97.8
Minuteman III................  LF-26...........  7-Jun-02.......        3.15       100.6       121.2        98.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: km = kilometers; dB = decibels; ASEL = A-weighted SEL; Tpeak = unweighted peak sound level; Lmax =
  maximum fast A-weighted sound level.

USAF Aircraft Operations

    The VAFB airfield, located on north VAFB, supports various aircraft 
operations further described below. Aircraft operations include tower 
operations, such as take offs and landings (training operations), and 
range operations, such as overflights and flight tests. Over the past 4 
years, an average of slightly more than 600 flights has occurred each 
year.
    Fixed-wing Aircraft Operations: Various fixed-wing aircraft (jet 
and propeller aircraft) use VAFB for a variety of purposes, including 
delivery of space or missile components, launching of space vehicles at 
high altitude (e.g., the Pegasus), and emergency landings. VAFB is also 
used for flight testing, evaluation of fixed-wing aircraft, and 
training exercises, including touch and goes. Three approved routes are 
used that avoid the established pinniped haul-out sites. Aircraft flown 
through VAFB airspace and supported by 30th Space Wing include B-1 and 
B-2 bombers, F-15, F-16, and F-22 fighters, V/X-22, Unmanned Aerial 
Vehicles, and KC-135 tankers. All aircraft are required to remain 
outside of the 305-m (1,000-ft) bubble around pinniped rookeries or 
haul-out sites, except when performing a life-or-death rescue mission, 
when responding to a security incident, or during an aircraft 
emergency. There have been no observed impacts to pinnipeds from fixed-
wing aircraft operations during launch monitoring or pinniped surveys.
    Helicopter Operations: The number of helicopter operations at VAFB 
has decreased considerably since 2008 with the deactivation of the VAFB 
helicopter squadron. Other squadrons and units sometimes use VAFB for 
such purposes as transiting through the area, exercises, and launch 
mission support. Emergency helicopter operations (e.g., marine search 
and rescue and wildfire containment actions) are somewhat common. All 
helicopters are required to remain outside of the 305-m (1,000-ft) 
bubble around pinniped rookeries or haul-out sites, except when 
performing a life-or-death rescue mission, when responding to a 
security incident, or during an aircraft emergency. There have been no 
observed impacts to pinnipeds from helicopter operations during launch 
monitoring or pinniped surveys.

Timeframe of USAF Launch and Aircraft Operations

    Launch and aircraft operations could occur at any time of the day 
or night during the period to be covered under this proposed rule and 
subsequent LOA (February 2014-February 2019). The USAF anticipates that 
no more than 15 missile and 35 rocket launches would occur in any year. 
This number is far higher than launch activity in previous years, but 
one new facility (SLC 4) is being reactivated with intent to increase 
``commercial launch'' activity, and Test Pad-01 is being renovated. The 
USAF notes that activity levels over the 5-year period between February 
2014 and February 2019 will not exceed 75 missile and 175 rocket 
launches without additional coordination with NMFS. All launch 
operations would occur at VAFB, potentially resulting in launch noise 
and visual impacts there. Potential sonic boom impacts from SLVs could 
occur over the NCI. Missiles are launched in a westerly trajectory and 
do not impact the NCI. Aircraft operations would occur only at VAFB and 
are anticipated to only impact hauled out pinnipeds when flying at low 
altitudes (i.e., typically below 305 m [1,000 ft]).

Harbor Activities Related to the Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch 
Vehicle

    The Delta IV/EELV is comprised of a common booster core, an upper 
stage, and a payload fairing. The size of the common booster core 
requires it to be transported to the Base's launch site by a specially 
designed vessel, the Delta

[[Page 73801]]

Mariner. The Delta Mariner docks at the harbor on south VAFB. To allow 
safe operation of the Delta Mariner, United Launch Alliance requires 
that the harbor undergo maintenance on a periodic basis.
(1) Delta Mariner Operations
    The Delta Mariner is a 95.1-m (312-ft long), 25.6-m (84-ft) wide, 
steel-hulled, ocean-going vessel capable of operating at a 2.4-m (8-ft) 
draft. It is a roll-on, roll-off, self-propelled ship with an enclosed 
watertight cargo area, a superstructure forward, and a ramp at the 
vessel's stern.
    The 8,000-horsepower vessel enters the harbor stern first at 1.5 to 
2 knots (kts) (1.72 mi per hour (mph)) during daylight hours at high 
tide, approaching the wharf at less than 0.75 kts (0.86 mph). At least 
one tugboat will always accompany the Delta Mariner during visits to 
the VAFB harbor. The vessel's departure will occur during daylight 
hours at high tide approximately 10 hours after the vessel's arrival.
(2) Harbor Maintenance Dredging
    United Launch Alliance must perform maintenance dredging up to four 
times per year, depending on the hardware delivery schedule, to 
accommodate the Delta Mariner's draft. Dredging involves the use of 
heavy equipment, including a clamshell dredge, dredging crane, a small 
tug, dredging barge, dump trucks, and a skip loader. Expected noise 
levels from the dredging and other construction equipment, as well as 
the background noise measured at the dock area, are presented in Table 
7 of this document.

                Table 7--Noise Levels of Heavy Equipment
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Range of       Range of  max.
                                        typical noise     noise  level
          Type of equipment           levels (dBA)  at    (dBA)  at 250
                                           50 feet             ft.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Backhoe.............................             84-93             70-79
Water Truck (3,000 gallons).........             81-84             67-70
Clamshell Dredge....................             75-88             61-74
Roll-off truck transporter..........             82-95             68-81
EPT.................................           * 56-82             43-68
                                     -----------------------------------
Ambient background noise at harbor..               ** 35-48
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Noise level measured within 20 feet from the engine exhaust (Acentech,
  Inc. [Acentech] 1998).
** Noise level measured at the dock by Acentech (1998) approximately 250
  feet from the beach.
Source of Noise Levels: Acentech 1998; Environmental Protection Agency
  (EPA) 1971.

(3) Cargo Movement Activities
    Removal of the common booster core from the vessel requires the use 
of an elevating platform transporter (transporter). The transporter is 
powered by a diesel engine manufactured by Daimler-Chrysler AG 
(Mercedes), model OM442A, 340HP. United Launch Alliance would limit 
cargo unloading activities to periods of high tide. It takes 
approximately 2 hours to remove the first common booster core from the 
cargo bay and 6 hours to remove a complement of three common booster 
cores. It would take up to 2 additional hours to remove remaining cargo 
which may consist of two upper stages, one set of fairings, and one 
payload attach fitting (see Figure 1.3-1 in Appendix A of the 
application). The total of 10 hours includes time required to move the 
flight hardware to the staging area. United Launch Alliance packs 
flight hardware items, other than the common booster cores, in 
containers equipped with retractable casters and tow bars. United 
Launch Alliance would tow these containers off the vessel by a standard 
diesel truck tractor. Noise from the ground support equipment will be 
muted while inside the cargo bay and will be audible to marine mammals 
only during the time that the equipment is in the harbor area.

Timeframe of Delta Mariner Activities

    Cargo movement operations would occur for approximately 43 days 
(concurrent with the harbor maintenance activities). A fully-loaded 
vessel can be offloaded in 10 hours; however, the Delta Mariner may 
need to leave the dock and return at another time due to tide and wind 
extremes that may halt the removal of cargo. Dredging-related 
activities normally last between 3 and 5 weeks, including set-up and 
tear-down activities in the water and on shore. Dredging may proceed 24 
hours per day to complete the job as quickly as possible and minimize 
the disruptive effect on the local animals; however, dredging at VAFB 
has historically been conducted in the daylight. Sedimentation surveys 
completed since the initial dredging indicate that maintenance dredging 
could be required annually, or even twice per year, depending on the 
hardware delivery schedule. Up to 5,000 cubic yards of sediment are 
allowed to be removed from the harbor per year by the United States 
Army Corps of Engineers permit. A survey occurs several months prior to 
each Delta Mariner visit to assess whether the harbor can be safely 
navigated. The area to be dredged is shown in Figure 1.2-1 of Appendix 
A in the application.
    We expect that acoustic stimuli, resulting from the proposed Delta 
Mariner activities, have the potential to incidentally harass marine 
mammals. We also expect these disturbances to be temporary and result 
in a temporary modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological 
effects (Level B harassment only) of certain species of marine mammals.
    We do not expect that the movement of the Delta Mariner during the 
conduct of the proposed activities has the potential to harass marine 
mammals because of the relatively slow operation speed of the vessel 
(1.5 to 2 kts; 1.72 mph) during its approach to the area at high tide 
and the vessel's slow operational speed (0.75 kts; 0.86 mph) during its 
approach to the wharf.

Description of the Geographic Region of the Activities

VAFB

    VAFB is composed of approximately 99,000 acres of land, and 
approximately 64.4 km (40 mi) of coastline on the coast of central 
California, within Santa Barbara County (see Figure 1 in the USAF 
application). Space vehicles are launched into polar orbits on azimuths 
from 147-201 degrees, with sub-orbital flights to 281 degrees. Missile 
launches are directed toward Kwajalein Atoll in

[[Page 73802]]

the Pacific. This over-water sector, from 147-281 degrees, comprises 
the Western Range. Part of the Western Range encompasses the NCI (see 
Figure 1 in the USAF application).

NCI

    The Northern Channel Islands (NCI) are located approximately 50 km 
(31 mi) south of the southern point on VAFB. Three islands, San Miguel, 
Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa, make up the main NCI, with San Miguel 
Island being the primary site for pinniped rookeries. The NCI are part 
of the Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National 
Marine Sanctuary. The closest part of the NCI (Harris Point on San 
Miguel Island) is located more than 55 km (34 mi) south-southeast of 
the nearest launch facility.

VAFB Harbor

    The proposed harbor maintenance and Delta Mariner activities will 
take place in or near the VAFB harbor located on the central coast of 
California at 34[deg]33' N., 120[deg]36' W. in the northeast Pacific 
Ocean. Activities related to these operations and described in Appendix 
A of the application will take place at VAFB harbor, located on South 
Base, approximately 2.3 km (1.4 mi) south of Point Arguello, CA, and 
approximately 1 mi (1.61 km) south of the nearest marine mammal 
rookery.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Sections 3 and 4 of the USAF application and Sections 3 and 4 of 
Appendix A of the application contain detailed information on the 
abundance, status, and distribution of the species on VAFB and the NCI 
from surveys that they have conducted over the last decade and from 
NMFS Stock Assessment Reports (SARs). This information is summarized 
below and may be viewed in detail in the USAF's LOA application (see 
ADDRESSES). Additional information is available in the NMFS SARs, which 
are available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/po2012.pdf.

Pacific Harbor Seal

    The most common marine mammal inhabiting the VAFB coastline is the 
Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardii). Harbor seals are local 
to the area, rarely traveling more than 50 km (31 mi) from the haul-out 
site. They haul out on small offshore rocks or reefs and sandy or 
cobblestone cove beaches. There are 12 harbor seal haul-out sites on 
south VAFB. The position of these sites in relation to various SLCs is 
shown in Figure 2. Of these, 10 sites represent an almost continuous 
haul-out area which is used by the same seals (see Figure 2, inset, in 
USAF's application). Four sites exist on north VAFB. The position of 
these in relation to various SLCs and Launch Facilities (LFs; used for 
missile launches) is shown in Figure 3 of the application. Virtually 
all of the haul-out sites, both north and south, are used during low 
tides and are wave-washed or submerged during high tides. Additionally, 
the Pacific harbor seal is the only species that regularly hauls out 
near the VAFB harbor.
    The main harbor seal haul-outs on VAFB are near Purisima Point and 
at Lion's Head (approximately 0.6 km [0.4 mi] south of Point Sal) on 
north VAFB and between the VAFB harbor north to South Rocky Point Beach 
on south VAFB (MSRS, 2009b). This south VAFB haul-out area is composed 
of several sand and cobblestone coves, rocky ledges, and offshore 
rocks. The Rocky Point area is used as breeding habitat; it is 
approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) north of the VAFB harbor (MSRS, 2009b). 
Harbor seals have been reported to haul out on the coast at Sudden 
Ranch, approximately 0.8 km (0.5 mi) south of the harbor.
    The harbor seal population at VAFB has undergone an apparent 
decline. The primary cause of this decline has been a series of natural 
landslides at south VAFB, resulting in the abandonment of many haul-out 
sites. These slides have also resulted in extensive down-current 
sediment deposition, making these sites accessible to coyotes, which 
are now regularly seen there. Some of the displaced seals have moved to 
other sites at south VAFB, while others likely have moved to Point 
Conception, about 6.5 km (4 mi) south of the southern boundary of VAFB. 
Unusually high numbers of harbor seals have been reported recently at 
Point Conception and in the kelp beds from south VAFB to east of Point 
Conception (Laroche, 2012). A new haul-out site on south VAFB was 
discovered at Point Arguello (see Figure 2 in USAF's application). This 
consists of a ledge in a deep, protected crack on the north side of the 
point. Though not a large area, it does offer suitable haul-out for a 
few seals and is used occasionally.
    On north VAFB, coyotes have been regularly observed at two haul-out 
sites. There, only rocky ledges closest to the ocean and exposed during 
the lowest tides are utilized by the seals, whereas before the coyotes 
arrived, much more of the intertidal area was used. In 2012, a new 
haul-out site, informally dubbed Little Sal, was discovered on north 
VAFB near LF-06 (see Figure 3 in USAF's application).
    Pacific harbor seals frequently use haul-out sites on the following 
islands of the NCI: San Miguel; Santa Rosa; Santa Cruz; and Anacapa. On 
San Miguel Island, they occur along the north coast at Tyler Bight and 
from Crook Point to Cardwell Point. Additionally, they regularly breed 
on San Miguel Island. Harbor seals are scattered throughout Santa Rosa 
Island. On Santa Cruz Island, they inhabit small coves and rocky ledges 
along much of the coast. Harbor seals haul out on rocky ledges, caves, 
and cobble beaches in small numbers on Anacapa Island.

California Sea Lion

    At south VAFB, California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) 
regularly haul out on north Rocky Point (Figure 2), with numbers often 
peaking in spring. California sea lions have been reported at Point 
Arguello and Point Pedernales (both on south VAFB) in the past, 
although none have been noted there over the past several years. In 
2002, small numbers hauled out on the VAFB harbor jetty when large 
numbers of bait fish had moved close to shore there (MMCG and SAIC, 
2012a). Individual sea lions have been noted hauled out throughout the 
VAFB coast; these were transient or stranded specimens. California sea 
lions occasionally haul out on Point Conception itself, south of VAFB. 
They regularly haul out on Lion Rock, north of VAFB and immediately 
south of Point Sal.
    There are several sea lion rookeries on San Miguel Island. The 
primary rookeries can be found on Point Bennett; however, they also 
breed on Castle Rock and sometimes at Richardson Rock. Sea lions haul 
out at the west end of Santa Rosa Island at Ford Point and Carrington 
Point. A few California sea lions have been born on Santa Rosa Island, 
but no rookery has been established. On Santa Cruz Island, California 
sea lions haul out from Painted Cave almost to Fraser Point, on the 
west end. Fair numbers haul out at Gull Island, off the south shore 
near Punta Arena. Pupping appears to be increasing there. Sea lions 
also haul out near Potato Harbor, on the northeast end of Santa Cruz. 
California sea lions haul out by the hundreds on the south side of East 
Anacapa Island.

Northern Elephant Seal

    Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) sometimes haul 
out at VAFB. In 2004, a record count of 188 animals was made, mostly 
newly weaned seals (MMCG and SAIC, 2012a). Since that time, only a few 
elephant

[[Page 73803]]

seals have been reported yearly, mostly ``weaners'' and subadults, 
although adults have been noted occasionally. The nearest regularly 
used haul-out site on the mainland coast is at Point Conception. On 
December 14, 2012, an immature male elephant seal was observed hauled 
out on the sandy beach west of the breakwater at the VAFB harbor. The 
seal was again observed on December 15-18 and December 27. This is the 
first documented instance of an elephant seal hauled out at the VAFB 
harbor. There has been no verified breeding of northern elephant seals 
on VAFB.
    Point Bennett on San Miguel Island is the primary northern elephant 
seal rookery. They also pup and breed on Santa Rosa Island, mostly on 
the west end. Northern elephant seals are rarely seen on Santa Cruz and 
Anacapa Islands.

Steller Sea Lion

    In April and May of 2012, Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) 
were observed for the first time at VAFB. Up to 16 adults were noted 
among the California sea lions at north Rocky Point. Some individuals 
with distinctive scars were observed on several occasions over a 
several-week period, indicating that this site was being used over time 
rather than as a brief rest stop (MMCG and SAIC, 2012a, c). Several 
animals returned in February 2013 (USAF unpublished data). North Rocky 
Point is checked during USAF monthly marine mammal surveys, so if 
Steller sea lions return to this site, they will be reported. These 
individuals were from the eastern stock of Steller sea lions.
    Steller sea lions once had two small rookeries on San Miguel 
Island, but these were abandoned after the 1982-1983 El Ni[ntilde]o 
event. These rookeries once represented the southernmost colonies of 
the eastern stock of this species. Steller sea lions are not observed 
on the other NCI.

Northern Fur Seal

    No haul-out or rookery sites exist for fur seals on the mainland 
coast. The only specimens that do appear on mainland beaches are 
stranded animals. Only one fur seal stranding has been reported at 
VAFB. This involved a northern fur seal that came ashore at Surf Beach. 
(This beach is on VAFB property but is accessible to the public.) This 
seal, a nine-month old male, was rescued by the Santa Barbara Marine 
Mammal Center on March 11, 2012 (SBMMC, 2012).
    Northern fur seals have small rookeries at Point Bennett and on 
Castle Rock on San Miguel Island. They are not observed on the other 
NCI. Table 8 in this document outlines current population estimates of 
the five pinniped species described here on the NCI.

                                                       Table 8--NCI Pinniped Population Estimates
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Species                     San Miguel Island            Santa Rosa Island            Santa Cruz Island              Anacapa Island
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific harbor seal................  900........................  1,000......................  1,000......................  100.
California sea lion................  32,000 pups born in 2012     500 \2\....................  1,200 \2\..................  1,000.\2\
                                      \1\.
Northern elephant seal.............  10,000 pups      2,000 pups       Occasional transient.......  Rare transient.
                                      yearly.                      yearly.
Steller sea lion...................  Rare transient.............  None.......................  None.......................  None.
Northern fur seal..................  9,968......................  None.......................  None.......................  None.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sources: Carretta et al. 2011 and 2012; Allen and Angliss 2011 and 2012.
\1\ No estimate is available for the total sea lion population on each main rookery island. Instead, pup counts are made at various breeding areas, and
  from this count, as estimate is made of the stock size, which includes pups, subadults and adults.
\2\ Regular surveys are not conducted of these islands, and pupping is very sporadic and minimal there. These are estimates of the total number of sea
  lions at these islands.

Other Marine Mammals in the Proposed Action Area

    There are several cetaceans that have the potential to transit in 
the vicinity of VAFB, including the short-beaked common dolphin 
(Delphinus delphis), the Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus 
obliquidens), and the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). We will not 
consider these species further in this proposed rule because they are 
typically found farther offshore of VAFB and the VAFB harbor and are 
unlikely or rare in the proposed action area. Guadalupe fur seals 
(Arctocephalus townsendi) are reported occasionally at San Miguel 
Island; and, in 1998, a pup was successfully weaned there (Melin and 
DeLong, 1999). However, their occurrence is rare.
    California (southern) sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) are listed 
as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and categorized as 
depleted under the MMPA. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 
this species, and we will not consider this species in greater detail 
within this proposed rule. The proposed rule will only address 
requested take authorizations for pinnipeds. The USAF launch, aircraft, 
and helicopter operations have the potential to take Pacific harbor 
seals, California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Steller sea 
lions, and northern fur seals by Level B harassment. The harbor 
activities related to the launch vehicles at VAFB have the potential to 
take four of the same species (all but northern fur seals, which are 
not found in the vicinity of the VAFB harbor) by Level B harassment.

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals

    The activities proposed for taking of marine mammals under these 
regulations have the potential to cause harassment through both 
acoustic and visual stimuli. The USAF launch and aircraft activities 
create two types of noise: Continuous (but short-duration) noise, due 
mostly to combustion effects of aircraft and launch vehicles; and 
impulsive noise, due to sonic boom effects. Launch operations are the 
major source of noise on the marine environment from VAFB. The 
operation of launch vehicle engines produces significant sound levels. 
Generally, noise is generated from four sources during launches: (1) 
Combustion noise from launch vehicle chambers; (2) jet noise generated 
by the interaction of the exhaust jet and the atmosphere; (3) 
combustion noise from the post-burning of combustion products; and (4) 
sonic booms. Launch noise levels are highly dependent on the type of 
first-stage booster and the fuel used to propel the vehicle. Therefore, 
there is a great similarity in launch noise production within each 
class size of launch vehicles. The noise generated by VAFB activities 
will result in the incidental harassment of pinnipeds, both 
behaviorally and in terms of physiological (auditory) impacts.
    Acoustic and visual stimuli generated by the use of heavy equipment 
during the Delta Mariner off-loading operations and harbor dredging and 
the increased presence of personnel may have the

[[Page 73804]]

potential to cause Level B harassment of any pinnipeds hauled out in 
the VAFB harbor. This disturbance from acoustic and visual stimuli is 
the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these 
activities.
    The noise and visual disturbances from SLV and missile launches, 
aircraft and helicopter operations, and harbor maintenance activities 
may cause the animals to lift their heads, move towards the water, or 
enter the water. The following information provides background on 
marine mammal responses to launch noise and harbor maintenance 
activities that has been gathered under previous LOAs and Incidental 
Harassment Authorizations for these activities, as well as a scientific 
research permit issued to VAFB by NMFS for a research program (Permit 
No. 859-1680-01, expired January 1, 2009, and Permit No. 14197, expires 
June 30, 2014) to determine the short and long-term effects of SLV 
noise and sonic booms on affected marine mammals.

Marine Mammal Response to Launch Noise and Sonic Booms

    Seals may leave the haul-out site and enter the water due to the 
noise created by launch vehicles during launch operations. The 
percentage of seals leaving the haul-out increases with noise level up 
to approximately 100 dB ASEL, after which almost all seals leave, 
although data have shown that some percentage of seals have remained on 
shore during launches. Time-lapse video photography during four launch 
events revealed that the seals that reacted to the launch noise but did 
not leave the haul-out were all adults. Because adult seals reacted 
less strongly than other younger seals, this suggests that adults had 
possibly experienced other launch disturbances and had habituated to 
them. When launches occur during high tides at VAFB, impacts likely do 
not occur because the haul-out sites are submerged (i.e., pinnipeds are 
not hauled out; MMCG and SAIC, 2012a).
    The louder the launch noise, the longer it took for seals to begin 
returning to the haul-out site and for the numbers to return to pre-
launch levels. Seals may begin to return to the haul-out site within 2-
55 min of the launch disturbance, and the haul-out site usually 
returned to pre-launch levels within 45-120 min. In two past Athena 
IKONOS launches with ASELs of 107.3 and 107.8 dB at the closest haul-
out site, seals began to haul-out again approximately 16-55 min post-
launch (Thorson et al., 1999a; 1999b). In contrast, noise levels from 
an Atlas launch and several Titan II launches had ASELs ranging from 
86.7 to 95.7 dB at the closest haul-out, and seals began to return to 
the haul-out site within 2-8 min post-launch (Thorson and Francine, 
1997; Thorson et al., 2000).
    The main concern on the NCI from VAFB launch activities is 
potential impacts from sonic booms created during launches of SLVs from 
VAFB. During the period of 1997 through 2005, and in 2007, there were 
no sonic booms above 2 psf recorded on the NCI. Small sonic booms 
between 1 and 2 psf usually elicit a heads up response or slow movement 
toward and entering the water, particularly for pups. In 2006, due to 
an equipment malfunction, there was uncertainty about the peak 
overpressure from the Delta IV NROL-22 launch, which could have ranged 
between 0.77 and 3.36 psf. During the 1996 Titan IV K-22 launch, sonic 
booms of 1 to 9.2 psf reached San Miguel Island and caused many sea 
lions and some elephant seals to enter the water near the loudest sonic 
boom (Stewart et al., 1996). There were no injuries or mortalities as a 
result of that sonic boom or the reactions by pinnipeds on San Miguel 
Island. The most recent launch to produce a sonic boom of greater than 
2 psf at San Miguel Island with simultaneous pinniped observations 
occurred on September 13, 2012 (sonic boom of 2.1 psf). No reactions 
were noted in the California sea lions and northern elephant seals 
present, and 20 of 36 harbor seals present entered the water (MMCG and 
SAIC, 2013). Table 9 summarizes monitoring efforts at San Miguel Island 
during which acoustic measurements were successfully recorded 
simultaneously with observations of the animals' reactions to the 
booms.

                                            Table 9--Sonic Booms and Pinniped Reactions at San Miguel Island
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                (dB re 20
           Launch  date                    Vehicle               psf           [micro]Pa)                   Reaction                      Location
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7 Nov 91..........................  Titan IV............     \1\ 1.2 & 1.8   \1\ 129.5-133.0  Z.c. Heads-up......................  Pt. Bennett.
                                                                                              M.a. None..........................
12 May 96.........................  Titan IV............          \2\ 8.92         \2\ 146.6  P.v. All 5 into water..............  Crook Pt.
                                                                                              M.a. 60 of 67 heads-up.............
27 Apr 99.........................  Athena II...........               1.0             127.2  Z.c. 866 alerted; 232 into water...  Adam's Cove.
                                                                                              M.a. & C.u. Alerted but no other
                                                                                               response.
24 Sep 99.........................  Athena II...........              0.95             127.2  Z.c. 12 of 600 into water..........  Pt. Bennett.
                                                                                              M.a. & C.u. Alerted; otherwise no
                                                                                               response.
20 Nov 00.........................  Delta II............               0.4             119.6  Z.c. 60 pups into water; no          Pt. Bennett.
                                                                                               reaction from focal group.
                                                                                              M.a. No reaction...................
8 Sep 01..........................  Atlas II............   \1\ 0.75 & 0.35       \1\ 125.1 &  Z.c. Group 1: 1200-no reaction.....  Cardwell Pt.
                                                                                       118.6  Z.c. Group 2: 247-no reaction......
                                                                                              M.a. 25-37-no reaction.............
                                                                                              P.v. 2 of 4 into water.............
11 Feb 02.........................  Delta II............   \1\ 0.47 & 0.64      \1\ 121.08 &  Z.c. & C.u. 485 in 3 groups-no       Pt. Bennett.
                                                                                      123.08   reaction.
                                                                                              M.a. 424 in 2 groups-no reaction...
2 Dec 03..........................  Atlas II............              0.88             126.4  Z.c. Number unknown (night launch);  Pt. Bennett.
                                                                                               4 moved toward water, 40% heads-up.
                                                                                              M.a. No reaction...................
15 Jul 04.........................  Delta II............   \1\ 0.79 & 1.34       \1\ 125.5 &  Z.c. Number unknown (night launch);  Adam's Cove.
                                                                                      130.12   10% heads-up.
13 Mar 08.........................  Atlas V.............              1.24             129.4  M.a. No reaction from 109 pups.....  Cardwell Pt.
5 May 09..........................  Delta II............              0.76             125.2  Z.c. 784 animals-no reaction.......  West of Judith Rock.
14 Apr 11.........................  Atlas V.............              1.01             110.0  M.a. 445-no reaction (night launch)  Cuyler Harbor.

[[Page 73805]]

 
13 Sep 12.........................  Atlas V.............              2.10             122.8  Z.c. 460-no reaction...............  Cardwell Pt.
                                                                                              M.a. 68-no reaction................
                                                                                              P.v. 20 of 36 into water...........
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sources: MMCG and SAIC 2012a and 2012c.
Abbreviations:
Psf = Pounds per square foot (maximum overpressures of sonic booms); dB re 20 [micro]Pa = Decibels referenced to 20 micropascals (peak airborne
  intensities of sonic booms); Z.c. = Zalophus californianus, the California sea lion; M.a. = Mirounga angustirostris, the northern elephant seal; C.u.
  = Callorhinus ursinus, the northern fur seal; P.v. = Phoca vitulina richardsi, the Pacific harbor seal.
1. When two acoustic measurements are presented, they represent a double sonic boom.
2. This was a rare, focused sonic boom.

    At the Channel Islands, California sea lions react more strongly to 
sonic booms than most other species. Pups sometimes react more than 
adults, either because they are more easily frightened or because their 
hearing is more acute. Harbor seals also appear to be more sensitive to 
sonic booms than most other pinnipeds, often resulting in startling and 
fleeing into the water. Northern fur seals generally show little or no 
reaction. Northern elephant seals generally exhibit no reaction at all, 
except perhaps a heads-up response or some stirring, especially if sea 
lions in the same area mingled with the elephant seals react strongly 
to the boom. Post-launch monitoring generally reveals a return to 
normal patterns within minutes up to an hour or two of each launch, 
regardless of species.
    Table 9 in this document shows that little or no reaction from the 
four species usually occurred when overpressures were below 1 psf. In 
general, elephant seals did not react unless other animals around them 
reacted strongly or if the sonic boom was extremely loud. Northern fur 
seals seemed to react similarly. From limited data about the reactions 
of harbor seals, it appears likely that they were quite sensitive to 
sonic booms (MMCG and SAIC, 2012a, c). Their reactions to launch noise 
at VAFB seem to suggest a sensitivity to low frequency sounds as well. 
No evidence has been presented of abnormal behavior as a result of the 
launches, nor were any injuries or mortalities attributed to any 
launches. No pups were abandoned as a result of sonic booms. These 
findings came as a result of more than two decades of research by 
numerous qualified, independent researchers, from March 1991 through 
September 2012 (MMCG and SAIC, 2012a, c). These patterns are 
anticipated to continue. Based on the information presented here and in 
the USAF application, the USAF is proposing to alter the requirements 
for monitoring when a sonic boom is predicted over the NCI. As noted in 
the ``Proposed Monitoring and Reporting'' section found later in this 
document, the USAF proposes a decrease (perhaps with seasonal 
variables) in the monitoring requirement to only monitor sonic booms 
predicted to be greater than 1.5 psf between March and September or 
above 2 psf at other times of the year. NMFS concurs that such a change 
to past monitoring protocols is warranted based on data presented here 
and in past monitoring reports, and this change is presented in the 
proposed monitoring section later in this document.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Tests

    To determine if harbor seals experience changes in their hearing 
sensitivity as a result of launch noise, ABR testing was conducted on 
21 harbor seals for four Titan IV launches, one Taurus launch, and two 
Delta IV launches by the USAF in accordance with issued Scientific 
Research permits.
    Following standard ABR testing protocol, the ABR was measured from 
one ear of each seal using sterile, sub-dermal, stainless steel 
electrodes. A conventional electrode array was used, and low-level 
white noise was presented to the non-tested ear to reduce any 
electrical potentials generated by the non-tested ear. A computer was 
used to produce the click and an 8 kilohertz (kHz) tone burst stimuli, 
through standard audiometric headphones. Over 1,000 ABR waveforms were 
collected and averaged per trial. Initially the stimuli were presented 
at sound pressure levels (SPL) loud enough to obtain a clean reliable 
waveform, and then decreased in 10 dB steps until the response was no 
longer reliably observed. Once response was no longer reliably 
observed, the stimuli were then increased in 10 dB steps to the 
original SPL. By obtaining two ABR waveforms at each SPL, it was 
possible to quantify the variability in the measurements.
    Good replicable responses were measured from most of the seals, 
with waveforms following the expected pattern of an increase in latency 
and decrease in amplitude of the peaks, as the stimulus level was 
lowered. One seal had substantial decreased acuity to the 8 kHz tone-
burst stimuli prior to the launch. The cause of this hearing loss was 
unknown but was most likely congenital or from infection. Another seal 
had a great deal of variability in waveform latencies in response to 
identical stimuli. This animal moved repeatedly during testing, which 
may have reduced the sensitivity of the ABR testing on this animal for 
both the click and 8 kHz tone burst stimuli. Two of the seals were 
released after pre-launch testing but prior to the launch of the Titan 
IV B-34, as the launch was delayed for many days, and five days is the 
maximum duration permitted to hold the seals for testing.
    Detailed analysis of the changes in waveform latency and waveform 
replication of the ABR measurements for the 14 seals showed no 
detectable changes in the seals' hearing sensitivity as a result of 
exposure to the launch noise. The delayed start (1.75 to 3.5 hr after 
the launches) for ABR testing allows for the possibility that the seals 
may have recovered from a temporary threshold shift (TTS) before 
testing began. However, it can be said with confidence that the post-
launch tested animals did not have permanent hearing changes due to 
exposure to the launch noise from the Titan IV, Taurus, or Delta IV 
SLVs. These results are consistent with previous NMFS conclusions for 
such activities in its prior rulemakings (63 FR 39055, July 21, 1998; 
69 FR 5720, February 6, 2004; 74 FR 6236, February 6, 2009).
    NMFS also notes that stress from long-term cumulative sound 
exposures can result in physiological effects on reproduction, 
metabolism, and general health, or on the animals' resistance to 
disease. However, this is not likely to occur as a result of the 
activities from VAFB because of the infrequent nature and short 
duration of the noise,

[[Page 73806]]

including the occasional sonic boom. Research indicates that population 
levels at these haul-out sites have remained constant in recent years, 
with decreases only noted in some areas because of the increased 
presence of coyotes (a known predator), giving support to this 
conclusion.

Marine Mammal Responses to Harbor Activities

    As noted in the analysis of potential responses to launch noise and 
sonic booms, pinnipeds sometimes show startle reactions when exposed to 
sudden brief sounds. An acoustic stimulus with sudden onset (such as a 
sonic boom) may be analogous to a ``looming'' visual stimulus (Hayes 
and Saif, 1967), which may elicit flight away from the source (Berrens 
et al., 1988). The onset of operations by a loud sound source, such as 
the transporter during common booster core off-loading procedures, may 
elicit such a reaction. In addition, the movements of cranes and 
dredges may represent a ``looming'' visual stimulus to seals hauled out 
in close proximity. Seals and sea lions exposed to such acoustic and 
visual stimuli may either exhibit a startle response and/or leave the 
haul-out site or may exhibit no reaction at all.

Summary of Marine Mammal Impacts From Launches

    In general, if the received level of the noise stimulus exceeds 
both the background (ambient) noise level and the auditory threshold of 
the animals, and especially if the stimulus is novel to them, there may 
be a behavioral response. The probability and degree of response will 
also depend on the season, the group composition of the pinnipeds, and 
the type of activity in which they are engaged. Minor and brief 
responses, such as short-duration startle or alert reactions, are not 
likely to constitute disruption of behavioral patterns, such as 
migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (i.e., Level B 
harassment) and would not cause injury or mortality to marine mammals. 
On the other hand, startle and alert reactions accompanied by large-
scale movements, such as stampedes into the water of hundreds of 
animals, may rise to the degree of Level A harassment because they 
could result in injury of individuals. In addition, such large-scale 
movements by dense aggregations of marine mammals or at pupping sites 
could potentially lead to takes by injury or death. However, there is 
no potential for large-scale movements leading to serious injury or 
mortality near the south VAFB harbor because, historically, the number 
of harbor seals hauled out near the site is less than 30 individuals, 
and there is no pupping at nearby sites. The effects of the harbor 
activities are expected to be limited to short-term startle responses 
and localized behavioral changes. Additionally, the USAF does not 
anticipate a significant impact on any of the species or stocks of 
marine mammals from launches from VAFB. For even the largest launch 
vehicles, such as Delta IV, the launch noises and sonic booms can be 
expected to cause a startle response and flight to water for those 
harbor seals, California sea lions and other pinnipeds that are hauled 
out on the coastline of VAFB and on the NCI. The noise may cause TTS in 
hearing depending on exposure levels, but no PTS is anticipated. 
Because aircraft will fly at altitudes greater than 305 m (1,000 ft) 
around pinniped haul-outs and rookeries, animals are not anticipated to 
react to aircraft and helicopter overflights.
    The potential effects to marine mammals described in this section 
of the document do not take into consideration the proposed monitoring 
and mitigation measures described later in this document (see the 
``Proposed Mitigation'' and ``Proposed Monitoring and Reporting'' 
sections) which, as noted, should effect the least practicable adverse 
impact on affected marine mammal species and stocks.

Previous Activities and Monitoring

USAF Launches and Aircraft and Helicopter Operations

    As noted in Table 1 earlier in this document, the USAF did not 
exceed its authorized 50 launches per year in any given year. The USAF 
has complied with the mitigation and monitoring that we required under 
the previous annual LOAs for the February 2009 through February 2014 
period. In compliance with each LOA, they have submitted a final report 
on the launches and aircraft and helicopter activities covering each 
annual period. Each LOA required them to conduct: (1) Visual monitoring 
of pinniped haul-out sites at least 72 hours prior to any launch 
scheduled during the harbor seal pupping season and continue for at 
least 48 hours after the launch with follow-up visual surveys conducted 
2 weeks after the launch; (2) visual monitoring on the NCI if a sonic 
boom of greater than 1 psf is predicted; (3) acoustic measurements of 
launch vehicles for which acoustic measurements have not been 
previously made; and (4) supplement daytime visual monitoring with 
time-lapse video recordings. These surveys were conducted to note the 
number of animals present prior to, during, and after launches.
    Results of the monitoring efforts have been summarized in all of 
the previous annual LOA renewal notices (75 FR 5056, February 1, 2010; 
76 FR 6448, February 4, 2011; 77 FR 6086, February 7, 2012; 78 FR 8111, 
February 5, 2013). Observed responses were similar to those described 
earlier in this document. Harbor seals appeared to be the most 
responsive pinniped species observed during monitoring surveys. Most 
common reactions were head lifts and minor movements on the beach, with 
some flushing into the water (mostly by harbor seals). For a complete 
record of all observations, we refer the reader to the USAF's 
monitoring reports at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    None of the monitoring revealed injuries, mortalities, or abnormal 
behaviors by pinnipeds at any of the monitored haul-out sites as a 
result of the authorized activities. The USAF complied with the 
requirements of the annual LOAs, and NMFS has determined that the 
marine mammal take resulting from the February 2009-October 2013 
launches is within that analyzed in and anticipated by the associated 
regulations.

Harbor Activities Related to Launch Vehicles

    United Launch Alliance, the USAF contractor responsible for 
conducting the harbor activities related to the Delta IV/EELV, has 
complied with the mitigation and monitoring that we required under the 
previous Authorizations for the 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons. In 
compliance with each Authorization, they have submitted a final report 
on the activities at the VAFB harbor covering each annual period. Each 
Incidental Harassment Authorization required them to conduct baseline 
observations of pinnipeds in the project area prior to initiating 
project activities; conduct and record observations on pinnipeds in the 
vicinity of the harbor for the duration of the activity occurring when 
tides are 0.6 m (2 ft) or less (i.e., low enough for pinnipeds to haul-
out); and conduct post-construction observations of pinniped haul-outs 
in the project area to determine whether animals possibly disturbed by 
the project's activities would return to the haul-out area.
    During the 2009 season (July 8--September 21), United Launch 
Alliance conducted 21 days of operations, which did not exceed the 
activity levels analyzed under the 2009 Authorization. The observers 
noted that Pacific harbor seals hauled out in the vicinity were

[[Page 73807]]

more responsive to visual disturbances than to auditory disturbances. 
They reported that the maximum number of harbor seals hauled out ranged 
from zero to 28 animals with most using the rocks approximately 164.9 
to 173.7 m (540 to 570 ft) south of the harbor area. The maximum number 
of sea lions present ranged from zero to two animals with both hauled 
out at either the breakwater and or on a beach southwest of the dock 
area. United Launch Alliance did not observe any reactions of the 
harbor seals during equipment start-up. However, the observers noted 
that in some instances, the harbor seals slowly flushed when they could 
see equipment moving from their vantage point in the haul-out area. 
During the course of the 2009 season, harbor seals showed head alerts 
on 15 occasions and slowly entered the water on 24 occasions. Only one 
California sea lion showed a head alert during the entire operational 
season.
    For the 2010 season (June 2-18), United Launch Alliance conducted 7 
days of operations, which did not exceed the activity levels that we 
analyzed under the 2010 Authorization. They reported that the maximum 
number of harbor seals hauled out ranged from zero to 14 animals. 
Similar to the previous year, the harbor seals hauled out on the rocks 
south of the harbor area. The maximum number of sea lions present 
ranged from zero to two animals.
    During the course of the 2010 season, harbor seals showed a head 
alert on only one occasion and entered the water on two occasions. In 
the first instance, the harbor seal resettled within 1 minute after the 
head alert. In the second instance, both harbor seals returned to the 
haul-out within 3 minutes. The observers routinely observed pinnipeds 
in the water within and around the harbor for the duration of project 
activities. They report that they did not observe any altered behavior 
while the animals were in the water due to activities occurring on the 
dock or in the harbor.
    During the 2011 season (July 22-August 18; October 24-November 7), 
they conducted a total of 19 days of operations which did not exceed 
the activity levels analyzed under the 2011 Authorization. They 
reported that the maximum number of harbor seals hauled out ranged from 
zero to 38 animals and the maximum number of sea lions present ranged 
from zero to one animal.
    During the course of the 2011 season, harbor seals showed a head 
alert on 23 occasions and slowly entered the water on 19 occasions. 
Again, the observers routinely observed pinnipeds rafting in the water 
within and around the harbor for the duration of project activities.
    During the 2012 season (December 15-16), they conducted a total of 
2 days of operations, which did not exceed the activity levels analyzed 
under the 2012 Authorization. They reported that the maximum number of 
harbor seals hauled out ranged from zero to 54 animals and the maximum 
number of sea lions present ranged from zero to one animal.
    During the course of the 2012 season, no reactions to disturbances 
associated with Delta Mariner operations were observed in any of the 
animals during any of the monitoring periods. On December 14, 2012, an 
immature male elephant seal was observed hauled out on the sandy beach 
west of the breakwater at the VAFB Harbor. The seal was again observed 
on December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, and December 27. 
This is the first documented instance of an elephant seal hauled out at 
this location. For a complete record of all observations, we refer the 
reader to United Launch Alliance's monitoring reports at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    Based on the results from the previous monitoring reports, we 
conclude that these results support our original findings that the 
mitigation measures set forth in the 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. 
Authorizations effected the least practicable adverse impact on the 
species or stocks.
    During periods of low tide (e.g., when tides are 2 ft (0.61 m) or 
less and low enough for pinnipeds to haul-out), we would expect the 
pinnipeds to return to the haulout site within 60 minutes of a 
disturbance (Allen et al., 1985). The effects to pinnipeds appear at 
the most to displace the animals temporarily from their haul out sites 
and we do not expect that the pinnipeds would permanently abandon a 
haul-out site during the conduct of harbor maintenance and Delta 
Mariner operations. Finally, no operations would occur near pinniped 
rookeries; therefore, we do not expect mother and pup separation or 
crushing of pups to occur.

Anticipated Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

    Impacts on marine mammal habitat are part of the consideration in 
making a finding of negligible impact on the species and stocks of 
marine mammals. Habitat includes rookeries, mating grounds, feeding 
areas, and areas of similar significance. We do not anticipate that the 
proposed operations would result in any temporary or permanent effects 
on the habitats used by the marine mammals in the proposed area, 
including the food sources they use (i.e. fish and invertebrates). 
While it is anticipated that the specified activity may result in 
marine mammals avoiding certain areas due to temporary ensonification, 
this impact to habitat is temporary and reversible and was considered 
in further detail earlier in this document, as behavioral modification. 
The main impact associated with the proposed activity will be 
temporarily elevated noise levels and the associated direct effects on 
marine mammals, previously discussed in this notice.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization (ITA) under 
section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA, NMFS must, where applicable, set 
forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and 
other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such 
species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of such species or stock for taking for subsistence 
uses (where relevant). The NDAA of 2004 amended the MMPA as it relates 
to military-readiness activities and the ITA process such that ``least 
practicable adverse impact'' shall include consideration of personnel 
safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness 
of the ``military readiness activity.'' The training activities 
described in the USAF application are considered military readiness 
activities.
    Section 11 of the USAF application and Section 11 of Appendix A in 
the application contain descriptions of the mitigation measures 
proposed to be implemented during the specified activities in order to 
effect the least practicable adverse impact on the affected marine 
mammal species and stocks and their habitats. Please refer to the 
application (see ADDRESSES) for the full description.

Proposed Measures During Launches and Aircraft and Helicopter 
Operations

    All aircraft and helicopter flight paths must maintain a minimum 
distance of 1,000 ft (305 m) from recognized seal haul-outs and 
rookeries (e.g., Point Sal, Purisima Point, Rocky Point), except in 
emergencies or for real-time security incidents (e.g., search-and-
rescue, fire-fighting) which may require approaching pinniped haul-outs 
and rookeries closer than 1,000 ft (305 m). For missile and rocket 
launches, unless

[[Page 73808]]

constrained by other factors including human safety, national security 
concerns or launch trajectories, holders of LOAs must schedule launches 
to avoid, whenever possible, launches during the harbor seal pupping 
season of March through June. The USAF must avoid, whenever possible, 
launches which are predicted to produce a sonic boom on the NCI during 
harbor seal, elephant seal, California sea lion, and northern fur seal 
pupping seasons.
    If post-launch surveys determine that an injurious or lethal take 
of a marine mammal has occurred, the launch procedure and the 
monitoring methods must be reviewed, in cooperation with NMFS, and 
appropriate changes must be made through modification to an LOA, prior 
to conducting the next launch of the same vehicle under that LOA.

Proposed Measures During Harbor Activities

    To reduce the potential for disturbance from visual and acoustic 
stimuli associated with the activities, United Launch Alliance/and or 
its designees propose to implement the following mitigating measures 
for marine mammals:
    (1) If activities occur during nighttime hours, United Launch 
Alliance will turn on lighting equipment before dusk. The lights would 
remain on for the entire night to avoid startling pinnipeds.
    (2) Initiate operations before dusk.
    (3) Keep construction noises at a constant level (i.e., not 
interrupted by periods of quiet in excess of 30 minutes) while 
pinnipeds are present.
    (4) If activities cease for longer than 30 minutes and pinnipeds 
are in the area, United Launch Alliance would initiate a gradual start-
up of activities to ensure a gradual increase in noise levels.
    (5) A qualified observer would visually monitor the harbor seals on 
the beach adjacent to the harbor and on rocks for any flushing or other 
behaviors as a result of United Launch Alliance's activities (see 
Proposed Monitoring).
    (6) The Delta Mariner and accompanying vessels would enter the 
harbor only when the tide is too high for harbor seals to haul-out on 
the rocks; reducing speed to 1.5 to 2 knots (1.5-2 nm/hr; 2.8-3.7 km/
hr) once the vessel is within 3 mi (4.83 km) of the harbor. The vessel 
would enter the harbor stern first, approaching the wharf and moorings 
at less than 0.75 knot (1.4 km/hr).
    (7) As United Launch Alliance explores alternate dredge methods, 
the dredge contractor may introduce quieter techniques and equipment.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated the applicant's proposed mitigation 
measures and considered a range of other measures in the context of 
ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on the affected marine mammal species and 
stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included 
consideration of the following factors in relation to one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;
     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation, including consideration of personnel safety, 
practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the 
military readiness activity.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has preliminarily 
determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammals 
species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance while also 
considering personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and 
impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity.
    The proposed rule comment period will afford the public an 
opportunity to submit recommendations, views, and/or concerns regarding 
this action and the proposed mitigation measures. While NMFS has 
determined preliminarily that the proposed mitigation measures 
presented in this document will effect the least practicable adverse 
impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, NMFS will 
consider all public comments to help inform our final decision. 
Consequently, the proposed mitigation measures may be refined, 
modified, removed, or added to prior to the issuance of the final rule 
based on public comments received, and where appropriate, further 
analysis of any additional mitigation measures.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(A) of 
the MMPA states that we must set forth ``requirements pertaining to the 
monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The Act's implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for an 
authorization must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and our expectations of the level of taking or 
impacts on populations of marine mammals present in the action area.
    As part of its application, the USAF provided a monitoring plan, 
similar to that in the current regulations (50 CFR 216.125) and 
previous Incidental Harassment Authorizations issued to United Launch 
Alliance, for assessing impacts to marine mammals from rocket and 
missile launches at VAFB and Delta Mariner operations. This monitoring 
plan is described, in detail, in Section 8 of the main portion of the 
application for launch monitoring activities and Section 13 of Appendix 
A of the application for Delta Mariner operations monitoring 
activities. The following monitoring is proposed to be conducted under 
these regulations. The proposed monitoring program may be modified or 
supplemented based on comments or new information received from the 
public during the public comment period.
    The monitoring will be conducted by a NMFS-approved marine mammal 
biologist experienced in surveying large numbers of marine mammals.

Monitoring for Launches on VAFB

    Monitoring at the haul-out site closest to the launch facility will 
commence at least 72 hours prior to the launch and continue until at 
least 48 hours after the launch. Biological monitoring at VAFB will be 
conducted for all launches during the harbor seal pupping season, 1 
March to 30 June. Acoustic and biological monitoring will be conducted 
on new space and missile launch vehicles during at least the first 
launch, whether it occurs within the pupping season or not.
    Monitoring will include multiple surveys each day that record, when 
possible, the species, number of animals, general behavior, presence of 
pups, age class, gender, and reaction to launch noise, sonic booms, or 
other natural or human-caused disturbances. Environmental conditions 
such as tide, wind speed, air temperature, and swell will also be 
recorded. Time-lapse photography or video will be used during daylight 
launches to document the behavior of mother-pup pairs during launch 
activities. For launches during the harbor seal pupping season (March 
through June), follow-up surveys will be made within 2 weeks of the 
launch to

[[Page 73809]]

ensure that there were no adverse effects on any marine mammals. A 
report detailing the species, number of animals observed, behavior, 
reaction to the launch noise, time to return to the haul-out site, any 
adverse behavior and environmental conditions will be submitted to NMFS 
within 90 days of the launch.

Monitoring for the NCI

    Monitoring will be conducted on the NCI (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, 
and Santa Rosa Islands) whenever a sonic boom over 1 psf is predicted 
(using the most current sonic boom modeling programs) to impact one of 
the islands between March 1 and June 30, over 1.5 psf between July 1 
and September 30, and over 2 psf between October 1 and February 28. 
Monitoring will be conducted at the haul-out site closest to the 
predicted sonic boom impact area. Monitoring will be conducted by a 
NMFS-approved marine mammal biologist experienced in surveying large 
numbers of marine mammals. Monitoring will commence at least 72 hours 
prior to the launch and continue until at least 48 hours after the 
launch (if a sonic boom was detected during the actual launch).
    Sonic boom prediction modeling is not conducted prior to missile 
launches because of their trajectories, which do not have the potential 
to overfly and/or impact with sonic booms the NCI. Launches from the 
following sites would not overfly the NCI: Space Launch Complexes 2, 3, 
6, and 8; Launch Facility 576-E, Test pad 01; and missile launch 
facilities 4, 9, 10, 23, and 24.
    Monitoring will include multiple surveys each day that record the 
species, number of animals, general behavior, presence of pups, age 
class, gender, and reaction to launch noise, sonic booms, or other 
natural or human-caused disturbances. Environmental conditions such as 
tide, wind speed, air temperature, and swell will also be recorded. Due 
to the large numbers of pinnipeds found on some beaches of San Miguel 
Island, smaller focal groups should be monitored in detail rather than 
the entire beach population. A general estimate of the entire beach 
population should be made once a day and their reaction to the launch 
noise noted. Photography or video will be used during daylight launches 
to document the behavior of mother-pup pairs or dependent pups during 
launch activities. During the pupping season of any species affected by 
a launch, follow-up surveys will be made within 2 weeks of the launch 
to ensure that there were no adverse effects on any marine mammals. A 
report detailing the species, number of animals observed, behavior, 
reaction to the launch noise, time to return to the haul-out site, any 
adverse behavior and environmental conditions will be submitted to NMFS 
within 90 days of the launch.

Harbor Activities

    United Launch Alliance will designate a qualified, and biologically 
trained observer to monitor the area for pinnipeds during all harbor 
activities. During nighttime activities, United Launch Alliance will 
illuminate the harbor area and the observer will use a night vision 
scope. Monitoring activities will consist of the following:
    (1) Conducting baseline observation of pinnipeds in the project 
area prior to initiating project activities.
    (2) Conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds in the 
vicinity of the harbor for the duration of the activity occurring when 
tides are low enough (less than or equal to 2 ft (0.61 m) for pinnipeds 
to haul out.
    (3) Conducting post-construction observations of pinniped haul-outs 
in the project area to determine whether animals disturbed by the 
project activities return to the haul-out.

Proposed Reporting Measures

    A report containing the following information must be submitted to 
NMFS within 90 days after each launch: (1) Date(s) and time(s) of each 
launch; (2) date(s), location(s), and preliminary findings of any 
research activities related to monitoring the effects on launch noise 
and sonic booms on marine mammal populations; and (3) results of the 
monitoring programs, including but not necessarily limited to (a) 
numbers of pinnipeds present on the haul-out prior to commencement of 
the launch, (b) numbers of pinnipeds that may have been harassed as 
noted by the number of pinnipeds estimated to have entered the water as 
a result of launch noise, (c) the length of time(s) pinnipeds remained 
off the haul-out or rookery, (d) the numbers of pinniped adults or pups 
that may have been injured or killed as a result of the launch, and (4) 
any behavioral modifications by pinnipeds that likely were the result 
of launch noise or the sonic boom.
    If a freshly dead or seriously injured pinniped is found during 
post-launch monitoring, the incident must be reported within 48 hours 
to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources and the NMFS West Coast 
Regional Office.
    An annual report must be submitted to NMFS on March 1 of each year. 
The first report will cover the time period from issuance of the LOA 
through February 28, 2015. Each annual report after that time will 
cover the time period from March 1 through February 28. Information in 
the annual reports will describe any incidental takings under an LOA 
not reported in the 90-day launch reports, such as the aircraft test 
program and helicopter operations and any assessments made of their 
impacts on hauled-out pinnipeds, summarize the information from the 90-
day launch reports, and describe the information collected during 
monitoring of Delta Mariner operations. Information related to Delta 
Mariner operations that must be included in the annual report include: 
(1) Date, time, and duration of activity; (2) weather; (3) tide status; 
(4) composition (species, gender, and age class) and locations of haul-
out group(s); (5) horizontal visibility; and (6) and results of the 
monitoring program, which include (i) number and species of pinnipeds 
present on haul-out(s) prior to start of activity and behavioral 
patterns, (ii) number and species of pinnipeds that may have been 
harassed as noted by the number of pinnipeds estimated to have entered 
the water as a result of noise related to the activity, (iii) brief 
description of any activity/action that causes animal(s) to flush, (iv) 
length of time pinnipeds remained off the haul-out or rookery, and (v) 
noted behavioral modifications by pinnipeds that were likely the result 
of the activity in the harbor.
    A final report must be submitted to NMFS no later than 180 days 
prior to expiration of these regulations. This report must summarize 
the findings made in all previous reports and assess both the impacts 
at each of the major rookeries and the cumulative impact on pinnipeds 
and any other marine mammals from the specified activities.

Numbers of Marine Mammals Estimated To Be Taken by Harassment

    The marine mammal species NMFS believes likely to be taken by Level 
B harassment incidental to launch and aircraft and helicopter 
operations at VAFB are harbor seals, California sea lions, northern 
elephant seals, northern fur seals, and Steller sea lions. NMFS 
believes that all of these species except for northern fur seals are 
likely to be taken by Level B harassment incidental to Delta Mariner 
operations at the VAFB harbor. All of these species are protected under 
the MMPA, and none are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 
On November 4, 2013, NMFS published a final rule delisting the eastern 
distinct population segment (DPS) of Steller sea lions (78 FR 66139). 
We have determined that this DPS has recovered and no longer meets the

[[Page 73810]]

definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered 
Species Act. The Steller sea lions at VAFB are part of the eastern DPS. 
Numbers of animals that may be taken by Level B harassment are expected 
to vary due to factors such as type of SLV, location of the sonic boom, 
weather conditions (which can influence the size of the sonic boom), 
the time of day, and the time of year, as well as launch trajectory. 
For this reason, ranges are given for the harassment estimates of 
marine mammals. Aircraft operations will occur frequently but will 
avoid pinniped haul-out areas and are unlikely to disturb pinnipeds.
    As noted earlier, sightings of Guadalupe fur seals have been 
extremely rare the last few decades at VAFB and on the NCI. Therefore, 
no takes by harassment are anticipated for this species incidental to 
the proposed activities.
    Take estimates at VAFB and the NCI from launches are based on 
decades of visual observations and systematic marine mammal surveys 
conducted at the launch sites and known pinniped haul-outs on VAFB and 
the NCI. Surveys are conducted by VAFB marine mammal monitors, as well 
as National Park Service employees. Take estimates at the VAFB harbor 
are based on visual observations conducted there since 2001 by marine 
mammal monitors noting observations during Delta Mariner operations.

Estimated Takes at VAFB

    The following text describes the potential range of takes possible 
of pinnipeds on VAFB during launches. Table 10 provides this 
information in outline form.
    Harbor seals: As many as 400 harbor seals per launch may be taken. 
Depending on the type of rocket being launched, the time of day, time 
of the year, weather conditions, tide and swell conditions, the number 
of seals that may be taken will range between 0 and 400. Launches and 
aircraft operations may occur at any time of the year, so any age 
classes and gender may be taken.
    California sea lions: As many as 300 sea lions per launch may be 
taken. Sea lions at VAFB are usually juveniles of both sexes and sub-
adult males that haul out in the fall during the post breeding 
dispersal. Births generally do not occur at VAFB, but five pups were 
observed at VAFB in 2003, an El Nino year, although all were abandoned 
by their mothers and died within several days of birth. Sick or 
emaciated weaned pups may also haul out briefly.
    Northern elephant seals: As many as 100 elephant seals per launch 
may be taken. Weaned elephant seal pups, juveniles, or young adults of 
both sexes, may occasionally haul out at VAFB for several days to rest 
or as long as 30 days to molt. Injured or sick seals may also haul out 
briefly.
    Steller sea lions: Steller sea lions have only been noted at VAFB 
in April and May of 2012 and again from February-April 2013. Numbers 
were small. As many as 36 Steller sea lions may be taken per launch.
    Northern fur seals: There are no reports of northern fur seals at 
VAFB. Therefore, it is unlikely that any fur seals will be taken.

                                 Table 10--Predicted Level B Harassment Takes of Pinnipeds on VAFB on a per Launch Basis
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                      Takes per
                                                                                                                     launch from     Takes from aircraft
              Species                     Age groups                   Sex               Reproductive condition    noise or visual       operations
                                                                                                                     disturbance
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific harbor seal...............  All..................  Both......................  Pupping and breeding                  0-400  None.
                                                                                        March through June.
California sea lion...............  All..................  Both......................  Pupping and breeding June             0-300  None.
                                                                                        through July, but no
                                                                                        pupping expected at VAFB.
Northern elephant seal............  All..................  Both......................  No pregnant or breeding               0-100  None.
                                                                                        animals expected; mostly
                                                                                        ``weaners''.
Steller sea lion..................  All..................  Both......................  No pupping or breeding at              0-36  None.
                                                                                        VAFB.
Northern fur seal.................  Mostly juveniles.....  Both......................  Only stranded animals....              None  None.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Estimated Takes on the NCI

    Sonic booms created by SLVs may impact marine mammals on the NCI, 
particularly San Miguel Island. Missile launches utilize westward 
trajectories so do not cause sonic boom impacts to the NCI. Sonic boom 
modeling software will continue to be used to predict the area of sonic 
boom impact and magnitude of the sonic boom on the NCI based on the 
launch vehicle, speed, trajectory, and meteorological conditions. Prior 
to each SLV launch, a predictive sonic boom map of the impact area and 
magnitude of the sonic boom will be generated. Based on previous 
monitoring of sonic booms created by SLVs on San Miguel (Thorson et 
al., 1999a: 1999b), it is estimated that as much as approximately 25 
percent of the marine mammals may be disturbed on SMI (Thorson et al., 
1999a; 1999b). Most sonic booms that reach San Miguel Island are small 
(<1 psf), although larger sonic booms are possible but rarely occur. A 
conservative take estimate of as much as 25 percent of the animals 
present is used for each species per launch. Table 11 presents the 
potential numbers of takes per launch event on the NCI.

                  Table 11--Predicted Level B Harassment Takes on the NCI on a per Launch Basis
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          Reproductive        Takes per launch
           Species               Age  groups             Sex                condition         from sonic booms
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific harbor seal..........  All............  Both................  Pupping and breeding  0-200.
                                                                       March through June.
California sea lion..........  All............  Both................  Pupping and breeding  0-6,000 pups, 0-
                                                                       June through July.    3,000 juveniles and
                                                                                             adults.
Northern elephant seal.......  All............  Both................  Pupping December      0-500 pups, 1,000
                                                                       through March.        juveniles and
                                                                                             adults.
Steller sea lion.............  Adult..........  Both................  No pupping or         None; virtually no
                                                                       breeding at NCI.      presence on San
                                                                                             Miguel.

[[Page 73811]]

 
Northern fur seal............  Mostly           Both................  Pupping and breeding  0-250 pups, 0-1,000
                                juveniles.                             in June and July.     juveniles and
                                                                                             adults.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Estimated Takes From Delta Mariner Operations

    Estimates of the numbers of marine mammals that might be affected 
are based on consideration of the number of animals that could be 
disturbed appreciably by approximately 43 days for Pacific harbor seals 
and California sea lions, 8 days for northern elephant seals, and 3 
days for Steller sea lions. The lower number of days for northern 
elephant seals and Steller sea lions are based on the fact that those 
species haul-out in fewer numbers and fewer times throughout the year 
at the VAFB harbor than harbor seals or California sea lions.
    Based on previous monitoring reports, with the same activities 
conducted in the proposed operations area, we estimate that 
approximately 1,161 Pacific harbor seals, 129 California sea lions, 24 
northern elephant seals, and 24 Steller sea lions could be potentially 
affected by Level B behavioral harassment over the course of each year 
of activities. We base these estimates on historical pinniped survey 
counts from 2001 to 2011, and calculated takes by multiplying the 
average of the maximum abundance by the number of days noted above 
(i.e., the total number of operational days). Thus, the USAF requests 
authorization to incidentally harass approximately 1,161 Pacific harbor 
seals (27 animals by 43 days), 129 California sea lions (3 animals by 
43 days), 24 northern elephant seals (3 animals by 8 days), and 24 
Steller sea lions (8 animals by 3 days).
    Table 12 presents the maximum number of potential takes on an 
annual basis. However, actual takes could be lower than this number. 
The range of animals that could be taken is based on zero animals 
responding up to the maximum for each launch event plus Delta Mariner 
operations. Although not anticipated between 2014 and early 2019, up to 
50 launches are authorized for taking of marine mammals. However, as 
noted in Table 2 earlier in this document, no more than 12-19 launches 
are actually anticipated during this time frame. Additionally, not all 
launches will overfly the NCI. However, the numbers presented in Table 
12 represent the maximum end of the range and assume that all 50 
launches would overfly the NCI. Therefore, actual takes will likely be 
much lower than the maximum estimate.

    Table 12--Total Number of Annual Level B Takes From a Total of 50
                  Launches and Delta Mariner Operations
 [Numbers are likely overestimated as not all launches would overfly the
                                  NCI]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Total number
                                                            of proposed
                         Species                           level B takes
                                                             annually
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pacific harbor seal.....................................          31,161
California sea lion.....................................         465,129
Northern elephant seal..................................          80,024
Steller sea lion........................................           1,824
Northern fur seal.......................................          62,500
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    With the incorporation of mitigation measures proposed earlier in 
this document, the USAF and NMFS expect that only Level B incidental 
harassment may occur as a result of the proposed activities and that 
these events will result in no detectable impact on marine mammal 
species or stocks or on their habitats.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Preliminary Determination

    We have defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``. . . 
an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.'' In making a negligible impact determination, 
we consider:
    (1) The number of anticipated injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities;
    (2) The number, nature, and intensity, and duration of Level B 
harassment (all relatively limited);
    (3) The context in which the takes occur (i.e., impacts to areas of 
significance, impacts to local populations, and cumulative impacts when 
taking into account successive/contemporaneous actions when added to 
baseline data);
    (4) The status of stock or species of marine mammals (i.e., 
depleted, not depleted, decreasing, increasing, stable, impact relative 
to the size of the population);
    (5) Impacts on habitat affecting rates of recruitment/survival; and
    (6) The effectiveness of monitoring and mitigation measures.
    As mentioned previously, we estimate that five species of marine 
mammals could be potentially affected by Level B harassment from launch 
activities and that four of those five species could be potentially 
affected by Level B harassment from Delta Mariner operations.
    For reasons stated previously in this document, the specified 
activities are not likely to cause long-term behavioral disturbance, 
abandonment of the haul-out area, serious injury, or mortality because:
    (1) The effects of the activities are expected to be limited to 
short-term startle responses and localized behavioral changes. Minor 
and brief responses, such as short-duration startle or alert reactions, 
are not likely to constitute disruption of behavioral patterns, such as 
migration, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.
    (2) Launches will likely not occur more than about 10-15 times per 
year over the next 5 years.
    (3) Delta Mariner off-loading operations and associated cargo 
movements within the harbor would occur at a maximum frequency of four 
times per year, and the vessel's arrival and departure would occur 
during daylight hours at high tide when the haul out areas are fully 
submerged and few, if any, pinnipeds are present in the harbor;
    (4) The relatively slow operational speed of the Delta Mariner (1.5 
to 2 kts; 1.72 mph) during its approach to the harbor at high tide and 
the vessel's slow operational speed (0.75 kts; 0.86 mph) during its 
approach to the wharf;
    (5) There is no potential for large-scale movements leading to 
serious injury or mortality;
    (6) Many of the specified activities do not occur near rookeries;
    (7) The availability of alternate areas near the harbor for 
pinnipeds to avoid the resultant noise from the maintenance and vessel 
operations.
    (8) Results from previous monitoring reports that support our 
conclusions that the pinnipeds returned to the haul-out sites during 
periods of low tide after the disturbance and do not permanently

[[Page 73812]]

abandon a haul-out site during the conduct of harbor maintenance and 
Delta Mariner operations or launches from VAFB.
    We do not anticipate that any injuries, serious injuries, or 
mortalities would occur as a result of the proposed activities, and we 
do not propose to authorize injury, serious injury or mortality. These 
species may exhibit behavioral modifications, including temporarily 
vacating the area during the proposed activities to avoid the resultant 
acoustic and visual disturbances. Due to the nature, degree, and 
context of the behavioral harassment anticipated, the activities are 
not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival. Further, these 
proposed activities would not adversely impact marine mammal habitat.
    We have preliminarily determined, provided that the USAF carries 
out the previously described mitigation and monitoring measures, that 
the impact of conducting the proposed activities may result, at worst, 
in a temporary modification in behavior and/or low-level physiological 
effects (Level B harassment) of certain species of marine mammals.
    Based on the analysis contained here of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, we have preliminarily determined that the total taking from 
the proposed activities will have a negligible impact on the affected 
species or stocks; and that impacts to affected species or stocks of 
marine mammals would be mitigated to the lowest level practicable.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA also requires us to determine that 
the authorization will not have an unmitigable adverse effect on the 
availability of marine mammal species or stocks for subsistence use. 
There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals in the study 
area (northeastern Pacific Ocean) that implicate section 101(a)(5)(A) 
of the MMPA.

Endangered Species Act

    There are no species listed as threatened or endangered in the 
proposed activity area. Therefore, consultation under section 7 of the 
ESA is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    The USAF prepared a Final EA and issued a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) in 1997 as part of its application for an incidental 
take authorization. On March 1, 1999 (64 FR 9925), NMFS adopted this EA 
as provided for by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations. In 
2003, NMFS prepared its own EA and issued a FONSI for the final rule 
issued in February, 2004. In January 2009, NMFS prepared a new EA and 
issued a FONSI for the final rule issued in February 2009.
    In 2001, the USAF prepared an EA for Harbor Activities Associated 
with the Delta IV Program at Vandenberg Air Force Base. In 2005, we 
prepared an EA augmenting the information contained in the USAF's EA 
and issued a FONSI on the issuance of an Incidental Harassment 
Authorization for United Launch Alliance's harbor activities in 
accordance with section 6.01 of the NOAA Administrative Order 216-6 
(Environmental Review Procedures for Implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act, May 20, 1999).
    NMFS is currently conducting a new analysis, pursuant to NEPA, to 
determine whether the issuance of MMPA rulemaking and subsequent LOA(s) 
may have a significant effect on the human environment. This analysis 
will be completed prior to the issuance or denial of these proposed 
regulations and will be taken into account in decision-making on the 
final rule and LOA.

Coastal Zone Management Act Consistency

    The USAF conducts separate consultations with the California 
Coastal Commission (CCC) for each launch activity, as each one is 
considered a separate Federal action. Past consultations between the 
USAF and the CCC have indicated that activities from VAFB similar to 
those described in this document are consistent to the maximum extent 
practicable with the enforceable policies of the California Coastal Act 
(CCA). The USAF is in consultation with the CCC for those launch 
activities that have not yet been found to be consistent with the CCA. 
Therefore, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the activities 
described in this document are consistent to the maximum extent 
practicable with the enforceable policies of the CCA.

National Marine Sanctuaries Act

    NMFS has preliminarily determined that this action is not likely to 
destroy, cause the loss of, or injure any national marine sanctuary 
resources. NMFS will conclude any necessary consultation with the 
National Ocean Service's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries prior to 
issuance of the final rule.

Classification

    Pursuant to the procedures established to implement section 6 of 
Executive Order 12866, the Office of Management and Budget has 
determined that this proposed rule is not significant.
    Pursuant to section 605(b) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the 
Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce has 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The 30th Space Wing, USAF, and their contractors are the entities that 
will be affected by this rulemaking, not a small governmental 
jurisdiction, small organization or small business, as defined by the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. United Launch Alliance, the contractor 
hired by the USAF to conduct the harbor activities and Delta Mariner 
operations, is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The 
SBA defines a small entity as one that is independently owned and 
operated and not dominant in its field of operation. United Launch 
Alliance employs approximately 3,900 employees working at sites across 
the country, has annual revenues exceeding $1 billion, and is dominant 
in the field of aerospace vehicle launching. United Launch Alliance 
does not meet the definition of a small entity. Accordingly, this 
proposed rule, if implemented, would not result in a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 217

    Exports, Fish, Imports, Indians, Labeling, Marine mammals, 
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Seafood, 
Transportation.

    Dated: November 27, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For reasons set forth in the preamble, 50 CFR part 217 is proposed 
to be amended as follows:

[[Page 73813]]

PART 217--REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE TAKE OF MARINE MAMMALS 
INCIDENTAL TO SPECIFIED ACTIVITIES

0
1. The authority citation for part 217 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

0
2. Subpart G is added to part 217 to read as follows:
Subpart G--Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Air Force 
Launches, Aircraft and Helicopter Operations, and Harbor Activities 
Related to Launch Vehicles From Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), 
California
Sec.
217.60 Specified activity and specified geographical region.
217.61 Effective dates.
217.62 Permissible methods of taking.
217.63 Prohibitions.
217.64 Mitigation.
217.65 Requirements for monitoring and reporting.
217.66 Letters of Authorization.
217.67 Renewals and Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

Subpart G--Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to U.S. Air Force 
Launches, Aircraft and Helicopter Operations, and Harbor Activities 
Related to Launch Vehicles From Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), 
California


Sec.  217.60  Specified activity and specified geographical region.

    (a) Regulations in this subpart apply only to the 30th Space Wing, 
United States Air Force (USAF), at Vandenberg Air Force Base and those 
persons it authorizes to conduct activities on its behalf for the 
taking of marine mammals that occurs in the area outlined in paragraph 
(b) of this section and that occurs incidental to:
    (1) Launching up to 15 space and missiles vehicles each year from 
Vandenberg Air Force Base, for a total of up to 75 missiles over the 5-
year period of these regulations,
    (2) Launching up to 35 rockets each year from Vandenberg Air Force 
Base, for a total of up to 175 rocket launches over the 5-year period 
of these regulations,
    (3) Aircraft flight test operations,
    (4) Helicopter operations from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and
    (5) Delta Mariner (or a similar vessel) operations, cargo unloading 
activities, and harbor maintenance dredging.
    (b) The taking of marine mammals by the USAF may be authorized in a 
Letter of Authorization only if it occurs from the space launch 
complexes, launch facilities, and test pads on north and south 
Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Vandenberg Air Force Base harbor on 
South Base.


Sec.  217.61  Effective dates.

    [Reserved]


Sec.  217.62  Permissible methods of taking.

    (a) Under Letters of Authorization issued pursuant to Sec. Sec.  
216.106 and 217.60 of this chapter, the Holder of the Letter of 
Authorization (herein after the USAF) may incidentally, but not 
intentionally, take marine mammals by harassment, within the area 
described in Sec.  217.60(b), provided the activity is in compliance 
with all terms, conditions, and requirements of the regulations in this 
subpart and the appropriate Letter of Authorization.
    (b) The activities identified in Sec.  217.60(a) must be conducted 
in a manner that minimizes, to the greatest extent practicable, any 
adverse impacts on marine mammals and their habitat.
    (c) The incidental take of marine mammals under the activities 
identified in Sec.  217.60(a) is limited to the indicated number of 
Level B harassment takes on an annual basis of the following species:
    (1) Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina)--31,161;
    (2) California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)--465,129;
    (3) Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)--80,024;
    (4) Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus)--62,500; and
    (5) Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)--1,824.


Sec.  217.63  Prohibitions.

    Notwithstanding takings contemplated in Sec.  217.62(c) and 
authorized by a Letter of Authorization issued under Sec. Sec.  216.106 
and 217.66 of this chapter, no person in connection with the activities 
described in Sec.  217.60 may:
    (a) Take any marine mammal not specified in Sec.  217.62(c);
    (b) Take any marine mammal specified in Sec.  217.62(c) other than 
by incidental, unintentional Level B harassment;
    (c) Take a marine mammal specified in Sec.  217.62(c) if NMFS 
determines such taking results in more than a negligible impact on the 
species or stocks of such marine mammal; or
    (d) Violate, or fail to comply with, the terms, conditions, and 
requirements of this subpart or a Letter of Authorization issued under 
Sec. Sec.  216.106 and 217.66 of this chapter.


Sec.  217.64  Mitigation.

    (a) When conducting the activities identified in Sec.  217.60(a), 
the mitigation measures contained in the Letter of Authorization issued 
under Sec. Sec.  216.106 and 217.66 of this chapter must be 
implemented. These mitigation measures include (but are not limited 
to):
    (1) All aircraft and helicopter flight paths must maintain a 
minimum distance of 1,000 ft (305 m) from recognized seal haul-outs and 
rookeries (e.g., Point Sal, Purisima Point, Rocky Point), except in 
emergencies or for real-time security incidents (e.g., search-and-
rescue, fire-fighting), which may require approaching pinniped haul-
outs and rookeries closer than 1,000 ft (305 m).
    (2) For missile and rocket launches, holders of Letters of 
Authorization must avoid, whenever possible, launches during the harbor 
seal pupping season of March through June, unless constrained by 
factors including, but not limited to, human safety, national security, 
or for space vehicle launch trajectory necessary to meet mission 
objectives.
    (3) Vandenberg Air Force Base must avoid, whenever possible, 
launches which are predicted to produce a sonic boom on the Northern 
Channel Islands during harbor seal, elephant seal, California sea lion, 
and northern fur seal pupping seasons of March through June.
    (4) If post-launch surveys determine that an injurious or lethal 
take of a marine mammal has occurred, the launch procedure and the 
monitoring methods must be reviewed, in cooperation with the National 
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and appropriate changes must be made 
through modification to a Letter of Authorization, prior to conducting 
the next launch under that Letter of Authorization.
    (5) Delta Mariner operations, cargo unloading, and harbor 
maintenance dredging measures:
    (i) If activities occur during nighttime hours, turn on lighting 
equipment before dusk. Lights must remain on for the entire night to 
avoid startling pinnipeds.
    (ii) Initiate operations before dusk.
    (iii) Keep construction noises at a constant level (i.e., not 
interrupted by periods of quiet in excess of 30 minutes) while 
pinnipeds are present.
    (iv) Initiate a gradual start-up of activities to ensure a gradual 
increase in noise levels if activities cease for longer than 30 minutes 
and pinnipeds are in the area.
    (v) Conduct visual monitor, by a qualified observer, of the harbor 
seals on the beach adjacent to the harbor and on rocks for any flushing 
or other behaviors as a result of activities described in Sec.  
217.60(a).

[[Page 73814]]

    (vi) The Delta Mariner and accompanying vessels must enter the 
harbor only when the tide is too high for harbor seals to haul-out on 
the rocks; reducing speed to 1.5 to 2 knots (1.5-2 nm/hr; 2.8-3.7 km/
hr) once the vessel is within 3 mi (4.83 km) of the harbor. The vessel 
must enter the harbor stern first, approaching the wharf and moorings 
at less than 0.75 knot (1.4 km/hr).
    (vii) Explore alternate dredge methods and introduce quieter 
techniques and equipment as they become available.
    (6) Additional mitigation measures as contained in a Letter of 
Authorization.
    (b) [Reserved]


Sec.  217.65  Requirements for monitoring and reporting.

    (a) Unless specified otherwise in the Letter of Authorization, the 
USAF must notify the Administrator, West Coast Region, NMFS, by letter 
or telephone, at least 2 weeks prior to activities possibly involving 
the taking of marine mammals. If the authorized activity identified in 
Sec.  217.60(a) is thought to have resulted in the mortality or injury 
of any marine mammals or in any take of marine mammals not identified 
in Sec.  217.62(c), then the USAF must notify the Director, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, or designee, by telephone (301-427-8401), 
within 48 hours of the discovery of the injured or dead animal.
    (b) To conduct monitoring of launch activities, the USAF must 
designate qualified, on-site individuals approved in advance by NMFS, 
as specified in the Letter of Authorization, to:
    (1) Conduct observations on pinniped activity in the vicinity of 
the rookery nearest the launch platform or, in the absence of pinnipeds 
at that location, at another nearby haul-out, for at least 72 hours 
prior to any planned launch occurring during the harbor seal pupping 
season (1 March through 30 June) and continue for a period of time not 
less than 48 hours subsequent to launching.
    (2) For launches during the harbor seal pupping season (March 
through June), conduct follow-up surveys within 2 weeks of the launch 
to ensure that there were no adverse effects on any marine mammals,
    (3) Monitor haul-out sites on the Northern Channel Islands, if it 
is determined by modeling that a sonic boom of greater than 1 psf is 
predicted to impact one of the Islands between March 1 and June 30, 
greater than 1.5 psf between July 1 and September 30, and greater than 
2 psf between October 1 and February 28. Monitoring will be conducted 
at the haul-out site closest to the predicted sonic boom impact area.
    (4) Investigate the potential for spontaneous abortion, disruption 
of effective female-neonate bonding, and other reproductive 
dysfunction,
    (5) Supplement observations on Vandenberg and on the Northern 
Channel Islands with video-recording of mother-pup seal responses for 
daylight launches during the pupping season,
    (6) Conduct acoustic measurements of those launch vehicles that 
have not had sound pressure level measurements made previously, and
    (7) Include multiple surveys each day that surveys are required 
that record the species, number of animals, general behavior, presence 
of pups, age class, gender and reaction to launch noise, sonic booms or 
other natural or human caused disturbances, in addition to recording 
environmental conditions such as tide, wind speed, air temperature, and 
swell.
    (c) To conduct monitoring of harbor activities, the USAF must 
designate qualified, on-site individuals approved in advance by NMFS, 
as specified in the Letter of Authorization. During nighttime 
activities, the harbor area will be illuminated, and the observer will 
use a night vision scope. Monitoring activities will consist of the 
following:
    (1) Conducting baseline observation of pinnipeds in the project 
area prior to initiating project activities.
    (2) Conducting and recording observations on pinnipeds in the 
vicinity of the harbor for the duration of the activity occurring when 
tides are low enough (less than or equal to 2 ft (0.61 m) for pinnipeds 
to haul out.
    (3) Conducting post-construction observations of pinniped haul-outs 
in the project area to determine whether animals disturbed by the 
project activities return to the haul-out.
    (d) Holders of Letters of Authorization must conduct additional 
monitoring as required under a Letter of Authorization.
    (e) The USAF must submit a report to the West Coast Regional 
Administrator, NMFS, within 90 days after each launch. This report must 
contain the following information:
    (1) Date(s) and time(s) of the launch,
    (2) Design of the monitoring program, and
    (3) Results of the monitoring program, including, but not 
necessarily limited to:
    (i) Numbers of pinnipeds present on the haul-out prior to 
commencement of the launch,
    (ii) Numbers of pinnipeds that may have been harassed as noted by 
the number of pinnipeds estimated to have entered the water as a result 
of launch noise,
    (iii) The length of time pinnipeds remained off the haul-out or 
rookery,
    (iv) Numbers of pinniped adults, juveniles or pups that may have 
been injured or killed as a result of the launch, and
    (v) Behavioral modifications by pinnipeds that were likely the 
result of launch noise or the sonic boom.
    (f) An annual report must be submitted on March 1 of each year.
    (g) A final report must be submitted at least 180 days prior to 
expiration of these regulations. This report will:
    (1) Summarize the activities undertaken and the results reported in 
all previous reports,
    (2) Assess the impacts at each of the major rookeries,
    (3) Assess the cumulative impacts on pinnipeds and other marine 
mammals from the activities specified in Sec.  217.60(a), and
    (4) State the date(s), location(s), and findings of any research 
activities related to monitoring the effects on launch noise, sonic 
booms, and harbor activities on marine mammal populations.


Sec.  217.66  Letters of Authorization.

    (a) To incidentally take marine mammals pursuant to these 
regulations, the USAF must apply for and obtain a Letter of 
Authorization.
    (b) A Letter of Authorization, unless suspended or revoked, may be 
effective for a period of time not to exceed the expiration date of 
these regulations.
    (c) If a Letter of Authorization expires prior to the expiration 
date of these regulations, the USAF must apply for and obtain a renewal 
of the Letter of Authorization.
    (d) In the event of projected changes to the activity or to 
mitigation and monitoring measures required by a Letter of 
Authorization, the USAF must apply for and obtain a modification of the 
Letter of Authorization as described in Sec.  217.67.
    (e) The Letter of Authorization will set forth:
    (1) Permissible methods of incidental taking;
    (2) Means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact (i.e., 
mitigation) on the species, its habitat, and on the availability of the 
species for subsistence uses; and
    (3) Requirements for monitoring and reporting.
    (f) Issuance of the Letter of Authorization shall be based on a 
determination that the level of taking will be consistent with the 
findings made for the total taking allowable under these regulations.

[[Page 73815]]

    (g) Notice of issuance or denial of a Letter of Authorization shall 
be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of a determination.


Sec.  217.67  Renewals and Modifications of Letters of Authorization.

    (a) A Letter of Authorization issued under Sec.  216.106 and Sec.  
217.66 of this chapter for the activity identified in Sec.  217.60(a) 
shall be renewed or modified upon request by the applicant, provided 
that:
    (1) The proposed specified activity and mitigation, monitoring, and 
reporting measures, as well as the anticipated impacts, are the same as 
those described and analyzed for these regulations (excluding changes 
made pursuant to the adaptive management provision in Sec.  
217.67(c)(1)), and
    (2) NMFS determines that the mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
measures required by the previous Letter of Authorization under these 
regulations were implemented.
    (b) For Letter of Authorization modification or renewal requests by 
the applicant that include changes to the activity or the mitigation, 
monitoring, or reporting (excluding changes made pursuant to the 
adaptive management provision in Sec.  217.67(c)(1)) that do not change 
the findings made for the regulations or result in no more than a minor 
change in the total estimated number of takes (or distribution by 
species or years), NMFS may publish a notice of proposed Letter of 
Authorization in the Federal Register, including the associated 
analysis illustrating the change, and solicit public comment before 
issuing the Letter of Authorization.
    (c) A Letter of Authorization issued under Sec.  216.106 and Sec.  
217.66 of this chapter for the activity identified in Sec.  217.60(a) 
may be modified by NMFS under the following circumstances:
    (1) Adaptive Management--NMFS may modify (including augment) the 
existing mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures (after 
consulting with the USAF regarding the practicability of the 
modifications) if doing so creates a reasonable likelihood of more 
effectively accomplishing the goals of the mitigation and monitoring 
set forth in the preamble for these regulations.
    (i) Possible sources of data that could contribute to the decision 
to modify the mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures in a Letter 
of Authorization:
    (A) Results from the USAF's monitoring from the previous year(s).
    (B) Results from other marine mammal and/or sound research or 
studies.
    (C) Any information that reveals marine mammals may have been taken 
in a manner, extent or number not authorized by these regulations or 
subsequent Letters of Authorization.
    (ii) If, through adaptive management, the modifications to the 
mitigation, monitoring, or reporting measures are substantial, NMFS 
will publish a notice of proposed Letter of Authorization in the 
Federal Register and solicit public comment.
    (2) Emergencies--If NMFS determines that an emergency exists that 
poses a significant risk to the well-being of the species or stocks of 
marine mammals specified in Sec.  217.62(c), a Letter of Authorization 
may be modified without prior notice or opportunity for public comment. 
Notice would be published in the Federal Register within 30 days of the 
action.

[FR Doc. 2013-29203 Filed 12-6-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P