[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 237 (Tuesday, December 10, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 74046-74048]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29290]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

[Docket No. 130813710-3710-01]
RIN 0648-BD60


Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Regulations and Management 
Plan

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

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: NOAA is proposing to update the regulations and management 
plan for Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS or Sanctuary). 
The regulations would be revised to clarify the prohibition on 
anchoring and add an exemption to allow the use of weighted marker 
buoys that are continuously tended and used during otherwise lawful 
fishing or diving activities and that are not attached to a vessel and 
not capable of holding a boat at anchor. A draft environmental 
assessment has been prepared that includes analysis of the consequences 
of this proposed action. A draft management plan outlining management 
priorities for GRNMS for the next 5-10 years has also been prepared. 
NOAA is soliciting public comment on the proposed rule, draft 
environmental assessment, and draft management plan.

DATES: Comments will be considered if received by February 10, 2014. A 
Public hearing will be held as detailed below:

(1) January 7, 2014, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Pooler Public Library, 216 S. 
Rogers St., Pooler, Georgia
(2) January 8, 2014, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Statesboro Regional Library, 124 
S. Main St., Statesboro, Georgia
(3) January 9, 2014, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Marshes of Glynn Library, 208 
Gloucester St., Brunswick, Georgia

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NOS-2013-0160, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2013-0160, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, 10 Ocean 
Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411, Attn: Greg McFall, Superintendent.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA 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, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Shortland at (912) 598-2381.
    Copies of the proposed rule, draft environmental assessment, and 
draft management plan can be downloaded or viewed on the internet at 
www.regulations.gov (search for docket  NOAA-NOS-2013-0160) or 
at http://graysreef.noaa.gov. Copies can also be obtained by contacting 
Resource Protection Coordinator Becky Shortland, Gray's Reef National 
Marine Sanctuary, 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Georgia; or, 
becky.shortland@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

A. Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

    NOAA designated GRNMS as the nation's fourth national marine 
sanctuary in 1981 for the purposes of: Protecting the quality of this 
unique and fragile ecological community; promoting scientific 
understanding of this live bottom ecosystem; and enhancing public 
awareness and wise use of this significant regional resource. GRNMS 
protects 22 square miles of open ocean and submerged lands of 
particularly dense and nearshore patches of productive live bottom 
habitat. The sanctuary is influenced by complex ocean currents and 
serves as a mixing zone for temperate (colder water) and sub-tropical 
species. The series of rock ledges and sand expanses has produced a 
complex habitat of caves, burrows, troughs, and overhangs that provide 
a solid base upon which temperate and tropical marine flora and fauna 
attach and flourish.

B. Need for action

    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (NMSA; 16 U.S.C. 1431 
et seq.) section 304(e) requires that NOAA review and evaluate, among 
other things, the site-specific management techniques and strategies to 
ensure that each sanctuary continues to fulfill the purposes and 
policies of the NMSA. Emerging issues, such as the effects of invasive 
lionfish on sanctuary resources, for example, are not adequately 
addressed in the 2006 plan. The new draft management plan reflects some 
of these emerging issues and presents management priorities for GRNMS 
for the next 5-10 years. These proposed regulatory changes would, in 
the case of the anchoring prohibition, clarify that attempting to 
anchor is also prohibited because deployment of anchors, even if the 
anchors do not set on the bottom, can result in impacts to the 
submerged lands. In the case of the weighted marker buoys, these 
proposed regulatory changes would allow the placement of weighted 
marker buoys used during otherwise lawful fishing or diving activities. 
The purpose of deployment of a weight on the bottom is for safety or 
convenience while conducting diving and recreational fishing 
activities, since anchoring is not allowed.

II. Summary of the Proposed Revisions to GRNMS Regulations

    The proposed regulatory action would clarify a prohibition and add 
an exemption.

[[Page 74047]]

    (a) Clarification of anchoring prohibition:
    NOAA is proposing to clarify the prohibition on anchoring in the 
sanctuary (15 CFR 922.92 (a)(10)) by adding ``. . . or attempting to 
anchor'' to GRNMS's existing anchoring regulation. This would 
facilitate law enforcement efforts and protect sanctuary resources by 
allowing authorized officers to enforce the anchoring prohibition even 
when an anchor had not yet been set in the submerged lands of the 
sanctuary. Enforcement officials have experienced occasions where 
sanctuary users were ``attempting'' to anchor in GRNMS despite the 
prohibition, but because the anchor had not yet been ``set'', the 
prohibition did not apply. This amendment would better align the 
regulation with its original intent to minimize disturbance to the 
submerged lands, which can occur during deployment of the anchor even 
if it has not been set on the bottom.
    (b) Exemption for marker buoys:
    Current GRNMS regulations prohibit placing any material on the 
submerged lands of the sanctuary, including weights for marker buoys 
that sit on the seafloor to mark locations during recreational diving 
or fishing (15 CFR 922.92 (a)(2)). NOAA is proposing to add an 
exemption to this regulation for bottom placement of weighted marker 
buoys that are continuously tended and used during otherwise lawful 
fishing or diving activities and that are not attached to a vessel and 
not capable of holding a boat at anchor. Weights used with a marker 
buoy would not have a combined weight of more than 10 pounds, would be 
attached with not greater than one-fourth inch (\1/4\'') line and would 
be removed from the sanctuary within twelve (12) hours of deployment. 
Any weighted marker buoy that is not continuously tended could be 
removed by the Assistant Administrator or designee or an authorized 
officer, without notice. By ``continuously tended'', NOAA means that 
the buoy is in use by fishers or divers at the time it is observed and 
that the fishers' or divers' boat is in some proximity to the buoy.
    The weighted marker buoys would be used for diving safety (markers 
provide a stationary point for divers to more accurately locate a site 
and for boat operators to find divers on their ascent), and to assist 
recreational fishers for marking and relocating a fishing spot as their 
boat drifts. Because anchoring in GRNMS is currently prohibited, 
recreational diving must be conducted by ``live-boat'' (non-anchored 
vessels), and recreational fishing by trolling or drifting with a 
vessel. Public comment and Sanctuary Advisory Council discussion during 
scoping for the management plan review indicated strong support for 
regulatory exemption of weighted marker buoys. Because the use of 
marker buoys for recreational fishing is more a matter of convenience 
than safety, the benefit of this action to recreational fishing would 
be minimal; however, the impact of weighted marker buoys from diving or 
fishing on sanctuary resources is negligible and essentially identical 
and therefore, NOAA is proposing to allow this practice for both of 
these activities.

III. Classification

A. National Environmental Policy Act

    NOAA has prepared a draft environmental assessment to evaluate the 
impacts of the proposed rulemaking. Copies are available at the address 
and Web site listed in the ADDRESSES section of this proposed rule.

B. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Impact

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant as 
that term is defined in Executive Order 12866.

C. Executive Order 13132: Federalism Assessment

    NOAA has concluded this regulatory action does not have federalism 
implications sufficient to warrant preparation of a federalism 
assessment under Executive Order 13132.

D. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration (SBA) that this proposed rule, if adopted, would not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.
    NOAA expects the proposed regulatory exemption on the use of small, 
weighted marker buoys in the sanctuary to result in beneficial effects 
for recreational users of GRNMS by: (a) Enhancing dive opportunities at 
the Sanctuary and, (b) enhancing bottom fishing opportunities within 
the for-hire charter boat fishing and private recreational boating 
industries.
    It is estimated that there are currently one or two diving 
operators occasionally taking people out to the sanctuary. A 2008 
survey (Ehler 2010) identified 15 charter boats that utilize GRNMS as 
one of their fishing locations. The survey found that approximately 40 
percent of their fishing activity took place in the sanctuary. In 2012, 
NOAA estimated that 245 people participated in bottom-fishing from 
private household boats in the sanctuary accounting for a little over 
3,000 person-days of bottom-fishing. An additional 36 people 
participated in diving activities in the sanctuary via access from 
private household boats and accounted for a little over 300 person-days 
of activity (Leeworthy 2013). NOAA expects this rule to slightly 
increase the number of bottom-fishing trips from private household 
boats in the sanctuary with small positive benefits to the current 
participants and some additional small economic benefits to 
recreational fishing related economies based on increased activity and 
spending. All spending by the recreational sector would benefit small 
businesses that provide goods and services to recreational 
participants.

E. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposed rule would not require any additional collection of 
information, and therefore no paperwork reduction act action is 
required. Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB Control Number.

IV. Request for Comments

    NOAA requests comments on this proposed rule for 60 days after 
publication of this notice.

V. References

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 922

    Administrative practice and procedure, Coastal zone, Fishing gear, 
Marine resources, Natural resources, Penalties, Recreation and 
recreation areas, Wildlife.

(Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog Number 11.429 Marine Sanctuary 
Program).

    Dated: November 29, 2013.
Holly A. Bamford,
Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration.
    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, NOAA proposes 
amending part 922, title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations as 
follows:

[[Page 74048]]

PART 922--NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY PROGRAM REGULATIONS

0
1. The authority citation for part 922 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.
0
2. In Sec.  922.92, revise paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(10) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  922.92  Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities--Sanctuary-
wide.

    (a) * * *
    (2) Constructing any structure other than a navigation aid, or 
constructing, placing, or abandoning any structure, material, or other 
matter on the submerged lands of the Sanctuary except weighted marker 
buoys that are continuously tended and used during otherwise lawful 
fishing or diving activities and that are not attached to a vessel and 
not capable of holding a boat at anchor. Weights used with a marker 
buoy shall not have a combined weight of more than 10 pounds, shall be 
attached with not greater than one-fourth inch (\1/4\'') line and shall 
be removed from the Sanctuary within twelve (12) hours of deployment. 
Any weighted marker buoy that is not continuously tended may be removed 
by the Assistant Administrator or designee or an authorized officer, 
without notice.
* * * * *
    (10) Anchoring, or attempting to anchor, any vessel in the 
Sanctuary, except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section when 
responding to an emergency threatening life, property, or the 
environment.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-29290 Filed 12-9-13; 8:45 am]
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