[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 20 (Thursday, January 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4883-4884]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-01734]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 224

RIN 0648-XD103


Endangered Fish and Wildlife; Petition for Rulemaking To Exclude 
Federally-Maintained Dredged Entrance Channels and Pilot Boarding Areas 
for Ports From New York to Jacksonville From Vessel Speed Restrictions

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

ACTION: Receipt of petition for rulemaking; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces receipt by the National Marine Fisheries 
Service (NMFS) of a petition for rulemaking to exclude federally-
maintained dredged entrance channels and pilot boarding areas (and the 
immediately adjacent waters) for ports from New York to Jacksonville 
from vessel speed restrictions to reduce fatal vessel collisions with 
North Atlantic right whales. NMFS is also requesting comments on the 
petition and will consider all comments when determining whether to 
proceed with the suggested rulemaking.

DATES: The closing date for comments on the petition is March 3, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2014-0013, 
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-NMFS-2014-0013, click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, 
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
    Mail: Send comments or requests for copies of reports to: Chief, 
Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, 
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, Attn: Vessel Speed Rule Petition.
    Instructions: 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). You may submit attachments to 
electronic comments in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF 
file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gregory Silber, Ph.D., 
Greg.Silber@noaa.gov, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301)427-
8402.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On October 10, 2008, NMFS published a final rule (73 FR 60173) that 
established vessel speed restrictions to reduce the likelihood of 
deaths and serious injuries to endangered North Atlantic right whales 
from collisions with vessels. The regulation limited vessel speeds to 
10 knots or less for vessels 65 ft (19.8 m) or greater in overall 
length in certain locations and at certain times of the year along the 
east coast of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The regulation contained a 
provision that allows for an exception to the speed restriction when 
navigational safety requires a deviation. This rule also contained a 
provision whereby the regulation would expire (or ``sunset'') on 
December 9, 2013.
    On June 6, 2013, NMFS published a proposed rule (78 FR 34024) 
seeking public comment on a proposal to eliminate the sunset provision 
contained in the October 2008 final rule. Based on the best available 
science, on December 9, 2013, NMFS published a final rule (78 FR 73726) 
that removed the sunset provision. All other aspects of the regulation 
remained the same, including the navigational safety exception 
referenced above.
    During the public comment period for the June 2013 proposed rule, 
some commenters expressed concern about compromised safety that may 
arise from the 10-knot limit in some circumstances, despite the 
navigational safety exception contained in the regulation. In 
particular, the American Pilots' Association indicated that navigation 
is compromised in specific areas and suggested that NMFS ``exclude 
federally-maintained dredged channels and pilot boarding areas (and the 
immediately adjacent waters) for ports from New York to 
Jacksonville''--which they state is an approximate aggregate area of 15 
square miles--from the vessel speed restrictions.
    With regard to the American Pilots' Association request, NMFS 
stated in its December 2013 final rule removing the sunset provision:


[[Page 4884]]


    [We] will treat the request to exclude vessels using federally-
maintained dredged port entrance channels from the speed 
restrictions as a petition for rulemaking under the Administrative 
Procedure Act, though this is not required nor is it NMFS' normal 
practice. We plan to issue a Notice in the Federal Register 
announcing receipt of the petition, along with a concise statement 
of the request and seek comment on the request. If NMFS decides to 
proceed with the suggested rulemaking, we will notify the petitioner 
within 120 days, publish a notice in the Federal Register of our 
decision to engage in rulemaking in a prompt manner, and thereafter 
proceed in accordance with the requirements for rulemaking. If NMFS 
decides not to proceed with the petitioned rulemaking, we will 
notify the petitioner, provide a brief statement of the grounds for 
the decision, and publish in the Federal Register a notice of our 
decision not to proceed with the petitioned action.

    Therefore, NMFS is issuing this notice to solicit comments and 
information on all issues related to the petition to exclude federally-
maintained dredged entrance channels and pilot boarding areas (and the 
immediately adjacent waters) for ports from New York to Jacksonville 
from vessel speed restrictions to protect North Atlantic right whales.
    Please include scientific or commercial data, studies, or research 
to support your comments and position, including scientific data or 
research that supports any pertinent industry or professional 
standards, or specific examples in support of your comments, to aid 
NMFS in evaluating the request for rulemaking and in determining what 
action, if any, is appropriate. We will consider all comments and 
recommendations in determining whether to engage in the suggested 
rulemaking and thereafter will proceed as described above.

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.

    Dated: January 24, 2014.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-01734 Filed 1-29-14; 8:45 am]
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