[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 52 (Friday, March 16, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 15617-15635]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-6055]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0079; FXES11130900000C3-123-FF09E30000]
RIN 1018-AX27


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishing a 
Manatee Refuge in Kings Bay, Citrus County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, establish a manatee 
refuge in Citrus County, Florida, in the waters of Kings Bay, including 
its tributaries and connected waters. This action is based on our 
determination that there is substantial evidence showing that certain 
waterborne activities would result in the taking of one or more 
manatees and that certain waterborne activities must be restricted to 
prevent the taking of one or more manatees in Kings Bay. In making this 
rule final, we considered the biological needs of the manatee, the 
level of take at these sites, and the likelihood of additional take of 
manatees due to human activity at these sites.
    This final rule is modified from the proposed rule to ensure that 
the provisions do not compromise human safety and to clarify certain 
aspects. The modifications are not considered significant as they are 
within the scope of the proposed rule. To avoid creation of a hazard to 
human safety, watercraft may be operated at 25 miles per hour during 
daylight hours in a portion of the manatee refuge from June 1 through 
August 15. The portion of the rule prohibiting use of mooring and 
floatlines that can entangle manatees has been removed. Language 
regarding prohibitions on waterborne activities in Three Sisters Spring 
has been revised to improve clarity. We also announce the availability 
of a final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant 
Impact for this action.

DATES: This rule is effective March 16, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This final rule, and supporting documentation, including 
public comments, are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0079. Comments and 
materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in 
preparing this final rule, are also available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, North Florida Ecological Services Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, 
Suite 200, Jacksonville, Florida, 32256.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services Office, 7915 
Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, Florida, 32256; by telephone 
(904/731-3336); by facsimile (904/731-3045); by email: manatee@fws.gov; 
or on-line at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Previous Federal Actions

    The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) was listed as an 
endangered species on June 2, 1970 (35 FR 8491), under the Endangered 
Species Conservation Act of 1969 and this status was retained under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), and the population is further protected as a depleted stock 
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA) (16 
U.S.C. 1361 et seq.). On October 22, 1979, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) adopted a regulatory process to provide a means for 
establishing manatee protection areas in waters under the jurisdiction 
of the United States where manatees were taken by waterborne activities 
(44 FR 60964). The first manatee protection areas were designated in 
Kings Bay on November 12, 1980, for the purpose of preventing the take 
of manatees by harassment from waterborne activities and included the 
Banana Island Sanctuary (including King Spring), the Sunset Shores 
Sanctuary, and the Magnolia Springs Sanctuary (45 FR 74880). The 
Service subsequently designated four additional manatee protection 
areas in Kings Bay on May 12, 1994, and on October 16, 1998, (including 
the Buzzard Island Sanctuary, Tarpon Springs Sanctuary, Warden Key 
Sanctuary, and Three

[[Page 15618]]

Sisters Springs Sanctuary, respectively) (59 FR 24654 and 63 FR 55553). 
To prevent the imminent take of manatees by waterborne activities, we 
published an emergency rule that temporarily established the Kings Bay 
manatee refuge in Citrus County, Florida, on November 9, 2010 (75 FR 
68719). On June 22, 2011, the Service proposed to establish the manatee 
refuge throughout Kings Bay, while maintaining the seven existing 
Manatee Sanctuaries in the Bay (76 FR 36493).
    The West Indian manatee includes two subspecies: the Florida 
manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the Antillean manatee 
(Trichechus manatus manatus). Florida manatees can be found throughout 
the southeastern United States, with Florida at the core of its range. 
Extensive efforts are ongoing by the Service and the Florida Fish and 
Wildlife Conservation Commission (Commission or FWC) to recover this 
species. In particular, significant efforts are made to minimize human-
related threats and to reduce the number of manatees taken by human 
activities.
    Take, as defined by section 3(19) of the ESA, means to harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or to 
attempt to engage in any such conduct. Harm is further defined by 
regulation at 50 CFR 17.3 to mean an act which actually kills or 
injures wildlife. Harass is also defined by regulation to mean any 
intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood 
of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to 
significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns, which include, but 
are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). 
Take, as defined by section 3(13) of the MMPA, means to harass, hunt, 
capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any 
marine mammal. Take is further defined in 50 CFR 18.3 to include, 
without limitation, any of the following: The collection of dead 
animals or parts thereof; the restraint or detention of a marine 
mammal, no matter how temporary; tagging a marine mammal; or the 
negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel, or the 
doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in the 
disturbing or molesting of a marine mammal. Under section 3(18) of the 
MMPA, harassment is defined to include any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A); or (ii) has the potential to 
disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing 
disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, 
migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level 
B). All takings, including takings by harassment, are prohibited.
    The primary human-related causes of death and injury to manatees 
rangewide include watercraft-related strikes (impacts and/or propeller 
strikes), entrapment and/or crushing in water control structures 
(gates, locks, etc.), and entanglement in fishing lines, crab pot 
lines, etc. A 2005 analysis concluded that watercraft-related mortality 
was the leading human-related cause of death for manatees throughout 
Florida (MPSWG 2005, p. 5). A subsequent threats analysis concluded 
that watercraft strikes and the potential loss of warm-water habitat 
pose the greatest threats to the Florida manatee population (Runge et 
al. 2007, p. 17).
    The Service may establish manatee protection areas (in the form of 
a manatee refuge or a manatee sanctuary) whenever there is substantial 
evidence showing that such establishment is necessary to prevent the 
taking of one or more manatees. Regulations authorizing designation of 
manatee refuges and sanctuaries in areas where restrictions or 
prohibitions on certain waterborne activities are needed to prevent the 
take of manatees are codified in 50 CFR 17 subpart J. A manatee refuge 
is defined as an area in which the Director has determined that: (1) 
Certain waterborne activities would take one or more manatees; or (2) 
certain waterborne activities must be restricted to prevent the take of 
one or more manatees, including but not limited to taking by 
harassment. A manatee sanctuary is an area where it has been determined 
that any waterborne activity would result in the taking of one or more 
manatees, including but not limited to a taking by harassment (50 CFR 
17.102). Manatee refuges and manatee sanctuaries are established under 
a different authority from Federal National Wildlife Refuges.

Kings Bay

    The Florida manatee's range includes Kings Bay, Florida. Kings Bay 
is a large embayment located at the headwaters of the Crystal River, a 
tidal river located on Florida's west coast. Springs are the primary 
water source for this estuarine system; a recent report describes 70 
springs that discharge warm, artesian water (that is, water rises under 
pressure from a permeable stratum overlaid by impermeable rock) into 
Kings Bay (Vanasse, Hangen, and Brustlin, Inc., 2010, p. 1). Kings Bay 
is partially located within the City of Crystal River's city limits, 
and wholly within Citrus County, Florida. Citrus County and the City of 
Crystal River are an integral part of ``Florida's Nature Coast,'' a 
northwestern Florida region marketed for outdoor recreational 
opportunities, including opportunities for viewing manatees (Nature 
Coast Coalition 2010 Web site). In addition to viewing manatees, area 
recreationists engage in snorkeling and diving, boating, canoeing and 
kayaking, fishing, waterskiing, and other activities (Gold 2008, pp. 4-
5). Local eco-tour operators, dive shops, marinas, hotels and motels, 
restaurants, and other businesses benefit from these activities 
(Buckingham 1990, p. 6).
    The Kings Bay springs constitute one of the most important natural 
warm-water shelters for manatees. Manatees have historically been 
attracted to the warm, spring-fed waters in Kings Bay where they 
retreat from the cold during the winter. As manatee populations have 
increased, year-round use of Kings Bay by manatees has increased 
accordingly (Figures 1 and 2). Wintering manatees have been the focus 
of a manatee viewing industry for many years, and bay waters are widely 
used by commercial and recreational waterway users for a variety of 
activities throughout the year. Manatees are struck and killed or 
injured by watercraft operating in Kings Bay. Manatees are harassed by 
the viewing public. The number of manatees struck and killed by 
watercraft in Kings Bay is increasing, as are the number of public 
reports of acts of manatee harassment.
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 15619]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR16MR12.000

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

[[Page 15620]]

    Watercraft associated with recreational and commercial activities 
strike and kill manatees. In the State's northwestern region, where 
Kings Bay is located, adult manatee mortality is almost equally split 
between human-related and natural causes, with watercraft collisions 
being the leading source of human-caused mortality. According to 
mortality statistics compiled by the FWC, 13 manatees killed as a 
result of collisions with watercraft have been recovered within the 
boundaries of the Kings Bay manatee refuge (as established by this 
rule) between April 1974 and November 2010; all of these occurred since 
1999 (Table 1; FWC FWRI Manatee Mortality Database 2011 Web site).

Table 1--All Carcasses Recovered in the ``Kings Bay'' Region From April 1974 Through November 2010 for Which the
  Cause of Death Was Specifically Determined To Be Watercraft. *The Entry for 06/11/2002 Is a Carcass That Was
     Recovered Outside of the Boundaries of the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge (as Established by This Rule), but
                                   Considered the ``Kings Bay'' Region by FWC
                        [Data source: FWC FWRI Manatee Mortality Database 2011 Web site]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                  Probable cause
    FL county           Date           Field ID           Sex       Size (cm)        Region          of death
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Citrus...........      10/27/1999  MNW9934           F                     268  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      10/12/2000  MNW0029           F                     275  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      06/11/2002  MNW0222           M                     207  Kings Bay*.....  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      07/17/2002  MNW0229           F                     310  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      02/01/2003  MNW0305           F                     257  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      06/01/2004  MNW0417           F                     204  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      05/19/2006  LPZ102120         F                     259  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      05/24/2007  MNW0715           F                     227  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      07/04/2007  MNW0721           F                     331  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      08/23/2007  LPZ102383         M                     262  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      03/25/2008  MNW0813           F                     219  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      07/13/2008  MNW0814           M                     228  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      12/05/2008  LPZ102654         F                     261  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
Citrus...........      01/03/2010  MNW1002           M                     246  Kings Bay......  Watercraft.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Manatee viewing activities provide a significant source of revenue 
to the local economy (Buckingham 1990, p. 6). Local eco-tour businesses 
bring visitors out to Kings Bay where visitors view manatees while in 
the water, from boats, and from other vantage points. Some manatees 
initiate encounters with visitors, but most manatees avoid or ignore 
encounters with people, preferring to frequent manatee sanctuaries 
where all human activities are prohibited. Some manatees are harassed 
by visitors, despite the fact that all forms of harassment are 
prohibited by law.
    Hartman (1979, pp. 128-131) was the first to observe and describe 
how manatees respond to the presence of people in the water, observing 
that most manatees tended to avoid people, some ignored people, a few 
approached people and then left, and some approached and initiated 
interactions with people. These observations were made in Kings Bay's 
warm water springs and the author correlated a reduction in the number 
of manatees using the Main Spring with an increasing number of people 
(Hartman 1979, p. 131). Concern has been expressed about manatees 
displaced from warm water springs for prolonged periods of time; 
prolonged exposure to cold can be fatal to manatees, especially for 
smaller animals (O'Shea 1995, p. 304). Hartman (1979, p. 126) believed 
that manatees in Kings Bay are harassed by people in the water and by 
boats.
    Researchers have observed and documented manatee responses to 
people and boats (Sorice et al. 2003, p. 324). Researchers noted 
increases in swimming, milling, and cavorting behaviors and decreases 
in resting, feeding, and nursing behaviors in the presence of 
increasing numbers of people and boats (Abernathy 1995, pp. 23-26; 
Wooding 1997, p. 1; King and Heinen 2004, pp. 230-231). They also 
observed that increases in numbers of boats and people prompted 
manatees to use other areas (Kochman et al. 1985, pp. 922-924; 
Buckingham et al. 1999, p. 514). However, none of these studies' 
observations of manatee responses to viewing participants and boats 
suggest that harm (killing or injuring of manatees) has occurred or is 
occurring (Sorice et al. 2003, p. 320). Nor have there been any 
significant increases in the number of cold-related injuries and 
mortalities in the northwestern Florida region, even in the recent 
extreme cold events, which killed large numbers of manatees in other 
portions of the winter range. For example, in the 2009-2010 winter cold 
event, only two deaths due to cold stress were recorded in Citrus 
County while to the south in Lee County, 24 manatee deaths were 
reported due to cold stress (FWC FWRI Manatee Mortality Database 2011 
Web site). Manatee survival rates in the northwestern region are among 
the highest in Florida (Runge et al. 2007, p. 20).
    Observations of manatee harassment in Kings Bay prompted the 
Service to promulgate a rule in 1979 that allowed the agency to 
designate manatee protection areas where certain waterborne activities, 
including boating and swimming, could be prohibited in order to 
``reduce the incidence of manatee injuries and deaths'' and to ``lessen 
the likelihood that manatees will encounter boats and people'' (44 FR 
60964; October 22, 1979). Subsequently, three manatee sanctuaries were 
designated in Kings Bay in 1980 (45 FR 74880; November 12, 1980) and, 
in 1983, the Service purchased lands in and around Kings Bay and 
established the Crystal River NWR for the purpose of protecting 
manatees and to educate the public about manatees.
    In 1994, citing a doubling of the number of manatees in the area 
since 1980, a large increase in the number of visitors, the inability 
of the existing sanctuaries to provide sufficient shelter for manatees, 
and reports of increasing manatee harassment, the Service designated 
three additional sanctuaries in Kings Bay to prevent the take of 
manatees by harassment (59 FR 24654; May 12, 1994). This expansion was

[[Page 15621]]

followed by the addition of another sanctuary in 1998, similarly 
justified by reports of increasing harassment and observations of 
increasing numbers of manatees, increasing numbers of recreational 
divers and snorkelers, and insufficient space for manatees to rest, 
free from harassment (63 FR 55553; October 16, 1998: See Table 2.).

          Table 2--Information Justifying Previous Manatee Sanctuary Designations in Kings Bay, Florida
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Approximate                                                 Number of
 Date of Kings Bay manatee sanctuary      number of       Estimated number of  people viewing        sanctuary
             designations              manatees using                   manatees                   designations
                                          Kings Bay                                                 new (total)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
November 12, 1980 (45 FR 74880)......             100  30,000 to 40,000.........................            3(3)
May 12, 1994 (59 FR 24654)...........             240  60,000 to 80,000.........................            3(6)
October 16, 1998 (63 FR 55553).......             250  100,000..................................            1(7)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Over the last 30 years (1980-2010), the Service and the State of 
Florida have created a network of manatee protection areas within the 
Kings Bay area. This network was designed to prevent the take of 
manatees by waterborne activities, including but not limited to, 
boating and manatee viewing activities, and was established to allow 
manatees to continue to gain access to critical warm-water areas and 
important resting and foraging areas. During the manatee season 
(November 15 through March 31), the network includes seven Federal 
manatee sanctuaries (which are described in our regulations at 50 CFR 
17.108(a)(1)-(a)(7)) and five State manatee protection zones (as 
described in Chapter 68C-22, ``The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act'' 
(2010)).
    The seven Federal sanctuaries are located at heavily-used winter, 
warm-water sites (springs) and foraging areas and preclude all 
waterborne activities within their boundaries, preventing take from 
both boating and manatee viewing within these areas. The State 
protection zones include year-round idle and slow-speed zones that 
prevent the take of manatees from high-speed watercraft collisions. 
Given the State's statutory responsibilities for balancing the needs of 
manatees with the needs of the boating community, the State designated 
a 35-mile per-hour (mph) (daytime)/25 mph (nighttime) watersports area 
(watersports area) in Kings Bay between May 1 and August 31. This area 
encircles Buzzard Island in the center of the bay.
    This network of manatee protection areas is enforced by Service, 
State, and local law enforcement officers. Extensive outreach and 
education programs support the protection area network, encouraging the 
public who engage in waterborne activities, including boating, manatee 
viewing activities, and others, to avoid taking manatees.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In the June 22, 2011, proposed rule (76 FR 36493), we requested 
comments concerning any aspect of the proposal and the accompanying 
draft Environmental Assessment (EA) that might contribute to 
development of the final decision on the proposed rule. A 60-day 
comment period was provided. We sent notifications and other 
informational materials about the proposal to Federal and State 
agencies, Congressional representatives, conservation groups, local 
governments, local commercial diving operations, and numerous private 
citizens who may be affected or had expressed an interest in receiving 
further information on the proposal. In accordance with our policy on 
peer review, published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we also provided 
copies of the proposed rule to three appropriate independent peer 
reviewers.
    We published a legal notice in the Citrus County Chronicle 
newspaper on June 24, 2011, announcing the proposal and availability of 
the draft EA, inviting public comment on both, and announcing the 
schedule for the informal open house and formal public hearing. 
Informational flyers were also distributed by the Crystal River 
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) staff and friends group to all 
waterfront properties adjoining Kings Bay, as well as other nearby 
residences, and copies were mailed to the NWR's Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan development stakeholder and interested party list.
    We held a public informational open house and formal public hearing 
at the College of Central Florida--Citrus Campus, CF Conference Center 
in Lecanto, Florida, on July 7, 2011. The public hearing was attended 
by 169 people, not including Service staff. Of the 49 hearing attendees 
who signed up to speak, 42 provided oral comments (including 15 local 
officials).
    During the comment period, we received 415 written comments and 42 
oral comments. A number of reviewers attached supporting documents such 
as petitions with multiple signatures or member form letters. Overall, 
comments came from individuals, conservation organizations, property 
owners, dive shop owners, tour operators, business owners, local 
officials, and other stakeholders. The majority of the comments 
expressed support for or opposition to the proposed manatee refuge 
without any substantive data or information provided for Service 
consideration.
    Those expressing support generally either supported the rule as 
proposed, with some minor modifications and suggestions for improving 
education, or expressed concerns that it was not extensive enough. 
Those expressing opposition cited a broad range of concerns including 
riparian property rights, lack of alternatives considered, perception 
that the public was not involved earlier in the process, recreational 
user safety, and perceived economic effects. In some cases those in 
opposition generally supported most of the winter aspects of the rule 
but not the year-round watercraft restrictions. Analysis of all 
comments received is summarized in the main issues that are identified 
and discussed below.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinion from three knowledgeable 
individuals with expertise in various aspects of the rule. We received 
responses from two of the peer reviewers. The peer reviewers generally 
concurred with our proposal and its content. One provided an additional 
economic reference, which was incorporated into the EA. Another 
recommended protection of an additional spring (Hunter Spring) but did 
not provide accompanying justification. The Service does not have

[[Page 15622]]

sufficient information to justify its inclusion at this time.

Public Comments

    In responding to public comments, the Service has grouped similar 
comments into a single cohesive comment/response in order to provide 
greater clarity to the reader. We have not addressed or included 
comments that were unrelated to the rule, for example, comments about 
critical habitat designation. Finally, there were comments that were 
unrelated to the mechanics or effects of the rule such as perceptions, 
motives, etc. These comments are not addressed in the final rule but 
may be addressed in outreach materials accompanying the release of the 
final rule.
    (1) Comment: With the increased number of manatees using Kings Bay, 
the death of one manatee should be acceptable.
    Our Response: The available data show that, in several years, one 
or more manatees have been killed or harassed; the Service is 
establishing the manatee refuge in Kings Bay with the intent of 
reducing those impacts. All take (as defined by the ESA and the MMPA) 
of manatees, including take by harassment, is prohibited by Federal 
law.
    (2) Comment: The Service did not fully engage the public in the 
Federal rulemaking process.
    Our Response: In accordance with 50 CFR 17.100-108, we issued an 
emergency rule on November 9, 2010 (75 FR 68719) to establish Kings Bay 
as a manatee refuge to prevent the imminent take of manatees by 
waterborne activities. We held four informational meetings with the 
community to provide the public with information on the next steps in 
the regulatory process as well as for the exchange of useful 
information. These meetings were held on November 16, 18, and 20 and 
December 2, 2010, at the Plantation Inn and Golf Resort, Crystal River, 
FL, to initiate the process of formalizing the manatee emergency 
regulation. On June 22, 2011 (76 FR 36493), we proposed to establish 
Kings Bay as a manatee refuge as defined under 50 CFR 17 subpart J and 
announced a public hearing on this proposed rule. A 60-day public 
comment period was provided. On July 7, 2011, we held the public 
hearing at the College of Central Florida--Citrus Campus, CF Conference 
Center in Lecanto, Florida. As stated above, the public hearing was 
well attended, and overall we received 415 written comments and 42 oral 
comments from interested parties. We have worked closely with the 
public and the State of Florida and fully engaged the public in the 
rulemaking process in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. 
We have thoroughly evaluated and considered comments received and 
incorporated edits to the regulation where appropriate.
    (3) Comment: The establishment of Kings Bay as a manatee refuge is 
an expansion of the Federal Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
    Our Response: The manatee protection area (manatee refuge) 
established in Kings Bay through this final rule does not alter the 
boundary of the existing Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, 
although it does overlap with part of this National Wildlife Refuge. It 
is an area established in accordance with 50 CFR 17.100-108, subpart J, 
the sole purpose of which is to prevent the take of one or more 
manatees from waterborne activities being conducted in the area. As 
previously defined, ``manatee refuges'' are established solely to 
prevent the take of one or more manatees. They are protection areas 
designated in the water and are not land acquisitions or land parcels. 
No ownership of the waterways or submerged lands is transferred as a 
result of establishing a manatee protection area (i.e., a manatee 
refuge or manatee sanctuary). National Wildlife Refuges, on the other 
hand, are part of the Federal National Wildlife Refuge System. These 
are Federal lands set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and 
plants through the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 
1997. The manatee protection area (manatee refuge) established in Kings 
Bay through this final rule is also not an expansion of an existing 
Federal Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The Crystal River 
National Wildlife Refuge Fish and Wildlife Service staff is only 
associated with this manatee refuge because they will be a part of the 
team that implements the management activities detailed in this rule, 
as they currently are for the seven existing Federal seasonal manatee 
sanctuaries in Kings Bay.
    (4) Comment: The establishment of Kings Bay as a manatee refuge 
will stop all boating activity and recreation.
    Our Response: Designating Kings Bay as a manatee refuge pursuant to 
50 CFR 17.100-108, subpart J, will not stop all boating and 
recreational activity. It provides for specific prohibitions, including 
speed and anchoring restrictions, time and area prohibitions, and 
prohibited activities such as chasing manatees, to avoid and minimize 
the harassment of manatees. However, boating, fishing, kayaking, and 
other forms of recreation are still allowed within all or portions of 
the manatee refuge, except in manatee sanctuaries and temporary no 
entry areas while they are in effect, as defined in the rule portion of 
this regulation.
    (5) Comment: The proposed designation of Kings Bay as a manatee 
refuge infringes on property rights of homeowners that own property on 
the banks of Kings Bay. The establishment of Kings Bay as a manatee 
refuge will require homeowners on Kings Bay to get a permit.
    Our Response: Manatee protection areas (manatee sanctuaries) were 
established in Kings Bay in 1980, 1994, and 1998. With all of these 
rules, exceptions were allowed for homeowners that own property on the 
banks of Kings Bay adjoining manatee sanctuaries or no-entry areas to 
continue to use waterways to go from and to their property under idle 
speed. They have also continually been allowed to maintain their 
property. Homeowners that own property as described above under these 
prior rules were not required to get a permit. Under these past rules, 
they notified the Crystal River NWR office and received a no-cost 
sticker to identify their watercraft. Some of these homeowners on Kings 
Bay already have identification stickers. When effective, this final 
rule for Kings Bay allows similar exceptions to all riparian property 
homeowners (their guests, employees, and designees including 
contractors and lessees) whose property adjoins a manatee sanctuary or 
no-entry area so they can retain their watercraft access and conduct 
property maintenance. This final rule also employs a similar no-cost 
sticker and no-cost letter of authorization program that has been used 
in the area for many years. The letter of authorization for contractors 
and designees is a process to help and protect homeowners as well. 
These stickers and/or letters are not required for those riparian 
property homeowners (their guests, employees, and designees including 
contractors and lessees) with Kings Bay property that does not adjoin a 
manatee sanctuary or no-entry area.
    (6) Comment: Several comments related to the human safety aspects 
of the proposal. Some commenters expressed concern that, by closing the 
summer watersports zone, recreational watercraft operators would be 
forced into the narrow channel of Crystal River proper. Others 
expressed concern that the current watersports zone is unsafe because 
of the high number of users and the speed at which watercraft are being 
operated. Some commenters suggested that a reduced watersports zone 
could

[[Page 15623]]

increase safety for manatees while not forcing too much recreational 
activity into the river.
    Our Response: We have fully evaluated comments shared by the public 
in and around Kings Bay and other concerned stakeholders in relation to 
actions being considered for implementation that were identified in the 
Services' June 2011 proposed rule. These concerns led us to seek and 
review Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boating 
accident records in Crystal River and Kings Bay. Review of that 
information revealed that, since 2000, eight boating accidents have 
been reported in Kings Bay. Those accidents resulted in four injuries. 
In Crystal River, 24 accidents have been reported since 1998. Those 
accidents resulted in 12 injuries and 1 fatality.
    As part of our evaluation of comments, the Service worked with the 
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to evaluate the human safety aspects of the 
proposed rule. In an October 7, 2011, memorandum, the USCG (and 
confirmed by FWC by letter of December 8, 2011) conveyed their concern 
that the proposed closure of the watersports zone is likely to result 
in the displacement of high-speed watercraft activity into the Gulf of 
Mexico and the connecting waters of Crystal River, with the latter 
being the more likely of the two options due to the 2-hour transit time 
from Kings Bay to the Gulf. Crystal River has a narrow high-speed 
channel. In working with the USCG, we concluded that an increase in 
traffic such as might occur with implementation of our proposed rule is 
likely to result in unsafe conditions for watercraft operators by 
increasing the density of boaters in a smaller area and, therefore, the 
danger of boating safety infractions and marine accidents including 
vessel collisions, potentially involving serious bodily injury. We 
worked with the USCG to ensure that the manatee protection area 
designated through this rule both prevents the take of one or more 
manatees and alleviates the human safety issues raised in public 
comments.
    The Service examined seasonal manatee use data (i.e., numbers of 
manatees seen and when they were seen) in the watersports zone on a 
monthly basis from May through August for a period of 13 years (1999-
2011); 69 surveys in all (Crystal River NWR unpublished data). Manatee 
use was highest during May (23.7 manatees/survey), declined in June 
(16.8 manatees/survey), July (17.5 manatees/survey), and the first half 
of August (11.0 manatees/survey), and increased in the latter half of 
August (19.4 manatees/survey). Coincidentally, the period of least 
manatee use also matched the timeframe when the least experienced 
boaters would be most likely to be on the water, the public school 
summer vacation period.
    The Service also examined manatee area use data (i.e., numbers of 
manatees seen and their locations) in various portions of the 
watersports zone for this same time period. Manatees are found 
throughout Kings Bay; however, some portions of Kings Bay appear to 
have less frequent use than others, such as a portion of the bay north 
of Buzzard Island. Manatee use during the months of May through August, 
was greatest (approximately 60 percent of all observations) in the 
waters east, west, and south of Buzzard Island. The waters along the 
south, west, and north shorelines in that portion of Kings Bay north of 
Buzzard Island combined encompassed approximately 15 percent of all 
observations. The remainder of the waters north of Buzzard Island 
encompassed approximately 25 percent of the manatee observations 
(Crystal River NWR unpublished data).
    We, therefore, considered the best available information, including 
manatee area and seasonal use within the Bay, and concluded that we 
could still meet the regulatory requirements of 50 CFR 17.100-108, 
subpart J, while also considering the human safety aspects by modifying 
the proposed rule to continue to allow some level of high speed 
watercraft recreation in Kings Bay. The final rule reflects these 
modifications that are within the scope of the proposed rule. Further, 
as confirmed in a memorandum to the Service dated November 8, 2011, 
these modifications alleviate the USCG's concerns regarding the 
proposed rule. Specifically, watercraft will be able to operate at high 
speed, not to exceed 25 mph, in a portion of Kings Bay generally north 
of Buzzard Island from June 1 through August 15 during daylight hours 
(sunrise to sunset). Slow-speed operation is required from sunset to 
sunrise during this period and at all times from August 16 through May 
31. Manatees in Kings Bay are known to approach anchored boats for 
various and sometimes unknown reasons (e.g., to rub on the anchor line, 
seek cover, etc.). Therefore, we added a protection measure in the 
high-speed area through a prohibition against anchoring a vessel in the 
area (except in emergency situations) while the zone is in effect, 
which will avoid creating an attractive nuisance. A secondary benefit 
of this manatee protection measure is that it enhances the value of the 
area for safe waterborne recreation by precluding anchorage of vessels 
in the high-speed area during the defined time period. Currently, this 
area is a location where recreational vessels are anchored for extended 
periods and this effectively limits high-speed recreation in the widest 
portion of the Bay, causing recreationists to use the more constricted 
portions of the watersports area.
    The modifications to the rule will allow continued use of a portion 
of Kings Bay for high-speed recreation and, therefore, is less likely 
to result in additional recreational pressure in Crystal River during 
this peak summer recreation period. The modifications also coincide 
with the period of least manatee use based on available occurrence data 
(Crystal River NWR 2011, unpublished data). The area north of Buzzard 
Island provides the most open space available for watercraft operation 
in Kings Bay and is of less value to manatees for feeding, breeding, 
and sheltering (Crystal River NWR unpublished data). The waters to the 
east, west, and south of Buzzard Island that will become a year-round 
slow-speed zone generally have a greater density of manatee occurrences 
during the summer months, are shallower, and likely contain more 
submerged aquatic vegetation than the waters to the north of the 
island.
    The ``Speed and anchoring restrictions'' portion of the rule 
provides for slow speed shoreline buffers along the south, west, and 
north shorelines in the portion of Kings Bay north of Buzzard Island. 
This provision allows the Service to protect the areas most frequented 
by manatees and to allow a safe operating area for recreational 
vessels. Based on our estimates of the location of these buffers 
relative to manatee observational data, we believe the final rule 
provides significant improvements in manatee protection over current 
conditions. It provides the same level of manatee protection as the 
June 2011 proposed rule during 47 days of May and August when the bay 
is slow speed throughout. During June, July, and the first half of 
August (76 days total), boats will be required to travel at slow speed 
where manatees are most likely to occur east, west, and south of 
Buzzard Island (approximately 60 percent of the observed locations) and 
along shorelines north of Buzzard Island (approximately 15 percent of 
the observed locations; Crystal River NWR unpublished data). As a 
result of the changes to the rule, which prohibits mooring and 
anchoring in the area north of Buzzard Island from June 1 to August 15, 
we also believe there will be fewer

[[Page 15624]]

manatees (currently, this area supports approximately 5 percent of 
observed locations; Crystal River NWR unpublished data) in the area 
where boats have historically anchored and moored which will also 
increase manatee protection in the 25 mph area. In total, we estimate 
that the final rule will provide at least 84 percent of the slow-speed 
benefits of the proposed rule (100 percent for 47 days and 75 percent 
for 76 days) and could reduce the potential risk of manatee mortality 
and injury by this fraction as the result of legal vessel operation. We 
believe the final rule will prevent the take of one or more manatees 
and resolves the safety concerns expressed by the public and confirmed 
by the USCG and FWC. Therefore, the Service is exercising its 
discretionary authority under 50 CFR subpart J to establish this 
manatee protection area.
    (7) Comment: One reviewer commented that slowing boat speeds will 
not protect manatees.
    Our Response: Slowing vessels allows increased reaction time for 
both boaters and manatees to avoid each other. It also minimizes the 
amount of force involved should a collision occur. Blunt force trauma 
is a significant factor in the deaths of manatees and injuries in 
collisions with boats.
    (8) Comment: The definition of slow speed in the rule should be 
modified to include the aspect of ``no wake'' and should be modified to 
define a certain miles per hour.
    Our Response: The Service uses definitions of watercraft operation 
speeds that are consistent with those of the State of Florida. We do 
not have any information to indicate that addition of ``no wake'' and a 
set miles per hour limit would offer further protection than the 
current definition in use.
    (9) Comment: We received comments that there is not enough 
information to support establishing a temporary no-entry area around 
House and Jurassic Springs as well as comments that requested greater 
protection for these springs in the form of sanctuaries.
    Our Response: As many as 20 animals have been seen in each of these 
sites on particularly cold days (J. Kleen, Crystal River NWR, 2010, 
pers. com.). Based on the best available information, including manatee 
use data, we believe that having the ability to establish temporary no-
entry areas in House and Jurassic Springs will prevent the take, 
including harassment, of one or more manatees. These temporary no-entry 
areas will not be established in these spring areas when manatees are 
not present. Establishment of temporary no-entry areas will be based on 
aerial survey observations of manatees using the existing sanctuary 
sites, current weather information, and other sources of credible, 
relevant information. Depending on the winter season, House and 
Jurassic Springs may not have to be temporarily closed to entry or may 
only need to be closed for a time less than the duration of the winter 
season. In relation to greater protection, manatee use at these Springs 
is also expected to increase with less disturbance and future growth of 
the manatee population. At this time, the evidence does not support a 
determination that establishment of permanent sanctuaries is necessary 
to prevent the taking of one or more manatees. We will work closely 
with the local, State, and Federal officials and the local community if 
rule changes are considered in the future.
    (10) Comment: The Service should specify specific air and water 
temperatures and tidal conditions that are necessary before an early or 
late creation of any temporary no-entry area could occur.
    Our Response: Creation of any temporary no-entry area will be made 
only after an evaluation of a number of factors. The designation of 
temporary no-entry areas in advance of or after the regular manatee 
winter season will be made based on presence of manatees as identified 
by aerial survey observations of manatees using the existing sanctuary 
sites, and current weather information including air and water 
temperature and forecast duration of the cold event. Tidal conditions 
are not a factor in considering these designations.
    (11) Comment: Some reviewers commented that we are only 
establishing the Kings Bay manatee refuge because of the threat of 
court action against the Service from several environmental groups.
    Our Response: In designating the Kings Bay manatee refuge, the 
Service is guided by the provisions of 50 CFR 17.100-108.
    (12) Comment: Some reviewers commented that, with the manatee 
population increasing, there is no need for establishing a Federal 
manatee refuge in Kings Bay, Citrus County, Florida.
    Our Response: Both the ESA and MMPA prohibit the take, including 
incidental take, of manatees without appropriate authorization, which, 
to be obtained, must meet certain findings made under these Acts. 
Preventing the take of manatees as a result of watercraft collisions is 
a top priority in manatee recovery and management programs because of 
the overall value of this area to recovery, and the risk of take from 
harassment and watercraft. This action is consistent with prior Service 
rulemaking. After evaluating the best available information, we have 
determined that designation of this area as a manatee refuge is 
warranted pursuant to 50 CFR 17.100-108.
    (13) Comment: Kings Bay as a whole and the channel proper that 
feeds into Kings Bay should be established as a manatee sanctuary.
    Our Response: At this time, there is not substantial evidence to 
support the establishment of a manatee sanctuary throughout Kings Bay 
or the Crystal River channel proper that feeds into Kings Bay. 
Establishment of such a designation would unnecessarily restrict 
recreational opportunities within the Bay.
    (14) Comment: Several reviewers commented that harassment as 
defined by these more specific prohibited activities should be added to 
50 CFR 17.102 and that these prohibited actions that clarify take of 
manatees should apply everywhere it occurs and should be clarified in 
the rule.
    Our Response: With the publication of this final rule, 50 CFR part 
17 will be amended as noted in the Regulation Promulgation section of 
this rule. The Director may establish manatee protection areas whenever 
there is substantial evidence showing such establishment is necessary 
to prevent the taking of one or more manatees. Defining ``harassment'' 
under 50 CFR 17.102 is outside the scope of this rule. We have 
substantial evidence that the prohibited behaviors specifically 
identified in this rule can and have resulted in take of manatees in 
Kings Bay. It is not clear that extending the prohibitions beyond Kings 
Bay is warranted at this time, and in any case, goes beyond the scope 
of the rule. We will work closely with the local, State, and Federal 
officials and the local community if rule changes outside of Kings Bay 
are considered in the future.
    (15) Comment: Some reviewers expressed confusion about the proposed 
prohibition against using mooring or float lines that can entangle 
manatees. Comments were also received suggesting that this line 
prohibition should apply everywhere the manatee occurs.
    Our Response: The intent of the prohibition against the ``use of 
mooring and float lines that can entangle manatees'' was to prevent one 
or more manatees from being injured or killed from entanglement in such 
lines that have been abandoned or are not regularly checked and could, 
therefore, become an entanglement hazard. We recognize, however, that 
our intent was not clearly articulated in the proposed

[[Page 15625]]

rule. Entanglements are a threat to manatees in Kings Bay. In our 
attempts to clarify this proposed prohibition, we have recognized that 
this threat and solutions toward this threat need additional 
consideration. Implementing this provision at this time is not 
practical for several reasons (e.g., uncertainty regarding 
identification and availability of appropriate materials, application 
for different uses, and enforceability). Our goal of the proposed 
prohibition was the removal of derelict line sources and to encourage 
all operators to regularly check lines that are secured in Kings Bay. 
Through improved outreach, we are going to encourage all operators to 
help us meet this goal. We intend to work with the community and 
researchers to assess and evaluate equipment (line, connections, traps) 
solutions that are feasible and evidence suggests will help reduce 
manatee entanglements. Until we can accomplish that, other measures, 
such as fishing line recycling programs and the State of Florida's 
derelict crab pot removal program, are already in existence within 
Kings Bay to provide means for reducing the number of lines discarded 
in this area. Therefore, we have modified the rule to remove this 
proposed prohibition.
    (16) Comment: Comments expressed the opinion that the Service does 
not have the resources to enforce the prohibitions and restrictions 
within the Kings Bay manatee refuge. Similarly, we received comments 
suggesting that enforcement should be increased in Kings Bay before 
additional protections are implemented.
    Our Response: Both State and Federal law enforcement agents are 
authorized to enforce these regulations, and enforcement is a valuable 
tool to reduce take from noncompliant activity. The watercraft speed 
restrictions address the potential for accidental take associated with 
currently legal activities. Increased enforcement of existing laws 
would not prevent these injuries and deaths.
    (17) Comment: Numerous comments stated the need to improve 
education for all parties who participate in waterborne activities 
within Kings Bay.
    Our Response: Education and public awareness are important elements 
in the ongoing efforts to protect and recover manatees. In addition, 
our analysis of the best available information indicates that 
establishment of manatee protection areas and their requisite 
enforcement are equally important components in the comprehensive 
approach toward manatee protection. We will continue to work with the 
local community to increase education and public awareness of these 
regulations and restrictions.
    (18) Comment: Some reviewers commented that elimination of the 
summer watersports zone will adversely impact the economy by reducing 
property values, certain forms of recreation, and tourism. Others 
commented that the proposal will support economic growth through 
increased ecotourism in the summer. One commenter pointed out the 
savings in costs from rescuing and caring for injured manatees.
    Our Response: The net economic effect of the rule, whether positive 
or negative, is expected to be minimal. There is little debate that 
manatees are an economic asset to the community, but the extent to 
which that value may increase in summer months is unknown. The changes 
in the slow-speed requirements for safety purposes will have the 
secondary effect of buffering potential adverse economic effects 
through lost use. The rule will reduce the duration when certain 
waterborne activities may take place by 38 percent, but will maintain 
the opportunity for such recreation during the peak summer use period. 
It will remove some areas where high-speed watercraft operation can 
take place but improve opportunities for such recreation in other 
areas. It will increase and enhance the opportunities for other forms 
of waterborne recreation such as kayaking or canoeing, swimming, 
diving, and wildlife observation immediately east, south, and west of 
Buzzard Island. We know that the most recent annual reimbursement by 
the State to rehabilitation facilities for the cost of rescue and care 
for injured or distressed manatees is $1.15 million. Any incremental 
reduction in manatee injuries will represent a cost savings.
    (19) Comment: One reviewer commented that the manatee mortality 
statistics in the rule and Environmental Assessment are inaccurate.
    Our Response: The statistics have been reviewed and have been 
revised in this final rule to be current and accurate at the time of 
publication.
    (20) Comment: One reviewer commented that the refuge establishment 
will prevent dredging.
    Our Response: Manatee-safe procedures are currently required for 
all dredging activities in Florida where manatees are found. The rule 
does not impose additional restrictions on dredging.
    (21) Comment: Several comments stated that the rule should 
incorporate additional protected areas both within and beyond the 
refuge and noted that the Service is not closing access to the 
``keyhole'' in Kings Spring, a marked corridor within the Banana Island 
Sanctuary that currently allows access to swimmers and divers while the 
sanctuary is in place.
    Our Response: The Service does not believe that additional closures 
are warranted within the manatee refuge and closures outside of the 
manatee refuge are beyond the scope of this rule. The Service believes 
that the rule is sufficient to prevent the take of one or more manatees 
and is, therefore, compliant with our discretionary authority. We 
believe swimming and diving can be allowed in the ``keyhole'' without 
harassing manatees. However, should swimming, diving, or both in the 
keyhole prove to be a problem, the Service has authority to close 
public access without additional rulemaking, as this area is Federally-
owned and administered by the Service.
    (22) Comment: Several comments suggested additional rules for in-
water behavior relative to specific approach distances, touching of 
manatees, gear requirements or prohibitions, and passive observation.
    Our Response: In order for the Service to implement and enforce a 
restriction we must be able to demonstrate substantial evidence that 
the activity results in ``take.'' As such, the rule prohibits numerous 
types of contact with manatees that will result in take. However, we 
have no evidence that simply touching a manatee, or approaching a 
manatee within some specific proximity, or use of some specific types 
of gear near a manatee will necessarily result in take. The commenter 
also acknowledged that ``* * * interactions between certain manatees 
that invite contact with people may not annoy, disturb, or harm 
[manatees].'' Adding these prohibitions would thus exceed our authority 
under subpart J and MMPA. Conversely, all of the prohibitions in the 
rule can be shown to result in take and will collectively allow us to 
prevent illegal take, and violations can be successfully prosecuted.
    (23) Comment: Some reviewers suggested that the Service delay 
implementation and create a stakeholder committee to develop a 
solution.
    Our Response: Prior to development of this final rule, we held four 
public meetings and one public hearing. No specific alternative 
solutions were submitted during these public meetings, subsequent to 
these meetings, or during the public comment period, despite the 
request for such information. We coordinated with Law Enforcement, FWC, 
and the USCG. The Service

[[Page 15626]]

considered alternative configurations for the final rule in 
coordination with the USCG and incorporated the changes that maximize 
manatee protection while addressing human safety concerns that were 
brought to our attention during the proposed rule comment period. 
Finally, the Service, as part of our mission, supports fishing, 
boating, and other outdoor recreation. In the future, if there is a 
technological means or other alternative that will protect manatees to 
the extent provided in the rule and allow us to lift some or all of the 
prohibitions, we will modify the manatee refuge and/or its 
prohibitions.

Summary of Changes and Clarifications

    (1) The proposed prohibition on use of mooring and float lines at 
paragraph (c)(14)(ix)(M) was removed. Entanglements are a threat to 
manatees in Kings Bay. In our attempts to clarify this proposed 
prohibition, we have recognized that this threat and solutions toward 
this threat need additional consideration. Implementing this provision 
at this time is not practical for several reasons (e.g., uncertainty 
regarding identification and availability of appropriate materials, 
application for different uses, and enforceability). Our goal of the 
proposed prohibition was the removal of derelict line sources and to 
encourage all operators to regularly check lines that are secured in 
Kings Bay. Through improved outreach, we are going to encourage all 
operators to help us meet this goal. We intend to work with the 
community and researchers to assess and evaluate equipment (line, 
connections, traps) solutions that are feasible and evidence suggests 
will help reduce manatee entanglements. Until we can accomplish that, 
other measures, such as fishing line recycling programs and the State 
of Florida's derelict crab pot removal program, are already in 
existence within Kings Bay to provide means for reducing the number of 
lines discarded in this area. Therefore, we have modified the rule to 
remove this proposed prohibition.
    (2) The requirement at paragraph (c)(14)(ii)(A) in reference to 
Three Sisters Springs was changed from ``no entry'' to prohibiting all 
waterborne activities during nighttime hours. Additionally, the 
timeframe was revised from specific hours to ``sunset to sunrise.'' The 
reference to ``waterborne activities'' is necessary to ensure that we 
are within our authorities under subpart J. This minor revision in 
hours is necessary to accomplish the intent to restrict activities 
during darkness when manatees cannot be seen and avoided and human 
activities cannot be monitored by enforcement officials.
    (3) As described in comment 6 and its response (above), we received 
numerous comments concerned that implementing a portion of the June 
2011 proposed rule would result in human safety issues. The Service 
worked with the USCG (later confirmed by FWC) to evaluate the human 
safety aspects of the proposed rule and concluded that the proposed 
closure of the watersports zone is likely to result in the displacement 
of high-speed watercraft activity into the Gulf of Mexico and the 
connecting waters of Crystal River, with the latter being the more 
likely of the two options due to the 2-hour transit time from Kings Bay 
to the Gulf. Crystal River has a narrow high-speed channel, and we 
concluded that an increase in traffic such as might occur with 
implementation of our proposed rule is likely to result in unsafe 
conditions for watercraft operators by increasing the danger of boating 
safety infractions and marine accidents including vessel collisions, 
potentially involving serious bodily injury.
    We, therefore, reconsidered the substantial evidence showing that 
such establishment is necessary to prevent the taking of one or more 
manatees, including manatee area and seasonal use within the Bay, and 
concluded that we could still meet the regulatory requirements of 50 
CFR 17.100-108 while also considering human safety by modifying the 
proposed rule to continue to allow some level of high speed watercraft 
recreation in Kings Bay. The final rule reflects these modifications 
that are within the scope of the proposed rule. Specifically, 
watercraft will be able to operate at high speed, not to exceed 25 mph, 
in a portion of Kings Bay generally north of Buzzard Island from June 1 
through August 15 during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset). Slow-speed 
operation is required from sunset to sunrise during this period and at 
all times from August 16 through May 31. Manatees in Kings Bay are 
known to approach anchored boats for various and sometimes unknown 
reasons (e.g., to rub on the anchor line, seek cover, etc.). Therefore, 
we added protection measures in the high speed area through a 
prohibition against anchoring a vessel in the area (except in emergency 
situations) while the zone is in effect, which will avoid creating an 
attractive nuisance. A secondary benefit of this manatee protection 
measure is that it enhances the value of the area for safe waterborne 
recreation by precluding anchorage of vessels in the high-speed area 
during the defined time period. Currently, this area is a location 
where recreational vessels are anchored for extended periods and this 
situation effectively limits high-speed recreation in the widest 
portion of the Bay, causing recreationists to use the more constricted 
portions of the watersports area.
    The modifications to the rule will allow continued use of a portion 
of Kings Bay for recreation and, therefore, are less likely to result 
in additional recreational pressure in Crystal River during this peak 
summer recreation period. The modifications also coincide with the 
period of least manatee use based on available occurrence data (Crystal 
River NWR 2011, unpublished data). The area north of Buzzard Island 
provides the most open space available for watercraft operation in 
Kings Bay and is of less value to manatees for feeding, breeding, and 
sheltering (Crystal River NWR unpublished data). The waters to the 
east, west, and south of Buzzard Island that will become a year-round 
slow-speed zone generally have a greater density of manatee occurrences 
during the summer months, are shallower, and likely contain more 
submerged aquatic vegetation than the waters to the north of the 
island. The final rule at paragraph (c)(14)(iii) contains these 
changes.
    The rule greatly increases manatee protection over current 
conditions. The rule reduces the period of high-speed watercraft 
operation from 123 to 76 days. During the 76-day period (June 1 through 
August 15), it reduces the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph during the 
day and requires slow-speed operation at night. Based on aerial survey 
data (Crystal River NWR unpublished reports), this rule does not allow 
watercraft to travel at high speed where they are most likely to 
encounter manatees (e.g., shallow, grassy areas). High-speed operation 
is confined to a timeframe and area when and where it is least likely 
to impact manatees. The rule allows high-speed watercraft operation 
during the peak human use period to prevent exacerbating human safety 
risks in Crystal River. It increases human safety associated with 
waterborne activities in portions of the manatee refuge immediately 
east, south, and west of Buzzard Island, which are the more confined 
and shallower areas of the State-designated watersports area (and where 
manatee use is most concentrated).
    As was the case with the proposed rule, this rule does not 
supersede any more restrictive Federal, State, or local regulations 
currently in place nor does it preclude more restrictive future actions 
by these entities.

[[Page 15627]]

    (4) The information standard for designating manatee protection 
areas is substantial evidence. As stated in 50 CFR 17.103, ``The 
Director may * * * establish manatee protection areas whenever there is 
substantial evidence showing such establishment is necessary to prevent 
the taking of one or more manatees.'' This is also the legal standard 
for emergency designations under section 17.106. There is no indication 
in the subpart J regulations that information to be considered is 
limited to scientific or commercial (i.e., species trade) data. The 
substantial evidence standard means that the Service can appropriately 
consider any valid, reliable evidence as long as it is relevant to the 
question of whether the establishment is ``necessary to prevent the 
taking of one or more manatees.''
    The Service made a minor technical error in our proposed rule. In 
our opening summary section, we correctly stated the substantial 
evidence standard and shared a summary of the substantial evidence we 
used on page 36494 in our proposed rule. But, in the Public Comments 
Solicited section of the proposed rule, we incorrectly cited the use of 
only the best scientific and commercial data. While we certainly use 
up-to-date scientific data in our evaluation as part of the evidence we 
consider (for example, we would not establish a manatee protection area 
where manatees are not documented), the standard by which we designate 
manatee protection areas is that we have substantial evidence that 
designation of the area is necessary to prevent the taking of one or 
more manatee(s). We wanted to clarify this technical error in this 
final rule.

Kings Bay--Assessment of Current Conditions

    Similar to previous circumstances that warranted increases in the 
level of protection for manatees in Kings Bay, the number of manatees 
using Kings Bay more than doubled since 1998 (from 250 animals to 516 
animals in December 2010, with the highest count on record of 566 in 
January 2010; Kleen 2011, pers. com.); the number of residents, 
visitors, and boats increased; and the amount of space in the existing 
sanctuaries became insufficient to provide this number of manatees with 
shelter free from harassment. In addition, the number of manatees 
struck and killed by boats in Kings Bay has increased since 1999.
    The manatee population in northwestern Florida grew at a rate of 
4.0 percent per year through 2000, based on an assessment of adult 
survival rates (Runge et al. 2004, p. 371). Consistent with this rate 
of increase, the number of manatees counted in the region has 
increased, as well. Aerial counts were first conducted during the 
winter of 1983-1984, when 142 manatees were sighted in Citrus County; 
124 of these animals were sighted in Kings Bay and Crystal River. In 
January 2010, Crystal River NWR researchers counted 646 manatees in 
Citrus County's coastal waters, including 566 manatees in Kings Bay. 
This is the highest number of manatees ever counted in this region and 
in Kings Bay (Kleen 2010, pers. com.). Aerial observations of manatees 
in Kings Bay during especially cold periods include sightings of 
manatees within the sanctuary areas and in smaller springs. In recent 
years, dozens of manatees are seen sheltering just outside of the 
sanctuary boundaries because the sanctuaries are overcrowded. Some 
animals shelter in some of Kings Bay's smaller, unprotected springs, 
including House Spring, Jurassic Spring, and a spring just east of the 
mouth of Three Sisters Springs run referred to in this rule as Idiot's 
Delight Number 2. As many as 20 animals have been seen in each of these 
sites on particularly cold days (Kleen 2010, pers. com.).
    The number of Citrus County residents increased by 19.8 percent (an 
average annual growth rate of 2.5 percent per year), from 118,085 to 
141,416, between 2000 and 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Web site). 
Concurrent with this increase in number of residents, the number of 
boats registered in Citrus County increased by 36.2 percent at an 
average annual growth rate of 4.0 percent per year. In 2010, there were 
16,901 boats registered in Citrus County, 3,975 more than the 12,926 
vessels registered there in 2000 (FDHSMV 2011 Web site). While the 
number of visitor-owned watercraft that are used in Citrus County 
waterways including Kings Bay is unknown, this number is likely 
increasing based on county revenue trends that describe an increasing 
number of visitors to the area. Revenue trends associated with 
businesses that cater to visitors, including Citrus County lodging and 
food service revenues and tourist tax revenues, have increased by 178 
percent and 214 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years, 
suggesting an increase in the number of visitors to the area (U.S. 
Census Bureau 2010 Web site). Tourism surveys suggest that about half 
of all visitors to the area come to Citrus County to enjoy water-based 
activities that include manatee viewing, snorkeling, and diving (Gold 
2008, pp. 4-5).
    From 1974 through 2010, collisions with watercraft killed 60 
manatees in Citrus County waterways, including 13 manatees recovered 
within the boundaries of the Kings Bay manatee refuge, as established 
by this rule (FWC-FWRI Manatee Mortality Database 2011 Web site). All 
13 deaths occurred since 1999. In 2008, FWC recorded the highest number 
(eight) of manatees ever killed by watercraft in Citrus County and 
three of these carcasses were recovered in Kings Bay (FWC-FWRI Manatee 
Mortality Database Web site).
    While watercraft-related deaths occur throughout the year in Citrus 
County, 7 of the 13 watercraft-related deaths that were recovered in 
Kings Bay since 1999 took place during those times of the year when the 
watersports area was in effect (May 1 through August 31). In May 2004, 
observers witnessed a boat striking a manatee in the watersports area; 
a carcass was recovered nearby the following day (FWC-FWRI Manatee 
Mortality Database 2011 Web site). Researchers are currently working on 
determining manatee scar acquisition rates for the Crystal River/Kings 
Bay manatee population, but preliminary findings suggest that propeller 
wounds continue to be acquired during their residency in the area (R. 
Bonde, peer review 2011).
    Every year, manatees are entangled in fishing line, float lines, 
anchor and mooring lines, and other types of gear. In extreme cases, 
entangled manatees can die when entangling gear cuts into their hide, 
causing sepsis and the occasional loss of limbs. In cases when animals 
are superficially entangled, entangling gear is removed and the animals 
are released onsite. In more severe cases, manatees are transported to 
rehabilitation facilities where they are treated for injuries and 
infections associated with entanglements. There are 30 known cases of 
manatee entanglements from Citrus County, including 10 from Kings Bay. 
Fourteen of these cases include manatees entangled in crab pot float 
lines, including four from Kings Bay. The remaining cases from Kings 
Bay include four from fishing lines and two from anchor lines. County-
wide records of entanglements include 24 rescues and four deaths. More 
than half of these are known to have occurred during the past 15 years 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Manatee Rescue Rehabilitation and 
Release Program entanglements unpubl. data). However, measures, such as 
fishing line recycling programs and the State of Florida's derelict 
crab pot removal program, are already in existence within Kings Bay to 
provide

[[Page 15628]]

means for reducing the number of lines discarded in this area.
    Manatee harassment, largely associated with wintertime manatee 
viewing activities, occurs in Kings Bay; a variety of methods are being 
used to help prevent and minimize harassment from occurring. The 
Service, State, nongovernment organizations, and private companies 
prepare and distribute outreach materials to manatee-viewing 
recreationists to familiarize them with best practices to follow when 
in the water with manatees. Best practices include the ``Manatee 
Viewing Guidelines,'' developed by the Service and partners. Outreach 
materials include, among other things, handouts, kiosks, signs, and 
videos. The Crystal River NWR developed ``Manatee Manners,'' a video 
that dive shops and kayak outfitters are required to show their 
customers before they enter Kings Bay. These businesses take visitors 
to see manatees in Kings Bay, including Crystal River NWR. Under the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (16 U.S.C. 668dd-
668ee), commercial interests conducting business within the NWR are 
required to obtain special-use permits (SUPs), which are conditioned to 
ensure that the permittees and their designees do not take manatees. 
Crystal River NWR also maintains a visitor center where guests are 
provided with outreach materials. The Crystal River Refuge's ``Manatee 
Watch'' volunteer network places volunteers in kayaks near the 
sanctuaries to educate visitors and report infractions when they occur.
    Federal regulations include 50 CFR 17.100-108, which provide for 
enforcement of manatee protection measures, and State regulations 
include provisions of the State's Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act as 
codified in 68 C-22 of the Florida Administrative Code. State and 
Federal officers have been cross-deputized and can enforce both State 
and Federal regulations. The Service, State, and other law enforcement 
agencies actively enforce harassment regulations in Citrus County and 
in Kings Bay. Cited acts of harassment include trespass by manatee-
viewing individuals into manatee sanctuaries where the Service has 
determined that any waterborne activity occurring within these areas 
would result in take of manatees, including but not limited to take by 
harassment. Indirectly, the presence of large numbers of people in the 
vicinity of manatees may cause some animals to abandon the area, 
another form of harassment. Outside of these areas, the public disturbs 
and occasionally harasses manatees while engaged in viewing and other 
waterborne activities. When observed, violators are warned or cited. 
State violations include boaters traveling at speeds in excess of those 
described by law within specific areas. Given variations in enforcement 
practices and recordkeeping systems, these records are not used to 
describe trends in harassment activity.

Summary

    Based on current and historical data that document increasing 
numbers of manatees, waterway users, watercraft-related manatee deaths 
and injuries, and reports of manatee harassment in Kings Bay, we 
conclude that the take of manatees is occurring and increasing in this 
area. Sources of information include the U.S. Geological Survey, the 
FWC, manatee experts, the public, and peer-reviewed literature. Future 
take would occur without additional protection measures and we do not 
anticipate any alternative protection measures being enacted by other 
agencies in sufficient time to reduce the likelihood of take. For these 
reasons and based on this substantial evidence, we believe the 
establishment of an additional manatee protection area is needed to 
prevent the take of manatees. The Kings Bay manatee refuge covers the 
same geographical area as that defined by the November 9, 2010, 
emergency rule (75 FR 68719).
    To prevent the take of manatees, the Service and the State of 
Florida have designated a network of manatee protection areas at sites 
throughout Florida where threats to manatees have been well-documented 
and where manatees are known to frequently occur. This network supports 
our goal of providing areas of protected habitat throughout peninsular 
Florida, adequate to satisfy the biological needs of the species. This 
network is enhanced by the establishment of an additional manatee 
protection area, i.e., a manatee refuge in Kings Bay, a waterbody 
located in Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida.
Kings Bay Manatee Refuge
    Under the manatee refuge designation, specified restrictions will 
improve the Service's ability to address takings associated with 
watercraft and manatee viewing activities. Restrictions on watercraft 
operation will reduce the number of watercraft-related manatee deaths 
and injuries occurring in Kings Bay. Harassment associated with manatee 
viewing can be controlled through the establishment of no-entry areas 
not to exceed specified distances around existing manatee sanctuaries, 
the designation of no-entry areas at other springs when needed, and the 
identification of manatee refuge-specific prohibitions.

Location

    The Service designates the waters of Kings Bay as a manatee refuge. 
These waters include that tract of submerged land that includes all 
waters of Kings Bay, including all tributaries and adjoining 
waterbodies, upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and Crystal River, 
described by a line that bears North 53[deg]00'00'' East (True) from 
the northeasternmost point of an island on the southwesterly shore of 
Crystal River (approximate latitude 28[deg]53'32'' North, approximate 
longitude 82[deg]36'23'' West) to the southwesternmost point of a 
peninsula of Magnolia Shores (approximate latitude 28[deg]53'38'' 
North, approximate longitude 82[deg]36'16'' West). See Map ``Kings Bay 
Manatee Refuge''.
    The manatee refuge encompasses seven existing Federal manatee 
sanctuaries, described in 50 CFR 17.108: The Banana Island Sanctuary 
(including King Spring), the Sunset Shores Sanctuary, the Magnolia 
Springs Sanctuary (including Gator Hole), the Buzzard Island Sanctuary, 
the Tarpon Springs Sanctuary, the Warden Key Sanctuary, and the Three 
Sisters Springs Sanctuary. The existing sanctuaries are in effect from 
November 15 through March 31 (referred to as the ``manatee season''). 
The manatee refuge measures would be in effect in Kings Bay as 
described below.

Manatee Refuge Measures

    The manatee refuge measures, described in more detail below, 
include:
     Maintaining the seven existing manatee sanctuaries where 
all waterborne activities are prohibited November 15 through March 31;
     Regulating watercraft speeds throughout the manatee refuge 
at all times;
     Prohibiting anchorage (other than emergency anchorage) of 
watercraft in the high-speed (25 mph) area from June 1 through August 
15;
     12 specifically prohibited activities throughout the 
manatee refuge at all times;
     Temporary `no-entry' areas adjacent to existing 
sanctuaries and specified additional springs during the manatee season 
(November 15 through March 31);
     Temporary `no-entry' areas prior to or after the manatee 
season during unusual cold events; and
     Exceptions for adjoining property owners and their 
designees.

[[Page 15629]]

Existing Manatee Sanctuaries
    All seven currently existing manatee sanctuaries in Kings Bay, 
where all waterborne activities are prohibited November 15 through 
March 31, will remain in effect.
Watercraft Speeds and Anchorage
    To prevent the take of one or more manatees killed and injured by 
high-speed watercraft, operating speeds in Kings Bay are regulated 
throughout the year. Watercraft operation is restricted to slow speed 
throughout the manatee refuge unless otherwise marked. In some portions 
of the manatee refuge, State or local regulations require watercraft to 
travel at idle speed. For example, during summer holiday weekends, 
local ordinances and USCG regulations can require watercraft to travel 
at restricted speeds throughout Kings Bay due to human safety concerns 
regarding the high volume of watercraft activity, regardless of posted 
zones allowing greater speed. This rule allows watercraft to travel at 
speeds up to 25 mph during daylight hours (slow speed at night) in a 
portion of the manatee refuge from June 1 through August 15. The intent 
of regulating watercraft speeds and slowing all watercraft down in 
areas most frequented by manatees is to prevent the take of one or more 
manatees in Kings Bay from compliant watercraft operation. Some 
manatees in Kings Bay are known to approach anchored boats and, 
therefore, anchoring boats in the high-speed (25 mph) area is 
prohibited from June 1 through August 15. By prohibiting anchorage of 
boats in the high-speed (25 mph) area during this time period, manatees 
will not be attracted into harm's way by seeking cover around the 
boats, being attracted to the discharge of bilge water, chewing on 
anchor lines, etc.
Manatee Viewing and Other Waterborne Activities
    To prevent the take of one or more manatees associated with manatee 
viewing and other waterborne activities, we specify prohibitions that 
would be in effect throughout the year. Pursuant to the ESA and MMPA, 
all takings, including takings by harassment, are prohibited throughout 
the year, wherever they may occur. In regard to these prohibited 
activities, we consider a resting manatee to be a mostly motionless 
manatee that rises to breathe from the water bottom, in the water 
column, or on the water's surface. While resting, a manatee may make 
minor changes in its posture and may slightly shift its position. Minor 
changes in posture occur when manatees breathe or roll. Resting 
manatees may also make slight movements with their flippers or tail to 
compensate for draft, etc. (Hartman 1979, pp. 82-84). To prevent the 
take of manatees by individuals engaged in waterborne activities while 
in the water, in boats, or on-shore within the Kings Bay Manatee 
Refuge, we specifically identify and prohibit the following activities:
    (i) Chasing or pursuing a manatee(s).
    (ii) Disturbing or touching a resting or feeding manatee(s).
    (iii) Diving from the surface onto a resting or feeding manatee(s).
    (iv) Cornering or surrounding or attempting to corner or surround a 
manatee(s).
    (v) Riding, holding, grabbing, or pinching or attempting to ride, 
hold, grab, or pinch a manatee(s).
    (vi) Poking, prodding, or stabbing or attempting to poke, prod, or 
stab a manatee(s) with anything, including your hands and feet.
    (vii) Standing on or attempting to stand on a manatee(s).
    (viii) Separating a mother and calf or attempting to separate a 
mother and calf.
    (ix) Separating a manatee(s) from a group or attempting to separate 
a manatee(s) from a group.
    (x) Giving a manatee(s) anything to eat or drink or attempting to 
give a manatee(s) anything to eat or drink.
    (xi) Actively initiating contact with a belted and/or tagged 
manatee(s) and associated gear, including any belts, harnesses, 
tracking devices, or antennae.
    (xii) Interfering with rescue and research activities.
    The following activities are prohibited within Three Sisters 
Springs from November 15 through March 31:
    a. All waterborne activities in Three Sisters Springs from sunset 
to sunrise.
    b. Scuba diving.
    c. Fishing, including but not limited to fishing by hook and line, 
by cast net, and by spear.
Prohibited Anchoring in the High-Speed Area of Kings Bay
    Some manatees in Kings Bay are known to approach anchored boats. To 
minimize the potential for attraction (manatees seeking cover, bilge 
water, etc.) into harm's way, anchorage (other than emergency 
anchorage) of watercraft is prohibited in the high speed (25 mph) area 
from June 1 through August 15.
Temporary No-Entry Areas (November 15 Through March 31)
    Because there is insufficient space in the existing sanctuaries for 
all manatees that use Kings Bay to shelter, rest, and feed, free from 
harassment, we will create temporary no-entry areas outside of and 
adjacent to the existing sanctuaries to ensure adequate room for 
manatees wanting to access these sites when space is needed during the 
manatee season (between November 15 and March 31). This rule allows for 
creation of no-entry areas around one or more of the existing 
sanctuaries, as appropriate. The creation and removal of the temporary 
no-entry areas will be based on manatee usage data (such as aerial 
survey or on-the-water observations), current weather, and other 
sources of substantial information. We will also create no-entry areas 
around House Spring, Jurassic Spring, and Idiot's Delight Number 2 
Spring when these springs are occupied by manatees in need of shelter 
free from harassment. With this rule, we have the ability to create 
temporary no-entry areas around any or all sanctuaries and specified 
springs for the manatee season, but we do not envision this will be 
necessary in all years. Temporary no-entry areas will be created at the 
distances specified in this rule to accommodate manatee biological 
needs as they use Kings Bay during cold events. The temporary no-entry 
areas will be posted for as long as they are necessary within the 
manatee season.
Temporary No-Entry Areas (April 1 Through November 14)
    To prevent the take of manatees sheltering in Kings Bay from cold 
weather that occurs outside of the manatee season (November 15 through 
March 31), temporary no-entry areas under this rule can be put in 
effect during early onset and protracted cold weather events that occur 
outside of the manatee season. Manatees that appear in Kings Bay during 
cold fronts that pre-date the start of the manatee season are 
especially vulnerable to harassment because none of the sanctuaries and 
no-entry areas are in effect prior to November 15. Similarly, none of 
these measures are in effect after March 31, during those times when 
cold weather continues beyond this period of time. In April 2010, the 
Service asked the public to voluntarily stay out of existing manatee 
sanctuaries after the close of the manatee season due to protracted 
cold weather and the continued presence of manatees at these sites. 
While the public generally complied with the request, some people did 
not and manatees were harassed.
    By designating temporary no-entry areas prior to November 15 and 
after March 31 during cold fronts when manatees are present, manatee 
harassment that could occur during

[[Page 15630]]

these times can be prevented. Designations would remain in effect for 
the duration of a cold front and only when there is regular manatee 
use; manatee presence at warm-water sites during unseasonal cold events 
typically lasts for several days or less. Temporary designations would 
remain in effect for no longer than 14 consecutive days.
Exceptions for Adjoining Property Owners and Their Designees
    Public and private property owners who own property that adjoins 
designated no-entry areas, their guests, employees, and designees 
(including but not limited to contractors and lessees) will continue to 
be able to access their property by obtaining, at no charge, an 
exception from the Crystal River NWR that will allow them to operate 
watercraft within the adjoining no-entry area for purposes of access 
and property maintenance. The Crystal River NWR will continue to 
provide adjoining property owners and their designees with a no-cost 
sticker or letter of authorization that identifies their watercraft as 
authorized to access no-entry areas. Watercraft owned by excepted 
owners will be required to be marked by stickers and operate at idle 
speed while within a designated no-entry area. Designees with a letter 
of authorization would be required to have a copy of the letter in 
their possession and required to operate at idle speed while within a 
designated no-entry area.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    In accordance with the criteria in Executive Order 12866, the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that this rule is 
not a significant regulatory action. OMB bases its determination on the 
following four criteria:
    a. Whether the rule will have an annual economic impact of $100 
million or more on the economy or adversely affect an economic sector, 
productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of government.
    b. Whether the rule will create inconsistencies with other Federal 
agencies' actions.
    c. Whether the rule will materially affect entitlements, grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of their 
recipients.
    d. Whether the rule raises novel legal or policy issues.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (as amended by the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996), 
whenever a Federal agency is required to publish a notice of rulemaking 
for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make available for 
public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the 
effect of the rule on small entities (i.e., small businesses, small 
organizations, and small government jurisdictions) (5 U.S.C. 601 et 
seq.). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the 
head of an agency certifies that the rule would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Thus, for a 
regulatory flexibility analysis to be required, impacts must exceed a 
threshold for ``significant impact'' and a threshold for a 
``substantial number of small entities.'' See 5 U.S.C. 605(b). SBREFA 
amended the Regulatory Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to 
provide a statement of the factual basis for certifying that a rule 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. This section presents a screening level analysis of the 
potential effects of the designation of a manatee protection area on 
small entities. We certify that this rule would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities as defined 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). An 
initial/final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is not required. 
Accordingly, a Small Entity Compliance Guide is not required.
    In order to determine whether the rule would have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, we utilize 
available information on the industries most likely to be affected by 
the designation of the manatee refuge. Small entities likely affected 
by the rule include entities whose businesses support high-speed 
recreational boating activities and commercial fishing. However, no 
current information is available on the specific number of small 
entities that would potentially be affected. This rule reduces the area 
and duration of high-speed activities from a previously existing 
summertime water-sports area and would add travel time to boating 
recreationists and commercial activities having to travel through the 
additional slow-speed zones. Because the only restrictions on 
recreational activity result from a reduction in time and space of the 
water-sports area and added travel time and alternative sites are 
available for all waterborne activities, we believe that the economic 
impact on small entities resulting from changes in recreational use 
patterns will not be significant. The economic impacts on small 
businesses resulting from this rule are likely to be indirect effects 
related to reduced demand for goods and services if recreationists 
choose to reduce their level of participation in waterborne activities. 
Similarly, because the only restrictions on commercial activity result 
from the inconvenience of added travel time, we believe that any 
economic impact on small commercial fishing or charter boat entities 
would not be significant. Also, the indirect economic impact on small 
businesses that may result from reduced demand for goods and services 
from commercial entities is likely to be insignificant.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2). This rule:
    a. Is not expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 
million or more. This rule may cause some inconvenience in the form of 
displacement and added travel time for recreationists and commercial 
fishing and charter boat businesses because of speed and access 
restrictions in this manatee refuge, but it should not translate into 
any significant business reductions for the many small businesses in 
Citrus County. Since the only restrictions on recreational activity 
would result from displacement and added travel time and alternative 
sites are available for all waterborne activities, we believe that the 
economic impact on small entities resulting from changes in 
recreational use patterns would not be significant. The economic 
impacts on small business resulting from this rule are likely to be 
indirect effects related to reduced demand for goods and services if 
recreationists choose to reduce their level of participation in 
waterborne activities. Similarly, because the only restrictions on 
commercial activity result from the inconvenience of added travel time, 
we believe that any economic impact on small commercial fishing or 
charter boat entities would not be significant. Also, the indirect 
economic impact on small businesses that may result from reduced demand 
for goods and services from commercial entities is likely to be 
insignificant.
    b. Would not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions. It is unlikely that there are 
unforeseen changes in costs or prices for consumers stemming from this 
rule. The recreational charter boat and commercial fishing industries 
may be affected by lower speed limits for

[[Page 15631]]

some areas when traveling to and from fishing grounds. However, this 
impact is likely to be limited.
    c. Would not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. As 
stated above, this rule may generate some level of inconvenience to 
recreationists due to displacement and added travel time, but the 
resulting economic impacts are believed to be minor and would not 
interfere with the normal operation of businesses in the affected 
county. Added travel time to traverse some areas is not expected to be 
a major factor that would impact business activity.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.):
    a. This rule will not significantly or uniquely affect small 
governments. A Small Government Agency Plan is not required. The 
designation of manatee refuges imposes no substantial new obligations 
on State or local governments.
    b. This rule will not produce a Federal mandate of $100 million or 
greater in any year. As such, it is not a significant regulatory action 
under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

Takings

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this rule does not have 
significant takings implications. A takings implication assessment is 
not required. The manatee protection area is located over Federal-, 
State-, or privately-owned submerged bottoms. Any property owners in 
the vicinity would retain navigational access and the ability to 
maintain their property.

Federalism

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
significant Federalism effects. A Federalism assessment is not 
required. This rule will not have substantial direct effects on the 
State, on the relationship between the Federal Government and the 
State, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government. We coordinated with the State of Florida 
to the extent possible on the development of this rule.

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that this rule would not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Order.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This regulation does not contain new collections of information 
that require approval by the Office of Management and Budget under 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq. The regulation would not impose new recordkeeping 
or reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. OMB has reviewed and approved the 
information collection requirements associated with special use permits 
and assigned OMB Control No. 1018-0102. We may not conduct or sponsor 
and you are not required to respond to a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have analyzed this rule in accordance with the criteria of the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 USC 4321 et seq.). This final 
rule does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting 
the quality of the human environment. An environmental assessment and 
Finding of No Significant Impact has been prepared and is available on-
line at http://www.regulations.gov (see ADDRESSES), or upon request 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 and the Department 
of the Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible 
effects on Federally-recognized Indian tribes and have determined that 
there are no effects.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. Because this rule is 
not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, and it 
would only require vessels to proceed at slow or idle speeds (with the 
exception of a posted high-speed area available June 1 through August 
15) or avoid no-entry areas in 530 acres of waterways in Florida, it is 
not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, and 
use. Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    For a list of the references cited in this rule, see Docket No. 
FWS-R4-ES-2010-0079, available at http://www.regulations.gov.

Author

    The primary author of this document is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, North Florida Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES).

Authority

    The statutory authority to establish manatee protection areas is 
provided by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1361  et seq.).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.104 by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows:


Sec.  17.104  Prohibitions.

* * * * *
    (b) Manatee refuge. It is unlawful for any person within a 
particular manatee refuge to engage in any waterborne activity which 
has been specifically prohibited within that refuge, or to engage in 
any waterborne activity in a manner contrary to that permitted by 
regulation within that area. Any take of manatees under the Acts (see 
Sec.  18.3 of this chapter for a definition of ``take'' in regard to 
marine mammals), including take by harassment, is prohibited wherever 
it may occur.
* * * * *

0
3. Amend Sec.  17.108 by:
0
a. In paragraph (a)(3), removing the period at the end of the paragraph 
and adding in its place a comma and the words ``to be known as the 
Magnolia Springs Manatee Sanctuary.'';
0
b. In paragraph (a)(4), removing the period at the end of the paragraph 
and

[[Page 15632]]

adding in its place a comma and the words ``to be known as the Buzzard 
Island Manatee Sanctuary.'';
0
c. In paragraph (a)(5), removing the period at the end of the paragraph 
and adding in its place a comma and the words ``to be known as the 
Tarpon Springs Manatee Sanctuary.'';
0
d. In paragraph (a)(6), removing the period at the end of the paragraph 
and adding in its place a comma and the words ``to be known as the 
Warden Key Manatee Sanctuary.'';
0
e. Revising paragraph (b) to read as set forth below; and
0
f. Adding paragraph (c)(14) to read as set forth below:


Sec.  17.108  List of designated manatee protection areas.

* * * * *
    (b) Exceptions. (1) Adjoining property owners, their guests, 
employees, and their designees (including but not limited to 
contractors and lessees) may engage in watercraft access and property 
maintenance activities through manatee sanctuaries (set forth in 
paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(11) of this section) and designated ``no-
entry areas'' in the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge (set forth in paragraph 
(c)(14) of this section). Use of sanctuary and no-entry area waters is 
restricted to authorized individuals accessing adjoining properties, 
storing watercraft, and maintaining property and waterways. Maintenance 
activities include those actions necessary to maintain property and 
waterways, subject to any Federal, State, and local government 
permitting requirements.
    (2) Authorized individuals must obtain a sticker or letter of 
authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identifying them 
as individuals authorized to enter no-entry areas that adjoin their 
property. Stickers must be placed in a conspicuous location to readily 
identify authorized watercraft. Individuals with a letter of 
authorization must have a valid letter in their possession when 
accessing no-entry areas.
    (3) Authorized individuals must conduct any authorized boating 
activity within these areas at idle or no-wake speeds.
    (c) * * *
    (14) The Kings Bay Manatee Refuge. A tract of submerged land that 
includes all waters of Kings Bay, including all tributaries and 
adjoining waterbodies, upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and 
Crystal River, described by a line that bears North 53[deg]00'00'' East 
(True) from the northeasternmost point of an island on the 
southwesterly shore of Crystal River (approximate latitude 
28[deg]53'32'' North, approximate longitude 82[deg]36'23'' West) to the 
southwesternmost point of a peninsula of Magnolia Shores (approximate 
latitude 28[deg]53'38'' North, approximate longitude 82[deg]36'16'' 
West).
    (i) Area covered. The Kings Bay Manatee Refuge encompasses existing 
manatee protection areas as described in paragraphs (a)(1) through 
(a)(7) of this section, and areas outside these sections as depicted on 
the map in paragraph (c)(14)(ii) of this section.
    (ii) Particular areas. The following springs fall within the 
boundaries of the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge. A map showing the entire 
refuge, including these springs, follows:
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    (A) Three Sisters Springs. A tract of submerged land, lying in 
Section 28, Township 18 South, Range 17 East, Tallahassee Meridian, 
Citrus County, Florida, more particularly described as follows: For a 
point of reference, commence at the northwest corner of said Section 28 
in an east southeast direction to the canal that begins on the west 
side of Southeast Cutler Spur Boulevard and runs west-northwest to 
Kings Bay. The spring is north and east of the northern terminus of 
Southeast Paradise Avenue along the northern shore of said canal. Three 
Sisters Springs includes three main and numerous smaller spring vents 
and a spring run that connects the vents to said canal in Crystal 
River, Citrus County, Florida. This area is not the same as set forth 
in paragraph (a)(7) of this section. This area is behind the sanctuary 
(north from the mouth of the channel) as set forth in paragraph (a)(7) 
of this section.
    (1) All waterborne activities in this specific area are prohibited 
from sunset to sunrise from November 15 through March 31 exclusive of 
the provisions of paragraph (c)(14)(v) of this section.
    (2) Scuba diving and fishing (including but not limited to fishing 
by

[[Page 15634]]

hook and line, by cast net, and by spear) are also prohibited in this 
specific area from November 15 through March 31 exclusive of the 
provisions of paragraph (c)(14)(v) of this section.
    (3) If the provisions of paragraph (c)(14)(vi) of this section are 
put in effect, all waterborne activities are prohibited in this 
specific area for the duration established under paragraph (c)(14)(vi) 
of this section.
    (B) House Spring. A tract of submerged land, lying in Section 21, 
Township 18 South, Range 17 East, Tallahassee Meridian, Citrus County, 
Florida, more particularly described as follows: For a point of 
reference, commence at the southwest corner of said Section 21 in an 
east-northeast direction to the northeasternmost corner of Hunter 
Spring Run. The spring is immediately west of and adjacent to Northeast 
2nd Court in Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida.
    (C) Jurassic Spring. A tract of submerged land, lying in Section 
21, Township 18 South, Range 17 East, Tallahassee Meridian, Citrus 
County, Florida, more particularly described as follows: For a point of 
reference, commence at the southwest corner of said Section 21 in an 
east northeast direction to the eastern shore of Hunter Spring Run. The 
spring is immediately west of the western terminus of Bayshore Drive in 
Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida.
    (D) Idiot's Delight Number 2 Spring. A tract of submerged land, 
lying in Section 28, Township 18 South, Range 17 East, Tallahassee 
Meridian, Citrus County, Florida, more particularly described as 
follows: For a point of reference, commence at the northwest corner of 
said Section 28 in an east southeast direction to the canal that begins 
on the west side of Southeast Cutler Spur Boulevard and runs west-
northwest to Kings Bay. The spring is north and east of the northern 
terminus of Southeast Paradise Avenue along the northern shore of said 
canal just east of the southern terminus of the Three Sisters Springs 
run in Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida.
    (iii) Speed and anchoring restrictions. (A) Throughout the entire 
year, watercraft speeds are restricted to slow speed throughout the 
manatee refuge with the following exceptions:
    (1) A posted area generally north of Buzzard Island, exclusive of 
shoreline slow-speed buffer zones, where watercraft may travel at 
speeds up to 25 miles per hour during daylight hours (sunrise to 
sunset) from June 1 through August 15;
    (2) Those areas where access is precluded (manatee sanctuaries, no-
entry areas); or
    (3) Areas where more restrictive speed restrictions are in effect.
    (B) From June 1 through August 15, anchorage (other than emergency 
anchorage) of watercraft is prohibited in the posted high speed (25 
miles per hour) area around Buzzard Island referenced in paragraph 
(c)(14)(iii)(A) of this section.
    (iv) Time and area prohibitions. When the provisions of paragraphs 
(c)(14)(v) or (vi) of this section are in effect (November 15 through 
March 31 and April 1 through November 14, respectively), all waterborne 
activities, including swimming, diving (including skin and scuba 
diving), snorkeling, water skiing, surfing, fishing (including with 
hook and line, by cast net, or spear), and the use of water vehicles 
(including but not limited to boats powered by engine, wind, or other 
means; ships powered by engine, wind, or other means; barges, 
surfboards, personal watercraft, water skis, and any other devices or 
mechanisms capable of locomotion on, across, or underneath the surface 
of the water) are prohibited in areas that are adjacent to and within 
specified distances from the existing manatee sanctuaries located in 
Kings Bay (defined in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(7) of this section) 
and the springs defined in paragraph (c)(14)(ii) of this section: Three 
Sisters Springs, House Spring, Jurassic Spring, and Idiot's Delight 
Number 2 Spring.
    (v) Expanded temporary no-entry area (November 15 through March 
31). When manatees exceed the capacity of an existing manatee sanctuary 
or shift usage around an existing manatee sanctuary or shift usage to 
Three Sisters Springs, House Spring, Jurassic Spring, and Idiot's 
Delight Number 2 Spring, due to water or weather or other conditions, 
we will designate ``no-entry'' areas from November 15 through March 31 
as appropriate and necessary around any of these sites. The 
determination to designate and subsequently remove no-entry areas 
around existing manatee sanctuaries and Three Sisters Springs, House 
Spring, Jurassic Spring, and Idiot's Delight Number 2 Spring within the 
Kings Bay Manatee Refuge will be based on aerial survey observations of 
manatees using the existing sanctuary sites, current weather 
information, and other sources of credible, relevant information. We 
will designate no-entry areas within Kings Bay Manatee Refuge and 
outside of existing sanctuaries as follows:
    (A) For the sanctuaries set forth in paragraphs (a)(1) through 
(a)(6) of this section, to a distance not to exceed 100 feet from the 
existing sanctuary boundary.
    (B) For the Three Sisters Springs Sanctuary, to a distance not to 
exceed 400 feet from the existing boundary. We do not intend to 
completely mark off the manmade channel. Expansions could occur 
directly around the existing sanctuary and north into the area locally 
known as Three Sisters Springs.
    (C) For House Spring and Jurassic Spring, an area that does not 
exceed 100 feet from the associated spring vents.
    (D) For Idiot's Delight Number 2 Spring, an area that does not 
exceed 25 feet from the associated spring vent. Any temporary 
designation will be configured to avoid the manmade channel in the 
canal and will not block access into Three Sisters Springs.
    (vi) Temporary no-entry areas (April 1 through November 14). 
Temporary no-entry area designations may be made in the existing 
manatee sanctuaries located in Kings Bay defined in paragraphs (a)(1) 
through (a)(7) and paragraphs (c)(14)(v)(A) through (D) of this section 
prior to November 15 and after March 31 during cold fronts when 
manatees are present. Designations will remain in effect for the 
duration of a cold front and only when there is regular manatee use; 
temporary no-entry area designations will remain in effect for no 
longer than 14 consecutive days.
    (vii) Posting of temporary no-entry areas designated in accordance 
with paragraph (c)(14)(v) or (vi) of this section. Additional temporary 
protection areas will be posted to distances as described in paragraph 
(c)(14)(v) of this section and identified by the following devices: 
buoys, float lines, signs, advisories from onsite Service employees and 
their designees, or other methods.
    (viii) Notifications of temporary no-entry areas designated in 
accordance with paragraph (c)(14)(v) or (vi) of this section. When we 
determine that the provisions of paragraph (c)(14)(v) or (vi) of this 
section are appropriate, the temporary protection areas will be 
designated and posted to distances as described in paragraph (c)(14)(v) 
of this section. No-entry area designations will occur immediately. We 
will advise the public of designations through public notice(s) 
announcing and describing the measures in a local newspaper and other 
media, including but not limited to, local television and radio 
broadcasts, Web sites and other news outlets, as soon as time permits. 
Onsite Service employees and their designees, when

[[Page 15635]]

present, may also inform waterway users of designations.
    (ix) Prohibited activities (year-round). We specifically identify 
and prohibit the activities set forth in this paragraph to prevent the 
take of one or more manatees by individuals engaged in waterborne 
activities while in the water, in boats, or on-shore within the Kings 
Bay Manatee Refuge. In regard to these prohibited activities, we 
consider a resting manatee to be a mostly motionless manatee that rises 
to breathe from the water bottom, in the water column, or on the 
water's surface. While resting, a manatee may make minor changes in its 
posture and may slightly shift its position. Minor changes in posture 
occur when resting manatees breathe or roll. Resting manatees may also 
make slight movements with their flippers or tail to compensate for 
drift, etc. Prohibited activities include:
    (A) Chasing or pursuing manatee(s).
    (B) Disturbing or touching a resting or feeding manatee(s).
    (C) Diving from the surface on to a resting or feeding manatee(s).
    (D) Cornering or surrounding or attempting to corner or surround a 
manatee(s).
    (E) Riding, holding, grabbing, or pinching or attempting to ride, 
hold, grab, or pinch a manatee(s).
    (F) Poking, prodding, or stabbing or attempting to poke, prod, or 
stab a manatee(s) with anything, including your hands and feet.
    (G) Standing on or attempting to stand on manatee(s).
    (H) Separating a mother and calf or attempting to separate a mother 
and calf.
    (I) Separating manatee(s) from a group or attempting to separate 
manatee(s) from a group.
    (J) Giving manatee(s) anything to eat or drink or attempting to 
give manatee(s) anything to eat or drink.
    (K) Actively initiating contact with belted or tagged manatee(s) 
and associated gear, including any belts, harnesses, tracking devices, 
or antennae.
    (L) Interfering with rescue and research activities.

    Dated: March 1, 2012.
Rachel Jacobson,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-6055 Filed 3-15-12; 8:45 am]
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