[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 246 (Friday, December 21, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 75601-75602]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30581]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

Boundary Expansion of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones 
National Marine Sanctuaries; Intent To Prepare Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement; Scoping Meetings

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

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Consider Expanding Sanctuary Boundaries; 
Intent to Prepare Environmental Impact Statement; Scoping Meetings.


SUMMARY: With this notice, NOAA announces that it is considering 
whether to expand the boundaries of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the 
Farallones national marine sanctuaries. NOAA will conduct this review 
pursuant to section 304(e) of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as 
amended, (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1434(e)). As required by the NMSA, the 
review will include public processes outlined under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). NOAA 
anticipates that the review and potential expansion of existing 
sanctuary boundaries will be completed within 18 to 24 months.

DATES: Comments must be received by March 1, 2013. Dates for scoping 
meetings are:
    (1) January 24 2013 at the Bodega Bay Grange Hall.
    (2) February 12, 2013 at the Gualala Community Center.
    (3) February 13, 2013 at the Point Arena High School.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NOS-2012-0228, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2012-0228, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent, Gulf of the 
Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 991 Marine Drive, The Presidio, 
San Francisco, CA 94129.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Brown at Maria.Brown@noaa.gov or 
415-561-6622; or Dan Howard at Dan.Howard@noaa.gov or 415-663-0314.


Background Information

    Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS), 
designated in 1981, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS), 
designated in 1989, are federally protected marine areas along and 
offshore of California's north-central coast. Centered along an 
important upwelling area, the sanctuaries are able to support important 
commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and recreation 
industries, and coastal economies and communities. Sanctuary personnel 
contribute greatly to ocean and coastal management by engaging in 
public outreach and education to promote stewardship, conducting 
scientific and applied research initiatives, and developing and 
supporting programs that strengthen resource protection for the long-
term health of the region.
    NOAA is considering expansion of GFNMS and CBNMS to an area north 
of the existing sanctuaries that extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma 
County, to Alder Creek in Mendocino County, and west to the edge of the 
continental shelf. This area encompasses the Point Arena upwelling 
center that consistently produces the most intense upwelling in all of 
North America.
    The nutrients brought to the surface during upwelling events at 
Point Arena are carried south into the sanctuaries by the prevailing 
California Current; these nutrients fuel an incredibly productive ocean 
area protected by GFNMS and CBNMS. The sanctuaries are destination 
feeding areas for endangered blue whales and humpback whales, sharks, 
salmon, and seabirds like albatrosses and shearwaters that travel tens 
of thousands of miles. Food that results from the Point Arena upwelling 
center also supports the largest assemblage of breeding seabirds in the 
contiguous United States on the Farallon Islands. Living reefs of 
corals, sponges and a myriad of other invertebrates cover hard bottom 
areas and these sessile invertebrate communities are washed with food 
rich water from the north. These invertebrate reefs also provide 
structure and habitat for many species of juvenile and adult rockfish 
that prosper in these productive waters. Sanctuary waters also support 
valuable commercial fisheries for salmon and Dungeness crab. Local 
ports and coastal communities all derive socioeconomic benefits from 
these healthy ocean habitats. The rich diversity and health of this 
thriving marine ecosystem depends on the cold nutrient rich source 
water originating from the Point Arena upwelling center.
    In 2008, the joint management plan review for CBNMS and GFNMS 
determined that managers in these sanctuaries would facilitate a public 
process in the next five years to ensure that ``current boundaries were 
inclusive of the area's natural resource and ecological qualities, 
including the biogeographic representation of the area.'' Sanctuary 
advisory councils from both sites have regularly discussed the boundary 
expansion alternative and have expressed support for boundary expansion 
when proposed by local congressional members.
    In accordance with Section 304(e) of the NMSA, NOAA is now 
initiating a review of the boundaries for CBNMS and GFNMS to evaluate 
and assess a proposed expansion of the sanctuaries. As noted above, 
NOAA is considering extending the boundaries of the two sanctuaries to 
add the northern area from Bodega Bay, Sonoma County to Alder Creek, 
Mendocino County, and west to the edge of the continental shelf

[[Page 75602]]

(for a map of the area considered and other relevant information, see 
http://farallones.noaa.gov/manage/northern_area.html). In doing so, 
NOAA is considering extending, and as necessary amending, the 
regulations and management plan for GFNMS and CBNMS to this area and is 
specifically requesting public comment on issues that would arise in 
doing so. This expansion would protect the upwelling source waters of 
the sanctuaries as well as nationally-significant seascapes, wildlife, 
and shipwrecks, and would promote ecotourism and sustainable fishing 
practices. Although no decision has been made yet regarding this 
possible action, expanded sanctuary boundaries could protect up to an 
additional 2,771 square statute miles.

Review Process

    The review process for the proposed expansion of the sanctuary 
boundaries is composed of four stages:
    1. Determine the scope of issues to be addressed and identify 
significant issues related to any proposed expansion;
    2. Prepare and release a draft environmental impact statement 
(DEIS) that identifies boundary expansion alternatives, together with 
all other documents required by the NMSA including a resource 
assessment, revised management plans, and a notice of proposed 
rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the sanctuary regulations;
    3. Allow public review and comment on the DEIS, NPRM, and related 
documents; and
    4. Prepare and release a final environmental impact statement and 
related documents, including a response to public comments, with a 
final rule if appropriate.
    NOAA anticipates that completing the review and process for 
potentially expanding sanctuary boundaries will take approximately 18-
24 months.
    At this time, NOAA is soliciting public comments to:
    1. Gather information and comments from individuals, organizations, 
and government agencies on: (a) Whether NOAA should expand GFNMS and 
CBNMS boundaries; and (b) what, if any, potential effects might result 
from a boundary expansion; and
    2. Help determine the scope of issues, including alternatives to be 
considered, in the preparation of an environmental impact statement 
(EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (43 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), if warranted.
    Public Scoping Meetings: NOAA intends to conduct a series of public 
scoping meetings to collect public comments. These meetings will be 
held on the following dates and at the following locations and times:

1. Bodega Bay, CA

    Date: January 24, 2013.
    Location: Bodega Bay Grange Hall.
    Address: 1370 Bodega Avenue, Bodega Bay, CA 94923.
    Time: 6 p.m.

2. Gualala, CA

    Date: February 12, 2013.
    Location: Gualala Community Center.
    Address: 47950 Center Street, Gualala, CA 95445
    Time: 6 p.m.

3. Pt. Arena, CA

    Date: February 13, 2013.
    Location: Point Arena High School.
    Address: 185 Lake Street, Point Arena, CA 95468.
    Time: 6 p.m.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 470.

    Dated: December 12, 2012.
Daniel J. Basta,
Director for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
[FR Doc. 2012-30581 Filed 12-20-12; 8:45 am]