Initiation of Review of Management Plan for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; Intent To Conduct Scoping and Prepare Draft Environmental Analysis and Management Plan

Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 30 (Thursday, February 13, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 30 (Thursday, February 13, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8213-8215]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office []
[FR Doc No: 2020-02832]
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
15 CFR Part 922
Initiation of Review of Management Plan for Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary; Intent To Conduct Scoping and Prepare Draft
Environmental Analysis and Management Plan
AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean
Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
Department of Commerce (DOC).
ACTION: Initiation of review of management plan; intent to conduct
scoping and prepare environmental analysis under the National
Environmental Policy Act.
SUMMARY: In accordance with Section 304(e) of the National Marine
Sanctuaries Act, as amended (NMSA), the Office of National Marine
Sanctuaries (ONMS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) is initiating a review of the Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS or the sanctuary) management plan, to
evaluate substantive progress toward implementing the goals of the
sanctuary, and to make revisions to the management plan as necessary to
fulfill the purposes and policies of the NMSA. NOAA anticipates
management plan
[[Page 8214]]
changes will require preparation of an environmental analysis under the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NOAA will conduct public
scoping meetings to gather information and other comments from
individuals, organizations, tribes and government agencies on the
scope, types, and significance of issues related to the SBNMS
management plan and the proper scope of environmental analysis for the
management plan review. The scoping meetings are scheduled as detailed
in the DATES section.
DATES: Written comments should be received on or before April 10, 2020.
Public scoping meetings will be held on:
 (1) Date: Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Location: New England
Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA, 02110, Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
 (2) Date: Thursday, March 12, 2020, Location: Maritime Gloucester,
23 Harbor Loop, Gloucester, MA, 01930, Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
 (3) Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Location: Massachusetts
Maritime Academy, 101 Academy Drive, Buzzards Bay, MA, 02532, Time:
6:30-8 p.m.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by
NOAA-NOS-2020-0003, by any of the following methods:
 Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2020-0003, click the
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or
attach your comments.
 Mail: Stellwagen Bank NMS, 175 Edward Foster Road,
Scituate, MA, 02066, Attn: Management Plan Revision.
 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 without change. All personally 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
[email protected].
 SBNMS was designated in October 1992. It spans 842-square-miles
(638-square-nautical-mile) at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. The
sanctuary boundary is somewhat rectangular, stretching from three miles
southeast of Cape Ann to three miles north of Cape Cod. The sanctuary
is about 25 miles east of Boston, and lies totally within federal
waters. It encompasses all of Stellwagen and Tillies Banks, and the
southern portion of Jeffreys Ledge. SBNMS is administered by NOAA,
within the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was designated to conserve,
protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and
cultural legacy of marine resources for current and future generations.
Sanctuary programs in education, conservation, science, and stewardship
help protect SBNMS and its nationally-significant resources, while
promoting public use and enjoyment through compatible human activities.
 The current SBNMS management plan was published in 2010, and is
available on the internet here:
 In 2016, NOAA completed an internal assessment of progress toward
implementation of the 2010 management plan. The assessment found that
66% (69 of 104 activities) of the management plan's activities had been
fully or partially completed or were still being implemented as ongoing
functions, while 35% (36 of 104 activities) were not yet started or had
been placed on hold. Results of the 2016 internal assessment were
discussed at a public meeting of the sanctuary advisory council in
October, 2016.
 Reviewing the SBNMS management plan may result in proposed changes
to existing programs and policies to address contemporary issues and
challenges, and to better protect and manage the sanctuary's resources
and qualities. The review process is composed of four major stages: (1)
Information collection and characterization; (2) preparation and
release of a draft management plan and environmental document under
NEPA, and any proposed amendments to the regulations; (3) public review
and comment; and (4) preparation and release of a final management plan
and environmental document, and any final amendments to the
regulations, if applicable. NOAA will also address other statutory and
regulatory requirements that may be required pursuant to the Endangered
Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act, Essential Fish Habitat
(EFH) provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and
Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), Coastal Zone Management Act
(CZMA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and tribal
consultation responsibilities under Executive Order 13175.
Condition Report
 To inform the SBNMS management plan review, NOAA has updated the
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report, which was
first published in 2007. The 2007 report provided a summary of
resources in SBNMS, pressures on those resources, current conditions
and recent trends within the sanctuary, and management responses to
mitigate negative impacts. The 2020 Condition Report has updated
current conditions and recent changes for water quality, habitat,
living resources and maritime archaeological resources in the
sanctuary. The report is available to the general public on the
internet at:
Preliminary Priority Topics
 NOAA has prepared a preliminary list of priority topics to consider
during the SBNMS management plan review process. NOAA is interested in
public comment on these topics, as well as any other issues of interest
that are relevant to the SBNMS management plan review (including
additional topics raised through public comment, and tribal and
interagency consultation).
Climate Change
 Climate change is widely acknowledged, yet there is considerable
uncertainty about current and future consequences at local, ecosystem
and oceanic scales. Increased coordination and cooperation among
science and resource management agencies are required to improve
planning, monitoring and adaptive management to address this phenomenon
as it pertains to the protection of SBNMS resources. NOAA is interested
in ideas about how to best incorporate management efforts seeking to
mitigate the effects of climate change into the SBNMS management plan.
Water Quality Monitoring
 Water quality is key to ensuring protection for all sanctuary
resources. Relatively little is known about the types, sources, or
levels of emerging contaminants and marine debris (including lost
fishing gear) within the sanctuary. NOAA believes more focused
attention on specific water quality issues is needed, to understand
[[Page 8215]]
their status in the sanctuary as well as their role in the larger Gulf
of Maine ecosystem.
Education, Outreach and Citizen Science
 Enhancing the public's awareness and appreciation of sanctuary
resources is a cornerstone of the SBNMS mission. NOAA is seeking the
public's view on developing and enhancing programs designed to enhance
public awareness, including opportunities to participate in
environmental research and monitoring, integrating outreach into all
education levels, and more effective partnering with Federal and state
agencies, local businesses and organizations, and other user groups.
Sanctuary Soundscape
 SBNMS is an active area with significant populations of marine
mammals, as well as extensive human activity and vessel movements,
particularly transiting to and from the major US port in Boston Harbor.
NOAA is concerned about impacts to the SBNMS soundscape from the
cumulative effects of underwater noise generated by a variety of human
activities (including the potential offshore energy development), and
expanded use of unmanned aircraft systems over the sanctuary.
Maritime Heritage Management
 SBNMS contains a rich repository of submerged maritime heritage
resulting from over 400 years of maritime activity in the region. NOAA
seeks public input on the history and context of the ancient, historic,
and modern communities who have depended on sanctuary waters for their
livelihood and culture, the ships and the industries of the region and
options to best conserve and protect these cultural assets in the
Regulatory and Boundary Changes
 In preparing for public scoping, NOAA has not identified the need
for any changes to SBNMS regulations. However, regulatory changes may
be considered based on a review of public scoping comments and, if
proposed, would be presented for public review with the publication of
a proposed rulemaking.
Public Comments
 NOAA is interested in hearing the public's views on:
 The effectiveness of the existing management plan in
meeting both the mandates of the NMSA and SBNMS goals and objectives.
 The public's view on the effectiveness of the SBNMS
programs, including programs focused on: Resource protection; research
and monitoring; education; volunteer; and outreach.
 NOAA's implementation of SBNMS regulations and permits.
 Adequacy of existing boundaries to protect sanctuary
 Assessment of the existing operational and administrative
framework (staffing, offices, vessels, etc.).
 The potential impacts of the proposed actions discussed
above and ways to mitigate these impacts.
 The relevance and timeliness of management issues
identified above.
Federal Consultations
 This document also advises the public that NOAA will coordinate its
consultation responsibilities under section 7 of the ESA, EFH under the
Magnuson-Stevens Act, section 106 of the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470), and
Federal Consistency review under the CZMA. Through its ongoing NEPA
process and the use of NEPA documents and public and stakeholder
meetings, NOAA will also coordinate compliance with other federal laws.
 In fulfilling its responsibility under the NHPA and NEPA, NOAA
intends to identify consulting parties; identify historic properties
and assess the effects of the undertaking on such properties; initiate
formal consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer, the
Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, and other consulting
parties; involve the public in accordance with NOAA's NEPA procedures;
and develop in consultation with identified consulting parties
alternatives and proposed measures that might avoid, minimize, or
mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties and describe them
in any environmental analysis.
 NOAA will also initiate communications and consultation steps with
relevant federally recognized tribal governments pursuant to Executive
Order 13175, Department of Commerce tribal consultation policies, and
NOAA procedures for government-to-government consultation with
federally recognized Indian Tribes.
 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.
John Armor,
Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
[FR Doc. 2020-02832 Filed 2-12-20; 8:45 am]