Coral organisms, called polyps, are actually tiny invertebrate animals usually ranging from 1-3 mm in size. Anthozoans represent the largest class of organisms within this phylum and are characterized by a radially symmetrical body with a single opening (which serves as a mouth and anus) surrounded by tentacles.
The mouth of the polyp leads into the gastrovascular cavity, a simple sac-like stomach, where food is digested. The outer tissue surface of the polyp that is in contact with the water is called the epidermis.
Between this surface and the gastrodermis (stomach lining) lies the resole, a jelly-like connective tissue. This tissue also contains gastrovascular canals which allow coral polyps to share nutrients and in some cases zooxanthella, a type of algae hosted within the gastrodermal cells of certain species of coral.
Hard corals are commonly referred to as ‘reef builders’ due to the calcium carbonate skeletons they secrete. For example, as a hard coral secretes calcium carbonate, a cup or calyx is produced, the walls of which are called theta.
As well as the difference in the number of tentacles and mesenteries, few soft coral polyps secrete calcium carbonate skeletons therefore their polyps do not contain septa, calyx, theta, or basal plate. Although soft corals lack the rigid calcium carbonate exoskeleton (external skeleton) of hard corals, their tissue structure has some strength and can appear rigid as it is supported by a series of calcium carbonate bodies known as spicules.
As the coral polyps gain extra nutrients from the zooxanthella, the energy produced via their own feeding activity can be stored or used in high-energy activities which contribute to reef growth such as reproduction and the secretion of calcium carbonate skeletons. As well as producing energy for their host corals, the zooxanthella use many of the polyps waste products such as carbon dioxides, nitrogen and phosphorus.
Corpora Mingus has a strong calcium carbonate skeleton © Pierre French When live prey, such as plankton, passes over the coral polyp, it releases barbed harpoon-like nematocysts to stun the prey so that it can be pulled back towards its mouth by its tentacles.
As well as feeding on live prey captured by their tentacles and nematocysts, coral polyps can also feed on dissolved organic matter which they absorb from the surrounding ocean waters and suspended particles and detritus matter that become trapped in their mucus layer. As the zooxanthella photosynthesis they use the carbon dioxide respired by the polyp animal, water and sunlight to produce high energy nutrients and oxygen which they then share with their coral host.
Many species of coral are hermaphrodites meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs and can produce eggs and sperm. Sexual reproduction can happen in two ways broadcast spawning and brooding.
Broadcast spawning happens when coral communities release sperm (gametes) and eggs into the water column simultaneously. When the sperm meets and externally fertilizes an expelled egg, a larva, known as a Paula, is formed.
This Paula continues to float in the ocean until a suitable hard surface for colonization is found. If only male gametes are released, female corals may take in the sperm and fertilize their eggs internally releasing the Paula though their mouth when it is at an advanced stage of development.
After the Paula has found a suitable place to settle, it will go through a period of metamorphosis to become a juvenile polyp. This juvenile polyp will then grow and reproduce over time to develop a new coral colony.
Budding occurs when the founding coral polyp divides, either from its oral disk (intra-tentacular) or from its base (extra-tentacular), to produce a genetically identical replica of itself. As a result, different species of coral will release their gametes on different days, usually over a period of one week.
Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms that are related to jellyfish and sea anemones. Some coral reefs on the planet today began growing over 50 million years ago.
NOAA Fisheries works to better understand and conserve coral species and coral reef habitats both domestically and internationally. The marine debris team removing a large derelict fishing net from the reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
The impact area of the net can be seen as a pale patch on the coral reef in the upper right corner of the image. Insight Learn how our oceans are absorbing increasingly more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, leading to lower pH and greater acidity.
Seventeen specific occupied areas containing physical features essential to the conservation of these coral species are being proposed for designation as critical habitat; these areas contain approximately 600 square kilometers (km 2 ; 230 square miles) of marine habitat. We have considered positive and negative economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of the proposed designations, and we propose to exclude two areas from the critical habitat designations due to anticipated impacts on national security.
We are soliciting comments from the public on all aspects of the proposal, including our identification of the geographical area and depths occupied by the species, the physical and biological feature essential to the coral species conservation and identification, areas not included and excluded, and consideration of impacts of the proposed action. Instructions: You must submit comments by one of the previously described methods to ensure that we receive, document, and consider them.
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. 1533) and our implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12), this proposed rule is based on the best scientific information available concerning the range, biology, habitat, threats to the habitat, and conservation objectives for the seven threatened corals in U.S. waters of the Indo-Pacific (Corpora biceps, A. Jacqueline, A. return, A. species, Phyllis Paradise, Sonora crateriformis, and Seriatopora amulet).
We reviewed the available information and have used it to identify physical and biological features essential to the conservation of each coral, the specific areas within the occupied areas that contain the essential physical and biological features that may require special management considerations or protections, the Federal activities that may impact the physical or biological features or areas, and the potential impacts of designating critical habitat for these seven Indo-Pacific corals. The final listing determinations were based on the best available information on a suite of demographic, spatial, and susceptibility components that influence the species vulnerability to extinction in the face of continuing threats over the foreseeable future.
Although we have no information that indicates that these species are currently in danger of extinction, we determined that they all are likely to become endangered throughout all of their ranges within the foreseeable future as a result of a combination of threats, the most severe of which are related to climate change. These species secrete massive calcium carbonate skeletons that form the physical structure of coral reefs.
Reef-building coral species collectively produce coral reefs over time in high-growth conditions, but they also occur in non-reef habitats. These unique animals contain symbiotic algae within their cells, they produce clones of themselves by different means, and most of them occur as colonies of polyps.
Zooxanthellae belong to the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium and provide nutrition to the host coral by translocating fixed organic carbon and other nutrients. In return, they receive inorganic waste metabolites from host respiration as well as protection from grazing.
Sexual reproduction in corals is primarily through gametogenesis (i.e., development of eggs and sperm within the polyps). In many species of branching corals, fragmentation is a common and sometimes dominant means of propagation (79 FR 53852, September 10, 2014).
The reproductive characteristics of I. crateriformis and S. amulet have also not been determined, but other similar species of both Sonora and Seriatopora are simultaneous hermaphroditic brooders. Coral larvae presumably experience considerable mortality from predation or other factors prior to settlement and metamorphosis.
Biological and physical factors that have been shown to affect spatial and temporal patterns of coral recruitment include substrate availability and community structure, grazing pressure, fecundity, mode and timing of reproduction, behavior of larvae, hurricane disturbance, physical oceanography, the structure of established coral assemblages, and chemical cues. Once larvae are able to settle onto appropriate hard substrate, metabolic energy is diverted to colony growth and maintenance.
Reef-building corals combine calcium and carbonate ions derived from seawater into crystals that form their skeletons. Skeletal expansion rates vary greatly by taxa, morphology, location, habitat and other factors.
The energy required to produce new polyps and build calcium carbonate skeleton is provided by the symbiotic relationship corals have with photosynthetic zooxanthellae. Lower water clarity sharply reduces photosynthesis in zooxanthellae with moderate reductions in adult colony survival and calcification.
Additionally, long-lived species with large colony size can sustain partial mortality (fission) and still have the potential for persistence and regrowth (79 FR 53852, September 10, 2014). High-growth conditions for reef-building corals include clear, warm waters with abundant light, and low levels of nutrients, sediments, and freshwater.
Temporal variability in coral habitat conditions is also very high, both cyclically (e.g., from tidal, seasonal, annual, and decade cycles) and episodically (e.g., storms, temperature anomalies, etc.). Together, all these factors contribute to the habitat heterogeneity of coral reefs across the Indo-Pacific, as described in more detail in the final listing rule (79 FR 53852 ; September 10, 2014).
All the listed species can occur in both shallow coral reef and non-reef habitats, provided that hard substrate and suitable water quality are present. Despite the large amount of variability in habitats occupied by corals, they have several characteristics in common that provide the fundamental support necessary for coral settlement and growth, including hard substrate and low-nutrient, clear water with good light penetration.
In the final listing rule, the best available information indicated this species occurs in depths ranging from 0 to 8 meters (m). In the final listing rule, the best available information indicated its depth range to be 0 to 5 m. In 2015, we learned that A. return has been observed in American Samoa at 10 m near Easily on Tequila Island (D. Fencer, peers.
Based on the previously described new information combined with the fact that it's almost always found in shallower waters, we consider the range wide depth distribution of A. return to be 0 to 10 m in this rule. Phyllis Paradise is found in environments protected from wave action on at least upper reef slopes, mid-Start Printed Page 76265slope terraces, and lagoons at a depth range of 2 to 25 m (Vernon, 2014).
In summary, based on the best currently available information, we consider the range wide depth distributions of the seven listed species as follows: A. biceps, 0 to 20 m; A. Jacqueline, 10 to 35 m; A. return, 0 to 10 m; A. species, 12 to 40 m; E. Paradise, 2 to 25 m; I. crateriformis, 0 to 12 m; and S. amulet, 3 to 40 m (Table 1). Jurisdictional Samoa Mariana Islands (Guam and CNI)Pacific Remote Island Pre-unit 1 12345678910111213141516171819 A. biceps, (0-20 m)XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX A. Jacqueline, (10-35 m)X A. return, (0-10 m)XXXXXXXXXXX A. species, (12-40 m)XX E. Paradise, (2-40 m)X I. crateriformis, (0-12 m)XXX S. amulet, (3-40 m)Depths of all listed SPP.
Species identification of many Indo-Pacific reef-building corals is challenging, even for experts who have worked in the field for decades. There are a multitude of reasons for this, including: Poor quality type specimens; lack of samples to verify photos; inter-specific and intraspecific morphological plasticity and variability; inherent human subjectivity; and unreliable published information.
Designating critical habitat also provides a significant regulatory protection by ensuring that the Federal government considers the effects of its actions in accordance with section 7(a)(2) of the ESA and avoids or modifies those actions that are likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Critical habitat requirements do not apply to citizens engaged in activities on private land that do not involve a Federal agency.
Conservation is defined in section 3 of the ESA as the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this chapter are no longer necessary (16 U.S.C. However, section 3(5)(C) of the ESA clarifies that, except in those circumstances determined by the Secretary, critical habitat shall not include the entire geographical area which can be occupied by the threatened or endangered species.
To identify and designate critical habitat, we considered information on the distribution of the seven threatened Indo-Pacific corals, their major life stages, habitat requirements of those life stages, threats to the species, and conservation objectives that can be supported by identifiable essential physical or biological features (hereafter also referred to as “BFS” or “essential features”). In the final listing rule, ocean warming, diseases, ocean acidification, trophic effects of reef fishing, nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, and inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms were found to be the main threats contributing to the threatened status of all seven corals.
As noted previously, seven of the listed species have been confirmed within U.S. Pacific Islands waters (Table 1), and only these seven are currently being considered for critical habitat designation. The units generally consist of individual islands or atolls and nearby shoals or banks.
Features may also be expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity (50 CFR 424.02). Recovery of these species will require conservation of the coral reef ecosystem through threats abatement to ensure a high probability of survival into the future (NFS, 2015).
We then turned to determining the physical or biological features essential to this conservation objective of supporting successful reproduction and recruitment, and survival and growth of all life stages. The essential feature we ultimately identified is sites with a complex combination of substrate and water column characteristics that support normal functions of all life stages of the corals.
Due to corals being sessile for almost their entire life cycle, they carry out most of their demographic functions in one location. Thus, we have identified sites with a combination of certain substrate and water column characteristics as the essential feature.
Specifically, these sites have attributes that determine the quality of the appropriate attachment substrate, in association with warm, aragonite-supersaturated, oligotrophic, clear marine water, which are essential to reproduction and recruitment, survival, and growth of all life stages of all seven species of coral. Based on the best scientific information available we identify the following physical feature essential to the conservation of the seven corals.
(2) Reefs cape (all the visible features of an area of reef) with no more than a thin veneer of sediment and low occupancy by fleshy and turf macro algae; (4) Marine water with levels of anthropogenically-introduced (from humans) chemical contaminants that do not preclude or inhibit any demographic function.
As described in detail in the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019), all corals require exposed natural consolidated hard substrate for the settlement and recruitment of larvae or asexual fragments. Positive cues include the presence of fructose coralline algae (Hazard and Negro, 1999), biofilms (Webster et al., 2004), and cryptic habitat such as crevices and holes (NOAA, 2008).
Attributes that negatively affect settlement include presence of sediment and algae (German et al., 2009). Fine grain sediments have greater negative effects to live coral tissue and to recruitment substrate (Erftemeijer et al., 2012).
Sedimentation, therefore, impacts the health and survivorship of all life stages of corals (i.e., adults, fragments, larvae, and recruits). DE'ATH and Fabrics (2008) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBR MPA 2010) recommend that sediment levels on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) be less than a mean annual sedimentation rate of 3 mg/cm 2 /day, and less than a daily maximum of 15 mg/cm 2 /day.
The previously described generalizations are for coral reef communities and ecosystems, rather than individual species. Sub lethal effects of sediment to corals potentially occur at much lower levels than mortality.
Finally, artificial substrates and frequently disturbed “managed areas” are not essential to coral conservation. Only natural substrates provide the quality and quantity of recruitment habitat necessary for the conservation of threatened corals.
Examples include, but are not necessarily limited to, fixed and floating structures, such as aids-to-navigation (Tons), jetties, groins, breakwaters, seawalls, wharves, boat ramps, fishpond walls, pipes, wrecks, mooring balls, docks, aquaculture cages, and other artificial substrates. While these areas may provide hard substrate for coral settlement and growth over short periods, the periodic nature of direct human disturbance renders them poor environments for coral growth and Start Printed Page 76268survival over time (e.g., they can become covered with sediment).
The substrate characterized previously must be associated with water that also supports all life functions of corals that are carried out at the site. Water quality conditions fluctuate greatly over various spatial and temporal scales in natural reef environments (Leads et al., 1999).
Deviations from tolerance levels of certain parameters result in direct negative effects on all life stages. This water must also have low to no levels of contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, chemicals) that would interfere with normal functions of all life stages.
Corals occur in a wide temperature range across geographic locations (15.7 °C-35.5 °C weekly average and 21.7-29.6 °C annual average; Gun et al., 2015), but only thrive in areas with mean temperatures in a narrow range (typically 25 °C-29 °C) as indicated by the global distribution of coral reefs (Barnard et al., 2011; Leads et al., 1999). Effects of elevated seawater temperatures are well-studied for reef-building corals, and many approaches have been used to estimate temperature thresholds for coral bleaching and mortality (see reviews by Brown, 1997; Perelman, 2002; Cole's and Brown, 2003; Jokier, 2004; Baker et al., 2007; Jones, 2008; Cole's and Riel, 2013).
The tolerance of corals to temperature is species -specific (van Woes et al., 2011; Vega-Rodriguez, 2016) and depends on suites of other variables that include acclimation temperature, aragonite saturation state, dissolved inorganic nitrogen (Cunning and Baker, 2012; Fabrics, 2005; Woodridge, 2013); and physical, physiological, and chemical stressors, including suspended sediments and turbidity (Anthony et al., 2007; Woods et al., 2016); trace metals such as copper (Negro and Hoogenboom, 2011; Woods et al., 2016); ultraviolet radiation (Anthony et al., 2007); and salinity, nitrates, and phosphates (Negro and Hoogenboom, 2011). Mean seawater temperatures in reef-building coral habitat in the Indo-Pacific have increased during the past few decades, and are predicted to continue to rise between now and 2100 (IPCC, 2013).
Even so, evaluating the effects that changes in water temperatures have on the conservation value of coral habitat is very complex and contextually-driven, and simple numeric effect thresholds are not easily assigned to listed corals to establish when stress responses occur. For many corals, an episodic increase of only 1 °C-2 °C above the normal local seasonal maximum ocean temperature can induce bleaching (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007; Jones, 2008).
Coral disease outbreaks often have either accompanied or immediately followed bleaching events (Jones et al., 2004; Miller et al., 2009). Because duration of exposure to elevated temperatures determines the extent of bleaching, several methods have been developed to integrate duration into bleaching thresholds, including the number of days, weeks, or months of the elevated temperatures (Perelman, 2002; Akin et al., 2009).
In summary, temperature deviations from local averages prevent or impede successful completion of all life history stages of the listed coral species. Identifying temperatures at which the conservation value of habitat for listed corals may be affected is inherently complex and influenced by taxa, exposure duration, and other factors.
The metric used to express the relative availability of calcium and carbonate ions is the aragonite saturation state ( are). At saturation states between 1 and 20, marine organisms can create calcium carbonate shells or skeletons using a physiological calcifying mechanism and the expenditure of energy.
The aragonite saturation state varies greatly within and across coral reefs and through daily cycles with temperature, salinity, pressure, and localized biological processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, and calcification by marine organisms (Gray et al., 2012; McMahon et al., 2013; Shaw et al., 2012b). These general characterizations and thresholds were identified for coral reef communities and ecosystems, rather than individual species.
As pro 2 rises, oceanic pH declines through the formation of carbonic acid and subsequent reaction with water resulting in an increase of free hydrogen ions. Laboratory experiments have also shown that skeletal deposition and initiation of calcification in newly settled corals is reduced by declining aragonite saturation state (Albright et al., 2008; Cohen et al., 2009).
Field studies from a variety of coral locations in the Caribbean, Indo-Pacific, and Red Sea have shown a decline in linear extension rates of coral skeleton under decreasing aragonite saturation state (Back et al., 2009; DE'ATH et al., 2009; Schneider and Perez, 2006; Tail et al., 2009). Slower growth also implies even higher rates of mortality for newly settled corals due to the longer time it will take to reach a colony size that is no longer vulnerable to overgrowth competition, sediment smothering, and incidental predation.
In summary, aragonite saturation reductions prevent or impede successful completion of all life history stages of the listed coral species. Identifying the declining aragonite saturation state at which the conservation value of habitat for listed corals may be affected is inherently complex and influenced by taxa, exposure duration, acclimatization to localized nutrient regimes, and other factors.
Nutrients are a major component of land-based sources of pollution (LBS), one of the most important threats to reef-building corals (Barnard et al., 2011). The physiological response a coral exhibits to an increase in nutrients mainly depends on concentration and duration.
A short duration of a large increase in a nutrient may result in a severe adverse response, just as a chronic, lower concentration might. Leads et al. (1999) analyzed dissolved nutrient data from nearly 1,000 coral reef sites, finding mean values of 0.25 micromoles per liter (MOL/l) for NO 3, and 0.13 MOL/l for PO 4.
Water clarity or transparency is a key factor for marine ecosystems, and it is the best explanatory variable for a range of bioindicators of reef health (Fabrics et al., 2012). Coral reefs appear to thrive in extremely clear areas where Sec chi depth is 15 m or light scatter is 1 ITU (DE'ATH and Fabrics, 2010).
Typical levels of total suspended solids (TSS) in reef environments are less than 10 mg/L (Rogers, 1990). The minimum light level for reef development is about 6-8 percent of surface irradiance (Fabrics et al., 2014).
For example, colonies of a species occurring on fringing reefs around high volcanic islands with extensive groundwater inputs are likely to be better acclimatized or adapted to higher turbidity than colonies of the same species occurring on offshore barrier reefs or around atolls with very little or no groundwater inputs. In some cases, corals occupy naturally turbid habitats (Anthony and Lancôme, 2000; McClanahan and Our, 1997; Te, 2001) where they may benefit from the reduced amount of UV radiation to which they are exposed (EPP et al., 2008).
As turbidity and nutrients increase, thus decreasing water clarity, reef community composition shifts from coral -dominated to macroalgae-dominated, and ultimately to heterotrophic animals (Fabrics et al., 2012). Light penetration is diminished by suspended abiotic and biotic particulate matter (especially clay and silt-sized particles) and some dissolved substances (Fabrics et al., 2014).
Fine clays and organic particles are easily suspended from the sea floor, reducing light for prolonged periods, while undergoing cycles of deposition and resuspension. In areas of nutrient enrichment, light for benthic organisms can be additionally severely reduced by dense stands of large fleshy macro algae shading adjacent corals (Fabrics, 2005).
GBR MPA (2010) recommends minimum mean annual water clarity, or “trigger values”, in Sec chi distances for the GBR depending on habitat type: For enclosed coastal reefs, 1.0-1.5 m; for open coastal reefs and mid-shelf reefs, 10 m; and for offshore reefs, 17 m. DE'ATH and Fabrics (2008) recommend a minimum mean annual water clarity trigger value in Sec chi distance averaged across all GBR habitats of 10 m. Bell and Elmer (1995) recommend a maximum value of 3.3 mg/L TSS across all GBR habitats. Thomas et al. (2003) recommend a maximum value of 10 mg/L averaged across all Papua New Guinea coral reef habitats.
The previously described generalizations are for coral reef communities and ecosystems, rather than individual species. Depending on the duration of exposure, most coral species exhibited sublethal effects when exposed to turbidity levels between 7 and 40 ITU (Erftemeijer et al., 2012).
The most tolerant coral species exhibited decreased growth rates when exposed to 165 mg/L TSS for 10 days (Rice and Hunter, 1992). In summary, water clarity deviations from local averages prevent or impede successful completion of all life history stages of the listed coral species.
Identifying turbidity levels at which the conservation value of habitat for listed corals may be affected is inherently complex and influenced by taxa, exposure duration, and acclimatization to localized nutrient regimes, and other factors. The water column may include levels of anthropogenically-introduced chemical contaminants that prevent or impede successful completion of all life history stages of the listed coral species.
For the purposes of this rule, “contaminants” is a collective term to describe a suite of anthropogenically-introduced chemical substances in water or sediments that may adversely affect corals. The study of the effects of contaminants on corals is a relatively new field and information on sources and toxicology is incomplete.
Other organic contaminants, such as chemicals in personal care products, polychlorinated biphenyl, and surfactants, have also been studied. Specifically, contaminants enter the marine environment through wastewater discharge, shipping, industrial activities, and agricultural and urban runoff.
These contaminants can cause negative effects to coral reproduction, development, growth, photosynthesis, and survival. Heavy metals (e.g., copper, cadmium, manganese, nickel, cobalt, lead, zinc, and iron) can be toxic at concentrations above naturally-occurring levels.
Metals are adsorbed to sediment particles, which can result in their long distance transport away from sources of pollution. Although heavy metals can occur in the marine environment from natural processes, in nearshore waters they are mostly a result of anthropogenic sources (e.g., wastewater, antifouling and anticorrosive paints from marine vessels and structures, land filling and dredging for coastal expansion, maritime activities, inorganic and organic pollutants, crude oil pollution, shipping processes, industrial discharge, agricultural activities), and are found near cities, ports, and industrial developments.
Chronic exposure of corals to higher levels of iron may significantly reduce growth rates Ferrier-Pages et al. (2001). Further, iron chloride has been found to cause oxidative DNA damages to coral larvae (Vijaya et al., 2012).
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Pass) are found in fossil fuels such as oil and coal and can be produced by the incomplete combustion of organic matter. Pass disperse through non-point sources such as road run-off, sewage, and deposition of particulate air pollution.
Studies have found effects of oil pollution on corals include growth impairments, mucus production, and decreased reproduction, especially at increased temperature (Keller et al., 2015). Oil-contaminated seawater reduced settlement of Torricelli areolate and of Garcia humility and was more severe than any direct or latent effects on survival (Hartmann et al., 2015).
Natural gas (water accommodated fraction) exposure resulted in abortion of larvae during early embryogenesis and early release of larvae during late embryogenesis, with higher concentrations of natural gas yielding higher adverse effects (Villanueva et al., 2011). The results indicated that diseased tissues might be more vulnerable to the exposure to Pass such as anthracite than apparently healthy corals.
Carol, an additive in copper-based antifouling paints, significantly reduced settlement in Pyrites Hawaiians (Knudsen et al., 2012). Pyrites asteroids larvae exposed to two major mosquito pesticide ingredients, named and permethrin, for 18-24 hours showed differential responses.
It is released into the ocean through municipal and boat/ship wastewater discharges, landfill leachates, residential septic fields, and unmanaged cesspits. It enters the marine environment through swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges and can cause DNA mutations.
Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor, and it caused larvae of S. pistillate to encase themselves in their own skeleton. Exposure to oxybenzone transformed S. pistillate larvae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are environmentally stable, persistent organic pollutants that have been used as heat exchange fluids in electrical transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. A study of the effects of the PCB Proctor 1254 on the scleractinian coral S. pistillate found no effects on coral survival, photosynthesis, or growth; however, the exposure concentration Start Printed Page 76272and duration may alter the expression of certain genes involved in important cellular functions (Chen et al., 2012).
This sorption of surfactants onto suspended solids depends on environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, or pH. In summary, there are multiple chemical contaminants that prevent or impede successful completion of all life history stages of the listed coral species.
Identifying contaminant levels at which the conservation value of habitat for listed corals may be affected is inherently complex and influenced by taxa, exposure duration, and other factors. As described previously, the best-available information shows coral reefs form on solid substrate but only within a narrow range of water column conditions that on average allow the deposition rates of corals to exceed the rates of physical, chemical, and biological erosion (i.e., conducive conditions, Barnard et al., 2005).
However, as with all ecosystems, water column conditions are dynamic and vary over space and time. In other words, changes in the water column parameters discussed previously that exceed the tolerance ranges may induce adverse effects in a particular species.
These values presented in the previous summaries constitute the best available information at the time of this rule making. It is possible that future scientific research will identify species -specific values for some of these parameters that become more applicable to the seven listed coral species, though it is also possible that future species -specific research will document that conducive or tolerance ranges for the seven corals fall within these ranges.
The proposed essential feature is particularly susceptible to impacts from human activity because of the relatively shallow water depth ranges of the seven listed corals (less than 40 m). The proximity of this habitat to coastal areas subject this feature to impacts from multiple activities, including, but not limited to, coastal and in-water construction, dredging and disposal activities, beach nourishment, stormwater run-off, wastewater and sewage outflow discharges, point and non-point source pollutant discharges, and fishery management.
The impacts from these activities, combined with those from natural factors (e.g., major storm events), significantly affect habitat for all life stages for these threatened corals. Greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., fossil fuel combustion) lead to global climate change and ocean acidification.
These activities adversely affect the essential feature by increasing sea surface temperature and decreasing the aragonite saturation state. The same activities can also adversely affect the essential feature by increasing the growth rates of macro algae, allowing them to preempt available recruitment habitat.
Fishery management can adversely affect the essential feature if it allows for the reduction in the number of herbivorous fishes available to control the growth of macro algae on the substrate. Given these ongoing threats throughout the corals' habitat, we find that the essential feature may require special management considerations.
We identified 19 units within the geographical area occupied by the seven listed Indo-Pacific species confirmed in U.S. waters, at the time of listing, that contain the essential feature (Table 1): Four in American Samoa (Tequila and Offshore Banks, Of and Close, Ta'u, and Rose Atoll); one in Guam (Guam and Offshore Banks); eight in CNI (Rota, Agrarian, Titian and Tatum Reef, Sampan and Caravan Bank, Carillon de Medinilla, Nathan, Pagan, and Aug Islands and Supply Reef); and six in PRI (Howland Island, Palmyra Atoll, Kinsman Reef, Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll, and Jarvis Island). Within each of these 19 units, we delineated more specific areas that contain the essential feature using a 3-step process: (1) We reviewed available information on substrate and water quality parameters to determine where the essential feature occurs; (2) we established upper and lower depth limits for these areas depending on the species present; and (3) within the depth limits, we identified areas that may have the essential feature but are not necessary for the conservation of the listed species because they are artificial substrates or natural substrates that are consistently disturbed, and therefore do not qualify as critical habitat.
For step 1, determining specific areas that contain the essential feature, we reviewed available substrate and water quality data for each unit. These two complementary programs provide nearly complete, large-scale coverage of reef-building coral substrate in the U.S. Pacific Islands, except for some PRI areas which are not included in the NCC OS database.
Examples include, but are not limited to, fixed and floating structures, such as: Jetties, groins, breakwaters, fixed or floating Tons, seawalls, wharves, boat ramps, fishpond walls, pipes, wrecks, mooring balls, docks, aquaculture cages, and other artificial substrates. Examples include, but are not limited to, dredged navigation channels, shipping basins, vessel berths, and Ton chain scour areas around anchor blocks.
As noted previously, protecting artificial substrates and managed areas would not facilitate meeting our conservation goal of maintaining functional natural reef ecosystems on which the listed species depend. They do not provide stable natural environments for coral growth and settlement and therefore are not necessary for the conservation of the species.
To the extent that these impacts are persistent, are expected to recur whenever the channel is dredged and are of such a level that the areas in question have already been made unsuitable for coral, then NFS expects that the federal action agency can assess and identify such areas during their pre-dredging planning and provide their rationale and information supporting this conclusion. The application of the 3-step process to each of the 19 specific areas is described in more detail in the Draft Information Report.
The entire ties of the other two specific areas (Wake and FDM) were determined to be ineligible by the 4(a)(3) analyses summarized below, and described and shown in the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019). Within these areas there exists a mosaic of habitats at relatively small spatial scales, some of which naturally contain the essential feature and some that do not.
Regulations at 50 CFR 424.12 (b)(2) specify that we will identify, at a scale determined to be appropriate, specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are essential for its conservation, considering the life history, status, and conservation needs of the species based on the best available scientific data. We issued guidance in June 2016 on the treatment of climate change uncertainty in ESA decisions, which addresses critical habitat specifically (NFS 2016).
All seven of these species occur in the Coral Triangle, an area predicted to have rapid and severe impacts from climate change. However, the best information available currently does not support a reasonable inference that listed Indo-Pacific corals may expand into unoccupied areas within U.S. waters in the future due to changing climate conditions.
In addition, coral reef areas within U.S. jurisdiction provide no more than about 2 percent of each listed species total range. Without further information, we cannot support the notion that such a small area of unoccupied habitat at the range margin is essential to the conservation of the species.
Section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the ESA prohibits designating as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas owned or controlled by the Department of Defense (DoD), or designated for its use, that are subject to an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INR MP) prepared under section 101 of the Sides Act (16 U.S.C. 670 a), if the Secretary of Commerce determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for designation.
Karla Air Force Station, Oahu, Hawaii (Wake INR MP), finalized and signed in 2017 (USAF, 2017). The ARM INR MP is a composite of management plans for many distinct DoD controlled areas in the Mariana Islands, including in Guam and CNI (Don, 2019).
These four considerations are: (1) The extent of the area and essential feature present in the area; (2) The type and frequency of use of the area by the listed species ; (3) The relevant elements of the INR MP in terms of management objectives, activities covered, and best management practices, and the certainty that the relevant elements will be implemented; and (4) The degree to which the relevant elements of the INR MP will protect the habitat (essential feature) from the types of effects that would be addressed through a destruction-or-adverse- modification analysis. With regard to the extent of the area and essential feature present: (1) The NBG Main Base Submerged Lands cover approximately 30,000 acres along the coastline from Wrote Peninsula to San (described in the ARM INR MP, Section 5.3, Don, 2019); (2) the NBG TS Submerged Lands cover approximately 19,500 acres on the northwestern side of Guam (described in the ARM INR MP, Section 8.3, Don, 2019); and (3) AAB Submerged Lands cover approximately 26,500 acres of Submerged Lands on the northern side of Guam (described in the ARM INR MP, Section 9.3, Don, 2019).
Each of the three INR MP marine areas includes extensive potential proposed critical habitat, as shown in Fig. Most or all of the potential proposed critical habitat within the three INR MP marine areas includes both the substrate and water quality components of the essential feature of coral critical habitat (i.e., characteristics of substrate and water quality support coral life history, including reproduction, recruitment, growth, and maturation), based on information provided previously in the Guam section of the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019), the Guam chapter of PI FSC's coral reef monitoring report for the Mariana archipelago (Barnard et al., 2012), and the INR MP (Don, 2019).
Two other listed coral species, Corpora return and Seriatopora amulet, have been recorded on Guam at one or two sites, and thus may also occur in one or more of the three INR MP marine areas (Don, 2019). The relevant elements of the ARM INR MP for each INR MP marine area include: (1) For the NBG Main Base Submerged Lands, the INR MP includes a Coral Habitat Enhancement plan (Section 22.214.171.124), consisting of eight specific actions in three categories: (1) Monitoring and adaptive management (3 actions), (2) collaboration with local partners (3 actions), and (3) reduction of vessel impacts (2 actions); (2) for NBG TS Submerged Lands, the INR MP includes a Coral Habitat Enhancement plan (Section 126.96.36.199), consisting of a similar set of eight specific actions as for NBG Main Base; and (3) for AAB Submerged Lands, the INR MP includes a Coral Habitat Enhancement plan (Section 188.8.131.52), consisting of a similar set of seven specific actions as for NBG Main Base, except that there is less focus on Start Printed Page 76275reduction in vessel impacts because of the much lower vessel traffic there.
With regard to the extent of the area and essential feature present: (1) The Titian MLA Submerged Lands cover approximately 47,500 acres surrounding the northern portion of Titian (described in the ARM INR MP, Section 11.3, Don, 2019); (2) the FDM Submerged Lands consists of approximately 25,000 acres surrounding FDM (described in the ARM INR MP, Section 12.3, Don, 2019). Most or all of the potential proposed critical habitat within the two INR MP marine areas includes both the substrate and water quality components of the essential feature of coral critical habitat (i.e., characteristics of substrate and water quality support coral life history, including reproduction, recruitment, growth, and maturation), based on information provided in the Titian and FDM sections of the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019), the Titian and FDM chapters of PI FSC's coral reef monitoring report for the Mariana archipelago (Barnard et al. 2012), and the INR MP (Don, 2019).
The relevant elements of the ARM INR MP for each INR MP marine area include: (1) For the Titian MLA Submerged Lands, the INR MP includes a Coral Habitat Enhancement plan, consisting three specific actions to enhance coral habitat by monitoring health and acute impacts (Section 184.108.40.206; Don, 2019); and (2) for the FDM Submerged Lands, the INR MP includes marine habitat management actions, consisting of surveys and mapping of ESA-listed corals, coral reef, and other marine habitats within the area (Section 12.4.2; Don, 2019). The INR MP also includes assessment of ESA-listed corals, as required by the 2015 biological opinion on the Navy's Mariana Islands Testing and Training program (Section 220.127.116.11; Don, 2019).
These surveys were not required by the ESA, and have the potential to benefit the habitat of ESA-Start Printed Page 76276listed corals by providing information needed to better protect these areas in the future. Navy would accomplish this primarily by using the results of its own monitoring program to develop and implement management measures to minimize the impacts of Navy's (and other DoD branches') actions in CNI on coral habitat within the INR MP marine areas, thereby benefiting listed corals and their habitat.
With regard to the extent of the area and essential feature present, the Wake INR MP marine area includes nearly 500,000 acres of Submerged Lands and waters within the lagoon and surrounding the atoll out to 12 nautical miles from the mean low water line (USAF 2017), and thus includes all reef-building corals and coral reefs associated with the atoll. Most or all of the potential proposed critical habitat within the INR MP marine area includes both the substrate and water quality components of the essential feature of coral critical habitat (i.e., characteristics of substrate and water quality support coral life history, including reproduction, recruitment, growth, and maturation), based on information provided in the Wake section of the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019) and the INR MP (USAF, 2017).
For outreach and education, in 2016 USAF revised the Wake Island Dive Club Charter to further reduce the potential impacts of recreational activities on corals. For fisheries management, in 2017 USAF updated its fishing rules, which are part of the Wake Island Operating Guidance (PRC 2017) to prohibit the use of (1) cast nets on the exterior of the atoll, (2) anchoring on coral reef habitat, and (3) and trolling over coral reef habitat.
The partial overlap of these INR MP marine areas with potential proposed coral critical habitat are shown in Figures 21 (Guam) and 22 (Titian) of the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019). Additionally, the Secretary has the discretion to consider excluding any area from critical habitat if (s)he determines that the benefits of exclusion (that is, avoiding some or all of the impacts that would result from designation) outweigh the benefits of designation based upon the best scientific and commercial data available.
Economics and any other relevant impact shall be considered by the Secretary in setting the limits of critical habitat for such a species. The Secretary is not required to give economics or any other relevant impact predominant consideration in his specification of critical habitat.
13-15132 (9th Cir., July 7, 2015), upholding district court's ruling that the ESA does not require the agency to follow a specific methodology when designating critical habitat under section 4(b)(2)). For this proposed rule, we followed the same basic approach to describing and evaluating impacts as we have for several recent critical habitat rule makings, as informed by our Policy Regarding Implementation of Section 4(b)(2) of the ESA (81 FR 7226, February 11, 2016).
We considered these impacts when deciding whether to exercise our discretion to propose excluding particular areas from the designation. Both positive and negative impacts were identified and considered (these terms are used interchangeably with benefits and costs, respectively).
The primary impacts of a critical habitat designation result from the ESA section 7(a)(2) requirement that Federal agencies ensure that their actions are not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat, and that they consult with NFS in fulfilling this requirement. Determining these impacts is complicated by the fact that section 7(a)(2) also requires that Federal agencies ensure their actions are not likely to jeopardize the species continued existence.
Relevant, existing regulatory protections (including the species listing) are referred to as the “baseline” and are also discussed in the following sections. The following economic and national security impact analyses describe projected future Federal activities that would trigger section 7 consultation requirements because they may affect the essential feature, and consequently may result in economic or national security impacts.
Additionally, these analyses describe broad categories of project modifications that may reduce impacts to the essential feature, and state whether the modifications are likely to be solely a result of the critical habitat designation or co-extensive with another regulation, including the ESA listing of the species. A key uncertainty in estimating the economic impacts of coral critical habitat is the lack of critical habitat for any marine species in the affected areas, which means that the historical record of section 7 consultations in these areas does not provide a good predictor of either the future number of total consultations, or the proportion of formal vs. informal consultations resulting from coral critical habitat.
The high-end estimate is 40 times higher than the low-end estimate primarily because of the assumption that critical habitat would result in all Start Printed Page 76278future coral consultations being formal, and that the resulting biological opinions would require modifications to all activities that would not be required in the absence of critical habitat. The extent of the potential economic benefits of coral critical habitat depends on the level of additional protection provided.
When DoD, DHS, or another Federal agency requests exclusion from critical habitat on the basis of national-security or homeland security impacts, it must provide a reasonably specific justification of an incremental impact on national security that would result from the designation of that specific area as critical habitat. Outside the ARM and Wake INR MP marine areas described in the 4(a)(3) section, four sites were requested for exclusion by DoD or USCG based on national security impacts, one in Guam and three in CNI: The portion of the Navy's Indian Point Surface Danger Zone Complex outside of DoD Submerged Lands on Guam, two USCG anchorages on Titian, and a system of six Navy anchorage berths on Sampan.
If impacts to national security outweigh benefits to conservation of the listed species, the site is excluded from critical habitat. If benefits to the conservation of the listed species outweigh impacts to national security, the site is not excluded from critical habitat.
The full analysis of impacts vs. benefits is provided in the Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019), and summarized below. For the Navy's Indian Point Surface Danger Zone complex, we conclude that the impacts to national security of including this area within critical habitat outweigh the conservation benefits of designation, thus we propose to exclude the site from coral critical habitat designation.
The full rationale for excluding this site is provided in the Draft Information Report, section 5.2.1. The benefits of designating this low-use and remote habitat is reduced somewhat by the protections already afforded to some characteristics of the essential feature, and because DoD use of this area is likely to discourage other Federal activities that may otherwise require consultation.
Based on our best scientific judgment and acknowledging the small size of this area, and other safeguards that are in place (e.g., protections already afforded listed corals under its listing and other regulatory mechanism), we conclude that exclusion of this area will not result in the extinction of the species. The full rationale for not excluding this site is provided in the Draft Information Report, section 5.2.2.
The factors Start Printed Page 76279supporting denial of this exclusion request are that: (1) Coral critical habitat would not create a new consultation requirement for USCG at these sites in addition what is already required by the fact that some corals on Titian are listed as threatened under the ESA; (2) even if coral critical habitat would create a new consultation requirement for USCG at these site, USCG did not provide enough information to demonstrate how national security would be impacted if critical habitat is designated in these areas; (3) the majority of the areas within the Titian anchorages are already ineligible for critical habitat due to overlap with the Titian Marine Lease Area, and most of the remaining areas of the two anchorages are shallow nearshore areas that provide no anchorage; (4) the portions of the anchorages that lie outside the Titian Marine Lease Area (i.e., those areas that are still eligible for coral critical habitat) have no protection other than EFA; and (5) the portions of the anchorages that lie outside the Titian Marine Lease contain high quality coral habitat. For the six Navy anchorage berths (L-19, L-32, L-44, L-47, L-62, and M-16) within the Sampan Military Repositioned Squadron Anchorages site, we conclude that the impacts to national security of including these sites within critical habitat outweigh the conservation benefits of designation, and thus the six berths are proposed for exclusion from coral critical habitat designation.
The full rationale for proposing to exclude this site is provided in the Draft Information Report, section 5.2.3. The subsequent formal consultation would cause project delays and modifications that would impact the Military Sealift Command's mission, which is to provide logistics support to distant Navy, USMC, Army, and Air Force military forces for a wide range of national security related activities.
The circumstances range from a rise in military tensions with other nations to the ability of the U.S. Government to respond to attacks on U.S. forces, the territory and people of the United States, and U.S. allies. The ability of the repositioning fleet to provide a response to a threat to the U.S. requires quick transport and delivery of weapons, fuel, and supplies to U.S. military forces; thus delays and modifications at this site would result in substantial national security impacts.
Conservation benefits of including the site in critical habitat could be substantial because the site has high quality and quantity of the essential feature with high potential to aid in the conservation of listed corals, for which critical habitat consultation could provide significant protection. Based on our best scientific judgment and acknowledging the small size of this area, and other safeguards that are in place (e.g., protections already afforded listed corals under its listing and other regulatory mechanism), we conclude that exclusion of this area will not result in the extinction of the species.
While the existing economics literature is insufficient to provide a quantitative estimate of the extent to which people value incremental changes in recovery potential, the literature does provide evidence that people have a positive preference for listed species conservation, even beyond any direct (e.g., recreation, such as viewing the species while snorkeling or diving) or indirect (e.g., reef fishing that is supported by the presence of healthy reef ecosystems) use for the species. These include recreational opportunities (and associated tourism spending in the regional economy), habitat and nursery functions for recreationally and commercially valuable fish species, shoreline protection in the form of wave attenuation and reduced beach erosion, and climate stabilization via carbon sequestration.
Accordingly, critical habitat designation is most likely to generate the benefits discussed in those areas expected to be subject to additional recommendations for project modifications (above and beyond any conservation measures that may be implemented in the baseline due to the listing status of the species or for other reasons). In addition, critical habitat designation may generate ancillary environmental improvements and associated ecosystem service benefits (i.e., to commercial fishing and recreational activities) in areas subject to incremental project modifications.
This Start Printed Page 76280potential stems from two sources: (1) Entities that engage in section 7 consultation and (2) members of the public interested in coral conservation. The former potential exists from parties who alter their activities to benefit the species or essential feature because they were made aware of the critical habitat designation through the section 7 consultation process.
For example, NFS has been contacted by diver groups in the Florida Keys who are specifically seeking the two ESA-listed Caribbean Corpora corals on dives and report those locations to NFS, thus assisting us in planning and implementing coral conservation and management activities for those listed species. Similarly, state and local governments may be prompted to enact laws or rules to complement the critical habitat designations and benefit the listed corals.
However, we are unable to quantify the beneficial effects of the awareness gained through, or the secondary impacts from state and local regulations resulting from the critical habitat designation. There are many Federal marine protected areas in American Samoa, Guam, CNI, and the PRI where coral critical habitat is being considered (Draft Information Report, Appendix B).
Impacts of critical habitat designation on the agencies responsible for natural resource management planning of these areas depend on the type and number of Section 7 consultations that may result from the designation in the areas covered by those plans, as well as any potential project modifications recommended by these consultations. Negative impacts to these entities could result if the critical habitat designation interferes with these agencies' ability to provide for the conservation of the species, or otherwise hampers management of these areas.
However, most of these Federal marine protected areas are still developing management plans, especially the larger ones that include the most potential coral critical habitat (e.g., the National Marine Monuments), thus it is not possible to determine at this time if and how they would be subject to Section 7 consultation due to potential effects on coral critical habitat. Therefore, it is not possible to determine at this time if and how the management of Federal marine protected areas in the Pacific Islands would be impacted by coral critical habitat.
We are proposing to exclude two particular areas from critical habitat on the basis of national security impacts: The Navy's Indian Point Surface Danger Zone complex in Guam, and the Navy's six anchorage berths within the Sampan Military Repositioned Squadron Anchorages. For the Indian Point Surface Danger Zone complex, as summarized in the National Security Impacts section, substantial national security impacts would be expected because consultation requirements for critical habitat would place new demands on DoD both in terms of the consultation process and potential modifications to the DoD activities.
For the Sampan anchorage berths, as summarized in the National Security Impacts section, substantial national security impacts would be expected because formal consultation on anchoring would result in delays or changes to critical DoD activities at the site. Conservation benefits are expected to be substantial because the site has high quality and quantity of the essential feature with high potential to aid in the conservation of listed corals, for which critical habitat consultation could provide significant protection.
The habitat containing the physical or biological feature that is essential to the conservation of the seven threatened Indo-Pacific corals and that may require special management considerations or protection, is marine habitat of particular depths for each species in American Samoa, Guam, CNI, and PRI. After applying the 4(a)(3) analysis, the entire ties of the FDM and Wake Units were found to be ineligible for critical habitat, leaving the 17 specific areas described below.
In addition, after applying the 4(b)(2) analysis, one site in the Guam Unit (the Navy's Indian Point Surface Danger Zone complex), and one site in the Sampan Unit (a group of six Navy berths: L-19, L-32, L-44, L-47, L-62, and M-16)) were excluded from critical habitat. (5) Guam: All waters from 0-40 m depth around Guam and Offshore Banks, except the areas specified in section (d) of the regulatory text below, and the national security exclusion (Indian Point Surface Danger Zone complex) specified in section (e) of the regulatory text below.
(9) Sampan and Caravan Bank: All waters 0-40 m depth around Sampan and Caravan Bank, except the areas specified in section (d) of the regulatory text below, and the national security exclusion (six Navy berths) specified in section (e) of the regulatory text below. Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA requires Federal agencies, including NFS, to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by the agency does not jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat.
Reasonable and prudent alternatives are defined in 50 CFR 402.02 as alternative actions identified during formal consultation that can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended purpose of the action, that are consistent with the scope of the Federal agency's legal authority and jurisdiction, that are economically and technologically feasible, and that would avoid the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies that have retained discretionary involvement or control over an action, or where such discretionary involvement or control is authorized by law, to reinitiate consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances in which (1) critical habitat is subsequently designated, or (2) new information or changes to the action may result in effects to critical habitat not previously considered in the biological opinion.
Consequently, some Federal agencies may request reinitiation of consultation or conference with NFS on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if those actions may adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat or adversely modify or destroy proposed critical habitat, respectively. As described in our Draft Information Report, a wide variety of Federal activities may require ESA section 7 consultation because they may affect the essential feature of critical habitat.
For example, activities may adversely modify the essential feature by removing or altering the substrate or reducing water clarity through turbidity. These activities would require ESA section 7 consultation when they are authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal agency.
Questions regarding whether specific activities will constitute destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat should be directed to us (see ADDRESSES and FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). We are soliciting comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governments and agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule, including any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impact resulting from the proposed designations.
However, in keeping with Department of Commerce policies and consistent with ESA regulations at 50 CFR 424.16 (c)(1)(ii), we will request information for this proposed rule from Territorial resource agencies in American Samoa, Guam, and the CNI. Consultations on in-water and coastal construction and dredging and disposal (as determined by the 4(b)(2) economic impact analysis in Appendix B of the draft Information Report) all have the potential to involve third parties, such as recipients of Clean Water Act section 404 permits.
These activities were combined into one broad industry category that may experience impacts to small entities: In-Water and Coastal Construction and Dredging. Impacts to small entities would be due solely to the additional administrative costs of considering the potential for adverse effects to critical habitat during section 7 consultations.
However, in order to present a conservative estimate of the impacts to small entities, this IRFA assumes that all administrative and project modification costs are borne by third parties rather than Federal agencies. The low-end and high-end estimated impacts to small entities are summarized in Tables 1 and 2 in Appendix B of Draft Information Report (NFS, 2019).
The low-end estimate of the total annualized incremental impacts of critical habitat designation to small entities across the three areas is about $39,000. These costs are distributed evenly among the approximate 16 entities expected to be subject to section 7 consultations each year.
Moreover, the IRFA conservatively assumes that all administrative and project modification costs are borne by third parties rather than Federal agencies. In other words, the scenarios in the IRFA present broad ranges of the number of potentially affected entities and associated revenue effects.
The actual number of small entities affected and revenue effects are not expected to fall at either extreme end of the continuum. NFS seeks comments on its analysis presented in the IRFA related to the low and high-end estimates and any other costs that may be borne by small businesses directly.
We have determined that this action will have no reasonably foreseeable effects on the enforceable policies of American Samoa, Guam, and CNI. Upon publication of this proposed rule, these determinations will be submitted for review by the responsible Territorial agencies under section 307 of the Coastal Zone Management Act [16 U.S.C.
This rule, if adopted, would not impose record keeping or reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. The only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical habitat under section 7 of the ESA.
This relationship has given rise to a special Federal trust responsibility involving the legal responsibilities and obligations of the United States toward Indian Tribes and with respect to Indian lands, tribal trust resources, and the exercise of tribal rights. These lands are managed by Indian Tribes in accordance with tribal goals and objectives within the framework of applicable treaties and laws.
End Amendment PartS tart Printed Page 76285 Enumeration of threatened marine and anadromous species. * * * * * * * 1 Species includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPS's) (for a policy statement, see 61 FR 4722 ; February 7, 1996), and evolutionarily significant units (Jesus) (for a policy statement, see 56 FR 58612 ; November 20, 1991).
Except as noted in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section, critical habitat for the seven species in the 17 units includes the following areas: The feature essential to the conservation of A. biceps, A. Jacqueline, A. return, A. species, E. Paradise, I. crateriformis, and S. amulet is: Reproductive, recruitment, growth, and maturation habitat.
(2) Reefs cape with no more than a thin veneer of sediment and low occupancy by fleshy and turf macro algae; (4) Marine water with levels of anthropogenically-introduced (from humans) chemical contaminants that do not preclude or inhibit any demographic function.
(4) Pursuant to ESA section 3(5)(A)(i), artificial substrates including but not limited to: Fixed and floating structures, such as aids-to-navigation (Tons), seawalls, wharves, boat ramps, fishpond walls, pipes, submarine cables, wrecks, mooring balls, docks, aquaculture cages; (i) Critical habitat does not include managed areas, including but not limited to: The USACE-managed Of Small Boat Harbor and navigation channel (areas within “Federal Project Limits” indicated in Hydrographic Surveys for the Of Small Boat Harbor on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website); the seawall breakwaters, areas lying between the Federal Project Limits and seawall breakwaters, and a 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(ii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates, including but not limited to: The two USCG-managed fixed and floating Tons, USACE-managed Of Airstrip Shore Protection Project, as described on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website; and all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures. (i) Critical habitat does not include managed areas, including but not limited to: The USACE-managed Ta'u Small Boat Harbor and navigation channel (areas within “Federal Project Limits” indicated in Hydrographic Surveys for Ta'u Small Boat Harbor on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website); the seawall breakwaters, areas lying between the Federal Project Limits and seawall breakwaters, and a 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(ii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates including but not limited to: The four USCG-managed fixed and floating Tons, all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat Start Printed Page 76287ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures. (ii) Critical habitat does not include managed areas, including but not limited to: The Guam Port Authority harbors, basins, and navigation channels; Navy-managed APA Harbor basins, and navigation channels, and the seawall breakwaters; USACE-managed small boat harbors, basins, and navigation channels (areas within “Federal Project Limits” indicated in Hydrographic Surveys for Agar and Agana Small Boat Harbors on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website); the seawall breakwaters, and areas lying between the Federal Project Limits and seawall breakwaters; all other channels, turning basins, and berthing areas that are periodically dredged or maintained, and 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(iii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates, including but not limited to: The USCG-managed 32 fixed and floating Tons; USACE-managed seawalls (Asquiroga Bay Shoreline Protection Project and marine components of the Name River Flood Control project, as described on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website); Territory-managed boat ramps, including at Agana, Merino, Seaplane Ramp in APA Harbor, Match, and Agar; all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures. (i) Critical habitat does not include managed areas, including but not limited to: The USACE-managed Rota Harbor and navigation channel (areas within “Federal Project Limits” indicated in Hydrographic Surveys for the Rota Harbor on USAGE Honolulu District Civil Works' website); the seawall breakwaters, areas lying between the Federal Project Limits and seawall breakwaters, and a 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(ii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates, including but not limited to: The two USCG-managed fixed Tons; the Territory-managed boat ramp at Rota Harbor; all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures. (ii) Critical habitat does not include managed areas, including but not limited to: Titian Harbor and navigation channel as shown on NOAA Navigation Chart 81067, the seawall breakwater, and a 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(iii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates, including but not limited to: The six USCG-managed fixed Tons, the Territory-managed boat ramp at Titian Harbor, all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures. (i) Critical habitat does not include the Commonwealth Ports Authority harbors, basins, and navigation channels, their seawall breakwaters; all other channels, turning basins, berthing areas that are periodically dredged or maintained, and a 25 m radius of substrate around each of the Ton bases.
(ii) Critical habitat does not include artificial substrates, including but not limited to: The 15 USCG-managed fixed Tons, Territory-managed boat ramps at Smiling Cove (Caravan), Sugar Dock (Chain Kana), Tanaka, Fishing Base (Caravan), and Lower Base (Tanaka); and all other Tons, seawalls, wharves, docks, boat ramps, moorings, pipes, wrecks, and other artificial structures.