Federal Register Vol. 81, No.81,

Federal Register Volume 81, Issue 81 (April 27, 2016)

Page Range24693-25322
FR Document

81_FR_81
Current View
Page and SubjectPDF
81 FR 24815 - Sunshine Act NoticePDF
81 FR 24812 - Sunshine Act MeetingPDF
81 FR 24797 - Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Permit Application and Reports for Permits (fka Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument)PDF
81 FR 24895 - In the Matter of C&D Technologies, Inc.PDF
81 FR 24893 - Draft Standard Review Plan on Foreign Ownership, Control, or Domination, Revision 1PDF
81 FR 24894 - Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) Meeting of the ACRS Subcommittee on Digital I&C Systems; Notice of MeetingPDF
81 FR 24812 - Information Collection Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; NESHAP for Mercury Cell Chlor-Alkali Plants (Renewal)PDF
81 FR 24895 - Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) Meeting of the ACRS Subcommittee on Regulatory Policies and Practices; Notice of MeetingPDF
81 FR 24803 - Service Contract Inventory for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015PDF
81 FR 24940 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Information Collection Renewal; Submission for OMB Review; Leveraged LendingPDF
81 FR 24861 - Virginia; Amendment No. 1 to Notice of a Major Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 24852 - Louisiana; Amendment No. 5 to Notice of a Major Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 24940 - Proposed Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; CorrectionPDF
81 FR 24802 - National Assessment Governing Board Quarterly Board MeetingPDF
81 FR 24892 - Section 512 Study: Notice of Location Change for California Public RoundtablesPDF
81 FR 24865 - 60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Applications for Housing Assistance Payments; Special Claims ProcessingPDF
81 FR 24738 - Federal Credit Union Occupancy, Planning, and Disposal of Acquired and Abandoned Premises; Incidental PowersPDF
81 FR 24796 - Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee; Charter RenewalPDF
81 FR 24885 - Notice of Lodging of Proposed Consent Decree Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery ActPDF
81 FR 24810 - Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen SuitPDF
81 FR 24837 - Automated Commercial Environment (ACE); Announcement of National Customs Automation Program Test of the In-Transit Manifest Pilot ProgramPDF
81 FR 24785 - San Juan Resource Advisory CommitteePDF
81 FR 24772 - International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Observer Requirements, and Fishing Restrictions and Limits in Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries for 2016-2017PDF
81 FR 24942 - Submission for OMB Review; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24857 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24850 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24868 - Notice of Proposed Audit Delegation Renewal for the States of Alaska, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and WyomingPDF
81 FR 24900 - Florida Power & Light Company; St. Lucie Plant, Unit No. 2PDF
81 FR 24868 - Temporary Physical Address Change for General Ledger TeamPDF
81 FR 24935 - Broker and Freight Forwarder Financial Responsibility RoundtablePDF
81 FR 24849 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24900 - Dominion Virginia Power; North Anna, Unit 3; Combined License ApplicationPDF
81 FR 24769 - State Inspection Programs for Passenger-Carrier VehiclesPDF
81 FR 24813 - Notice of Agreements FiledPDF
81 FR 24850 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; General Admissions Applications (Long and Short) and Stipend FormsPDF
81 FR 24844 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Citizen Corps Council RegistrationPDF
81 FR 24826 - Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA): Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Assessing Interoperability for MACRA; CorrectionsPDF
81 FR 24827 - Meeting of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory CommitteePDF
81 FR 24853 - Proposed Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24738 - National Organic Program (NOP); Sunset 2016 Amendments to the National List; CorrectionPDF
81 FR 24861 - Proposed Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24942 - Multiemployer Pension Plan Application To Reduce BenefitsPDF
81 FR 24860 - Louisiana; Amendment No. 6 to Notice of a Major Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 24804 - Agency Information Collection ReinstatementPDF
81 FR 24804 - Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, PaducahPDF
81 FR 24805 - Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, NevadaPDF
81 FR 24767 - Television Broadcasting Services; Tolleson, ArizonaPDF
81 FR 24768 - Television Broadcasting Services; Cordele, GeorgiaPDF
81 FR 24805 - State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB)PDF
81 FR 24927 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed RequestPDF
81 FR 24880 - Certain Diaper Disposal Systems and Components Thereof, Including Diaper Refill Cassettes; Notice of Commission Determination Not To Review an Initial Determination Granting Complainants' Motion To Amend the Complaint and the Notice of InvestigationPDF
81 FR 24807 - Combined Notice of Filings #2PDF
81 FR 24806 - Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Leach XPress Project and Rayne XPress Expansion ProjectPDF
81 FR 24808 - Combined Notice of FilingsPDF
81 FR 24810 - Combined Notice of Filings #1PDF
81 FR 24845 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24842 - Proposed Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24928 - CSX Transportation, Inc.-Discontinuance of Service Exemption-in Letcher County, KYPDF
81 FR 24826 - Meeting of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research ProtectionsPDF
81 FR 24814 - Agency Information Collection Activities: 60-Day Public Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24862 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 24928 - Norfolk Southern Railway Company-Trackage Rights Exemption-Southern Electric Railroad CompanyPDF
81 FR 24702 - Amendments to the Rules of Practice for Trials Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; CorrectionPDF
81 FR 24800 - Information Collection; Submission for OMB Review, Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24828 - Office of Human Resources; Medical Professionals Recruitment and Continuing Education ProgramsPDF
81 FR 24793 - Submission for OMB Review; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24794 - Submission for OMB Review; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24798 - Intellectual Property Education Outreach Council SurveyPDF
81 FR 24888 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; ETA Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Performance Accountability, Information, and Reporting SystemPDF
81 FR 24783 - Newspapers for Publication of Legal Notices in the Eastern RegionPDF
81 FR 24795 - Evaluation of State Coastal Management ProgramPDF
81 FR 24904 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24817 - Proposed Information Collection Activity; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24892 - Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel; MeetingPDF
81 FR 24891 - Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety StandardsPDF
81 FR 24890 - Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety StandardsPDF
81 FR 24839 - Notice of intent to prepare a Joint Environmental Impact Statement and To Conduct Public ScopingPDF
81 FR 24867 - Notice of Public Meetings: Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council, NevadaPDF
81 FR 24865 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Verification of Naturalization, Form N-25; Extension, Without Change, of a Currently Approved CollectionPDF
81 FR 24816 - Issuance of Final Guidance PublicationPDF
81 FR 24818 - Public Meeting on Patient-Focused Drug Development for Patients Who Have Received an Organ TransplantPDF
81 FR 24880 - United States v. Len Blavatnik; Proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact StatementPDF
81 FR 24930 - Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee-New TaskPDF
81 FR 24933 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Trumbull Unmanned LLCPDF
81 FR 24929 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Aviation Systems Engineering CompanyPDF
81 FR 24929 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; O'Connor Aerial Videos Editing LLCPDF
81 FR 24934 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Aerial NetPDF
81 FR 24935 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Delta Air Lines, Inc.PDF
81 FR 24932 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Bombardier AerospacePDF
81 FR 24933 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Bombardier AerospacePDF
81 FR 24930 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; VT DRB Aviation ConsultantsPDF
81 FR 24822 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection: Public Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24934 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received: Airbus SASPDF
81 FR 24820 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Requests for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments CategorizationPDF
81 FR 24937 - Petition for Exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard; BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, LLCPDF
81 FR 24796 - Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous FishPDF
81 FR 24941 - Open Meeting of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Taxpayer Communications Project CommitteePDF
81 FR 24942 - Open Meeting of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Joint CommitteePDF
81 FR 24825 - Meeting Announcement for the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee Required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015PDF
81 FR 24822 - Office of Medical Products and Tobacco; Center for Drug Evaluation and Research; Statement of Organization, Functions, and Delegations of AuthorityPDF
81 FR 24703 - Optional Method of Filing Ocean Common Carrier and Marine Terminal Operator Agreements Subject to the Shipping Act of 1984PDF
81 FR 24827 - Notice of Interest Rate on Overdue DebtsPDF
81 FR 24886 - Webinar Meeting of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile JusticePDF
81 FR 24886 - Meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency PreventionPDF
81 FR 24889 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Occupational Safety and Health State PlansPDF
81 FR 24785 - Ecosystem Restoration PolicyPDF
81 FR 24815 - Submission for OMB Review; Schedules for Construction ContractsPDF
81 FR 24836 - National Institute of Mental Health; Notice of MeetingPDF
81 FR 24835 - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 24836 - National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 24835 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 24836 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 24801 - Charter Renewal of Department of Defense Federal Advisory CommitteesPDF
81 FR 24903 - New Postal ProductPDF
81 FR 24939 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Information Collection Renewal; Comment Request; Interagency Guidance on Asset Securitization ActivitiesPDF
81 FR 24714 - Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota TransferPDF
81 FR 24913 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE Arca, Inc.; Order Approving a Proposed Rule Change, as Modified by Amendment No. 1, To Establish Procedures for the Allocation of Cages to Co-Located Users, Including the Waiver of Certain Fees, and To Amend the Visitor Security Escort FeePDF
81 FR 24915 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; New York Stock Exchange LLC; Order Approving a Proposed Rule Change, as Modified by Amendment No. 1, To Establish Procedures for the Allocation of Cages to Co-Located Users, Including the Waiver of Certain Fees, and To Amend the Visitor Security Escort FeePDF
81 FR 24905 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE MKT LLC; Order Approving a Proposed Rule Change, as Modified by Amendment No. 1, To Establish Procedures for the Allocation of Cages to Co-Located Users, Including the Waiver of Certain Fees, and To Amend the Visitor Security Escort FeePDF
81 FR 24908 - Joint Industry Plan; Order Approving the Tenth Amendment to the National Market System Plan to Address Extraordinary Market Volatility by Bats BZX Exchange, Inc., Bats BYX Exchange, Inc., Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc., Bats EDGA Exchange, Inc., Bats EDGX Exchange, Inc., Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., NASDAQ BX, Inc., NASDAQ PHLX LLC, The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, National Stock Exchange, Inc., New York Stock Exchange LLC, NYSE MKT LLC, and NYSE Arca, Inc.PDF
81 FR 24909 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC; Notice of Designation of Longer Period for Commission Action on Proposed Rule Change To Establish a Secondary Contingency Procedure To Enable the Exchange To Report an Official Closing Price on Behalf of an Impaired Primary Listing ExchangePDF
81 FR 24907 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; New York Stock Exchange LLC; Notice of Designation of Longer Period for Commission Action on Proposed Rule Change Amending Rule 123C To Provide for How the Exchange Would Determine an Official Closing Price if the Exchange is Unable To Conduct a Closing TransactionPDF
81 FR 24907 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE MKT LLC; Notice of Designation of Longer Period for Commission Action on Proposed Rule Change Amending Rule 123C-Equities To Provide for How the Exchange Would Determine an Official Closing Price if the Exchange is Unable To Conduct a Closing TransactionPDF
81 FR 24922 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; Fixed Income Clearing Corporation; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change Relating to the GCF Repo® ServicePDF
81 FR 24919 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; New York Stock Exchange LLC; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change Adopting Initial and Continued Listing Standards for the Listing of Equity Investment Tracking Stocks and Adopting Listing Fees Specific to Equity Investment Tracking StocksPDF
81 FR 24909 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NASDAQ PHLX LLC; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change to Qualified Contingent Cross PricingPDF
81 FR 24916 - ABS Long/Short Strategies Fund and ABS Investment Management LLC; Notice of ApplicationPDF
81 FR 24887 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Announcement of OMB ApprovalsPDF
81 FR 24801 - Privacy Act of 1974; System of Records; CorrectionPDF
81 FR 24799 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request-Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment BodiesPDF
81 FR 24816 - Submission for OMB Review; Extraordinary Contractual Action RequestsPDF
81 FR 24869 - Information Collection: Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf; Submitted for OMB Review; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24824 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission to OMB for Review and Approval; Public Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 24737 - Prevailing Rate Systems; Redefinition of the Asheville, NC, and Charlotte, NC, Appropriated Fund Federal Wage System Wage AreasPDF
81 FR 24702 - Reporting of Original Issue Discount on Tax-Exempt Obligations; Basis and Transfer Reporting by Securities Brokers for Debt Instruments and Options; CorrectionPDF
81 FR 24696 - Airworthiness Directives; Pratt & Whitney Division Turbofan EnginesPDF
81 FR 24699 - Airworthiness Directives; General Electric Company Turbofan EnginesPDF
81 FR 24714 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; American Fisheries Act; Amendment 111PDF
81 FR 24693 - Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program: Court Orders Prior to July 22, 1998PDF
81 FR 24707 - Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination That Designation of Critical Habitat Is Not Prudent for the Northern Long-Eared BatPDF
81 FR 24693 - Airworthiness Directives Legal InterpretationPDF
81 FR 24745 - Airworthiness Directives; Airbus AirplanesPDF
81 FR 24735 - Federal Regulation Supplement: Revisions to Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (NASA Case 2015-N030)PDF
81 FR 24748 - Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; ConnecticutPDF
81 FR 24706 - Department of State Acquisition Regulation; Technical AmendmentsPDF
81 FR 24867 - Notice of Filing of Plats of Survey; MontanaPDF
81 FR 24743 - Airworthiness Directives; Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH GlidersPDF
81 FR 24946 - Medicare Program; Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System and Proposed Policy Changes and Fiscal Year 2017 Rates; Quality Reporting Requirements for Specific Providers; Graduate Medical Education; Hospital Notification Procedures Applicable to Beneficiaries Receiving Observation Services; and Technical Changes Relating to Costs to Organizations and Medicare Cost ReportsPDF

Issue

81 81 Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Contents Agricultural Marketing Agricultural Marketing Service PROPOSED RULES National Organic Program; Sunset 2016 Amendments to the National List; Correction, 24738 2016-09838 Agriculture Agriculture Department See

Agricultural Marketing Service

See

Forest Service

Antitrust Division Antitrust Division NOTICES Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement: United States v. Len Blavatnik, 24880-24885 2016-09782 Centers Disease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention NOTICES Issuance of Final Guidance Publication, 24816-24817 2016-09786 Centers Medicare Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services PROPOSED RULES Medicare Program: Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System and Proposed Policy Changes and Fiscal Year 2017 Rates, etc., 24946-25322 2016-09120 Children Children and Families Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration, 24817-24818 2016-09803 Commerce Commerce Department See

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

See

Patent and Trademark Office

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24793-24795 2016-09809 2016-09810 2016-09811
Comptroller Comptroller of the Currency NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Interagency Guidance on Asset Securitization Activities, 24939-24940 2016-09730 Leveraged Lending, 24940-24941 2016-09878 Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals; Correction, 24940 2016-09871 Consumer Product Consumer Product Safety Commission NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies, 24799-24800 2016-09711 Copyright Office Copyright Office, Library of Congress NOTICES Location Change for California Public Roundtables, 24892 2016-09869 Corporation Corporation for National and Community Service NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24800-24801 2016-09813 Defense Department Defense Department NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests, 24816 2016-09710 Schedules for Construction Contracts, 24815-24816 2016-09742 Charter Renewals: Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committees, 24801 2016-09736 Privacy Act; Systems of Records; Correction, 24801-24802 2016-09712 Education Department Education Department NOTICES Meetings: National Assessment Governing Board, 24802-24803 2016-09870 Service Contract Inventory for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, 24803-24804 2016-09879 Employee Benefits Employee Benefits Security Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24887-24888 2016-09713 Energy Department Energy Department See

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office

See

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24804 2016-09834 Meetings: Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Nevada, 24805 2016-09832 Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Paducah, 24804-24805 2016-09833
Energy Efficiency Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office NOTICES Meetings: State Energy Advisory Board, 24805 2016-09829 Environmental Protection Environmental Protection Agency PROPOSED RULES Ocean Disposals: Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut, 24748-24767 2016-09603 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: NESHAP for Mercury Cell Chlor-Alkali Plants; Renewal, 24812 2016-09891 Proposed Consent Decrees under the Clean Air Act Citizen Suit, 24810-24812 2016-09859 Federal Aviation Federal Aviation Administration RULES Airworthiness Directives Legal Interpretation, 24693-24696 2016-09667 Airworthiness Directives: General Electric Company Turbofan Engines, 24699-24701 2016-09686 Pratt and Whitney Division Turbofan Engines, 24696-24699 2016-09687 PROPOSED RULES Airworthiness Directives: Airbus Airplanes, 24745-24748 2016-09641 Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH Gliders, 24743-24745 2016-09435 NOTICES Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee; New Task, 24930-24932 2016-09781 Petitions for Exemption; Summaries: Aerial Net, 24934-24935 2016-09777 Airbus SAS, 24934 2016-09771 Aviation Systems Engineering Co., 24929-24930 2016-09779 Bombardier Aerospace, 24932-24934 2016-09774 2016-09775 Delta Air Lines, Inc., 24935 2016-09776 O'Connor Aerial Videos Editing LLC, 24929 2016-09778 Trumbull Unmanned LLC, 24933 2016-09780 VT DRB Aviation Consultants, 24930 2016-09773 Federal Communications Federal Communications Commission PROPOSED RULES Television Broadcasting Services: Cordele, GA, 24768-24769 2016-09830 Tolleson, AZ, 24767-24768 2016-09831 Federal Deposit Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals; Correction, 24940 2016-09871 Meetings; Sunshine Act, 24812-24813 2016-09923 2016-09924 Federal Emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Citizen Corps Council Registration, 24844 2016-09843 General Admissions Applications (Long and Short) and Stipend Forms, 24850 2016-09844 Changes in Flood Hazard Determinations, 24845-24852, 24862-24864 2016-09816 2016-09821 2016-09853 Final Flood Hazard Determinations, 24849-24850, 24857-24860 2016-09848 2016-09854 Major Disaster Declarations: Louisiana; Amendment No. 5, 24852 2016-09872 Louisiana; Amendment No. 6, 24860-24861 2016-09835 Virginia; Amendment No. 1, 24861 2016-09873 Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations, 24842-24844, 24853-24857, 24861-24862 2016-09820 2016-09837 2016-09839 Federal Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission NOTICES Combined Filings, 24807-24810 2016-09822 2016-09823 2016-09825 Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, Leach XPress and Rayne XPress Expansion Projects, 24806-24807 2016-09824 Federal Maritime Federal Maritime Commission RULES Optional Method of Filing Ocean Common Carrier and Marine Terminal Operator Agreements Subject to the Shipping Act of 1984, 24703-24706 2016-09760 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24814 2016-09817 Agreements Filed, 24813-24814 2016-09845 Federal Mine Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 24815 2016-09967 Federal Motor Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration PROPOSED RULES State Inspection Programs for Passenger-Carrier Vehicles, 24769-24772 2016-09846 NOTICES Meetings: Broker and Freight Forwarder Financial Responsibility Roundtable, 24935-24937 2016-09849 Federal Reserve Federal Reserve System NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals; Correction, 24940 2016-09871 Fish Fish and Wildlife Service RULES Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Northern Long-Eared Bat; Determination that Designation of Critical Habitat is Not Prudent, 24707-24714 2016-09673 Food and Drug Food and Drug Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Requests for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Categorization, 24820-24822 2016-09769 Meetings: Patient-Focused Drug Development for Patients Who Have Received an Organ Transplant, 24818-24820 2016-09785 Statement of Organization, Functions, and Delegations of Authority: Office of Medical Products and Tobacco, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, 24822 2016-09761 Forest Forest Service NOTICES Ecosystem Restoration Policy, 24785-24793 2016-09750 Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Repair and Maintenance of Bog Creek Road, Selkirk Mountains in Boundary County, ID, 24839-24842 2016-09790 Meetings: San Juan Resource Advisory Committee, 24785 2016-09857 Newspapers for Publication of Legal Notices in the Eastern Region, 24783-24785 2016-09806 General Services General Services Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests, 24816 2016-09710 Schedules for Construction Contracts, 24815-24816 2016-09742 Health and Human Health and Human Services Department See

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

See

Children and Families Administration

See

Food and Drug Administration

See

Health Resources and Services Administration

See

Indian Health Service

See

National Institutes of Health

NOTICES Interest Rate on Overdue Debts, 24827-24828 2016-09758 Meetings: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee, 24827 2016-09840 Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee, 24825-24826 2016-09762 Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections, 24826-24827 2016-09818 Requests for Information: Assessing Interoperability for Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act; Corrections, 24826 2016-09842
Health Resources Health Resources and Services Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24822-24825 2016-09705 2016-09772 Homeland Homeland Security Department See

Federal Emergency Management Agency

See

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

See

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Housing Housing and Urban Development Department NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Applications for Housing Assistance Payments; Special Claims Processing, 24865-24867 2016-09868 Indian Health Indian Health Service NOTICES Medical Professionals Recruitment and Continuing Education Programs: New Limited Competition Cooperative Agreement, 24828-24835 2016-09812 Interior Interior Department See

Fish and Wildlife Service

See

Land Management Bureau

See

Ocean Energy Management Bureau

See

Office of Natural Resources Revenue

Internal Revenue Internal Revenue Service RULES Reporting of Original Issue Discount on Tax-Exempt Obligations: Basis and Transfer Reporting by Securities Brokers for Debt Instruments and Options; Correction, 24702 2016-09698 Reporting of Original Issue Discount on Tax-Exempt Obligations: Basis and Transfer Reporting by Securities Brokers for Debt Instruments and Options; Correction, 24702 2016-09697 NOTICES Meetings: Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Joint Committee, 24942 2016-09763 Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Taxpayer Communications Project Committee, 24941-24942 2016-09764 International Trade Com International Trade Commission NOTICES Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Certain Diaper Disposal Systems and Components Thereof, Including Diaper Refill Cassettes, 24880 2016-09827 Justice Department Justice Department See

Antitrust Division

See

Justice Programs Office

NOTICES Proposed Consent Decrees under CERCLA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 24885-24886 2016-09864
Justice Programs Justice Programs Office NOTICES Meetings: Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 24886-24887 2016-09755 Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, 24886 2016-09756 Labor Department Labor Department See

Employee Benefits Security Administration

See

Mine Safety and Health Administration

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: ETA Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Performance Accountability, Information, and Reporting System, 24888-24889 2016-09807 Occupational Safety and Health State Plans, 24889-24890 2016-09751
Land Land Management Bureau NOTICES Meetings: Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council, NV, 24867 2016-09788 Plats of Survey: Montana, 24867-24868 2016-09533 Library Library of Congress See

Copyright Office, Library of Congress

Mine Mine Safety and Health Administration NOTICES Petitions for Modification: Application of Existing Mandatory Safety Standards, 24890-24892 2016-09797 2016-09798 NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration PROPOSED RULES Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, 24735-24737 2016-09625 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests, 24816 2016-09710 Schedules for Construction Contracts, 24815-24816 2016-09742 Meetings: Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, 24892-24893 2016-09802 National Credit National Credit Union Administration PROPOSED RULES Federal Credit Union Occupancy, Planning, and Disposal of Acquired and Abandoned Premises; Incidental Powers, 24738-24742 2016-09867 National Highway National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NOTICES Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard Exemption Approvals: BMW of North America, LLC, 24937-24939 2016-09767 National Institute National Institutes of Health NOTICES Meetings: Center for Scientific Review, 24835-24837 2016-09737 2016-09738 National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, 24836 2016-09739 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 24835 2016-09740 National Institute of Mental Health, 24836 2016-09741 National Oceanic National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RULES Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska: Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; American Fisheries Act; Amendment 111, 24714-24734 2016-09680 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States: Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota Transfer, 24714 2016-09726 PROPOSED RULES International Fisheries: Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Observer Requirements, and Fishing Restrictions and Limits in Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries for 2016-2017, 24772-24782 2016-09856 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Permit Application and Reports for Permits, 24797-24798 2016-09922 Charter Renewals: Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, 24796 2016-09866 Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish, 24796-24797 2016-09766 Evaluation of State Coastal Management Program, 24795 2016-09805 Nuclear Regulatory Nuclear Regulatory Commission NOTICES Combined Licenses: Dominion Virginia Power; North Anna, Unit 3, 24900 2016-09847 Confirmatory Orders: C&D Technologies, Inc., 24895-24900 2016-09917 Draft Standard Review Plans: Foreign Ownership, Control, or Domination, Revision 1, 24893-24894 2016-09916 Exemptions: Florida Power and Light Company; St. Lucie Plant, Unit No. 2, 24900-24903 2016-09851 Meetings: Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Subcommittee on Digital I and C Systems, 24894-24895 2016-09914 Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Subcommittee on Regulatory Policies and Practices, 24895 2016-09886 Ocean Energy Management Ocean Energy Management Bureau NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf, 24869-24880 2016-09709 Natural Resources Office of Natural Resources Revenue NOTICES Proposed Audit Delegation Renewals: Alaska, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, 24868-24869 2016-09852 Temporary Physical Address Change for General Ledger Team, 24868 2016-09850 Patent Patent and Trademark Office RULES Rules of Practice for Trials Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; Correction, 24702-24703 2016-09814 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Intellectual Property Education Outreach Council Survey, 24798-24799 2016-09808 Personnel Personnel Management Office RULES Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program: Court Orders Prior to July 22, 1998, 24693 2016-09674 PROPOSED RULES Prevailing Rate Systems: Redefinition of the Asheville, NC and Charlotte, NC Appropriated Fund Federal Wage System Wage Areas, 24737-24738 2016-09701 Postal Regulatory Postal Regulatory Commission NOTICES New Postal Products, 24903-24904 2016-09735 Railroad Retirement Railroad Retirement Board NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24904-24905 2016-09804 Securities Securities and Exchange Commission NOTICES Applications: ABS Long/Short Strategies Fund and ABS Investment Management LLC, 24916-24919 2016-09715 Joint Industry Plans: Bats BZX Exchange, Inc., Bats BYX Exchange, et al., 24908-24909 2016-09722 Self-Regulatory Organizations; Proposed Rule Changes: Fixed Income Clearing Corp., 24922-24927 2016-09718 NASDAQ PHLX LLC, 24909-24913 2016-09716 New York Stock Exchange LLC, 24907, 24915-24916, 24919-24922 2016-09717 2016-09720 2016-09724 NYSE Arca, Inc., 24913-24915 2016-09725 NYSE MKT LLC, 24905-24907 2016-09719 2016-09723 The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, 24909 2016-09721 Social Social Security Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24927-24928 2016-09828 State Department State Department RULES Acquisition Regulation Technical Amendments, 24706-24707 2016-09570 Surface Transportation Surface Transportation Board NOTICES Discontinuance of Service Exemptions: CSX Transportation, Inc., Letcher County, KY, 24928-24929 2016-09819 Trackage Rights Exemptions: Norfolk Southern Railway Co. over Southern Electric Railroad Co., 24928 2016-09815 Transportation Department Transportation Department See

Federal Aviation Administration

See

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

See

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Treasury Treasury Department See

Comptroller of the Currency

See

Internal Revenue Service

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 24942-24943 2016-09855 Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits, 24942 2016-09836
U.S. Citizenship U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Request for Verification of Naturalization, 24865 2016-09787 Customs U.S. Customs and Border Protection NOTICES Automated Commercial Environments: National Customs Automation Program Test of the In-Transit Manifest Pilot Program, 24837-24839 2016-09858 Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Repair and Maintenance of Bog Creek Road, Selkirk Mountains in Boundary County, ID, 24839-24842 2016-09790 Separate Parts In This Issue Part II Health and Human Services Department, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 24946-25322 2016-09120 Reader Aids

Consult the Reader Aids section at the end of this issue for phone numbers, online resources, finding aids, and notice of recently enacted public laws.

To subscribe to the Federal Register Table of Contents LISTSERV electronic mailing list, go to http://listserv.access.thefederalregister.org and select Online mailing list archives, FEDREGTOC-L, Join or leave the list (or change settings); then follow the instructions.

81 81 Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Rules and Regulations OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT 5 CFR Part 870 RIN 3206-AM67 Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program: Court Orders Prior to July 22, 1998 AGENCY:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing this final regulation to adopt as final the interim final regulation published on December 4, 2012. The regulation implements section 8705 of title 5, United States Code regarding the effect of any court decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation, or any court-approved property settlement agreement incident to any court decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation (hereinafter “court order”) where the court order expressly provides that an individual receive Federal Employee's Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) benefits. The regulations will allow court orders submitted to the appropriate Federal agency before July 22, 1998 to be effective for providing FEGLI benefits if the court order was received in the appropriate office before the insured Federal employee's or annuitant's death. This revision does not affect the current statutory limitation that court orders apply only when FEGLI benefits are based on insured individuals who died on or after July 22, 1998.

DATES:

This rule is effective April 27, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Marguerite Martel, Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 606-0004 or email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Public Law 105-205, 112 Stat. 683, enacted July 22, 1998, amending section 8705 of title 5, United States Code, required benefits to be paid in accordance with the terms of a court order instead of the otherwise existing statutory order of precedence for payment of benefits under FEGLI. On October 8, 1999, OPM published a final regulation interpreting the law to mean that only those court orders received in the appropriate office after the date the law was enacted would be valid to name a FEGLI beneficiary. The regulation amended section 870.801(d)(2), of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.

Based on Pascavage v. Office of Personnel Management, 773 F. Supp.2d 452 (D. Del. 2011), OPM is changing this regulation to provide FEGLI benefits based on court orders submitted to the appropriate Federal agency before July 22, 1998, so long as the court order was received in the appropriate office before the insured Federal employee's or annuitant's death. This change is consistent with the settlement agreement in this case, Pascavage v. Office of Personnel Management, C.A. No.: 09-276-LPS-MPT (D. Del. filed Aug. 6, 2012).1 This revision does not affect the current statutory limitation that court orders apply only when FEGLI benefits are based on insured individuals who died on or after July 22, 1998. On December 4, 2012, OPM published an interim final regulation at 77 FR 71687. We received no comments on the interim final regulation. Therefore, OPM is adopting the interim final regulation with no changes.

1 The settlement agreement has been preliminarily approved by the Court.

Regulatory Impact Analysis

OPM has examined the impact of this rule as required by Executive Order 12866 (September 1993, Regulatory Planning and Review) and Executive Order 13563, which directs agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public, health, and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). A regulatory impact analysis must be prepared for major rules with economically significant effects of $100 million or more in any one year. This rule is not considered a major rule because OPM estimates there are relatively few court orders received by the appropriate office before July 22, 1998.

Paperwork Reduction Act

This document does not contain proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

I certify that these regulations will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because they will apply only to Federal employees, annuitants and their former spouses.

List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 870

Administrative practice and procedure, Government employees, Hostages, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Life insurance, Retirement.

U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Beth F. Cobert, Acting Director.
PART 870—FEDERAL EMPLOYEES' GROUP LIFE INSURANCE PROGRAM Accordingly, the interim rule amending 5 CFR part 870 which was published at 77 FR 71687 on Dceemmber 4, 2012, is adopted as a final rule without change.
[FR Doc. 2016-09674 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6325-63-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2010-1167] Airworthiness Directives Legal Interpretation AGENCY:

Federal Aviation Administration, DOT.

ACTION:

Airworthiness directives legal interpretation.

SUMMARY:

The Federal Aviation Administration is issuing a legal interpretation on regulations applicable to airworthiness directives. This legal interpretation responds to questions asked by an Aviation Rulemaking Committee and is intended to resolve certain issues for the public.

DATES:

April 27, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Douglas Anderson, Manager of Aircraft Certification and Space Law Branch, Office of the Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: 202-267-3073.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Request

This legal interpretation addresses several regulations in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation (14 CFR) part 39 applicable to airworthiness directives. It responds to questions asked by the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Organization/Procedures Working Group of the Airworthiness Directive Implementation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (AD ARC). The Working Group (WG) requested the agency to interpret several provisions in part 39 to resolve issues that have been debated within the WG. These issues partly result from amendments made to part 39 in 2002. See Airworthiness Directives, 67 FR 47998 (Jul. 22, 2002). The WG asked four questions:

1. What is the extent of an aircraft operator's continuing obligation following the issuance of an airworthiness directive (AD)?

2. What is the extent of an aircraft operator's obligation to accomplish actions referenced in an AD beyond those actions necessary to resolve the unsafe condition specifically identified in an AD?

3. What is the meaning of the term “applicable” in AD 2007-07-02?

4. What is the extent of an aircraft operator's responsibilities when an AD requires an action that cannot be accomplished on a particular aircraft?

The FAA published for public comment a proposed legal interpretation answering these questions. Proposed Airworthiness Directive Legal Interpretation, 76 FR 20898 (Apr. 14, 2011) (Proposed Legal Interpretation).1 The FAA received numerous comments expressing concern with the FAA's proposed interpretation. Most comments focus on the FAA's responses to questions 1 and 4.

1 In response to several requests, the FAA extended the comment period until June 30, 2011. 76 FR 30040 (May 24, 2011).

As an initial matter, it is important to emphasize that each AD is unique, and its terms control. Thus, this legal interpretation only addresses the matters raised by the AD ARC and is limited to an interpretation of part 39 and general agency policy governing ADs.

Legal Interpretation, Summary of Comments and the FAA's Responses

Some of the commenters suggested that this interpretation should change the existing part 39 regulations or FAA internal procedures with respect to how ADs are prepared and issued. The FAA rejects those suggestions because a regulation cannot be changed by a legal interpretation; rulemaking is the proper method for amending a regulation.

Some of the comments raised policy considerations, which provide valuable information to the FAA, but those policy considerations cannot change the present wording of the regulations, and are best taken into account during rulemaking. A legal interpretation only may explain the meaning of the words that are in the existing regulation; it may not create new policy. Set forth below is a summary and response to comments as to the proper interpretation of existing provisions of part 39.

Question 1: What is the extent of an aircraft operator's continuing obligation following the issuance of an airworthiness directive (AD)?

Answer: The FAA interprets §§ 39.7 and 39.9 to mean that operators have an ongoing obligation to ensure that the modification mandated by an AD is maintained.

For changes to AD-mandated modifications and for deviations from ADs that do not have a terminating action, the operator must obtain approval for an alternative means of compliance (AMOC) with the AD. The FAA recognizes that in some cases this may impose a burden on operators to obtain AMOC approvals for activities that would otherwise be considered normal maintenance. The FAA may allow, on an AD-by-AD basis, reversion to part 43 maintenance, with airworthiness limitations if appropriate to prevent operators from reintroducing unsafe conditions.

Summary of Comments Received

Some commenters contended that the words of the regulation must be given their plain meaning and that the proposed interpretation is not consistent with the regulatory text. Section 39.9 provides, “If the requirements of an airworthiness directive have not been met, you violate § 39.7 each time you operate the aircraft or use the product.” Some commenters suggested that this means that once the requirements of the AD are met, the action has been taken to resolve the unsafe condition and the AD is, therefore, no longer applicable. Indeed, some commenters further contended that after the AD's requirements have been met, it is likely that the product will be in a new type design that is different from the type design covered under the AD, and therefore, the product now falls out of the AD's applicability. While some commenters contended that § 39.9 contains no continuing obligation to maintain an AD-mandated condition, other commenters suggested that the standard maintenance practices under other parts should then control. A significant number of the comments objected to maintaining an AD-mandated configuration in perpetuity without any allowance for or consideration of normal maintenance, alterations, and design changes properly performed and approved in accordance with parts 21 and 43.

FAA's Response to Comments

Under §§ 39.7 and 39.9, operators must comply with the requirements of applicable ADs and must operate aircraft in accordance with all applicable ADs. Section 39.7 prohibits the operation of a product that fails to meet AD requirements. Section 39.9 imposes a continuing obligation to maintain compliance with an AD by establishing a separate violation for each time an aircraft is operated or a product is used that fails to meet AD requirements. When these sections are read together in the context of part 39, an AD requires that products be operated free of any identified unsafe condition. The FAA issues ADs not only to require operators to accomplish particular actions listed in the AD, but also to ensure that, when products are operated, they are free of identified unsafe conditions. It is important that once the unsafe condition is corrected as required by an AD, the unsafe condition not be reintroduced. Even if the configuration of the airplane has changed to comply with the AD, it does not mean that the AD no longer applies.

There are two main categories of ADs issued by the FAA: (1) Ongoing inspection and/or maintenance requirements that address a known unsafe condition or an unsafe condition likely to exist; and (2) ADs that require modifications, which may be “terminating actions” for ongoing requirements, and which remove the unsafe condition. Sections 39.7 and 39.9 impose a continuing obligation to comply with both types of AD requirements.

The comments appear to manifest confusion regarding the second type of AD and specifically the use of the term “terminating action” in an AD. While how that term is used in an individual AD controls, general guidance of the FAA's general use of such term follows. Terminating action ADs allow or direct operators to perform a maintenance action that removes the unsafe condition from the affected aircraft and eliminates the need for the AD's inspection requirements. One example of a terminating action is the removal and replacement of a defective part that had been subject to AD-mandated repetitive inspections. After a “terminating action,” the resulting configuration constitutes an FAA-approved type design which must be maintained as required by §§ 39.7 and 39.9. This configuration must also be maintained in order for the aircraft to be airworthy.2

2 Any operation of an unairworthy aircraft is subject to enforcement action under Part 91.

Terminating actions fall into two broad categories—those that either (1) correct whatever defect kept the product from conforming to an approved type design; or (2) accomplish a required change in type design where the FAA has determined that the original type design does not comply with the applicable airworthiness standards. In both cases, the post-AD configuration meets type certification requirements and renders the aircraft in a condition for safe operation. An aircraft operator must maintain that resulting configuration, and may not change it to any other configuration that does not comply either with the AD or with an approved AMOC to the AD.

For ADs mandating modifications where the AD requires no further action after modification, the operator may perform standard maintenance practices on that new configuration, associated with maintaining the fleet, which would not change the required modification, and may do so without AMOC approval. Any change from the mandated modification, however, requires FAA approval of an AMOC.3

3 Parts 21 and 43 also prohibit the reintroduction of an unsafe condition.

When an unsafe condition is eliminated in production before the FAA issues the AD, the FAA limits the applicability of the AD requirements to exclude those newly produced aircraft. Those new aircraft resolve the unsafe condition by having appropriate modifications incorporated into their type design during production and initial airworthiness certification. Continued compliance with the type design, inspection, and maintenance requirements under parts 21 and 43 for that product should ensure that operators maintain the product's condition for safe operation. In contrast, when the FAA issues an AD, it is because the agency determined that regulatory requirements have not effectively prevented an unsafe condition of the affected products. Therefore, § 39.7 requires that, when a product is operated, it must meet the requirements of all applicable ADs including any ongoing mandated inspection and maintenance requirements that may override general part 43 maintenance practices.

Question 2: What is the extent of an aircraft operator's obligation to accomplish actions referenced in an AD beyond those actions necessary to resolve the unsafe condition specifically identified in an AD?

Answer: An AD may require more actions than correcting the specific unsafe condition. These may include actions reasonably related to resolving or preventing the unsafe condition. Thus, an aircraft operator has an obligation to accomplish all actions required by an AD including those beyond the actions necessary to resolve the unsafe condition specifically identified in an AD.

Summary of Comments Received

Some commenters argued that the FAA's interpretation is not consistent with the regulatory text because by its terms § 39.11 is limited to actions to resolve only the “unsafe condition.” According to such commenters, if an action required by the AD does not directly affect the unsafe condition, those actions are over-prescriptive and outside the scope of the FAA's authority.

Other commenters take the opposite view. As Airbus, a design approval holder (DAH) noted, operators often request complete sets of instructions for preparation, procedures, test, and closing up. Additionally, DAH-determined tools, methods, proceedings, materials, and instructions to be used for accomplishing a service instruction for continued airworthiness are part of the type design under § 21.31.

FAA's Response to Comments

The FAA's interpretation is consistent with Title 49 of United States Code, Section 44701, which establishes the FAA's broad authority to issue regulations in the interest of aviation safety and the FAA issues ADs under such authority. In addition, § 39.11 of the regulations provides:

§ 39.11 What actions do airworthiness directives require? Airworthiness directives specify inspections you must carry out, conditions and limitations you must comply with, and any actions you must take to resolve an unsafe condition (emphasis added).

When describing the types of actions required by an AD, which is a final rule, § 39.11 does not limit the agency's broad statutory authority. AD requirements are imposed by the language of the AD itself and not by § 39.11. Thus, an AD may require more actions than simply correcting the specific unsafe condition by, for example, requiring certain continuing maintenance actions to prevent or detect the unsafe condition in the future.

In developing an AD, the FAA determines the range of actions that are reasonably related to and further the interest of aviation safety.4 For example, service information frequently includes instructions for accessing the area to be worked on to address the unsafe condition. Because these access instructions are reasonably related to addressing the unsafe condition, the FAA has the authority to mandate such instructions by AD.

4 The FAA has “broad authority to require whatever types of corrective actions we determine to be most effective in addressing identified unsafe conditions. This includes inspections, repairs, modifications, operating limitations, airworthiness limitations, and maintenance program requirements.” Airworthiness Directives, 67 FR 47998-01 (Jul. 22, 2002). The FAA issues ADs under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); therefore, if the actions required by an AD are reasonably related to resolution of the unsafe condition, the FAA may mandate them. 5 U.S.C.A. § 551 et seq.

The rulemaking process by which individual ADs are adopted provides the public with an opportunity to identify and express concern with potentially overly prescriptive requirements. In addition, each AD contains a provision allowing for approval of an AMOC, which allows an operator to address an unsafe condition in a manner approved by the FAA.

Question 3: What is the meaning of the term “applicable” in AD 2007-07-02?  5

5AD 2007-07-02 paragraph (f) states in pertinent part that operators must “do[] all the applicable actions specified in the Accomplishment Instructions of the applicable service bulletin specified in Table 1 of this AD.”.

Answer: The FAA interprets “applicable” to limit the required actions to those that apply to a particular aircraft under the specific conditions found. The use of “applicable” does not permit an operator to decide which actions are necessary to correct the unsafe condition.

Summary of Comments Received

One commenter contended there was no ambiguity in the subject AD because the SB specifically list the fleets affected, and which steps are applicable based on several different configurations of various aircraft. Therefore, the commenter concluded there is no need to include the word “applicable” to exclude those products for which the requirements clearly do not apply.

ARSA commented that under part 39 the FAA cannot make anything “applicable” that is not directly related to the unsafe condition and specified actions must be limited to those that directly address the unsafe condition. In its view, the FAA's interpretation mandates accomplishing all actions, whether or not necessary to correcting the unsafe condition, which is contrary to part 39.

FAA's Response to Comments

The FAA intends “applicable” to have the same meaning in both places in paragraph (f) of AD 2007-07-02. The first usage limits the required actions to those that apply to a particular aircraft under the specific conditions found; it does not permit an operator to decide which actions are necessary and which are unnecessary to correct the unsafe condition.

The second usage references Table 1 in the AD that identifies the model of aircraft to which each service bulletin applies. The “applicable service bulletin” means the service bulletin that applies to each corresponding aircraft model, as indicated in Table 1 of the AD. Similarly, “all the applicable actions” specified in each applicable service bulletin are those actions that are identified as applying to a particular aircraft. “Applicable” is a necessary qualifier in this context for two reasons: (1) In many ADs, the referenced service bulletins specify different actions for different aircraft configurations, typically identified as “Group 1,” “Group 2,” etc.; (2) in many ADs, the referenced service bulletins specify different actions depending on conditions found during performance of previous steps in the instructions (e.g., if a crack is smaller than a specified size, repair in accordance with the Structural Repair Manual; if larger, repair in accordance with a method approved by the Aircraft Certification Office). The term “applicable” limits the AD's requirements to only those that are specified in the service bulletin for the configuration and conditions of a particular aircraft. In this case, the word “all” means that every applicable action must be accomplished.

Although this response applies specifically to AD 2007-07-02, this general principle also applies to uses of the term “applicable” in other ADs. The FAA promulgates ADs with specific standards to directly address the identified unsafe condition. As exemplified by AD 2007-07-02, ADs often require many different actions for various models and aircraft configurations. Because of those complexities, mandating AD actions without incorporating by reference the manufacturer's service bulletin that may contain “normal” part 43 maintenance actions becomes impracticable or may interject unnecessary complexities or inconsistencies that adversely affect performance of the necessary corrective actions.

Question 4: What is the extent of an aircraft operator's responsibilities when an AD requires an action that cannot be accomplished on a particular aircraft?

Answer: Sections 39.15 and 39.17 require ADs to apply to a specific product, even if the product has been changed through component removal or replacement or other modification. An operator who cannot comply with the specific requirements of an AD must request approval of an AMOC from the FAA. The operator must obtain an AMOC approval even if the affected component has been removed from the aircraft, rendering compliance with the specific requirements of the AD impossible. The AMOC process allows the FAA to determine whether the unsafe condition has been eliminated when an operator removes a component addressed in an AD and replaces it with a different component.

Summary of Comments

Some commenters stated the FAA's interpretation is either wrong because when the AD pertains to a specific part or component that has since been legally removed or pertains to a part or such that is not installed on the aircraft, the AD no longer applies, or represents a change from past practice or guidance.

FAA Response to Comments

If a change to a product makes it impossible to comply with the requirements of an AD, then the operator must request an AMOC approval from the FAA. Sections 39.15 and 39.17 directly answer this issue. Section 39.15 provides that an AD applies to each product identified in the AD, even if an individual product has been changed by modifying, altering, or repairing it in the area addressed by the AD. Section 39.17 requires that if a change in a product affects an operator's ability to accomplish the actions required by the AD in any way, the operator must request FAA approval of an AMOC. Together these sections require an operator who cannot comply with the specific requirements of an AD to request FAA approval of an AMOC. The operator must obtain an AMOC approval even if the affected product has been removed from the aircraft, rendering compliance with the specific requirements of the AD impossible. The AMOC process allows the FAA to determine whether the unsafe condition has been eliminated when an operator removes a component to which an AD applies and replaces it with a different component.

This approach was clearly specified in the FAA's part 39 rulemaking in 2002. See Airworthiness Directives, 67 FR 47998 (“Specifically, FAA is adding to part 39 the language explaining that ADs apply even if products have been modified, altered, or repaired in the area addressed by the directive.”). The 2002 rulemaking did not introduce any new regulatory requirements; rather, the FAA simply codified in part 39 provisions currently found in ADs. Id. at 47999. If a change in a product affects one's ability to comply with the AD, the person operating the aircraft or using the product must ask the FAA's permission to use an AMOC, and the request must either show that the change eliminated the unsafe condition or include the specific actions proposed. Id. at 48000.

This response was coordinated with the Aircraft Maintenance Division of the Flight Standards Service and the Design, Manufacturing and Airworthiness Division of the Aircraft Certification Service.

Issued in Washington, DC, on April 19, 2016. Lorelei Peter, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations.
[FR Doc. 2016-09667 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2015-4474; Directorate Identifier 2015-NE-34-AD; Amendment 39-18485; AD 2016-08-09] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; Pratt & Whitney Division Turbofan Engines AGENCY:

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

We are adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain Pratt & Whitney Division (PW) PW4000-94 inch and PW4000-100 inch model turbofan engines. This AD was prompted by a report of a crack found in the high-pressure compressor (HPC) 10th stage disk. This AD requires performing an ultrasonic inspection (USI) or an eddy current inspection (ECI) of the HPC 10th stage disk. We are issuing this AD to prevent failure of the HPC 10th stage disk, uncontained disk release, damage to the engine, and damage to the airplane.

DATES:

This AD is effective June 1, 2016.

The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in this AD as of June 1, 2016.

ADDRESSES:

For service information identified in this final rule, contact Pratt & Whitney Division, 400 Main St., East Hartford, CT 06108; phone: 860 565-8770; fax: 860 565-4503. You may view this service information at the FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call (781) 238-7125. It is also available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-4474.

Examining the AD Docket

You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-4474; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The address for the Docket Office (phone: 800-647-5527) is Document Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Katheryn Malatek, Aerospace Engineer, Engine Certification Office, FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA 01803; phone: 781-238-7747; fax: 781-238-7199; email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Discussion

We issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 14 CFR part 39 by adding an AD that would apply to certain PW PW4000-94 inch turbofan engines with HPC 10th stage disk, part number (P/N) 51H710 or 53H976-06, installed and certain PW4000-100 inch turbofan engines with HPC 10th stage disk, P/N 53H976-06, installed. The NPRM published in the Federal Register on December 9, 2015 (80 FR 76400). The NPRM was prompted by a report of a crack found in the HPC 10th stage disk. The root cause of the crack was a manual polishing procedure, previously used during manufacture, that caused surface scratches on the disk. The NPRM proposed to require a USI or ECI of the HPC 10th stage disk. We are issuing this AD to prevent failure of the HPC 10th stage disk, which could lead to an uncontained disk release, damage to the engine, and damage to the airplane.

Comments

We gave the public the opportunity to participate in developing this AD. The following presents the comments received on the NPRM (80 FR 76400, December 9, 2015) and the FAA's response to each comment.

Support for the NPRM

The Boeing Company and United Airlines expressed support for the NPRM (80 FR 76400, December 9, 2015).

Request To Use ECI as Follow-on to USI

American Airlines requested that we revise Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD to add a statement that the ECI can be used to confirm the presence of a crack if a USI is initially performed and the ECI is the final authority on whether or not a crack is present on the disk.

We agree. We revised Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD to allow a follow-on ECI.

Request To Allow Disk Replacement Repairs

Atlas Air requested that we revise the Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD to allow use of disk replacement repairs per the PW PW4000-94/100 Clean, Inspect, Repair (CIR) Manual Part No. 51A357, Section 72-35-10, Repair 07.

We disagree. This AD requires removal of the 10th stage disk if it fails inspection. There are no FAA-approved repairs allowed on the 10th stage disk. The previously approved PW4000-94/100 CIR Manual Part No. 51A357, Section 72-35-07, Repair 04 to the drum rotor, replaces the disk, resulting in a part eligible for installation. We did not change this AD.

Request To Allow ECI at Overhaul

Air India Limited requested that Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD allow an ECI when the HPC is “overhauled” rather than when it is “removed from the engine.” Air India Limited indicated that “overhauled” is clearer than “removed from the engine”.

We disagree. The intent of this AD is to inspect the 10th stage disk at exposure. The phrase, “Whenever the HPC front drum rotor is removed from the engine . . .” clearly describes the appropriate level of exposure for performing the ECI. We did not change this AD.

Request To Waive Repeat USI

Air India Limited requested that we revise Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD to indicate that a repeat USI should be waived to reduce the maintenance burden if the low-pressure turbine (LPT) is removed in less than 100 hours since the last USI.

We disagree. Our safety risk assessment assumed that a USI is performed whenever the high-pressure turbine (HPT) or LPT is removed from the engine and an ECI is performed whenever the HPC front drum rotor disk assembly is removed from the engine. We determined the inspection interval in the Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD provides an acceptable level of safety. We did not change this AD.

Request To Remove Compliance Statement

FedEx requested that we revise Compliance paragraph (e) of this AD to remove the statement, “Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.” FedEx stated that there are no compliance times specified and the compliance requires a repetitive inspection, so the statement does not apply.

We disagree. The statement “. . . unless already done” allows an operator who has performed an initial inspection before the effective date of the AD, but has not yet returned the part to service, to take credit for that action. While there is no calendar or cyclic time given, the requirements of this AD must be met when the HPT, LPT, or HPC front drum rotor disk assembly is removed from the engine. We did not change this AD.

Conclusion

We reviewed the relevant data, considered the comments received, and determined that air safety and the public interest require adopting this AD with the changes described previously. We have determined that these minor changes:

• Αre consistent with the intent that was proposed in the NPRM (80 FR 76400, December 9, 2015) for correcting the unsafe condition; and

• Do not add any additional burden upon the public than was already proposed in the NPRM (80 FR 76400, December 9, 2015).

We also determined that these changes will not increase the economic burden on any operator or increase the scope of this AD.

Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

We reviewed PW Alert Service Bulletin (ASB) PW4G-100-A72-255, dated August 31, 2015 and PW ASB PW4ENG A72-833, dated August 20, 2015. The ASBs provide lists of affected HPC disks and describe procedures for USI and ECI of the HPC 10th stage disk. This service information is reasonably available because the interested parties have access to it through their normal course of business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section.

Costs of Compliance

We estimate that this AD affects 763 engines installed on airplanes of U.S. registry. We also estimate that it would take about 12 hours per engine to do the inspection. The average labor rate is $85 per hour. Based on these figures, we estimate the cost of this AD on U.S. operators to be $778,260.

Authority for This Rulemaking

Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs, describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: “General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

Regulatory Findings

This AD will not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This AD will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

For the reasons discussed above, I certify that this AD:

(1) Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866,

(2) Is not a “significant rule” under DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979),

(3) Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska to the extent that it justifies making a regulatory distinction, and

(4) Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

Adoption of the Amendment

Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA amends 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

§ 39.13 [Amended]
2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new airworthiness directive (AD): 2016-08-09 Pratt & Whitney Division: Amendment 39-18485; FAA-2015-4474; Directorate Identifier 2015-NE-34-AD. (a) Effective Date

This AD is effective June 1, 2016.

(b) Affected ADs

None.

(c) Applicability

(1) This AD applies to all Pratt & Whitney Division (PW) PW4050, PW4052, PW4056, PW4060, PW4060A, PW4060C, PW4062, PW4062A, PW4152, PW4156, PW4156A, PW4158, PW4160, PW4460, PW4462, and PW4650 turbofan engines, including models with a “-3” suffix, with one of the following installed:

(i) High-pressure compressor (HPC) 10th stage disk, part number (P/N) 51H710, with a serial number (S/N) listed in Table 1 of PW Alert Service Bulletin (ASB) PW4ENG A72-833, dated August 20, 2015; or

(ii) HPC 10th stage disk, P/N 53H976-06, with an S/N listed in Table 2 of PW ASB PW4ENG A72-833, dated August 20, 2015.

(2) This AD also applies to all PW PW4164, PW4168, PW4168A, PW4164C, PW4164C/B, PW4170, PW4168A-1D, PW4168-1D, PW4164-1D, PW4164C-1D, and PW4164C/B-1D turbofan engines with an HPC 10th stage disk, P/N 53H976-06, with an S/N listed Table 1 of PW ASB PW4G-100-A72-255, dated August 31, 2015, installed.

(d) Unsafe Condition

This AD was prompted by a report of a crack found in the HPC 10th stage disk. We are issuing this AD to prevent failure of the HPC 10th stage disk, uncontained disk release, damage to the engine, and damage to the airplane.

(e) Compliance

Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

(1) After the effective date of this AD, whenever the high-pressure turbine (HPT) or low-pressure turbine (LPT) is removed from the engine, perform an ultrasonic inspection (USI) of the HPC 10th stage disk for cracks. If the HPC 10th stage disk fails the USI, perform a follow-on eddy current inspection (ECI) or remove the disk from service and replace with a part eligible for installation.

(2) After the effective date of this AD, whenever the HPC front drum rotor disk assembly is removed from the engine, perform an ECI of the HPC 10th stage disk for cracks. Remove from service any HPC 10th stage disk that fails inspection and replace with a part eligible for installation. A USI as required by paragraph (e)(1) of this AD is not required if an ECI is performed.

(f) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs)

The Manager, Engine Certification Office, FAA, may approve AMOCs for this AD. Use the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19 to make your request. You may email your request to: [email protected]

(g) Related Information

For more information about this AD, contact Katheryn Malatek, Aerospace Engineer, Engine Certification Office, FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA 01803; phone: 781-238-7747; fax: 781-238-7199; email: [email protected]

(h) Material Incorporated by Reference

(1) The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference (IBR) of the service information listed in this paragraph under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51.

(2) You must use this service information as applicable to do the actions required by this AD, unless the AD specifies otherwise.

(i) Pratt & Whitney (PW) Alert Service Bulletin (ASB) PW4G-100-A72-255, dated August 31, 2015.

(ii) PW ASB PW4ENG A72-833, dated August 20, 2015.

(3) For PW service information identified in this AD, contact Pratt & Whitney Division, 400 Main St., East Hartford, CT 06108; phone: 860-565-8770; fax: 860-565-4503.

(4) You may view this service information at FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 781-238-7125.

(5) You may view this service information that is incorporated by reference at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/ibr-locations.html.

Issued in Burlington, Massachusetts, on April 7, 2016. Colleen M. D'Alessandro, Manager, Engine & Propeller Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-09687 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2015-4344; Directorate Identifier 2015-NE-32-AD; Amendment 39-18486; AD 2016-08-10] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; General Electric Company Turbofan Engines AGENCY:

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

We are adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for all General Electric Company (GE) CF6-80C2A1, CF6-80C2A2, CF6-80C2A3, CF6-80C2A5, CF6-80C2A5F, CF6-80C2A8, CF6-80C2B1, CF6-80C2B1F, CF6-80C2B1F1, CF6-80C2B1F2, CF6-80C2B2, CF6-80C2B2F, CF6-80C2B3F, CF6-80C2B4, CF6-80C2B4F, CF6-80C2B5F, CF6-80C2B6, CF6-80C2B6F, CF6-80C2B6FA, CF6-80C2B7F, CF6-80C2B8F, CF6-80C2D1F, CF6-80C2L1F, CF6-80C2K1F and CF6-80E1A1, CF6-80E1A2, CF6-80E1A3, CF6-80E1A4, and CF6-80E1A4/B turbofan engines. This AD was prompted by reports of a burn-through of the accessory heat shield during an engine fire, propagating the fire into the accessory compartment and igniting additional flammable fuel source. This AD requires replacing the accessory heat shield assembly. We are issuing this AD to prevent fires from propagating into the accessory compartment, resulting in an uncontrolled engine fire, and damage to the airplane.

DATES:

This AD is effective June 1, 2016.

The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in this AD as of June 1, 2016.

ADDRESSES:

For service information identified in this final rule, contact General Electric Company, GE Aviation, Room 285, 1 Neumann Way, Cincinnati, OH 45215; phone: 513-552-3272; email: aviation.f[email protected] You may view this service information at the FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 781-238-7125. It is also available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-4344.

Examining the AD Docket

You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-4344; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The address for the Docket Office (phone: 800-647-5527) is Document Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Herman Mak, Aerospace Engineer, Engine Certification Office, FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA 01803; phone: 781-238-7147; fax: 781-238-7199; email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Discussion

We issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 14 CFR part 39 by adding an AD that would apply to GE CF6-80C2A1, CF6-80C2A2, CF6-80C2A3, CF6-80C2A5, CF6-80C2A5F, CF6-80C2A8, CF6-80C2B1, CF6-80C2B1F, CF6-80C2B1F1, CF6-80C2B1F2, CF6-80C2B2, CF6-80C2B2F, CF6-80C2B3F, CF6-80C2B4, CF6-80C2B4F, CF6-80C2B5F, CF6-80C2B6, CF6-80C2B6F, CF6-80C2B6FA, CF6-80C2B7F, CF6-80C2B8F, CF6-80C2D1F, CF6-80C2L1F, and CF6-80C2K1F turbofan engines. This AD that would also apply to CF6-80E1A1, CF6-80E1A2, CF6-80E1A3, CF6-80E1A4, and CF6-80E1A4/B turbofan engines. The NPRM published in the Federal Register on December 7, 2015 (80 FR 75952). The NPRM was prompted by reports of a burn-through of the accessory heat shield during an engine fire leading to an accessory compartment fire. A fire burns through the accessory heat shield and ignites the integrated drive generator (IDG) and main fuel pump, which supports further combustion. The existing accessory heat shield assembly leaves a large area above the sensitive accessories, such as the IDG and the main fuel pump, without adequate protection. A total of three burn-through events have occurred. The NPRM proposed to require replacing the accessory heat shield assembly. We are issuing this AD to prevent an uncontrolled engine fire, and damage to the airplane.

Comments

We gave the public the opportunity to participate in developing this AD. The following presents the comments received on the NPRM (80 FR 75952, December 7, 2015) and the FAA's response to each comment.

Support for the NPRM (80 FR 75952, December 7, 2015)

The Boeing Company and the National Transportation Safety Board expressed support for the NPRM (80 FR 75952, December 7, 2015).

Revision to Service Information

We revised the Discussion section and Applicability paragraph (e) of this AD to include all the GE CF6-80C2 and CF6-80E1 turbofan engine models.

Request To Change Summary

GE requested that we revise the Summary paragraph of this AD to correct the number of events and clarify the event description.

We agree. Only three of the originally specified five events resulted in heat shield burn-throughs. We revised the Summary paragraph of this AD to correct the number of events and clarify the event description.

Request To Revise the Other Related Service Information Paragraph

GE requested that we revise the Other Related Service Information paragraph of this AD to remove GE Service Bulletin (SB) CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1523, dated September 22, 2015. This SB only applies to the military variant of the engine.

We disagree. The military variant of the engine is also certified by the FAA. We did not change this AD.

Request To Revise the Costs of Compliance

GE, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Federal Express (FedEx) requested that we revise the Costs of Compliance paragraph of this AD to correct the parts cost used in the calculations.

We agree. We considered the costs of all the parts needed to comply with this AD and revised the costs per engine to $14,207 and the total cost to U.S. operators to $13,680,920.

Request To Change Applicability

KLM requested that we exclude GE CF6-80E1 engines from the Applicability paragraph of this AD. KLM reasoned that the NTSB safety recommendation did not address GE CF6-80E1 engines and CF6-80E1 engines have not experienced any sump fires to date.

We disagree. Although the NTSB did not address GE CF6-80E1 engines, the designs of the GE CF6-80C2 and CF6-80E1 engines are substantially similar. Therefore, the unsafe condition addressed by this AD is likely to exist or develop on the GE CF6-80E1 engines. We did not change this AD.

Request To Change Compliance

GE requests that the following part numbers (P/Ns) be removed from Table 1 of GE SB 72-1520: P/N 2022M47G01, P/N 2022M81P01, P/N 2022M85G01, and P/N 2023M20G01. These P/Ns are used only on GE CF6-80C2B6FA models, a military application, and contain a different heat shield design.

We disagree. The specified P/Ns are not listed in Table 1 of GE SB 72-1520 and therefore this comment is not applicable. We did not change this AD.

Request To Change Definition

GE, United Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Technik, and FedEx requested that we provide a more accurate description of flange separation and exclude certain situations from the definition of a shop visit. The commenters reasoned that this would provide clarity and reduce the undue economic and operational burden of complying with this AD earlier than necessary.

We agree. We revised the Definition paragraph of this AD to clarify the description of flange separation and include specific conditions that do not qualify as shop visits.

Request To Delay the Effective Date

GE and Delta Air Lines (Delta) requested that we delay the effective date of this AD. GE reasoned that the revised service bulletin addressing the lack of repair instructions for accessory heat shield assembly, P/N 1313M94G09, will not be available until after the expected effective date of this AD.

We disagree. The current effective date of this AD is needed to address the unsafe condition for the affected fleet. Any party may make a request for an Alternative Method of Compliance (AMOC) to this AD using the procedures listed in this AD. Any requests for an AMOC are reviewed and responded to accordingly. We did not change this AD.

Request To Change Applicability

ANA requested limiting the Applicability paragraph of this AD to a particular maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) shop where improper maintenance occurred leading to fire. ANA reasoned that the latest 2010 sump fire leading to heat shield burn-through was the result of improper maintenance at a particular MRO.

We disagree. This AD addresses the insufficient fire protection design of the heat shield to prevent secondary fire damage. This is independent from the cause of fire in the engine. We did not change this AD.

Request To Change Effectivity

Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, and Lufthansa Technik requested that we not mandate heat shield rework or replacement. Lufthansa reasoned that none of their customers operating GE CF6-80C2/80A engines have experienced a compressor rear frame (CRF) sump fire.

We disagree. Complying with this AD is necessary to correct the unsafe condition of heat shield burn-through. The heat shield rework or replacement is needed to prevent fires from propagating into the accessory compartment, leading to a larger engine fire and subsequent damage to the airplane. We did not change this AD.

Request for Allowance of Creating and Marking Serial Numbers

Delta requested we allow operators to both create and mark identification numbers on heat shields that are not currently marked. Delta has received reports that there are illegible identification markings on heat shields.

We partially agree. We agree there is a lack of information about heat shields with illegible P/Ns in this AD. We revised the Compliance section of this AD to address heat shields with illegible P/Ns.

We disagree with allowing operators to create and mark identification numbers on heat shields as this does not resolve the unsafe condition and is beyond the scope of this AD.

Request To Change Applicability

GE commented that heat shield, P/N 1643M23G12, is also affected by the unsafe condition described in this AD.

We agree. We added heat shield, P/N 1643M23G12, to the applicability of this AD.

Conclusion

We reviewed the relevant data, considered the comments received, and determined that air safety and the public interest require adopting this AD with the changes described previously. We have determined that these minor changes:

• Αre consistent with the intent that was proposed in the NPRM (80 FR 75952, December 7, 2015) for correcting the unsafe condition; and

• Do not add any additional burden upon the public than was already proposed in the NPRM (80 FR 75952, December 7, 2015).

We also determined that these changes will not increase the economic burden on any operator or increase the scope of this AD.

Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

We reviewed GE SB CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1520, dated September 22, 2015 and GE SB CF6-80E1 S/B 72-0525, dated September 22, 2015. These SBs describe the procedures for removing and replacing the accessory heat shield assembly. This service information is reasonably available because the interested parties have access to it through their normal course of business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section.

Other Related Service Information

We reviewed GE SB CF6-80E1 S/B 72-0504, dated October 24, 2014. This SB describes procedures for quick-turn workscope procedure to replace CF6-80E1 stage 1 high-pressure turbine blades. We also reviewed GE SB CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1516, Revision 2, dated November 6, 2015. This SB describes procedures for replacement of the CRF assembly, oil manifold, air tubes, and support brackets. We also reviewed GE SB CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1523, dated September 22, 2015. This SB describes procedures for removing and replacing the accessory heat shield assembly.

Costs of Compliance

We estimate that this AD affects 935 engines installed on airplanes of U.S. registry. We also estimate that it will take about 5 hours per engine to comply with this AD. The average labor rate is $85 per hour. Parts cost about $14,207 per engine. Based on these figures, we estimate the total cost of this AD to U.S. operators to be $13,680,920.

Authority for This Rulemaking

Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs, describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: “General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

Regulatory Findings

This AD will not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This AD will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

For the reasons discussed above, I certify that this AD:

(1) Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866,

(2) Is not a “significant rule” under DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979),

(3) Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska to the extent that it justifies making a regulatory distinction, and

(4) Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

Adoption of the Amendment

Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA amends 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

§ 39.13 [Amended]
2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new airworthiness directive (AD): 2016-08-10 General Electric Company: Amendment 39-18486; Docket No. FAA-2015-4344; Directorate Identifier 2015-NE-32-AD. (a) Effective Date

This AD is effective June 1, 2016.

(b) Affected ADs

None.

(c) Applicability

This AD applies to all General Electric Company (GE) CF6-80C2A1, CF6-80C2A2, CF6-80C2A3, CF6-80C2A5, CF6-80C2A5F, CF6-80C2A8, CF6-80C2B1, CF6-80C2B1F, CF6-80C2B1F1, CF6-80C2B1F2, CF6-80C2B2, CF6-80C2B2F, CF6-80C2B3F, CF6-80C2B4, CF6-80C2B4F, CF6-80C2B5F, CF6-80C2B6, CF6-80C2B6F, CF6-80C2B6FA, CF6-80C2B7F, CF6-80C2B8F, CF6-80C2D1F, CF6-80C2L1F, CF6-80C2K1F turbofan engines. This AD also applies to CF6-80E1A1, CF6-80E1A2, CF6-80E1A3, CF6-80E1A4, and CF6-80E1A4/B turbofan engines.

(d) Unsafe Condition

This AD was prompted by reports of a burn-through of the accessory heat shield during an engine fire, leading to an accessory compartment fire. We are issuing this AD to prevent uncontrolled engine fire, and damage to the airplane.

(e) Compliance

Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

(1) For CF6-80C2 engines, at the next engine shop visit after the effective date of this AD, remove from service accessory heat shield assembly, part number (P/N) 1643M23G12, and any other accessory heat shield assembly listed by P/N in Table 1 of GE Service Bulletin (SB) CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1520, dated September 22, 2015. Install an accessory heat shield assembly eligible for installation.

(2) For CF6-80E1 engines, at the next engine shop visit after the effective date of this AD, remove from service accessory heat shield assemblies listed by P/N in Table 1 of GE SB CF6-80E1 S/B 72-0525, dated September 22, 2015. Install an accessory heat shield assembly eligible for installation.

(3) Remove any heat shield assembly from service if the accessory heat shield assembly part number marking is illegible and the documentation associated with the part cannot properly identify the part.

(f) Installation Prohibition

After the effective date of this AD, do not install any accessory heat shield assembly, P/N 1643M23G12; or any accessory heat shield assembly listed by P/N in Table 1 of GE SB CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1520, dated September 22, 2015; or in Table 1 of GE SB CF6-80E1 S/B 72-0525, dated September 22, 2015; into any engine.

(g) Definition

For the purpose of this AD, an engine shop visit is defined as the induction of an engine into the shop for maintenance involving the separation of any major mating engine flanges, except that the separation of engine flanges solely for the following purposes is not considered a shop visit:

(1) Transportation without subsequent engine maintenance.

(2) Replacement of the turbine rear frame.

(3) Removal of the top or bottom high-pressure compressor (HPC) case, or both, for HPC airfoil maintenance or replacement of variable stator vane bushing or lever arms.

(4) Quick-turn workscope procedure to replace CF6-80E1 stage 1 high-pressure turbine (HPT) blades per CF6-80E1 SB 72-0504 R00 ENGINE—General (72-00-00)—Quick-Turn Workscope Procedure to Replace CF6-80E1 Stage 1 HPT Blades.

(5) Replacement of compressor rear frame assembly, new oil manifold, air tubes and support brackets per CF6-80C2 SB 72-1516 R02 ENGINE—Compressor Rear Frame Assembly (72-34-00)—New Oil Manifold, Air Tubes and Support Brackets.

(h) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs)

The Manager, Engine Certification Office, FAA, may approve AMOCs to this AD. Use the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19 to make your request. You may email your request to: [email protected]

(i) Related Information

For more information about this AD, contact Herman Mak, Aerospace Engineer, Engine Certification Office, FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA 01803; phone: 781-238-7147; fax: 781-238-7199; email: [email protected]

(j) Material Incorporated by Reference

(1) The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference (IBR) of the service information listed in this paragraph under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51.

(2) You must use this service information as applicable to do the actions required by this AD, unless the AD specifies otherwise.

(i) General Electric Company (GE) Service Bulletin (SB) CF6-80C2 S/B 72-1520, dated September 22, 2015.

(ii) GE SB CF6-80E1 S/B 72-0525, dated September 22, 2015.

(3) For GE service information identified in this AD, contact General Electric Company, GE Aviation, Room 285, 1 Neumann Way, Cincinnati, OH 45215; phone: 513-552-3272; email: [email protected]

(4) You may view this service information at FAA, Engine & Propeller Directorate, 1200 District Avenue, Burlington, MA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 781-238-7125.

(5) You may view this service information at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/ibr-locations.html.

Issued in Burlington, Massachusetts, on April 7, 2016. Colleen M. D'Alessandro, Manager, Engine & Propeller Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-09686 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Internal Revenue Service 26 CFR Part 1 [TD 9750] RIN 1545-BN59 Reporting of Original Issue Discount on Tax-Exempt Obligations; Basis and Transfer Reporting by Securities Brokers for Debt Instruments and Options; Correction AGENCY:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

ACTION:

Final regulations; correction.

SUMMARY:

This document contains corrections to final regulations (TD 9750) that published in the Federal Register on Thursday, February 18, 2016 (81 FR 8149). The final regulations relates to information reporting by brokers for transactions involving debt instruments and options, including the reporting of original issue discount (OID) on tax-exempt obligations, the treatment of certain holder elections for reporting a taxpayer's adjusted basis in a debt instrument, and transfer reporting for section 1256 options and debt instruments.

DATES:

This correction is effective April 27, 2016 and applicable February 18, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Pamela Lew at (202) 317-7053 (not a toll-free number).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

The final regulation (TD 9750) that is the subject of this correction is under section 6045 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Need for Correction

As published, the final regulation (TD 9750) contains errors that may prove to be misleading and are in need of clarification.

Correction of Publication

Accordingly, the final regulation (TD 9750), that is the subject of FR Doc. 2016-03429, is corrected as follows:

1. On page 8151, in the preamble, third column, third line from the bottom of the first full paragraph, “OID and acquisition discount on all tax-” is corrected to read “OID and acquisition premium on all tax-”.

2. On page 8151, in the preamble, third column, third line from the bottom of the last full paragraph, “discount for a tax-exempt obligation that” is corrected to read “premium for a tax-exempt obligation that”.

Martin V. Franks, Chief, Publications and Regulations Branch, Legal Processing Division, Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration).
[FR Doc. 2016-09698 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830-01-P
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Internal Revenue Service 26 CFR Part 1 [TD 9750] RIN 1545-BM59 Reporting of Original Issue Discount on Tax-Exempt Obligations; Basis and Transfer Reporting by Securities Brokers for Debt Instruments and Options; Correction AGENCY:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

ACTION:

Correcting amendment.

SUMMARY:

This document contains corrections to final regulations (TD 9750) that were published in the Federal Register on Thursday, February 18, 2016 (81 FR 8149). The final regulations relate to information reporting by brokers for transactions involving debt instruments and options, including the reporting of original issue discount (OID) on tax-exempt obligations, the treatment of certain holder elections for reporting a taxpayer's adjusted basis in a debt instrument, and transfer reporting for section 1256 options and debt instruments.

DATES:

This correction is effective April 27, 2016 and applicable February 18, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Pamela Lew at (202) 317-7053 (not a toll-free number).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The final regulations (TD 9750) that are the subject of this correction are under section 6045, 6045A, and 6049 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Need for Correction

As published, the final regulations (TD 9750) contain errors that may prove to be misleading and are in need of clarification.

List of Subjects in 26 CFR Part 1

Income taxes, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Correction of Publication

Accordingly, 26 CFR part 1 is corrected by making the following correcting amendments:

PART 1—INCOME TAXES Paragraph 1. The authority citation for part 1 continues to read in part as follows: Authority:

26 U.S.C. 7805 * * *

Par. 2. Section 1.6045-1 is amended by revising the third sentence of paragraph (n)(4) to read as follows:
§ 1.6045-1 Returns of information of brokers and barter exchanges.

(n) * * *

(4) * * * See paragraph (n)(11) of this section for the treatment of an election described in paragraph (n)(4)(iii) of this section (election to accrue market discount based on a constant yield) and an election described in paragraph (n)(4)(iv) of this section (election to treat all interest as OID).

§ 1.6045A-1 [Corrected]
Par. 3. Section 1.6045A-1 is amended by removing “and;” at the end of paragraphs (b)(3)(ix) and (b)(4)(iii) and adding “; and” in its place.
§ 1.6049-9 [Corrected]
Par. 4. Section 1.6049-9(c) is amended by revising the citation “§ 1.6049-10T” to read “§ 1.6049-10” in the last sentence.
Martin V. Franks, Chief, Publications and Regulations Branch, Legal Processing Division, Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration).
[FR Doc. 2016-09697 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830-01-P
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Part 42 [Docket No. PTO-P-2015-0053] RIN 0651-AD01 Amendments to the Rules of Practice for Trials Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board; Correction AGENCY:

United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION:

Final rule; correction.

SUMMARY:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) published a final rule in the Federal Register on April 1, 2016, revising the rules related to trial practice for inter partes review, post-grant review, the transitional program for covered business method patents, and derivation proceedings that implemented provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”) providing for trials before the Office. This document corrects an error in that final rule.

DATES:

Effective Date: This rule is effective May 2, 2016 and applies to all AIA petitions filed on or after the effective date and to any ongoing AIA preliminary proceeding or trial before the Office.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Susan L. C. Mitchell, Lead Administrative Patent Judge, by telephone at (571) 272-9797.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Office published a final rule in the Federal Register on April 1, 2016 (81 FR 18750), entitled “Amendments to the Rules of Practice for Trials Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.” This document corrects an error in § 42.24(a)(1).

The second sentence of § 42.24(a)(1) should state that the word count or page limit does not include a table of contents, a table of authorities, mandatory notices under § 42.8, a certificate of service or word count, or appendix of exhibits or claim listing. The reference to “grounds for standing under § 42.104, § 42.204, or § 42.304” was inadvertently included as administrative items, such as mandatory notices, and in the related discussion in the preamble on pages 18762 and 18763 of the final rule published on April 1, 2016 (81 FR 18750). This correction removes that reference from § 42.24(a)(1).

In rule FR Doc. 2016-07381, published on April 1, 2016 (81 FR 18750), make the following correction:

§ 42.24 [Correction]

1. On page 18765, in the second column, in paragraph (a)(1) of § 42.24, correct the second sentence by removing “grounds for standing under § 42.104, § 42.204, or § 42.304,”.

Dated: April 21, 2016. Michelle K. Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2016-09814 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-16-P
FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION 46 CFR Part 535 [Docket No. 16-09] RIN 3072-AC65 Optional Method of Filing Ocean Common Carrier and Marine Terminal Operator Agreements Subject to the Shipping Act of 1984 AGENCY:

Federal Maritime Commission.

ACTION:

Direct final rule; and request for comments.

SUMMARY:

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC or Commission) amends its regulations relating to the method of filing Ocean Common Carrier and Marine Terminal Operator Agreements to provide for optional filing of these agreements through a new electronic filing system. This optional filing system is intended to facilitate more efficient filing, review, and publication of these agreements.

DATES:

This rule is effective without further action on June 13, 2016, unless significant adverse comment is received by May 27, 2016. If significant adverse comment is received, the Federal Maritime Commission will publish a timely withdrawal of the rule in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments by the following methods:

Email: [email protected] Include in the subject line: “Docket No. 16-09, Commentor/Company name.” Comments should be attached to the email as a Microsoft Word or text-searchable PDF document. Only non-confidential and public versions of confidential comments should be submitted by email.

Mail: Karen V. Gregory, Secretary, Federal Maritime Commission, 800 North Capitol Street NW., Washington, DC 20573-0001. Phone: (202) 523-5725. Email: [email protected]

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to the Commission's Electronic Reading Room at: http://www.fmc.gov/16-09.

Confidential Information: The Commission will provide confidential treatment for identified confidential information to the extent allowed by law. If your comments contain confidential information, you must submit the following:

• A transmittal letter requesting confidential treatment that identifies the specific information in the comments for which protection is sought and demonstrates that the information is a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information.

• A confidential copy of your comments, consisting of the complete filing with a cover page marked “Confidential-Restricted,” and the confidential material clearly marked on each page. You should submit the confidential copy to the Commission by mail.

• A public version of your comments with the confidential information excluded. The public version must state “Public Version—confidential materials excluded” on the cover page and on each affected page, and must clearly indicate any information withheld. You may submit the public version to the Commission by email or mail.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

For questions regarding submitting comments or the treatment of confidential information, contact Karen V. Gregory, Secretary, Phone: (202) 523-5725. Email: [email protected] For technical questions, contact Florence A. Carr, Director, Bureau of Trade Analysis. Phone: (202) 523-5796. Email: [email protected] For legal questions, contact Tyler J. Wood, General Counsel. Phone: (202) 523-5740. Email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

On January 18, 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13563 (E.O. 13563) to emphasize the importance of public participation in adopting regulations, integration and innovation in regulatory actions, flexible approaches in achieving regulatory objectives, and ensuring the objectivity of any scientific and technological information and process in regulatory actions. E.O. 13563 requires executive agencies to develop a plan to periodically review their existing significant regulations to determine whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed so as to make such agencies' regulatory programs more effective and less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives. On July 11, 2011, Executive Order 13579 was issued to encourage independent regulatory agencies to also pursue the goals stated in E.O. 13563.

On November 4, 2011, the Commission issued its Plan for Retrospective Review of Existing Rules (Plan) and invited public comment on how it might improve the current regulations.1 The Plan included a review schedule for the Commission's existing regulations, which was updated on February 13, 2013. Among the comments received in response to the Plan were the Comments of Ocean Common Carriers on May 18, 2012.2

1 A copy of the Plan and comments filed in response to the Plan that are within the scope of this rulemaking have been placed in the docket.

2 The commenting carriers consisted of a total of thirty ocean carriers participating in the following agreements active at that time: The fourteen members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA); ten members of the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (WTSA); six members of the Central America Discussion Agreement (CADA); eleven members of the West Coast South America Discussion Agreement (WCSADA); five members of the Venezuela Discussion Agreement (VDA); three members of the ABC Discussion Agreement (ABCDA); six members of the United States Australasia Discussion Agreement (USADA); and, the three members of the Australia New Zealand United States Discussion Agreement (ANZUSDA). The carriers' recommendations with respect to agreements, with one exception, are being considered by the Commission under FMC Docket No. 16-04. See Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Ocean Common Carrier and Marine Terminal Operator Agreements Subject to the Shipping Act of 1984, 81 FR 10188 (Feb. 29, 2016). The exception referenced is the subject of this rulemaking.

The carriers' comments included a request for the Commission to “adopt rules and procedures pursuant to which carrier and marine terminal operator agreements can be filed electronically.” The carriers pointed out that “virtually all filings made with the Commission, other than agreement filings, are made electronically (e.g., agreement minutes, monitoring reports and guidelines, OTI license applications)” and noted that “[i]ronically, the Commission maintains an electronic library of agreements on its Web site, so these agreements are retained electronically in any event.” While the carriers conclude that the electronic filing of agreements “would reduce the burden and expense of filing for the industry,” the Commission notes that doing so would also streamline its internal business processes, thereby resulting in a more efficient regulatory process and expediting public access to agreement filings through the Commission's Web site. These benefits are consistent with Executive Order 13579.

Under the Commission's existing rules at 46 CFR 535.401, “a true copy and seven additional copies of the executed agreement” must be submitted in paper format to the Commission's Secretary during the regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The agreement's filing must be accompanied by a letter of transmittal, and, where required, an original and five copies of the completed Information Form, also in paper format. To respond to the industry's request to reduce the regulatory burden associated with the filing of multiple copies of agreements and supporting documents in paper format, the Commission determined that automating the agreement filing process should be given priority.

The FMC's Office of Information Technology (OIT), in conjunction with the Bureau of Trade Analysis (BTA), commenced efforts in October 2015 to automate the process of filing agreements with the Commission. BTA met with various agreement filers during development to ensure that the new system would not only provide a user-oriented electronic filing environment but also deliver more robust public search capabilities for the online agreement library based on a variety of filters. Further enhancement of the online agreement library's search capabilities is planned in the future.

Initial software development and associated testing to support the electronic agreement filing system has been completed. The Commission now plans to make this technology available as an optional method to file agreements and supporting documents. Use of the automated system will not be required, however, as parties may continue to submit agreements in paper format. Paper filings will be received and processed in the same manner as before.

Under the new electronic agreement filing system, supporting documentation previously submitted in paper form may also be appended electronically as part of the filing process. Validity checks incorporated into the automated filing process will allow the filer to verify Commission information regarding agreement parties, thereby ensuring a more accurate public online agreement library, as well as facilitating review and oversight of agreements by the Commission. The system may be accessed through the Commission's Web site at http://www.fmc.gov under Public FMC Databases/Agreement Notices and Library. Prospective filers may register for the electronic agreement filing system and obtain a login and password by following the instructions on the system's Web page. As with current practice, the public will have the ability to view all agreements in the online agreement library; however, the public will not be able to view the filer's letter of transmittal and Information Form, if any. In addition, the filing system is password-protected to ensure the security of information being collected, primarily in supporting documents, and to appropriately restrict external filing permission to the agreement filer and its authorized filing agents.

The Commission's rules presently require that each agreement and modification filed must be signed by an official or authorized representative of each of the parties and that the original signature page(s) accompany the agreement's filing. The rules allow some measure of flexibility to filers by permitting faxed or photocopied signatures to accompany the agreement's filing if the copies are replaced with original signatures prior to the agreement's effective date. § 535.403(d). Many times, the individuals who sign an agreement are located overseas or are traveling and may be required to transmit a signature page electronically to filing counsel in order to expedite an agreement's filing, and consequently, its effectiveness. In such cases, agreement counsel submits a photocopy of the parties' signature pages with the agreement's filing, and must follow up by sending the original signatures by mail or courier to the Commission prior to the effective date.

While the Commission's rules presently require that the original signatures of the parties executing an agreement must be filed with the Commission, the Shipping Act of 1984 (the Act) 46 U.S.C. 40101 et seq., provides only that “a true copy of every agreement . . . shall be filed with the Federal Maritime Commission” and permits the Commission to prescribe the form and manner in which agreements are filed. 46 U.S.C. 40302(a), (c). As the Act does not require the filing of the original agreement with the Commission, removing the parties' requirement to provide original signatures with an agreement's filing would eliminate an unnecessary regulatory burden. The Commission is, therefore, removing this requirement and will begin accepting photocopies and scanned electronic copies of the agreement parties' original signatures. The Commission is similarly removing the requirement that transmittal letters accompanying agreement filings include an original signature.

Congressional Review Act

The rule is not a “major rule” as defined by the Congressional Review Act, codified at 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq. The rule will not result in: (1) An annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more; (2) a major increase in costs or prices; or (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies. 5 U.S.C. 804(2).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission certifies that this direct final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The rule applies to the filing requirements for agreements by or among vessel-operating common carriers (VOCCs) and/or marine terminal operators (MTOs). The Commission has previously determined that VOCCs and MTOs do not qualify as small entities because the number of employees and/or gross receipts of these regulated businesses typically exceed the thresholds set under the guidelines of the Small Business Administration.3 This rule implements an alternative electronic method for filing agreements with the Commission that is optional for the industry. The current regulations require that agreements be filed with the Commission in paper form. The new electronic system should significantly reduce the burden and expense of filing on the industry. Further, in comments to the Commission's Plan for the Retrospective Review of Existing Rules, a majority of VOCCs specifically requested that the Commission implement an electronic system for filing agreements.

3 See FMC Policy and Procedures Regarding Proper Considerations of Small Entities in Rulemakings, page 4 (February 7, 2003), from the Web site of the FMC at http://www.fmc.gov/assets/1/Page/SBREFA_Guidelines_2003.pdf.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521) requires an agency to seek and receive approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before collecting information from the public and before making substantive or material modifications to a previously approved information collection. 44 U.S.C. 3507; 5 CFR 1320.5(a), (g). The information-collection contained in Part 535, including the agreement-filing requirements, have been approved by OMB and assigned OMB Control Number 3072-0046. The Commission is modifying this information collection by allowing electronic filing of agreements and expects that this change will reduce the paperwork burdens on regulated entities. The Commission will, however, continue to allow paper filing of agreements. Accordingly, this modification is neither substantive nor material. The expiration date for the Part 535 information collection is November 30, 2016, and the Commission will note the modification and any resulting changes to the burden hour estimate when it seeks an extension of the information collection later this year.

Direct Final Rule Justification

The Commission expects the amendments to be noncontroversial. Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), a final rule may be issued without notice and comment when the agency for good cause finds (and incorporates the finding and a brief statement of reasons therefor in the rules issued) that notice and public procedure thereon are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. This rule provides an optional electronic method of filing agreements and supporting documents as a more flexible and less burdensome alternative for the regulated parties to those agreements, and maintains the present paper format filing procedures for filers that wish to continue utilizing the current method. The electronic agreement filing system was developed at the behest, in 2012, of thirty global ocean common carriers participating in the major rate discussion agreements filed with the Commission to relieve the regulatory burden of paper filings. Further, the requirement to include original signatures to agreements and transmittal letters, rather than photo- or electronic copies, burdens filers and appears to provide limited, if any, public benefit. Thus, the Commission has determined that providing an opportunity for comment is unnecessary.

Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553, notice and comment are not required and this rule may become effective after publication in the Federal Register, unless the Commission receives significant adverse comments within the specified period. The Commission recognizes that parties may have information that could impact the Commission's views and intentions with respect to the revised regulations, and the Commission intends to consider any comments filed. The Commission will withdraw the rule if it receives significant adverse comments. Filed comments that are not adverse may be considered for modifications to Part 535 at a future date.

If no significant adverse comment is received, the rule will become effective 15 days after the close of the comment period without additional action. The Administrative Procedure Act generally requires a minimum of 30 days before a final rule can go into effect, but excepts from this requirement rules that relieve a restriction. 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1). Because this final rule provides for an additional, optional method of filing agreements and removes the requirement that agreement filings and accompanying transmittal letters include original signatures, the rule falls within this exception.

List of Subjects in 46 CFR Part 535

Freight, Maritime carriers, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Regulatory Text

For the foregoing reasons, the Commission amends 46 CFR part 535 as follows:

PART 535—OCEAN COMMON CARRIER AND MARINE TERMINAL OPERATOR AGREEMENTS SUBJECT TO THE SHIPPING ACT OF 1984 1. The authority citation for part 535 continues to read as follows: Authority:

5 U.S.C. 553; 46 U.S.C. 305, 40101-40104, 40301-40307, 40501-40503, 40901-40904, 41101-41109, 41301-41302, and 41305-41307.

2. Amend § 535.401 by revising paragraphs (a) and (b)(4) to read as follows:
§ 535.401 General requirements.

(a) All agreements (including oral agreements reduced to writing in accordance with the Act) subject to this part and filed with the Commission for review and disposition pursuant to section 6 of the Act (46 U.S.C. 40304, 40306, 41307(b)-(d)), must be submitted to the Commission either in paper during regular business hours to the Secretary, Federal Maritime Commission, Washington, DC 20573, or electronically using the automated agreement filing system.

(1) Paper filings. Paper filings must include:

(i) A true copy and seven additional copies of the executed agreement;

(ii) Where required by this part, an original and five copies of the completed Information Form referenced at subpart E of this part; and

(iii) A letter of transmittal as described in paragraph (b) of this section.

(2) Electronic filings. (i) Electronic filings using the automated agreement filing system must be made in accordance with the instructions found on the Commission's home page, http://www.fmc.gov.

(ii) Electronic filings must include searchable Portable Document Format (PDF) copies of the following:

(A) A true copy of the executed agreement;

(B) Where required by this part, a completed Information Form referenced at subpart E of this part; and

(C) A letter of transmittal as described in paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) * * *

(4) Be signed by the filing party or on the filing party's behalf by an authorized employee or agent of the filing party. A faxed, photocopied, or scanned signature will be accepted.

3. Amend § 535.403 by revising paragraph (d) to read as follows:
§ 535.403 Form of agreements.

(d) Each agreement and/or modification filed must be signed by an official or authorized representative of each of the parties and must indicate the typewritten full name of the signing party and his or her position, including organizational affiliation. Faxed, photocopied, or scanned signatures will be accepted.

4. Amend § 535.501 by revising the last sentence of paragraph (b) to read as follows:
§ 535.501 General requirements.

(b) * * * In lieu of submitting paper copies, parties may complete and submit their Information Form in the Commission's prescribed electronic format, either on diskette or CD-ROM, or submit the Information Form using the automated agreement filing system in accordance with the instructions found on the Commission's home page, http://www.fmc.gov.

By the Commission.

Karen V. Gregory, Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2016-09760 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6731-AA-P
DEPARTMENT OF STATE 48 CFR Parts 601, 606, 608, 615, 616, 623, 627, 633, 651, and 652 [Public Notice: 9482] RIN 1400-AD92 Department of State Acquisition Regulation; Technical Amendments AGENCY:

Department of State.

ACTION:

Final rule; technical amendments.

SUMMARY:

The Department of State is amending the Department of State Acquisition Regulation (DOSAR) to make non-substantive corrections and editorial changes.

DATES:

This rule is effective April 27, 2016.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments using the following method:

Email: [email protected]. You must include the RIN in the subject line of your message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Ms. Colleen Kosar, Policy Division, Office of the Procurement Executive, A/OPE, 2201 C Street NW., Suite 1060, State Annex Number 15, Washington, DC 20520. Telephone: 703-516-1685. Email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This document updates Parts 601, 606, 608, 615, 616, 623, 627, 633, 651 and 652 to correct formatting, grammatical, numbering and wording errors/oversights as follows—

1. Corrects a cross reference in DOSAR 601.602-1(b);

2. Corrects a grammatical error in DOSAR 606.304(a)(2);

3. Corrects the title of DOSAR 606.5;

4. Corrects terminology in DOSAR 606.501(b) to align with a recent FAR change;

5. Adds a delegation of authority in DOSAR 608.405-3(a)(3)(ii);

6. Removes “DOSAR” from DOSAR 615.205-70 to comply with the referencing convention cited at DOSAR 601.303(c);

7. Corrects the title of DOSAR 616.103;

8. Adds a delegation of authority in DOSAR 616.504(c)(1)(ii)(D)(1)

9. Adds a paragraph identifier to the text of DOSAR 623.506;

10. Adds a clarification to DOSAR 627.304-1;

11. Adds a missing section heading for DOSAR 633.214;

12. Retitles DOSAR 633. 214-70;

13. Redesignates 651.701 as 651.7001;

14. Corrects the capitalization of “subpart” in DOSAR 652.100-70(a) and (b) to comply with the referencing convention cited at DOSAR 601.303(c);

15. Corrects the title of DOSAR subpart 652.2; and

16. Corrects a reference in the introductory text of DOSAR 652.232-72.

Regulatory Findings Administrative Procedure Act

The Department is publishing this rule as a direct final rule, as an interpretative rule, general statement of policy, or rule of agency organization, procedure, or practice, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(b). The effective date of this rulemaking is the date of publication, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(d). The Department finds good cause for this rule to be effective immediately. Since the amendments in this rule are merely technical in nature or address the internal operating procedures of the agency, public comment is unnecessary.

Regulatory Flexibility, Unfunded Mandates, SBREFA

The Department of State, in accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), has reviewed this regulation and, by approving it, certifies that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This determination was based on the fact that the amendments in this rule will not have any cost or administrative impact on offerors or contractors. Thus, it was concluded that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more in any year and it will not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Act of 1995. Finally, this rule is not a major rule as defined by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.).

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

The Department of State does not consider this rule to be an “economically significant” regulatory action under E. O. 12866. The Department has reviewed the regulation to ensure its consistency with the regulatory philosophy and principles set forth in Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and finds that the benefits of updating this rule outweigh any costs, which the Department assesses to be minimal.

Executive Order 13132 and 13175

This rule will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. The Department has determined that this rulemaking will not have tribal implications, will not impose substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal governments, and will not pre-empt tribal law.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The rule imposes no new or revised information collections under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35).

List of Subjects in 48 CFR Parts 601, 606, 608, 615, 616, 623, 627, 633, 651 and 652

Administrative practice and procedure, Government procurement.

For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Department of State amends 48 CFR chapter 6 as follows:

1. The authority citation for 48 CFR parts 601, 606, 608, 615, 616, 623, 627, 633, 651 and 652 continues to read as follows: Authority:

22 U.S.C. 2651a, 40 U.S.C. 121(c) and 48 CFR chapter 1.

PART 601—DEPARTMENT OF STATE ACQUISITION REGULATION SYSTEM
601.602-1 [Amended]
2. In section 601.602-1, paragraph (b), remove “601.603-70” and add in its place “601.601-70”.
PART 606—COMPETITION REQUIREMENTS
606.304 [Amended]
3. In section 606.304, in paragraph (a)(2), remove “a advocate for competition” and add in its place “an advocate for competition”.
Subpart 606.5—Advocates for Competition 4. Revise the heading for subpart 606.5 to read as set forth above. 5. In section 606.501, in the second sentence of paragraph (b), remove “competition advocate” and add in its place “advocate for competition”. PART 608—REQUIRED SOURCES OF SUPPLIES AND SERVICES 6. Add subpart 608.4 to read as follows: Subpart 608.4—Federal Supply Schedules 608.405 Ordering procedures for Federal Supply Schedules. 608.405-3 Blanket Purchase Agreements. Subpart 608.4—Federal Supply Schedules
608.405 Ordering procedures for Federal Supply Schedules.
608.405-3 Blanket Purchase Agreements.

(a) Establishment.

(3)(ii) The Procurement Executive is the head of the agency for the purposes of FAR 8.405-3(a)(3)(ii).

PART 615—CONTRACTING BY NEGOTIATION
615.205-70 [Amended]
7. In section 615.205-70, remove “DOSAR”.
PART 616—TYPES OF CONTRACTS 8. Revise the heading for section 616.103 to read as follows:
616.103 Negotiating contract type.
9. Add section 616.504 to read as follows:
616.504 Indefinite-quantity contracts.

(c) Multiple award preference—(1) Planning the acquisition.

(ii)(D)(1) The Procurement Executive is the head of the agency for the purposes of FAR 16.504(c)(1)(ii)(D)(1).

PART 623—ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY AND WATER EFFICIENCY, RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES, OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, AND DRUG-FREE WORKPLACE TYPES OF CONTRACTS
623.506 [Amended]
10. The text of section 623.506 is designated as paragraph (e).
PART 627—PATENTS, DATA, AND COPYRIGHTS
627.304-1 [Amended]
11. In the third sentence of section 627.304-1, add “proposed to be” between “Determinations” and “issued”.
PART 633—PROTESTS, DISPUTES, AND APPEALS Subpart 633.214—Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) 12. Add a subpaart 633.214 heading to read as set forth above. 13. Revise the heading for section 633.214-70 to read as follows:
633.214-70 DOS ADR program.
PART 651—USE OF GOVERNMENT SOURCES BY CONTRACTORS
651.701 [Redesignated as 651.7001]
14. Section 651.701 is redesignated as section 651.7001.
PART 652—SOLICITATION PROVISIONS AND CONTRACT CLAUSES
652.100-70 [Amended]
15. In section 652.100-70, revise “Subpart” to read “subpart” in paragraphs (a) and (b).
Subpart 652.2—Text of Provisions and Clauses 16. Revise the subpart 652.2 heading to read as set forth above.
652.232-72 [Amended]
17. In the introductory text of section 652.232-72, remove “632.705-70” and add in its place “632.706-70”.
Corey M. Rindner, Procurement Executive, Department of State.
[FR Doc. 2016-09570 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710-24-P
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2016-0052; 4500030113] RIN 1018-AZ62 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination That Designation of Critical Habitat Is Not Prudent for the Northern Long-Eared Bat AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Critical habitat determination.

SUMMARY:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have reconsidered whether designating critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) is prudent. We have determined that such a designation is not prudent. We listed the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), on April 2, 2015. At the time the species was listed, we determined that designation of critical habitat was prudent, but not determinable. Since that time, information has come available that demonstrates that designating the wintering habitat as critical habitat for the bat would likely increase the threat from vandalism and disturbance, and could, potentially, increase the spread of white-nose syndrome. In addition, designating the summer habitat as critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species, because there are no areas within the summer habitat that meet the definition of critical habitat. Thus, we have determined that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent for the northern long-eared bat.

DATES:

The determination announced in this document was made on April 27, 2016.

ADDRESSES:

This document is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2016-0052. Supporting documentation we used in preparing this document will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Twin Cities Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4101 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, MN 55425.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Peter Fasbender, Field Supervisor, 952-252-0092, extension 210. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) is a wide-ranging species that is found in a variety of forested habitats in summer and hibernates in caves and mines (or habitat with similar conditions to suitable caves or mines) in winter. The fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS), is the main threat to this species and has caused a precipitous decline in bat numbers (in many cases, 90-100 percent) where the disease has occurred. Declines in the numbers of northern long-eared bats are expected to continue as WNS extends across the species' range, provided no cure to the disease is found. For more information on the northern long-eared bat, its habitat, and WNS, please refer to the October 2, 2013, proposed listing (78 FR 61046) and the April 2, 2015, final listing (80 FR 17974) rules.

Summer Habitat

Suitable summer habitat for the northern long-eared bat consists of a wide variety of forested and wooded habitats where they roost, forage, and travel (Foster and Kurta 1999, p. 668), and may also include some adjacent and interspersed non-forested habitats (Yates and Muzika 2006, p. 1,245). This includes forests and woodlots containing potential roosts, as well as linear features such as fence rows, riparian forests, and other wooded corridors. These wooded areas may be dense or loose aggregates of trees with variable amounts of canopy closure (Lacki and Schwierjohann 2001, p. 487; Perry and Thill 2007, p. 223; Sasse and Pekins 1996, p. 95; Timpone et al. 2010, p. 118).

After hibernation ends in late March or early April (as late as May in some northern areas), most northern long-eared bats migrate to summer roosts. The spring migration period typically runs from mid-March to mid-May (Caire et al. 1979, p. 405; Easterla 1968, p. 770; Whitaker and Mumford 2009, p. 207). The northern long-eared bat is not considered to be a long-distance migrant (typically 40-50 miles (64-80 kilometers)). Males and non-reproductive females may summer near or in their winter habitat (hibernacula), or migrate to summer habitat some distance from their hibernaculum.

After emerging from hibernacula in the spring, female northern long-eared bats actively form colonies in the summer (Foster and Kurta 1999) and exhibit fission-fusion behavior (Garroway and Broders 2007), where members frequently coalesce to form a group, but composition of the group is in flux (Barclay and Kurta 2007, p. 44). As part of this behavior, northern long-eared bats switch tree roosts often (Sasse and Pekins 1996, p. 95), typically every 2 to 3 days (Foster and Kurta 1999, p. 665; Owen et al. 2002, p. 2; Carter and Feldhamer 2005, p. 261; Timpone et al. 2010, p. 119). Northern long-eared bat maternity colonies range widely in size (reported range of 7 to 100; Owen et al. 2002, p. 2; Whitaker and Mumford 2009, p. 212), although colonies of 30-60 individuals may be most common, at least prior to the onset of WNS (Whitaker and Mumford 2009, p. 212; Caceres and Barclay 2000, p. 3; Service 2014, p. A16).

Northern long-eared bats show interannual fidelity to roost trees and maternity areas. They use networks of roost trees often centered around one or more central-node roost trees (Johnson et al. 2011, p. 228) with multiple alternate roost trees. Northern long-eared bats roost in cavities, crevices, hollows, or underneath bark of both live and dead trees and snags (typically ≥3 inches (in) (8 centimeters (cm)) in diameter at breast height (dbh)). Northern long-eared bats are known to use a wide variety of roost types, using tree species based on presence of cavities or crevices or presence of peeling bark. Northern long-eared bats have also been found roosting in structures such as buildings, barns, sheds, houses, and bridges (Benedict and Howell 2008, p. 5; Krochmal and Sparks 2007, p. 650; Timpone et al. 2010, p. 119; Service 2014, p. 2).

The best available information indicates that northern long-eared bats seem to be flexible in roost selection, using varying roost tree species and types of roosts throughout their range. They do not depend on certain species of trees for roosts; rather, they opportunistically use many tree species that form suitable cavities or retain bark (Foster and Kurta 1999, p. 668). Additionally, the bats may use either live trees or snags; the use of live trees versus snags may reflect the availability of such structures (Perry and Thill 2007, p. 224) and the presence of sympatric bat species (e.g., Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)) (Timpone et al. 2010, p. 120), as opposed to a specific preference of tree or other habitat characteristics. Results from studies have also found that the diameters of roost trees selected by northern long-eared bats vary greatly (Sasse and Pekins 1996, pp. 95-96; Schultes 2002, pp. 49, 51; Perry 2014, pers. comm.; Lereculeur 2013, pp. 52-54; Carter and Feldhamer 2005, p. 263; Foster and Kurta 1999, p. 663; Lacki and Schwierjohann 2001, pp. 484-485; Owens et al. 2002, p. 3; Timpone et al. 2010, p. 118; Lowe 2012, p. 61; Perry and Thill 2007, p. 223; Lacki et al. 2009, p. 1,171) and that northern long-eared bats can forage in a variety of forest types (Brack and Whitaker 2001, p. 207; LaVal et al. 1977, p. 594; van Zyll de Jong 1985, p. 94). Northern long-eared bats change roost trees frequently (e.g., Cryan et al. 2001, p. 50; Foster and Kurta 1999, p. 665) within their summer home range; this behavior suggests they are adapted to responding quickly to changes in roost availability and ephemeral roosts. For a more detailed discussion on summer habitat, refer to the April 2, 2015, final listing rule (80 FR 17974).

Winter Habitat (Hibernacula)

Northern long-eared bats hibernate during the winter months to conserve energy from increased thermoregulatory demands and reduced food resources (Thomas et al. 1990, p. 475; Thomas and Geiser 1997, p. 585; Bouma et al. 2010, p. 623). Suitable winter habitat includes caves and cave-like structures (e.g., abandoned or active mines, railroad tunnels) (Service 2015, unpublished data; Goehring 1954, p. 435; Kurta et al. 1997, p. 478). Other landscape features may be used by northern long-eared bats during the winter, but they have yet to be documented. Generally, northern long-eared bats hibernate from October to April, depending on the local climate (November/December through March in southern areas, with emergence as late as mid-May in some northern areas) (Caire et al. 1979, p. 405; Whitaker and Hamilton 1998, p. 100; Amelon and Burhans 2006, p. 72).

Hibernacula used by northern long-eared bats vary in size (Raesly and Gates 1987, p. 20; Kurta 2013, in litt.), and these hibernacula have relatively constant, cooler temperatures (0 to 9 degrees Celsius (°C) (32 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit (°F)) (Raesly and Gates 1987, p. 18; Caceres and Pybus 1997, p. 2; Brack 2007, p. 744), with high humidity and minimal air currents (Fitch and Shump 1979, p. 2; van Zyll de Jong 1985, p. 94; Raesly and Gates 1987, p. 118; Caceres and Pybus 1997, p. 2). The sites favored by northern long-eared bats are often in very high humidity areas, to such a large degree that droplets of water are often observed on their fur (Hitchcock 1949, p. 52; Barbour and Davis 1969, p. 77). Within hibernacula, northern long-eared bats are typically found roosting in small crevices or cracks in cave or mine walls or ceilings, sometimes with only the nose and ears visible (Griffin 1940, pp. 181-182; Barbour and Davis 1969, p. 77; Caire et al. 1979, p. 405; van Zyll de Jong 1985, p. 9; Caceres and Pybus 1997, p. 2; Whitaker and Mumford 2009, pp. 209-210).

To a lesser extent, northern long-eared bats have also been observed overwintering in other types of habitat that resemble cave or mine hibernacula, including abandoned railroad tunnels (Service 2015, unpublished data). Although similar bat species (e.g., big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus)) have been found using non-cave or non-mine hibernacula, including attics and hollow trees (Neubaum et al. 2006, p. 473; Whitaker and Gummer 1992, pp. 313-316), northern long-eared bats have only been observed overwintering in suitable caves, mines, or habitat with the same types of conditions found in suitable caves or mines.

Northern long-eared bats tend to roost singly or in small groups (Service 2013, unpublished data), with hibernating population sizes rarely recorded in concentrations of more than 100 bats in a single hibernaculum (Barbour and Davis 1969, p. 77). Northern long-eared bats display more winter activity than other cave species, with individuals occasionally moving between hibernacula throughout the winter (Griffin 1940, p. 185; Whitaker and Rissler 1992, p. 131; Caceres and Barclay 2000, pp. 2-3). Northern long-eared bats have shown a high degree of philopatry (i.e., using the same site multiple years) to the hibernacula used (Pearson 1962, p. 30).

Northern long-eared bat hibernacula have fairly specific physical and biological requirements that make them suitable for northern long-eared bats. In general, bats select hibernacula because they have characteristics that allow the bats to meet specific life-cycle requirements. Factors influencing a hibernaculum's suitability include its physical structure (e.g., openings, interior space, depth), air circulation, temperature profile, and location relative to foraging sites (Tuttle and Stevenson 1978, pp. 108-121). For a more detailed discussion on winter habitat, refer to the April 2, 2015, final listing rule (80 FR 17974).

Previous Federal Actions

Refer to the proposed (78 FR 61046; October 2, 2013) and final (80 FR 17974; April 2, 2015) listing rules for the northern long-eared bat for a detailed description of previous Federal actions concerning this species. On April 2, 2015, we published in the Federal Register (80 FR 17974) a final rule listing the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species. In the April 2, 2015, rule, we also established an interim rule under section 4(d) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The final listing rule and the interim 4(d) rule both became effective on May 4, 2015. On January 14, 2016 (81 FR 1900), we published a final 4(d) rule, which became effective on February 16, 2016.

Critical Habitat Background

Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we designate critical habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:

(1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features

(a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and

(b) Which may require special management considerations or protection; and

(2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species.

Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.02 defines the geographical area occupied by the species as: An area that may generally be delineated around species' occurrences, as determined by the Secretary (i.e., range). Such areas may include those areas used throughout all or part of the species' life cycle, even if not used on a regular basis (e.g., migratory corridors, seasonal habitats, and habitats used periodically, but not solely by vagrant individuals).

Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use, and the use of, all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking.

Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. Critical habitat designation does not allow the government or public to access private lands, nor does it require implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species or critical habitat, the Federal agency would be required to consult under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, but even if consultation leads to a finding that the action would likely cause destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat, the resulting obligation of the Federal action agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but rather to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.

Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the conservation of the species and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those physical or biological features, we focus on the specific features that support the life-history needs of the species, including but not limited to, water characteristics, soil type, geological features, prey, vegetation, symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a single habitat characteristic, or a more complex combination of habitat characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity.

Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed if we determine that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. For example, an area that is currently occupied by the species, but was not occupied at the time of listing, may be essential to the conservation of the species and may be included in the critical habitat designation.

Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria, establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions are based on the best scientific data available. For example, they require our biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical habitat.

Critical Habitat Prudency Determination

Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, we designate critical habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent when any of the following situations exist: (i) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of threat to the species, or (ii) such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. The regulations also provide that, in determining whether a designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species, the factors the Services may consider include but are not limited to: Whether the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or whether any areas meet the definition of “critical habitat” (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)(ii)).

We have determined that both situations when a critical habitat designation would not be prudent apply to the northern long-eared bat. With respect to summer habitat, we have determined that designating critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. Further, with respect to wintering habitat, we have determined that the species is threatened by taking or human activity and identification of critical habitat could be expected to increase the degree of this threat to the species. An explanation of these determinations follows.

Designating Summer Habitat Would Not Be Beneficial to the Species

The northern long-eared bat is widely distributed throughout much of its range during the summer months and is considered to be flexible with regards to summer habitat requirements.

The best scientific information available on summer habitat suggests that where the northern long-eared bat is found, it is widely distributed in a variety of wooded habitats (ranging from highly fragmented forest habitats to contiguous forest blocks from the southern United States to Canada's Yukon Territory), with generally non-specific habitat elements. There are elements of summer habitat that the northern long-eared bat needs (forests for roosting, raising young, foraging, and commuting between roosting and foraging habitat); however, the best available information indicates that the species' specific needs and preferences for these habitat elements are relatively flexible, plentiful, and widely distributed. Thus, summer habitat for the northern long-eared bat does not have specific physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species and, therefore, does not meet the definition of critical habitat.

Furthermore, as discussed in the final listing rule (80 FR 17974; April 2, 2015), northern long-eared bat summer habitat is not limited or in short supply, and summer habitat loss is not a rangewide threat to the species. Based on a compilation of the total forested acres for each State in the northern long-eared bat's range (from the U.S. Forest Service's 2015 State and Private Forestry Fact sheets (available at http://stateforesters.org/regional-state)), there are an estimated 281,528,709 acres (113,213,960 hectares) of available forested habitat for the northern long-eared bat throughout its range in the United States (Service 2016, p. 28). This is assuming that all forested acres are suitable for the northern long-eared bat, which probably overestimates habitat availability, but such an assumption is not unreasonable given the northern long-eared bat's flexible selection of summer habitat and ability to use very small trees (≥3 in (8 cm) in dbh) (Service 2016, p. 18).

As we documented in the final listing rule (80 FR 17974; April 2, 2015), the extent of conversion from forest to other land cover types has been fairly consistent with conversion to forest (cropland reversion/plantings). Further, the recent past and projected future amounts of forest loss to conversion was, and is anticipated to be, only a small percentage of the total amount of forest habitat. For example, the U.S. Forest Service expects only 4 to 8 percent of the forested area found in 2007 across the conterminous United States to be lost by 2060 (U.S. Forest Service 2012, p. 12). Additionally, as discussed above, the northern long-eared bat has been documented to use a wide variety of forest types across its wide range (living in highly fragmented forest habitats to contiguous forest blocks from the southern United States to Canada's Yukon Territory). Because summer habitat for the northern long-eared bat is not limiting, and because the northern long-eared bat is considered to be flexible with regards to summer habitat, the availability of forested habitat does not now, nor will it likely in the future, limit the conservation of the northern long-eared bat.

The critical habitat regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)(ii) provide two examples of when designating critical habitat may not be beneficial to the species and, therefore, may be not prudent: Where the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the species, or where there are no areas that meet the definition of critical habitat for the species. The summer habitat for the northern long-eared bat falls within both examples. First, there are no areas of summer habitat that meet the definition of critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat. Second, the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of summer habitat is not a threat to the species; rather, disease is the primary threat to the species within its summer habitat. In the final rule revising the critical habitat regulations (81 FR 7414; February 11, 2016), the Services expressly identified this situation as an example where designating critical habitat may not be beneficial to the species: “In some circumstances, a species may be listed because of factors other than threats to its habitat or range, such as disease, and the species may be a habitat generalist. In such a case, on the basis of the existing and revised regulations, it is permissible to determine that critical habitat is not beneficial and, therefore, not prudent” (see 81 FR 7425; February 11, 2016). Therefore, we conclude that designating the summer habitat of the northern long-eared bat as critical habitat is not prudent.

Increased Threat to the Taxon by Designating Critical Habitat in Their Hibernacula

Disturbance of hibernating bats (as discussed under Factor A of the final listing rule (80 FR 17974, April 2, 2015; see 80 FR 17989-17990)) has long been considered a threat to cave-hibernating bat species, including the northern long-eared bat. Northern long-eared bats hibernate during the winter months to conserve energy from increased thermoregulatory demands and reduced food resources. To increase energy savings, individuals enter a state of torpor, when internal body temperatures approach ambient temperature, metabolic rates are significantly lowered, and immune function declines (Thomas et al. 1990, p. 475; Thomas and Geiser 1997, p. 585; Bouma et al. 2010, p. 623). Each time a bat arouses from torpor, it uses a significant amount of energy to warm its body and increase its metabolic rate. These arousals during hibernation cause the greatest amount of energy depletion in hibernating bats (Thomas et al. 1990, p. 477). The cost and number of arousals are the two key factors that determine energy expenditures of hibernating bats in winter (Thomas et al. 1990, p. 475). Human disturbance at hibernacula can cause bats to arouse more frequently, causing premature energy store depletion and starvation (Thomas 1995, p. 944; Speakman et al. 1991, p. 1103), leading to marked reductions in bat populations (Tuttle 1979, p. 3) and increased susceptibility to disease.

The primary forms of human disturbance to hibernating bats result from recreational caving, vandalism, cave commercialization (cave tours and other commercial uses of caves), and research-related activities (Service 2007, p. 80). Fire building is also a common form of disturbance that, in addition to elevating interior temperatures (which is detrimental during hibernation) and accumulating smoke, can deposit soot on ceilings and eventually result in site abandonment by bats (Tigner and Stukel 2003, p. 54). In addition to unintended effects of commercial and recreational caving, intentional killing of bats in caves by shooting, burning, and clubbing has been documented (Tuttle 1979, pp. 4, 8). Intentional killing of northern long-eared bats has been documented at a small percentage of hibernacula (e.g., one case of shooting disturbance in Maryland, and one case of bat torching in Massachusetts where approximately 100 bats (northern long-eared bats and other species) were killed) (Service, unpublished data).

Prior to the outbreak of WNS, Amelon and Burhans (2006, p. 73) indicated that “the widespread recreational use of caves and indirect or direct disturbance by humans during the hibernation period pose the greatest known threat to this species (northern long-eared bat).” In addition, human disturbance at hibernacula has been identified by many States as the next greatest threat to the bat after WNS. Of 14 States that assessed the possibility of human disturbance at bat hibernacula within the range of the northern long-eared bat, 13 identified at least 1 known hibernacula as having been negatively affected by human disturbance (Service 2012, unpublished data). Eight of these 14 States (Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont) indicated the potential for human disturbance at over 50 percent of the known hibernacula in that State. Nearly all States without WNS identified human disturbance as the primary threat to hibernating bats, and all others (including WNS-positive States) noted that human disturbance either is of significant concern or is the next greatest threat after WNS (Service 2012, unpublished data).

Since the time of listing (April 2, 2015), additional information has become available that demonstrates that designating critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat would likely increase the threat from vandalism and disturbance, and could, potentially, increase the spread of WNS. In November 2015, we sought information from State fish and wildlife agencies and other public landowners with known bat caves or mines to determine: (1) How prevalent accounts of disturbance to bats and vandalism to hibernacula are throughout the species' range; and (2) the level and types of concerns that State fish and wildlife agencies and other landowners with known bat caves or mines have regarding the release of known bat hibernacula location information.

Prevalence of Disturbance—State and other agency or organization personnel provided information regarding specific incidents of disturbance of hibernating bats within their State or area of jurisdiction. Incidents were reported throughout the range of the northern long-eared bat. Evidence of vandalism of caves and mines and disturbance of bats included: dead bats, graffiti, trash, evidence of camp fires, bottle rockets, fireworks, digging or excavation, attempts to remove rock or minerals, alteration of cave or mine entrances, and damage to and breach of gates. There were also a few reported incidents of intentional killing of bats, including clubbing, thrown rocks, and burning. In addition, materials found in hibernacula, such as tennis rackets and blow torches, indicate harm inflicted on bats (NJDFW 2015, pers. comm.). There are few law enforcement reports regarding these incidents, either due to a lack of law enforcement actions or because reporting these incidents would publicize mine or cave locations (SCDNR 2015, pers. comm.).

Examples of incidents of vandalism and disturbance to bats at publicly known hibernacula have been found throughout the range of the northern long-eared bat; we received examples of vandalism and disturbance to bats from 20 State fish and wildlife agencies and 9 other public landowners (including Federal, State, and local agencies and organizations) with known northern long-eared bat hibernacula. Due to the large number of specific incidents, a small, representative subset of the examples we received is presented below. For purposes of illustrating that these incidents occur throughout the species' range, the information is organized into four geographic areas: Northeast, southeast, midwest, and west.

Northeast: In northeastern States such as Pennsylvania and New York, vandalism and disturbance to bats within hibernacula occurs frequently. Evidence of human use of caves and mines in Pennsylvania, including digging for new passage, waste, all-terrain-vehicle use, guns being shot, and burning, are common. There are also many examples of people trying to cut, remove, or get around gates to access gated hibernacula (PGFC 2015, pers. comm.). Due to the large numbers of people trespassing in Pennsylvania caves and mines, especially during winter months while bats are hibernating, the Pennsylvania Game Commission installed cameras at many caves to capture visual proof of those illegally entering caves and send automated messages to alert a wildlife conservation officer of the entry. Since January 2015, conservation officers have confronted at least 50 suspected trespassers, resulting in more than 20 citations (PGFC 2015, pers. comm.). Similarly, in New York, nearly all un-gated hibernacula, both on public and private lands, are visited by people, and many gated caves and mines have been compromised. Some sites have signs informing visitors that caves and mines are closed to visitation in the winter; however, this does not stop individuals from accessing those sites (NYDEC 2015, pers. comm.).

Southeast: In southeastern States such as South Carolina, North Carolina, and Kentucky, vandalism and disturbance to bats within hibernacula occurs often. For example, in South Carolina reports exist of bottle rockets being shot into a gated mine, missing locks on bat-friendly gates, litter inside a cave, and individuals barricading an entrance to a cave (SCDNR 2015, pers. comm.). In North Carolina, there are multiple incidents of vandalism to caves and mines. One particular mine in North Carolina has had repeated vandalism issues over several years, and multiple security fences, gates, and locks have been compromised by vandalism (NCWRC 2015, pers. comm.). In Kentucky, 82 of 118 total hibernacula where northern long-eared bats have been observed are exposed to human disturbance; in 2007, two people were convicted of intentionally killing more than 100 federally-listed Indiana bats in a Kentucky cave (USFWS 2010).

Midwest: There are multiple records of vandalism and disturbance of bats in Midwestern States, including Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota. The first mine to have WNS-associated bat mortality in Michigan had been illegally accessed in 2013, when people used a torch to break the gate. The WNS-associated mortality was “likely as a direct result of this disturbance” (MIDNR 2015, pers. comm.). Winter visitation to caves in Indiana is relatively common, and in one particular incident, hibernating Indiana bats were intentionally burned (INDNR 2015, pers. comm.). In Wisconsin, five State-owned underground sites were sealed for use if there was a need for artificial hibernacula for WNS treatment trials; all five were breached (welded doors were ground off) during the spring of 2015. Additionally, one private landowner filled in a cave on their property when they learned it was occupied by bats (WDNR 2015, pers. comm.). In Missouri, there has been evidence of digging at cave entrances, parties, fires, fireworks, graffiti, off-highway vehicle use, gate damage, and trash left behind at caves throughout the State. In fact, there is an ongoing investigation and prosecution regarding illegal entry at a Missouri cave (MDC 2016, pers. comm.). Issues with breached gates and broken locks occurred at several Minnesota caves; approximately 4 years ago, surveyors found bat bones and shotgun shells in one cave.

West: In States such as South Dakota, Arkansas, and Oklahoma in the western portion of the northern long-eared bat's range, there are several records of incidents of vandalism and disturbance to bats as well. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks provided literature with evidence of both historical and ongoing vandalism at their State's hibernacula. Increasing disturbance of known hibernacula throughout the Black Hills area is noted as one of the greatest threats to bat populations in the area (Tigner and Stukel 2003, p. 11). Some of the more disruptive and damaging activities inside caves and abandoned mines include discharging firearms and fireworks, spray-painting, campfire construction, and intentionally killing bats and other wildlife (Tigner and Stukel 2003, p. 54). At one particular cave, campfires are common during hibernation, and only a small fraction of the bats identified in the cave in the early 1990s still use the cave (Tigner 2002, p. 7). In Arkansas, approximately 200 endangered gray bats (Myotis grisescens) were killed at a major gray bat hibernaculum on National Park Service land (AGFC 2015, pers. comm.). In Oklahoma, there have been multiple incidents involving cutting fences around gate entrances, breaching cave gates (by cutting, digging under, or removing structures around gates to gain access), and campfires near cave entrances (Service 2015, pers. comm.).

Summary: As illustrated by the examples above, which are only a small subset of the reported incidents, we have extensive rangewide evidence that indicates known northern long-eared bat hibernacula have been, and are likely to continue to be, disturbed and vandalized. These acts not only lead to increases in disturbance during the northern long-eared bat's sensitive hibernation period, which, in turn, leads to decreased survival, but also may lead to direct mortality of northern long-eared bats.

Concerns over Release of Location Information—Northern long-eared bats that are infected with WNS are believed to be less resilient to disturbance and resulting arousal, and the northern long-eared bat is one of the most highly susceptible bat species to WNS (Langwig et al. 2014). As discussed in the final listing rule (80 FR 17974, April 2, 2015; see 80 FR 17993-17998), WNS-causing fungal spores can be transmitted not only by bat-to-bat transmission, but also by human actions (USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Wildlife Health Bulletin 2011-05), and decontamination remains one of the only management options available to reduce the risk of human-assisted transmission. State, Federal, and local agencies and organizations are especially concerned with the spread of WNS if cave and mine locations are made public, especially in sites where WNS has not been found or in areas that have not yet been inundated with the disease. Several agency and organization personnel expressed concern regarding those visiting caves and mines and not properly decontaminating after leaving hibernacula, which may result in these visitors spreading WNS fungal spores by using contaminated gear in uninfected caves or mines (ANHC 2015, pers. comm.; CDEEP 2015, pers. comm.; KDFWR 2015, pers. comm.; NBSRP 2015, pers. comm.; NJDVW 2015, pers. comm.; WDNR 2015, pers. comm.; WGFD 2015, pers. comm.). It is possible that the spread of WNS was enhanced by human transfer of fungal spores in some States, such as Connecticut (CDEEP 2015, pers. comm.).

State, Federal, and local agencies that gather specific location information exercise extra efforts to protect hibernacula location information from becoming readily available to the public. In fact, many States reported that they are concerned that release of location information could significantly increase human visitation, thereby increasing disturbance to bats, and, therefore, they do not share hibernacula location information with the public. For example, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stated, “we have not shared locational information as to maternity sites and hibernacula. Under state law, locations deemed critical to the survival of the species may be withheld from the public. All data in the WI Natural Heritage Inventory are exempt from State open records laws” (WDNR 2015, pers. comm.). Some agencies and organizations state that when location information is disclosed, an agreement typically must be in place with those requesting the location information to protect the data, and point data are buffered to conceal the specific locations. Similarly, in Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) does not release hibernacula locations to the general public, and location information for caves not owned by MDC cannot be disclosed by the State (MDC 2016, pers. comm.).

In addition to protecting location information, State, Federal, and local agencies and organizations use other means to protect bat hibernacula, such as installation of bat-friendly gates. Direct protection of caves and mines can be accomplished through installation of bat-friendly gates that allow passage of bats while reducing disturbance from human entry as well as reducing changes to the cave microclimate from air restrictions. Bat-friendly gates are generally thought to be effective in preventing disturbance of hibernating bats and vandalism of hibernacula (AGFC 2015, pers. comm.; ANF 2015, pers. comm.; ANHC 2015, pers. comm.; BNR 2015, pers. comm.; CDEEP 2015, pers. comm.; DMCC 2015, pers. comm.; IADNR 2015, pers. comm.; ILDNR 2015, pers. comm.; INDNR 2015, pers. comm.; KDFWR 2015, pers. comm.; MANG 2015, pers. comm.; MDC 2016, pers. comm.; MIDNR 2015, pers. comm.; NBSRP 2015, pers. comm.; NGDFW 2015, pers. comm.; NYDEC 2015, pers. comm.; ONF 2015, pers. comm.; ONSR 2015, pers. comm.; OSFNF 2015, pers. comm.; PGC 2015, pers. comm.; SCDNR 2015, pers. comm.; SDGFP 2015, pers. comm.; SMP 2015, pers. comm.; WDNR 2015, pers. comm.), although attempts to protect hibernacula from disturbance have varying degrees of effectiveness. In most States for which we have information, a small percentage of caves and mines are gated, and a majority of State agencies indicated that there is a need to gate additional caves and mines used by bats. For example, in Missouri, less than approximately 2 percent of known hibernacula have bat-friendly gates Statewide (MDC 2015, pers. comm.). Attempts to remove gates at hibernacula are numerous and pervasive throughout the northern long-eared bat's range, although the success of removal attempts varies. Some State and Federal agencies and other organizations state that attempts to remove gates are rarely successful; others, such as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, state that removal attempts are almost always successful: “When parties wish to gain access, they are very resourceful and come prepared to cut, dig, pry, or use any other means necessary to enter. The remote nature of some sites does not seem to deter vandalism either” (KDFWR 2015, pers. comm.). See Prevalence of Disturbance, above, for more examples of attempts to remove gates.

The process of designating critical habitat would increase human threats to the northern long-eared bat by increasing the vulnerability of this species to disturbance during its sensitive hibernation period and by increasing the likelihood of vandalism to its winter hibernacula by publicly disclosing the locations of those hibernacula. Northern long-eared bats are particularly sensitive to disturbance while hibernating, and such disturbance further reduces survival chances of already compromised, WNS-infected bats. Additionally, increased human access to hibernacula may facilitate or accelerate the spread of WNS to uninfected sites, as people may carry the fungal spores from site to site. Designation of critical habitat requires the publication of maps and a specific narrative description of critical habitat in the Federal Register. The degree of detail in those maps and boundary descriptions is far greater than the general location information provided in the final listing rule (80 FR 17974; April 2, 2015). Furthermore, a critical habitat designation normally results in the news media publishing articles in local newspapers and on special interest Web sites, usually with maps of the critical habitat. We have determined that the publication of maps and descriptions outlining the locations of this species' wintering areas would increase awareness and visitation of hibernacula, and thus disturbance of bats, as those interested in accessing caves and mines would then have detailed location information for these hibernacula. As expressed by many State bat biologists and land managers with hibernacula within their area of jurisdiction, there is a strong concern regarding publicizing cave and mine location information due to the increased threat of disturbance to the northern long-eared bat, and bats in general. Furthermore, human disturbance may exacerbate the effect of WNS on northern long-eared bats; providing a literal map of bat hibernacula in the form of critical habitat will likely facilitate human disturbance and may further compound threats to the species. We, therefore, conclude that the northern long-eared bat is threatened by taking and other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of threat to the species. Designating critical habitat is therefore not prudent under the regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)(i). As discussed earlier, the risk of increased threats from publishing hibernacula locations is significant. The northern long-eared bat, and bats in general, are very sensitive to disturbance while hibernating, and there are numerous known incidents of vandalism, targeted killing, and disturbance of hibernating northern long-eared bats throughout the species' range. The public has great interest in visiting caves and mines for recreational purposes, and human-caused disturbance has clear effects on hibernating bats. Thus, any action that publicly discloses the location of northern long-eared bat hibernacula (such as a critical habitat designation) puts the species in further peril. One of the basic measures to protect northern long-eared bats from vandalism and disturbance while hibernating is restricting access to information pertaining to the location of the species' hibernacula. Publishing maps and narrative descriptions of northern long-eared bat critical habitat would significantly affect our ability to reduce the threat of vandalism and disturbance of hibernacula and hibernating bats and may facilitate or intensify the spread of WNS by humans.

Summary of Prudency Determination

We have determined that designating critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat is not prudent. Designating summer habitat as critical habitat is not beneficial to the species, because there are no areas within the summer habitat of the species that meet the definition of critical habitat. Further, the primary threat to the species is the disease WNS; the destruction, modification, or curtailment of summer habitat is not a threat to the species as suitable summer habitat continues to exist and is not limited throughout the species' range. Therefore, designating critical habitat in the summer habitat areas would not be beneficial. Moreover, designating winter habitat as critical habitat would disclose hibernacula location information, and thereby increase the threat to the northern long-eared bat from vandalism and disturbance at hibernacula and could, potentially, increase the spread of WNS. Disturbance of hibernating bats has long been considered a threat to cave-hibernating bat species, and has been identified as the next greatest threat to this taxon after WNS. Human disturbance at hibernacula causes bats to arouse more frequently, leading to premature energy store depletion and, possibly, starvation. Further compounding the effects of disturbance, northern long-eared bats that are infected with WNS are believed to be less resilient to disturbance and resulting arousal. Furthermore, increased human visitation of hibernacula could intensify the spread of WNS from infected to uninfected sites. We have, therefore, determined in accordance with 50 CFR 424.12(a)(1) that it is not prudent to designate critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat.

References Cited

A complete list of references cited in this document is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Twin Cities Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES and FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the Twin Cities Ecological Services Office.

Authority

The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

Dated: April 12, 2016. Michael J. Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2016-09673 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333-15-P
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150903814-5999-02] RIN 0648-XE564 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota Transfer AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Temporary rule; quota transfer.

SUMMARY:

NMFS announces that the Commonwealth of Virginia is transferring a portion of its 2016 commercial summer flounder quota to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These quota adjustments are necessary to comply with the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan quota transfer provision. This announcement informs the public of the revised commercial quotas for Virginia and Massachusetts.

DATES:

Effective April 26, 2016, through December 31, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Elizabeth Scheimer, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281-9236.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Regulations governing the summer flounder fishery are found in 50 CFR 648.100 through 648.110. The regulations require annual specification of a commercial quota that is apportioned among the coastal states from Maine through North Carolina. The process to set the annual commercial quota and the percent allocated to each state are described in § 648.102.

The final rule implementing Amendment 5 to the Summer Flounder Fishery Management Plan, as published in the Federal Register on December 17, 1993 (58 FR 65936), provided a mechanism for transferring summer flounder commercial quota from one state to another. Two or more states, under mutual agreement and with the concurrence of the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator, can transfer or combine summer flounder commercial quota under § 648.102(c)(2). The Regional Administrator is required to consider the criteria in § 648.102(c)(2)(i)(A) through (C) in the evaluation of requests for quota transfers or combinations.

Virginia is transferring 6,525 lb (2,959 kg) of summer flounder commercial quota to Massachusetts. This transfer was requested by Virginia to repay landings by a Virginia-permitted vessel that landed in Massachusetts under a safe harbor agreement.

The revised summer flounder quotas for calendar year 2016 are now: Virginia, 1,755,829 lb (796,430 kg); and Massachusetts, 577,777 lb (262,075 kg) based on the initial quotas published in the 2016-2018 Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Specifications, (December 28, 2015, 80 FR 80689) and previous 2016 quota transfers (March 8, 2016, 81 FR 12030 and April 14, 2016, 81 FR 22032).

Classification

This action is taken under 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

Authority:

16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

Dated: April 21, 2016. Emily H. Menashes, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-09726 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 150817730-6320-02] RIN 0648-BF29 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; American Fisheries Act; Amendment 111 AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

NMFS issues this final rule to implement Amendment 111 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). This final rule reduces bycatch limits, also known as prohibited species catch (PSC) limits, for Pacific halibut in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) groundfish fisheries by specific amounts in four groundfish sectors: The Amendment 80 sector (non-pollock trawl catcher/processors); the BSAI trawl limited access sector (all non-Amendment 80 trawl fishery participants); the non-trawl sector (primarily hook-and-line catcher/processors); and the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program (CDQ Program). This final rule establishes the following halibut PSC limits: 1,745 mt for the Amendment 80 sector; 745 mt for the BSAI trawl limited access sector; 710 mt for the BSAI non-trawl sector; and 315 mt for the CDQ Program. This results in an overall BSAI halibut PSC limit of 3,515 mt. This action is necessary to minimize halibut bycatch in the BSAI groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable and to achieve, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the BSAI groundfish fisheries. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws.

DATES:

Effective May 27, 2016.

ADDRESSES:

Electronic copies of the Environmental Assessment (EA), Regulatory Impact Review (RIR), and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) prepared for this action, collectively “the Analysis;” the FMP; and the proposed rule are available from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Rachel Baker or Mary Alice McKeen, 907-586-7228.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the BSAI under the FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared, and the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) approved, the FMP pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) and other applicable laws. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations that pertain to U.S. fisheries appear at 50 CFR part 600. NMFS manages fishing for Pacific halibut through regulations established under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982.

NMFS published the Notice of Availability for Amendment 111 on October 29, 2015 (80 FR 66486) with comments invited through December 28, 2015. NMFS published the proposed rule to implement Amendment 111 on November 16, 2015 (80 FR 71650) with comments invited through December 16, 2015. The Secretary approved Amendment 111 on January 20, 2016. NMFS received 39 unique comments on the FMP and proposed rule from 17 different commenters. A summary of these comments and the responses by NMFS are provided under the heading Response to Comments below. These comments did not result in any change to the proposed rule.

A detailed review of the provisions of Amendment 111, the proposed regulations to implement Amendment 111, and the rationale for these regulations is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule (80 FR 71650, November 16, 2015) and is not repeated here (see ADDRESSES). The preamble to this final rule provides a brief review of the regulatory changes made by this final rule. In this preamble, unless otherwise noted, the citations to regulations are to the regulations that will be in place after the effective date of this final rule.

NMFS manages halibut PSC, also known commonly as halibut bycatch, in groundfish fisheries under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Under Section 3.6.1 of the FMP, and the implementing regulation at § 679.21(a)(2), prohibited species are Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, Pacific salmon and steelhead, king crab, and Tanner crab. Under the FMP and the regulations, prohibited species must be avoided while fishing for groundfish and must be returned to the sea with a minimum of injury except where retention is required or authorized by law.

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, bycatch includes fish that are discarded for any reason, including discards required by regulation, or for economic reasons, such as the fact that the fish might be of an undesirable size, sex, or quality (16 U.S.C. 1802 (3); 16 U.S.C. 1802 (9)). Halibut PSC is one type of bycatch; it is a regulatory discard. Regulations at § 679.21(a)(2) require the discard of all halibut that is caught while directed fishing for groundfish in the BSAI or the Gulf of Alaska. A limited exception to this discard requirement is provided for donations of halibut made under the prohibited species donation program authorized in regulation at § 679.26. In this preamble, when NMFS refers to halibut bycatch, NMFS means halibut PSC.

Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is fully utilized in the waters off Alaska as a target species in subsistence, personal use, recreational (sport), and commercial halibut fisheries. Halibut is also incidentally taken as bycatch in groundfish fisheries. Although participants in the groundfish fisheries are under an obligation to avoid halibut, all halibut cannot be avoided. The groundfish fisheries cannot be prosecuted without some amount of halibut bycatch because groundfish and halibut occur in the same areas at the same times and because no fishing gear or technique has been developed that can avoid all halibut bycatch.

Although halibut is taken as bycatch by vessels using all types of gear (trawl, hook-and-line, pot, and jig gear), halibut bycatch primarily occurs in the trawl and hook-and-line groundfish fisheries. Halibut bycatch occurs in both the Gulf of Alaska and the BSAI. The greatest portion of halibut bycatch occurs in the BSAI. NMFS manages halibut bycatch in the BSAI groundfish fisheries by (1) establishing halibut PSC limits for trawl and non-trawl fisheries; (2) apportioning those halibut PSC limits to groundfish sectors, fishery categories, and seasons; and (3) managing groundfish fisheries to prevent halibut PSC use from exceeding the established limits. The proposed rule contains a detailed explanation of halibut bycatch management in the BSAI groundfish fisheries (80 FR 71650, 71654-71660, November 16, 2015).

Consistent with National Standard 1 and National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Council and NMFS use halibut PSC limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable as required by National Standard 9, while achieving, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries as required by National Standard 1. With one limited exception, groundfish fishing is prohibited once a halibut PSC limit has been reached for a particular sector, fishery, or season, depending on the particular halibut PSC limit. The limited exception is that groundfish fishing in the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” trawl fishery is not prohibited if that fishery reaches its halibut PSC limit. (80 FR 71650, 71658, November 16, 2015). Although there is no formal regulatory constraint, this fishery (pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species”) has not exceeded its halibut PSC limit in recent years (i.e., 2013, 2014 and 2015).

The use of halibut PSC limits in the groundfish fisheries reduces halibut bycatch and promotes conservation of the halibut resource. Halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries may affect commercial, sport, and subsistence halibut fishing opportunities by decreasing the amount of halibut available for those fisheries. Therefore, the Council and NMFS establish halibut PSC limits to balance the needs of fishermen, fishing communities, and U.S. consumers that consume halibut and groundfish.

Actions Implemented by This Rule

This final rule changes the halibut PSC limits for BSAI groundfish fisheries. This table shows the current halibut PSC limits and the halibut PSC limits that will be in effect with this final rule.

BSAI Groundfish fisheries—sectors Description of sector Previous
  • halibut PSC
  • limit
  • (mt)
  • Halibut PSC
  • limit
  • established
  • under this
  • final rule
  • (mt)
  • Percentage
  • decrease from
  • the previous
  • halibut PSC
  • limit
  • 1. Amendment 80 Non-pollock trawl catcher/processors 2,325 1,745 25 2. BSAI trawl limited access All other trawl catcher/processors 875 745 15 3. BSAI non-trawl Primarily hook-and-line catcher/processors 833 710 15 4. CDQ Program Vessels fishing for CDQ groups 393 315 20 Overall BSAI limit 4,426 3,515 21 PSC limits are stated in metric tons of halibut mortality. CDQ Program = Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program.

    With one exception, this final rule does not change the complex process for apportioning halibut PSC limits among sectors, fisheries, and seasons (see regulations at § 679.21(b)). The exception is that this final rule makes a single process change to halibut PSC apportionment for the CDQ Program. Under current regulations, the allocation of halibut PSC to the CDQ Program is made as a Prohibited Species Quota Reserve (PSQ Reserve) that is derived partly from the halibut PSC limit established for the trawl fisheries and partly from the halibut PSC limit for the non-trawl fisheries. This final rule establishes a separate halibut PSC limit for the CDQ Program. The halibut PSC limit for the CDQ Program will be established specifically in regulation, and will no longer be derived from the halibut PSC limit established for the trawl and non-trawl fisheries.

    For a full description of the apportionment of halibut PSC among the BSAI groundfish fisheries, see the section in the preamble to the proposed rule, “Halibut Bycatch Management in the BSAI Groundfish Fisheries” (80 FR 71650, 71655-71656, November 16, 2015).

    Summary of Regulatory Changes

    This final rule makes the following changes to regulations at 50 CFR part 679:

    • Moves the general provisions on prohibited species bycatch management from § 679.21(b) to § 679.21(a).

    • Moves all the provisions on BSAI halibut bycatch management in current § 679.21(e) to a new § 679.21(b) and reorganizes the provisions in the new § 679.21(b) to improve clarity.

    • Establishes new BSAI halibut PSC limits in § 679.21(b): 1,745 mt for the Amendment 80 sector; 745 mt for the BSAI trawl limited access sector; 710 mt for the BSAI non-trawl sector; and 315 mt for the CDQ Program.

    • Uses the term “PSC allowance” rather than “bycatch allowance” in § 679.21(b) and uses the term “PSC” rather than “incidental catch” in § 679.21(b)(1)(ii)(C).

    • Changes cross-references from § 679.21(e) to § 679.21(b) where necessary.

    • Changes the BSAI halibut PSC limits in Table 35 and Table 40 to the new limits.

    Changes From the Proposed Rule

    This final rule does not change any of the regulations as proposed in the proposed rule (80 FR 71650, November 16, 2015).

    Response to Comments

    NMFS received 39 unique comments on the proposed rule or Amendment 111 from 17 commenters. The 17 commenters consisted of six individuals; three fishing industry groups, one of which represents Amendment 80 participants, one of which represents hook-and-line catcher/processors, one of which represents predominantly hook-and-line catcher vessels; three Alaska Native Tribal Organizations; one Alaska Native Village Corporation; one non-profit corporation engaged in commercial fishing; one for-profit corporation engaged in wilderness marine tours; one conservation organization; and one anonymous comment.

    Of the 17 commenters, 14 explicitly supported adoption of the proposed halibut PSC reductions. Most of these commenters (12 out of 14) favored larger halibut PSC limit reductions. The comment from the corporation engaged in wilderness tours was the only comment that recommended that the Secretary disapprove Amendment 111. The comment from the Amendment 80 fishing industry group questioned whether the proposed halibut PSC limit reductions were practicable but did not recommend disapproval of Amendment 111 or rejection of the proposed rule.

    In responding to these comments, when NMFS refers to Amendment 111, unless otherwise noted, NMFS means Amendment 111 and this final rule implementing Amendment 111. There were no public comments asserting that the proposed rule is not consistent with Amendment 111, and NMFS did not make any changes from the proposed to this final rule. Therefore, NMFS' responses to comments on Amendment 111 also apply to the proposed and final rules.

    Comments Related to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and National Standards Generally

    Comment 1: Amendment 111 should be approved and implemented.

    Response: The Secretary, through his designee, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, approved Amendment 111 on January 20, 2016, and implements Amendment 111 with this final rule. The Secretary concluded that the PSC limit reductions in Amendment 111 are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act including the national standards and other applicable law.

    Comment 2: Twelve commenters stated they were in favor of the Secretary approving Amendment 111 but would have preferred larger reductions in the PSC limits. Some of these commenters stated that Amendment 111 was a “first step,” was “a step in the right direction,” and was “a positive action,” to reducing BSAI halibut bycatch.

    Response: Before the Council recommended Amendment 111 for approval and implementation by the Secretary, the Council reviewed an extensive record that included the Analysis, input from Council and NMFS staff, and extensive public testimony. The Council considered a broad range of potential halibut PSC limit reductions, and recommended Amendment 111 only after considering halibut PSC limit reductions that ranged from 10 to 50 percent lower than the current halibut PSC limits in each BSAI groundfish sector. The Council recommended halibut PSC limit reductions within the range of the alternatives considered.

    The Council concluded, and the Secretary agreed, that Amendment 111 is consistent with all national standards, and specifically the directive in National Standard 9 to minimize halibut PSC to the extent practicable while preserving the potential for the harvest of optimum yield in the BSAI fisheries consistent with National Standard 1. The Council also concluded, and the Secretary agreed, that Amendment 111 would take into account the effect of halibut PSC limit reductions on communities dependent on the groundfish fisheries and communities dependent on the halibut fishery consistent with National Standard 8. The Council concluded, and NMFS agrees, that the PSC limits reductions in Amendment 111 met the purpose and need for this action, namely to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable while preserving the potential for optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries. (Section 1.2 of Analysis) The rationale for rejecting larger PSC reductions in each sector is explained in the proposed rule (80 FR 71650, 71663—71668, November 16, 2015) and is summarized in the response to Comment 14.

    Comment 3: NMFS should adopt the BSAI halibut PSC limits in Amendment 111 by implementing a final rule with those reductions. However, NMFS should reject the part of the proposed rule that asserts that the proposed rule complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Act because Amendment 111 does not represent a proper balancing of the national standards in the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    Response: As explained in response to Comments 1 and 2, the Secretary determined that Amendment 111 is consistent with the national standards and other applicable law and approved Amendment 111 on January 20, 2016.

    Comment 4: The Secretary should disapprove Amendment 111, withdraw the proposed rule, and instruct the Council to expedite the preparation of a new FMP amendment that recommends larger halibut PSC limit reductions.

    Response: As explained in response to Comments 1 and 2, the Secretary has determined that Amendment 111 is consistent with the national standards and other applicable law and approved Amendment 111 on January 20, 2016. The Council recommended Amendment 111 after considering halibut PSC limit reductions that were 10 to 50 percent lower than the current halibut PSC limits in each BSAI groundfish sector. The Council concluded that larger reductions are not practicable and would reduce the net benefit to the nation. The rationale the Council and NMFS used for concluding that larger reductions in PSC limits are not practicable is described in the preamble to the proposed rule. (80 FR 71650, 71663-71668, November 16, 2015). See also responses to Comments 2 and 14.

    Comment 5: The proposed rule concluded that the halibut PSC limit reductions for the Amendment 80 sector would provide the greatest benefit to the nation. (80 FR 71650, 71664, November 16, 2015) In reaching this conclusion, NMFS did not consider the high value of the halibut fishery and resource.

    Response: NMFS agrees that halibut has a high socioeconomic value but disagrees that the Analysis for this action did not take that into account. The Analysis contains numerous sections that describe the value of the commercial halibut fishery and summarize the potential impact of halibut PSC reductions ranging from 10 to 50 percent lower than the current halibut PSC limits in each sector (see Sections 4, 5 and Appendix D in the Analysis). For each level of halibut PSC limit reduction analyzed, the Analysis evaluated possible benefits to the directed halibut fishery by looking at the estimated increase in wholesale revenues in the directed halibut fishery that would occur from each level of reduction. The wholesale revenues in the directed halibut fishery are based on the estimated price per pound for halibut sold (see, e.g., Table ES-4 and ES-5 in the Analysis).

    The Analysis also looked at the socioeconomic value of halibut among the various communities that participate in the halibut fisheries. Section 4.5.3 and Appendix C of the Analysis described the socioeconomic impacts of the alternatives analyzed by the Council before it selected a preferred alternative. Appendix C looked at various metrics to measure the value of the directed halibut fisheries to communities including vessel ownership related to the directed commercial halibut fishery and employment related to the directed commercial halibut fishery. Appendix C also evaluated the value of halibut, and the potential impacts from the action alternatives, on the subsistence fisheries, and Section 3.1.4.3 assessed the potential impact of Amendment 111 on sport halibut fisheries.

    Comment 6: NMFS should take, or commit to taking, the following additional actions to reduce halibut bycatch: Additional reductions in the halibut PSC limits; modifications to the process for annual groundfish total allowable catch (TAC) allocations to better incorporate concerns about halibut bycatch; adopting an abundance-based management for halibut so that PSC limits in some way automatically decrease when halibut is scarce and automatically increase when halibut is abundant; adopting a performance standard for halibut PSC management by the Amendment 80 sector; mandating deck sorting to ensure halibut are returned to sea as soon as possible to reduce the mortality of halibut bycatch; limiting the reallocation of halibut PSC from the BSAI trawl limited access sector to the Amendment 80 sector so that unused halibut PSC in the BSAI trawl limited access sector is not fully used; and adopting area closures for the BSAI groundfish fisheries on a seasonal basis to reduce the potential impacts of groundfish fisheries on halibut habitat.

    Response: The actions suggested by the commenters are outside the scope of this final rule. NMFS notes that the Council and NMFS, in conjunction with the IPHC, are considering a range of actions to improve the management of halibut PSC. Several of the actions suggested by the commenter are under consideration. A partial list of actions underway or under consideration follows:

    • A joint meeting to promote a more collaborative approach to halibut management in February 2015;

    • The development of a halibut framework document to further the objective to balance the needs of directed halibut users and halibut bycatch users in the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska. This framework document will be reviewed by the Council in April 2016;

    • The establishment of a work group comprised of Council, NMFS, and IPHC staff to evaluate linking halibut PSC limits to a metric or metrics of halibut abundance in December 2015;

    • Beginning in December 2015, annual reporting by Amendment 80 cooperatives describing their ongoing efforts to avoid halibut bycatch to ensure halibut PSC use is below the halibut PSC limits that would be established for the Amendment 80 cooperatives under this final rule; and

    • NMFS' approval of an expedited exempted fishing permit in 2015 to evaluate halibut deck sorting as a means to reduce halibut bycatch mortalities (Appendix A-7 of the Analysis). NMFS is currently processing an application for an additional exempted fishing permit to test halibut deck sorting methods for 2016.

    For a more complete description of the range of actions being considered by the Council, IPHC, and NMFS to address halibut bycatch management, please see the newsletters on the Council's Web site: http://www.npfmc.org/npfmc-newsletters/.

    Comments Associated With Specific National Standards

    Comment 7: Under National Standard 1, an FMP should prevent overfishing while achieving, on a sustainable basis, the “optimum yield” from a fishery. The definition of optimum yield in the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the optimum yield is the amount of fish that “will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems.” (16 U.S.C. 1802(33)) Halibut bycatch is preventing the directed halibut fishery from achieving optimum yield.

    Response: Halibut does not have an “optimum yield” within the Magnuson-Stevens Act definition because halibut is not managed pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Halibut is managed under the Convention between the United States and Canada for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea (Convention), signed at Ottawa, Ontario, on March 2, 1953, as amended by a Protocol Amending the Convention (signed at Washington, DC on March 29, 1979). The Convention is implemented in the U.S. by the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (Halibut Act). Therefore halibut bycatch is not preventing the achieving of optimum yield in the directed halibut fishery because halibut does not have an “optimum yield” established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    Pursuant to the Convention, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) makes stock assessment and catch limit decisions for halibut. Although the IPHC does not establish an “optimum yield” for halibut, the IPHC harvest policy includes a harvest control rule that reduces commercial harvest rates linearly if the stock is estimated to have fallen below established thresholds for female spawning biomass. These harvest control rules would severely curtail the commercial halibut fishery during times of particularly poor stock conditions. The current status of the halibut stock has not triggered the application of the IPHC's restrictive harvest control rules. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71652, November 16, 2015). Even without any reduction in halibut PSC limits, the halibut stock is stable or potentially increasing slightly in overall abundance, as measured by the IPHC stock assessment of exploitable halibut biomass and female spawning biomass. (Section 3.1.1 of the Analysis; 80 FR 71650, 71651, November 16, 2015).

    Amendment 111 does, however, seek to reduce halibut bycatch in the BSAI groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable as required by National Standard 9. If halibut bycatch is decreased, there will be more halibut available for the IPHC to allocate to the directed halibut fisheries: Commercial, sport and subsistence. NMFS therefore expects that this action will decrease halibut PSC use and will make more halibut available for the directed halibut fisheries.

    Comment 8: Amendment 111 does not properly balance National Standard 1 and National Standard 9. NMFS has described the purpose of the amendment as limiting “the use of PSC limits to minimize halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries, to the extent practicable, while achieving, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries.” (e.g., Notice of Availability, 80 FR 66486, 66487, October 29, 2015; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71651, November 16, 2015). These statements indicate that halibut PSC limit reductions are only practicable if the reductions allow for optimum yield in the groundfish fishery. National Standard 1 and National Standard 9, read together, require that necessary and practicable bycatch reduction measures must be implemented, even if that results in a downward adjustment in the optimum yield of the BSAI groundfish fishery.

    Response: The preferred alternative that is implemented by this final rule balances the need to minimize halibut bycatch to the extent practicable, consistent with National Standard 9, with the requirement to achieve optimum yield in the groundfish fishery, consistent with National Standard 1. In developing the preferred alternative, NMFS and the Council have appropriately balanced obligations under National Standard 1 and National Standard 9.

    Section 1.2 of the Analysis states: “The purpose of the proposed action is to minimize halibut PSC in the commercial groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable, while preserving the potential for the optimum harvest of the groundfish TACs assigned to the trawl and non-trawl sectors.” (emphasis added) The preferred alternative selected by the Council and implemented by this final rule preserves the potential for the BSAI groundfish fisheries to achieve optimum yield by harvesting the TACs assigned to the different BSAI groundfish fisheries. However, this final rule may result in some BSAI groundfish fisheries, in some years, harvesting less than their TACs.

    The Council and NMFS did not exclude the preferred alternative implemented by this final rule because it may result in a decrease in groundfish harvests in some groundfish fisheries in some years. The Analysis before the Council and NMFS states that the halibut PSC limit reductions imposed under Amendment 111 may result in decreased harvests by the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The preamble to the proposed rule states that Amendment 111 is likely to result in groundfish harvests below the TACs for several fisheries prosecuted by the Amendment 80 sector. (80 FR 71,650, 71,663, November 16, 2015)

    The Analysis estimates that Amendment 111 could result in groundfish harvest reductions in the Amendment 80 sector between 9,500 mt and 25,700 mt each year during the 10-year period considered (2014 to 2023) in the Analysis, for a total possible reduction of 95,000 mt to 257,000 mt over this 10-year period. As described in the Analysis, this could translate to a reduction in wholesale revenues for groundfish fishery participants between $6.2 million and $18.7 million for each year during this 10-year period, for a total of $62 million to $187 million throughout this 10-year period (Table ES-4 of Analysis; 80 FR 71650, 71663, November 16, 2015).

    This rule provides the flexibility for participants in the groundfish fisheries to potentially harvest the TAC assigned to their fisheries. This rule minimizes bycatch to the extent practicable by recognizing that different sectors of the groundfish fisheries have available different tools to minimize halibut bycatch (see also responses to Comments 14 and 15). The fact that this rule will reduce halibut PSC limits, and likely result in reductions in groundfish harvests, supports the conclusion that Amendment 111 reflects a well-reasoned and articulated balance between National Standards 1 and 9.

    Comment 9: Social and economic factors must be considered when establishing optimum yield under National Standard 1. The proposed rule does not discuss this requirement.

    Response: The commenter is correct that social and economic factors are considered when establishing the optimum yield for a fishery. Optimum yield, as defined in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, is that amount of fish which “will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, and taking into account the protection of marine ecosystems” and the amount of fish which “is prescribed as such on the basis of the maximum sustainable yield from the fishery, as reduced by any relevant economic, social, or ecological factor” (16 U.S.C. 1802(33)(A); 16 U.S.C. 1802(33)(B)). Amendment 111 and the proposed rule did not propose to change the optimum yield of the BSAI groundfish fisheries, which is specified in regulations as a range from 1.4 million to 2.0 million metric tons. (§ 679.20(a)(1)(i)(A)) Therefore NMFS did not elaborate on the factors that go into establishing optimum yield. As noted in the response to Comment 7, the requirement to establish an optimum yield does not apply to halibut.

    Although Amendment 111 does not change the optimum yield established for the BSAI groundfish fisheries, fishery regulations require that the total of the TACs for the BSAI groundfish fisheries must come within the optimum yield range. (§ 679.20(a)(2)) As noted also in the response to Comment 8, the proposed rule acknowledged that Amendment 111 would likely decrease groundfish harvests below TAC for the Amendment 80 sector (80 FR 71650, 71663, November 16, 2015). The Council concluded, and NMFS agrees, that the likely economic loss from foregone harvests under this final rule is outweighed by the potential decrease in halibut bycatch and the potential increase in halibut available for the directed halibut fisheries.

    Comment 10: Amendment 111 is not fair and equitable under National Standard 4. A fundamental flaw in the proposed rule and the Analysis is that the Analysis uses the status quo halibut PSC limits as the baseline for analysis. That is not fair because the directed halibut fishery has declined 63 percent in Area 4 and 67 percent in Area 4CDE from 2003 through 2013.

    Response: The Analysis does evaluate a “no action” or “Status Quo” alternative. When taking action, NMFS is under an obligation to analyze a “no action” alternative in the Environmental Assessment portion of the Analysis. (Section 5.03b, NOAA Administrative Order 216-6, May 20, 1999, available at http://www.nepa.noaa.gov/) The Environmental Assessment would have been deficient if it did not analyze a “no action” or “Status Quo” alternative. Whether Amendment 111 is consistent with National Standard 4 is a separate question.

    The Council and NMFS determined, and the Secretary concluded, that Amendment 111 is consistent with National Standard 4 (see Section 6.1 of Analysis). National Standard 4 provides that “conservation and management measures shall not discriminate between residents of different states. If it becomes necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges among various U.S. fishermen, such allocation shall be A) fair and equitable to all such fishermen, B) reasonably calculated to promote conservation, and C) carried out in such a manner that no particular individual, corporation, or other entity acquires an excessive share of such privileges.” (16 U.S.C. 1851).

    Amendment 111 does not discriminate between residents of specific states. Amendment 111 does not use residency of any fishermen, or group of fishermen, as a criterion for reduction of a PSC limit in any sector.

    Amendment 111 is fair and equitable to the fishermen affected by Amendment 111. Amendment 111 reduces the PSC limits for a legitimate objective. Amendment 111 seeks to minimize halibut PSC to the extent practicable while maintaining, on a continuing basis, the potential to achieve optimum yield from the groundfish fishery. Amendment 111 achieves that objective fairly and equitably by decreasing halibut PSC limits by sector and by establishing the PSC reduction for each sector based on an evaluation of what is practicable for that sector.

    The Council recommended Amendment 111 after analyzing a status quo alternative (no reductions in the halibut PSC limits for each sector) and alternatives with reductions ranging from 10 to 50 percent lower than the current halibut PSC limits in each sector. The Analysis showed that residents of various states, including Alaska and states of the Pacific Northwest, participate in the directed groundfish fisheries and the directed halibut fisheries and may be affected by this final rule. For each groundfish sector in the groundfish fisheries and for the directed halibut fisheries, the Analysis describes the participants in each fishery (Section 4.4 and 4.5 of Analysis) and the effects of each alternative, including the status quo alternative, on the groundfish fisheries and the directed halibut fisheries (Section 4.7 through 4.14 of Analysis).

    In developing Amendment 111, the Council and NMFS recognized that under the status quo, the directed halibut fisheries have experienced reductions in catch limits as the halibut stock has declined (Section 4.5. of Analysis). The Analysis sets out the percentage declines cited in the comment (see text associated with Table 4-85 and Table 4-86 in Section 4.5.1 of Analysis). The Council and NMFS recognize that the reductions in halibut PSC limits in Amendment 111 will likely increase the halibut available for the directed fisheries and, in some years, may reduce groundfish harvests and therefore revenues for participants in the directed groundfish fisheries (Table ES-4 of Analysis; 80 FR 71650, 71663, November 16, 2015).

    Amendment 111 is reasonably calculated to promote conservation consistent with National Standard 4. The Council and NMFS do not anticipate that Amendment 111 will have a significant effect on overall halibut mortality but do expect it to have a limited conservation benefit. The IPHC's current measure for a juvenile halibut is a halibut that is 26 inches and under or “U26 halibut.” (Section 3.1.2.1 of Analysis) In response to this rule, the IPHC may increase the catch limits for the directed commercial halibut fishery. Even if the IPHC does that, U26 halibut still may not be retained by any fishery. This rule is expected to have a limited conservation benefit because decreasing bycatch overall will decrease bycatch of U26 halibut. Some of those U26 halibut will mature and, of those, some will reproduce.

    The preamble to the proposed rule described the estimated limited conservation benefit from this action. (80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015). The Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that the reduction in U26 mortality from this action ranges from 188,000 to 210,000 pounds annually compared to the status quo. (Section 3.1.5.3 of Analysis) This conservation benefit is limited because this number of U26 halibut comprises a small proportion of the total female spawning biomass of halibut. This number of U26 halibut (188,000 to 210,000 pounds) is substantially less than 1 percent of the total female spawning biomass which, in 2015, was estimated to be 215.10 million pounds (Table 3-1 of Analysis).

    Finally, consistent with National Standard 4, Amendment 111 does not result in any particular individual, corporation, or other entity acquiring an excessive share of the PSC reductions in Amendment 111. The reductions in PSC limits are spread across the individuals within each sector. The reductions in PSC limits do not change the amount of PSC that each participant in a sector has relative to other participants in the sector.

    Comment 11: National Standard 5 requires that “conservation and management measures consider efficiency; except no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.” (16 U.S.C. 1851) The guideline in Federal regulation for applying National Standard 5 states that “efficiency” refers to the wise use of all resources involved in the fishery, including ecological resources (50 CFR 600.330(e)). Reducing halibut bycatch reduces waste and constitutes wise and efficient use of the resource.

    Response: NMFS agrees that reducing halibut bycatch constitutes a wise and efficient use of the resource, but accepts that some level of halibut bycatch is inevitable in the prosecution of the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Halibut bycatch is a function of the overlapping distribution of groundfish and halibut as well as regulatory requirements established by NMFS and the IPHC that require the discard of halibut harvested with trawl gear or in fisheries other than defined commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries. Therefore, the current regulatory structure ensures that some degree of halibut bycatch must occur. The Council concluded, and NMFS agrees, that Amendment 111 reduces halibut PSC, or halibut bycatch, by the BSAI groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable consistent with National Standard 9.

    Comment 12: Amendment 111 is not consistent with National Standard 8. The Analysis does not adequately evaluate the cultural and socioeconomic benefits of the halibut resource to the isolated communities of the Bering Sea, especially St. Paul and St. George, and the dozens of coastal communities throughout Alaska and the entire Pacific Coast that depend on the halibut resource for subsistence, sport, and commercial fishing and that are negatively affected by halibut bycatch.

    Response: National Standard 8 provides: “Conservation and management measures shall, consistent with the conservation requirements of this Act (including the prevention of overfishing and rebuilding of overfished stocks), take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities by utilizing economic and social data that meet the requirements of paragraph (2), in order to (A) provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and (B) to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.” (16 U.S.C. 1851(a)(8)). The reference to paragraph (2) is to National Standard 2: “Conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information” (16 U.S.C. 1851(a)(8)).

    The Council and NMFS used the best available scientific information to assess the importance of the directed halibut fishery to various communities. For example, Appendix C to the Analysis is devoted solely to the impacts of this action on communities that are dependent on and engaged in the BSAI groundfish fisheries and communities that are dependent on and engaged in the directed halibut fisheries. Appendix C identified 15 halibut-dependent communities in the BSAI based on a variety of metrics. These communities include St. Paul and St. George (Table 1-1). Appendix C presented qualitative and quantitative information to assist the Council and NMFS in assessing the effects of this action on halibut-dependent communities and other communities by examining metrics such as the ownership of halibut catcher vessels by community (Table 2-6a); ex-vessel gross revenues from halibut catcher vessels by community (Table 2-6b); number of BSAI subsistence halibut fishermen, halibut caught, and pounds of halibut caught in Area 4 (Table 2-8); and estimated annual halibut crew and halibut crew payments by community (Table 3-10). In addition to the Analysis, the Council and NMFS had the benefit of extensive public testimony on the importance of subsistence and commercial fisheries to the residents of St. Paul and St. George and other communities engaged in the directed halibut fisheries.

    Amendment 111 minimizes bycatch to the extent practicable as determined by the Council based on the best available information. Amendment 111 is expected to provide additional harvest opportunities to residents of St. George and St. Paul, based on the assumption that the IPHC will respond to the decreased bycatch resulting from Amendment 111 by increasing the commercial catch limit. Appendix C estimated the distribution of the expected increase in harvests in the directed halibut fishery in Area 4 from Amendment 111 among communities in Northwest Alaska; communities in Bristol Bay, the Aleutians and the Pribilof Islands (including St. Paul and St. George); communities in other parts of Alaska; and communities in other states (Table 4-4; Table 4-5). Appendix C also examined the potential impacts of the PSC limit reductions in Amendment 111 on BSAI communities engaged in the halibut subsistence fishery (Section 4.2.4 of Appendix C of Analysis) and the sport halibut fishery (Section 4.2.5 of Appendix C of Analysis). The Analysis also discussed the potential long-term impacts of Amendment 111 on directed halibut fishery participants and communities reliant on the halibut resource outside of the BSAI (Section 4.14.1.2 of Analysis).

    Appendix C also described the adverse impacts that Amendment 111 would likely have on communities that are substantially engaged in the directed groundfish fisheries (Table 2-1a through Table 2-5f). In selecting Amendment 111, the Council weighed the potential benefits to fishing communities against the potential adverse impacts to fishing communities that could result under each halibut PSC limit reduction alternative.

    Comment 13: St. Paul and St. George are much more dependent on the halibut fisheries than Seattle, Washington and Newport, Oregon are dependent on the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The interests of St. Paul and St. George are not properly weighed in the Analysis.

    Response: Under National Standard 8, conservation and management measures shall take into account the importance of fishery resources to “fishing communities.” The term “fishing community” in the Magnuson-Stevens Act means “a community which is substantially dependent on or substantially engaged in the harvest or processing of fishery resources to meet social and economic needs, and includes fishing vessel owners, operators, and crew and United States fish processors that are based in such communities” (16 U.S.C. 1802(17)). An analysis of conservation and management measures should examine the effect of a proposed action on communities that are substantially dependent on the fishery resource in question and on communities that are substantially engaged with the fishery resource in question (50 CFR. 600.345(c)).

    In approving Amendment 111, the Council was aware that communities such as St. Paul and St. George are substantially dependent on halibut. Appendix C of the Analysis specifically identified 15 communities that are considered to be halibut-dependent (Table ES-2 in Appendix C to Analysis). The Analysis considered the best available data on the importance of the directed halibut fisheries to halibut-dependent communities such as St. Paul and St. George. The Council and NMFS considered this information, in addition to public testimony from residents of these communities.

    The Council and NMFS reviewed the Analysis and considered the impacts of Amendment 111 on communities engaged in the BSAI groundfish fishery, including Seattle and Newport. The Analysis notes that Seattle and Newport are substantially engaged in the BSAI groundfish fisheries but, because of the size of those communities, the availability of other employment and other factors, Seattle and Newport were not substantially dependent on the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The Analysis noted: “While community-level dependence is not a salient issue for the Seattle MSA, potential adverse impacts of some of the Alternative 2 options and suboptions would be profound in terms of potential loss of revenues to individual operations and sectors and potential loss of income and/or employment to relatively large numbers of individuals.” (ES-5 in Appendix C to Analysis). Seattle MSA stands for Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area.

    In recommending Amendment 111, the Council weighed the benefits to halibut-dependent fishing communities from different levels of PSC reductions against the adverse impacts to communities that are substantially engaged in the BSAI groundfish fisheries.

    Comment 14: Amendment 111 does not decrease bycatch to the extent practicable. Larger PSC reductions are practicable and therefore must be adopted to be consistent with National Standard 9.

    Response: The Council approved Amendment 111 after considering halibut PSC limit reductions that were 10 to 50 percent lower than the current halibut PSC limits in each BSAI groundfish sector. The Council and NMFS considered the practicability of each sector to meet these revised PSC limits. The preamble to the proposed rule contains a description of the specific factors considered in the section titled “Rationale and Impacts of Amendment 111 and the Proposed Rule” (80 FR 71650, 71661—71668, November 16, 2015).

    For each sector, the Council and NMFS considered the relative amount of halibut PSC for that sector compared to the total amount of halibut PSC in the BSAI; whether the sector had been able to harvest groundfish TACs with lower amounts of halibut PSC than the sector's current PSC limit; what “tools” or changes in fishery operations were available to the sector to adapt to reductions in the halibut PSC limit for that sector; and the potential socioeconomic impacts of reduced halibut PSC limits for each sector. As part of the last consideration, the Council and NMFS considered the potential adverse socioeconomic impacts of halibut PSC limit reductions from reduced groundfish harvests on harvesters of BSAI groundfish and on fishing communities that participate in the groundfish fisheries, as well the potential benefits to the harvesters of halibut and to fishing communities that participate in the halibut fishery. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71663, November 16, 2015).

    Based on these factors and the information described in the Analysis and the preamble to the proposed rule, the Council recommended and NMFS implemented the halibut PSC limits described in this final rule. A brief summary for each of the sectors follows.

    For the Amendment 80 sector, Amendment 111 reduces the PSC limit by 25 percent: from 2,325 to 1,745 mt. The Amendment 80 sector is the sector that uses the largest amount of halibut PSC. The Amendment 80 sector is responsible for about 60 percent of halibut PSC use, based on average PSC usage from 2008 through 2014 (Table 1, Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71660, November 16, 2015). This final rule imposes the largest halibut PSC limit reduction on the sector which is most able to decrease bycatch through behavioral changes. The Amendment 80 sector is prosecuted by Amendment 80 cooperatives. Amendment 80 cooperatives have the power to coordinate the responses of their members to reduced PSC limits. Amendment 80 cooperatives are also more able to adopt tools to decrease bycatch as compared to a sector where individual fishery participants engage in a “race for fish” against other participants in a sector. The tools to decrease bycatch are behavior changes such as expanding the use of gear modifications known as excluders to reduce bycatch; improving communication on the fishing grounds within and between the Amendment 80 cooperatives; using test hauls to gauge halibut rates and considering the use of night-time hauls that tend to have lower halibut PSC. The tools to reduce PSC—those just mentioned and others—are described in the proposed rule (80 FR 71650, 71664, November 16, 2015) and in further detail in Section 3.1.3.6 and Appendix B of the Analysis.

    The Council considered, and rejected, alternatives that would have adopted greater reductions in the PSC limit for the Amendment 80 sector. The proposed rule summarizes the Council and NMFS' reasoning for concluding that greater reductions were not practicable for the Amendment 80 sector (80 FR 71650, 71664, November 16, 2015). The Council and NMFS concluded that alternatives that would have reduced the halibut PSC limit by 30, 35, 40, 45, or 50 percent in the Amendment 80 sector would have come at significant economic cost to the Amendment 80 sector and fishing communities participating in the Amendment 80 fisheries. Based on the best available information, the Council and NMFS concluded that it was not clear that the Amendment 80 sector could make additional changes in fishery operations to accommodate higher PSC limit reductions other than foregoing substantial harvests and revenue. The Council and NMFS concluded that greater PSC reductions in the Amendment 80 sector would have reduced net benefits to the Nation “because the socioeconomic benefits from the potential increase in harvest opportunities would be less than the negative socioeconomic impacts from foregone BSAI groundfish harvests.” (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71664, November 16, 2015).

    For the BSAI trawl limited access sector, Amendment 111 reduces the PSC limit by 15 percent: from 875 mt to 745 mt. This sector has used, on average from 2008 through 2014, 710 mt; in all of those years, it used less than 745 mt except in 2012, when it used 960 mt of halibut PSC (Table 1 in Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71660, November 16, 2015; Table 3-12 of Analysis).

    Unlike the Amendment 80 sector, the “race for fish” still exists in large parts of the BSAI trawl limited access sector, specifically in the Pacific cod and yellowfin sole fisheries (Section 4.9 of Analysis; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71666, November 16, 2015.) This affects what bycatch reduction is practicable for this sector. The Council recommended, and NMFS proposed, a 15 percent reduction in the halibut PSC limit for the BSAI trawl limited access sector after considering the relatively limited amount of halibut PSC in this sector; the more limited tools available to the sector to reduce its halibut PSC use; the overall socioeconomic cost to the sector, communities participating in the sector, and the Nation from larger reductions in the PSC limit for this sector; and the limited benefits that larger reductions in the PSC limit for this sector might provide to the halibut fisheries and communities participating in the halibut fisheries. The Council and NMFS also determined that the reduced halibut PSC limit in this final rule is likely to provide incentives for the BSAI trawl limited access sector to more fully develop and use tools that could improve on the relatively low PSC use that this sector achieved in 2010 and 2011. (Table 4-209 of Analysis; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71666, November 16, 2015)

    For the BSAI non-trawl limited access sector, Amendment 111 reduces the halibut PSC limit by 15 percent: from 833 mt to 710 mt. This sector has used, on average, 505 mt of halibut PSC from 2008 through 2014 (Table 1 in Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71659, 71660, November 16, 2015). The Council and NMFS did not consider greater reductions in halibut PSC limits to be practicable. Therefore, the Council did not recommend, and NMFS does not propose, larger reductions in the PSC limit for the non-trawl sector given this sector's relatively limited use of halibut PSC; this sector's consistent pattern of halibut PSC use well below its PSC limit; and the limited benefit that larger PSC reductions would likely provide to the halibut fishery and communities participating in the halibut fishery relative to the negative impacts on participants in the non-trawl sector. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71667, November 16, 2015)

    For the CDQ Program, Amendment 111 reduces the PSC limit by 20 percent: from 393 mt to 315 mt. The CDQ Program has used, on average, 215 mt of halibut PSC from 2008 through 2014. The Council and NMFS considered greater reductions in the PSC limit for this sector also but concluded that greater reductions were not practicable. The Analysis shows that the halibut PSC limit reductions for the CDQ Program would have to be extremely high to yield actual reductions. A 50 percent reduction in the PSC limit for the CDQ Program would reduce the PSC limit from 393 mt to 197 mt. A PSC limit of 197 mt for the CDQ Program would yield only 18 mt of halibut savings compared to the CDQ Program's average use of halibut PSC of 215 mt from 2008 through 2014 (Table 1 in Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71660, November 16, 2915). A PSC limit of 197 mt for the CDQ Program would yield only 47 mt of halibut savings relative to the CDQ Program's use of halibut PSC of 244 mt in 2014. (Table 4-209 of Analysis) Neither the Analysis nor public testimony suggests that halibut PSC use in the CDQ Program will increase relative to current use. Therefore, the Council and NMFS determined that it is impracticable to adopt a PSC limit that would substantially constrain the vessels participating in the CDQ Program, given the limited amount of PSC by the CDQ Program and the limited potential harvest opportunity for the commercial halibut fishery that a more restrictive halibut PSC limit for the CDQ Program would provide. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71667, November 16, 2015)

    Comment 15: Amendment 111 does not minimize bycatch to the extent practicable as required under National Standard 9 because the BSAI groundfish fisheries do not use the maximum amount of their halibut PSC limits every year. Other management approaches should be tried.

    Response: The commenter is correct that most sectors in the BSAI groundfish fisheries have been using less halibut PSC than their current PSC limit (Table 1 in Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71660, November 16, 2015). However, the halibut PSC limits established by this final rule are expected to limit halibut PSC use for the Amendment 80 sector relative to current use. The halibut PSC limit established for the Amendment 80 sector in this final rule is 1,745 mt. From 2008 through 2014, the Amendment 80 sector used more than 1,745 mt of halibut PSC every year. In 2015, for the first time, the Amendment 80 sector used 1,636 mt of halibut PSC, which is less than the new PSC limit of 1,745 mt. In establishing the new halibut PSC limit for the Amendment 80 sector, the Council and NMFS took into account the sector's history of PSC use and information that the Amendment 80 sector could make behavioral changes to decrease PSC levels below its PSC levels from 2008 through 2014 (Section 3.1.3.6 of Analysis; Section 14.4.2.2 of Analysis; Appendix B of Analysis; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71664, November 16, 2015).

    For the BSAI trawl limited access, BSAI non-trawl, and CDQ sectors, the Council and NMFS were aware that these sectors generally used less halibut PSC than their PSC limit (Table 1 to Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71660, November 16, 2015). The response to Comment 14 explains why the Council and NMFS concluded that greater reductions than implemented in this final rule are not practicable.

    Other management approaches to manage halibut bycatch are outside of the scope of this proposed rule. NMFS lists some of the suggestions it has received for alternative halibut bycatch management measures in Comment 6 and describes some actions that are underway or under consideration in the response to Comment 6.

    Comment 16: The halibut PSC limit reductions mandated in Amendment 111 will be very difficult for the Amendment 80 sector to achieve. The halibut PSC limits imposed on the Amendment 80 sector strain, and probably exceed, the limits of practicability under National Standard 9.

    Response: The Council determined that the PSC limit reductions in Amendment 111 were practicable and were consistent with National Standard 9 by considering the factors summarized in the response to Comment 14 and detailed in the Analysis and the preamble to the proposed rule. NMFS notes that the use of halibut PSC in the Amendment 80 sector during 2015 supports the conclusion that the halibut PSC limit established by this final rule is practicable. In 2015, the Amendment 80 sector used 1,636 mt of halibut PSC. That amount of halibut PSC is less than the new halibut PSC limit in this rule of 1,745 mt. The Amendment 80 sector achieved this even though no regulatory provisions were in place during 2015 requiring such a substantial reduction in halibut PSC use relative to the recent average use of halibut PSC of 2,047 mt. from 2008 through 2014.

    Comment 17: Technologies exist that can further decrease halibut bycatch in the Amendment 80 fleet. These include 1) the use of wide mesh nets to allow juvenile halibut to escape; 2) an underwater camera system that allows vessel operators to detect and release net-loads containing disproportionately high amounts of halibut bycatch underwater; and 3) other gear modifications to reduce halibut bycatch.

    Response: The ability of the Amendment 80 fleet to develop and use new technologies to decrease halibut bycatch was one of the reasons that the Council and NMFS concluded that the PSC reductions in Amendment 111 were practicable. Amendment 111 establishes an incentive for the Amendment 80 fleet to experiment with, and use, technologies such as the ones described by the commenter.

    Comment 18: Mandatory deck sorting of halibut (returning halibut to sea as quickly as possible after the harvest comes onboard) should be required so that halibut to be returned swiftly to the water. This would decrease the mortality of halibut bycatch.

    Response: Mandatory deck sorting of halibut bycatch is outside of the scope of Amendment 111and is not allowed under current regulations. To conduct deck sorting, a vessel operator must have an exemption from current regulations that prevent deck sorting. In 2015, NMFS granted an exempted fishing permit for vessels in the Amendment 80 sector to test the conditions necessary to effectively conduct deck sorting and evaluate whether deck sorting decreased mortality of halibut bycatch (Appendix A-7 of the Analysis). The results from this exempted fishing permit, and other research, indicates that deck sorting can reduce the discard mortality of halibut under some conditions. In 2016, NMFS received an application for another exempted fishing permit for deck sorting, including participants in the Amendment 80 sector and the BSAI trawl limited access sector (Notice, 81 FR 4018, January 25, 2016). After reviewing the results from these exempted fishing permits and other research, the Council and NMFS may choose to begin the analytic process necessary to consider changing regulations to allow or require halibut deck sorting.

    Comment 19: Hook-and-line catcher/processors have successfully decreased their halibut bycatch mortality. From 1994 to 2014, hook-and-line catcher/processors reduced their use of halibut PSC by 58 percent; reduced their halibut discard mortality rate by 47 percent; and reduced the encounter rate of halibut bycatch by 41 percent. It is possible to decrease halibut mortality through voluntary efforts rather than through regulations that implement lower halibut PSC limits.

    Response: NMFS acknowledges that hook-and-line catcher/processors have taken a number of steps to reduce halibut PSC use during the period described by the commenter. Table 3-14 of the Analysis provides a description of the use of halibut PSC by hook-and-line catcher/processors from 2008 through 2014.

    Comment 20: Amendment 111 does not adequately take into account the effect of halibut bycatch on the recreational (sport) halibut fishery.

    Response: Under the current IPHC policy, for those IPHC management areas that occur in the BSAI (Areas 4A, 4B, and 4CDE), the IPHC deducts bycatch, sport, and subsistence halibut removals before establishing the commercial catch limit (Section 3.1.2.1 of Analysis). The IPHC does not deduct halibut used as bycatch from the amount that would otherwise be available for harvest in the Area 4 sport fishery. Therefore, unlike the case for the commercial halibut fishery, a reduction in halibut PSC limits would not directly affect the Area 4 sport fishery by making more halibut directly available for allocation to the sport fishery (Section 4.5.2 to Appendix C of Analysis). The response to Comment 21 describes how this final rule may provide a limited but long-term benefit to the sport fishery in Area 4 as well as sport fisheries in other IPHC areas.

    Comment 21: Amendment 111 will not only benefit the directed commercial halibut fishery. It will also benefit sport and subsistence fisheries.

    Response: The primary benefit of Amendment 111 will be to reduce the total amount of halibut bycatch removals in the BSAI (Area 4) before commercial catch limits are established, thereby increasing the amount of halibut available for commercial fishery harvests in Area 4. NMFS agrees with the commenter that Amendment 111 has the potential to provide a modest benefit to recreational and subsistence halibut fisheries as well as commercial halibut fisheries. This final rule would be expected to provide a modest long-term benefit to sport and subsistence fisheries by decreasing the bycatch of U26 halibut (the IPHC's current measure for juvenile halibut). U26 halibut are expected to grow over time and become available for harvest in sport and subsistence fisheries. (Table 3-1 in Section 3.1.1 of Analysis; 80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015). NMFS stated in the proposed rule that the specific long-term impacts of reduced U26 bycatch on potential long-term commercial, personal use, sport or subsistence harvests of halibut in specific IPHC areas “cannot be predicted with certainty given the available information.” (80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015)

    Comments Associated With Halibut Biology and Conservation

    Comment 22: Amendment 111 does not adhere to a precautionary approach of management by protecting the halibut resource from the effects of halibut PSC use in the BSAI groundfish fisheries.

    Response: This final rule follows the precautionary principle by implementing conservation measures to reduce overall halibut PSC in the groundfish fisheries even though there is limited data and information to determine the impact of halibut PSC on halibut stocks. Although the effects of halibut PSC in the groundfish fishery on the halibut fishery are uncertain, this action reduces the overall potential impacts by reducing existing halibut PSC limits in the groundfish fisheries. The halibut PSC limit reductions in the groundfish fisheries minimize bycatch to the extent practicable given the tools currently available to the sectors, the prosecution of the fishery, the uncertainty about the overall adverse effects of bycatch on the halibut stocks, and the need to ensure that the trawl and hook-and-line fisheries contribute to the achievement of optimum yield in the groundfish fisheries.

    The preamble to the proposed rule and Section 3.1.1 of the Analysis presents a summary of the current condition of the Pacific halibut stock. (80 FR 71650, 71651-71652, November 16, 2015) The preamble to the proposed rule concludes that, based on the best available information, the current status of exploitable halibut biomass and female halibut spawning biomass is “that the halibut stock is stable or potentially increasing slightly in overall abundance.” (80 FR 71650, 71651, November 16, 2015) The preamble to the proposed rule also notes that “even under the greatest PSC limit reduction alternatives considered, this reduction would represent less than 1 percent of the 2015 coastwide female spawning halibut biomass (see Table 3-2 in Section 3.1.1 of the Analysis).” (80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015). The halibut PSC limits established by this final rule are appropriately precautionary given the status of the halibut resource.

    Comment 23: Amendment 111 does not protect juvenile halibut.

    Response: By reducing halibut bycatch, Amendment 111 will decrease the amount of halibut taken by the groundfish fisheries; this reduces bycatch of juvenile halibut. The best available information shows that the halibut PSC limit reductions established in Amendment 111 will decrease U26 halibut bycatch (a size of halibut considered by the IPHC to represent juvenile halibut) by 188,000 to 210,000 pounds annually relative to recent halibut PSC use. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015)

    Comment 24: The Closed Area in the Bering Sea was established by the IPHC to protect juvenile halibut. The Closed Area was formerly closed to both the directed halibut fisheries and the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The reopening of the Closed Area to trawl fisheries removed a significant protection to juvenile halibut.

    Response: NMFS responds in two ways. First, the commenter is correct in that the Closed Area was established by the IPHC in 1967 to protect juvenile halibut in response to severe declines in halibut abundance. Whether the Closed Area should be open to the directed halibut fishery is a matter for the IPHC to decide and is outside the scope of this rule. The IPHC assessed the impact of the Closed Area recently. An IPHC staff report prepared in 2012 concluded that “from a halibut assessment and management perspective, there was no continued purpose in maintaining the current Closed Area to the commercial halibut fishery in the eastern Bering Sea” (Section 3.1.2.4 of Analysis). Second, as described in the preamble to the proposed rule and section 3.1.1 of the Analysis, the current status of the halibut stock as measured by exploitable biomass and female spawning biomass is stable or potentially increasing slightly in abundance. (80 FR 71650, 71651-71652, November 16, 2015) The fact that the Closed Area is open to the directed groundfish fisheries does not appear to have had a deleterious effect on the halibut stock. In any event, a prohibition on fishing for groundfish in the Closed Area is outside the scope of this action.

    Comment 25: The IPHC's assumption that natural mortality is the same for all age classes of halibut is not realistic and overestimates the future contribution of smaller age classes to the halibut stock.

    Response: The IPHC makes assumptions about several variables in its annual assessment of the halibut stock. Section 3.1.5.1 of the Analysis describes areas of uncertainty in the IPHC's stock assessment process, including uncertainties about the natural mortality rates for halibut for various age classes. Regardless of the effect of the IPHC's assumptions about halibut natural mortality, National Standard 9 requires conservation and management measures to minimize halibut bycatch in the BSAI groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable.

    Comments Associated With Fisheries Management

    Comment 26: The current management of halibut PSC is not abundance-based. The current management system allows the proportion of halibut removals taken as halibut bycatch to increase as halibut abundance decreases. NMFS should set halibut PSC limits based on the abundance of halibut. An abundance-based PSC limit would protect the Bering Sea ecosystem.

    Response: The commenter is correct that the current management of halibut PSC is not abundance-based. Halibut PSC limits are established in regulation as specific amounts of halibut mortality. These halibut PSC limits are not scaled to changes in halibut abundance. The change from fixed halibut PSC limits to halibut PSC limits that change with the abundance of the halibut resource is outside of the scope of this rule. The Council, in conjunction with NMFS and the IPHC, is evaluating whether it would be feasible to establish halibut PSC limits that vary with abundance (see response to comment 6).

    Comment 27: The preamble to the proposed rule states that the IPHC can adopt harvest control rules to protect the halibut stock during times of low abundance and that these harvest control rules have not been triggered even during the most recent years of low exploitable halibut biomass (80 FR 71650, 71652 (November 16, 2015). This ignores the fact that the IPHC cannot curtail the PSC take of halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries and does not excuse inaction by the Council and NMFS.

    Response: The statement cited by the commenter was in a section of the preamble to the proposed rule titled “The Status of the Halibut Stock.” The conclusion in that section of the preamble was that “[t]he best available data indicate that at current levels of removals, the halibut biomass would be expected to be stable, and well above the thresholds established by the IPHC” for imposing the harvest control rules. (80 FR 71650, 71652, November 16, 2015). The Council and NMFS used this information, and other information, to understand the status of the halibut resource and the potential impact of this final rule on the halibut resource.

    NMFS agrees that the IPHC does not manage the use of halibut PSC in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. The Council and NMFS have the authority to manage halibut PSC in the groundfish fisheries. NMFS agrees that the current status of the halibut resource does not preclude action by the Council or NMFS, and it has not precluded the action taken in this final rule, to reduce halibut PSC.

    Comment 28: The IPHC has consistently overestimated halibut biomass and therefore has set commercial catch limits too high in the recent past. The decline in commercial catch limits from 2013 through 2015 is due in part to more accurate information about the status of halibut biomass.

    Response: The commenter is correct that in 2012, IPHC staff reported that the IPHC had consistently overestimated halibut biomass and underestimated halibut harvest rates due to a retrospective bias in the IPHC's stock assessments (Section 3.1.1.1 of Analysis). The commenter is also correct that the IPHC's efforts to correct this bias is one reason that commercial catch limits declined from 2013 through 2015 compared to prior years. Although these factors have contributed to recent declines in commercial catch limits, these factors do not preclude NMFS from reviewing and undertaking actions, such as this final rule, to minimize halibut bycatch to the extent practicable consistent with National Standard 9.

    Comments Associated With the Analysis (Not Discussed Under Other Comments)

    Comment 29: The Analysis states that larger halibut PSC limit reductions would not significantly conserve the halibut resource by protecting more juvenile halibut. This conclusion strains reason and credibility.

    Response: The conclusion of the Analysis is credible and reasonable and is based on the best available information. The IPHC's current measure for a juvenile halibut is a halibut that is 26 inches and under or “U26 halibut.” (Section 3.1.2.1 of Analysis) The best available information is that approximately 36 percent of halibut PSC mortality in the BSAI is U26 halibut. (Table 4-210 in Section 4.14.1.4 of Analysis; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015) Ultimately, reductions in U26 bycatch could provide an opportunity for additional halibut to grow, reproduce, and eventually recruit to the halibut fishery (i.e., be available for harvest). The extent to which a decrease in U26 halibut PSC may affect the coastwide female spawning biomass is not well-known based on the best available information. (Section 3.1.1.2 of the Analysis) However, the best available information suggests that reductions in U26 halibut PSC under this rule are unlikely to impact the long-term abundance of the halibut stock. Even with a 50 percent reduction in PSC limits, the largest PSC reduction considered by the Council and NMFS, the reduction in the amount of U26 halibut PSC used relative to current use would likely range from 690,000 pounds to 740,000 pounds. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015) This amount would represent less than 1 percent of the 2015 coastwide female spawning biomass, which was 215.1 million pounds in 2015 (Table 3-1 of Analysis). Under the halibut PSC limit reductions established in this final rule, the reduction in U26 halibut PSC use is expected to range from 188,000 to 210,000 pounds. (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71662, November 16, 2015) This amount represents substantially less than 1 percent of the 2015 coastwide female spawning biomass of 215.1 million pounds.

    Comment 30: The Analysis focused on the economic costs of reducing halibut PSC limits on the BSAI groundfish fisheries without discussing the practicability for the groundfish fleet to make greater reductions. The Iterative Multi-year Simulation Model (IMS) in the Analysis presented two scenarios to describe potential economic impacts. Under one of those scenarios, the IMS predicted that bycatch could not be reduced without closing groundfish fisheries, an assumption that the SSC identified as unrealistic in its June 2015 Report to the Council meeting (at http://www.npfmc.org/bsai-halibut-bycatch/).

    Response: The commenter is referring to a simulation model that was used, along with other information, to provide a quantitative estimate of the economic impacts of different levels of PSC reductions on the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Section 4.6 of the Analysis describes the simulation model.

    The commenter is correct that the SSC identified that a deficiency in the model was the assumption that halibut PSC mortality could not be reduced without some decrease in groundfish harvests. This assumption is explicitly identified as Assumption 34 of the simulation model. Assumption 34 states that there are no “cost-free behavioral changes” by which vessels in the BSAI groundfish fisheries could decrease halibut PSC mortality. (Section 4.6.3 of Analysis)

    However, the Analysis did not limit its discussion of potential economic impacts on the BSAI groundfish fisheries to the quantitative results of the model. The Analysis describes behavioral and operational changes that are being made, or that could be expanded or improved, in response to a decrease in PSC limits. Section 3.1.3.6 of the Analysis describes “PSC reduction tools” in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Section 4.14.2.2 describes the “Response to PSC limit reductions.” Appendix B of the Analysis describes “Mitigation of PSC Reduction Impacts.”

    Finally, despite this and some other limitations in the model noted by the SSC, the SSC concluded the estimates of foregone revenues provided by the analytic model “likely provides an upper bound” of impacts on the groundfish fleet “as harvesters can mitigate their foregone revenue by fishing in other fisheries, in cleaner areas, or changing gear deployment of fishing practices” (June 2015 SSC Report: http://www.npfmc.org/bsai-halibut-bycatch/ at page 10).

    The Council received the SSC Report and considered it, along with all the information in the record, when it approved Amendment 111. Neither the Council nor NMFS limited review or consideration of the potential social or economic impacts of Amendment 111 on the BSAI groundfish fisheries to this specific assumption in the IMS.

    Comment 31: The Analysis does not describe the directed halibut fisheries and the BSAI groundfish fisheries equitably, as noted by the SSC in its June 2015 SSC Report: “The uneven treatment between sectors (e.g., income plurality only for halibut permit holders and demographics of employment only for trawl CPs) further confounds the ability to evaluate impacts.”

    Response: NMFS assumes that the commenter is referring to demographic data on employment of minority employees that was used in the environmental justice discussion. This data is provided in Attachment 4 to Appendix C of the Analysis. Appendix C in the Analysis reviewed by the SSC did not use employment as a measure of community engagement for trawl catcher/processors. Section 2.2 examined data such as trawl catcher/processors by community of vessel owner; first wholesale gross revenue by community of vessel owner; an estimate of first wholesale gross revenue diversification by community of vessel owner (what percentage of the catcher/processor's revenues came from BSAI groundfish trawl fisheries) (Table 2-2a, 2-2b, 2-2c to Appendix C in the Council Draft Analysis, May 2015, available at Archive of Council Meetings, June 2015, www.npfmc.org/council-meeting-archive/).

    In response to the SSC comment, Appendix C in the Analysis was expanded to include estimated crew employment and payments for the directed halibut fishery for the BSAI halibut-dependent communities. This new data is shown in Tables 3-3, 3-7, 3-10, and 3-13.

    The Council and NMFS used the best available information consistent with National Standard 2 in the Magnuson-Stevens Act to evaluate the impacts of this action on all the communities affected by this action. The SSC found that the Analysis provided scientific support for two general statements “around which the Council can frame a policy decision,” namely, that the Analysis provided an upper bound for adverse impacts on the groundfish fisheries and that the Analysis showed that the economic and cultural footprint of the directed halibut fishery is larger than that of the groundfish fishery in many small communities (June 2015 SSC Report: http://www.npfmc.org/bsai-halibut-bycatch/ at page 10).

    Comment 32: The commenter asserts that the SSC Report in June 2015 stated that the Analysis has flaws in the “upper bound” estimate on impacts on groundfish sectors provided in the IMS.

    Response: The June 2015 SSC Report stated that the upper bound estimate of potential economic impacts of Amendment 111 on the BSAI groundfish fisheries was one of the general statements “around which the Council can frame a policy decision.” The “upper bound” estimate is the same as the “high impact scenario” (Scenario B) used in IMS, the results of which are described in the Analysis and summarized in Table ES-4 of the Analysis. The simulation model reported the results of two scenarios: A low impact scenario (Scenario A) and a high impact scenario (Scenario B). In the low impact scenario, fishery participants are assumed to be able to coordinate harvesting activities with other participants in the sector to achieve almost optimal efficiency in avoiding halibut PSC. In the high impact scenario, fishery participants are assumed to act individually to decrease their own PSC but not cooperatively with other participants in the sector and do not achieve optimal efficiency in avoiding halibut PSC.

    The Council and NMFS considered both of these scenarios. Based on the Analysis and extensive public testimony before the Council, NMFS determined that the BSAI groundfish sectors have varying abilities to optimize efficient use of halibut PSC and “it is likely that the actual economic impacts of the proposed rule will fall within the range between the low impact and high impact scenarios presented in the Analysis.” (Proposed Rule, 80 FR 71650, 71661, November 16, 2015)

    Comment 33: The Council's Draft Analysis states that the revisions in the IMS described in the Analysis are based on “discussions with industry.” This is not the best available science as required by National Standard 2.

    Response: The reference to “discussions with industry” is in note 51 in section 4.8 of the Council's Draft Analysis of May 2015, which states: “In the initial draft of the analysis, the IMS did, in fact, make assumptions about which vessels operations would be cut under the PSC limit reductions. After further discussions with industry, there was not a clear consensus among managers on how they might proceed. Much would depend on vessels' specific operating characteristics and the demands of the market.” (available at Archive of Council Meetings, June 2015, www.npfmc.org/council-meeting-archive).

    The Council's Draft Analysis in section 4.6.2.3 at pages 253-254 describes these discussions in detail. These discussions were with “industry and fishery managers,” and were not limited to industry participants. These discussions were used to help define which of the four BSAI groundfish sectors should be described as catch share fisheries (and therefore more likely to be subject to economic impacts described under the low impact scenario) and which fisheries should be described as “race for fish” fisheries (and therefore more likely to be subject to economic impacts described under the high impact scenario). The final Analysis repeats the description of these discussions from the Council Draft Analysis and repeats in two places the footnote cited by the commenter (Section 4.6.2.3; Section 4.8 at note 48; Section 4.13.2.1 at note 55).

    The result of the discussions was noted in the description of Assumption 42b in Section 4.6.3 of the Analysis. Assumption 42b describes the assumptions used in the model about how participants in catch share sectors (the Amendment 80 and the BSAI non-trawl sector) would respond to decreases in PSC limits. Based on these discussions, Assumption 42b was changed so that the model “[did] not make any assumptions regarding the de-activation of individual vessels” in response to reductions in PSC limits. Previously, “[i]n the initial draft of the analysis, the IMS model did in fact make assumptions about which vessel's operations would be cut under the PSC limits reductions” (Section 4.6.3 of Analysis at note 45).

    Thus, the discussions with industry [1] were not just with industry but also with fishery managers, [2] resulted in a change of one assumption in the model, not a new model, [3] were an appropriate subject for gathering information from industry, namely how a company with a number of vessels would react to PSC limit reductions, and [4] resulted in a valid change in the model. This is an example of the use of best available information consistent with National Standard 2.

    Comment 34: Halibut is primarily consumed domestically while groundfish with its high halibut bycatch rates is primarily exported. These values are not adequately evaluated in the Analysis.

    Response: The Analysis describes the range of ex-vessel and wholesale values of halibut and groundfish fisheries. Although halibut and many groundfish species may have different markets, the impact of domestic and foreign markets is reflected in the ex-vessel and wholesale values of the fisheries described in the Analysis.

    Comment 35: The Analysis overlooks the fact that the number of halibut caught, not the poundage, is the key to evaluating the population effects on the halibut stock of halibut bycatch.

    Response: This action reduces the BSAI halibut PSC limits which are set as a limit on the total weight of halibut mortality that may be taken as bycatch. The Analysis appropriately assessed the impacts of the management alternatives based on the regulatory mechanism used to establish halibut PSC limits. Changing halibut PSC limits so that these limits restrict the number of halibut caught as bycatch is beyond the scope of Amendment 111. As noted in response to Comment 6, the Council, NMFS, and the IPHC are considering the potential for establishing halibut PSC limits based on the number of halibut. Any evaluation about the potential impacts of this alternative management approach would have to be considered under a separate action.

    Other Issues

    Comment 36: Worldwide, the rate at which fish are being taken from the oceans is unsustainable. Amendment 111 represents a scratch on the surface of what we need to do worldwide.

    Response: It is beyond the scope of this final rule, and the Analysis prepared for this rule, to evaluate the worldwide management of fisheries. NMFS appreciates that the commenter believes that Amendment 111 is a step in furtherance of sustainable fisheries.

    Comment 37: Establishing a separate PSC limit for CDQ groups is a good idea. The commenter criticized CDQ groups concerning their non-profit status and other aspects of their fishing operations.

    Response: NMFS acknowledges the commenter's support for the part of this rule that establishes a separate BSAI halibut PSC limit for CDQ Program. Comments on other aspects of the CDQ Program are beyond the scope of this final rule.

    Comment 38: As federally recognized tribal communities, protection of fishing rights in St. Paul and St. George is a shared role of both NOAA and the Department of the Interior. One commenter stated that halibut PSC limit reductions of 40 percent are necessary to protect the federally recognized fishing rights of these tribes. One tribal government passed a resolution supporting a 50 percent reduction in all halibut PSC limits in BSAI, but also requested implementation of Amendment 111.

    Response: The Council recommended, and NMFS implements, Amendment 111 under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Amendment 111 reduces halibut PSC limits in a manner that could provide additional halibut harvest opportunities for residents of St. George and St. Paul and for the tribal governments of St. George and St. Paul. The three tribal governments that submitted comments, including the tribal government that passed a resolution supporting a 50 percent reduction in BSAI halibut PSC limits, supported adoption and implementation of Amendment 111.

    Comment 39: The commenter requested a description of the standard for determining conflicts of interest for the IPHC.

    Response: This rule deals with conservation and management measures developed by the Council and approved and implemented by the Secretary under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The provisions for U.S. Commissioners to participate in issues before the IPHC are beyond the scope of this rule.

    Additional Action Accompanying This Rule

    With this rule, NMFS also publishes revised Groundfish Harvest Specification tables with revised apportionments of BSAI halibut PSC limits. At its December 2015 Council meeting, the Council approved two sets of tables that apportion the BSAI halibut PSC limits for the 2016 and 2017 annual harvest specifications: One apportionment based on the PSC limits in effect before this final rule and one apportionment based on the PSC limits that would be in effect if this final rule were approved. (http://www.npfmc.org/council-meeting-archive/). The Council approved both sets of apportionments of the BSAI halibut PSC limits so that the apportionments based on the new PSC limits would go into effect when this final rule establishing the new PSC limits went into effect. Therefore, with this final rule, NMFS publishes revised Tables 14, 16, 17, and 18 for the BSAI Groundfish Harvest Specification tables. These tables supersede the prior tables of the same number that were published in the Federal Register on March 18, 2016 (80 FR 14773, 14787-14788). The revised Tables 14, 16, 17, and 18 are printed below.

    Table 14—Final 2016 and 2017 Apportionment of Prohibited Species Catch Allowances to Non-Trawl Gear, the CDQ Program, Amendment 80, and the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sectors PSC species and area 1 Non-trawl PSC remaining
  • after CDQ PSQ 2
  • Total trawl
  • PSC
  • Trawl PSC
  • remaining
  • after CDQ
  • PSQ 2
  • CDQ PSQ
  • reserve 2
  • Amendment 80 sector 3 BSAI trawl limited
  • access fishery
  • Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI 710 2,805 n/a 315 1,745 745 Herring (mt) BSAI n/a 2,631 n/a n/a n/a n/a Red king crab (animals) Zone 1 n/a 97,000 86,621 10,379 43,293 26,489 C. opilio (animals) COBLZ n/a 4,708,314 4,204,524 503,790 2,066,524 1,351,334 C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 1 n/a 830,000 741,190 88,810 312,115 348,285 C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 2 n/a 2,520,000 2,250,360 269,640 532,660 1,053,394 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of zones. 2 Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(2) allocates 326 mt of the trawl halibut mortality limit and § 679.21(e)(4)(i)(A) allocates 7.5 percent, or 67 mt, of the non-trawl halibut mortality limit as the PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program. The PSQ reserve for crab species is 10.7 percent of each crab PSC limit. 3 The Amendment 80 program reduced apportionment of the trawl PSC limits by 150 mt for halibut mortality and 20 percent for crab. These reductions are not apportioned to other gear types or sectors. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 16—Final 2016 and 2017 Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector BSAI trawl limited access fisheries Prohibited species and area 1 Halibut
  • mortality
  • (mt) BSAI
  • Red king crab
  • (animals)
  • Zone 1
  • C. opilio
  • (animals)
  • COBLZ
  • C. bairdi (animals) Zone 1 Zone 2
    Yellowfin sole 150 23,338 1,273,886 293,234 1,005,879 Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 2 0 0 0 0 0 Greenland turbot/arrowtooth flounder/Kamchatka flounder/sablefish 0 0 0 0 0 Rockfish April 15-December 31 4 0 2,104 0 849 Pacific cod 391 2,954 54,298 50,816 42,424 Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 3 200 197 21,046 4,235 4,242 Total BSAI trawl limited access PSC 745 26,489 1,351,334 348,285 1,053,394 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas. 2 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. 3 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 17—Final 2016 and 2017 Halibut Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for Non-Trawl Fisheries Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI Non-trawl fisheries Seasons Catcher/
  • processor
  • Catcher
  • vessel
  • All non-trawl
    Pacific cod Total Pacific cod 648 13 n/a. January 1-June 10 388 9 n/a. June 10-August 15 162 2 n/a. August 15-December 31 98 2 n/a. Non-Pacific cod non-trawl-Total May 1-December 31 n/a n/a 49. Groundfish pot and jig n/a n/a n/a Exempt. Sablefish hook-and-line n/a n/a n/a Exempt. Total for all non-trawl PSC n/a n/a n/a 710 Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 18—Final 2016 Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowance for the BSAI Amendment 80 Cooperatives Cooperative Prohibited species and zones 1 Halibut
  • mortality
  • (mt) BSAI
  • Red king crab
  • (animals)
  • Zone 1
  • C. opilio
  • (animals)
  • COBLZ
  • C. bairdi
  • (animals)
  • Zone 1 Zone 2
    Alaska Groundfish Cooperative 474 12,459 650,551 82,136 137,369 Alaska Seafood Cooperative 1,271 30,834 1,415,973 229,979 395,291 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of zones. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that Amendment 111 to the FMP and this rule are necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish fishery and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable law.

    This rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866.

    Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as “small entity compliance guides.” The preambles to the proposed rule and this final rule serve as the small entity compliance guide. This action does not require any additional compliance from small entities that is not described in the preambles. Copies of the proposed rule and this final rule are available from the NMFS Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

    Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments, NMFS' responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action. NMFS published the proposed rule on November 16, 2015 (80 FR 71650), with comments invited through December 16, 2015. An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the Classification section of the preamble to the proposed rule. The FRFA describes the impacts on small entities, which are defined in the IRFA for this action and not repeated here. Analytical requirements for the FRFA are described in Regulatory Flexibility Act, section 304(a)(1) through (5), and summarized below.

    The FRFA must contain:

    1. A succinct statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule;

    2. A summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, a summary of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments;

    3. A description and an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule will apply, or an explanation of why no such estimate is available;

    4. A description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping and other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and

    5. A description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the impact on small entities was rejected.

    The “universe” of entities to be considered in a FRFA generally includes only those small entities that can reasonably be expected to be directly regulated by the action. If the effects of the rule fall primarily on a distinct segment of the industry, or portion thereof (e.g., user group, gear type, geographic area), that segment would be considered the universe for purposes of this analysis.

    In preparing a FRFA, an agency may provide either a quantifiable or numerical description of the effects of a rule (and alternatives to the rule), or more general descriptive statements, if quantification is not practicable or reliable.

    Need for and Objectives of This Final Rule

    The objective of this final rule is to decrease BSAI halibut PSC to the extent practicable by the BSAI groundfish fisheries while achieving, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the BSAI groundfish fisheries. This rule achieves that objective by reducing the BSAI halibut PSC limits in four sectors of the BSAI groundfish fisheries and adopting the following new BSAI halibut PSC limits: 1,745 mt for the Amendment 80 sector; 745 mt for the BSAI trawl limited access sector; 710 mt for the BSAI non-trawl sector; and 315 mt for the CDQ Program. These new limits result in an overall BSAI halibut PSC limit of 3,515 mt. By reducing halibut PSC, this final rule may increase harvest opportunities for the directed halibut fisheries if the IPHC responds to this final rule by increasing catch limits for the directed halibut fisheries.

    Summary of Significant Issues Raised During Public Comment

    No comments were received that raised significant issues in response to the IRFA specifically; therefore, no changes were made to the rule as a result of comments on the IRFA. However, several comments were received on the economic impacts of Amendment 111 on different sectors of the groundfish and halibut fisheries and on fishing communities. For a summary of the comments received and the agency's responses, refer to the section above titled “Response to Comments,” particularly the sections titled “Comments Associated with Specific National Standards” and “Comments Associated with the Analysis.”

    Number and Description of Directly Regulated Small Entities

    This action directly regulates those entities that participate in harvesting groundfish from the Federal or parallel groundfish fisheries of the BSAI subject to a halibut PSC limit. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) recognizes and defines three kinds of small entities that could be regulated by this action: (1) small businesses, (2) small non-profit organizations, and (3) small government jurisdictions. This action directly regulates small businesses that participate in the harvesting of groundfish, and small non-profit organizations.

    In this FRFA, NMFS estimates the number of directly regulated small entities based on size criteria established for industry sectors defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA). According to the SBA criteria, the groundfish fishery is defined as a finfish harvesting sector. An entity primarily involved in finfish harvesting is a small entity if it is independently owned and operated and not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and if it has combined annual gross receipts not in excess of $20.5 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide. Based on the best available and most recent data from 2014, a maximum of up to 178 vessels could be directly regulated by this action. This FRFA assumes that each vessel is a unique entity. Because of that, this FRFA likely overestimates the total number of directly regulated entities because some vessels are likely affiliated through common ownership. However, these potential affiliations are not known with the best available data and cannot be predicted.

    Only 19 of these directly regulated entities are estimated to be small entities based on the best available data on the gross receipts from these entities and their known affiliates. Seventeen of these small entities are hook-and-line catcher vessels that participate in the non-trawl sector, and two are trawl catcher vessels that participate in the BSAI trawl limited access sector, specifically the Pacific cod target fishery.

    This final rule directly regulates all six of the CDQ groups: the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, the Coastal Villages Region Fund, the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, and the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association. Each of the six CDQ groups receives an exclusive allocation of halibut PSC that will be reduced (i.e., regulated) under this action. The six CDQ groups are non-profit organizations and none is dominant in its field; consequently each is defined as a small entity under the RFA.

    Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements.

    Description of Significant Alternatives Considered

    The Council considered an extensive series of alternatives, options, and suboptions to reduce halibut PSC limits in the BSAI, including the “no action” alternative. The RIR presents the complete set of alternatives (see ADDRESSES). Alternative 1 is the status quo/no action alternative, which would retain the current BSAI halibut PSC limits in the FMP and in regulations. Alternative 2 would have amended the FMP and regulations to reduce BSAI halibut PSC limits for six groundfish sectors. Alternative 2 includes six options. Each of the options under Alternative 2 contained seven suboptions analyzing halibut PSC limit reductions ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent for each sector. Option 1 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for the Amendment 80 sector. The reductions ranged from 232 mt to 1,162 mt. Option 2 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for the BSAI trawl limited access sector. The reductions ranged from 87 mt to 437 mt. Option 3 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for the Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher/processor sector. The reductions ranged from 76 mt to 380 mt. Option 4 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for hook-and-line vessels participating in target fisheries other than Pacific cod or sablefish. The reductions ranged from 6 mt to 29 mt. Option 5 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for the Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher vessel sector. The reductions ranged from 1 mt to 7 mt. Option 6 would have reduced halibut PSC limits for the CDQ Program. The reductions ranged from 39 mt to 196 mt. The variety of options and suboptions under Alternative 2 provided dozens of different combinations of halibut PSC limit reductions and allowed the Council and NMFS to consider a broad range of potential alternative actions.

    After carefully considering these alternatives, the Council concluded that the preferred alternative represented the proper balance between achieving optimum yield by the groundfish fisheries and reducing bycatch by the groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable, taking into account the importance of the groundfish fisheries and the halibut fisheries to fishing communities. The other alternatives would have decreased bycatch by the groundfish fisheries either too much (going beyond what was practicable) or too little (falling short of what was practicable).

    Section 2.5 of the Analysis describes other significant alternatives to the rule that the Council considered but did not advance for further analysis: (1) Apportioning the halibut PSC limit for the BSAI trawl limited access sector between American Fisheries Act (AFA) trawl catcher vessels and non-AFA trawl catcher vessels based on the halibut PSC by these vessel categories from 2009 through 2013; (2) implementing permanent measures in the Amendment 80 sector for deck sorting of halibut; and (3) establishing a seasonal apportionment of the halibut PSC limit for the BSAI trawl limited access sector. Each of these alternatives would have changed the current management structure for regulating halibut PSC limits in BSAI. The Council's preferred alternative is a straightforward reduction in halibut PSC limits by sector. The Council's preferred alternative leaves the current management structure intact and most expeditiously achieves the Council's objective of reducing halibut PSC limit to the extent practicable in accord with National Standard 9 and other national standards. The alternatives that were not advanced for further analysis would have taken substantially longer to develop and implement than the preferred alternative.

    Based on the best available scientific data and information, none of the alternatives except the preferred alternative appear to have the potential to accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable statutes (as reflected in this action), while minimizing any significant adverse economic impact on small entities beyond those achieved under this action. This action will minimize bycatch to the extent practicable with existing management tools. Thus, this action will minimize the impacts on small entities in the BSAI groundfish fisheries and promote more efficient use of the available halibut PSC limits.

    Tribal Consultation

    Executive Order (E.O.) 13175 of November 6, 2000 (25 U.S.C. 450 note), the Executive Memorandum of April 29, 1994 (25 U.S.C. 450 note), the American Indian and Alaska Native Policy of the U.S. Department of Commerce (March 30, 1995), and the Department of Commerce Tribal Consultation and Coordination policy (78 FR 33331, June 4, 2013) outline the responsibilities of NMFS for Federal policies that have tribal implications. Section 161 of Public Law 108-199 (188 Stat. 452), as amended by section 518 of Public Law 109-447 (118 Stat. 3267), extends the consultation requirements of E.O. 13175 to Alaska Native corporations. Under the E.O. and agency policies, NMFS must ensure meaningful and timely input by tribal officials and representatives of Alaska Native corporations in the development of regulatory policies that have tribal implications.

    Section 5(b)(2)(B) of E.O. 13175 requires NMFS to prepare a “tribal summary impact statement” for any regulation that has tribal implications, that imposes substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal governments, and is not required by statute. The tribal summary impact statement must contain (1) a description of the extent of the agency's prior consultation with tribal officials, (2) a summary of the nature of their concerns, (3) the agency's position supporting the need to issue the regulation, and (4) a statement of the extent to which the concerns of tribal officials have been met.

    NMFS provided a copy of the Notice of Availability (80 FR 66486, October 29, 2015) and the proposed rule (80 FR 71650, November 16, 2015) to all federally recognized tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations to notify them of the opportunity to comment or request a consultation on this action. NMFS received no requests for consultation.

    NMFS received comment on this action from three federally recognized tribes in Alaska and one Alaska Native corporation. All four entities supported adoption of Amendment 111. Three of the four entities favored larger PSC reductions than contained in Amendment 111. The preference for these commenters and other commenters for larger PSC reductions is addressed in the response to Comment 2. Even though three of these commenters favored larger PSC reductions, if the Secretary disapproved this action, there would be no reductions in the PSC limit for 2016 and no reductions in the PSC limit unless, and until, the Council and NMFS proposed a new rule adopting different PSC reductions. This would be against the interests of these four commenters, as they described those interests, in their comments because they supported adoption of the PSC reductions in Amendment 111.

    List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: April 20, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 679 is amended as follows:

    PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 111-281.

    2. In § 679.2, revise the definitions for paragraph (5) of “Directed fishing”, “Herring Savings Area”, “PSQ reserve”, and “Sablefish (black cod)” to read as follows:
    § 679.2 Definitions.

    Directed fishing means:

    (5) With respect to the harvest of flatfish in the Bering Sea subarea, for purposes of nonpelagic trawl restrictions under § 679.22(a) and modified nonpelagic trawl gear requirements under §§ 679.7(c)(5) and 679.24(f), fishing with nonpelagic trawl gear during any fishing trip that results in a retained aggregate amount of yellowfin sole, rock sole, Greenland turbot, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, Alaska plaice, and other flatfish that is greater than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under § 679.21(b)(1)(ii) or of sablefish.

    Herring Savings Area means any of three areas in the BSAI presented in Figure 4 to this part (see also § 679.21(b)(4) for additional closure information).

    PSQ reserve means the amount of a prohibited species catch limit established under § 679.21 that has been allocated to the CDQ Program under § 679.21.

    Sablefish (black cod) means Anoplopoma fimbria. (See also IFQ sablefish; sablefish as a prohibited species at § 679.21(a)(5); and sablefish as a prohibited species at § 679.24(c)(2)(ii)).

    3. In § 679.7, revise paragraphs (a)(12), (k)(1)(v), and (k)(4)(iii) to read as follows:
    § 679.7 Prohibitions.

    (a) * * *

    (12) Prohibited species donation program. Retain or possess prohibited species, defined at § 679.21(a)(1), except as permitted to do so under the PSD program as provided by § 679.26, or as authorized by other applicable law.

    (k) * * *

    (1) * * *

    (v) Directed fishing after a sideboard closure. Use a listed AFA catcher/processor or a catcher/processor designated on a listed AFA catcher/processor permit to engage in directed fishing for a groundfish species or species group in the BSAI after the Regional Administrator has issued an AFA catcher/processor sideboard directed fishing closure for that groundfish species or species group under §§ 679.20(d)(1)(iv), 679.21(b)(4)(iii), or 679.21(e)(3)(v).

    (4) * * *

    (iii) Groundfish sideboard closures. Use an AFA catcher vessel to engage in directed fishing for a groundfish species or species group in the BSAI or GOA after the Regional Administrator has issued an AFA catcher vessel sideboard directed fishing closure for that groundfish species or species group under §§ 679.20(d)(1)(iv), 679.21(b)(4)(iii), or 679.21(e)(3)(iv), if the vessel's AFA permit does not contain a sideboard exemption for that groundfish species or species group.

    4. In § 679.21, a. Redesignate paragraph (b) as paragraph (a); b. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (a)(4); c. Add a new paragraph (b); d. Revise paragraph (e) heading; e. Remove and reserve paragraphs (e)(1)(iv), (e)(2), and (e)(3)(i)(A)(2); f. Revise paragraph (e)(3)(ii) heading, paragraphs (e)(3)(ii)(A) and (C), (e)(3)(iv) introductory text, paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(B)(2) heading, (e)(3)(v), and (e)(3)(vi)(A) and (B); g. Remove and reserve paragraph (e)(4); h. Remove paragraph (e)(5)(iv); i. Revise paragraphs (e)(6)(i) and (ii), and (e)(7)(i); j. Remove and reserve paragraph (e)(7)(v); and k. Remove paragraph (e)(8).

    The revisions and additions read as follows:

    § 679.21 Prohibited species bycatch management.

    (a) * * *

    (4) Prohibited species taken seaward of the EEZ off Alaska. No vessel fishing for groundfish in the GOA or BSAI may have on board any species listed in this paragraph (a) that was taken in waters seaward of these management areas, regardless of whether retention of such species was authorized by other applicable laws.

    (b) BSAI halibut PSC limits—(1) Establishment of BSAI halibut PSC limits. Subject to the provisions in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) through (iv) of this section, the following four BSAI halibut PSC limits are established, which total 3,515 mt: Amendment 80 sector—1,745 mt; BSAI trawl limited access sector—745 mt; BSAI non-trawl sector—710 mt; and CDQ Program—315 mt (established as a PSQ reserve).

    (i) Amendment 80 sector. The PSC limit of halibut caught while conducting any fishery in the Amendment 80 sector is an amount of halibut equivalent to 1,745 mt of halibut mortality. Halibut PSC limits within the Amendment 80 sector will be established for Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access fishery according to the procedure and formulae in § 679.91(d) and (f). If halibut PSC is assigned to the Amendment 80 limited access fishery, it will be apportioned into PSC allowances for trawl fishery categories according to the procedure in paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(A)(2) and (3) of this section.

    (ii) BSAI trawl limited access sector—(A) General. (1) The PSC limit of halibut caught while conducting any fishery in the BSAI trawl limited access sector is an amount of halibut equivalent to 745 mt of halibut mortality.

    (2) NMFS, after consultation with the Council, will apportion the PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A)(1) of this section into PSC allowances for the trawl fishery categories defined in paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(B)(1) through (6) of this section.

    (3) Apportionment of the trawl halibut PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A)(1) of this section among the trawl fishery categories will be based on each category's proportional share of the anticipated halibut PSC during a fishing year and the need to optimize the amount of total groundfish harvested under the halibut PSC limit for this sector.

    (4) The sum of all PSC allowances for this sector will equal the PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A)(1) of this section.

    (B) Trawl fishery categories. For purposes of apportioning the trawl PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A)(1) of this section among trawl fisheries, the following fishery categories are specified and defined in terms of round-weight equivalents of those groundfish species or species groups for which a TAC has been specified under § 679.20.

    (1) Midwater pollock fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a catch of pollock that is 95 percent or more of the total amount of groundfish caught during the week.

    (2) Flatfish fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained aggregate amount of rock sole, “other flatfish,” and yellowfin sole that is greater than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B).

    (i) Yellowfin sole fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that is defined as a flatfish fishery under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(2) and results in a retained amount of yellowfin sole that is 70 percent or more of the retained aggregate amount of rock sole, “other flatfish,” and yellowfin sole.

    (ii) Rock sole/flathead sole/Alaska plaice/“other flatfish” fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that is defined as a flatfish fishery under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(2) and is not a yellowfin sole fishery as defined under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(2)(i) of this section.

    (3) Greenland turbot/arrowtooth flounder/Kamchatka flounder/sablefish fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained aggregate amount of Greenland turbot, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and sablefish that is greater than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B).

    (4) Rockfish fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained aggregate amount of rockfish species that is greater than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B).

    (5) Pacific cod fishery. Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained aggregate amount of Pacific cod that is greater than the retained amount of any other groundfish fishery category defined under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B).

    (6) Pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species.” Fishing with trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained aggregate amount of pollock other than pollock harvested in the midwater pollock fishery defined under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(1) of this section, Atka mackerel, and “other species” that is greater than the retained amount of any other fishery category defined under this paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B).

    (C) Halibut PSC in midwater pollock fishery. Any amount of halibut that is incidentally taken in the midwater pollock fishery, as defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(1) of this section, will be counted against the halibut PSC allowance specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” category, as defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(6) of this section.

    (iii) BSAI Non-trawl Sector—(A) General. (1) The PSC limit of halibut caught while conducting any fishery in the BSAI non-trawl sector is an amount of halibut equivalent to 710 mt of halibut mortality.

    (2) NMFS, after consultation with the Council, will apportion the PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(A)(1) into PSC allowances for the non-trawl fishery categories defined under paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(B) of this section.

    (3) Apportionment of the non-trawl halibut PSC limit of 710 mt among the non-trawl fishery categories will be based on each category's proportional share of the anticipated halibut PSC during a fishing year and the need to optimize the amount of total groundfish harvested under the halibut PSC limit for this sector.

    (4) The sum of all PSC allowances for this sector will equal the PSC limit set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(iii)(A)(1) of this section.

    (B) Non-trawl fishery categories. For purposes of apportioning the non-trawl halibut PSC limit among fisheries, the following fishery categories are specified and defined in terms of round-weight equivalents of those BSAI groundfish species for which a TAC has been specified under § 679.20.

    (1) Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher vessel fishery. Catcher vessels fishing with hook-and-line gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of Pacific cod that is greater than the retained amount of any other groundfish species.

    (2) Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher/processor fishery. Catcher/processors fishing with hook-and-line gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of Pacific cod that is greater than the retained amount of any other groundfish species.

    (3) Sablefish hook-and-line fishery. Fishing with hook-and-line gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of sablefish that is greater than the retained amount of any other groundfish species.

    (4) Groundfish jig gear fishery. Fishing with jig gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of groundfish.

    (5) Groundfish pot gear fishery. Fishing with pot gear under restrictions set forth in § 679.24(b) during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of groundfish.

    (6) Other non-trawl fisheries. Fishing for groundfish with non-trawl gear during any weekly reporting period that results in a retained catch of groundfish and does not qualify as a Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher vessel fishery, a Pacific cod hook-and-line catcher/processor fishery, a sablefish hook-and-line fishery, a jig gear fishery, or a groundfish pot gear fishery as defined under paragraphs (b)(1)(iii)(B)(1) through (5) of this section.

    (iv) CDQ Program. The PSC limit of halibut caught while conducting any fishery in the CDQ Program is an amount of halibut equivalent to 315 mt of halibut mortality. The PSC limit to the CDQ Program will be treated as a Prohibited Species Quota (PSQ) reserve to the CDQ Program for all purposes under 50 CFR part 679 including §§ 679.31 and 679.7(d)(3). The PSQ limit is not apportioned by gear, fishery, or season.

    (2) Seasonal apportionments of BSAI halibut PSC allowances—(i) General. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, may apportion a halibut PSC allowance on a seasonal basis.

    (ii) Factors to be considered. NMFS will base any seasonal apportionment of a PSC allowance on the following types of information:

    (A) Seasonal distribution of prohibited species;

    (B) Seasonal distribution of target groundfish species relative to prohibited species distribution;

    (C) Expected PSC needs on a seasonal basis relevant to change in prohibited species biomass and expected catches of target groundfish species;

    (D) Expected variations in PSC rates throughout the fishing year;

    (E) Expected changes in directed groundfish fishing seasons;

    (F) Expected start of fishing effort; or

    (G) Economic effects of establishing seasonal prohibited species apportionments on segments of the target groundfish industry.

    (iii) Seasonal trawl fishery PSC allowances—(A) Unused seasonal apportionments. Unused seasonal apportionments of trawl fishery PSC allowances made under paragraph (b)(2) of this section will be added to its respective fishery PSC allowance for the next season during a current fishing year.

    (B) Seasonal apportionment exceeded. If a seasonal apportionment of a trawl fishery PSC allowance made under paragraph (b)(2) of this section is exceeded, the amount by which the seasonal apportionment is exceeded will be deducted from its respective apportionment for the next season during a current fishing year.

    (iv) Seasonal non-trawl fishery PSC allowances—(A) Unused seasonal apportionments. Any unused portion of a seasonal non-trawl fishery PSC allowance made under paragraph (b)(2) of this section will be reapportioned to the fishery's remaining seasonal PSC allowances during a current fishing year in a manner determined by NMFS, after consultation with the Council, based on the types of information listed under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section.

    (B) Seasonal apportionment exceeded. If a seasonal apportionment of a non-trawl fishery PSC allowance made under paragraph (b)(2) of this section is exceeded, the amount by which the seasonal apportionment is exceeded will be deducted from the fishery's remaining seasonal PSC allowances during a current fishing year in a manner determined by NMFS, after consultation with the Council, based on the types of information listed under paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section.

    (3) Notification of allowances—(i) General. NMFS will publish in the Federal Register , for up to two fishing years, the proposed and final BSAI halibut PSC allowances, the seasonal apportionments thereof, and the manner in which seasonal apportionments of non-trawl fishery PSC allowances will be managed.

    (ii) Public comment. Public comment will be accepted by NMFS on the proposed PSC allowances seasonal apportionments thereof, and the manner in which seasonal apportionments of non-trawl fishery PSC allowances will be managed, for a period specified in the notice of proposed specifications published in the Federal Register .

    (4) Management of BSAI halibut PSC allowances—(i) Trawl sectorAmendment 80 limited access fishery and BSAI trawl limited access sector: closures—(A) Exception. When a PSC allowance, or seasonal apportionment thereof, specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery category, as defined in paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(B)(6) of this section is reached, only directed fishing for pollock is closed to trawl vessels using nonpelagic trawl gear.

    (B) Closures. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(4)(i)(A) of this section, if, during the fishing year, the Regional Administrator determines that U.S. fishing vessels participating in any of the trawl fishery categories listed in paragraphs (b)(1)(ii)(B)(2) through (6) of this section will catch the halibut PSC allowance, or seasonal apportionment thereof, specified for that fishery category under paragraph (b)(1)(i) or (b)(1)(ii) of this section, NMFS will publish in the Federal Register the closure of the entire BSAI to directed fishing for each species and/or species group in that fishery category for the remainder of the year or for the remainder of the season.

    (ii) BSAI non-trawl sector: closures. If, during the fishing year, the Regional Administrator determines that U.S. fishing vessels participating in any of the non-trawl fishery categories listed under paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section will catch the halibut PSC allowance, or seasonal apportionment thereof, specified for that fishery category under paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section, NMFS will publish in the Federal Register the closure of the entire BSAI to directed fishing with the relevant gear type for each species and/or species group in that fishery category.

    (iii) AFA PSC sideboard limits. Halibut PSC limits for the AFA catcher/processor sector and the AFA trawl catcher vessel sector will be established pursuant to § 679.64(a) and (b) and managed through directed fishing closures for the AFA catcher/processor sector and the AFA trawl catcher vessel sector in the groundfish fisheries for which the PSC limit applies.

    (e) BSAI PSC limits for crab, salmon, herring

    (3) * * *

    (ii) Red king crab, C. bairdi, and C. opilio—(A) General. For vessels engaged in directed fishing for groundfish in the BSAI, other than vessels fishing under a CQ permit assigned to an Amendment 80 cooperative, the PSC limits for red king crab, C. bairdi, and C. opilio will be apportioned to the trawl fishery categories defined in paragraphs (e)(3)(iv)(B) through (F) of this section.

    (C) Incidental catch in midwater pollock fishery. Any amount of red king crab, C. bairdi, or C. opilio that is incidentally taken in the midwater pollock fishery as defined in paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(A) of this section will be counted against the bycatch allowances specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” category defined in paragraph (e)(3)(iv)(F) of this section.

    (iv) Trawl fishery categories. For purposes of apportioning trawl PSC limits for crab and herring among fisheries, other than crab PSC CQ assigned to an Amendment 80 cooperative, the following fishery categories are specified and defined in terms of round-weight equivalents of those groundfish species or species groups for which a TAC has been specified under § 679.20.

    (B) * * *

    (2) Rock sole/flathead sole/Alaska plaice/“other flatfish” fishery. * * *

    (v) AFA prohibited species catch limitations. Crab PSC limits for the AFA catcher/processor sector and the AFA trawl catcher vessel sector will be established according to the procedures and formulas set out in § 679.64(a) and (b) and managed through directed fishing closures for the AFA catcher/processor sector and the AFA trawl catcher vessel sector in the groundfish fisheries for which the PSC limit applies.

    (vi) * * *

    (A) Crab PSC limits for the Amendment 80 sector in the BSAI will be established according to the procedure and formulae set out in § 679.91(d) through (f); and

    (B) Crab PSC assigned to the Amendment 80 limited access fishery will be managed through directed fishing closures for Amendment 80 vessels to which the crab bycatch limits apply.

    (6) * * *

    (i) General. NMFS will publish in the Federal Register, for up to two fishing years, the annual red king crab PSC limit, and, if applicable, the amount of this PSC limit specified for the RKCSS, the annual C. bairdi PSC limit, the annual C. opilio PSC limit, the proposed and final PSQ reserve amounts, the proposed and final bycatch allowances, and the seasonal apportionments thereof, as required by paragraph (e) of this section.

    (ii) Public comment. Public comment will be accepted by NMFS on the proposed annual red king crab PSC limit and, if applicable, the amount of this PSC limit specified for the RKCSS, the annual C. bairdi PSC limit, the annual C. opilio PSC limit, the proposed and final bycatch allowances, seasonal apportionments thereof, and the manner in which seasonal apportionments of non-trawl fishery bycatch allowances will be managed, for a period specified in the notice of proposed specifications published in the Federal Register .

    (7) * * *

    (i) Exception. When a bycatch allowance, or seasonal apportionment thereof, specified for the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery category is reached, only directed fishing for pollock is closed to trawl vessels using nonpelagic trawl gear.

    5. In § 679.31, revise paragraph (a)(4) to read as follows:
    § 679.31 CDQ and PSQ reserves, allocations, and transfers.

    (a) * * *

    (4) PSQ reserve. (See § 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A) and (b)(1)(iv))

    6. In § 679.64, revise paragraph (a)(3) to read as follows:
    § 679.64 Harvesting sideboard limits in other fisheries.

    (a) * * *

    (3) How will AFA catcher/processor sideboard limits be managed? The Regional Administrator will manage groundfish harvest limits and PSC bycatch limits for AFA catcher/processors through directed fishing closures in fisheries established under paragraph (a)(1) of this section in accordance with the procedures set out in §§ 679.20(d)(1)(iv) and 679.21(b)(4)(iii).

    7. In § 679.91, revise paragraphs (d)(1) and (3) to read as follows:
    § 679.91 Amendment 80 Program annual harvester privileges.

    (d) * * *

    (1) Amount of Amendment 80 halibut PSC for the Amendment 80 sector. The amount of halibut PSC limit for the Amendment 80 sector for each calendar year is specified in Table 35 to this part. That halibut PSC is then assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access fishery pursuant to paragraphs (d)(2) and (3) of this section. If one or more Amendment 80 vessels participate in the Amendment 80 limited access fishery, the halibut PSC limit assigned to the Amendment 80 sector will be reduced pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

    (3) Amount of Amendment 80 halibut PSC assigned to the Amendment 80 limited access fishery. The amount of Amendment 80 halibut PSC assigned to the Amendment 80 limited access fishery is equal to the amount of halibut PSC assigned to the Amendment 80 sector, as specified in Table 35 to this part, subtracting the amount of Amendment 80 halibut PSC assigned as CQ to all Amendment 80 cooperatives as determined in paragraph (d)(2)(iv) of this section, multiplied by 80 percent.

    §§ 679.20, 679.23, 679.24, 679.25, and 679.26 [Amended]
    8. At each of the locations shown in the “Location” column, remove the phrase indicated in the “Remove” column and replace it with the phrase indicated in the “Add” column for the number of times indicated in the “Frequency” column. Location Remove Add Frequency § 679.20(d)(2) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.23(f) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.23(g)(3) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.24(c)(2)(ii)(A) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.24(c)(2)(ii)(B) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.24(c)(3) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.24(c)(4) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.25(a)(2)(ii)(A) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1 § 679.26(d)(2) § 679.21(b) § 679.21(a) 1
    9. Revise table 35 to part 679 to read as follows: Table 35 to Part 679—Apportionment of Crab PSC and Halibut PSC Between the Amendment 80 and BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sectors Fishery Halibut PSC
  • limit in the
  • BSAI
  • (mt)
  • Zone 1 Red king crab PSC limit . . . C. opilio crab PSC limit (COBLZ) . . . Zone 1 C. bairdi crab PSC limit . . . Zone 2 C. bairdi crab PSC limit . . .
    as a percentage of the total BSAI trawl PSC limit after allocation as PSQ. Amendment 80 sector 1,745 49.98 49.15 42.11 23.67 BSAI trawl limited access 745 30.58 32.14 46.99 46.81
    10. Revise table 40 to part 679 to read as follows: Table 40 to Part 679—BSAI Halibut PSC Sideboard Limits for AFA Catcher/Processors and AFA Catcher Vessels In the following target species categories as defined in § 679.21(b)(1)(iii) and (e)(3)(iv) . . . The AFA catcher/
  • processor
  • halibut PSC
  • sideboard
  • limit in
  • metric tons
  • is . . .
  • The AFA
  • catcher
  • vessel
  • halibut PSC
  • sideboard
  • limit in
  • metric tons
  • is . . .
  • All target species categories 286 N/A Pacific cod trawl N/A 887 Pacific cod hook-and-line or pot N/A 2 Yellowfin sole N/A 101 Rock sole/flathead sole/“other flatfish” 1 N/A 228 Turbot/Arrowtooth/Sablefish N/A 0 Rockfish 2 N/A 2 Pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” N/A 5 1 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), Greenland turbot, rock sole, flathead sole, yellowfin sole, and arrowtooth flounder. 2 Applicable from July 1 through December 31.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09680 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    81 81 Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Proposed Rules NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION 2 CFR Part 1800 RIN 2700-AE29 Federal Regulation Supplement: Revisions to Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (NASA Case 2015-N030) AGENCY:

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    NASA is proposing to amend the NASA regulation, titled Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards to modify the requirements related to information contained in a Federal award for commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement and to add new or modify existing terms and conditions related to indirect cost charges and access to research results.

    DATES:

    Comments on the proposed rule should be submitted in writing to the address shown below on or before June 27, 2016, to be considered in the formation of a final rule.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments identified by NASA Case 2015-N030, using any of the following methods:

    Regulations.gov: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal by entering “NASA Case 2015-N030” under the heading “Enter keyword or ID” and selecting “Search.” Select the link “Submit a Comment” that corresponds with “NASA Case 2015-N030.” Follow the instructions provided at the “Submit a Comment” screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “NASA Case 2015-N030” on your attached document.

    Email: [email protected] Include NASA Case 2015-N030 in the subject line of the message.

    Fax: (202) 358-3082.

    Mail: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Headquarters, Office of Procurement, Contract and Grant Policy Division, Attn: Ms. Jennifer Richards, Room 5M34, 300 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20546-0001.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Jennifer Richards, NASA HQ, Office of Procurement, Contract and Grant Policy Division, Room 5M34, 300 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20456-0001. Telephone 202-358-0047; facsimile 202-358-3082.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    NASA is proposing the following changes to NASA regulation Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (2 CFR part 1800):

    1. Modify the requirement related to information contained in a Federal award for commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement. NASA requirements for information contained in a Federal award can be found at 2 CFR 1800.210, which adopts and supplements 2 CFR 200.210. Title 2 CFR 200.210 includes a list of data elements that must be included in a Federal award, including indirect cost rate for the Federal award (including if the de minimis rate is charged per § 200.414 Indirect (F&A) costs). Although 2 CFR part 200 does not apply to commercial firms, NASA, in its adoption of the regulation at 2 CFR 1800.3, Applicability, added commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement to the list of applicable entities. Therefore, the requirement to include an indirect cost rate on a notice of Federal award is applicable to commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement.

    2. Add a new term and condition to address those instances when a recipient has a change in its negotiated indirect cost rate agreement during the period of performance of an award. See 2 CFR 200.56, 200.57, and 200.414 for more information on indirect (facilities & administrative) costs. NASA has discovered that, on occasion, when a recipient's indirect cost rate has changed as a result of a new negotiated indirect cost rate agreement, the change in rate has not always been captured when indirect costs have been charged to NASA. As a result, some recipients have either overcharged or undercharged NASA for indirect costs.

    3. Modify an existing term and condition and add a new term and condition to ensure recipients meet requirements associated with, “NASA Plan: Increasing Access to the Results of Scientific Research” (see http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2015/07/08/NASA_Plan_for_increasing_access_to_results_of_federally_funded_research1.pdf). This plan was issued in response to the Executive Office of the President's, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, dated February 22, 2013, “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research.” Through this memorandum, OSTP directed all agencies with more than $100 million in annual research and development expenditures to prepare a plan for improving the public's access to the results of federally funded research. Part A of NASA's plan focuses on digital unclassified scientific research data, which are research data that can be stored digitally and accessed electronically.

    To facilitate increased access to such data, NASA has updated its research data policy to require all investigators submitting a research proposal or research project plan to NASA to include a Data Management Plan for managing and providing access to final research data or to state why their data cannot or need not be made publicly available. Part B of the plan focuses on the public access to peer-reviewed scientific research manuscripts. The scope of applicability of this part includes all final peer-reviewed scientific research manuscripts authored or coauthored by investigators funded for this research by NASA-appropriated funds.

    II. Analysis

    After consideration of feedback from commercial firms expressing concern that indirect cost rates are sensitive financial information which should not be available on documents that could potentially be released to the public, NASA has determined that excluding indirect cost rates from notices of Federal award to commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement is a prudent business decision that protects sensitive financial information.

    In order to ensure that the permitted amount of indirect costs is being charged to an award, NASA is proposing a new term and condition requiring recipients that have changes to their indirect cost rate agreement during the period of performance of an award to apply the approved rate to covered direct costs expended during the time frame of the rate agreement, even if the agreement is not on file with NASA. This will prevent NASA from overpaying or underpaying for indirect charges and ensure recipients are receiving what they are legally allowed. To address the NASA plan requirements for awardees from non-NASA organizations that publish scientific research or compile digital datasets resulting from research, development, and technology programs, NASA is proposing the following revisions:

    • Modify an existing term and condition, 2 CFR 1800.902 Technical Publications and Reports, to add a requirement for awardees with research and research-related awards to follow additional reporting requirements at 2 CFR 1800.930 Access to Research Results.

    • Add a new term and condition requiring recipients to comply with their approved Data Management Plan submitted with their proposal, and as modified upon agreement by the recipient and NASA from time to time during the course of the period of performance. In addition, this new term and condition will ensure that any Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscripts are submitted to the NASA-designated repository, currently the PubMed Central system at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, within one year of peer-review or publication by a journal, whichever is earlier. Furthermore, it will ensure that any publisher's agreements entered into by an awardee will allow for the awardee to comply with these requirements including submission of Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscripts to the NASA-designated repository, currently the PubMed Central system, with sufficient rights to permit such repository to use such Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript in its normal course, including rights to permit users to download XML and plain text formats. Finally, the grantee agrees to be responsible for, and defend NASA against, any royalties, fees, or other costs claimed against NASA or for which NASA may be held liable as a consequence of awardee failing to comply with the foregoing and include in annual and final reports a list of Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscripts covered by this term and condition.

    III. Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Orders (E.O.s) 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). E.O. 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This is not a significant regulatory action and, therefore, was not subject to review under section 6(b) of E.O. 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, dated September 30, 1993. This proposed rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804.

    IV. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposed rule contains information collection requirements that require the approval of the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C chapter 35; however, these changes to 2 CFR part 1800 do not impose additional information collection requirements to the paperwork burden previously approved under OMB Control Number 2700-0092, entitled Financial Assistant Awards/Grants and Cooperative Agreements.

    List of Subjects in 2 CFR Part 1800

    Government financial assistance.

    Manuel Quinones, NASA Federal Register Liaison.

    Accordingly, 2 CFR part 1800 is proposed to be amended as follows:

    PART 1800—UNIFORM ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENTS, COST PRINCIPLES, AND AUDIT REQUIREMENTS FOR FEDERAL AWARDS 1. The authority citation for 2 CFR part 1800 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    51 U.S.C. 20113(e), Pub. L. 97-258, 96 Stat. 1003 (31 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.), and 2 CFR part 200.

    2. Revise § 1800.210 to read as follows:
    § 1800.210 Information contained in a Federal award.

    NASA waives the requirement for the inclusion of indirect cost rates on any notice of Federal award for commercial firms with no cost sharing requirement. The terms and conditions for NASA may be found at Appendix B of this Part and https://prod.nais.nasa.gov/pub/pub_library/srba.

    3. Amend Appendix B to part 1800 by: a. Under 1800.902 Technical Publications and Reports, adding paragraph (a)(4); and b. Adding 1800.929 Indirect Costs and 1800.930 Access to Research Results.

    The additions read as follows:

    Appendix B to Part 1800—Terms and Conditions 1800.902 Technical Publications and Reports

    (a) * * *

    (4) For research and research-related awards, see additional reporting requirements at 1800.930 Access to Research Results.

    1800.929 Indirect Costs

    Prescription —The Grant Officer shall include this term and condition in all awards with indirect costs, excluding those awards using the 10% de minimis rate.

    Indirect Costs

    If during the course of this award, the approved indirect cost rate is revised, changed or removed, that rate must be applied, as allowed, to the covered direct costs that are expended during the time frame of that rate agreement. Any corrections, either up or down, to the approved budget submitted with the awarded application must be reflected in the awardees' records of costs and should be audited as such.

    (End of Term and Condition) 1800.930 Access to Research Results

    Prescription—The Grant Officer shall include this term and condition in all research and research-related awards.

    Access to Research Results

    (a) This award is subject to the requirements of the, “NASA Plan: Increasing Access to the Results of Scientific Research,” which covers public access to digital scientific data and peer-reviewed publications. For purposes of this term and condition, the following definitions apply:

    (1) Awardee: Any recipient of a NASA grant or cooperative agreement, its investigators, and subrecipient (subaward or contract as defined in 2 CFR part 200.92 and 200.22, respectively) at any level.

    (2) Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript: The final text version of a peer-reviewed article disclosing the results of scientific research which is authored or co-authored by the Awardee or funded, in whole or in part, with funds from a NASA award, that includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process, and all graphics and supplemental material associated with the article.

    (b) The recipient shall:

    (1) Comply with their approved Data Management Plan submitted with its proposal, and as modified upon agreement by the recipient and NASA from time to time during the course of the period of performance.

    (2) Ensure that any Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript is submitted to the NASA-designated repository, currently the PubMed Central system at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Ensure that the Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript is submitted to PubMed Central within one year of peer-review or publication by a journal, whichever is earlier.

    (3) Ensure that any publisher's agreements entered into by an Awardee will allow for the Awardee to comply with these requirements including submission of Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscripts to the NASA-designated repository, as listed in the above bullet, with sufficient rights to permit such repository to use such Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript in its normal course, including rights to permit users to download XML and plain text formats.

    (4) Agree to be responsible for, and defend NASA against, any royalties, fees, or other costs claimed against NASA or for which NASA may be held liable as a consequence of Awardee failing to comply with the foregoing. Include in annual and final reports a list of Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscripts covered by this term and condition.

    (End of Term and Condition)
    [FR Doc. 2016-09625 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7510-13-P
    OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT 5 CFR Part 532 RIN 3206-AN37 Prevailing Rate Systems; Redefinition of the Asheville, NC, and Charlotte, NC, Appropriated Fund Federal Wage System Wage Areas AGENCY:

    U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule with request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing a proposed rule that would redefine the geographic boundaries of the Asheville, NC, and Charlotte, NC, appropriated fund Federal Wage System (FWS) wage areas. The proposed rule would redefine Alexander and Catawba Counties, NC, from the Charlotte wage area to the Asheville wage area. These changes are based on a recent consensus recommendation of the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee (FPRAC) to best match the counties proposed for redefinition to a nearby FWS survey area. There are no FWS employees stationed in Alexander or Catawba Counties.

    DATES:

    We must receive comments on or before May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by “RIN 3206-AN37,” using any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Brenda L. Roberts, Deputy Associate Director for Pay and Leave, Employee Services, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Room 7H31, 1900 E Street NW., Washington, DC 20415-8200.

    Email: [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Madeline Gonzalez, (202) 606-2858; email [email protected]; or FAX: (202) 606-4264.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    OPM is issuing a proposed rule that would redefine the geographic boundaries of the Asheville, NC, and Charlotte, NC, appropriated fund FWS wage areas. The proposed rule would redefine Alexander and Catawba Counties, NC, from the Charlotte wage area to the Asheville wage area.

    OPM considers the following regulatory criteria under 5 CFR 532.211 when defining FWS wage area boundaries:

    (i) Distance, transportation facilities, and geographic features;

    (ii) Commuting patterns; and

    (iii) Similarities in overall population, employment, and the kinds and sizes of private industrial establishments.

    In addition, OPM regulations at 5 CFR 532.211 do not permit splitting Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) for the purpose of defining a wage area, except in very unusual circumstances.

    Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba Counties, NC, comprise the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC, MSA. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA is split between the Asheville, NC, and Charlotte, NC, wage areas. Burke and Caldwell Counties are part of the area of application of the Asheville wage area and Alexander and Catawba Counties are part of the area of application of the Charlotte wage area.

    Based on an analysis of the regulatory criteria for Caldwell County, the core county in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA, the entire Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA would be defined to the Asheville wage area. When measuring to cities, the distance criterion does not favor one wage area more than another. When measuring to host installations, the distance criterion favors the Asheville wage area more than the Charlotte wage area. The commuting patterns criterion does not favor one wage area more than another. Caldwell County resembles the Asheville survey area more than the Charlotte survey area in terms of the overall population and employment and the kinds and sizes of private industrial establishments criteria.

    Based on this analysis, we believe Caldwell County is appropriately defined to the Asheville wage area. OPM regulations at 5 CFR 532.211 permit splitting MSAs only in very unusual circumstances. There appear to be no unusual circumstances that would permit splitting the Bloomsburg-Berwick MSA. To comply with OPM regulations not to split MSAs, Alexander and Catawba Counties would be redefined to the Asheville wage area. The remaining county in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA, Burke County, is already defined to the Asheville wage area. There are currently no FWS employees working in Alexander and Catawba Counties.

    FPRAC, the national labor-management committee responsible for advising OPM on matters concerning the pay of FWS employees, recommended this change by consensus. This change would be effective on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after 30 days following publication of the final regulations.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act

    I certify that these regulations would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because they would affect only Federal agencies and employees.

    List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 532

    Administrative practice and procedure, Freedom of information, Government employees, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Wages.

    U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Beth F. Cobert, Acting Director.

    Accordingly, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is proposing to amend 5 CFR part 532 as follows:

    PART 532—PREVAILING RATE SYSTEMS 1. The authority citation for part 532 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 5343, 5346; § 532.707 also issued under 5 U.S.C. 552.

    Appendix C to Subpart B of Part 532—Appropriated Fund Wage and Survey Areas 2. Appendix C to subpart B is amended by revising the wage area listings for the proposed rule that would redefine the geographic boundaries of the wage areas to read as follows: *    *    *    *    * NORTH CAROLINA Asheville Survey Area North Carolina: Buscombe Haywood Henderson Madison Transylvania Area of Application. Survey area plus: North Carolina: Alexander Avery Burke Caldwell Catawba Cherokee Clay Graham Jackson McDowell Macon Mitchell Polk Rutherford Swain Yancey *    *    *    *    *     Charlotte Survey Area North Carolina: Cabarrus Gaston Mecklenburg Rowan Union Area of Application. Survey area plus: North Carolina: Anson Cleveland Iredell Lincoln Stanly Wilkes South Carolina: Chester Chesterfield Lancaster York *    *    *    *    *    
    [FR Doc. 2016-09701 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6325-39-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 205 [Doc. No. AMS-NOP-15-0052; NOP-15-12PR] RIN 0581-AD43 National Organic Program (NOP); Sunset 2016 Amendments to the National List; Correction AGENCY:

    Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule; correction.

    SUMMARY:

    This document contains a correction to the proposed rule which was published on December 16, 2015 (80 FR 78150). In the proposed rule, the Regulatory Information Number (RIN) appears as RIN 0581-AD39. This number is incorrect. The correct number is 0581-AD43. This document corrects the proposed rule.

    DATES:

    April 27, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Valerie Frances, Standards Division, email: [email protected] Telephone: (202) 720-3252; Fax: (202) 260-9151.

    Correction

    In proposed rule FR Doc. 2015-31380, beginning at page 78150 of the issue of December 16, 2015, make the following corrections:

    On page 78150, in the first column in the heading and the first line of the second column under the ADDRESSES caption, correct the RIN to read “0581-AD43”.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Elanor Starmer, Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09838 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P
    NATIONAL CREDIT UNION ADMINISTRATION 12 CFR Parts 701 and 721 RIN 3133-AE54 Federal Credit Union Occupancy, Planning, and Disposal of Acquired and Abandoned Premises; Incidental Powers AGENCY:

    National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    As part of NCUA's Regulatory Modernization Initiative, the NCUA Board (Board) is issuing for public comment a proposed rule to amend its regulation governing federal credit union (FCU) occupancy, planning, and disposal of acquired and abandoned premises, and its regulation regarding incidental powers. To provide regulatory relief to FCUs, the proposal eliminates a requirement in the current occupancy rule (formerly known as the fixed assets rule) that an FCU must plan for, and eventually achieve, full occupancy of acquired premises.

    The proposal generally retains the current regulatory timeframes for partial occupancy. However, it modifies the definition of “partially occupy” to mean occupation and use, on a full-time basis, of at least fifty percent of the premises by the FCU, or by a combination of the FCU and a credit union service organization (CUSO) in which the FCU has a controlling interest in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

    The proposal also amends the excess capacity provision in NCUA's incidental powers rule to clarify that an FCU may lease or sell excess capacity in its facilities, but it need not anticipate that such excess capacity will be fully occupied by the FCU in the future. However, the sale or lease of excess capacity in equipment or services, including employee-sharing and data processing for third parties, continues to be limited to circumstances where an FCU reasonably anticipates that such excess capacity will be taken up by the future expansion of services to members.

    DATES:

    Comments must be received on or before June 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments by any of the following methods (Please send comments by one method only):

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    NCUA Web site: https://www.ncua.gov/regulation-supervision/Pages/rules/proposed.aspx. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Email: Address to [email protected] Include “[Your name] Comments on Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Parts 701 and 721, FCU Occupancy, Planning, and Disposal of Acquired and Abandoned Premises; Incidental Powers” in the email subject line.

    Fax: (703) 518-6319. Use the subject line described above for email.

    Mail: Address to Gerard Poliquin, Secretary of the Board, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3428.

    Hand Delivery/Courier: Same as mail address.

    Public Inspection: You may view all public comments on NCUA's Web site at http://www.ncua.gov/Legal/Regs/Pages/PropRegs.aspx as submitted, except for those we cannot post for technical reasons. NCUA will not edit or remove any identifying or contact information from the public comments submitted. You may inspect paper copies of comments in NCUA's law library at 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, by appointment weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. To make an appointment, call (703) 518-6546 or send an email to [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Pamela Yu, Senior Staff Attorney, Office of General Counsel, at the above address or telephone (703) 518-6540, or Jacob McCall, Program Officer, Office of Examination and Insurance, at the above address or telephone (703) 518-6360.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background II. Summary of the Proposed Rule III. Regulatory Procedures I. Background

    Section 107(4) of the Federal Credit Union Act (FCU Act) authorizes an FCU to purchase, hold, and dispose of property necessary or incidental to its operations.1 NCUA's occupancy rule (formerly referred to as the fixed assets rule) interprets and implements this provision of the FCU Act by establishing occupancy, planning, and disposal requirements for acquired and abandoned premises. The rule also prohibits certain transactions to avoid conflicts of interest in the acquisition or lease of FCU premises.2

    1 12 U.S.C. 1757(4).

    2 12 CFR 701.36.

    Over the past several years, the Board has proposed and adopted several regulatory amendments to modernize § 701.36.3 Most recently, in July 2015, the Board approved a final rule to eliminate the five percent aggregate limit on investments in fixed assets for FCUs with $1,000,000 or more in assets and to streamline the partial occupancy requirements. Public comment in response to these recent amendments has been generally supportive of the Board's ongoing efforts to provide regulatory relief to FCUs in this area. However, commenters have continued to ask for more regulatory relief to provide FCUs with greater flexibility in the management of property necessary or incidental to FCU operations. In particular, commenters have strongly advocated the elimination of regulatory occupancy requirements, especially the requirement for full occupancy.

    3 78 FR 57250 (Sept. 18, 2013); 79 FR 46727 (Aug. 11, 2014); 80 FR 16595 (Mar. 30, 2015); 80 FR 45844 (Aug. 3, 2015).

    In general, commenters have maintained that the FCU Act does not expressly mandate specific timeframes for occupancy or otherwise prescribe occupancy requirements for FCU premises. Thus, commenters have urged the Board to liberalize NCUA's occupancy rules.4 For example, commenters have said that NCUA should not set a specific time period for full occupancy; that FCU boards and management should determine the best timeframe in which to fully develop property; and that the full occupancy requirement should be eliminated entirely.5 Commenters have also suggested that NCUA should replace the “full” occupancy requirement with a “significant” or “substantial” occupancy requirement, defined as fifty-one percent occupancy.6

    4 80 FR 45844 (Aug. 3, 2015).

    5 80 FR 16595, 16599 (Mar. 30, 2015).

    6Id.

    In addition, commenters urging NCUA to reconsider its position on full occupancy have indicated that it oftentimes makes sense for a credit union to own a building and lease out part or all of the building to help offset the cost of property ownership.7 Commenters have argued that prescriptive occupancy requirements reduce access to commercial space and limit an FCU's ability to acquire space in the most cost-effective manner. As an example, commenters have noted that some local zoning or mixed-use ordinances, city entitlements, or other use requirements may require a portion of the property to be dedicated to retail business.8 Commenters have also posited that generating long-term income from FCU premises would generate value for the FCU's membership.9

    7 80 FR 45844 (Aug. 3, 2015).

    8 80 FR 16595, 16599 (Mar. 30, 2015).

    9Id.

    The Board has carefully considered the numerous comments received on this subject since at least 2013.10 The Board also has reconsidered the regulatory position that the limited authority for FCUs to invest in property granted by Section 107(4) of the FCU Act means that an FCU may not hold real property indefinitely without fully occupying the premises. Accordingly, as discussed in more detail below, the Board is proposing to eliminate from the current occupancy rule the requirement that an FCU must plan for, and eventually achieve, full occupancy of its premises. The proposal generally retains the current regulatory timeframes for partial occupancy and the related waiver provisions, including those finalized in July 2015.11 However, the current definition of “partially occupy” is modified in the proposal to reflect that an FCU need not fully occupy premises, but the FCU (or a combination of the FCU and a CUSO in which the FCU has a controlling interest in accordance with GAAP) must utilize at least fifty percent of the premises on a full-time basis within the required timeframe to achieve partial occupancy. For consistency, the proposal also amends the excess capacity provision in the incidental powers rule and makes technical and conforming amendments 12 to reflect the proposed policy change regarding full occupancy for FCU premises.

    10 In fact, requests for relief from the full occupancy requirement date back to at least 2004. See 69 FR 58039, 58041 (Sept. 29, 2004) (“Several commenters believe NCUA should reduce or eliminate the rule's requirements for both partial and full occupation, but particularly for full occupation. These commenters contend it is difficult for a credit union to obtain a building or lease space that is a perfect fit for the credit union's current and near term plans and the rule's occupation requirements restrict credit union growth and may be anticompetitive. One commenter cites the perceived difficulty rural and low-income credit unions have in finding appropriate office space, and another cites the perceived difficulty a continuing credit union in a merger has in balancing reduced staffing needs with the buildings it inherits in a merger.”)

    11 80 FR 45844 (Aug. 3, 2015).

    12 For example, the proposed rule generally removes references to “future expansion” and other language that implies an FCU must plan for and achieve full occupancy of its premises.

    The proposed rule is discussed in greater detail below.

    II. Summary of the Proposed Rule A. Occupancy rule

    Under the current rule, if an FCU acquires premises for future expansion and does not fully occupy them within one year, it must have an FCU board resolution in place by the end of that year with definitive plans for full occupation.13 For purposes of the rule, “premises” means any office, branch office, suboffice, service center, parking lot, other facility, or real estate where the FCU transacts or will transact business.14 The current rule does not set a specific time period within which an FCU must achieve full occupation of premises acquired for future expansion. However, partial occupancy of the premises is required within a reasonable period, but no later than six years after the date of acquisition, regardless of whether the premises are improved or unimproved.15 Partial occupancy must be sufficient to show, among other things, that the FCU will fully occupy the premises within a reasonable time and consistent with its plan for the premises.16

    13 12 CFR 701.36(c)(1). Under the current rule, the reasonableness of an FCU's plan for full occupation is evaluated through the examination process and based upon such factors as the defensibility of projection assumptions, the operational and financial feasibility of the plan, and the overall suitability of the plan relative to the FCU's field of membership.

    14 12 CFR 701.36(b).

    15 12 CFR 701.36(c)(2).

    16 12 CFR 701.36(b).

    The occupancy requirements in the current rule have a statutory basis, but full occupancy of FCU premises is not expressly or specifically mandated by statute. Section 107(4) of the FCU Act authorizes an FCU to purchase, hold, and dispose of property necessary or incidental to its operations. 17 NCUA has long held that the limited authority granted by this provision means that an FCU may not hold, or lease to unrelated third parties, real property indefinitely without fully occupying the premises.18

    17 12 U.S.C. 1757(4) (emphasis added).

    18 69 FR 58039, 58041 (Sept. 29, 2004).

    After further consideration, however, the Board believes the language in Section 107(4) of the FCU Act supports an interpretation that provides FCUs' with more flexibility to acquire and hold real property. Accordingly, the Board has reconsidered its current approach of ensuring that FCU investment in and use of real property is consistent with the FCU Act by requiring FCUs to fully occupy premises. Section 107(4) neither explicitly mentions nor expressly requires full occupancy of FCU property. Accordingly, the Board proposes to eliminate the full occupancy and related planning requirements in the current occupancy rule. Specifically, the proposed rule deletes the requirement in current § 701.36(c)(1) that, if an FCU acquires premises for future expansion and does not fully occupy them within one year, it must have a board resolution in place by the end of that year with definitive plans for full occupation.

    While this proposed change represents a departure from the Board's previous interpretation of Section 107(4), it is both reasonable and consistent with the requirements of the FCU Act. The United States Supreme Court has emphasized that an “initial agency interpretation is not instantly carved in stone,” and “to engage in informed rulemaking, [an agency] must consider varying interpretations and the wisdom of its policy on a continuing basis,” indicating that an agency may change its interpretive position on the statutes it administers.19 In light of the continuing requests from commenters for relief from the full occupancy requirement, the proposed change is required to avoid unnecessarily imposing undue hardship on FCUs that may have difficulty realizing their growth potential and member service strategies under the current rule.

    19Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 467 U.S. 837, 863-864 (1984). The Supreme Court has also found that an agency is entitled to Chevron deference if it reverses an earlier interpretation. See e.g., Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991); National Cable & Telecommunications Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Services, 545 U.S. 967 (2005).

    The Board emphasizes, however, that it maintains its current view that there is no authority in the FCU Act for an FCU to invest in real estate for speculative purposes or to otherwise engage in real estate activities that do not generally support its purpose of providing financial services to its members. The statute is clear that any property acquired or held by an FCU must be “necessary or incidental to its operations.” 20 NCUA has stated consistently that an FCU may only invest in property it intends to use to transact credit union business or in property that supports its internal operations or member services.21

    20 12 U.S.C. 1757(4).

    21See 43 FR 58176, 58178 (Dec. 13, 1978) (“Part 107(4) of the Federal Credit Union Act provides that a credit union may purchase, hold, and dispose of property necessary or incidental to its operations. Retaining a piece of property whose only purpose is to provide office space to other entities is clearly not necessary or incidental to the Federal credit union's operations. Further, investing in, or holding, property with the intent of realizing a profit from appreciation at a future sale is also outside the powers of a Federal credit union.”); 69 FR 58039, 58041 (Sept. 29, 2004) (“Federal credit unions are chartered for the purpose of providing financial services to their members and it is not permissible for them to engage in real estate activities that do not support that purpose.”)

    Although the Board's position on full occupancy has evolved, it continues to read the FCU Act as requiring that an FCU may purchase or hold property only for a permissible purpose or activity; that is, to support the FCU's provision of financial services to its members. As the Board noted in the preamble to the July 2015 final rule, the requirement for an FCU to partially occupy its acquired premises within a specified timeframe is intended to function as a reasonable safeguard against speculative real estate investments or other real estate activities that are not permitted for FCUs under the FCU Act.22 Making speculative investments in real property exceeds an FCU's authority and can lead to safety and soundness problems. Making speculative investments in real property increases an FCU's exposure to market factors unrelated to financial services. As well, managing unoccupied real property or commercial leases creates operational risk exposures which are significantly different from those related to managing authorized financial services permissible for FCUs. By maintaining the requirement that FCUs must partially occupy real property, NCUA reduces the opportunity for speculative investment and helps FCUs align their real property investment decisions with the operational needs of the FCU and its members.

    22 80 FR 45844 (Aug. 3, 2015).

    Requiring an FCU to fully occupy its acquired premises may, under certain circumstances: (1) Hinder its ability to obtain cost-effective office space necessary to serve its members; (2) restrict its growth; or (3) place it at a competitive disadvantage. However, without a reasonable occupancy requirement, there is little to inhibit an FCU from: (1) Speculating on real property with the sole intent of realizing a profit from its future sale; (2) acting as a property developer or full-time landlord; or (3) otherwise venturing into real estate activities that are beyond the scope of its authority under Section 107(4). Accordingly, the Board has determined that an FCU must at least partially occupy each of its acquired real property. For both legal and safety and soundness reasons, the proposed rule retains the requirement that an FCU premises, including unimproved property, must be partially occupied within six years from the date of its acquisition. An FCU may apply for a waiver if it is not able to achieve partial occupancy of its premises within six years.23

    23 12 CFR 701.36(c)(2).

    Under the current rule, “partially occupy” means occupation, on a full-time basis, of a portion of the premises that is: (1) Consistent with the FCU's usage plan for the premises; (2) significant enough that the FCU is deriving practical utility from the occupied portion relative to the scope of the usage plan; and (3) sufficient to show that the FCU will fully occupy the premises within a reasonable time.24 The Board proposes to modify the current definition of “partial occupancy” to eliminate references to the current requirement to plan for full occupancy (usage plan) and the need to show that the FCU will fully occupy the premises. Additionally, the Board proposes to amend that definition to emphasize that at least fifty percent of FCU premises must be occupied and used, on a full-time basis, by the FCU or a combination of the FCU and a CUSO in which the FCU has a controlling interest in accordance with GAAP.25 Occupancy of FCU premises with third-party vendors or CUSOs in which the FCU does not maintain a controlling interest will not count towards the fifty percent partial occupancy requirement because these entities operate at the direction of other owners and may not be obligated to primarily support the FCU that acquired the premises or to primarily serve that FCU's members. The proposed definition, which incorporates elements from the current rule's definition of full occupancy,26 will ensure that any property acquired or held by an FCU is primarily utilized for a purpose that is necessary or incidental to its operations, as required by the FCU Act.

    24 12 CFR 701.36(b).

    25 FASB Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 805 defines controlling interest as “the ability of an entity to direct the policies and management that guide the ongoing activities of another entity so as to increase its benefits and limit its losses from that other entity's activities.” More generally, controlling interest is majority interest or any other ownership interest which entitles the owner to direct the activities of the CUSO.

    26 12 CFR 701.36(c)(1).

    B. Incidental powers.

    The Board recognizes that in planning for future expansion, FCUs should be permitted to sell or lease their excess capacity as a matter of good business practice.27 The incidental powers rule permits an FCU to sell or lease its excess capacity with respect to its property and services.28 Under that rule, excess capacity refers to the excess use or capacity remaining in FCU facilities, equipment, or services.29 An FCU's sale or lease of excess capacity, for example, may involve leasing excess office space, sharing employees, or using data processing systems to process information for third parties.30 However, while an FCU has the authority under the rule to obtain income by selling or leasing excess capacity in its facilities, equipment, or services to third parties, that authority is subject to the following conditions: (1) The facilities, equipment, or services must have been acquired by an FCU, in good faith, for the purpose of providing financial services to its members; and (2) the FCU must reasonably anticipate that the excess capacity will be taken up by the future expansion of services to its members.31

    27 66 FR 40845, 40851 (Aug. 6, 2001).

    28 The incidental powers rule defines an incidental powers activity as one that is necessary or requisite to enable an FCU to carry on effectively the business for which it is incorporated. An activity meets the definition of an incidental powers activity if it: (1) Is convenient or useful in carrying out the mission or business of credit unions consistent with the FCU Act; (2) is the functional equivalent or logical outgrowth of activities that are part of the mission or business of credit unions; and (3) involves risks similar in nature to those already assumed as part of the business of credit unions. 12 CFR 721.2.

    29 12 CFR 721.3(e).

    30Id.

    31Id.

    To conform to the above proposed amendments to the occupancy rule, the Board proposes to amend the incidental powers rule regarding the sale or lease of excess capacity by removing the condition that excess capacity in FCU facilities must eventually be fully occupied by the FCU. The Board continues to believe, however, that the sale or lease of excess capacity in equipment or services, including employee-sharing and data processing for third parties, should be limited to circumstances where an FCU reasonably anticipates that the excess capacity will be taken up by the future expansion of services to its members.

    In adopting the excess capacity provision in the incidental powers rule, the Board reasoned in 2001 that “[t]he sale of excess capacity offers FCUs the opportunity to provide financial services to its members, even though member demand for the services does not initially meet the FCU's capacity.” 32 However, the Board also noted:

    32 66 FR 40845, 40851 (Aug. 6, 2001).

    NCUA has consistently held the position that an FCU has limited authority in the leasing of fixed assets and the sale of excess data processing capacity. FCUs are not in the business of providing others with data processing capacity or any other service that is not within their express or incidental powers; rather, they are cooperative financial institutions organized to provide financial services to their members.33

    33Id.

    While the Board has reconsidered its position with respect to requiring full occupancy of FCU facilities, the Board maintains its view that FCUs are not, and should not be, in the business of providing third parties with data processing capacity or other equipment or services outside their express or incidental powers. Accordingly, under this proposal, an FCU's authority to sell or lease excess capacity in equipment and services continues to be conditioned on the FCU's reasonable anticipation that its members will eventually fully utilize the excess capacity.

    III. Regulatory Procedures A. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) generally requires that, in connection with a notice of proposed rulemaking, an agency prepare and make available for public comment an initial regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the impact of a proposed rule on small entities. A regulatory flexibility analysis is not required, however, if the agency certifies that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities (defined for purposes of the RFA to include credit unions with assets less than $100 million) and publishes its certification and a short, explanatory statement in the Federal Register together with the rule. The proposed rule would provide regulatory relief by eliminating the need to develop a plan for full occupancy. However, FCUs currently have limited flexibility to purchase real estate with excess capacity. NCUA certifies that the proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small credit unions.

    B. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) applies to rulemakings in which an agency by rule creates a new paperwork burden on regulated entities or modifies an existing burden.34 For purposes of the PRA, a paperwork burden may take the form of either a reporting or a recordkeeping requirement, both referred to as information collections. The proposed rule provides regulatory relief to FCUs by eliminating the requirement that, if an FCU does not fully occupy premises acquired for future expansion within one year, it must have a board resolution in place by the end of that year with definitive plans for full occupation. The proposed rule does not impose new paperwork burdens. The proposed rule would relieve FCUs from the current requirement to have a board-approved plan for full occupation of its premises.

    34 44 U.S.C. 3507(d); 5 CFR part 1320.

    According to NCUA estimates, approximately 15 FCUs are required to develop a plan for full occupation premises each year. Accordingly, the reduction to existing paperwork burdens that would result from the proposal is analyzed below:

    Estimate of the reduced burden by eliminating the full occupancy planning requirement.

    Estimated FCUs: 15.

    Frequency of waiver request: Annual.

    Reduced hour burden: 15 hours.

    15 FCUs × 15 hours = 225 hours reduced burden.

    In accordance with the requirements of the PRA, NCUA intends to obtain a modification of its OMB Control Number, 3133-0040, to support these changes. NCUA is submitting a copy of the proposed rule to OMB, along with an application for a modification of the OMB Control Number.

    The PRA and OMB regulations require that the public be provided an opportunity to comment on the paperwork requirements, including an agency's estimate of the burden of the paperwork requirements. The Board invites comment on: (1) Whether the paperwork requirements are necessary; (2) the accuracy of NCUA's estimates on the burden of the paperwork requirements; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the paperwork requirements; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the paperwork requirements.

    Comments should be sent to the NCUA Contact and the OMB Reviewer listed below:

    NCUA Contact: Dawn Wolfgang, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3428, Fax No. 703-837-2861, Email: [email protected]

    OMB Contact: Office of Management and Budget, ATTN: Desk Officer for the National Credit Union Administration, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20503.

    C. Executive Order 13132

    Executive Order 13132 encourages independent regulatory agencies to consider the impact of their actions on state and local interests. NCUA, an independent regulatory agency, as defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(5), voluntarily complies with the executive order to adhere to fundamental federalism principles. Because the occupancy and incidental powers regulations apply only to FCUs, the proposed rule would not have a substantial direct effect on the states, on the relationship between the national government and the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. As such, NCUA has determined that this rule does not constitute a policy that has federalism implications for purposes of the executive order.

    D. Assessment of Federal Regulations and Policies on Families

    NCUA has determined that this rule will not affect family well-being within the meaning of Section 654 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1999.35

    35 Public Law 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681 (1998).

    List of Subjects 12 CFR Part 701

    Credit unions, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    12 CFR Part 721

    Credit unions, functions, implied powers.

    By the National Credit Union Administration Board, on April 21, 2016. Gerard Poliquin, Secretary of the Board.

    For the reasons stated above, NCUA proposes to amend 12 CFR parts 701 and 721 as follows:

    PART 701—ORGANIZATION AND OPERATION OF FEDERAL CREDIT UNIONS 1. The authority for part 701 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    12 U.S.C. 1752(5), 1757, 1765, 1766, 1781, 1782, 1787, 1789; Title V, Pub. L. 109-351, 120 Stat. 1966.

    2. Amend the title of § 701.36 and amend §§ 701.36(a) and (b) to read as follows:
    § 701.36 Federal credit union occupancy and disposal of acquired and abandoned premises.

    (a) Scope. Section 107(4) of the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1757(4)) authorizes a federal credit union to purchase, hold, and dispose of property necessary or incidental to its operations. This section interprets and implements that provision by establishing occupancy and disposal requirements for acquired and abandoned premises, and by prohibiting certain transactions. This section applies only to federal credit unions.

    (b) * * *

    Abandoned premises means premises previously used to transact credit union business but no longer used for that purpose. It also means premises originally acquired to transact future credit union business but no longer intended for that purpose.

    Partially occupy means occupation and use, on a full-time basis, of at least fifty percent of each of the premises by the federal credit union, or the federal credit union and a credit union service organization in which the federal credit union has a controlling interest in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

    3. Remove § 701.36(c)(1); redesignate § 701.36(c)(2) as § 701.36(c)(1) and amend it to read as follows:

    (c) Premises not currently used to transact credit union business. (1) If a federal credit union acquires premises, including unimproved land or unimproved real property, it must partially occupy each of them within a reasonable period, but no later than six years after the date of acquisition. NCUA may waive the partial occupation requirements. To seek a waiver, a federal credit union must submit a written request to its Regional Office and fully explain why it needs the waiver. The Regional Director will provide the federal credit union a written response, either approving or disapproving the request. The Regional Director's decision will be based on safety and soundness considerations.

    4. Redesignate § 701.36(c)(3) as § 701.36(c)(2). PART 721—INCIDENTAL POWERS 5. The authority for part 721 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    12 U.S.C. 1757(17), 1766 and 1789.

    6. Amend § 721.3 to read as follows:
    § 721.3 What categories of activities are preapproved as incidental powers necessary or requisite to carry on a credit union's business?

    (a) * * *

    (b) * * *

    (c) * * *

    (d) * * *

    (e) Excess capacity. Excess capacity is the excess use or capacity remaining in facilities, equipment, or services that you properly invested in or established, in good faith, with the intent of serving your members or supporting your business operations. You may sell or lease the excess capacity in facilities, such as office space and other premises. You may sell or lease the excess capacity in equipment or services, such as employees and data processing, if you reasonably anticipate that the excess capacity will be taken up by the future expansion of services to your members.

    [FR Doc. 2016-09867 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7535-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2016-6123; Directorate Identifier 2016-CE-007-AD] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH Gliders AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT).

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

    SUMMARY:

    We propose to adopt a new airworthiness directive (AD) for Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH Models Discus-2a, Discus-2b, Discus-2c, Discus 2cT, Ventus-2a, and Ventus-2b gliders. This proposed AD results from mandatory continuing airworthiness information (MCAI) originated by an aviation authority of another country to identify and correct an unsafe condition on an aviation product. The MCAI describes the unsafe condition as insufficient overlap of the airbrake panels. We are issuing this proposed AD to require actions to address the unsafe condition on these products.

    DATES:

    We must receive comments on this proposed AD by June 13, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may send comments by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Fax: (202) 493-2251.

    Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

    Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    For service information identified in this proposed AD, contact Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH, Krebenstrasse 25, 73230 Kirchheim/Teck, Germany; telephone: +49 7021 7298-0; fax: +49 7021 7298-199; email: [email protected]; Internet: http://www.schempp-hirth.com. You may review this referenced service information at the FAA, Small Airplane Directorate, 901 Locust, Kansas City, Missouri 64106. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call (816) 329-4148.

    Examining the AD Docket

    You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-6123; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this proposed AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The street address for the Docket Office (telephone (800) 647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jim Rutherford, Aerospace Engineer, FAA, Small Airplane Directorate, 901 Locust, Room 301, Kansas City, Missouri 64106; telephone: (816) 329-4165; fax: (816) 329-4090; email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Comments Invited

    We invite you to send any written relevant data, views, or arguments about this proposed AD. Send your comments to an address listed under the ADDRESSES section. Include “Docket No. FAA-2016-6123; Directorate Identifier 2016-CE-007-AD” at the beginning of your comments. We specifically invite comments on the overall regulatory, economic, environmental, and energy aspects of this proposed AD. We will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend this proposed AD because of those comments.

    We will post all comments we receive, without change, to http://regulations.gov, including any personal information you provide. We will also post a report summarizing each substantive verbal contact we receive about this proposed AD.

    Discussion

    The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the Technical Agent for the Member States of the European Community, has issued AD No.: 2016-0027, dated February 9, 2016 (referred to after this as “the MCAI”), to correct an unsafe condition for the specified products. The MCAI states:

    Operational experience shows that, under certain conditions, the overlap between the two airbrake panels can be insufficient and the panels can interlock.

    This condition, if not corrected, could lead to blockage of the airbrakes, possibly resulting in reduced control of the (powered) sailplane.

    To address this potential unsafe condition, Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH issued TN 349-39, 360-29, 825-55 and 863-22 (single document, hereafter referred to as `the TN' in this AD), to provide inspection instructions to verify the correct overlap between the two affected airbrake panels.

    For the reason described above, this AD requires a one-time inspection of the overlap of the affected airbrake panels and, depending on findings, accomplishment of applicable corrective action(s).

    You may examine the MCAI on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-6123.

    Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

    Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH has issued Technical Note No. 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22; dated January 29, 2016 (published as a single document), and Arbeitsanweisung (English translation: Working instructions) for Technische Mitteilung Nr. (English translation: Technical Note No.) 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22, Ausgabe (English translation: Issue) 1, Datum (English translation: Dated) January 22, 2016. The service information describes procedures for inspection of the overlap of the airbrake panels and, if necessary, replacement of the airbrake panels. This service information is reasonably available because the interested parties have access to it through their normal course of business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section of this NPRM.

    FAA's Determination and Requirements of the Proposed AD

    This product has been approved by the aviation authority of another country, and is approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant to our bilateral agreement with this State of Design Authority, they have notified us of the unsafe condition described in the MCAI and service information referenced above. We are proposing this AD because we evaluated all information and determined the unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other products of the same type design.

    Costs of Compliance

    We estimate that this proposed AD will affect 86 products of U.S. registry. We also estimate that it would take about 2 work-hours per product to comply with the basic requirements of this proposed AD.

    Based on these figures, we estimate the cost of the proposed AD on U.S. operators to be $14,620, or $170 per product.

    In addition, we estimate that any necessary follow-on actions would take about 4 work-hours and require parts costing $100, for a cost of $440 per product. We have no way of determining the number of products that may need these actions.

    Authority for This Rulemaking

    Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. “Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs,” describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

    We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in “Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

    Regulatory Findings

    We determined that this proposed AD would not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This proposed AD would not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

    For the reasons discussed above, I certify this proposed regulation:

    (1) Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866,

    (2) Is not a “significant rule” under the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979),

    (3) Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska, and

    (4) Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

    Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

    The Proposed Amendment

    Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA proposes to amend 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

    PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

    § 39.13 [Amended]
    2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new AD: Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH: Docket No. FAA-2016-6123; Directorate Identifier 2016-CE-007-AD. (a) Comments Due Date

    We must receive comments by June 13, 2016.

    (b) Affected ADs

    None.

    (c) Applicability

    This AD applies to the following Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH model and serial number gliders, certificated in any category:

    (1) Model Discus-2a, serial numbers 1 through 253;

    (2) Model Discus-2b, serial numbers 1 through 255;

    (3) Model Discus-2c, serial numbers 1 through 61;

    (4) Model Discus 2cT, serial numbers 1 through 127;

    (5) Model Ventus-2a, serial numbers 1 through 178; and

    (6) Model Ventus-2b, serial numbers 1 through 175.

    (d) Subject

    Air Transport Association of America (ATA) Code 27: Flight Controls.

    (e) Reason

    This AD was prompted by mandatory continuing airworthiness information (MCAI) originated by an aviation authority of another country to identify and correct an unsafe condition on an aviation product. The MCAI describes the unsafe condition as insufficient overlap of the airbrake panels. We are issuing this proposed AD to require actions to address the unsafe condition on these products. We are issuing this AD to prevent interlocking of the airbrake panels, which could lead to blockage of the airbrakes and possible loss of control.

    (f) Actions and Compliance

    Unless already done, do the following actions in paragraphs (f)(1) and (f)(2) of this AD:

    (1) Within the next 40 days after the effective date of this AD, inspect the overlap of the airbrake panels for a minimum overlap of at least 3 millimeters following Action 1 in Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH Technische Mitteilung Nr. (English translation: Technical Note No.) 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22, dated January 29, 2016 (published as a single document); and Action 1 in the associated Arbeitsanweisung (English translation: Working instructions) for Technische Mitteilung Nr. (English translation: Technical Note No.) 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22, Ausgabe (English translation: issue) 1, Datum (English translation: dated) January 22, 2016.

    Note 1 to paragraph (f)(1) and (f)(2) of this AD: This service information contains German to English translation. The EASA used the English translation in referencing the document. For enforceability purposes, we will refer to the Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH service information as it appears on the document.

    (2) If, during the inspection required in paragraph (f)(1) of this AD, the overlap on the airbrake panels is found to be less than 3 millimeters, before further flight, install eccentric bushings and make adjustments following Action 2 in Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH Technische Mitteilung Nr. (English translation: Technical Note No.) 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22, dated January 29, 2016 (published as a single document); and Action 2 in the associated Arbeitsanweisung (English translation: Working instructions) for Technische Mitteilung Nr. (English translation: Technical Note No.) 349-39, 360-29, 825-55, 863-22, Ausgabe (English translation: issue) 1, Datum (English translation: dated) January 22, 2016.

    (g) Other FAA AD Provisions

    The following provisions also apply to this AD:

    (1) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs): The Manager, Standards Office, FAA, has the authority to approve AMOCs for this AD, if requested using the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19. Send information to ATTN: Jim Rutherford, Aerospace Engineer, FAA, Small Airplane Directorate, 901 Locust, Room 301, Kansas City, Missouri 64106; telephone: (816) 329-4165; fax: (816) 329-4090; email: [email protected] Before using any approved AMOC on any airplane to which the AMOC applies, notify your appropriate principal inspector (PI) in the FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), or lacking a PI, your local FSDO.

    (2) Airworthy Product: For any requirement in this AD to obtain corrective actions from a manufacturer or other source, use these actions if they are FAA-approved. Corrective actions are considered FAA-approved if they are approved by the State of Design Authority (or their delegated agent). You are required to assure the product is airworthy before it is returned to service.

    (h) Related Information

    Refer to MCAI European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) AD No.: 2016-0027, dated February 9, 2016, for related information. You may examine the MCAI on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-6123. For service information related to this AD, contact Schempp-Hirth Flugzeugbau GmbH, Krebenstrasse 25, 73230 Kirchheim/Teck, Germany; telephone: +49 7021 7298-0; fax: +49 7021 7298-199; email: [email protected]; Internet: http://www.schempp-hirth.com. You may review this referenced service information at the FAA, Small Airplane Directorate, 901 Locust, Kansas City, Missouri 64106. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call (816) 329-4148.

    Issued in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 15, 2016. Melvin Johnson, Acting Manager, Small Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09435 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2016-5596; Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-121-AD] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; Airbus Airplanes AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

    SUMMARY:

    We propose to supersede Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2014-12-06, for certain Airbus Model A300 B4-600, B4-600R, and F4-600R series airplanes, and Model A300 C4-605R Variant F airplanes (collectively called Model A300-600 series airplanes); and Airbus Model A310 series airplanes. AD 2014-12-06 currently requires inspections of the external area of the aft cargo door sill beam for cracking, and repair if necessary. Since we issued AD 2014-12-06, we have determined it is necessary to require that high frequency eddy current (HFEC) inspections be performed repetitively. This proposed AD would mandate the previously optional terminating HFEC inspection, and require that it be done repetitively. We are proposing this AD to detect and correct fatigue cracking of the cargo door sill beam, lock fitting, and torsion box plate. Failure of one or more of these components could result in the loss of the door locking function and, subsequently, complete loss of the cargo door in flight with the risk of rapid decompression.

    DATES:

    We must receive comments on this proposed AD by June 13, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may send comments by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Fax: 202-493-2251.

    Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

    Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    For service information identified in this NPRM, contact Airbus SAS, Airworthiness Office—EAW, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this referenced service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221.

    Examining the AD Docket

    You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-5596; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this proposed AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The street address for the Docket Operations office (telephone 800-647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Dan Rodina, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-2125; fax 425-227-1149.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Comments Invited

    We invite you to send any written relevant data, views, or arguments about this proposed AD. Send your comments to an address listed under the ADDRESSES section. Include “Docket No. FAA-2016-5596; Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-121-AD” at the beginning of your comments. We specifically invite comments on the overall regulatory, economic, environmental, and energy aspects of this proposed AD. We will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend this proposed AD based on those comments.

    We will post all comments we receive, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you provide. We will also post a report summarizing each substantive verbal contact we receive about this proposed AD.

    Discussion

    On June 4, 2014, we issued AD 2014-12-06, Amendment 39-17867 (79 FR 34403, June 17, 2014) (“AD 2014-12-06”). AD 2014-12-06 requires actions intended to address an unsafe condition on certain Airbus Model A300 B4-600, B4-600R, and F4-600R series airplanes, and Model A300 C4-605R Variant F airplanes (collectively called Model A300-600 series airplanes); and Airbus Model A310 series airplanes.

    Since we issued AD 2014-12-06, we have determined it is necessary to require that the HFEC inspections be performed repetitively.

    The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the Technical Agent for the Member States of the European Union, has issued EASA Airworthiness Directive 2015-0150, dated July 23, 2015 (referred to after this as the Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information, or “the MCAI”), to correct an unsafe condition for certain Airbus Model A300 B4-600, B4-600R, and F4-600R series airplanes, and Model A300 C4-605R Variant F airplanes (collectively called Model A300-600 series airplanes); and Airbus Model A310 series airplanes. The MCAI states:

    During accomplishment of Maintenance Review Board Report (MRBR) task 531625-01-1 on an A300-600 aeroplane having accumulated more than 25,000 flight cycles (FC) since aeroplane first flight, multiple fatigue cracks were found on the following parts:

    —Aft cargo door sill beam Part Number(P/N) A53973085210 —Lock fitting P/N A53978239002 —Torsion box plate P/N A53973318206.

    Prompted by these findings, a stress analysis was performed during which it was discovered that there is no dedicated scheduled maintenance task to inspect the affected area for fatigue damage.

    This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to failure of multiple lock fittings, possibly resulting in loss of the cargo door in flight and consequent explosive decompression of the aeroplane.

    To address this unsafe condition, Airbus issued Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A53W005-14 providing instructions for inspection of the affected area.

    Consequently, EASA issued Emergency AD 2014-0097-E [FAA AD 2014-12-06, Amendment 39-17867 (79 FR 34403, June 17, 2014)] to require repetitive ultrasonic (US) inspections or detailed inspections (DET) of the aft cargo door sill beam external area, and/or a one-time High Frequency Eddy Current (HFEC) inspection of the aft cargo door sill beam internal structure and, depending on findings, accomplishment of corrective action(s).

    Since that [EASA] AD was issued, the results of further analysis have indicated that repetitive HFEC inspections need to be introduced.

    For the reasons described above, this [EASA] AD retains the requirements of EASA AD 2014-0097-E, which is superseded, and requires repetitive HFEC inspections of the concerned areas. The first HFEC inspection terminates the repetitive US/DET inspections.

    You may examine the MCAI in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-5596.

    Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

    Airbus has issued Service Bulletin A300-53-6179, dated December 12, 2014; and Service Bulletin A310-53-2139, dated December 12, 2014. The service information describes procedures for repetitive HFEC inspections of the cargo door sill beam, lock fitting, and torsion box plate.

    Airbus has also issued AOT A53W005-14, Revision 01, dated April 29, 2014. The service information describes procedures for doing an ultrasonic inspection or detailed inspection of the aft cargo door sill beam external area for cracking.

    This service information is reasonably available because the interested parties have access to it through their normal course of business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section.

    FAA's Determination and Requirements of This Proposed AD

    This product has been approved by the aviation authority of another country, and is approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant to our bilateral agreement with the State of Design Authority, we have been notified of the unsafe condition described in the MCAI and service information referenced above. We are proposing this AD because we evaluated all pertinent information and determined an unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other products of these same type designs.

    Costs of Compliance

    We estimate that this proposed AD affects 75 airplanes of U.S. registry.

    The actions required by AD 2014-12-06, and retained in this proposed AD, take about 12 work-hours per product, at an average labor rate of $85 per work-hour. Based on these figures, the estimated cost of the actions that are required by AD 2014-12-06 and retained in this AD is $1,020 per product.

    We also estimate that it would take about 1 work-hour per product to comply with the reporting requirements of this proposed AD. The average labor rate is $85 per work-hour. Based on these figures, we estimate the cost of this proposed AD on U.S. operators to be $6,374, or $85 per product.

    We have received no definitive data that would enable us to provide cost estimates for the on-condition actions specified in this proposed AD.

    Paperwork Reduction Act

    A federal agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to penalty for failure to comply with a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act unless that collection of information displays a current valid OMB control number. The control number for the collection of information required by this AD is 2120-0056. The paperwork cost associated with this AD has been detailed in the Costs of Compliance section of this document and includes time for reviewing instructions, as well as completing and reviewing the collection of information. Therefore, all reporting associated with this AD is mandatory. Comments concerning the accuracy of this burden and suggestions for reducing the burden should be directed to the FAA at 800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20591, ATTN: Information Collection Clearance Officer, AES-200.

    Authority for This Rulemaking

    Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. “Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs,” describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

    We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in “Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

    Regulatory Findings

    We determined that this proposed AD would not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This proposed AD would not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

    For the reasons discussed above, I certify this proposed regulation:

    1. Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866;

    2. Is not a “significant rule” under the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979);

    3. Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska; and

    4. Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

    Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

    The Proposed Amendment

    Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA proposes to amend 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

    PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

    § 39.13 [Amended]
    2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by removing AD 2014-12-06, Amendment 39-17867 (79 FR 34403, June 17, 2014), and adding the following new AD: Airbus: Docket No. FAA-2016-5596; Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-121-AD. (a) Comments Due Date

    We must receive comments by June 13, 2016.

    (b) Affected ADs

    This AD replaces AD 2014-12-06, Amendment 39-17867 (79 FR 34403, June 17, 2014) (“AD 2014-12-06”).

    (c) Applicability

    This AD applies to the airplanes identified in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(4), and (c)(5) of this AD, certificated in any category, all manufacturer serial numbers on which Airbus Modification 05438 has been embodied in production, except those on which Airbus Modification 12046 has been embodied in production.

    (1) Airbus Model A300 B4-601, B4-603, B4-620, and B4-622 airplanes.

    (2) Airbus Model A300 B4-605R and B4-622R airplanes.

    (3) Airbus Model A300 F4-605R and F4-622R airplanes.

    (4) Airbus Model A300 C4-605R Variant F airplanes.

    (5) Airbus Model A310-203, -204, -221, -222, -304, -322, -324, and -325 airplanes.

    (d) Subject

    Air Transport Association (ATA) of America Code 53, Fuselage.

    (e) Reason

    This AD was prompted by reports of fatigue cracks on the cargo door sill beam, lock fitting, and torsion box plate. We are issuing this AD to detect and correct fatigue cracking of the cargo door sill beam, lock fitting, and torsion box plate, which could result in the loss of the door locking function and subsequently, complete loss of the cargo door in flight with the risk of rapid decompression.

    (f) Compliance

    Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

    (g) Retained Inspection With Revised Service Information

    This paragraph restates the requirements of paragraph (g)(1) of AD 2014-12-06 with revised service information: Within the compliance time identified in paragraph (g)(1), (g)(2), or (g)(3) of this AD, as applicable, do an ultrasonic inspection or detailed inspection of the aft cargo door sill beam external area for cracking, in accordance with Airbus Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A53W005-14, dated April 22, 2014; or Airbus AOT A53W005-14, Revision 01, dated April 29, 2014. Repeat the inspection thereafter at intervals not to exceed 275 flight cycles. As of the effective date of this AD, only Airbus AOT A53W005-14, Revision 01, dated April 29, 2014, may be used to comply with the requirements of this paragraph.

    (1) For airplanes that have accumulated 30,000 flight cycles or more since the airplane's first flight as of July 2, 2014 (the effective date of AD 2014-12-06): Within 50 flight cycles after July 2, 2014.

    (2) For airplanes that have accumulated 18,000 flight cycles or more, but fewer than 30,000 flight cycles since the airplane's first flight as of July 2, 2014 (the effective date of AD 2014-12-06): Within 275 flight cycles after July 2, 2014.

    (3) For airplanes that have accumulated fewer than 18,000 flight cycles since the airplane's first flight as of July 2, 2014 (the effective date of AD 2014-12-06): Before exceeding 18,275 flight cycles since the airplane's first flight.

    (h) Retained Optional Terminating Action, With Revised Service Information

    This paragraph restates the provisions of paragraph (h) of AD 2014-12-06, with revised service information. Accomplishment of high frequency eddy current (HFEC) inspection for cracking, in accordance with Airbus AOT A53W005-14, dated April 22, 2014; or Airbus AOT A53W005-14, Revision 01, dated April 29, 2014, terminates the repetitive inspections required by paragraph (g) of this AD for that airplane. If any cracking is found during the HFEC inspection, before further flight, repair using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); or Airbus's EASA Design Organization Approval (DOA).

    (i) Retained Reporting Requirement, With Revised Service Information

    This paragraph restates the provisions of paragraph (i) of AD 2014-12-06, with revised service information. Submit a report of the findings (both positive and negative) of the inspection required by paragraph (g) of this AD to Airbus, as specified in paragraph 7.,”Reporting,” of Airbus AOT A53W005-14, dated April 22, 2014; or Airbus AOT A53W005-14, Revision 01, dated April 29, 2014, at the applicable time specified in paragraph (i)(1) or (i)(2) of this AD. The report must include inspection results, including no findings.

    (1) If the inspection was done on or after the effective date of this AD: Submit the report within 30 days after the inspection.

    (2) If the inspection was done before the effective date of this AD: Submit the report within 30 days after the effective date of this AD.

    (j) Definition of Airplane Groups

    Paragraphs (k)(1), (k)(2), and (k)(3) of this AD refer to airplane groups, as identified in paragraphs (j)(1), (j)(2), and (j)(3) of this AD.

    (1) Airplanes on which a HFEC inspection was accomplished as specified in Airbus AOT A53W005-14.

    (2) Airplanes on which no HFEC inspection was accomplished as specified in Airbus AOT A53W005-14, and that have accumulated more than 18,000 total flight cycles as of the effective date of this AD.

    (3) Airplanes on which no HFEC inspection accomplished as specified in Airbus AOT A53W005-14, that have accumulated 18,000 total flight cycles or fewer as of the effective date of this AD.

    (k) New Repetitive HFEC Inspections and Repair

    At the applicable time specified in paragraph (k)(1), (k)(2), or (k)(3) of this AD, do an HFEC inspection for fatigue cracking of the cargo door sill beam, lock fitting, and torsion box plate, in accordance with Airbus Service Bulletin A300-53-6179, dated December 12, 2014; or Airbus Service Bulletin A310-53-2139, dated December 12, 2014, as applicable. Repeat the HFEC inspection thereafter at intervals not to exceed 4,600 flight cycles.

    (1) For airplanes identified in paragraph (j)(1) of this AD: Inspect within 4,600 flight cycles after the most recent HFEC inspection specified in Airbus AOT A53W005-14.

    (2) For airplanes identified in paragraph (j)(2) of this AD: Inspect within 2,000 flight cycles after the effective date of this AD.

    (3) For airplanes identified in paragraph (j)(3) of this AD: Inspect before exceeding 13,000 total flight cycles since the airplane's first flight, or within 2,000 flight cycles after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later.

    (l) Corrective Action

    If any crack is found during any inspection required by paragraph (g) or (k) of this AD: Before further flight, repair using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the EASA; or Airbus's EASA DOA.

    (m) Terminating Action for HFEC Inspections

    For any airplane identified in paragraphs (j)(2) and (j)(3) of this AD, accomplishment of the initial inspection required by paragraph (k) of this AD terminates the repetitive inspections required by paragraph (g) of this AD.

    (n) Other FAA AD Provisions

    The following provisions also apply to this AD:

    (1) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs): The Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, has the authority to approve AMOCs for this AD, if requested using the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19. In accordance with 14 CFR 39.19, send your request to your principal inspector or local Flight Standards District Office, as appropriate. If sending information directly to the International Branch, send it to ATTN: Dan Rodina, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-2125; fax 425-227-1149. Information may be emailed to: [email protected] Before using any approved AMOC, notify your appropriate principal inspector, or lacking a principal inspector, the manager of the local flight standards district office/certificate holding district office. The AMOC approval letter must specifically reference this AD.

    (2) Contacting the Manufacturer: As of the effective date of this AD, for any requirement in this AD to obtain corrective actions from a manufacturer, the action must be accomplished using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the EASA; or Airbus's EASA DOA. If approved by the DOA, the approval must include the DOA-authorized signature.

    (3) Reporting Requirements: A federal agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, nor shall a person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act unless that collection of information displays a current valid OMB Control Number. The OMB Control Number for this information collection is 2120-0056. Public reporting for this collection of information is estimated to be approximately 5 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, completing and reviewing the collection of information. All responses to this collection of information are mandatory. Comments concerning the accuracy of this burden and suggestions for reducing the burden should be directed to the FAA at: 800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20591, Attn: Information Collection Clearance Officer, AES-200.

    (4) Required for Compliance (RC): Except as required by paragraph (l) of this AD: If any service information contains procedures or tests that are identified as RC, those procedures and tests must be done to comply with this AD; any procedures or tests that are not identified as RC are recommended. Those procedures and tests that are not identified as RC may be deviated from using accepted methods in accordance with the operator's maintenance or inspection program without obtaining approval of an AMOC, provided the procedures and tests identified as RC can be done and the airplane can be put back in an airworthy condition. Any substitutions or changes to procedures or tests identified as RC require approval of an AMOC.

    (o) Related Information

    (1) Refer to Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information (MCAI) European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Airworthiness Directive 2015-0150, dated July 23, 2015, for related information. This MCAI may be found in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-5596.

    (2) For service information identified in this AD, contact Airbus SAS, Airworthiness Office—EAW, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on April 15, 2016. Victor Wicklund, Acting Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09641 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 228 [FRL-9945-52-Region 1] Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to designate one dredged material disposal site, the Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site (ELDS) located offshore from New London, Connecticut, for the disposal of dredged material from harbors and navigation channels in eastern Long Island Sound in the states of Connecticut and New York. This action is necessary to provide a long-term, open-water dredged material disposal site as an alternative for the possible future disposal of such material. This disposal site designation is subject to various restrictions designed to support the goal of reducing or eliminating the disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound.

    While EPA is currently proposing to designate the ELDS as its preferred alternative, EPA also has concluded, based on the analysis in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Designation of Dredged Material Disposal Site(s) in Eastern Long Island Sound, Connecticut and New York (DSEIS), that two other alternatives, the Niantic Bay and Cornfield Shoals disposal sites (NBDS and CSDS), or portions thereof, could potentially be designated in addition to, or instead of, the ELDS. EPA is not currently recommending the NBDS and CSDS as preferred alternatives, but is inviting public comments on the option of designating one or both of these sites instead of, or as a complement to, the ELDS.

    DATES:

    Comments must be received on or before June 27, 2016. EPA will hold four public hearings to receive comments on the proposed rule. The first two will be held on May 25, 2016, from 1-3 p.m. at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center, 20 East Main St., Riverhead, NY 11901, and from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Mattituck-Laurel Library, 13900 Main Rd., Mattituck, NY 11952. The second two will be held on May 26, 2016, from 1-3 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. at the University of Connecticut—Avery Point, Academic Building, Room 308, 1084 Shennecossett Rd., Groton, CT 06340. Registration will begin 30 minutes before each of the four hearings.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written comments should be sent to [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Jean Brochi, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Regional Office, 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100, Mail Code: OEP06-1, Boston, MA 02109-3912, telephone: (617) 918-1536, fax number: (617) 918-0536; email address: [email protected] or [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The supporting document for this site designation is the DSEIS. The DSEIS is considered supplemental because it updates and builds on analyses that were conducted for the 2005 Long Island Sound Environmental Impact Statement that supported the designation of the Central and Western Long Island Sound dredged material disposal sites. This document is available for public inspection at the following locations:

    1. EPA Web site: https://www.epa.gov/ocean-dumping/dredged-material-management-long-island-sound.

    2. Regulations.gov: Docket No. EPA-R01-OW-2016-0239.

    3. In person: EPA Region 1 Library, 5 Post Office Square, Boston, MA 02109.

    Organization of this document. The following outline is provided to aid in locating information in this preamble.

    I. Background II. Purpose and Need III. Potentially Affected Entities IV. Disposal Site Descriptions A. Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site B. Niantic Bay Disposal Site C. Cornfield Shoals Disposal Site V. Compliance With Statutory and Regulatory Authorities A. Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act and Clean Water Act B. National Environmental Policy Act C. Coastal Zone Management Act D. Endangered Species Act E. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act VI. Restrictions VII. Proposed Action VIII. Supporting Documents IX. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews I. Background

    Section 102(c) of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), as amended, 33 U.S.C. 1412, gives the Administrator of EPA the authority to designate sites where ocean disposal may be permitted. On October 1, 1986, the Administrator delegated the authority to designate ocean dredged material disposal sites to the Regional Administrator of the Region in which the sites are located. The preferred alternative site, ELDS, and the other two alternatives, NBDS and CSDS, are all located within Connecticut state waters, which is within the area assigned to EPA Region 1, see 40 CFR 1.7(b)(1); therefore the designation of one or more of these sites is being proposed pursuant to the EPA Region 1 Administrator's delegated authority.

    EPA regulations (40 CFR 228.4(e)(1)) promulgated under the MPRSA require, among other things, that EPA designate ocean disposal sites by promulgation in 40 CFR 228. Designated ocean disposal sites are codified at 40 CFR 228.15.

    The primary authorities that govern the aquatic disposal of dredged material in the United States are the MPRSA, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq., and the Clean Water Act of 1972, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. (CWA). While the CWA does not apply specifically to an EPA designation of a long-term dredged material disposal site under the MPRSA, future federal and non-federal projects involving dredged material disposal in Long Island Sound will require both a section 404 permit as well as a State Water Quality Certification pursuant to section 401 of the CWA. In 1980, the MPRSA was amended to add Section 106(f) to the statute. 33 U.S.C. 1416(f). This provision is commonly referred to as the “Ambro Amendment,” named after its author, Congressman Jerome Ambro. MPRSA section 106(f), 33 U.S.C. 1416(f), was itself amended in 1990. Under this provision, the disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound from both federal projects (i.e., projects carried out by the USACE Civil Works Program or the actions of other federal agencies) and from non-federal projects generating more than 25,000 cubic yards of material must satisfy the requirements of both CWA section 404 and the MPRSA. Disposal from non-federal projects generating less than 25,000 cubic yards of material, however, are subject only to CWA section 404.

    This rule proposes to designate the ELDS for open-water disposal of dredged material. While EPA is currently proposing the designation of the ELDS as its preferred alternative, EPA also has concluded, based on the analysis in the DSEIS, that two other alternatives, the Niantic Bay and Cornfield Shoals disposal sites (NBDS and CSDS), or portions thereof, could potentially be designated in addition to, or instead of, the ELDS. All three sites are described in detail in section IV, Disposal Site Descriptions.

    EPA has conducted the disposal site designation process consistent with the requirements of the MPRSA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), and other relevant statutes and regulations. The site designations are intended to be effective for an indefinite period of time.

    It is important to understand that the designation of a dredged material disposal site by EPA does not by itself authorize the disposal at that site of dredged material from any particular dredging project. For example, designation of the ELDS would only make that site available to receive dredged material from a specific project if no environmentally preferable, practicable alternative for managing that dredged material exists, and if analysis of the dredged material indicates that it is suitable for open-water disposal. See 40 CFR 227.1(b), 227.2 and 227.3; 40 CFR part 227, subparts B and C.

    Thus, each proposed dredging project will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether there are practicable, environmentally preferable alternatives to open-water disposal (i.e., whether there is a need for open-water disposal). In addition, the dredged material from each proposed disposal project will be subjected to MPRSA and/or CWA sediment testing requirements to determine its suitability for possible open-water disposal at an approved site. Alternatives to open-water disposal that will be considered include upland disposal and beneficial uses such as beach nourishment. If environmentally preferable, practicable disposal alternatives exist, open-water disposal will not be allowed. EPA also will not approve dredged material for open-water disposal if it determines that the material has the potential to cause unacceptable adverse effects to the marine environment or human health. The review process for proposed disposal projects is discussed in more detail below and in the DSEIS.

    Dredged material disposal sites designated by EPA under the MPRSA are subject to detailed management and monitoring protocols to track site conditions and prevent the occurrence of unacceptable adverse effects. EPA and the USACE typically share responsibility for the management and monitoring of these disposal sites. The management and monitoring protocols for the ELDS are described in the Site Management and Monitoring Plan (SMMP) that is incorporated in the DSEIS as Appendix I. See 33 U.S.C. 1412(c)(3). EPA is authorized to close or limit the use of these sites to further disposal activity if their use causes unacceptable adverse impacts to the marine environment or human health.

    II. Purpose and Need

    As described in the DSEIS, the purpose of EPA's proposed action is to determine whether one or more environmentally sound open-water dredged material disposal sites should be authorized for future long-term use in the eastern Long Island Sound region and, if so, to designate the site or sites accordingly and consistent with applicable law. The need for this effort derives from the following facts: (1) There are currently no disposal sites designated for long-term use in the eastern Long Island Sound region; (2) the two currently used sites in this region are only authorized for use until December 23, 2016; (3) periodic dredging is necessary to maintain safe navigation and marine commerce, and dredged material disposal is necessary when practicable alternative means of managing the material are not available; (4) EPA determined, based on the evaluation of projected dredging needs over a 30-year planning horizon and alternatives to open-water disposal conducted for the USACE's DMMP, that there are dredging and dredged material disposal/handling needs that exceed the available disposal/handling capacity in the eastern region of Long Island Sound; and (5) the MPRSA requires an EPA designation for any long-term dredged material disposal site.

    In addition, the closest designated sites outside the eastern Long Island Sound region (and outside the “Zone of Siting Feasibility,” or ZSF, which is discussed in Section 1.3 of the DSEIS), are the Central Long Island Sound Disposal Site (CLDS) and the Rhode Island Sound Disposal Site (RISDS), which are 29.9 nautical miles (nmi) and 51.4 nmi, respectively, from the Saybrook Outer Bars at the mouth of the Connecticut River. The Saybrook Outer Bars is the southernmost project in the Connecticut River dredging center, which is the largest dredging center in the eastern Long Island Sound region. The Western Long Island Sound Disposal Site (WLDS) is even farther to the west than the CLDS, lying 58.4 nmi from the Connecticut River dredging center (DMMP, Section 5.3).

    While the CLDS, WLDS, and RISDS have all been determined to be environmentally sound sites for receiving suitable dredged material, proposing to use any of them for suitable dredged material from the eastern region of Long Island Sound would be problematic and EPA would consider them to be options of last resort. Indeed, EPA does not consider the WLDS to be a truly viable option for eastern Long Island Sound material given how distant it is and given the fact that if material was being hauled long distance to the west from the eastern region of the Sound, the material would be taken to the CLDS and not hauled even farther to the WLDS. At the same time, using the CLDS or RISDS (not to mention the WLDS) would greatly increase the transport distance for, and duration of, open-water disposal for dredging projects from the eastern Long Island Sound region. This, in turn, would greatly increase the cost of such projects and would likely render many dredging projects too expensive to conduct, thus threatening safe navigation and interfering with marine recreation and commerce. Furthermore, the greater transport distance would also be environmentally detrimental in that it would entail greater energy use, increased air emissions, and increased risk of spills and short dumps (DSEIS, Section 2.1). Regarding air emissions, increased hauling distances may require using larger scows with more powerful tug boats, which would use more fuel and cause more emission of air pollutants.

    As determined by the USACE through the development of its recently completed Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP), and described in the DSEIS (Section 2.3 and Tables 2-2 and 2-3), dredging in eastern Long Island Sound is projected to generate approximately 22.6 million cubic yards (mcy) of dredged material over the next 30 years, including 17.9 mcy from Connecticut ports and harbors and 4.7 mcy from ports and harbors in New York. Of the total amount of 22.6 mcy, approximately 13.5 mcy are projected to be fine-grained sediment that meets MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., “suitable” material), and 9.1 mcy are projected to be coarse-grained sand that also meets MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., also “suitable” material). In addition, the DMMP estimates that approximately 80,900 cy of material from eastern Long Island Sound will be fine-grained sediment that does not meet MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., “unsuitable” material).

    Although Rhode Island is included in the ZSF for an eastern Long Island Sound dredged material disposal site—the ZSF is described later in section V, Compliance with Statutory and Regulatory Authorities—the volume of material estimated to come from two Rhode Island dredging centers (Block Island and South-Central/Southeast Washington County) located within the ZSF in Rhode Island is not included in the total amount of material estimated to come from the eastern portion of the Sound. This is because these dredging centers are closer to the RISDS. In addition, much of the dredged material from these two dredging centers is sand and will end up being used beneficially to nourish beaches.

    The DMMP also estimates the total dredging needs for the entire Long Island Sound region at 52.9 mcy, meaning the central and western regions are projected to generate approximately 30.3 mcy of dredged material over the 30-year planning horizon (DMMP, Section 4.7 and Table 4.1). Of the total of 30.3 mcy, 20.9 mcy are projected to be fine-grained sediment that meets MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., “suitable” material), 6.1 mcy are projected to be course-grained sand that also would be suitable for open-water disposal, and 3.3 mcy is projected to be fine-grained sediment unsuitable for open-water disposal. This leaves a total of 27 mcy of dredged material that could be suitable for open-water disposal, although EPA expects most, if not all, of the 6.1 mcy of sand would be used beneficially. The combined capacity of the CLDS and WLDS is approximately 40 mcy, which is enough to handle the 27 mcy from those regions. Those sites, however, neither have the capacity nor were intended also to meet the dredging needs of the eastern Long Island Sound region, which, as stated above, has been estimated to be approximately 22.6 mcy of suitable material (which, when added to the 27 mcy of suitable material from the central and western regions, amounts to a total of 49.6 mcy of suitable material from all of Long Island Sound). Furthermore, the distances from mouth of the Connecticut River to the CLDS and WLDS are 29.9 nmi and 58.4 nmi, respectively. Thus, both sites are outside the ZSF for the eastern Long Island Sound Region and for the reasons discussed above, neither would be a viable as a long-term solution for dredged material from the eastern Long Island Sound region, even if the CLDS could conceivably be used for material from the eastern Sound in an emergency situation.

    The DMMP also included a detailed assessment of alternatives to open-water disposal and determined that, while all the sand generated in this region should be able to be used beneficially to nourish beaches, there are not practicable alternatives to open-water disposal with sufficient capacity to handle the projected volume of fine-grained sediment. As described in section VI, Restrictions, and in the proposed rule itself, there will be restrictions on the use of all Long Island Sound dredged material disposal sites that are designed to facilitate and promote the use of practicable alternatives to open-water disposal whenever available, but one or more designated open-water disposal sites are needed in eastern Long Island Sound.

    EPA designation of a long-term dredged material disposal site(s) provides environmental benefits. First, when use of a site under the USACE short-term site selection authority is due to expire, designation by EPA is the only way to authorize continued use of that site, even if the site is environmentally suitable or even environmentally preferable to all other sites. With the NLDS and CSDS closing in December 2016, EPA's site designation studies were designed to determine whether or not these or any other sites should be designated for continued long-term use. Congress has directed that the disposal of dredged material should take place at EPA-designated sites, rather than USACE-selected sites, when EPA-designated sites are available (see MPRSA 103(b)). Thus, Congress has identified a preference for use of EPA-designated sites.

    Second, MPRSA criteria for selecting and designating sites require EPA to consider previously used disposal sites or areas, with active or historically used sites given preference in the evaluation (40 CFR 228.5(e)). This preference is intended to concentrate the effects, if any, of disposal practices to small, discrete areas that have already received dredged material, and avoid distributing any effects over a larger geographic area. Finally, EPA designated sites require a SMMP that will help ensure environmentally sound monitoring and management of the sites.

    Periodic dredging of harbors and channels and, therefore, dredged material management, are essential for ensuring safe navigation and facilitating marine commerce. This is because the natural processes of erosion and siltation result in sediment accumulation in federal navigation channels, harbors, port facilities, marinas, and other important areas of our water bodies. Unsafe navigational conditions not only threaten public health and safety, but also pose an environmental threat from an increased risk of spills from vessels involved in accidents. Navigation safety is a regulatory requirement for such agencies as the USACE and U.S. Coast Guard.

    Economic considerations also contribute to the need for dredging (and the environmentally sound management of dredged material). There are a large number of important navigation-dependent businesses and industries in the eastern Long Island Sound region and Block Island Sound, ranging from shipping (especially the movement of petroleum fuels and the shipping of bulk materials), to recreational boating-related businesses, marine transportation, commercial and recreational fishing, interstate ferry operations, and military navigation, such as that associated with the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in New London. These businesses and industries contribute substantially to the region's economic output, the gross state product (GSP) of the bordering states and tax revenue. Continued access to harbors, berths, and mooring areas is vital to ensuring the continued economic health of these industries, and to preserving the ability of the region to import fuels, bulk supplies, and other commodities at competitive prices. In addition, preserving navigation channels, marinas, harbors, berthing areas, and other marine resources, improves the quality of life for residents and visitors to the eastern Long Island Sound region by facilitating recreational boating and associated activities, such as fishing and sightseeing.

    Finally, maintaining these marine areas (i.e., navigation channels, harbors, berthing areas) also is important for homeland security and public safety, as they support the operation of the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and USCG facilities in the region, as well as other governmental entities that operate on the waters of Long Island Sound.

    III. Potentially Affected Entities

    Entities potentially affected by this proposed action are persons, organizations, or government bodies seeking to dispose of dredged material in waters of eastern Long Island Sound, subject to the requirements of the MPRSA and/or the CWA and their implementing regulations. This proposed rule is expected to be primarily of relevance to: (a) Private parties seeking permits from the USACE to transport more than 25,000 cubic yards of dredged material for the purpose of disposal into the waters of eastern Long Island Sound; (b) the USACE for its own dredged material disposal projects; and (c) other federal agencies seeking to dispose of dredged material in eastern Long Island Sound. Potentially affected entities and categories of entities that may seek to use the proposed dredged material disposal site and would be subject to the proposed rule include:

    Category Examples of potentially
  • affected entities
  • Federal government USACE (Civil Works Projects), and other federal agencies. State, local, and tribal governments Governments owning and/or responsible for ports, harbors, and/or berths, government agencies requiring disposal of dredged material associated with public works projects. Industry and general public Port authorities, shipyards and marine repair facilities, marinas and boatyards, and berth owners.

    This table is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather provides a guide for readers regarding the types of entities that could potentially be affected should the proposed rule become a final rule. EPA notes that nothing in this proposed rule alters the jurisdiction or authority of EPA, the USACE, or the types of entities regulated under the MPRSA and/or CWA. Questions regarding the applicability of this proposed rule to a particular entity should be directed to the contact person listed in the preceding FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section.

    IV. Disposal Site Descriptions

    This rule proposes to designate the ELDS for open-water disposal of dredged material for several reasons. First, unlike the other two alternatives (i.e., Cornfield Shoals and portions of the Niantic Bay site), the entire ELDS is a containment site, which would support effective management and monitoring. Second, the NLDS, a part of which makes up part of the ELDS, has been used for dredged material disposal for over 35 years, and monitoring of the site has determined that past and present management practices have been successful in minimizing short-term, long-term, and cumulative impacts to water quality and benthic habitat. Third, designating the ELDS, which includes a portion of the NLDS, would be consistent with USEPA's ocean disposal regulations, which indicate a preference for designating disposal sites in areas that have been used in the past, rather than new, relatively undisturbed areas (40 CFR 228.5(e)). Finally, the capacity of the ELDS is approximately 27 million cy (based on water volume below 59 feet [18 m]), which would be sufficient to meet the dredging needs of the eastern Long Island Sound region for the next 30 years and beyond.

    While EPA is currently proposing the designation of the ELDS as its preferred alternative, EPA also has concluded, based on the analysis in the DSEIS, that two other alternatives, the Niantic Bay and Cornfield Shoals disposal sites (NBDS and CSDS), or portions thereof, could potentially be designated in addition to, or instead of, the ELDS. The Niantic Bay alternative, located just to the west of the existing NLDS, contains an area that was historically used (i.e., the NBDS), which is a criterion in the regulations. It also has a capacity of up to 27 million cy (based on water volume below 59 feet [18 m]), which is sufficient to meet the dredging needs of the eastern Long Island Sound region. However, the Niantic Bay site is predominately a transitional area, with a containment area in the northeastern corner, and the remainder of the site being dispersive. EPA is not recommending this site as a preferred alternative at this time primarily because it is not fully a containment site, as is the ELDS site.

    The CSDS, located in the western part of eastern Long Island Sound, has been used for dredged material disposal for over 30 years. Because the site is located in a highly dispersive environment, disposal there has been limited to certain types of sediment (e.g., sandy material). Monitoring of the site has determined that past and present management practices have been successful in minimizing short-term, long-term, and cumulative impacts to water quality and benthic habitat from dredged material disposal. Designation of this site in addition to one of the other alternatives would provide a disposal site on both ends of eastern Long Island Sound, which could reduce travel time for tugs/scows transporting dredged material for disposal at the CSDS. This, in turn, could reduce costs and further minimize any risks of spills or short dumps. Due to the high energy and dispersive nature of the area, the site has unlimited capacity, but disposal at the site would be restricted to only certain types of sediments, such as sand, consistent with past practice.

    Despite these considerations, EPA does not currently recommend designating the CSDS. Given the site's dispersive characteristics, EPA concludes that the CSDS would not be appropriate to designate as the sole disposal site in eastern Long Island Sound. See 40 CFR 228.6(a)(5) and (6). Furthermore, EPA is not proposing to designate the Cornfield Shoals site even as a limited complement to one or more other sites because of the growing opportunities for sand and other dredged sediments to be beneficially used, such as for beach nourishment.

    The following site descriptions are based on information in section 3.4.3 of the DSEIS and other support documents. Specifically, Figures 3-9 and 3-10 in the DSEIS show the locations of the sites, and Table 3-8 provides corner coordinates.

    A. Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site

    The ELDS alternative is located to the south of the mouth of Thames River estuary, approximately halfway between Connecticut and New York. The ELDS encompasses approximately the western half of the existing New London Disposal Site (NLDS), along with Sites NL-Wa and NL-Wb, which are adjacent areas immediately to the west of the NLDS (see DSEIS, Figure 3-9). The dimensions of the ELDS, which combines these three areas, are 1 × 2 nautical miles (nmi), for a total size of 2 square nautical miles (nmi2). The closest upland points to the ELDS are Goshen Point, Connecticut, approximately 1.2 nmi (2.2 km) to the north, and Fishers Island, New York, approximately 1.4 nmi (2.6 km) to the southeast. The following are descriptions of the three areas that together would comprise the ELDS.

    1. New London Disposal Site

    The NLDS is located in the eastern part of the eastern Long Island Sound region and has been used for dredged material disposal since 1955 (SAIC, 2001b). This active open-water dredged material disposal site was previously selected by the USACE using their site selection authority under MPRSA 103(b), 33 U.S.C. 1413(b). The statute limits the use of USACE-selected sites to two five-year periods, 33 U.S.C. 1413(b), but Congress extended the period of use of the NLDS by five additional years by Public Law on December 23, 2011 (Pub. L. 112-74, Title I, Sec 116).

    The center of the NLDS is located 3.1 nmi (5.4 km) south of Eastern Point in Groton, Connecticut. The site has an area of 1 nmi2 (3.4 km2) centered at 41°16.306′ N., 72°04.571′ W. (NAD83); corner coordinates are presented in Table 3-8. Water depths in the site range from approximately 46 to 79 feet (14 to 24 m). Most of the site is located within Connecticut waters, while a small portion in the southeastern corner of the site is located in New York state waters. However, this rule proposes to include only the western half of the NLDS, which would exclude the portion of the site that is in New York waters.

    Approximately 5.4 mcy (4.1 million m3) were disposed at the NLDS between 1955 and 1976. A total of approximately 3.5 mcy (2.6 million m3) of dredged material have been placed at this location since it was formally selected in 1982. The dredged materials mounds on the seafloor result in an uneven seafloor within the site; the dredged material deposits can rise as much as 16 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) above the surrounding seafloor.

    The USGS mapped the sediment at the NLDS as predominantly sand, while sediments in the northernmost part of the site were mapped as gravelly. NUSC (1979) described the sediment at the site as generally fine sand. Much of the surface sediment at the site consists of placed dredged material. Sediment sampled by the DAMOS program at locations approximately 0.5 nmi (1 km) to the east and west of the NLDS consisted of silt/clay and very fine silty sand, which may reflect pre-disposal sediment textures at the NLDS.

    2. Site NL-Wa

    Site NL-Wa is immediately to the west of the NLDS and also has an area of 1 nmi2 (3.4 km2). Water depths range from approximately 45 feet (14 m) in the north, to 100 feet (30 m) in the south. The site consists of mostly sandy areas, but also an area of boulders and rocks in the northern part of the site (WHG, 2014). This boulder area may be a lag deposit of a glacial moraine. The water depth in parts of the boulder area is shallower than 59 feet (18 m).

    3. Site NL-Wb

    Site NL-Wb is immediately to the west of Site NL-Wa and has an area of 0.5 nmi2 (1.7 km2). Water depths across the site range from approximately 59 feet (18 m) in the north, to 95 feet (28 m) in the south. The site consists of an extension of the sandy areas of Site NL-Wa. The southwestern corner of Site NL-Wb contains an area of bedrock and boulders; this area is an extension of a larger area with a similar substrate further to the south. The bedrock appears as parallel ridges of dipping, layered rock that can be correlated to bedrock on shore. The bedrock area within Site NL-Wb also contains some sand waves. Bartlett Reef is located approximately 0.5 nmi (0.9 km) to the west of the western boundary of the site.

    B. Niantic Bay Disposal Site

    The NBDS alternative is located to the south of Niantic Bay, between the Connecticut and Thames Rivers (DSEIS, Figure 3-9). It consists of the historic NBDS and Site NB-E immediately to the east. The NBDS alternative includes areas that were used historically for dredged material disposal, but it has not been used since at least 1972.

    The northern edge of the alternative site is located approximately 0.6 nmi (1.1 km) from Black Point (southwestern corner of Niantic Bay) and 1.6 nmi (3.0 km) from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station (southeastern corner of Niantic Bay). The Niantic Bay alternative has an area of 2.8 nmi2, with a length of 2.08 nmi and a width of 1.33 nmi. Water depths at the site range from approximately 60 to 130 feet (18 to 40 m). The site is located entirely within Connecticut waters.

    1. Niantic Bay Disposal Site (Historic)

    The NBDS was used historically for the disposal of dredged materials between 1969 and 1972, when a total of 176,000 cy (135,000 m3) of dredged material was disposed at this location. The site, however, has not been used for many years and it is not currently an active disposal site. Sediments at the site mostly consist of sand to the north and northwest and gravelly sediment with patches of gravel in the remainder of the area. There is a boulder area in the north-central part of the site and scour depressions in the south. The southeastern corner of the site abuts a bedrock area. The historic NBDS has an area of approximately 1.8 nmi2 (6.2 km2).

    2. Site NB-E

    Water depths at Site NB-E range from 43 feet (13 m) in the north to 230 feet (70 m) in the southeast. Surface sediments at the site are generally similar to sediments at the NBDS. The southwestern corner of Site NB-E contains a bedrock area, which is an extension of an exposed area of dipping bedrock layers to the south of the site. Site NB-E has an area of 1.0 nmi2 (3.4 km2). Bartlett Reef, a bedrock shoal, is located approximately 0.5 nmi (1 km) to the east of the site.

    C. Cornfield Shoals Disposal Site

    The CSDS alternative consists entirely of the active CSDS, which is located in the westernmost part of eastern Long Island Sound, approximately halfway between the states of Connecticut and New York (Figure 3-10). Like the NLDS, the CSDS was selected by the USACE using its site selection authority, and use of the site was then further extended by Congress on December 23, 2011 (Pub. L.-112-74, Title I, Sec 116). An estimated 1.2 mcy (0.95 million m3) were disposed at the site between 1960 and 1976, and an additional 1.7 mcy (1.3 million m3) between 1982 and 2013.

    The center of the site is located 3.3 nmi (6.1 km) south of Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The site has an area of 1 nmi2 (3.4 km2) centered at 41°12.6858′ N., 72°21.4914′ W., (NAD83). The water depth is around 150 feet (50 m). The site is located mostly within Connecticut waters, with only approximately 17 percent in New York state waters.

    Bottom currents generally move in an ENE-WSW direction. The seafloor around the CSDS is relatively flat, with longitudinal ripples and other bedforms that suggests that this area is sediment-starved. The site is classified as erosional/non-depositional in the DSEIS. The surface of the seafloor at the CSDS consists predominantly of gravel and gravelly sediment. Gravelly sediment consists of a mixture of 50 to 90% sand, silt and clay, with the remaining fraction consisting of gravel.

    V. Compliance With Statutory and Regulatory Authorities

    In proposing to designate a dredged material disposal site for the eastern portion of Long Island Sound, EPA has conducted the dredged material disposal site designation process consistent with the requirements of the MPRSA, NEPA, CZMA, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA), and any other applicable legal requirements.

    A. Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act

    Section 102(c) of the MPRSA, as amended, 33 U.S.C. 1412(c) et seq., gives the Administrator of EPA authority to designate sites where ocean disposal of dredged material may be permitted. See also 33 U.S.C. 1413(b) and 40 CFR 228.4(e). The statute places no specific time limit on the term for use of an EPA-designated disposal site. Thus, EPA site designations can be for an indefinite term and are generally thought of as long-term designations. EPA may, however, place various restrictions or limits on the use of a site based on the site's capacity to accommodate dredged material or other environmental concerns. See 33 U.S.C. 1412(c).

    Section 103(b) of the MPRSA, 33 U.S.C. 1413(b), provides that any ocean disposal of dredged material should occur at EPA-designated sites to the maximum extent feasible. In the absence of an available EPA-designated site, however, the USACE is authorized to “select” appropriate disposal sites. In 1992, Congress amended MPRSA section 103(b) to place maximum time limits on the use of USACE-selected disposal sites. Specifically, the statute restricted the use of such sites to two separate five-year terms. There are no EPA-designated dredged material disposal sites in the eastern portion of Long Island Sound and past open-water disposal of dredged material from projects subject to MPRSA requirements under section 106(f) has been conducted in this area of Long Island Sound at sites used pursuant to the USACE site selection authority. The two active USACE-selected sites, the NLDS and CSDS, will no longer be available after December 23, 2016, however, when their Congressionally-authorized term of use expires.

    The Ocean Dumping Regulations, see generally 40 CFR Subchapter H, prescribe general and specific criteria at 40 CFR 228.5 and 228.6, respectively, to guide EPA's choice of disposal sites for final designation. EPA regulations at 40 CFR 228.4(e)(1) provide, among other things, that EPA will designate any disposal sites by promulgation in 40 CFR part 228. Ocean dumping sites designated on a final basis are promulgated at 40 CFR 228.15. Section 102(c) of the MPRSA, 33 U.S.C. 1412(c), and 40 CFR 228.3 also establish requirements for EPA's ongoing management and monitoring, in conjunction with the USACE, of disposal sites designated by EPA to ensure that unacceptable, adverse environmental impacts do not occur. Examples of such management and monitoring include the following: Regulating the times, rates, and methods of disposal, as well as the quantities and types of material that may be disposed; conducting pre- and post-disposal monitoring of sites; conducting disposal site evaluation and designation studies; and, if warranted, recommending modification of site use and/or designation conditions and restrictions. See also 40 CFR 228.7, 228.8, 228.9.

    Finally, a disposal site designation by EPA does not actually authorize any dredged material to be disposed of at that site. It only makes that site available as a possible management option if various other conditions are met first. Use of the site for dredged material disposal must be authorized by the Corps under MPRSA section 103(b), subject to EPA review, and such disposal at the site can only be authorized if: (1) It is determined that there is a need for open-water disposal for that project (i.e., that there are no practicable alternatives to such disposal that would cause less harm to the environment); and (2) the dredged material satisfies the applicable environmental impact criteria specified in EPA's regulations at 40 CFR part 227. See 40 CFR 227.1(b), 227.2 and 227.16. Furthermore, the authorization for disposal is also subject to review for compliance with other applicable legal requirements, which may include the ESA, the MSFCMA, the CWA (including any applicable state water quality standards), NEPA, and the CZMA. The following describes EPA's evaluation of the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS alternatives pursuant to the applicable site evaluation criteria, and its compliance with site management and monitoring requirements.

    EPA undertook its evaluation of whether to designate any dredged material disposal sites in the eastern Long Island Sound region pursuant to its authority under MPRSA section 102(c) in response to several factors. These factors include the following:

    • The determination by EPA, based on the evaluation of projected dredging needs over the 30-year planning horizon and alternatives to open-water disposal conducted for the USACE's DMMP, that the potential alternatives to open-water disposal do not provide sufficient capacity to accept the quantity of dredged material expected to be generated over the next 30 years in the region;

    • The prohibition on use of the NLDS and CSDS disposal sites after December 23, 2016, pursuant to the USACE site selection authority under MPRSA section 103(b) and the five-year extension provided by Congress under Public Law 112-74, Title I, Sec 116.

    • The understanding that in the absence of an EPA-designated disposal site or sites, any necessary open-water disposal would either be stymied, despite the importance of dredging for ensuring navigational safety and facilitating marine commercial and recreational activities, or the USACE would have to undertake additional short-term site selections, perhaps many of them, in the future;

    • The clear Congressional preference expressed in MPRSA section 103(b) that any open-water disposal of dredged material take place at EPA-designated sites, if feasible;

    • The fact that the two closest EPA-designated sites outside the eastern Long Island Sound region, the CLDS and RISDS, do not have the capacity to accept the quantity of suitable dredged material estimated to be generated from the eastern region of Long Island Sound, which was not anticipated when these sites were designated in 2005, and the additional fact that the two sites are 29.9 nmi and 51.4 nmi respectively from the Connecticut River dredging center, which would significantly increase transportation costs and project durations, while also increasing energy use, air emissions, and the risk of spills or short-dumps; and

    • EPA's policy view that it is generally environmentally preferable to concentrate any open-water disposal at sites that have been used historically and at fewer sites, rather than relying on the selection of multiple sites to be used for a limited time, see 40 CFR 228.5(e).

    EPA's evaluation considered whether there was a need to designate one or more disposal sites for long-term dredged material disposal, including an assessment of whether other dredged material management methods could reasonably be judged to obviate the need for such designations. Having concluded that there was a need for open-water disposal sites, EPA then assessed whether there were sites that would satisfy the applicable environmental criteria to support a site designation under MPRSA section 102(c). The MPRSA and EPA regulations promulgated thereunder impose a number of requirements related to the designation of dredged material disposal sites. These include procedural requirements, specification of criteria for use in site evaluations, and the requirement that a SMMP must be developed for all designated sites. As discussed below, EPA complied with each of these requirements in proposing to designate the ELDS.

    1. Procedural Requirements

    MPRSA sections 102(c) and 103(b) indicate that EPA may designate ocean disposal sites for dredged material. EPA regulations at 40 CFR 228.4(e) specify that dredged material disposal sites will be “designated by EPA promulgation in this [40 CFR] part 228 . . . .” EPA regulations at 40 CFR 228.6(b) direct that if an EIS is prepared by EPA to assess the proposed designation of one or more disposal sites, it should include the results of an environmental evaluation of the proposed disposal site(s), the Draft EIS (DEIS) should be presented to the public along with a proposed rule for the proposed disposal site designation(s), and that a Final EIS (FEIS) should be provided at the time of final rulemaking for the site designation. EPA has complied with all procedural requirements related to the publication of this proposed rule and associated DSEIS. The Agency has prepared a thorough environmental evaluation of the recommended alternative site being proposed for designation, the other two alternative sites still being considered, and other courses of action (including the option of not designating open-water disposal sites). This evaluation is presented in the DSEIS (and related documents) and this proposed rule.

    2. Disposal Site Selection Criteria

    EPA regulations under the MPRSA identify four general criteria and 11 specific criteria for evaluating locations for the potential designation of dredged material disposal sites. See 40 CFR 228.4(e), 228.5 and 228.6. The evaluation of the ELDS with respect to the four general and 11 specific criteria is discussed in detail in the DSEIS and supporting documents and is summarized below. The evaluation of the NBDS and CSDS with respect to the criteria also is discussed in detail in the DSEIS and supporting documents, but is not discussed in detail below because EPA is not currently proposing to designate these sites.

    General Criteria (40 CFR 228.5)

    As described in the DSEIS, and summarized below, EPA has determined that the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS satisfy the four general criteria specified in 40 CFR 228.5. This is discussed in Chapter 5 and summarized in Table 5-9, “Summary of Impacts for Action and No Action Alternatives,” of the DSEIS.

    i. Sites must be selected to minimize interference with other activities in the marine environment, particularly avoiding areas of existing fisheries or shellfisheries, and regions of heavy commercial or recreational navigation (40 CFR 228.5(a)).

    EPA's evaluation determined that use of the ELDS would cause minimal interference with the aquatic activities identified in the criterion. The site is not located in shipping lanes or any other region of heavy commercial or recreational navigation. In addition, the site is not located in an area that is important for commercial or recreational fishing or shellfish harvesting. EPA used Geographic Information System (GIS) software to overlay the locations of various uses and natural resources of the marine environment on the disposal site location and surrounding areas (including their bathymetry). Analysis of this data indicated that use of the site would have minimal potential for interfering with other existing or ongoing uses of the marine environment in and around the ELDS, including lobster harvesting or fishing activities. In addition, the western half of the ELDS has been used for dredged material disposal for many years (as the NLDS) and not only has this activity not significantly interfered with the uses identified in the criterion, but mariners in the area are accustomed to use of this site. Finally, time-of-year restrictions (also known as “environmental windows”) imposed to protect fishery resources will typically limit dredged material disposal activities to the months of October through April, thus further minimizing any possibility of interference with the various activities specified in the criterion. The NBDS and CSDS also meet this criterion for largely the same reasons.

    ii. Sites must be situated such that temporary perturbations to water quality or other environmental conditions during initial mixing caused by disposal operations would be reduced to normal ambient levels or to undetectable contaminant concentrations or effects before reaching any beach, shoreline, marine sanctuary, or known geographically limited fishery or shellfishery (40 CFR 228.5(b)).

    EPA's analysis concludes that the ELDS satisfies this criterion. First, the site is a significant distance from any beach, shoreline, marine sanctuary (in fact, there are no federally-designated marine sanctuaries in Long Island Sound), or known geographically limited fishery or shellfishery. Second, the site will be used only for the disposal of dredged material determined to be suitable for open-water disposal by application of the MPRSA's ocean dumping criteria. See 40 CFR part 227. These criteria include provisions related to water quality and account for initial mixing. See 40 CFR 227.4, 227.5(d), 227.6(b) and (c), 227.13(c), 227.27, and 227.29. Data evaluated during development of the DSEIS, including data from monitoring conducted during and after past disposal activities, indicates that any temporary perturbations in water quality or other environmental conditions at the site during initial mixing from disposal operations will be limited to the immediate area of the site and will neither cause any significant environmental degradation at the site nor reach any beach, shoreline, marine sanctuary, or other important natural resource area. The NBDS and CSDS also meet this criterion for the same reasons.

    iii. The sizes of disposal sites will be limited in order to localize for identification and control any immediate adverse impacts, and to permit the implementation of effective monitoring and surveillance to prevent adverse long-range impacts. Size, configuration, and location are to be determined as part of the disposal site evaluation (40 CFR 228.5(d)).

    EPA has determined, based on the information presented in the DSEIS, that the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS alternatives are sufficiently limited in size to allow for the identification and control of any immediate adverse impacts, and to permit the implementation of effective monitoring and surveillance to prevent adverse long-range impacts. The maximum combined size of the three sites is approximately 5.8 nmi2, which is just 0.015 (1.5 percent) of the approximately 370 nmi2 surface area of the eastern Long Island Sound region (the ZSF excluding Block Island Sound), and just 0.0043 (less than one-percent) of the surface area of the entire Long Island Sound. The long history of dredged material disposal site monitoring in New England through the DAMOS program, and specifically at active and historic dredged material disposal sites in Long Island Sound, provides ample evidence that these surveillance and monitoring programs are effective at determining physical, chemical, and biological impacts at sites of the size of the options considered in this case.

    All three alternative sites are identified by specific coordinates spelled out in the DSEIS, and the use of precision navigation equipment in both dredged material disposal operations and monitoring efforts will enable accurate disposal operations and contribute to effective management and monitoring of the sites. Detailed plans for the management and monitoring of the ELDS are described in the SMMP (Appendix I of the DSEIS). Finally, as discussed herein and in the DEIS, EPA has tailored the boundaries of each of the alternative sites in light of site characteristics, such as local currents and bottom features, so that the area and boundaries of the sites are optimized for environmentally sound dredged material disposal operations.

    iv. EPA will, wherever feasible, designate ocean dumping sites beyond the edge of the continental shelf and other such sites that have been historically used (40 CFR 228.5(e)).

    EPA evaluated sites beyond the edge of the continental shelf and historical disposal sites in Long Island Sound as part of the alternatives analysis conducted for the DSEIS. The continental shelf extends about 60 nmi seaward from Montauk Point, New York, and a site located on the continental slope would result in a transit of approximately 80 nmi from New London. This evaluation determined that the long distances and travel times between the dredging locations in eastern Long Island Sound and the continental shelf posed significant environmental, operational, safety, and financial concerns, rendering such options unreasonable. Environmental concerns include increased risk of encountering endangered species during transit, increased fuel consumption and air emissions, and greater potential for accidents in transit that could lead to dredged material being dumped in unintended areas.

    As described in the Disposal Site Descriptions section, the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS all encompass the footprints of historically used sites. To the extent that the site boundaries have been adjusted to include adjacent areas outside of the existing sites, EPA has concluded that these adjustments will be environmentally beneficial, as discussed in the DSEIS. For example, rather than propose designation of the existing NLDS, the eastern half of which is at capacity and nearing depths that could lead to scouring of the sediment by surface currents and storms, EPA is proposing a new ELDS that encompasses the western half of the existing NLDS along with two adjacent areas immediately to the west of the NLDS. These two adjacent areas have been determined to be containment areas by physical oceanographic modeling. Long-term monitoring of the three alternative sites, or at least the historically used parts of them, has shown minimal adverse impacts to the adjacent marine environment and rapid recovery of the benthic community in the disposal mounds. While there are also other historically used disposal sites in eastern Long Island Sound, the analysis in the DSEIS concludes that the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS are the preferable locations. Thus, designation of the ELSD, NBDS, and/or CSDS would be consistent with this criterion.

    a. Specific Criteria (40 CFR 228.6)

    In addition to the four general criteria discussed above, 40 CFR 228.6(a) lists eleven specific factors to be used in evaluating the impact of using the site(s) for dredged material disposal under the MPRSA. Compliance with the eleven specific criteria is discussed below. It is also discussed in detail in Chapter 5 and summarized in Table 5-13, “Summary of Impacts at the Alternative Sites,” of the DSEIS.

    i. Geographical Position, Depth of Water, Bottom Topography and Distance From Coast (40 CFR 228.6(a)(1)).

    Based on analyses in the DSEIS, EPA has concluded that the geographical position (i.e., location), water depth, bottom topography (i.e., bathymetry), and distance from coastlines of the ELDS (and part of the NBDS) will facilitate containment of dredged material within site boundaries, and reduce the likelihood of material being transported away from the site to adjacent sea floor areas. As described in the preceding Disposal Sites Description section and in the above discussion of compliance with general criteria iii and iv (40 CFR 228.5(c) and (d)), all three sites (ELDS, NBDS and CSDS) are located far enough from shore and are in deep enough water to avoid adverse impacts to the coastline.

    The ELDS and northeastern portion of the NBDS are containment areas, so disposal of dredged material there is expected to stay in those sites and not cause adverse effects to the adjacent seafloor areas. The CSDS and remaining portions of the NBDS are dispersive, so any dredged material disposed there would not be expected to stay within the site boundaries. However, disposal site monitoring, ambient water quality monitoring, and fisheries surveys have not documented any adverse impacts from the use of the CSDS since the early 1980s. The closest points of land to the ELDS are Goshen Point, Connecticut, approximately 1.2 nmi (2.2 km) to the north, and Fishers Island, New York, approximately 2 nmi (3.2 km) to the southeast, in water depths ranging from approximately 45 feet (14 m) in the north to 100 feet (30 m) in the south. The northern edge of the NBDS alternative is located approximately 0.6 nmi (1.1 km) from Black Point (southwestern corner of Niantic Bay) and 1.6 nmi (3.0 km) from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station (southeastern corner of Niantic Bay). Water depths at the site range from approximately 60 to 130 feet (18 to 40 m). The center of the CSDS is 3.3 nmi (6.1 km) south of Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and the water depth at the site is around 150 feet (50 m).

    As discussed in the DSEIS, long-term monitoring of disposal sites in Long Island Sound has indicated that creating mounds above a depth of 46 feet (14 meters) can result in material being removed from the mounds by currents. All three sites are of a sufficient depth to allow the disposal of the amount of material that is projected over the 30-year planning horizon without exceeding this depth threshold. As discussed in the DSEIS, the entire ELDS and the northeastern part of the NBDS are containment areas and, as a result, EPA expects material placed at these sites to remain there. As a result, any short-term impacts from dredged material placement will be localized and this, together with other regulatory requirements described elsewhere in this document, will facilitate prevention of any adverse impacts at the sites.

    The CSDS alternative and a part of the NBDS, however, are dispersive areas from which dredged material disposed there would likely be eroded over time. This material would then be dispersed in the water column and transported predominantly toward the west. As a result, past disposal at the CSDS has been limited to certain types of sediments (i.e., sandy material). If the NBDS were designated, similar restrictions would likely be appropriate regarding any use of the dispersive areas of the site. Monitoring of the CSDS has determined that past and present management practices have been successful in minimizing short-term, long-term, and cumulative impacts to water quality and benthic habitat from dredged material disposal. EPA expects that similar results would follow from using the dispersive portions of the NBDS with similar restrictions.

    ii. Location in Relation To Breeding, Spawning, Nursery, Feeding, or Passage Areas of Living Resources in Adult or Juvenile Phases (40 CFR 228.6(a)(2)).

    EPA considered the proposed ELDS and the other two sites in relation to breeding, spawning, nursery, feeding, and passage areas for adult and juvenile phases (i.e., life stages) of living resources in Long Island Sound. From this analysis, EPA concluded that, while disposal of suitable dredged material at the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS would cause some short-term, localized effects, overall it would not cause adverse effects to the habitat functions and living resources specified in the above criterion. As previously noted, the maximum combined size of the three sites is approximately 5.8 nmi 2, which is just 0.015 (1.5 percent) of the approximately 370 nmi2 surface area of the eastern Long Island Sound region (the ZSF excluding Block Island Sound), and just 0.0043 (less than one-percent) of the surface area of the entire Long Island Sound.

    Generally, there are three primary ways that dredged material disposal could potentially adversely affect marine resources. First, disposal can cause physical impacts by injuring or burying less mobile fish, shellfish, and benthic organisms, as well as their eggs and larvae. Second, tug and barge traffic transporting the dredged material to a disposal site could possibly collide or otherwise interfere with marine mammals and reptiles. Third, contaminants in the dredged material could potentially bioaccumulate through the food chain. However, EPA and the other federal and state agencies that regulate dredging and dredged material disposal impose requirements that prevent or greatly limit the potential for these types of impacts to occur.

    For example, the agencies impose “environmental windows,” or time-of-year restrictions, for both dredging and dredged material disposal. This type of restriction has been a standard practice for more than a decade in Long Island Sound, and New England generally, and is incorporated in USACE permits and authorizations in response to consultation with federal and state natural resource agencies (e.g., NMFS). Dredged material disposal in Long Island Sound is generally limited to the period between October 1 and April 30 to avoid time periods when any threat of effects on aquatic organisms would be greater. Indeed, environmental windows are often set depending on the location of specific dredging projects in relation to certain fish and shellfish species. For example, dredging in nearshore areas where winter flounder spawning occurs is generally prohibited between February 1 and April 1; dredging that may interfere with anadromous fish runs is generally prohibited between April 1 and May 15; and dredging that may adversely affect shellfish is prohibited between June 1 and September 30. These environmental windows, in effect, serve to further restrict periods during which dredged material disposal would occur.

    Another benefit of using environmental windows is that they reduce the likelihood of dredged material disposal activities interfering with marine mammals and reptiles. While there are several species of marine mammal or reptile, such as harbor porpoises, long-finned pilot whales, seals, and sea turtles, that either inhabit or migrate through Long Island Sound, most of them either leave the Sound during the winter months for warmer waters to the south or are less active and remain near the shore. There also are many species of fish (e.g., striped bass, bluefish, scup) and invertebrates (e.g., squid) that leave the Sound during the winter for either deeper water or warmer waters to the south, thus avoiding the time of year when most dredging and dredged material disposal occurs. The use of environmental windows has been refined over time and is considered an effective management tool to minimize impacts to marine resources.

    Dredged material disposal will, however, have some localized impacts to fish, shellfish, and benthic organisms, such as clams and worms, that are present at a disposal site (or in the water column directly above the site) during a disposal event. The sediment plume may entrain and smother some fish in the water column, and may bury some fish, shellfish, and other marine organisms on the sea floor. It also may result in a short-term loss of forage habitat in the immediate disposal area, but the DAMOS program has documented the recolonization of disposal mounds by benthic infauna within 1-3 years after disposal and this pattern would be expected at the sites evaluated in the DSEIS. As discussed in the DSEIS (section 5.2.2), over time, disposal mounds recover and develop abundant and diverse biological communities that are healthy and able to support species typically found in the ambient surroundings. Some organisms may burrow deeply into sediments, often up to 20 inches, and are more likely to survive a burial event.

    To further reduce potential environmental impacts associated with dredged material disposal, the dredged material from each proposed dredging project will be subjected to the MPRSA sediment testing requirements set forth at 40 CFR part 227 to determine its suitability for open-water disposal. Suitability for open-water disposal is determined by testing the proposed dredged material for toxicity and bioaccumulation and by quantifying the risk to human health from consuming marine organisms that are exposed to dredged material and its associated contaminants using a risk assessment model. If it is determined that the sediment is unsuitable for open-water disposal—that is, that it may unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine environment—it cannot be disposed at disposal sites designated under the MPRSA. See 40 CFR 227.6. Therefore, EPA does not anticipate significant effects on marine organisms from dredged material disposal at the sites under evaluation.

    EPA also is complying with the ESA by consulting with the NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concerning EPA's conclusion that the designation of the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS would not likely adversely affect federally listed species under their respective jurisdictions or any habitat designated as critical for such species. Additionally, EPA consulted with NMFS under the MSFCMA on potential impacts to essential fish habitat (EFH). NMFS determined that the use of environmental windows and the stringent testing requirements were sufficient steps to minimize any impacts to EFH and did not offer additional conservation recommendations. Further details on these consultations are provided in the DSEIS and the section below describing compliance with the ESA and MSFCMA.

    EPA recognizes that dredged material disposal causes some short-term, localized adverse effects to marine organisms in the immediate vicinity of each disposal event. But because dredged material disposal would be limited to suitable material at the 1-3 small sites under consideration here (see above regarding compliance with general criteria (40 CFR 2285(e)), and during only several months of the year, EPA concludes that designating ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS would not cause unacceptable or unreasonable adverse impacts to breeding, spawning, nursery, feeding, or passage areas of living resources in adult or juvenile phases. There is no evidence of long-term effects on benthic processes or habitat conditions.

    iii. Location in Relation to Beaches and Other Amenity Areas (40 CFR 228.6(a)(3)).

    EPA's analysis concludes that the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS all satisfy this criterion. All three sites are far enough away from beaches, parks, wildlife refuges, and other areas of special concern to prevent adverse impacts to these amenities and, as previously noted, there are no marine sanctuaries in Long Island Sound. As previously described, the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS are 1.2 nmi (2.2 km), 0.6 nmi (1.1 km), and 2.8 nmi (5.2 km) from the nearest shore, respectively, and none of the sites is closer than 1.7 nmi (3.2 km) to public beaches in either Connecticut or New York. Based on modeling results that are presented in section 5.5.3 of the DSEIS, and past monitoring of actual disposal activities, this distance is beyond any expected transport of dredged material due to tidal motion or currents. As noted above, any temporary perturbations in water quality or other environmental conditions at the sites during initial mixing from disposal operations will be limited to the immediate area of the sites and will not reach any beach, parks, wildlife refuges, or other areas of special concern.

    Thus, EPA does not anticipate that the use of the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS would cause any adverse impacts to beaches or other amenity areas.

    iv. Types and Quantities of Wastes Proposed To Be Disposed of, and Proposed Methods of Release, Including Methods of Packing the Waste, if Any (40 CFR 228.6(a)(4)).

    The typical composition of dredged material to be disposed at the sites is expected to range from predominantly “clay-silt” to “mostly sand.” This expectation is based on data from historical dredging projects from the eastern region of Long Island Sound. For federal dredging projects and private projects generating more 25,000 cubic yards of dredged material, EPA and the USACE will conduct sediment suitability determinations applying the criteria for testing and evaluating dredged material under 40 CFR 227 and further guidance in the “Regional Implementation Manual for the Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Disposal in New England Waters” (EPA, 2004), and the material would have to satisfy these suitability criteria before it could be authorized for disposal under the MPRSA. Private dredging projects generating up to 25,000 cubic yards will continue to be regulated under CWA section 404. The requirements under the MPRSA and the CWA are discussed in detail in the DSEIS.

    The ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS would receive dredged material that is transported by either government or private contractor hopper dredges or oceangoing bottom-dump barges (“scows”) towed by tugboat. Both types of equipment release the material at or very near the surface, which is the standard operating procedure for this activity. The disposal of this material will occur at specific coordinates marked by buoys and will be placed so as to concentrate material from each disposal project. This concentrated placement is expected to help minimize bottom impacts to benthic organisms. In addition, there are no plans to pack or package dredged material prior to disposal.

    Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the three alternative sites are only being considered for the disposal of dredged material; disposal of other types of material will not be allowed at these sites. It also should be noted that the disposal of certain other types of material is expressly prohibited by the MPRSA and EPA regulations (e.g., industrial waste, sewage sludge, chemical warfare agents, insufficiently characterized materials) (33 U.S.C. 1414b; 40 CFR 227.5).

    As previously discussed, dredging in eastern Long Island Sound is projected to generate approximately 22.6 million cubic yards (mcy) of dredged material over the next 30 years, including 17.9 mcy from Connecticut ports and harbors and 4.7 mcy from ports and harbors in New York. Of the total amount of 22.6 mcy, approximately 13.5 mcy are projected to be fine-grained sediment that meets MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., “suitable” material), and 9.1 mcy are projected to be course-grained sand that also meets MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., also “suitable” material). Even if none of the sand is used beneficially, which is highly unlikely given the high demand for this resource, the maximum quantity of dredged material that may possibly be disposed of at one or more of the three alternatives is approximately 22.6 mcy, and EPA expects that increased efforts to develop and use practicable alternatives to open-water disposal will reduce that amount significantly. Since the estimated capacity of the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS is 27 mcy, 27 mcy, and unlimited respectively, there is more than sufficient capacity even if only ELDS or one of the other two alternatives is designated for long-term use. (As previously stated, EPA is not considering designating the CSDS alone because it is a dispersive site.) For all of these reasons, no significant adverse impacts are expected to be associated with the types and quantities of dredged material that may be disposed at the sites.

    v. Feasibility of Surveillance and Monitoring (40 CFR 228.6(a)(5)).

    Monitoring and surveillance are expected to be feasible at all three sites, although the ELDS and the northeast portion of the NBDS would be most conducive to monitoring because they're containment sites and material disposed there is expected to stay there. The ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS are all readily accessible for bathymetric and side-scan sonar surveys and the NLDS portion of the ELDS and the CSDS have been successfully monitored by the USACE over the past 35 years under the DAMOS program. Upon designation of a site or sites, monitoring would continue under the DAMOS program in accordance with the most current approved Site Management and Monitoring Plan (SMMP) for each site. A draft SMMP has been developed only for the ELDS at this time, since it is EPA's preferred alternative, but EPA will develop SMMPs for any other sites that may be designated following a similar format. As a containment site, the ELDS is conducive to the type of monitoring most commonly conducted at dredged material disposal sites, including side-scan sonar, sediment profile imaging, and sediment grab sampling. The draft SMMP for the ELDS is included as Appendix I of the DSEIS.

    While the CSDS and transitional part of the NBDS can be monitored, they are more dispersive sites, which means that currents take dredged sediments away from the sites over time. Therefore, it is not possible to accurately track the fate of material placed at these sites. As explained above, that is why use of the CSDS has been limited over the years to receiving sediments from non-industrial harbors and channels, like the mouth of the Connecticut River. EPA is not currently proposing to designate the NBDS or CSDS, but if that changes after consideration of public comments, EPA would prepare an SMMP for public review and comment in conjunction with a proposal to designate the site. The SMMPs are subject to review and updating at least once every ten years, if necessary, and may be subject to additional revisions based on the results of site monitoring and other new information. Any such revisions will be closely coordinated with other federal and state resource management agencies and stakeholders during the review and approval process and will become final only when approved by EPA, in conjunction with the USACE. See 33 U.S.C. 1413 (c)(3).

    vi. Dispersal, Horizontal Transport and Vertical Mixing Characteristics of the Area, Including Prevailing Current Direction and Velocity, if Any (40 CFR 228.6(a)(6)).

    Although the interactions of bathymetry, wind-generated waves, and river and ocean currents in Long Island Sound are complex, the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS are located in areas that are generally calm except during storms. (Dredging and dredged material disposal would not be conducted during storm events. See e.g., 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi)(L)). Consistent with this, past monitoring during disposal operations at the NLDS (in the vicinity of the proposed ELDS), NBDS, and CSDS revealed minimal drift of sediment out of the disposal site area as it passed through the water column.

    Conditions are more complicated at the seafloor within the alternative disposal sites. Disposal site monitoring has confirmed that peak wave-induced bottom current velocities are not sufficient to cause significant erosion of dredged material placed at either the ELDS or the containment portions of the NBDS. As noted above, physical oceanographic monitoring and modeling has indicated that the ELDS and portions of the NBDS are depositional locations that collect, rather than disperse, sediment. For these reasons, EPA has determined that the dispersal, horizontal transport, and vertical mixing characteristics, as well as the current velocities and directions at the ELDS and within portions of the NBDS are appropriate to support their designation as dredged material disposal sites.

    As discussed above, EPA also has determined that the CSDS and portions of the NBDS are dispersive sites with bottom currents that would likely move dredged material away from the site to surrounding areas. Therefore, EPA does not currently favor designating these sites, but they could be designated for limited use for the placement of suitable sediments with similar characteristics to native sediments in the general vicinity of the sites. This is how the CSDS was used in the past. EPA is interested in receiving comments concerning the option of designating the CSDS for such limited use.

    vii. Existence and Effects of Current and Previous Discharges and Dumping in the Area (Including Cumulative Effects) (40 CFR 228.6(a)(7)).

    As previously described in the Disposal Sites Descriptions section, the portion of the ELDS that was used historically as the NLDS has received approximately 8.9 mcy (6.7 million m3) since 1955. The NBDS is not currently an active disposal site, but it was used between 1969 and 1972, when a total of 176,000 cy (135,000 m3) of dredged material was disposed at this location. The CSDS has received an estimated 2.9 mcy of dredged material (2.25 million m3) since 1960.

    Until the passage of the CWA in 1972, dredged material disposal was not a heavily regulated activity. Since 1972, open-water disposal in Long Island Sound has been subject to the sediment testing and alternatives analysis provisions of section 404 of the CWA. With passage of the Ambro Amendment in 1980 (which was further amended in 1990), dredged material disposal from all federal projects and non-federal projects generating more than 25,000 cubic yards of material became subject to the requirements of both CWA section 404 and the MPRSA. The result of these increasingly stringent regulatory requirements for dredged material disposal, combined with the reduction in contaminants entering waterways from other Clean Water Act programs, is that there has been a steady, measurable improvement in the quality of material that has been allowed to be placed at the NLDS portion of the ELDS and CSDS over the past 35 years.

    The NLDS portion of the ELDS and CSDS both have been used on a consistent basis since the early 1980s pursuant to the USACE's short-term site selection authority under section 103(b) of the MPRSA (33 U.S.C. 1413(b)). Since then, disposal operations at these sites have been carefully managed and the material disposed there has been monitored. In EPA's view, past use of these sites generally makes them preferable to more pristine sites that have either not been used or have been used in the more distant past. See 40 CFR 228.5(e). Continuing to use existing sites, as long as they have remaining capacity, rather using a multitude of sites, helps to limit or concentrate the footprint of dredged material disposal on the seafloor of Long Island Sound. While the effects of placing suitable dredged material at a disposal site are primarily limited to short-term physical effects, such as burying benthic organisms in the location where the material is placed, EPA regards it to be preferable to concentrate such effects in particular areas and leave other areas untouched as much as possible.

    That said, EPA's evaluation of data and modeling results indicates that past disposal operations have not resulted in unacceptable or unreasonable environmental degradation, and that there should be no such adverse effects in the future from the projected use of any of the three sites, although it would be easier to determine this at the ELDS and the containment portion of the NBDS, since the material is expected to stay at those sites and could be monitored. As part of this conclusion, discussed in detail in the DSEIS, EPA found that there should be no significant adverse cumulative environmental effects from using these sites on a long-term basis for dredged material disposal in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements regarding sediment quality and site usage.

    viii. Interference With Shipping, Fishing, Recreation, Mineral Extraction, Desalination, Fish and Shellfish Culture, Areas of Special Scientific Importance and Other Legitimate Uses of the Ocean (40 CFR 228.6(a)(8)).

    In evaluating whether disposal activity at the sites could interfere with shipping, fishing, recreation, mineral extraction, desalination, fish or shellfish culture, areas of scientific importance, and other legitimate uses of the ocean, EPA considered both the effects of placing dredged material on the bottom of the Sound at the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS and any effects from vessel traffic associated with transporting the dredged material to the disposal sites. From this evaluation, EPA concluded there would be no unacceptable or unreasonable adverse effects on the considerations noted in this criterion. Some of the factors listed in this criterion have already been discussed above due to the overlap of this criterion with aspects of certain other criteria. Nevertheless, EPA will address each point below.

    The ELDS is the only site in close proximity to significant shipping activity. The eastern boundary of the proposed ELDS is one-half mile west of the eastern boundary of the current NLDS; this shift to the west would move the disposal site out of about half of the Submarine Transit Corridor into New London Harbor, further reducing the potential for conflicts between the disposal site and submarine traffic. Vessel traffic generated by disposal activity is expected to be similar to that which has occurred over the past 20-30 years, which has not interfered with other shipping activity. Moreover, research by EPA and the USACE concluded that after disposal at any of the three sites, resulting water depths will be sufficient to permit navigation in the area without interference. (And by providing an open-water alternative for dredged material disposal in the absence of environmentally preferable, practicable alternatives, the sites are likely to improve and facilitate navigation in many of the harbors, bays, rivers and channels around eastern Long Island Sound.)

    EPA also carefully evaluated the potential effects on commercial and recreational fishing for both finfish and shellfish (including lobster) of designating the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS for dredged material disposal and concluded that there would be no unreasonable or unacceptable adverse effects. As discussed above in relation to other site evaluation criteria, dredged material disposal will only have short-term, incidental, and insignificant effects on organisms in the disposal sites and no appreciable effects beyond the sites. Indeed, since past dredged material disposal has been determined to have no significant adverse effects on fishing, the similar projected levels of future disposal activities at the designated sites also are not expected to have any significant adverse effects.

    Four main reasons that EPA concluded that no unacceptable adverse effects would occur from placing dredged material at the site alternatives are discussed below. First, as discussed above, EPA has concluded that any contaminants in material permitted for disposal—having satisfied the dredged material criteria in the regulations that restrict any toxicity and bioaccumulation—will not cause any significant adverse effects on fish, shellfish, or other aquatic organisms. Because both the ELDS and portions of the NBDS are containment areas, dredged material disposed at those sites is expected to remain there. If the CSDS and/or dispersive portion of the NBDS were to be designated, EPA would restrict the types of material to be placed at those sites, as discussed above.

    Second, as also discussed above, the disposal sites do not encompass any especially important, sensitive, or limited habitat for the Sound's fish and shellfish, such as key spawning or nursery habitat for species of finfish. Numerous studies and data reviewed by EPA and the USACE indicate that there is low potential for any future incremental risk from the placement of dredged sediments at the three alternative sites, either in the long- or short-term.

    Third, while EPA found that a small number of demersal fish (e.g., winter flounder), shellfish (e.g., clams and lobsters), benthic organisms (e.g., worms), and zooplankton and phytoplankton could be lost due to the physical effects of disposal (e.g., burial of organisms on the bottom by dredged material and entrainment of plankton in the water column by dredged material upon its release from a disposal barge), EPA also determined that these minor, temporary adverse effects would be neither unreasonable nor unacceptable. This determination was based on EPA's conclusion that the numbers of organisms potentially affected represent only a minuscule percentage of those in eastern Long Island Sound, and on DAMOS monitoring that consistently documents the rapid recovery of the benthic community in an area that has received dredged material. In addition, any physical effects will be further limited by the relatively few months in which disposal activities could be permitted by the environmental window (or time-of-year) restrictions.

    Fourth, EPA has determined that vessel traffic associated with dredged material disposal will not have any unreasonable or unacceptable adverse effects on fishing. As explained above, environmental window restrictions will limit any disposal to the period between October 1 and April 30, and often to fewer months depending on species-specific restrictions for each dredging project, each year. Moreover, there is generally far less vessel traffic in the months when disposal would occur due to the seasonal nature of recreational boating and commercial shipping. There currently are no mineral extraction activities or desalinization facilities in the eastern Long Island Sound region with which disposal activity could potentially interfere. Energy transmission pipelines and cables are located near the sites, but none are within their boundaries. No finfish aquaculture currently takes place in Long Island Sound and the only form of shellfish culture in the area, oyster production, occurs in nearshore locations far enough away from the three alternative sites that it should not be impacted in any manner by this proposed action. Finally, none of the disposal site options are in an area of special scientific importance; in fact, areas with such characteristics were screened out very early in the alternatives screening process. Accordingly, depositing dredged material at any of the three sites will not interfere with any of the activities described in this criterion or other legitimate uses of Long Island Sound.

    ix. The Existing Water Quality and Ecology of the Sites as Determined by Available Data or by Trend Assessment or Baseline Surveys (40 CFR 228.6(a)(9)).

    EPA's analysis of existing water quality and ecological conditions at the site in light of available data, trend assessments and baseline surveys indicates that use of the designated disposal sites will cause no unacceptable or unreasonable adverse environmental effects. Considerations related to water quality and various ecological factors (e.g., sediment quality, benthic organisms, fish and shellfish) have already been discussed above in relation to other site selection criteria, and are discussed in detail in the DSEIS and supporting documents. In considering this criterion, EPA took into account existing water quality and sediment quality data collected at the disposal sites, including from the USACE's DAMOS site monitoring program, as well as water quality data from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's (CT DEEP) Long Island Sound Water Quality Monitoring Program. As discussed herein, EPA has determined that placement of suitable dredged material at the disposal site alternatives should not cause any significant adverse environmental effects to water quality or to ecological conditions at the disposal sites. EPA and the USACE have prepared a draft SMMP for the ELDS to guide future monitoring of site conditions (DSEIS Appendix I), and would prepare SMMPs for the NBDS and/or CSDS if either of them were to be designated.

    x. Potentiality for the Development or Recruitment of Nuisance Species in the Disposal Sites (40 CFR 228.6(a)(10)).

    Monitoring at disposal sites in Long Island Sound over the past 35 years has shown no recruitment of nuisance (invasive, non-native) species and no such adverse effects are expected to occur at the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS in the future. EPA and the USACE will continue to monitor EPA-designated sites under their respective SMMPs, which include a “management focus” on “changes in composition and numbers of pelagic, demersal, or benthic biota at or near the disposal sites” (section 6.1.5 of the SMMP, Appendix I of the DSEIS).

    xi. Existence at or in Close Proximity to the Sites of Any Significant Natural or Cultural Feature of Historical Importance (40 CFR 228.6(a)(11)).

    There are no natural features of historical importance in the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS, and the cultural resources that have the greatest potential for being impacted in eastern Long Island Sound are shipwrecks. As discussed in the DSEIS, a review of submerged vessel reports in the NOAA and Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office (CT SHPO) shipwreck databases indicate that there are three charted shipwrecks within 0.5 nmi (0.9 km) of the alternative sites. One of these charted shipwrecks is located within Site NL-Wa of the ELDS; this wreck was also identified by the side-scan sonar survey. The side-scan sonar survey identified two additional wrecks within the 0.5-nm (0.9-km) perimeter outside of the NBDS. None of these known shipwrecks are currently considered to be of historical significance. Consultation with the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP; acts as the NY SHPO) revealed that there are no submerged vessels or historic resources within the portion of the CSDS that is located in New York State waters.

    As additional side-scan sonar surveys are conducted at the disposal sites in the future under the SMMPs, and if potential shipwrecks are identified, EPA will take appropriate action in cooperation with federal and state historic preservation officials in response to any significant cultural resources. The CT SHPO also determined that there are no known aboriginal artifacts at the ELDS, NBDS, or CSDS. EPA coordinated with Indian tribes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York throughout the development of the DSEIS and the tribes did not identify any important natural, cultural, spiritual, or historical features or areas within any of the three disposal sites under consideration.

    In summary, there are no historic or archaeological resources within the NBDS or CSDS, and while the NL-Wa portion of the ELDS contains a shipwreck near its southern boundary, this wreck is not considered to be of historical significance. Nevertheless, any impacts to that wreck from dredged material disposal could be minimized by establishing a 164-foot (50 m) avoidance buffer surrounding the shipwreck and appropriate site management, which accommodates both the minimum buffer of 30 m recommended by the CT SHPO, and the 40-50 m minimum buffer applied by the NY OPRHP.

    3. Disposal Site Management (40 CFR 228.3, 228.7, 228.8 and 228.9)

    The ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS would be subject to specific management requirements to ensure that unacceptable adverse environmental impacts do not occur. Examples of these requirements include: (1) Restricting the use of the sites to the disposal of dredged material that has been determined to be suitable for ocean disposal following MPRSA and/or CWA requirements in accordance with the provisions of MPRSA section 106(f), as well as to material from waters in the vicinity of the disposal sites; (2) monitoring the disposal sites and their associated reference sites, which are not used for dredged material disposal, to assess potential impacts to the marine environment by providing a point of comparison to an area unaffected by dredged material disposal; and (3) retaining the right to limit or close these sites to further disposal activity if monitoring or other information reveals evidence of unacceptable adverse impacts to the marine environment. As mentioned above, dredged material disposal will not be allowed when weather and sea conditions could interfere with safe, effective placement of any dredged material at a designated site. In addition, although not technically a site management requirement, disposal activity at the sites will generally be limited to the period between October 1 and April 30, but often less depending on environmental windows to protect certain species, as described above.

    EPA and the USACE have managed and monitored dredged material disposal activities at the CSDS and the historically used portion of the ELDS since the early 1980s. Site monitoring has been conducted under the USACE's DAMOS disposal site monitoring program. In accordance with the requirements of MPRSA section 102(c) and 40 CFR 228.3, EPA and the USACE have developed a draft SMMP for the ELDS, and are prepared to do so for the NBDS and/or CSDS if a decision is made to propose either for designation. The draft SMMP is incorporated in the DSEIS as Appendix I and is available for review and comment. The SMMP describes in detail the specific management and monitoring requirements for the ELDS. With respect to site monitoring, the SMMP builds on the USACE's DAMOS monitoring program, which will continue to provide the backbone of the site monitoring effort.

    B. National Environmental Policy Act

    The NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., requires the public analysis of the potential environmental effects of proposed federal agency actions and reasonable alternative courses of action to ensure that these effects, and the differences in effects among the different alternatives, are understood. The goal of this analysis is to ensure high quality, informed decision-making, to facilitate avoiding or minimizing any adverse effects of proposed actions, and to help restore and enhance environmental quality. See 40 CFR 6.100(a) and 1500.1(c) and 1500.2(d)-(f). NEPA requires public involvement throughout the decision-making process. See 40 CFR 6.400(a) and 40 CFR 1503 and 1501.7, 1506.6.

    Section 102(c) of NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., requires federal agencies to prepare an EIS for major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. An EIS should assess: (1) The environmental impact of the proposed action; (2) any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented; (3) alternatives to the proposed action; (4) the relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity; and (5) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented. The required content of an EIS is further described in regulations promulgated by the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). See 40 CFR 1502.

    EPA disposal site designation evaluations conducted under the MPRSA have been determined to be “functionally equivalent” to NEPA reviews, so that they are not subject to NEPA analysis requirements as a matter of law. Nevertheless, as a matter of policy, EPA voluntarily uses NEPA procedures when evaluating the potential designation of ocean dumping sites. See 63 FR 58045 (Notice of Policy and Procedures for Voluntary Preparation of National Environmental Policy Act Documents, October 29, 1998). While EPA voluntarily uses NEPA review procedures in conducting MPRSA disposal site designation evaluations, EPA also has explained that “[t]he voluntary preparation of these documents in no way legally subjects the Agency to NEPA's requirements” (63 FR 58046).

    In this case, EPA has prepared a Draft Supplemental EIS (DSEIS) to evaluate the possibility of designating one or more open-water disposal sites to serve the eastern Long Island Sound region. As previously noted, the DSEIS is considered supplemental because it updates and builds on the analyses that were conducted for the 2005 Long Island Sound Environmental Impact Statement that supported the designation of the Central and Western Long Island Sound disposal sites. As part of the NEPA process, federal agencies prepare a public record of decision (ROD) at the time of their final decision on any action for which an FEIS has been prepared. If EPA decides to proceed with this proposed action after full consideration of public comments, the Agency will publish a final rule (in conjunction with the FEIS) that will serve as the ROD for the site designation. See 40 CFR 1505.2 and 1506.4 (the ROD may be integrated into any other agency document prepared in carrying out its action). In addition, EPA will also publish a Responses to Comments document in conjunction with publication of a FSEIS and final rule. The Responses to Comments will identify and respond to comments received on the DSEIS and proposed rule. EPA's use of NEPA procedures to evaluate this proposed action is further described below.

    Consistent with its voluntary NEPA policy, as described and referenced above, EPA has followed the NEPA process and undertaken NEPA analyses as part of its decision-making process for the disposal site designations. EPA published a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS, held public meetings regarding the scope of issues to be addressed by the SEIS, and has now published a DSEIS for public review and comment. The DSEIS, entitled, “Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Designation of Dredged Material Disposal Site(s) in Eastern Long Island Sound, Connecticut and New York,” assesses and compares the effects, including the environmental effects, of designating dredged material disposal sites in eastern Long Island Sound, and of various alternative approaches to managing dredging needs, including the “no action” alternative (i.e., the alternative of not designating any open-water disposal sites). See 40 CFR 1502.14.

    1. Third-Party Contracting

    EPA is the agency authorized by the MPRSA to designate dredged material disposal sites and is responsible for the DSEIS. However, EPA does not receive appropriations to support disposal site designation studies, so the state of Connecticut provided funding to hire contractors to carry out the studies, support the public participation program, and help to produce the DSEIS, all with participation and close supervision by EPA. CEQ regulations state that an EIS can be prepared by a contractor under contract to and paid directly by the applicant (i.e., a “third-party contract”). 40 CFR 1506.5(c); Forty Most Asked Questions Concerning CEQ's National Environmental Policy Act Regulations, 46 FR 18026, 18031 (1981). The contractor answers to the federal agency preparing the EIS (in this case, the EPA), not the applicant, for preparing an EIS that meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 40 CFR 1506.5(c).

    Because EPA is ultimately responsible for the SEIS, the Agency worked closely with the state of Connecticut to select the contractors and then maintained close involvement with production of the SEIS and control over its analyses and conclusions. The state of Connecticut is not an “applicant” because it is not applying directly for the disposal site designation. Nevertheless, because Connecticut has expressed past support for designating one or more dredged material disposal sites in the eastern region of Long Island Sound, EPA followed the third-party contracting method described in 40 CFR 1506.5 to ensure the impartiality of the EIS.

    Under the third-party contracting method, EPA must be involved in the selection of the contractor, furnish guidance and participate in the preparation of the EIS, and independently evaluate the EIS prior to approval. See 40 CFR 1506.5(c). The third-party contracting process used by EPA requires the third party (or parties) to pay for the contractor's services while EPA retains control of and supervisory authority over the analysis. See 66 FR 15527, 15531 (2001). While EPA retains final control over the selection of the contractor, applicants are allowed some input. Id. Once a contractor is selected, EPA and the applicant enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining a general timeframe for the completion of the EIS and defining the scope of the EIS. Id. If EPA determines more information is needed, the MOU may be amended or EPA can complete the analysis itself. Id. The applicant and the contractor also enter into an agreement. Id. Additionally, the contractor must sign a disclosure statement for EPA declaring that it has no financial or other interest in the outcome of the project. Id.; 46 FR at 18031; 40 CFR 6.604(g)(3)(ii).

    The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) was the lead agency for the state with regard to preparation of the DSEIS, with technical assistance provided by the CT DEEP. CT DOT, with extensive input from EPA and CT DEEP, selected as its primary contractor the University of Connecticut, in large part due to its expertise in physical oceanography. The university selected as its subcontractor the Louis Berger Group (LBG). EPA worked in close partnership with CT DOT to ensure both that all project components carried out through third-party contracting would meet federal statutory and regulatory requirements, and that CT DOT's contractors were qualified to support public participation and other necessary processes under NEPA and the MPRSA, including scoping and site screening.

    The U.S. Navy also contributed to the site designation process by funding biological and other environmental studies in support of the DSEIS. The Navy, with extensive input from EPA and CT DEEP, used its contractor Tetra Tech due to its expertise in biological resources studies and risk assessment.

    2. Cooperating Agencies

    The USACE was a “cooperating agency” in the development of the DSEIS because of its knowledge concerning the region's dredging needs, its technical expertise in monitoring dredged material disposal sites and assessing the environmental effects of dredging and dredged material disposal, its history in the regulation of dredged material disposal in Long Island Sound and elsewhere, and its ongoing legal role in regulating dredging, dredged material disposal and the management and monitoring of disposal sites. Other cooperating agencies were NMFS, CT DEEP, CT DOT, New York Department of State (NY DOS), New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC), and Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (RI CRMC). To take advantage of expertise held by other entities, and to promote strong inter-agency communications, EPA also coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation, Mohegan Tribe, Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, and Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Indians (in Connecticut); the Narragansett Indian Tribe (in Rhode Island); the Shinnecock Indian Nation (in New York), and, as previously discussed, the CT SHPO and NY OPRHP.

    Throughout the SEIS development process, EPA communicated with the cooperating federal and state agencies and tribes to keep them apprised of progress on the project and to solicit input. EPA conducted approximately ten interagency meetings and teleconferences between October 2012 and January 2016 to review progress and get feedback, and EPA was in regular contact with representatives of these agencies throughout the SEIS process.

    3. Public Participation

    Consistent with the public participation provisions of the NEPA regulations, EPA conducted an extensive public participation program throughout the development of the DSEIS as described in detail in Chapter 7 and Appendix A of the DSEIS.

    4. Zone of Siting Feasibility

    As one of the first steps in the SEIS process, EPA, in cooperation with other federal and state agencies delineated a “Zone of Siting Feasibility” (ZSF). The ZSF is the geographic area from which reasonable and practicable open-water dredged material disposal site alternatives should be selected for evaluation. EPA's 1986 site designation guidance manual describes the factors that should be considered in delineating the ZSF and recommends locating open-water disposal sites within an economically and operationally feasible radius from areas where dredging occurs. Other factors to be considered include navigational restrictions, political or other jurisdictional boundaries, the distance to the edge of the continental shelf, the feasibility of surveillance and monitoring, and operation and transportation costs. In 2012, consistent with the guidance and in cooperation with the other agencies, EPA established the ZSF to include the eastern region of Long Island Sound, with a western boundary consisting of a line from Mulberry Point in Guilford, CT, to Mattituck Point in Mattituck, NY, a southern boundary from Montauk Point to the southern tip of Block Island, and an eastern boundary from the northern tip of Block Island due north to the Rhode Island shoreline.

    5. Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

    The DSEIS evaluates whether—and if so, which—open-water dredged material disposal sites should be designated in the eastern region of Long Island Sound. The DSEIS describes the purpose and need for any such designations, evaluates several alternatives to this action, including the option of “no action” (i.e., no designation). From this evaluation, EPA concludes that designation of the ELDS under the MPRSA is the preferred alternative.

    The purpose of this designation is to provide a long-term, open-water dredged material disposal site as a potential option for the future disposal of such material. The action is necessary because periodic dredging and dredged material disposal is unavoidably necessary to maintain safe navigation and marine commerce in Long Island Sound. As previously noted, dredging in eastern Long Island Sound is projected to generate approximately 22.6 million cubic yards (mcy) of dredged material over the next 30 years, including 17.9 mcy from Connecticut ports and harbors and 4.7 mcy from ports and harbors in New York. Of the total amount of 22.6 mcy, approximately 13.5 mcy are projected to be suitable, fine-grained sediment, and 9.1 mcy are projected to be suitable, coarse-grained sand. In addition, the DMMP estimates that approximately 80,900 cy of material from eastern Long Island Sound will be fine-grained sediment that does not meet MPRSA and CWA standards for aquatic disposal (i.e., “unsuitable” material).

    With the USACE's DMMP as its primary source, EPA evaluated potential alternatives to open-water disposal in Long Island Sound but determined that they are not sufficient to meet the regional dredging needs. In accordance with EPA regulations, use of alternatives to open-water disposal will be required for dredged material management when they provide a practicable, environmentally preferable option for the dredged material from any particular disposal project. See 40 CFR 227.16. When no such practicable alternatives exist, however, EPA's designation of the ELDS will provide an open-water disposal site as a potential management option for dredged material regulated under the MPRSA that has been tested and determined to be environmentally suitable for open-water disposal. Sediments found to be unsuitable for open-water disposal will not be authorized for placement at a disposal site designated by EPA under the MPRSA and will have to be managed in other ways.

    EPA's initial screening of alternatives, which involved input from other federal and state agencies, local governments, academic institutions, and the public, led to the determination that the open-water disposal sites were the most environmentally sound, cost-effective, and operationally feasible options for the full quantity of dredged material expected to be found suitable for open-water disposal over the 30-year planning horizon. Regardless of this conclusion, in practice, each individual dredging project will be analyzed on a case-specific basis and open-water disposal of dredged material at a designated site would only be authorized when there is a need for such disposal (i.e., there are no practicable, environmentally preferable alternatives). See 40 CFR 227.2(a)(1), 227.16(b). EPA analyzed alternatives for the management of dredged material from navigation channels and harbors in eastern Long Island Sound. This analysis was informed by the DMMP and evaluated several different potential alternatives, including open-water disposal sites, upland disposal, beneficial uses, sediment treatment, and the no-action alternative. From this analysis, EPA determined that at least one open-water disposal site, such as the ELDS, was necessary to provide sufficient capacity to meet long-term dredged material disposal needs in the eastern Long Island Sound region, in the event that practicable alternatives to open-water disposal are not available for all the material. Again, EPA's analysis also acknowledged that options for dredged material management other than open-water disposal might be identified and required for specific dredged material disposal projects in the future.

    EPA also evaluated several open-water disposal site alternatives other than the ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS. This evaluation considered multiple factors, such as reasonable distances to transport dredged material, the potential for adverse effects on important natural resources, and other measures that might indicate incompatibility for use as a disposal site. Specific factors evaluated included: The sensitivity and value of natural resources; geographically limited habitats; fisheries and shellfisheries; shipping and navigation lanes; physical and environmental parameters; and economic and operational feasibility. The analysis was carried out in a tiered process in which some options were “screened out” at an earlier stage based on certain factors, while other options were retained for further evaluation. The final tier involved a detailed analysis of the no-action alternative and the following three open-water alternative sites: ELDS, NBDS, and CSDS. Based on this analysis, designating the ELDS as an open-water dredged material disposal site was identified as the preferred alternative, but we are soliciting public comments on the other two alternative sites (NBDS and CSDS). A management and monitoring strategy was developed for the ELDS and is set forth in the SMMP for the site.

    C. Coastal Zone Management Act

    The CZMA, 16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq., authorizes states to establish coastal zone management programs to develop and enforce policies to protect their coastal resources and promote uses of those resources that are desired by the state. These coastal zone management programs must be approved by the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for administering the CZMA. Sections 307(c)(1)(A) and (C) of the CZMA require federal agencies to provide relevant states with a determination that each federal agency activity, whether taking place within or outside the coastal zone, that affects any land or water use or natural resource of the state's coastal zone, will be carried out in a manner consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the state's approved coastal zone management program. EPA's compliance with the CZMA is described below.

    Based on the evaluations presented in the DSEIS and supporting documents, and a review of the federally approved Connecticut and New York coastal zone programs and policies, EPA has determined that designation of the ELDS, and/or the NBDS and CSDS for open-water dredged material disposal under the MPRSA would be consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the enforceable policies of the coastal zone management programs of Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. EPA will provide a written determination to that effect to each of the three states within the statutory and regulatory mandated timeframes.

    In EPA's view, there are several broad reasons why the proposed designation of the ELDS would be consistent with the applicable, enforceable policies of both states' coastal zone programs. First, the designation is not expected to cause any significant adverse impacts to the marine environment, coastal resources, or uses of the coastal zone. Indeed, EPA expects the designation to benefit uses involving navigation and berthing of vessels by facilitating needed dredging, and to benefit the environment by concentrating any open-water dredged material disposal at a small number of environmentally appropriate sites designated by EPA and subject to the previously described SMMP, rather than at a potential proliferation of USACE-selected sites. Second, designation of the sites does not actually authorize the disposal of any dredged material at the sites, since any proposal to dispose dredged material from a particular project at a designated site will be subject to case-specific evaluation and be allowed only if: (a) The material satisfies the sediment quality requirements of the MPRSA and the CWA; (b) no practicable alternative method of management with less adverse environmental impact can be identified; and (c) the disposal complies with the site restrictions for the site. (EPA is proposing a number of restrictions on the potential use of the ELDS in today's Proposed Rule. See Proposed 40 CFR 228.15(b)(6)). These restrictions are described and discussed in the next section of the preamble. Third, the designated disposal site(s) will be managed and monitored pursuant to a SMMP and if adverse impacts are identified, use of the sites will be modified to reduce or eliminate those impacts. Such modification could further restrict, or even terminate, use of the sites, if appropriate. See 40 CFR 228.3, 228.11.

    On December 22, 2015, as suggested by NOAA guidance on federal consistency determinations, EPA sent letters to NY DOS and CT DEEP (1) identifying EPA's effort to prepare a DSEIS to assess whether to propose designation of one or more dredged material disposal sites in the eastern portion of Long Island Sound, and (2) requesting information from each state concerning their respective coastal zone management programs to assist EPA with its federal consistency determination. On March 11, 2016, EPA sent a similar letter to the State of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. All three states responded in writing to EPA's letters and provided the most current information on their respective coastal management programs.

    D. Endangered Species Act

    Under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2), federal agencies are required to ensure that their actions are “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species, which is determined * * * to be critical * * * .” Depending on the species involved, a federal agency is required to consult with the NMFS and/or USFWS if the agency's action “may affect” an endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat (50 CFR 402.14(a)). Thus, the ESA requires consultation with NMFS and/or USFWS to adequately address potential impacts to threatened and endangered species that may occur at the proposed dredged material disposal alternative sites from any proposal to dispose dredged material.

    To comply with the ESA, EPA has coordinated with NMFS and USFWS and will request consultation concurrent with the release of the draft SEIS. EPA has determined that the designation of a disposal site will not result in adverse impacts to threatened or endangered species, species of concern, marine protected areas, or essential fish habitat. In addition, the USACE would coordinate with the NMFS and USFWS for individual permitted projects to further ensure that impacts would not adversely impact any threatened or endangered species.

    E. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

    The 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act amendments to the MSFCMA, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., require the designation of essential fish habitat (EFH) for federally managed species of fish and shellfish. The goal of the these amendments is to ensure that EFH is not adversely impacted by fishing or other human activities, including dredged material disposal, and to further the enhancement of these habitats, thereby protecting both ecosystem health and the fisheries industries. Pursuant to section 305(b)(2) of the MSFCMA, federal agencies are required to consult with NMFS regarding any action they authorize, fund, or undertake that may adversely affect EFH. An adverse effect has been defined by the Act as, “[a]ny impact which reduces the quality and/or quantity of EFH [and] may include direct (e.g., contamination or physical disruption), indirect (e.g., loss of prey, reduction in species' fecundity), site-specific or habitat-wide impacts, including individual, cumulative, or synergistic consequences of actions” (50 CFR 600.810(a)).

    EPA is coordinating with NMFS to ensure compliance with the EFH provisions of the MSFCMA and has prepared an essential fish habitat assessment in compliance with the Act. EPA will incorporate any conservation recommendations from NMFS or explain why it has not done so in its final action.

    VI. Restrictions

    EPA proposes to restrict use of the ELDS in the same manner that it has restricted use of the CLDS and WLDS. The existing site use restrictions for the CLDS are detailed in 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi) and are incorporated for the WLDS by the cross-references in 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi) and 228.15(b)(5)(vi). Similarly, EPA is proposing to apply to the ELDS the same restrictions as are applied to the CLDS and WLDS by including simple cross-references to those restrictions in the new proposed regulations at 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4) and 228.15(b)(6)(vi).

    While EPA is planning for the restrictions applicable to the CLDS and WLDS to also be applied to the ELDS, it also should be understood that EPA is currently proposing amendments to the CLDS/WLDS restrictions. Specifically, on February 10, 2016, EPA published in the Federal Register (81 FR 7055) a proposed rule to amend the restrictions on the CLDS and WLDS. EPA is currently considering public comments received on the proposed regulatory amendments.

    EPA has proposed amendments to the CLDS/WLDS restrictions in order to incorporate new standards and procedures for the use of those sites consistent with the recommendations of the Long Island Sound DMMP completed by the USACE on January 11, 2016. The DMMP identifies a wide range of alternatives to open-water disposal and recommends standards and procedures to help determine whether and which of these alternatives should be pursued for particular dredging projects. The goal of EPA's proposed regulatory amendments based on these standards and procedures is to reduce or eliminate the open-water disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound wherever practicable.

    The DMMP addresses dredging and dredged material management issues for all of Long Island Sound, including the eastern portion of the Sound. Therefore, EPA concludes that it makes sense to apply site use restrictions based on the DMMP to the ELDS as well as to the CLDS and WLDS. Again, it is intended that these restrictions will help to reduce or eliminate dredged material disposal in the Eastern portion of Long Island Sound as well as in the Central and Western portions. That said, no final decisions have been made about final restrictions for the ELDS and such final decisions will only be made after EPA considers public comments received on this proposed rule and other relevant information.

    In order to understand the nature of the site use restrictions that EPA is considering for the ELDS, reviewers of this proposed rule for the ELDS should review the site use restrictions in 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi), as cross-referenced in proposed 40 CFR 228.15(b)(6)(vi). Reviewers can also review the regulatory amendments that EPA has proposed for 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi). See 81 FR 7055. EPA is currently considering public comments submitted on these proposed amendments and, as explained above, EPA expects that the amendments, including any changes made to them based on public comments, will ultimately be applied to the ELDS, as well as to the CLDS and WLDS. This expectation is, however, subject to EPA considering the final amendments to the restrictions for the CLDS and WLDS, public comments received on this proposed rule for the ELDS, and other relevant information. The proposed restrictions on site use are summarized below.

    A. Standards

    The proposed restrictions provide that disposal at the site shall be allowed only if there is no practicable alternative to open-water disposal and that any practicable alternative will be fully utilized for the maximum volume of dredged material practicable. EPA recognizes that an alternative to open-water disposal may add additional costs. The decision regarding whether there is a “practicable alternative” will continue to be made on a case-by-case basis, in connection with the permitting process. The term “practicable alternative” is defined in 40 CFR 227.16(b) of the EPA's ocean disposal regulations as an alternative which is “available at reasonable incremental cost and energy expenditures, [and] which need not be competitive with the costs of ocean dumping, taking into account the environmental benefits derived from such activity, including the relative adverse environmental impacts associated with the use of alternatives to ocean dumping.”

    The following standards for the disposal of dredged material, by type of material, are derived from the DMMP. These proposed restrictions do not make decisions about the suitability of any particular dredged material for open-water disposal or any other type of management. Each dredging project will have to go through project-specific permitting evaluations.

    1. Unsuitable Material

    “Unsuitable fine-grained materials” are those determined by physical, chemical and biological testing to be unsuitable for unconfined open-water placement. Accordingly, EPA's proposed rule specifies that unsuitable fine-grained materials shall not be disposed of at the designated sites.

    2. Sandy Material

    “Sandy material” in Long Island Sound is coarse-grained material of generally up to 20 percent fines when used for direct beach placement, or up to 40 percent fines when used for nearshore bar/berm nourishment. Clean sandy material should be used for beach or nearshore bar/berm nourishment whenever practicable. Sandy material has a high value as nourishment or in other coastal resiliency applications, and recent experience is that state and local governments, as well as property owner groups, are willing to fund the additional cost for such material even where there is no other federal project authority to assist in that cost. As long as beach or nearshore placement is a practicable alternative, project proponents will need to identify and secure funding for any needed non-federal cost-sharing. Accordingly, the proposed restriction specifies that coarse-grained material should be used for beach or nearshore bar/berm nourishment, or other beneficial use whenever practicable.

    3. Suitable Fine-Grained Material

    “Suitable fine-grained material” in Long Island Sound is typically clay and silty material of more than 20 to 40 percent fines that is not suitable for beach or nearshore placement, yet is determined through testing and analysis to be suitable for open-water placement. Although the most likely cost-effective and environmentally acceptable method of placement of this material is at open-water disposal sites, EPA proposes that every proposed project will continue to have to exhaust the possibility for a practicable alternative to open-water disposal. More specifically, for materials dredged from upper river channels in the Connecticut, Housatonic and Thames Rivers, whenever practicable, the one existing Confined Open Water site, and on-shore or in-river placement, should be used for such projects.

    The proposed restrictions specify that beneficial uses such as marsh creation, should be examined and used whenever practicable. If no other alternative is determined to be practicable, suitable fine-grained material may be placed at the designated site.

    4. Source Reduction

    Efforts to control sediment entering waterways can reduce the need for maintenance dredging of harbor features and facilities by reducing shoaling rates. Reducing sediment loads could help reduce the volumes dredged in each maintenance operation as well as reduce the frequency of maintenance. In addition, efforts to prevent introduction of contaminants into the watershed (e.g., multi-sector and municipal stormwater permits, measures to control nonpoint agricultural runoff) can result in reduced contaminant levels in sediments that can increase the range of options available to beneficially use those sediments. Continued source reduction efforts for both sediment and contaminants will assist in further reducing the need for open-water placement of dredged material in Long Island Sound. The EPA expects that federal, state and local agencies tasked with regulating those discharges into the watersheds tributary to Long Island Sound will exercise their authority under various statues and regulations in a continuing effort to reduce the flow of sediments and contaminants into state waterways and harbors.

    B. Procedures

    The Long Island Sound Regional Dredging Team (RDT) was formed to identify practicable alternatives to open-water disposal and recommend their use for projects proposed while the USACE was preparing the DMMP. EPA proposes to include restrictions that redefine the role of the RDT to ensure that the Standards described above are utilized in evaluating proposed dredging projects in Long Island Sound. EPA proposes restrictions that make explicit the RDT's purpose, geographic scope, membership, structure and general process as described below.

    1. Purpose of the Long Island Sound Regional Dredging Team (LIS RDT)

    The primary purpose of the LIS RDT is to reduce or eliminate wherever practicable the open-water disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound. The LIS RDT will accomplish this by reviewing all proposed dredging projects subject to MPRSA (namely all federal projects and non-federal projects that generate greater than 25,000 cubic yards) to assess whether there are practicable alternatives to open-water disposal, by recommending that any available alternative(s) to open-water disposal be utilized for the maximum volume of dredged material practicable, and to provide documented findings and recommendations to USACE on these points so that the USACE and the EPA can consider the LIS RDT's recommendations. The LIS RDT should review the alternatives analysis for all projects submitted to help ensure that available alternatives as described in the DMMP for each harbor and dredging center have been thoroughly evaluated and are implemented where practicable. While the LIS RDT will conduct project reviews and make submissions and recommendations to the USACE, the LIS RDT will not supplant the regulatory obligations or authorities of participant agencies under the MPRSA, CWA, CZMA or other applicable laws.

    Other purposes of the LIS RDT include: Serving as a forum for continuing exploration of new beneficial use alternatives to open-water disposal; promoting the use of such alternatives; and suggesting approaches for cost-sharing opportunities. For example, the LIS RDT could further investigate and develop opportunities for approving and funding long-term regional Confined Disposal Facilities which could accommodate suitable and unsuitable dredged material and provide environmental and social benefits such as parkland and habitat once filled and closed.

    The LIS RDT and its member agencies should also assist USACE and EPA in continuing a number of long term activities to continue the environmentally sound implementation of dredging and dredged material management in Long Island Sound. These activities include supporting USACE's dredged material tracking system, supporting USACE's DAMOS (Disposal Area Monitoring System) program and related efforts to study the long-term impacts of open-water placement, and promoting opportunities for beneficial use of clean, parent marine sediments often generated in the development of CAD cells.

    2. Geographic Scope

    The geographic range of the LIS RDT will include all of Long Island Sound and adjacent waters landward of the seaward edge of the territorial sea (three mile limit) or, in other words, from Throgs Neck to a line three miles east of the baseline across western Block Island Sound. These boundaries would encompass all harbors and areas included in the DMMP except Block Island. The WLDS, CLDS, and ELDS would all be within the RDT's purview.

    3. Membership

    The LIS RDT should include representatives from affected federal and state government organizations. EPA anticipates that federal participation would include EPA Regions 1 & 2; the New England and New York Districts and the North Atlantic Division of the USACE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. EPA encourages the participation of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. EPA expects that the states of Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island would be participants through their environmental agencies, coastal zone management programs and relevant port authorities. EPA requests that, to the extent possible, member organizations will provide sufficient funding to enable their active participation in the LIS RDT.

    4. Structure and Process

    EPA proposes that the specific details for structure (e.g., chair, committees, working groups) and process (e.g., how projects come before the LIS RDT, coordination with other entities) be left for the LIS RDT to determine and allowed to evolve as best accomplishes the team's purpose.

    The LIS RDT is encouraged to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships with other Long Island Sound-based organizations (e.g., the Long Island Sound Study's Science and Technical Advisory Committee, non-governmental organizations, relevant university-based programs) so that relevant scientific, program and policy information is effectively shared and resources are leveraged to the maximum extent.

    VII. Proposed Action

    EPA is proposing this rule to designate the ELDS for the purpose of providing an environmentally sound, open-water disposal option for possible use in managing dredged material from harbors and navigation channels in eastern Long Island Sound and its vicinity in the states of Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. Without this dredged material disposal site designation, there will be no open-water disposal site available in the eastern region of Long Island Sound after December 23, 2016. In developing the DMMP, described previously in several sections, the USACE conducted a “dredging needs” assessment that estimated that a total volume of 22.6 mcy of dredged material that from the eastern region of Long Island Sound over the 30-year planning horizon.

    The site designation process has been conducted consistent with the requirements of the MPRSA, CWA, NEPA, CZMA, and other applicable federal and state statutes and regulations. The basis for this federal action is further described in a DSEIS that identifies EPA designation of the ELDS as the preferred alternative. The DSEIS also is being released for public comment in conjunction with the publication of this proposed rule. Upon completion of the public comment period and EPA's consideration of all comments received, EPA will publish a final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) specifying a preferred alternative, and a final rule that will serve as EPA's Record of Decision (ROD) in the NEPA process.

    The ELDS is subject to management and monitoring protocols to prevent the occurrence of unacceptable adverse environmental impacts. These protocols are spelled out in a SMMP for the site. The SMMP is included as Appendix I to the DSEIS. Under 40 CFR 228.3(b), the Regional Administrator of EPA Region 1 is responsible for the overall management of this site. As previously explained, the designation of these disposal sites does not constitute or imply EPA's approval of open-water disposal at either site of dredged material from any specific project. Disposal of dredged material will not be allowed at the ELDS until the proposed disposal operation first receives proper authorization from the USACE under MPRSA section 103. In addition, any such authorization by the Corps is subject to EPA review under MPRSA section 103(c), and EPA may condition or “veto” the authorization as a result of such review in accordance with MPRSA section 103(c). In order to properly obtain authorization to dispose of dredged material at the ELDS disposal site under the MPRSA, the dredged material proposed for disposal must first satisfy the applicable criteria for testing and evaluating dredged material specified in EPA regulations at 40 CFR part 227, and it must be determined in accordance with EPA regulations at 40 CFR part 227, subpart C, that there is a need for open-water disposal (i.e., that there is no practicable dredged material management alternative to open-water disposal with less adverse environmental impact). In addition, any proposal to dispose of dredged material under the MPRSA at the designated site will need to satisfy all the site Restrictions included in the final rule as part of the site designations. See 40 CFR 228.8 and 228.15(b)(6).

    VIII. Supporting Documents

    1. EPA Region 1/USACE NAE. 2005. Response to Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Designation of Dredged Material Disposal Sites in Central and Western Long Island Sound, Connecticut and New York. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1, Boston, MA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Concord, MA. April 2005.

    2. EPA Region 1. 2005. Memorandum to the File Responding to the Letter from the New York Department of State Objecting to EPA's Federal Consistency Determination for the Dredged Material Disposal Site Designations. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1, Boston, MA. May 2005.

    3. EPA Region 1/USACE NAE. 2004. Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Designation of Dredged Material Disposal Sites in Central and Western Long Island Sound, Connecticut and New York. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1, Boston, MA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Concord, MA. March 2004.

    4. EPA Region 1/USACE NAE. 2004. Regional Implementation Manual for the Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Disposal in New England Waters. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 1, Boston, MA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Concord, MA. April 2004.

    5. EPA Region 2/USACE NAN. 1992. Guidance for Performing Tests on Dredged Material Proposed for Ocean Disposal. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, New York, NY and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, New York, NY. Draft Release. December 1992.

    6. EPA/USACE. 1991. Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Ocean Disposal-Testing Manual. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC. EPA-503/8-91/001. February 1991.

    7. Long Island Sound Study. 2015. Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound Management Conference. September 2015.

    8. NY DEC and CT DEP. 2000. A total maximum daily load analysis to achieve water quality standards for dissolved oxygen in Long Island Sound. Prepared in conformance with section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act and the Long Island Sound Study. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Hartford, CT. December 2000.

    9. USACE NAE. 2016. Final Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement—Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District. December 2015.

    IX. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews 1. Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Planning and Review and Executive Order 13563: Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review

    This action is not a significant regulatory action, as defined in the Executive Order, and was therefore not submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

    2. Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

    This action does not impose an information collection burden under the PRA because it would not require persons to obtain, maintain, retain, report or publicly disclose information to or for a federal agency.

    3. Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

    This action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The amended restrictions in this proposed rule are only relevant for dredged material disposal projects subject to the MPRSA. Non-federal projects involving 25,000 cubic yards or less of material are not subject to the MPRSA and, instead, are regulated under CWA section 404. This action will, therefore, have no effect on such projects. “Small entities” under the RFA are most likely to be involved with smaller projects not covered by the MPRSA. Therefore, EPA does not believe a substantial number of small entities will be affected by today's rule. Furthermore, the proposed amendments to the restrictions also will not have significant economic impacts on a substantial number of small entities because they primarily will create requirements to be followed by regulatory agencies rather than small entities, and will create requirements (i.e., the standards and procedures) intended to help ensure satisfaction of the existing regulatory requirement (see 40 CFR 227.16) that practicable alternatives to the ocean dumping of dredged material be utilized.

    4. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA)

    This action does not contain any unfunded mandate as described in UMRA, 2 U.S.C. 1531-1538, and does not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. The action imposes no enforceable duty on any state, local or tribal governments or the private sector.

    5. Executive Order 13132: Federalism

    This action does not have federalism implications. It will not have substantial direct effects on the states, on the relationship between the national government and the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Through the RDT process, however, this action will provide a vehicle for facilitating the interaction and communication of interested federal and state agencies concerned with regulating dredged material disposal in Long Island Sound.

    6. Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments

    This action does not have tribal implications as specified in Executive Order 13175 because the proposed restrictions will not have substantial direct effects on Indian tribes, on the relationship between the federal government and Indian Tribes, or the distribution of power and responsibilities between the federal government and Indian Tribes. EPA consulted with the potentially affected Indian tribes in making this determination.

    7. Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks

    This action is not subject to Executive Order 13045 because it is not economically significant as defined in Executive Order 12866, and because the EPA does not believe the environmental health or safety risks addressed by this action present a disproportionate risk to children.

    8. Executive Order 13211: Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution or Use

    This action is not subject to Executive Order 13211, because it is not a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866.

    9. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA)

    This rulemaking does not involve technical standards.

    10. Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations

    The EPA believes the human health or environmental risk addressed by this action will not have a disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority, low-income or indigenous populations.

    11. Executive Order 13158: Marine Protected Areas

    Executive Order 13158 (65 FR 34909, May 31, 2000) requires EPA to “expeditiously propose new science-based regulations, as necessary, to ensure appropriate levels of protection for the marine environment.” EPA may take action to enhance or expand protection of existing marine protected areas and to establish or recommend, as appropriate, new marine protected areas. The purpose of the Executive Order is to protect the significant natural and cultural resources within the marine environment, which means, ”those areas of coastal and ocean waters, the Great Lakes and their connecting waters, and submerged lands thereunder, over which the United States exercises jurisdiction, consistent with international law.”

    The EPA expects that this proposed rule will afford additional protection to the waters of Long Island Sound and organisms that inhabit them. Building on the existing protections of the MPRSA and the ocean dumping regulations, the proposed regulatory amendments are designed to promote the reduction of open-water disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound.

    12. Executive Order 13547: Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes

    Section 6(a)(i) of Executive Order 13547, (75 FR 43023, July 19, 2010) requires, among other things, EPA and certain other agencies “. . . to the fullest extent consistent with applicable law [to] . . . take such action as necessary to implement the policy set forth in section 2 of this order and the stewardship principles and national priority objectives as set forth in the Final Recommendations and subsequent guidance from the Council.” The policies in section 2 of Executive Order 13547 include, among other things, the following: “. . . it is the policy of the United States to: (i) protect, maintain, and restore the health and biological diversity of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources; [and] (ii) improve the resiliency of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems, communities, and economies . . ..” As with Executive Order 13158 (Marine Protected Areas), the overall purpose of the Executive Order is to promote protection of ocean and coastal environmental resources.

    The EPA expects that this proposed rule will afford additional protection to the waters of Long Island Sound and the organisms that inhabit them. Building on the existing protections of the MPRSA and the ocean dumping regulations, the proposed regulatory amendments are designed to promote the reduction or elimination of open-water disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound.

    List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 228

    Environmental protection, Water pollution control.

    Dated: April 18, 2016. H. Curtis Spalding, Regional Administrator, EPA Region 1—New England.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, title 40, Chapter I, of the Code of Federal Regulations is proposed to be amended as set forth below.

    PART 228—CRITERIA FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF DISPOSAL SITES FOR OCEAN DUMPING 1. The authority citation for part 228 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    33 U.S.C. 1412 and 1418.

    2. Section 228.15(b) is amended by revising paragraph (b)(4)(vi) introductory text and adding paragraph (b)(6) to read as follows:
    § 228.15 Dumping sites designated on a final basis.

    (b) * * *

    (4) * * *

    (vi) Restrictions: The designation in this paragraph (b)(4) sets forth conditions for the use of the Central Long Island Sound (CLDS), Western Long Island Sound (WLDS) and Eastern Long Island Sound (ELDS) Dredged Material Disposal Sites. These conditions apply to all disposal subject to the MPRSA, namely, all federal projects and nonfederal projects greater than 25,000 cubic yards. All references to” permittees” shall be deemed to include the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) when it is authorizing its own dredged material disposal from a USACE dredging project. The conditions for this designation are as follows:

    (6) Eastern Long Island Sound Dredged Material Disposal Site (ELDS).

    (i) Location: Corner Coordinates (NAD 1983) 41°15.81′ N., 72°04.57′ W.; 41°16.81′ N., 72°04.57′ W.; 41°16.81′ N., 72°07.22′ W.; 41°15.81′ N., 72°07.22′ W.

    (ii) Size: A 2 by 1 nautical mile rectangular area, a size of 2 square nautical miles (nmi2).

    (iii) Depth: Ranges from 45 to 100 feet (14m to 30m).

    (iv) Primary use: Dredged material disposal.

    (v) Period of use: Continuing use.

    (vi) Restrictions: See 40 CFR 228.15(b)(4)(vi)(A) through (N).

    [FR Doc. 2016-09603 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50-P
    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Part 73 [MB Docket No. 16-93, RM-11764; DA 16-404] Television Broadcasting Services; Tolleson, Arizona AGENCY:

    Federal Communications Commission.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Commission has before it a petition for rulemaking filed by America 51, L.P. (America 51), the licensee of KPPX-TV, channel 51, Tolleson, Arizona, requesting the substitution of channel 31 for channel 51 at Tolleson. While the Commission instituted a freeze on the acceptance of full power television rulemaking petitions requesting channel substitutions in May 2011, it subsequently announced that it would lift the freeze to accept such petitions for rulemaking seeking to relocate from channel 51 pursuant to a voluntary relocation agreement with Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees. America 51 has entered into such a voluntary relocation agreement with T-Mobile and states that operation on channel 31 would remove any potential interference with authorized wireless operations in the Lower 700 MHZ A Block adjacent to channel 51 in the Phoenix, Arizona market, permitting those operations to expand to additional consumers sooner than would otherwise be possible.

    DATES:

    Comments must be filed on or before May 27, 2016, and reply comments on or before June 13, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by MB Docket No. 16-93, by any of the following methods:

    Federal Communications Commission's Web site: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: [email protected] or phone: 202-418-0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joyce Bernstein, [email protected], Media Bureau, (202) 418-1647.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This is a synopsis of the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rule Making, MB Docket No. 16-93, adopted April 14, 2016, and released April 14, 2016. The full text of this document is available for public inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC's Reference Information Center at Portals II, CY-A257, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC, 20554. This document will also be available via ECFS (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/). (Documents will be available electronically in ASCII, Word 97, and/or Adobe Acrobat.). To request this document in accessible formats (computer diskettes, large print, audio recording, and Braille), send an email to [email protected] or call the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). This document does not contain proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any proposed information collection burden “for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees,” pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).

    Provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 do not apply to this proceeding. Members of the public should note that from the time a Notice of Proposed Rule Making is issued until the matter is no longer subject to Commission consideration or court review, all ex parte contacts (other than ex parte presentations exempt under 47 CFR 1.1204(a)) are prohibited in Commission proceedings, such as this one, which involve channel allotments. See 47 CFR 1.1208 for rules governing restricted proceedings.

    For information regarding proper filing procedures for comments, see 47 CFR 1.415 and 1.420.

    List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73

    Television.

    Federal Communications Commission. Thomas Horan, Chief of Staff, Media Bureau. Proposed Rule

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR part 73 as follows:

    PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 334, 336, and 339.

    § 73.622 [Amended].
    2. Section 73.622(i), in the table under Arizona, is amended by adding channel 31 and removing channel 51 at Tolleson.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09831 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712-01-P
    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Part 73 [MB Docket No. 16-123, RM-11766; DA 16-405] Television Broadcasting Services; Cordele, Georgia AGENCY:

    Federal Communications Commission.

    ACTION:

    Proposed Rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Commission has before it a petition for rulemaking filed by Sunbelt-South TeleCommunications, Ltd. (Sunbelt), the licensee of WSST-TV, channel 51, Cordele, Georgia, requesting the substitution of channel 22 for channel 51 at Cordele. While the Commission instituted a freeze on the acceptance of full power television rulemaking petitions requesting channel substitutions in May 2011, it subsequently announced that it would lift the freeze to accept such petitions for rulemaking seeking to relocate from channel 51 pursuant to a voluntary relocation agreement with Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees. Sunbelt has entered into such a voluntary relocation agreement with T-Mobile USA, Inc. and states that operation on channel 22 would remove any potential interference with authorized wireless operations in the Lower 700 MHZ A Block adjacent to channel 51.

    DATES:

    Comments must be filed on or before May 27, 2016, and reply comments on or before June 13, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Federal Communications Commission, Office of the Secretary, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554. In addition to filing comments with the FCC, interested parties should serve counsel for petitioner as follows: Scott C. Cinnamon, Esq., Law Offices of Scott C. Cinnamon, PLLC, 1250 Connecticut Avenue NW., Suite 200, #144, Washington, DC 20036.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joyce Bernstein, [email protected], Media Bureau, (202) 418-1647.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This is a synopsis of the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rule Making, MB Docket No. 16-123, adopted April 14, 2016, and released April 14, 2016. The full text of this document is available for public inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC's Reference Information Center at Portals II, CY-A257, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554. This document will also be available via ECFS (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/). (Documents will be available electronically in ASCII, Word 97, and/or Adobe Acrobat.). To request this document in accessible formats (computer diskettes, large print, audio recording, and Braille), send an email to [email protected] or call the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). This document does not contain proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any proposed information collection burden “for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees,” pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).

    Provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 do not apply to this proceeding. Members of the public should note that from the time a Notice of Proposed Rule Making is issued until the matter is no longer subject to Commission consideration or court review, all ex parte contacts (other than ex parte presentations exempt under 47 CFR 1.1204(a)) are prohibited in Commission proceedings, such as this one, which involve channel allotments. See 47 CFR 1.1208 for rules governing restricted proceedings.

    For information regarding proper filing procedures for comments, see 47 CFR 1.415 and 1.420.

    List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 73

    Television.

    Federal Communications Commission. Thomas Horan, Chief of Staff, Media Bureau. Proposed Rules

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to amend 47 CFR part 73 as follows:

    PART 73—RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES 1. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 334, 336, and 339.

    § 73.622 [Amended]
    2. Section 73.622(i), the Post-Transition Table of DTV Allotments under Georiga is amended by adding channel 22 and removing channel 51 at Cordele.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09830 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 49 CFR Parts 350 [Docket No. FMCSA-2014-0470] RIN 2126-AB84 State Inspection Programs for Passenger-Carrier Vehicles AGENCY:

    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM).

    SUMMARY:

    FMCSA announces that it is considering a rulemaking that would require the States to establish a program for annual inspections of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) designed or used to transport passengers (or, passenger-carrying CMVs). FMCSA plans to assess the risks associated with improperly maintained or inspected passenger-carrying CMVs by reviewing the effectiveness of existing Federal inspection standards that are applicable to these types of vehicles, and considering the costs and benefits of having a mandatory inspection program.

    DATES:

    Comments on this notice must be received on or before June 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA-2014-0470 using any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

    Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    Fax: 202-493-2251.

    To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods. See the “Public Participation and Request for Comments” portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for instructions on submitting comments.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Loretta Bitner, Chief, Passenger Carrier Division at 202-385-2428, or via email at [email protected], Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001. If you have questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, contact Docket Services, telephone (202) 366-9826.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is organized as follows:

    I. Public Participation and Request for Comments A. Submitting Comments B. Viewing Comments and Documents C. Privacy Act II. Legal Basis for the Rulemaking III. Background IV. Questions I. Public Participation and Request for Comments A. Submitting Comments

    If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this ANPRM (Docket No. FMCSA-2014-0470), indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and material online or by fax, mail, or hand delivery, but please use only one of these means. FMCSA recommends that you include your name and a mailing address, an email address, or a phone number in the body of your document so that FMCSA can contact you if there are questions regarding your submission.

    To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, put the docket number, FMCSA-2014-0470, in the keyword box, and click “Search.” When the new screen appears, click on the “Comment Now!” button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit.

    If you submit your comments by mail or hand delivery, submit them in an unbound format, no larger than 81/2 by 11 inches, suitable for copying and electronic filing. If you submit comments by mail and would like to know that they reached the facility, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope.

    We will consider all comments and material received during the comment period and may develop a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) based on your comments and other information and analysis.

    B. Viewing Comments and Documents

    To view comments, as well as any documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Insert the docket number, FMCSA-2014-0470, in the keyword box, and click “Search.” Next, click the “Open Docket Folder” button and choose the document to review. If you do not have access to the Internet, you may view the docket online by visiting the Docket Management Facility in Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the DOT West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    C. Privacy Act

    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these comments, without edit, including any personal information the commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice (DOT/ALL-14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at www.dot.gov/privacy.

    II. Legal Basis for the Rulemaking

    Section 32710 of Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2012, enacted as part of MAP-21, requires that the Secretary of Transportation complete a rulemaking proceeding to consider requiring States to establish a program for annual inspections of vehicles designed or used to transport passengers (Pub. L. 112-141). As part of this proceeding, FMCSA must assess: (1) The risks associated with improperly maintained or inspected CMVs designed or used to transport passengers; (2) the effectiveness of existing Federal inspection standards in mitigating the risks associated with improperly maintained vehicles and ensuring safe and proper operation; and (3) the costs and benefits of a mandatory inspection program.

    III. Background

    Section 210 of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 required the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe standards for the inspection of CMVs. See 49 U.S.C. 31142. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), a CMV, including qualifying passenger vehicles,1 must be inspected at least once every 12 months. See 49 CFR 396.17. Subject to exceptions under § 396.23, a motor carrier must either conduct the inspection using its own qualified personnel or use a qualified third party that maintains appropriate facilities and employs inspectors qualified under § 396.19. In lieu of conducting a self-inspection or relying on a third-party inspector under § 396.17, a motor carrier may satisfy the FMCSR annual inspection requirement through a State or other jurisdiction's inspection program in accordance with § 396.23(a), provided that the inspection satisfies regulatory requirements.

    1 A CMV is defined, in part, for purposes of this regulation as a “motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers . . . when the vehicle—(1) [h]as a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or (2) [i]s designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or (3) [i]s designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation . . .” 49 CFR 390.5.

    However, in those States that have a mandatory State inspection requirement that the FMCSA Administrator has determined to be as effective as inspections under § 396.17, a motor carrier may rely on the State inspection process in order to satisfy the annual inspection requirement. 49 CFR 396.23(b)(1). A State inspection under this provision might be conducted by State personnel, at a State-authorized commercial facility, or by the motor carrier under the auspices of a State-authorized self-inspection program. Id. According to the latest list published by FMCSA, 22 States are among the governmental entities that have mandatory inspections programs recognized by the FMCSA Administrator. 73 FR 63040 (October 22, 2008).2

    2 At the time of publication, the list of State inspection programs determined comparable to, or as effective as, the FMCSA periodic inspection program included California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Other jurisdictions and agencies with approved programs are the District of Columbia, the Alabama LPG Board, the 10 Canadian Provinces, and the Yukon Territory. However FMCSA does not collect inspection data on passenger CMVs that are not subject to FMCSAs regulatory authority.

    In 2012, Congress enacted legislation requiring the Secretary of Transportation to complete a rulemaking proceeding to consider requiring States to establish an annual inspection program as discussed under the Legal Basis section, above. Subsequently, FMCSA conducted three public listening sessions that provided interested parties with the opportunity to share their views on the merits of requiring State inspections of passenger CMVs.3 Transcripts of these sessions are available in the public docket noted above. Stakeholders' presentations proved valuable in developing the questions posed in today's ANPRM. While the Agency received a broad range of comments, recurring themes included the costs of mandatory inspection programs, the value of a nation-wide uniform inspection standard, and the need for national training of inspectors to eliminate inconsistencies in how inspection standards are applied. Both industry and the enforcement community identified concerns about the cost of the inspection programs. Stakeholders' estimates of costs for program administration and individual inspections varied significantly. Industry stakeholders expressed concern about inconsistent inspections under existing programs.

    3 The listening sessions were conducted at the American Bus Association Marketplace in St. Louis, Missouri on January 13, 2015, a United Motor Coach Association meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 18, 2015, and a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop in Jacksonville, Florida on April 14, 2015.

    Section 32710 of MAP-21 did not address the Agency's authority to require mandatory State inspection programs. While Congress has granted the Secretary broad regulatory authority over the interstate operation of CMVs, under Federalism principles and the 10th Amendment, the Federal government may not compel the States to enact or administer a Federal regulatory program (New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 188 (1992)), or compel State officers to administer or enforce a Federal regulatory program (Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 935 (1997)). Thus, FMCSA assumes Congress intended that State participation would be required as a condition of receiving Federal funds. See, e.g., South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 206-207 (1987). However, Congress neither established a new financial assistance program for funding State inspection programs nor specified what existing financial assistance program FMCSA might employ to incentivize States to adopt inspection programs. Thus, in posing its final question below, the Agency is seeking its State partners' views on how to implement and incentivize a required State inspection program, should the Agency propose such a program.

    IV. Questions

    FMCSA is considering a rulemaking under which States would establish a program for annual inspections of CMVs designed or used to transport passengers. The Agency will use information gathered through this ANPRM to quantify the economic benefits and costs of this action if it issues an NPRM. The Agency encourages parties with knowledge of the industry to provide information about the impact that such a rule would have on current regulations, operating costs, business practices, safety, and any other areas that would be affected by a rule requiring States to establish inspection programs.

    FMCSA also requests responses to the following issues and questions. Again, whenever possible, commenters should provide data. FMCSA also encourages stakeholders to describe any applicable regulatory inspection process under which they operate. FMCSA recognizes that an individual commenter may choose to respond to all of the issues or only a subset, based on his or her interest or area of expertise.

    Existing State Mandatory Vehicle Inspection Programs for Passenger-Carrying Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs)

    1. Does your State or the States in which you register your passenger-carrying CMV conduct mandatory inspections of such vehicles? Please indicate the State(s) in which your passenger-carrying CMVs are registered.

    2. What vehicle types are included in the mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspection program (e.g., motorcoaches, school buses, mini-buses, 9-15 passenger vans, etc.) and which are not included?

    3. If your State has a mandatory program, briefly describe your inspection procedures and indicate which vehicle components are inspected.

    4. How many total inspections are performed by your State annually for each of the following types of vehicles?

    a. Motorcoaches b. School buses c. Mini-buses d. 9-15 passenger vans e. Other

    5. What is the estimated time required to complete each vehicle inspection?

    6. What procedures are used to record the vehicle inspection?

    7. If a vehicle does not pass an inspection, who addresses the issues? If it is done by someone other than the inspecting entity, is there a second inspection after the issues are addressed? On average, how many follow up inspections does it take to pass a vehicle?

    8. Are mandatory vehicle inspections performed by State employees, by third-party inspectors authorized by the State, or by passenger carrier employees through a State-authorized self-inspection program?

    9. If vehicle inspections are conducted by a State-authorized third party or by passenger-carrier employees authorized by the State, are there differences in safety outcomes between those conducted by State employees and those conducted by third-party inspectors or through a passenger carrier's State-authorized self-inspection facilities?

    10. Are there any specific benefits or concerns related to using third-party inspectors or by others?

    11. If inspections are conducted by third-party inspectors or by passenger carrier-employed mechanics or technicians, what oversight is or should be required?

    12. Should self-inspection or third-party inspections be options for compliance with a mandatory State inspection?

    13. How does/would the cost of inspections differ between those conducted by State employees or by third-party inspectors?

    14. What might be other preferable options?

    Measuring Effectiveness of Inspection Programs

    15. Does your State have information on violations discovered during inspections that are attributable to maintenance issues that should have been found during a required vehicle inspection?

    16. Has your State considered implementing a mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspection program, but declined to do so? If so, what are your State's reasons for not implementing a program?

    17. If your State imposes mandatory inspection of passenger-carrying CMVs, how is the effectiveness of that program measured?

    18. What are the most common vehicle defects discovered during these mandatory vehicle inspections? What safety conclusions do you draw from the results of these inspections?

    19. Has your State or organization collected data related to crashes, injuries, or fatalities attributable to improperly maintained or inspected passenger-carrying CMVs? If so, please provide summary information or links to detailed data associated with these areas.

    20. Has the occurrence of passenger-carrying CMV-involved crashes, injuries, or fatalities before and after the implementation of a mandatory inspection requirement been evaluated? If so, please provide summary information or links to detailed data associated with these areas.

    21. After a State inspection requirement was instituted, what changes were observed over time in the number of safety violations discovered during inspections, if any.

    22. Do programs that inspect only a sample of vehicles have significantly different outcomes than those where all vehicles are inspected, please provide examples of how they differ?

    Inspection Facilities and Locations

    23. Where does your State conduct mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspections (e.g., State owned/leased facility, third party facility, carrier's place of business, or other type of facility)?

    24. Where should mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspections be performed?

    25. If mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspections are conducted at the carrier's place of business, what accommodations must be made to ensure appropriate access (e.g., pits, lifts, etc.) to conduct full inspections of motorcoaches and other large passenger vehicles?

    26. How does facility location or accessibility for mandatory inspections impact inspections or compliance?

    27. What delays may the State experience in completing mandatory inspections (e.g. lack of sufficient number of inspection facilities)?

    Costs

    28. What is the cost per mandatory vehicle inspection to the carrier?

    29. Do inspection fees differ based on the type of vehicle being inspected?

    30. Do vehicle inspection fees differ based on location of the inspections?

    31. How much does it cost the State to establish and run inspection programs on an annual basis?

    32. If a vehicle does not pass an inspection, is there an additional cost for the second inspection?

    33. If fees are collected by the State, does the State dedicate the revenue to the administration of the program?

    Uniformity of Mandatory Vehicle Inspection Programs

    34. What qualifications should be applicable to individuals authorized to perform mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspections?

    35. Should minimum training elements be required for passenger-carrying CMV inspections? If so, how much training should be required and who should administer the training?

    36. What should be the minimum vehicle components inspected under a mandatory bus inspection program?

    37. How does the existence of different vehicle inspection requirements among the States affect carrier business practices?

    38. How might business practices change under a uniform mandatory bus inspection program?

    Current Federal Standards

    39. How effective are existing Federal standards for the inspection of passenger-carrying CMVs in (1) mitigating the risks associated with improperly maintained vehicles and (2) ensuring the safe and proper operating condition of the vehicles?

    40. What is an effective and efficient way for the FMCSA to track inspected carriers to reduce burden on States and carriers?

    Federal Authority

    41. How should FMCSA incentivize the States to establish mandatory passenger-carrying CMV inspection programs?

    Issued under the authority of delegation in 49 CFR 1.87 on April 20, 2016. T.F. Scott Darling, III, Acting Administrator.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09846 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 300 [Docket No. 160205084-6084-01] RIN 0648-BF76 International Fisheries; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species; Purse Seine Observer Requirements, and Fishing Restrictions and Limits in Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries for 2016-2017 AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS seeks comments on this proposed rule issued under authority of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (WCPFC Implementation Act). The proposed rule would, first, require that U.S. purse seine vessels carry observers on fishing trips in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO); second, establish restrictions in 2016 and 2017 on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by U.S. purse seine vessels in the WCPO; and third, establish limits in 2016 and 2017 on the amount of bigeye tuna that may be captured by U.S. longline vessels in the WCPO. This action is necessary to satisfy the obligations of the United States under the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention), to which it is a Contracting Party.

    DATES:

    Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted in writing by May 12, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments on the proposed rule and the regulatory impact review (RIR) prepared for the proposed rule, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0031, by either of the following methods:

    Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0031,

    2. Click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and

    3. Enter or attach your comments.

    —OR—

    Mail: Submit written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, might not be considered by NMFS. 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 and address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) prepared under authority of the Regulatory Flexibility Act is included in the Classification section of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

    Copies of the RIR and the programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) prepared for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) purposes are available at www.regulations.gov or may be obtained from Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS PIRO (see address above).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Tom Graham, NMFS PIRO, 808-725-5032.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background on the Convention

    The Convention focuses on the conservation and management of fisheries for highly migratory species (HMS). The objective of the Convention is to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of HMS in the WCPO. To accomplish this objective, the Convention established the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Commission or WCPFC), which includes Members, Cooperating Non-members, and Participating Territories (collectively referred to here as “members”). The United States of America is a Member. American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are Participating Territories.

    As a Contracting Party to the Convention and a Member of the Commission, the United States implements conservation and management measures and other decisions adopted by the Commission. The WCPFC Implementation Act (16 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.), authorizes the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Department in which the United States Coast Guard is operating (currently the Department of Homeland Security), to promulgate such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the obligations of the United States under the Convention, including the decisions of the Commission. The WCPFC Implementation Act further provides that the Secretary of Commerce shall ensure consistency, to the extent practicable, of fishery management programs administered under the WCPFC Implementation Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), as well as other specific laws (see 16 U.S.C. 6905(b)). The Secretary of Commerce has delegated the authority to promulgate regulations under the WCPFC Implementation Act to NMFS. A map showing the boundaries of the area of application of the Convention (Convention Area), which comprises the majority of the WCPO, can be found on the WCPFC Web site at: www.wcpfc.int/doc/convention-area-map.

    Proposed Action

    This proposed rule includes three elements, described in detail below, that would be included in regulations at 50 CFR part 300, subpart O. The three elements would implement specific provisions of the Commission's Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2015-01, “Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin, and Skipjack Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.” CMM 2015-01 was adopted by the Commission at its twelth regular annual session, in December 2015, went into effect February 6, 2016, and is generally applicable for the 2016-2017 period. CMM 2015-01 is the latest in a series of CMMs devoted to the conservation and management of tropical tuna stocks, particularly stocks of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). CMM 2015-01 maintains the provisions of its predecessor, CMM 2014-01. The stated objective of CMM 2015-01 and several of its predecessor CMMs is to ensure that the stocks of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna in the WCPO are, at a minimum, maintained at levels capable of producing their maximum sustainable yield as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors. The CMM includes specific objectives for each of the three stocks: For each, the fishing mortality rate is to be reduced to or maintained at levels no greater than the fishing mortality rate associated with maximum sustainable yield.

    1. Purse Seine Observer Requirements

    CMM 2015-01 requires that each member of the Commission ensure that any of its flagged purse seine vessels fishing in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S.—with the exception of fishing exclusively in waters under the jurisdiction of a single nation—carry a WCPFC observer. Additionally, CMM 2015-01 requires that each member of the Commission ensure that any purse seine vessel fishing exclusively in that member's waters in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S. carry an observer (not necessarily a WCPFC observer). A WCPFC observer is an observer deployed from an observer program that has been authorized by the Commission to be part of the WCPFC Regional Observer Programme (see 50 CFR 300.211).

    NMFS proposes to satisfy these provisions of CMM 2015-01 by prohibiting U.S. purse seine vessels from fishing in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S. without a WCPFC observer on board, with the exception of fishing trips during which any fishing in the Convention Area takes place entirely within areas under the jurisdiction of a single nation other than the United States. Although U.S. purse seine vessels would be exempt from this requirement on trips in which fishing occurs only in the waters of a single foreign nation, it is expected that such foreign nations would require that U.S. purse seine vessels carry observers if fishing in their waters.

    Currently, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) observer program, from which observers for the U.S. WCPO purse seine fleet have traditionally been deployed, and the NMFS observer program, among others, are authorized as part of the WCPFC Regional Observer Programme. Thus, observers deployed by these programs are considered WCPFC observers.

    The Commission has had purse seine observer requirements similar to those in CMM 2015-01 since 2008, when it adopted CMM 2008-01. In recent years, NMFS has been implementing those requirements through the regulation at 50 CFR 300.215(c), which authorizes NMFS to direct owners and operators of fishing vessels to carry WCPFC observers on fishing trips during which the vessel at any time enters or is within the Convention Area. NMFS has been issuing directives annually, by letter to the owners of affected purse seine vessels. To help ensure that all affected parties have effective notice of the requirement, NMFS proposes here to establish specific observer requirements for purse seine vessels in the regulations, rather than by letter directives issued under 50 CFR 300.215(c).

    2. Purse Seine FAD Restrictions for 2016-2017

    Paragraphs 14-19 of CMM 2015-01 require WCPFC members to implement certain restrictions on the use of FADs by purse seine fishing vessels. All the restrictions are to be applied in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S.

    Under paragraph 14, Commission members are to prohibit their purse seine vessels from setting on FADs during the three-month period July through September in each of 2016 and 2017. Under paragraphs 15-18, members have the option of applying either: (1) Two additional FAD closure months (January and February in addition to July through September), or (2) in addition to the three-month FAD closure referenced in paragraph 14, limiting the total number of FAD sets by its vessels to the number listed in Column B of Attachment A of CMM 2015-01 (i.e., for the United States, 2,202 sets for each of 2015 and 2016).

    Importantly, however, under paragraph 15, the provisions regarding a fifth FAD closure month and the annual FAD set limits identified in paragraph 17 do not take effect until the Commission adopts arrangements to ensure that the action does not result in transferring, directly or indirectly, a disproportionate burden of conservation action onto small island developing states. The Commission has not yet adopted such arrangements. Until these decisions are taken, NMFS construes the obligations of the United States under paragraphs 15-18 to require either adding a fourth month, October, to the July-September FAD prohibition period in each of 2016 and 2017, or alternatively, limiting the number of FAD sets in each of those two years to 2,522 (from Column A of Attachment A of CMM 2015-01).

    Finally, under paragraph 18, Commission members are to prohibit setting on FADs on the high seas in the Convention Area in 2017.

    In accordance with paragraph 14 of the CMM, NMFS proposes to establish a FAD prohibition period from July through September in each of 2016 and 2017. Regarding the choice between an additional month of closure in October each year and a limit of 2,522 FAD sets each year, the Commission designed the CMM such that the two options were roughly equivalent in terms of their expected effects on the fishing mortality of bigeye tuna. The Commission provides no guidance to inform the selection of either option, which is left to the discretion of individual Commission members. After considering the objectives of CMM 2015-01, the expected economic impacts on U.S. fishing operations and the nation as a whole, and expected environmental and other effects, NMFS expects that for both 2016 and 2017, a limit of 2,522 FAD sets is likely to be somewhat more cost-effective than a FAD prohibition period in October. For this reason, NMFS is proposing to implement this option for 2016 and 2017. We specifically seek public comment on which option is more appropriate. A comparison of the two options' expected economic impacts on affected fishing businesses is provided in the IRFA.

    Finally, this proposed rule would establish specific measures that NMFS deems necessary to implement the prohibition on FAD sets on the high seas for 2017, in accordance with paragraph 18 of CMM 2015-01. As currently defined in 50 CFR 300.211, a FAD is “any artificial or natural floating object, whether anchored or not and whether situated at the water surface or not, that is capable of aggregating fish, as well as any object used for that purpose that is situated on board a vessel or otherwise out of the water. The definition of FAD does not include a vessel.” Under this proposed rule, the regulatory definition of a FAD would not change. Although the definition of a FAD does not include a vessel, the restrictions during the FAD prohibition periods would include certain activities related to fish that have aggregated in association with a vessel, or drawn by a vessel, as described below.

    In summary, this proposed rule would establish: FAD prohibition periods from July 1 through September 30 in each of 2016 and 2017; a limit of 2,522 FAD sets that may be made in each of 2016 and 2017; and specific measures that are necessary to implement the United States' obligation to prohibit its purse seine vessels from setting on FADs on the high seas throughout 2017. The prohibitions applicable to these proposed FAD-related measures are in existing regulations at 50 CFR 300.223(b)(1)(i)-(v). Specifically, during the July-September FAD prohibition periods in each of 2016 and 2017, after the 2,522 FAD set limit is reached in either 2016 or 2017 (until the end of the respective calendar year), and on the high seas throughout 2017, owners, operators, and crew of fishing vessels of the United States would be prohibited from doing any of the following activities in the Convention Area in the area between 20° N. latitude and 20° S. latitude:

    (1) Set a purse seine around a FAD or within one nautical mile of a FAD.

    (2) Set a purse seine in a manner intended to capture fish that have aggregated in association with a FAD or a vessel, such as by setting the purse seine in an area from which a FAD or a vessel has been moved or removed within the previous eight hours, setting the purse seine in an area in which a FAD has been inspected or handled within the previous eight hours, or setting the purse seine in an area into which fish were drawn by a vessel from the vicinity of a FAD or a vessel.

    (3) Deploy a FAD into the water.

    (4) Repair, clean, maintain, or otherwise service a FAD, including any electronic equipment used in association with a FAD, in the water or on a vessel while at sea, except that: a FAD may be inspected and handled as needed to identify the FAD, identify and release incidentally captured animals, un-foul fishing gear, or prevent damage to property or risk to human safety; and a FAD may be removed from the water and if removed may be cleaned, provided that it is not returned to the water.

    (5) From a purse seine vessel or any associated skiffs, other watercraft or equipment, submerge lights under water; suspend or hang lights over the side of the purse seine vessel, skiff, watercraft or equipment, or direct or use lights in a manner other than as needed to illuminate the deck of the purse seine vessel or associated skiffs, watercraft or equipment, to comply with navigational requirements, and to ensure the health and safety of the crew. These prohibitions would not apply during emergencies as needed to prevent human injury or the loss of human life, the loss of the purse seine vessel, skiffs, watercraft or aircraft, or environmental damage.

    3. Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits for 2016-2017

    Under paragraphs 40-42 CMM 2015-01, Commission members are to limit catches by their longline vessels of bigeye tuna in the Convention Area to specified levels in each of 2016 and 2017. The applicable limits for the United States in 2016 and 2017 are 3,554 metric tons (mt) and 3,345 mt, respectively. In addition, paragraph 40 of the CMM states that any catch overage in a given year shall be deducted from the catch limit for the following year. This provision was also in CMM 2014-01, the predecessor to CMM 2015-01, so it pertains to the catch limit for 2016 as well as 2017. The Commission has not adopted limits for the longline fisheries of any of the U.S. Participating Territories, American Samoa, Guam, and the CNMI.

    As stated above, the Commission-adopted limit for 2016 is 3,554 mt less any overage of the limit applicable in 2015. The limit for 2015 was 3,502 mt (see the final rule that established the 2015 limit at 80 FR 43634; published July 23, 2015). NMFS has not yet made the final estimate of bigeye tuna catches in 2015 with respect to the 2015 limit. NMFS anticipates being able to do so sometime in April of 2016. Because that estimate is not yet available, NMFS proposes here a limit for 2016 set at 3,554 mt, which assumes there was no overage in 2015. If NMFS later determines that there was an overage in 2015, NMFS would adjust the 2016 limit as follows: an amount equal to that overage will be subtracted from 3,554 mt to determine the annual limit for 2016. NMFS also proposes here a limit for 2017 set at 3,345 mt, which similarly assumes that there will be no overage of the 2016 limit. If NMFS, when it makes its final estimate of the 2016 catch in early 2017, determines that an overage has occurred, it would revise the 2017 limit accordingly.

    These proposed limits for 2016 and 2017 would be applied in the manner set out in existing regulations at 50 CFR 300.224(b)-(f), which would not be revised by this proposed rule. Following is a description of the application of these existing regulations, subject to the proposed limits for 2016 and 2017.

    The 2016 and 2017 longline bigeye tuna catch limits would apply only to U.S-flagged longline vessels operating as part of the U.S. longline fisheries. The limits would not apply to U.S. longline vessels operating as part of the longline fisheries of American Samoa, the CNMI, or Guam. Existing regulations at 50 CFR 300.224(b), (c), and (d) detail the manner in which longline-caught bigeye tuna is attributed among the fisheries of the United States and the U.S. Participating Territories.

    Consistent with the basis for the limits prescribed in CMM 2015-01 and with previous rules issued by NMFS to implement bigeye tuna catch limits in U.S. longline fisheries, the catch limits would be measured in terms of retained catches—that is, bigeye tuna that are caught by longline gear and retained on board the vessel.

    As set forth under the existing regulations at 50 CFR 300.224(e), if NMFS determines that the 2016 or 2017 limit is expected to be reached before the end of the respective calendar year, NMFS would publish a notice in the Federal Register to announce specific fishing restrictions that would be effective from the date the limit is expected to be reached until the end of that calendar year. NMFS would publish the notice of the restrictions at least 7 calendar days before the effective date to provide vessel owners and operators with advance notice. Periodic forecasts of the date the limit is expected to be reached would be made available to the public on the Web site of the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office, at www.fpir.noaa.gov/SFD/SFD_regs_3.html, to help vessel owners and operators plan for the possibility of the limit being reached.

    As set forth under the existing regulations at 50 CFR 300.224(f), if the 2016 or 2017 limit is reached, the following restrictions would go into effect:

    (1) Retaining on board, transshipping, or landing bigeye tuna: Starting on the effective date of the restrictions and extending through December 31 of the applicable year, it would be prohibited to use a U.S. fishing vessel to retain on board, transship, or land bigeye tuna captured in the Convention Area by longline gear, with three exceptions, as described below.

    First, any bigeye tuna already on board a fishing vessel upon the effective date of the restrictions may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed, provided that they are landed within 14 days after the restrictions become effective. A vessel that had declared to NMFS pursuant to 50 CFR 665.803(a) that the current trip type is shallow-setting would not be subject to this 14-day landing restriction, so these vessels would be able to land bigeye tuna more than 14 days after the restrictions become effective.

    Second, bigeye tuna captured by longline gear may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed if they are caught by a fishing vessel registered for use under a valid American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permit, or if they are landed in American Samoa, Guam, or the CNMI. However, the bigeye tuna must not be caught in the portion of the U.S. EEZ surrounding the Hawaiian Archipelago, and must be landed by a U.S. fishing vessel operated in compliance with a valid permit issued under 50 CFR 660.707 or 665.801.

    Third, bigeye tuna captured by longline gear may be retained on board, transshipped, and/or landed if they are caught by a vessel that is included in a valid specified fishing agreement under 50 CFR 665.819(d), in accordance with 50 CFR 300.224(f)(1)(iv).

    (2) Transshipping bigeye tuna to certain vessels: To the extent authorized under the prohibition described above on “retaining on board, transshipping, or landing bigeye tuna,” starting on the effective date of the restrictions and extending through December 31 of the applicable year, it would be prohibited to transship bigeye tuna caught by longline gear in the Convention Area to any vessel other than a U.S. fishing vessel operated in compliance with a valid permit issued under 50 CFR 660.707 or 665.801.

    (3) Fishing inside and outside the Convention Area: To help ensure compliance with the restrictions related to bigeye tuna caught by longline gear in the Convention Area, the proposed rule would establish two additional, related prohibitions that would go into effect starting on the effective date of the restrictions and extending through December 31 of the applicable year. First, vessels would be prohibited from fishing with longline gear both inside and outside the Convention Area during the same fishing trip, with the exception of a fishing trip that is in progress at the time the announced restrictions go into effect. In the case of a fishing trip that is in progress at the time the restrictions go into effect, the vessel still must land any bigeye tuna taken in the Convention Area within 14 days of the effective date of the restrictions, as described above. Second, if a vessel is used to fish using longline gear outside the Convention Area and enters the Convention Area at any time during the same fishing trip, the longline gear on the fishing vessel must be stowed in a manner so as not to be readily available for fishing while the vessel is in the Convention Area. These two prohibitions would not apply to vessels on declared shallow-setting trips pursuant to 50 CFR 665.803(a), or vessels operating for the purposes of this rule as part of the longline fisheries of American Samoa, Guam, or the CNMI. This second group includes vessels registered for use under valid American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permits; vessels landing their bigeye tuna catch in one of the three U.S. Participating Territories, so long as these vessels conduct fishing activities in accordance with the conditions described above; and vessels included in a specified fishing agreement under 50 CFR 665.819(d), in accordance with 50 CFR 300.224(f)(1)(iv).

    Classification

    The Administrator, Pacific Islands Region, NMFS, has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the WCPFC Implementation Act and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment.

    Executive Order 12866

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

    An initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) was prepared, as required by section 603 of the RFA. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for this action are contained in the SUMMARY section of the preamble and in other sections of this SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble. The analysis follows:

    Estimated Number of Small Entities Affected

    Small entities include “small businesses,” “small organizations,” and “small governmental jurisdictions.” The Small Business Administration (SBA) has established size standards for all major industry sectors in the United States, including commercial finfish harvesters (NAICS code 114111). A business primarily involved in finfish harvesting is classified as a small business if it is independently owned and operated, is not dominant in its field of operation (including its affiliates), and has combined annual receipts not in excess of $20.5 million for all its affiliated operations worldwide.

    The proposed rule would apply to owners and operators of U.S. purse seine and longline vessels used for fishing for HMS in the Convention Area. The number of purse seine vessels that would be affected by the rule is approximated by the number with WCPFC Area Endorsements, which are the NMFS-issued authorizations required to use a vessel to fish commercially for HMS on the high seas in the Convention Area. As of March 2016 the number of purse seine vessels with WCPFC Area Endorsements was 41.

    The proposed rule would apply to U.S. longline vessels used to fish for HMS in the Convention Area, except those operating as part of the longline fisheries of American Samoa, the CNMI, or Guam. The total number of affected longline vessels is approximated by the number of vessels with Hawaii Longline Limited Access Permits (issued under 50 CFR 665.13), although some such vessels might be able to operate as part of the longline fisheries of the U.S. Participating Territories and thus not be affected. Under the Hawaii longline limited access program, no more than 164 permits may be issued. During 2006-2012 the number of permitted vessels ranged from 130 to 145. The current number of permitted vessels (as of March 2016) is 113, but NMFS expects the number to increase to more typical historical levels soon, as vessel owners renew their permits, which expire in March each year. U.S. longline vessels based on the U.S. west coast without Hawaii Longline Limited Access Permits also could be affected by this proposed rule if they fish in the Convention Area. However, the number of such vessels is very small and fishing in the Convention Area by such vessels is rare, so it is expected that very few, if any, such vessels would be affected.

    Most of the Hawaii longline fleet targets bigeye tuna using deep sets, and during certain parts of the year, portions of the fleet target swordfish using shallow sets. In the years 2005 through 2012, the estimated numbers of Hawaii longline vessels that actually fished ranged from 124 to 129. Of the vessels that fished, the number of vessels that engaged in deep-setting in the years 2005 through 2012 ranged from 122 to 129, and the number of vessels that engaged in shallow-setting ranged from 18 to 35. The number of vessels that engaged in both deep-setting and shallow-setting ranged from 17 to 35. The number of vessels that engaged exclusively in shallow-setting ranged from zero to two.

    Based on limited available financial information about the affected fishing vessels and the SBA's small entity size standards for commercial finfish harvesters, and using individual vessels as proxies for individual businesses, NMFS believes that all the affected fish harvesting businesses—in both the purse seine and longline sectors—are small entities. NMFS used average per-vessel returns over recent years to estimate annual revenue, because gross receipts and ex-vessel price information specific to the individual affected vessels are not available to NMFS.

    For the affected purse seine vessels, 2013 is the most recent year for which complete catch data are available, and NMFS estimates that the average annual receipts over 2011-2013 for each purse seine vessel were less than the $20.5 million threshold for finfish harvesting businesses. The greatest was about $20 million, and the average was about $12 million. This is based on the estimated catches of each vessel in the purse seine fleet during that period, and indicative regional cannery prices developed by the FFA (available at https://www.ffa.int/node/425). Since 2013, cannery prices for purse seine-caught tuna have declined dramatically, so the vessels' revenues in 2014 and 2015 very likely declined as well.

    For the longline fishery, the ex-vessel value of catches by the Hawaii longline fleet in 2012 was about $87 million. With 129 active vessels in that year, per-vessel average revenues were about $0.7 million, well below the $20.5 million threshold for finfish harvesting businesses.

    Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Other Compliance Requirements

    The recordkeeping, reporting, and other compliance requirements are discussed below for the proposed purse seine observer requirements, as described earlier in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble. Fulfillment of these requirements is not expected to require any professional skills that the affected vessel owners and operators do not already possess. The costs of complying with the proposed requirements are described below to the extent possible:

    1. Purse Seine Observer Requirements

    This element of the proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements. The new compliance requirement would be for affected vessel owners and operators to carry WCPFC observers on all fishing trips in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S., with the exception of fishing trips during which any fishing in the Convention Area takes place entirely within areas under the jurisdiction of a single nation other than the United States.

    Fulfillment of this requirement is not expected to require any professional skills that the vessel owners and operators do not already possess. The expected costs of complying with this requirement are described below.

    Under the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT), U.S. purse seine vessels operating in the Treaty Area (which is almost entirely in the Convention Area) are required to carry observers on about 20 percent of their fishing trips, which equates to roughly one trip per year per vessel. The observers required under the terms of the SPTT are deployed by the FFA, which acts as the SPTT Administrator on behalf of the Pacific Island Parties to the SPTT. The FFA observer program has been authorized to be part of the WCPFC observer program, so FFA-deployed observers are also WCPFC observers. Thus, in a typical year for a typical U.S. purse seine vessel, the cost of carrying observers to satisfy requirements under the SPTT can be expected to constitute 20 percent of the costs of the proposed requirement considered here. However, recent events associated with the SPTT make 2016 an atypical year. Because of late negotiations among the SPTT parties on the terms of access in foreign zones in the SPTT Area for 2016, no U.S. vessels were licensed under the SPTT until March of 2016, and thus none were authorized to fish in foreign zones or on the high seas in the Treaty Area until then. The terms of access for future years, and the SPTT itself, are uncertain. Given this uncertainty, an upper-bound estimate of the costs of compliance is provided here. For this purpose, it is assumed that fishing patterns in the Convention Area will be similar to the pattern in recent years, and that observer coverage under the terms of the SPTT will not contribute at all to the costs of complying with this proposed requirement.

    Based on the U.S. purse seine fleet's fishing patterns in 2011-2013, it is expected that each vessel will spend about 252 days at sea per year, on average, with some vessels spending as many as about 354 days at sea per year.

    The compliance costs of the proposed requirement can be broken into two parts: (1) The costs of providing food, accommodation, and medical facilities to observers (observer accommodation costs); and (2) the fees imposed by observer providers for deploying observers (observer deployment costs). Observer accommodation costs are expected to be about $20 per vessel per day-at-sea.

    With respect to observer deployment costs, affected fishing companies could use observers from any program that has been authorized by the Commission to be part of the WCPFC Regional Observer Programme. In other words, they would not be required to use FFA observers, which they have traditionally used until now. Nonetheless, the costs of deploying FFA observers are probably good indications of observer deployment costs in the region generally, and they are used for this analysis. Based on budgets and arrangements for the deployment of observers under the FFA observer program, observer deployment costs are expected to be about $230 per vessel per day-at-sea. Thus, combined observer accommodation costs and observer deployment costs are expected to be about $250 per vessel per day-at-sea. For the average vessel, which is expected to spend about 252 days at sea per year, the total cost of compliance would therefore be about $63,000 per year. The cost for vessels that spend fewer days at sea would be accordingly less. At the other extreme, if a vessel spends 354 days at sea (the top of the range in 2011-2013), the total cost of compliance would be about $88,500 per year. Both of these figures are upper-bound estimates. If arrangements under the SPTT return to something like they have been in the past, then the numbers of days spent at sea on fishing trips in the Convention Area are likely be close to the levels described above, but the compliance costs would be about 20 percent less than estimated above because observer coverage under the SPTT would satisfy about 20 percent of the coverage required under this rule. If arrangements under the SPTT do not return to something like they have been in the recent past, then the number of days spent at sea on fishing trips in the Convention Area could be substantially lower than as described above, and the costs of complying with this proposed requirement would be accordingly less.

    2. Purse Seine FAD Restrictions for 2016-2017

    This element of the proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements. The new requirement would be for affected vessel owners and operators to comply with the FAD restrictions described earlier in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble, including FAD prohibition periods from July 1 through September 30 in each of 2016 and 2017; limits of 2,522 FAD sets that may be made in each of 2016 and 2017; and prohibitions on specific uses of FADs on the high seas in 2017.

    Compliance with these restrictions is not expected to require any professional skills that the vessel owners and operators do not already possess. The expected costs of complying with this requirement are described below to the extent possible.

    The proposed FAD restrictions would substantially constrain the manner in which purse seine fishing could be conducted in the specified areas and periods in the Convention Area; in those areas and during those periods, vessels would be able to set only on free, or “unassociated,” schools.

    The costs associated with the proposed FAD restrictions cannot be quantitatively estimated, but the fleet's historical use of FADs can give a qualitative indication of the costs. In the years 1997-2013, the proportion of sets made on FADs in the U.S. purse seine fishery ranged from less than 30 percent in some years to more than 90 percent in others. Thus, the importance of FAD sets in terms of profits appears to be quite variable over time, and is probably a function of many factors, including fuel prices (unassociated sets involve more searching time and thus tend to bring higher fuel costs than FAD sets) and market conditions (e.g., FAD fishing, which tends to result in greater catches of lower-value skipjack tuna and smaller yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna than unassociated sets, might be more attractive and profitable when canneries are not rejecting small fish). Thus, the costs of complying with the FAD restrictions would depend on a variety of factors.

    In 2010-2013, the last 4 years for which complete data are available and for which there was 100 percent observer coverage, the U.S. WCPO purse seine fleet made about 39 percent of its sets on FADs. During the months when setting on FADs was allowed, the percentage was about 58 percent. The fact that the fleet has made such a substantial portion of its sets on FADs indicates that prohibiting the use of FADs in the specified areas and periods could bring substantial costs and/or revenue losses.

    To mitigate these impacts, vessel operators might choose to schedule their routine vessel and equipment maintenance during the FAD prohibition periods. However, the limited number of vessel maintenance facilities in the region might constrain vessel operators' ability to do this. It also is conceivable that some vessels might choose not to fish at all during the FAD prohibition periods rather than fish without the use of FADs. Observations of the fleet's behavior in 2009-2013, when FAD prohibition periods were in effect, do not suggest that either of these responses occurred to an appreciable degree. The proportion of the fleet that fished during the two- and three-month FAD prohibition periods of 2009-2013 did not appreciably differ from the proportion that fished during the same months in the years 1997-2008, when no FAD prohibition periods were in place.

    The proposed FAD restrictions for 2016 would be similar to those in place in 2013-2015, except that there would be a limit of 2,522 FAD sets instead of the October FAD prohibition period that was in place in 2013-2015. 2016 is an unusual year in that SPTT licenses for 2016 were not issued until March, and the number of licensed vessels (34 as of March 2016) is fewer than in recent years. Thus, there has been relatively little purse seine fishing effort to date in the Convention Area in 2016. As a result, the expected amount of fishing effort in the Convention Area in 2016 is expected to be substantially less than in recent years. Consequently, the 2,522 FAD set limit would be less constraining than it would be if fishing effort were greater. For example, if total fishing effort in 2016 is 5,000 fishing days (about 62% of the average in 2010-2013), and the average number of sets made per fishing day is the same as in 2010-2013 (0.97), and the average number of all sets that are FAD sets (“FAD set ratio”) during periods when FAD sets are allowed is the same as in 2010-2013 (58%), and if fishing effort is evenly distributed through the year, then the number of FAD sets expected in 2016 under the proposed rule would be about 2,130, somewhat less than the limit of 2,522. Under the assumptions described above, the limit of 2,522 FAD sets would start to become constraining at a total fishing effort level of 5,900 fishing days.

    The effects of the proposed FAD restrictions in 2017 would likely be greater than in 2016 because of the additional prohibition on setting on FADs on the high seas. The magnitude of that additional impact cannot be predicted, but as an indication of the additional impact, in 2010-2013, about 10 percent of the fleet's fishing effort occurred on the high seas. As in 2016, the impact of the 2,522 FAD set limit in 2017 would be primarily a function of the fleet's total level of fishing effort. Given the uncertainty related to the future of the SPTT, fishing effort in 2017 is very difficult to predict. As described above for 2016, the limit would start to become constraining at a fishing effort level of about 5,900 fishing days, but in 2017 that threshold would be applicable only in the portion of the Convention Area that is not high seas (again, about 10 percent of fishing effort has occurred on the high seas in recent years).

    In summary, the economic impacts of the FAD prohibition periods and FAD set limits in 2016 and 2017 and the prohibition on using FADs on the high seas throughout 2017 cannot be quantified, but they could be substantial. Their magnitude would depend in part on market conditions, oceanic conditions, and the fleet's fishing effort in 2016 and 2017, which will be determined in part by any limits on allowable levels of fishing effort in foreign EEZs and on the high seas in the Convention Area.

    3. Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits for 2016-2017

    This element of the proposed rule would not establish any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements. The new compliance requirement would be for affected vessel owners and operators to cease retaining, landing, and transshipping bigeye tuna caught with longline gear in the Convention Area if and when the bigeye tuna catch limit is reached in 2016 (3,554 mt) or 2017 (3,345 mt), for the remainder of the calendar year, subject to the exceptions and provisos described in other sections of this SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of the preamble. Although the restrictions that would come into effect in the event the catch limit is reached would not prohibit longline fishing, per se, they are sometimes referred to in this analysis as constituting a fishery closure.

    Fulfillment of this requirement is not expected to require any professional skills that the vessel owners and operators do not already possess. The costs of complying with this requirement are described below to the extent possible.

    Complying with this element of the proposed rule could cause foregone fishing opportunities and result in associated economic losses in the event that the bigeye tuna catch limit is reached in 2016 or 2017 and the restrictions on retaining, landing, and transshipping bigeye tuna are imposed for portions of either or both of those years. These costs cannot be projected quantitatively with any certainty. The proposed limits of 3,554 mt for 2016 and 3,345 mt for 2017 can be compared to catches in 2005-2008, before limits were in place. The average annual catch in that period was 4,709 mt. Based on that history, as well as fishing patterns in 2009-2015, when limits were in place, there appears to be a relatively high likelihood of the proposed limits being reached in 2016 and 2017. 2015 saw exceptionally high catches of bigeye tuna. Although final estimates for 2015 are not available, the limit of 3,502 mt was estimated to have been reached by, and the fishery was closed on, August 5 (see temporary rule published July 28, 2015; 80 FR 44883). The fishery was subsequently re-opened for vessels included in agreements with the governments of the CNMI and Guam under regulations implementing Amendment 7 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (Pelagics FEP) (50 CFR 665.819). If bigeye tuna catch patterns in 2016 or 2017 are like those in 2005-2008, the limits would likely be reached in the fourth quarter of the year. If catches are more accelerated, as in 2015, the limit could be reached in the third quarter of the year.

    If the bigeye tuna limit is reached before the end of 2016 or 2017 and the Convention Area longline bigeye tuna fishery is consequently closed for the remainder of the calendar year, it can be expected that affected vessels would shift to the next most profitable fishing opportunity (which might be not fishing at all). Revenues from that next best alternative activity reflect the opportunity costs associated with longline fishing for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area. The economic cost of the proposed rule would not be the direct losses in revenues that would result from not being able to fish for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area, but rather the difference in benefits derived from that activity and those derived from the next best activity. The economic cost of the proposed rule on affected entities is examined here by first estimating the direct losses in revenues that would result from not being able to fish for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area as a result of the catch limit being reached. Those losses represent the upper bound of the economic cost of the proposed rule on affected entities. Potential next-best alternative activities that affected entities could undertake are then identified in order to provide a (mostly qualitative) description of the degree to which actual costs would be lower than that upper bound.

    Upper bounds on potential economic costs can be estimated by examining the projected value of longline landings from the Convention Area that would not be made as a result of reaching the limit. For this purpose, it is assumed that, absent this proposed rule, bigeye tuna catches in the Convention Area in each of 2016 and 2017 would be 5,000 mt, slightly more than the average in 2005-2008. Under this scenario, imposition of limits of 3,554 mt for 2016 and 3,345 mt for 2017 would result in 29 percent and 33 percent less bigeye tuna being caught in those two years, respectively, than under no action. In the deep-set fishery, catches of marketable species other than bigeye tuna would likely be affected in a similar way if vessels do not shift to alternative activities. Assuming for the moment that ex-vessel prices would not be affected by a fishery closure, under the proposed rule, revenues in 2016 and 2017 to entities that participate exclusively in the deep-set fishery would be approximately 29 and 33 percent less than under no action in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Average annual ex-vessel revenues (from all species) per mt of bigeye tuna caught during 2005-2008 were about $14,190/mt (in 2014 dollars, derived from the latest available annual report on the pelagic fisheries of the western Pacific Region (Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, 2014, Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region: 2012 Annual Report. Honolulu, Western Pacific Fishery Management Council). If there are 128 active vessels in the fleet, as there were during 2005-2008, on average, then under the no-action scenario of fleet-wide anuual catches of 5,000 mt, each vessel would catch 39 mt/yr, on average. Reductions of 29 percent and 33 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively, as a result of the proposed limits would be about 11 mt and 13 mt, respectively. Applying the average ex-vessel revenues (from all species) of $14,190 per mt of bigeye tuna caught, the reductions in ex-vessel revenue per vessel would be $160,000 and $183,000, on average, for 2016 and 2017, respectively.

    In the shallow-set fishery, affected entities would bear limited costs in the event of the limit being reached (but most affected entities also participate in the deep-set fishery and might bear costs in that fishery, as described below). The cost would be about equal to the revenues lost from not being able to retain or land bigeye tuna captured while shallow-setting in the Convention Area, or the cost of shifting to shallow-setting in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), which is to the east of 150 degrees W. longitude, whichever is less. In the fourth calendar quarters of 2005-2008, almost all shallow-setting effort took place in the EPO, and 97 percent of bigeye tuna catches were made there, so the cost of a bigeye tuna fishery closure to shallow-setting vessels would appear to be very limited. During 2005-2008, the shallow-set fishery caught an average of 54 mt of bigeye tuna per year from the Convention Area. If the proposed bigeye tuna catch limit is reached even as early as July 31 in 2016 or 2017, the Convention Area shallow-set fishery would have caught at that point, based on 2005-2008 data, on average, 99 percent of its average annual bigeye tuna catches. Imposition of the landings restriction at that point in 2016 or 2017 would result in the loss of revenues from approximately 0.5 mt (1 percent of 54 mt) of bigeye tuna, which, based on recent ex-vessel prices, would be worth no more than $5,000. Thus, expecting about 27 vessels to engage in the shallow-set fishery (the annual average in 2005-2012), the average of those potentially lost annual revenues would be no more than $200 per vessel. The remainder of this analysis focuses on the potential costs of compliance in the deep-set fishery.

    It should be noted that the impacts on affected entities' profits would be less than impacts on revenues when considering the costs of operating vessels, because costs would be lower if a vessel ceases fishing after the catch limit is reached. Variable costs can be expected to be affected roughly in proportion to revenues, as both variable costs and revenues would stop accruing once a vessel stops fishing. But affected entities' costs also include fixed costs, which are borne regardless of whether a vessel is used to fish—e.g., if it is tied up at the dock during a fishery closure. Thus, profits would likely be adversely impacted proportionately more than revenues.

    As stated previously, actual compliance costs for a given entity might be less than the upper bounds described above, because ceasing fishing would not necessarily be the most profitable alternative opportunity when the catch limit is reached. Two alternative opportunities that are expected to be attractive to affected entities include: (1) Deep-set longline fishing for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area in a manner such that the vessel is considered part of the longline fishery of American Samoa, Guam, or the CNMI; and (2) deep-set longline fishing for bigeye tuna and other species in the EPO. These two opportunities are discussed in detail below. Four additional opportunities are: (3) Shallow-set longline fishing for swordfish (for deep-setting vessels that would not otherwise do so), (4) deep-set longline fishing in the Convention Area for species other than bigeye tuna, (5) working in cooperation with vessels operating as part of the longline fisheries of the Participating Territories—specifically, receiving transshipments at sea from them and delivering the fish to the Hawaii market, and 6) vessel repair and maintenance. A study by NMFS of the effects of the WCPO bigeye tuna longline fishery closure in 2010 (Richmond, L., D. Kotowicz, J. Hospital and S. Allen, 2015, Monitoring socioeconomic impacts of Hawai`i's 2010 bigeye tuna closure: Complexities of local management in a global fishery, Ocean & Coastal Management 106:87-96) did not identify the occurrence of any alternative activities that vessels engaged in during the closure, other than deep-setting for bigeye tuna in the EPO, vessel maintenance and repairs, and granting lengthy vacations to employees. Based on those findings, NMFS expects that alternative opportunities (3), (4), (5) and (6) are probably unattractive relative to the first two alternatives, and are not discussed here in any further detail. NMFS recognizes that vessel maintenance and repairs and granting lengthy vacations to employees are two alternative activities that might be taken advantage of if the fishery is closed, but no further analysis of their mitigating effects is provided here.

    Before examining in detail the two potential alternative fishing opportunities that would appear to be the most attractive to affected entities, it is important to note that under the proposed rule, once the limit is reached and the WCPO bigeye tuna fishery is closed, fishing with longline gear both inside and outside the Convention Area during the same trip would be prohibited (except in the case of a fishing trip that is in progress when the limit is reached and the restrictions go into effect). For example, after the restrictions go into effect, during a given fishing trip, a vessel could be used for longline fishing for bigeye tuna in the EPO or for longline fishing for species other than bigeye tuna in the Convention Area, but not for both. This reduced operational flexibility would bring costs, since it would constrain the potential profits from alternative opportunities. Those costs cannot be quantified.

    A vessel could take advantage of the first alternative opportunity (deep-setting for bigeye tuna in a manner such that the vessel is considered part of the longline fishery of one of the three U.S. Participating Territories), by three possible methods: (a) Landing the bigeye tuna in one of the three Participating Territories, (b) holding an American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permit, or (c) being considered part of a Participating Territory's longline fishery, by agreement with one or more of the three Participating Territories under the regulations implementing Amendment 7 to the Pelagics FEP (50 CFR 665.819). In the first two circumstances, the vessel would be considered part of the longline fishery of the Participating Territory only if the bigeye tuna were not caught in the portion of the U.S. EEZ around the Hawaiian Islands and were landed by a U.S. vessel operating in compliance with a permit issued under the regulations implementing the Pelagics FEP or the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species.

    With respect to the first method of engaging in alternative opportunity 1 (1.a.) (landing the bigeye tuna in one of the Participating Territories), there are three potentially important constraints. First, whether the fish are landed by the vessel that caught the fish or by a vessel to which the fish were transshipped, the costs of a vessel transiting from the traditional fishing grounds in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Archipelago to one of the Participating Territories would be substantial. Second, none of these three locales has large local consumer markets to absorb substantial additional landings of fresh sashimi-grade bigeye tuna. Third, transporting the bigeye tuna from these locales to larger markets, such as markets in Hawaii, the U.S. west coast, or Japan, would bring substantial additional costs and risks. These cost constraints suggest that this alternative opportunity has limited potential to mitigate the economic impacts of the proposed rule on affected small entities.

    The second method of engaging in the first alternative opportunity (1.b.) (having an American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permit), would be available only to the subset of the Hawaii longline fleet that has both Hawaii and American Samoa longline permits (dual permit vessels). Vessels that do not have both permits could obtain them if they meet the eligibility requirements and pay the required costs. For example, the number of dual permit vessels increased from 12 in 2009, when the first WCPO bigeye tuna catch limit was established, to 20 in both 2011 and 2012. The previously cited NMFS study of the 2010 fishery closure (Richmond et al. 2015) found that bigeye tuna landings of dual permit vessels increased substantially after the start of the closure on November 22, 2010, indicating that this was an attractive opportunity for dual permit vessels, and suggesting that those entities might have benefitted from the catch limit and the closure.

    The third method of engaging in the first alternative opportunity (1.c.) (entering into an Amendment 7 agreement), was also available in 2011-2015 (in 2011-2013, under section 113(a) of Public Law 112-55, 125 Stat. 552 et seq., the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, continued by Public Law 113-6, 125 Stat. 603, section 110, the Department of Commerce Appropriations Act, 2013; hereafter, “section 113(a)”). As a result of agreements that were in place in 2011-2014, the WCPO bigeye tuna fishery was not closed in any of those four years because the annual limit for U.S. longline fisheries adopted by the WCPFC was not reached. In 2015 the fishery was closed in August but then reopened when agreements with the CNMI, and later with Guam, went into effect. Participation in an Amendment 7 agreement would likely not come without costs to fishing businesses. As an indication of the possible cost, the terms of the agreement between American Samoa and the members of the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) in effect in 2011 and 2012 included payments totaling $250,000 from the HLA to the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund, equal to $2,000 per vessel. It is not known how the total cost was allocated among the members of the HLA, so it is possible that the owners of particular vessels paid substantially more than or less than $2,000.

    The second alternative opportunity (2) (deep-set fishing for bigeye tuna in the EPO), would be an option for affected entities only if it is allowed under regulations implementing the decisions of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). Annual longline bigeye tuna catch limits have been in place for the EPO in most years since 2004. Since 2009, a bigeye tuna catch limit of 500 mt for 2016 has applied to U.S. longline vessels greater than 24 meters (m) in length (50 CFR 300.25), and the limits were reached in 2013 (November 11), 2014 (October 31), and 2015 (August 12). The highly seasonal nature of bigeye tuna catches in the EPO and the relatively high inter-annual variation in catches prevents NMFS from making a useful prediction of whether and when the limit in 2016 is likely to be reached. However, the trend in 2013-2015 suggests a relatively high likelihood of it being reached in 2016. If it is reached, this alternative opportunity would not be available for large longline vessels, which constitute about a quarter of the fleet. Currently there is no limit in place for 2017; the IATTC would have to take further action to adopt a limit for 2017, which NMFS would then need to implement.

    Historical fishing patterns can provide an indication of the likelihood of affected entities making use of the opportunity of deep-setting in the EPO in the event of a closure in the WCPO. The proportion of the U.S. fishery's annual bigeye tuna catches that were captured in the EPO from 2005 through 2008 ranged from 2 percent to 22 percent, and averaged 11 percent. In 2005-2007, that proportion ranged from 2 percent to 11 percent, and may have been constrained by the IATTC-adoped bigeye tuna catch limits established by NMFS (no limit was in place for 2008). Prior to 2009, most of the U.S. annual bigeye tuna catch by longline vessels in the EPO typically was made in the second and third quarters of the year; in 2005-2008 the percentages caught in the first, second, third, and fourth quarters were 14, 33, 50, and 3 percent, respectively. These data demonstrate two historical patterns—that relatively little of the bigeye tuna catch in the longline fishery was typically taken in the EPO (11 percent in 2005-2008, on average), and that most EPO bigeye tuna catches were made in the second and third quarters, with relatively few catches in the fourth quarter when the proposed catch limit would most likely be reached. These two patterns suggest that there could be substantial costs for at least some affected entities that shift to deep-set fishing in the EPO in the event of a closure in the WCPO. On the other hand, fishing patterns since 2008 suggest that a substantial shift in deep-set fishing effort to the EPO could occur. In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, the proportions of the fishery's annual bigeye tuna catches that were captured in the EPO were about 16, 27, 23, 19, 36, and 36 percent, respectively, and most bigeye tuna catches in the EPO were made in the latter half of the calendar years.

    The NMFS study of the 2010 closure (Richmond et al. 2015) found that some businesses—particularly those with smaller vessels—were less inclined than others to fish in the EPO during the closure because of the relatively long distances that would need to be travelled in the relatively rough winter ocean conditions. The study identified a number of factors that likely made fishing in the EPO less lucrative than fishing in the WCPO during that part of the year, including fuel costs and the need to limit trip length in order to maintain fish quality and because of limited fuel storage capacity.

    In addition to affecting the volume of landings of bigeye tuna and other species, the proposed catch limits could affect fish prices, particularly during a fishery closure. Both increases and decreases appear possible. After a limit is reached and landings from the WCPO are prohibited, ex-vessel prices of bigeye tuna (e.g., that are caught in the EPO or by vessels in the longline fisheries of the three U.S. Participating Territories), as well as of other species landed by the fleet, could increase as a result of the constricted supply. This would mitigate economic losses for vessels that are able to continue fishing and landing bigeye tuna during the closure. For example, the NMFS study of the 2010 closure (Richmond et al. 2015) found that ex-vessel prices during the closure in December were 50 percent greater than the average during the previous five Decembers. (It is emphasized that because it was an observational study, neither this nor other observations of what occurred during the closure can be affirmatively linked as effects of the fishery closure.)

    Conversely, a WCPO bigeye tuna fishery closure could cause a decrease in ex-vessel prices of bigeye tuna and other products landed by affected entities if the interruption in the local supply prompts the Hawaii market to shift to alternative (e.g., imported) sources of bigeye tuna. Such a shift could be temporary—that is, limited to 2016 and/or 2017—or it could lead to a more permanent change in the market (e.g., as a result of wholesale and retail buyers wanting to mitigate the uncertainty in the continuity of supply from the Hawaii longline fisheries). In the latter case, if locally caught bigeye tuna fetches lower prices because of stiffer competition with imported bigeye tuna, then ex-vessel prices of local product could be depressed indefinitely. The NMFS study of the 2010 closure (Richmond et al. 2015) found that a common concern in the Hawaii fishing community prior to the closure in November 2010 was retailers having to rely more heavily on imported tuna, causing imports to gain a greater market share in local markets. The study found this not to have been borne out, at least not in 2010, when the evidence gathered in the study suggested that few buyers adapted to the closure by increasing their reliance on imports, and no reports or indications were found of a dramatic increase in the use of imported bigeye tuna during the closure. The study concluded, however, that the 2010 closure caused buyers to give increased consideration to imports as part of their business model, and it was predicted that tuna imports could increase during any future closure. To the extent that ex-vessel prices would be reduced by this action, revenues earned by affected entities would be affected accordingly, and these impacts could occur both before and after the limit is reached, and as described above, possibly after 2017.

    The potential economic effects identified above would vary among individual business entities, but it is not possible to predict the range of variation. Furthermore, the impacts on a particular entity would depend on both that entity's response to the proposed rule and the behavior of other vessels in the fleet, both before and after the catch limit is reached. For example, the greater the number of vessels that take advantage—before the limit is reached—of the first alternative opportunity (1), fishing as part of one of the Participating Territory's fisheries, the lower the likelihood that the limit would be reached. The fleet's behavior in 2011 and 2012 is illustrative. In both those years, most vessels in the Hawaii fleet were included in a section 113(a) arrangement with the government of American Samoa, and as a consequence, the U.S. longline catch limit was not reached in either year. Thus, none of the vessels in the fleet, including those not included in the section 113(a) arrangements, were prohibited from fishing for bigeye tuna in the Convention Area at any time during those two years. The fleet's experience in 2010 (before opportunities under section 113(a) or Amendment 7 to the Pelagics FEP were available) provides another example of how economic impacts could be distributed among different entities. In 2010 the limit was reached and the WCPO bigeye tuna fishery was closed on November 22. As described above, dual permit vessels were able to continue fishing outside the U.S. EEZ around the Hawaiian Archipelago and benefit from the relatively high ex-vessel prices that bigeye tuna fetched during the closure.

    In summary, based on potential reductions in ex-vessel revenues, NMFS has estimated that the upper bound of potential economic impacts of the proposed rule on affected longline fishing entities could be roughly $160,000 per vessel, on average, in 2016 and $183,000 per vessel, on average, in 2017. The actual impacts to most entities are likely to be substantially less than those upper bounds, and for some entities the impacts could be neutral or positive (e.g., if one or more Amendment 7 agreements are in place in 2016 and 2017 and the terms of the agreements are such that the U.S. longline fleet is effectively unconstrained by the catch limits).

    Disproportionate Impacts

    As indicated above, all affected entities are believed to be small entities, so small entities would not be disproportionately affected relative to large entities. Nor would there be disproportionate economic impacts based on home port.

    Purse seine vessels would be impacted differently than longline vessels, but whether the impacts would be disproportional between the two gear types cannot be determined.

    For the longline sector, as described above, there could be disproportionate impacts according to vessel type and size and the type of fishing permits held. A vessel with both a Hawaii Longline Limited Access Permit and an American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permit would be considered part of the American Samoa longline fishery (except when fishing in the U.S. EEZ around the Hawaiian Archipelago), so it would not be subject to the proposed catch limits. Because the EPO bigeye tuna catch limit for 2016 applies only to vessels greater than 24 m in length, in the event that the WCPO bigeye tuna fishery is closed and the 500 mt limit is reached in the EPO, only vessels 24 m or less in length would be able to take advantage of the alternative opportunity of deep-setting for bigeye tuna in the EPO. On the other hand, smaller vessels can be expected to find it more difficult, risky, and/or costly to fish in the EPO during the relatively rough winter months than larger vessels. If there are any large entities among the affected entities, and if the vessels of the large entities are larger than those of small entities, then it is possible that small entities could be disproportionately affected relative to large entities.

    Duplicating, Overlapping, and Conflicting Federal Regulations

    NMFS has not identified any Federal regulations that duplicate, overlap with, or conflict with the proposed regulations.

    Alternatives to the Proposed Rule

    NMFS has sought to identify alternatives that would minimize the proposed rule's economic impact on small entities (“significant alternatives”). Taking no action could result in lesser adverse economic impacts than the proposed action for affected entities in the purse seine and longline fisheries (but as described below, for some affected longline entities, the proposed rule could be more economically beneficial than no-action), but NMFS does not prefer the no-action alternative, because it would be inconsistent with the United States' obligations under the Convention. Alternatives identified for each of the three elements of the proposed rule are discussed below.

    1. Purse Seine Observer Requirements

    NMFS has not identified any significant alternatives to the proposed purse seine observer requirements that would comport with U.S. obligations to implement the Commission decisions regarding observer coverage.

    2. Purse Seine FAD Restrictions for 2016-2017

    NMFS considered in detail one set of alternatives to the proposed restrictions on the use of FADs. Under CMM 2015-01, the United States could use either of two options in either of 2016 and 2017 (in addition to the three-month FAD closure periods in both years and the prohibition on FAD sets on the high seas in 2017). One option is a fourth-month FAD prohibition period, in October. The second option, proposed in this rule, is an annual limit of 2,522 FAD sets. The relative effects of the two options would depend on the total amount of fishing effort exerted by the U.S. purse seine fleet in the Convention Area in a given year. If total fishing effort is relatively high, an October FAD prohibition period would likely allow for more FAD sets than a limit of 2,522 FAD sets, and thus likely cause lesser adverse impacts. The opposite would be the case for relatively low levels of total fishing effort. For example, given the fleet's recent historical average FAD set ratio of 58 percent when FAD-setting is allowed (2010-2013), and assuming an even distribution of sets throughout the year, the estimated “breakeven” point between the two options is 6,502 total sets for the year. The levels of fishing effort in 2016 and 2017 are very difficult to predict; they will be determined largely by the level of participation in the fishery (number of vessels) and any limits imposed on fishing effort. Fishing effort in foreign zones and on the high seas in the SPTT Area is likely to be limited by the terms of arrangements under the SPTT. Fishing effort elsewhere in the Convention Area (e.g., in the U.S. EEZ and on the high seas outside the Treaty Area) would be constrained by any limits established by NMFS to implement the provisions of CMM 2015-01. NMFS has not yet established or proposed any such limits for 2016 or 2017, and cannot speculate what limits it might propose, but a point of reference are the limits that were in place in 2009-2015. Those limits applied to the Effort Limit Area for Purse Seine, or ELAPS, which consists of all areas of high seas and U.S. exlusive economic zone in the Convention Area between the latitudes of 20° N. and 20° S. The limits in 2009-2013 were 2,588 fishing days per year. The limits in 2014-2015 were 1,828 fishing days per year. With respect to numbers of vessels and allowable fishing effort limits under the SPTT, 2016 is an unusual year in that SPTT licenses for 2016 were not issued until March, and the number of licensed vessels (34 as of March 2016) is fewer than in recent years. Thus, there has been relatively little purse seine fishing effort to date in the Convention Area in 2016, and NMFS expects that total fishing effort in 2016 is likely to be less than 6,502 sets (the estimated breakeven point between the two options). For reference, the average number of sets made annually in 2010-2013, when an average of 38 vessels were active in the fishery, was 7,835. The average number of fishing days made annually in 2010-2013 was 8,030, so the average number of sets made per fishing day was 0.97. Predicting the situation for 2017 is even more difficult than for 2016, but current circumstances suggest that participation in 2017 could be less than in recent years. Also, because setting on FADs on the high seas would be prohibited in 2017 under this proposed rule, the estimated breakeven point of 6,502 total sets applies not everywhere in the Convention Area, but only those portions that are not high seas. Assuming that about 10 percent of fishing effort takes place on the high seas, as in 2010-2013, the breakeven point for the Convention Area as a whole is about 7,224 total sets. Assuming 0.97 sets per fishing day, on average, as occurred in 2010-2013, this equates roughly to 7,371 fishing days. This is slightly less than the average annual fishing effort in 2010-2013 (7,835 sets; 8,030 fishing days), but again, given current circumstances and uncertainty surrounding the future of the SPTT, NMFS expects that total fishing effort in 2017 is likely to be less than that breakeven level. Based on the above expectations and assumptions for conditions in 2016 and 2017, an annual limit of 2,522 FAD sets is likely to have lesser adverse impacts on fishing businesses than a FAD prohibition period in October, in both 2016 and 2017, and NMFS prefers the proposed action for that reason.

    3. Longline Bigeye Tuna Catch Limits

    NMFS has not identified any significant alternatives to this element of the proposed rule, other than the no-action alternative.

    List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 300

    Administrative practice and procedure, Fish, Fisheries, Fishing, Marine resources, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Treaties.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 300 is proposed to be amended as follows:

    PART 300—INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES REGULATIONS 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 300, continues to read as follows: Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 951 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 5501 et seq., 16 U.S.C. 2431 et seq., 31 U.S.C. 9701 et seq.

    2. In § 300.222, add paragraph (ww) to read as follows:
    § 300.222 Prohibitions.

    (ww) Fail to carry an observer as required in § 300.223(e).

    3. In § 300.223: a. Revise paragraph (b)(1) introductory text and paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (ii); and b. Add paragraphs (b)(2)(iii) and (iv), and paragraph (e) to read as follows:
    § 300.223 Purse seine fishing restrictions.

    (b) * * *

    (1) During the periods and in the areas specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, owners, operators, and crew of fishing vessels of the United States shall not do any of the activities described below in the Convention Area in the area between 20° N. latitude and 20° S. latitude:

    (2) * * *

    (i) From July 1 through September 30, 2016;

    (ii) From July 1 through September 30, 2017;

    (iii) During any period specified in a Federal Register notice issued by NMFS announcing that NMFS has determined that U.S. purse seine vessels have collectively made, or are projected to make, 2,522 sets on FADs in the Convention Area in the area between 20° N. latitude and 20° S. latitude in 2016 or 2017. The Federal Register notice will be published at least seven days in advance of the start of the period announced in the notice. NMFS will estimate and project the number of FAD sets using vessel logbooks, and/or other information sources that it deems most appropriate and reliable for the purposes of this section; and

    (iv) In any area of high seas, from January 1 through December 31, 2017.

    (e) Observer coverage.

    (1) A fishing vessel of the United States may not be used to fish with purse seine gear in the Convention Area without a WCPFC observer on board. This requirement does not apply to fishing trips that meet either of the following conditions:

    (i) The portion of the fishing trip within the Convention Area takes place entirely within areas under the jurisdiction of a single nation other than the United States; or,

    (ii) No fishing takes place during the fishing trip in the Convention Area in the area between 20° N. latitude and 20° S. latitude.

    (2) Owners, operators, and crew of fishing vessels subject to paragraph (e)(1) of this section must accommodate WCPFC observers in accordance with the provisions of § 300.215(c).

    (3) Meeting either of the conditions in paragraphs (e)(1)(i) and (e)(1)(ii) of this section does not exempt a fishing vessel from having to carry and accommodate a WCPFC observer pursuant to § 300.215 or other applicable regulations.

    4. In § 300.224, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:
    § 300.224 Longline fishing restrictions.

    (a) Establishment of bigeye tuna catch limits.

    (1) During calendar year 2016 there is a limit of 3,554 metric tons of bigeye tuna that may be captured in the Convention Area by longline gear and retained on board by fishing vessels of the United States.

    (2) During calendar year 2017 there is a limit of 3,345 metric tons of bigeye tuna that may be captured in the Convention Area by longline gear and retained on board by fishing vessels of the United States.

    [FR Doc. 2016-09856 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    81 81 Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Notices DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Newspapers for Publication of Legal Notices in the Eastern Region AGENCY:

    Forest Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    Forest Service administrative review procedures at 36 CFR parts 218 and 219 require agency officials to publish legal notices in newspapers of record for certain opportunities to comment and opportunities to file pre-decisional objections. Forest Service officials in the Eastern Region will publish those legal notices in the newspapers listed in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice. The Eastern Region consists of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New York, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. As provided in 36 CFR 218 and 36 CFR 219, the public shall be advised through Federal Register notice, of the newspaper of record to be utilized for publishing legal notice of comment and objection opportunities required by those Parts and their associated procedures. This notice fulfills that requirement for the Eastern Region.

    DATES:

    Use of these newspapers for purposes of publishing legal notice of opportunities to comment on proposals subject under 36 CFR part 218 and 36 CFR part 219, and notices of the opportunity to object under 36 CFR part 218 and 36 CFR part 219 shall begin the first day after the date of this publication.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Michael Tighe; Writer/Editor; 626 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Phone: (414) 297-3439.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Responsible Officials in the Eastern Region will publish legal notice regarding proposed land management plans as required under 36 CFR 219.16 and legal notice regarding an opportunity to comment on proposed projects as required under 36 CFR 218.24 in the newspapers that are listed in this section by Forest Service administrative unit. Additionally, Responsible Officials in the Eastern Region will publish legal notice of the opportunity to object to a proposed project under 36 CFR part 218 or to object to a land management plan developed, amended, or revised under 36 CFR part 219 in the legal notice section of the following newspapers. Additional notice regarding an opportunity to comment or object under the above mentioned regulations may be provided in other newspapers not listed below at the sole discretion of the Responsible Official. Legal notice published in a newspaper of record of an opportunity to object is in addition to direct notice to those who have requested it and to those who have participated in planning for the project or land management plan proposal.

    The timeframe for comment on a proposed action shall be based on the date of publication of the legal notice of the proposed action in the newspaper of record. The timeframe for objection shall be based on the date of publication of the legal notice of the opportunity to object in the newspaper of record.

    The following newspapers will be used to provide legal notice.

    Eastern Region Regional Forester Decisions

    Affecting National Forest System lands in the Eastern Region, in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New York, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, published daily in Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

    Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania Forest Supervisor Decisions Warren Times Observer, Warren, Warren County, Pennsylvania District Ranger Decisions Bradford District: Bradford Era, Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania Marienville District: The Kane Republican, Kane, McKean County, Pennsylvania Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin Forest Supervisor Decisions The Northwoods River News, published Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Rhinelander, Oneida County, Wisconsin District Ranger Decisions Eagle River/Florence District: The Northwoods River News, published Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Rhinelander, Oneida County, Wisconsin Great Divide District: The Ashland Daily Press, published daily in Ashland, Ashland County, Wisconsin Medford/Park Falls District: The Star News, published weekly in Medford, Taylor County, Wisconsin Washburn District: The Ashland Daily Press, published daily in Ashland, Ashland County, Wisconsin Lakewood/Laona District: The Northwoods River News, published Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in Rhinelander, Oneida County, Wisconsin Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota Forest Supervisor Decisions Bemidji Pioneer, published daily in Bemidji, Beltrami County, Minnesota District Ranger Decisions Blackduck District: The American, published weekly in Blackduck, Beltrami County, Minnesota Deer River District: The Western Itasca Review, published weekly in Deer River, Itasca County, Minnesota Walker District: The Pilot/Independent, published weekly in Walker, Cass County, Minnesota Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont Forest Supervisor Decisions The Rutland Herald, published daily in Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont District Ranger Decisions Manchester, Middlebury and Rochester Districts: The Rutland Herald, published daily in Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont Finger Lakes National Forest, New York Forest Supervisor Decisions The Ithaca Journal, published daily in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York District Ranger Decisions Hector District: The Ithaca Journal, published daily in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan Forest Supervisor Decisions The Daily Press, published daily in Escanaba, Delta County, Michigan District Ranger Decisions Rapid River District: The Daily Press, published daily in Escanaba, Delta County, Michigan Manistique District: The Daily Press, published daily in Escanaba, Delta County, Michigan Munising District: The Mining Journal, published daily in Marquette, Marquette County, Michigan St. Ignace District: The Sault News, published daily in Sault Ste. Marie, Chippewa County, Michigan Sault Ste. Marie District: The Sault News, published daily in Sault Ste.Marie, Chippewa County, Michigan Hoosier National Forest, Indiana Forest Supervisor Decisions The Hoosier Times, published in Bloomington, Monroe County, and Bedford, Lawrence County, Indiana District Ranger Decisions Brownstown District: The Hoosier Times, published in Bloomington, Monroe County, and Bedford, Lawrence County, Indiana Tell City District: The Perry County News, published in Tell City, Perry County, Indiana Huron-Manistee National Forest, Michigan Forest Supervisor Decisions Cadillac News, published daily in Cadillac, Wexford County, Michigan District Ranger Decisions Baldwin-White Cloud Districts: Lake County Star, published weekly in Baldwin, Lake County, Michigan Cadillac-Manistee Districts: Manistee News Advocate, published daily in Manistee, Manistee County, Michigan Mio District: Oscoda County Herald, published weekly in Mio, Oscoda County, Michigan Huron Shores District: Oscoda Press, published weekly in Oscoda, Iosco County, Michigan Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri Forest Supervisor Decisions The Rolla Daily News, published Monday through Saturday in Rolla, Phelps County, Missouri District Ranger Decisions Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs District: Springfield News-Leader, published daily in Springfield, Greene County, Missouri Cedar Creek District: Fulton Sun, published daily in Fulton, Callaway County, Missouri Eleven Point District: Prospect News, published weekly (Wednesday) in Doniphan, Ripley County, Missouri Rolla District: Houston Herald, published weekly (Thursdays) in Houston, Texas County, Missouri Houston District: Houston Herald, published weekly (Thursdays) in Houston, Texas County, Missouri Poplar Bluff District: Daily American Republic, published daily in Poplar Bluff, Butler County, Missouri Potosi District: The Independent-Journal, published weekly (Thursday) in Potosi, Washington County, Missouri Fredericktown District: The Democrat-News, published weekly (Wednesday) in Fredericktown, Madison County, Missouri Salem District: The Salem News, published weekly (Tuesday) in Salem, Dent County, Missouri Midewin Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois Prairie Supervisor Decisions The Herald News, published daily in Joliet, Will County, Illinois Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia Forest Supervisor Decisions The Inter-Mountain, published daily in Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia District Ranger Decisions Cheat-Potomac District: The Grant County Press, published weekly in Petersburg, Grant County, West Virginia Gauley District: The Nicholas Chronicle, published weekly in Summersville, Nicholas County, West Virginia Greenbrier District: The Pocahontas Times, published weekly in Marlinton, Pocahontas County, West Virginia Marlinton-White Sulphur District: The Pocahontas Times, published weekly in Marlinton, Pocahontas County, West Virginia Ottawa National Forest, Michigan Forest Supervisor Decisions The Ironwood Daily Globe, published in Ironwood, Gogebic County, Michigan; except, for those projects located solely within the Iron River District; The Reporter, published in Iron River, Iron County, Michigan District Ranger Decisions Bergland, Bessemer, Kenton, Ontonagon and Watersmeet Districts: The Ironwood Daily Globe, published in Ironwood, Gogebic County, Michigan Iron River District: The Reporter, published in Iron River, Iron County, Michigan Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Forest Supervisor Decisions Southern Illinoisan, published daily in Carbondale, Jackson County, Illinois District Ranger Decisions Hidden Springs and Mississippi Bluffs Districts: Southern Illinoisan, published daily in Carbondale, Jackson County, Illinois Superior National Forest, Minnesota Forest Supervisor Decisions Duluth News-Tribune, published daily in Duluth, St Louis County, Minnesota District Ranger Decisions Gunflint District: Cook County News-Herald, published weekly in Grand Marais, Cook County, Minnesota Kawishiwi District: Ely Echo, published weekly in Ely, St Louis County, Minnesota LaCroix District: Mesabi Daily News, published daily in Virginia, St Louis County, Minnesota Laurentian District: Mesabi Daily News, published daily in Virginia, St Louis County, Minnesota Tofte District: Duluth News-Tribune, published daily in Duluth, St Louis County, Minnesota Wayne National Forest, Ohio Forest Supervisor Decisions Athens Messenger, published daily in Athens, Athens County, Ohio District Ranger Decisions Athens District-Marietta Unit: Athens Messenger, published daily in Athens, Athens County, Ohio Ironton District: The Ironton Tribune, published daily in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine Forest Supervisor Decisions The New Hampshire Union Leader, published daily in Manchester, County of Hillsborough, New Hampshire District Ranger Decisions Androscoggin District: The New Hampshire Union Leader, published daily in Manchester, County of Hillsborough, New Hampshire; except, for those projects located solely within the State of Maine; the Lewiston Sun-Journal, published daily in Lewiston, County of Androscoggin, Maine Pemigewasset District: The New Hampshire Union Leader, published daily in Manchester, County of Hillsborough, New Hampshire Saco District: The New Hampshire Union Leader, published daily in Manchester, County of Hillsborough, New Hampshire; except, for those projects located solely within the State of Maine; the Lewiston Sun-Journal, published daily in Lewiston, County of Androscoggin, Maine Dated: April 20, 2016. Kathleen Atkinson, Regional Forester.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09806 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411-15-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service San Juan Resource Advisory Committee AGENCY:

    Forest Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice of meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    The San Juan Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) will meet in Durango Colorado. The committee is authorized under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (the Act) and operates in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The purpose of the committee is to improve collaborative relationships and to provide advice and recommendations to the Forest Service concerning projects and funding consistent with Title II of the Act. RAC information can be found at the following Web site: http://cloudapps-usda-gov.force.com/FSSRS/RAC_Page?id=001t0000002JcvFAAS.

    DATES:

    The meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

    All RAC meetings are subject to cancellation. For status of meeting prior to attendance, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting will be held at the San Juan Public Lands Center, Sonoran Meeting Rooms, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, Colorado.

    Written comments may be submitted as described under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. All comments, including names and addresses when provided, are placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments received at San Juan Public Lands Center. Please call ahead to facilitate entry into the building.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ann Bond, RAC Coordinator, by phone at 970-385-1219 or via email at [email protected]

    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The purpose of the meeting is to:

    1. Review previously approved projects, and

    2. Review current project proposals to be recommended for funding under the Title II provision of the Secure Rural Schools Act.

    The meeting is open to the public. The agenda will include time for people to make oral statements of three minutes or less. Individuals wishing to make an oral statement should request in writing by May 10, 2016, to be scheduled on the agenda. Anyone who would like to bring related matters to the attention of the committee may file written statements with the committee staff before or after the meeting. Written comments and requests for time for oral comments must be sent to Ann Bond, RAC Coordinator, San Juan Public Lands Center, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, Colorado 81301; by email to [email protected], or via facsimile to 970-375-2331.

    Meeting Accommodations: If you are a person requiring reasonable accommodation, please make requests in advance for sign language interpreting, assistive listening devices, or other reasonable accommodation. For access to the facility or proceedings, please contact the person listed in the section titled FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. All reasonable accommodation requests are managed on a case by case basis.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Richard Bustamante, Acting San Juan National Forest Supervisor.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09857 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411-15-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service RIN 0596-AC82 Ecosystem Restoration Policy AGENCY:

    Forest Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice of final directive.

    SUMMARY:

    The Forest Service is issuing a permanent Ecosystem Restoration policy that replaces the Interim Directive, “Ecological Restoration and Resilience Policy,” in Forest Service Manual (FSM) 2020. The policy provides broad guidance for restoring ecosystems on National Forest System lands so that they are self-sustaining and, if subject to disturbances or environmental change, have the ability to reorganize and renew themselves. This policy recognizes the adaptive capacity of restored ecosystems, the role of natural disturbances, and uncertainty related to climate and other environmental factors.

    DATES:

    This directive is in effect May 27, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jim Alegria, Forest Management Staff, USDA Forest Service, Mailstop 1103, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250; phone: 202-205-1787.

    Individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background and Need for the Directive

    The need for reestablishing and retaining resilience of National Forest System lands and resources to achieve sustainable management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services is widely recognized, and the Forest Service has conducted restoration-related activities for decades. In 2008, the Chief of the Forest Service determined that a national policy was needed to ensure a consistent and cohesive approach to reestablish and retain ecological resilience on National Forest System lands and for National Forest System resources. An interim directive was first issued on September 22, 2008, and was reissued on March 3, 2010, August 30, 2011, May 13, 2013, November 17, 2014, and October 15, 2015.

    A notice of availability of a proposed Ecological Restoration Policy (78 FR 56202) was published in the Federal Register on September 12, 2013 for public review and comment. A total of 16 comments were received: Five from non-affiliated members of the public, two from State government agencies, four from the timber industry, and five from non-governmental organizations.

    The Agency believes that a comprehensive policy that includes standard definitions would provide a tool for sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service is amending its directives by establishing a new title in the Forest Service Manual, FSM 2020: Ecosystem Restoration. The ecosystem restoration directive applies to all National Forest System resource management programs. The intent is to provide a clear, science-based policy to guide management actions where restoration is appropriate.

    This policy provides that “ecosystem restoration” can be carried out through the processes of ecological restoration and functional restoration. Ecological restoration typically focuses on recreating the ecosystem conditions that were present prior to European influences. However, some ecosystems may have been altered to such an extent that reestablishing pre-European conditions may be ecologically or economically infeasible. In such circumstances, management goals and activities should create functioning ecosystems in the context of changing conditions through the process called functional restoration.

    Ecosystem restoration can be achieved by a range of management activities, such as forest thinning to reduce tree density, prescribed fire to reduce fuel buildup, replacing culverts to better connect streams, or fencing to restrict disturbances. Ecosystem restoration may include manipulating or protecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to assist in their recovery or adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Monitoring and evaluation of restoration projects are essential adaptive management steps for achieving sustainable ecosystems. Ecosystem restoration is a process that can help to achieve the multiple-use mission of the Forest Service, but not all management activities on National Forests and Grasslands require a restoration objective. For example, hazardous fuels reduction to reduce wildfire risk to communities may require a silvicultural treatment that is not restoration. Additionally, not all NFS lands need to be restored. Restoration activities will complement management to maintain conditions in areas with ecological integrity. The Agency may incorporate restoration objectives to the extent that they are ecologically and economically feasible and support achieving desired conditions or management objectives including multiple uses and ecosystem services such as carbon storage, energy development, recreation use, livestock grazing, hazardous fuels reduction, soil formation, watershed, wildlife, and timber production conducted in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.

    Restoration may be helpful in managing for climate change by maintaining carbon stocks provided by the national forests. The relationship between restoration and carbon is complex. The Forest Service manages carbon through managing the health and promoting the adaptive capacity of our forests in the face of frequent, intense, and severe disturbances. Management can also be designed to recover, maintain, and enhance carbon stocks, through restoration management practices. The Forest Service also maintains and restores carbon through treatment activities that restore the age and size-class patterns across the landscape. Some of the activities that the Forest Service undertakes for restoring resiliency and function in the National Forest System, such as thinning of forest stands and prescribed burning, can result in a release of carbon in the short term. In the long term, however, these activities should make the forest more resilient to disturbances such as wildfire, insects, and drought therefore reducing the risk to carbon stocks.

    The expectation is that forest restoration treatments will lead to forest resilience and a lower probability of a catastrophic disturbance and that consequently, more carbon will continue to be sequestered than would otherwise occur without the treatment. How quickly the carbon pools sequester carbon depends on several factors including the amount of carbon removed or lost in the treatment, the productivity of the ecosystem, the site conditions, the climate variables following the treatment, and the stand structure. Due to the many variables and assumptions regarding post-treatment carbon capture, research on whether restoration increases carbon stocks is inconclusive. Some studies indicate that post-treatment forest stands never catch up to the carbon stocks in untreated stands. However, other studies have concluded that treated stands lose less overall carbon in subsequent wildfire events compared to untreated stands and that reductions in wildfire severity have a significant impact on future carbon pools. Other studies have demonstrated that forest harvesting can reduce atmospheric CO2 if the carbon accounting considers avoided emissions from fossil fuels when biomass is used for energy, or the avoided emissions and carbon storage when long-lived harvested wood products are substituted for high embodied energy materials such as steel and concrete.

    The Ecosystem Restoration policy has identical definitions for key terms that are in the 2015 National Forest System, Land Management Planning Directive (FSH 1909.12, zero code, section 05). By using identical definitions, the policy ensures that within the Agency, and in dealing with the public, terms will be used and understood in the same way. The terms and definitions are: Adaptation, adaptive capacity, adaptive management, carbon pool, carbon stocks, disturbance, disturbance regime, ecological restoration (see “restoration—ecological”), functional restoration (see “restoration—functional”), ecological integrity, ecosystem, ecosystem services, landscape, natural range of variation (NRV), resilience, stressors, and sustainability.

    Some of the terms defined in 2015 National Forest System, Land Management Planning Directive (FSH 1909.12, zero code, section 05) such as ecological and functional restoration, natural range of variation and resilience, merit further discussion on how they interrelate to one another. In order to construct a desired future condition for an area, one should assess past and current conditions as well as how these conditions may change into the future. Ecological restoration focuses on reestablishing the composition, structure, pattern, and ecological processes necessary to facilitate terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem sustainability, resilience, and health under current and future conditions. Assessing current and potential future conditions should result in a detailed description of the composition, structure, pattern, and ecological processes of the ecosystem as it moves along an ecological trajectory through time. Moving along a trajectory means that ecosystems are not static and may have changing characteristics.

    The desired future condition of an ecosystem should be informed by an assessment of spatial and temporal variation in ecosystem characteristics under historic disturbance regimes during a specified reference period. The spatial and temporal variation of characteristics in the specified reference period is often called the natural range of variation (NRV). The NRV should be used to inform an understanding of ecosystem function and biophysical capability, the dynamic nature of ecosystems associated natural and current disturbance regimes, and potential responses to future environments resulting from climate change and increasing human uses. The NRV does not define a management target or desired condition; it provides context for understanding ecological integrity. In some situations, the desired future condition may be a restored ecosystem similar to pre-disturbance conditions where degradation and stressors are limited and minimal changes to environmental conditions are anticipated in the near future. In other situations, the desired future condition may be a restored ecosystem that departs from the NRV along a continuum from only slight to substantial but still retains some ecological components within the NRV.

    Like ecological restoration, functional restoration is a process to restore degraded biotic and abiotic processes to facilitate the creation of a desired future condition. A functionally restored ecosystem, however, may look quite different than the NRV in terms of structure and composition, where the disparities cannot be easily changed because some threshold of degradation has been crossed or significant environmental drivers, such as climate or invasive species, that influenced structural and (especially) compositional development have changed. The desired outcome of a restoration treatment may incorporate concepts from both ecological and functional restoration. For example, ecological conditions for some native species, due to insects and diseases, are no longer functioning as they once functioned and cannot be restored to their previous state. There are invasive species that have become so established that they cannot be economically eradicated. Climate change may affect components of the ecosystem differently so that some components should be restored to within the NRV and others should not or cannot be restored. In these situations the objective should be to restore the abiotic and biotic processes even if the components diverge from the NRV.

    Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem and its component parts to absorb, or recover from, the effects of disturbances through preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential structures, functions, and redundancy of ecological patterns across the landscape. It is a characteristic of healthy ecosystems and a desired characteristic of a restored ecosystem.

    Response to Comments on the Proposed Policy Changes Between the Proposed and Final Policy

    Based on external and internal comments, there were changes between the proposed and final policy. The major changes are listed below.

    1. The title has changed from “Ecological Restoration” to “Ecosystem Restoration” in the final policy, to better align the title with the content of the final policy and the mission of the Agency.

    2. The final policy adds consideration for the recovery, maintenance, and enhancement of carbon stocks associated with National Forest System lands.

    3. The final policy does not change the definition of ecological restoration but does clarify the relationship of ecological restoration to functional restoration and resilience.

    4. The final policy facilitates achieving long-term ecological sustainability and a broad range of ecosystem services and multiple uses to society in Objectives (FSM 2020.2).

    5. The final policy uses key terms that are in the 2015 National Forest System, Land Management Planning Directive and uses the same definitions for those terms. (FSH 1909.12, zero code.

    6. The final policy retains the summaries of the principal legal authorities for the policy FSM 2020.11, but now lists other statutes, without summaries, in FSM 2020.61.

    7. The Executive Orders (FSM 2020.12) descriptions are eliminated and replaced with the citations to those Executive Orders in FSM 2020.63.

    8. The agency removed most of FSM 2020.4 because it was redundant with the general delegations of authorities of FSM 1230. The Agency has concluded that the responsibilities for restoration belongs to those Agency employees who have the delegated authority to approve land and resource management plans, project plans, or other Forest Service activities.

    9. Definitions of key terms were deleted in the final policy and replaced with a reference to the definitions in planning rule (36 CFR 219.19) and planning handbook (FSH 1909.12, Zero Code chapter, section 05).

    General Comments on the Proposed Policy

    Comment: Respondents questioned how the directive will help achieve national forest management objectives or how not having the directive will prevent achieving national forest management objectives. Others questioned how the directive would increase Agency effectiveness, they questioned the need for a permanent ecological restoration policy, and they questioned why there is no attempt to prioritize ecological restoration within the context of relevant laws or ecosystem components.

    Response: Restoration spans a number of initiatives in various program areas, including the invasive species strategy; recovery of areas affected by high-severity fires, hurricanes, and other catastrophic disturbances; fish habitat restoration and remediation; riparian area restoration; conservation of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species; and restoration of impaired watersheds and large-scale watershed restoration projects. There was no framework to unite these various program-specific initiatives with cohesive policies and definitions. While restoration has been a long-standing Agency practice, even without a restoration policy, a cohesive policy is expected to increase the Agency's efficiency in achieving management objectives. The authority for restoring National Forest System lands derives from laws enacted by Congress that define the purpose of national forests and grasslands and direct the Forest Service to administer and manage the lands for these purposes. The major authorities are cited in FSM 2020.1. The prioritization of ecological restoration is guided by the responsible official, which is usually the forest supervisor or district ranger.

    Comment: Another respondent asked how this directive will affect implementation of the 2012 planning rule.

    Response: The 2012 planning rule emphasizes restoration as it guides the Forest Service in the development, amendment, and revision of land management plans. The policies, ecological principles, and definitions in this final directive are consistent with the planning rule and will also guide activities on those units that have not yet developed, amended, or revised land management plans under the planning rule, and it provides further guidance on ecosystem restoration.

    Comment: Some respondents felt that the term “restoration” was too limiting and that it may not be economically or ecologically possible to achieve NRV due to factors such as climate change or severely degraded environments. The terms “ecological integrity” and “NRV” are past-focused and ignore adaptation to future climate and anthropogenic stressors.

    Response: The policy has been clarified in the final directive. Emphasis has been placed on returning an impaired ecosystem to a condition of appropriate complexity and increased resilience through ecosystem restoration or functional restoration. The aim of both ecological and functional restoration is to restore degraded processes to facilitate the creation of a desired future condition. The final policy acknowledges that, when an ecosystem has been so degraded such that it is impossible or impractical to return conditions to those within the NRV, or that the projected environmental conditions will not support returning an ecosystem to be within the NRV, the functional restoration may be appropriate to restore ecological processes but achieve the essential functions of the ecosystem with different species composition and structure than pre-European settlement conditions. Functional restoration can sometimes serve as the best approach to restoring ecological integrity within the inherent capability of the planning area.

    Comment: Other comments included that a broad-scale restoration policy fails to account for localized historic influences, that there is a lack of an active role for forest management in the policy, and that the policy would result in an underrepresentation of early seral stages on the national forests.

    Response: The broad-scale or ecosystem restoration approach emphasized in the policy includes evaluating the current seral stage distribution and connectivity against the desired conditions, which may include early seral stages, specialized habitats, and historic influences. The mechanism to achieve the desired conditions are decided on a project-by-project basis and may include active forest management to restore the stand age distribution to be within NRV.

    Comment: Another respondent stated that the definitions are circular: Ecological integrity is a set of conditions that are within the NRV and is relative to a historic reference period. Consequently, since the NRV defines ecological integrity, one could argue, any management action that strays from NRV is degrading the ecosystem.

    Response: The management objective for any area is governed by the applicable land management plan. The land management plan must provide for social, economic, and ecological sustainability within Forest Service authority and consistent with the inherent capability of the plan area (36 CFR 219.8). NRV is “The variation of ecological characteristics and processes over scales of time and space that are appropriate for a given management application.” The definition of the term elaborates that “The NRV is a tool for assessing the ecological integrity and does not necessarily constitute a management target or desired condition” (FSM 2020.5, citing the planning handbook at FSH 1909.12, zero code, section 05). Consequently, management actions that are consistent with the inherent capability of the plan area are the best approach to restoring ecological integrity.

    Specific Comments on the Proposed Policy

    Comment: One commenter stated that contemporary ecology has abandoned the concept of NRV due to the arbitrary nature of agreeing on a time scale, or due to the implied exclusion of historic burning by Native Americans, and added that ecologists have advocated the term HRV (historic range of variability). Another commenter stated that the term “Ecological Integrity” is misleading by indiscriminately implying that “species composition can withstand and recover from most perturbations imposed by natural environmental dynamics or human influence” and adds, as an example, that this definition seems to have no coherent relevance to species whose survival has depended on burning by Native Americans.

    Response: The final policy retains the concept of NRV. The time period used in the definition for natural range of variation is pre-European, and, therefore, includes historic burning by Native Americans. Therefore, this policy would apply to the restoration of species that were dependent on burning by the Native Americans.

    Comment: The definition for ecosystem includes basic ecological functions such as hydrological and nutrient cycling. The definition should also include “capture, storage, and release of water and nutrients.” It could be argued that “nutrient cycling” includes all these processes, but our concern arises because both old growth forest and young plantation cycle nutrients, but there is a big and important difference between the nutrient capital stored in each. Restoration should include recovery of lost capital. In addition, if “function” and “process” are to be used synonymously, then “growth and mortality” should be added to the definition of ecosystem.

    Response: The suggested text to add capture, storage, and release of water and nutrients to hydrological and nutrient cycling to differentiate between old growth forests and young plantations was not adopted in the final policy. Ecological restoration focuses on reestablishing the composition, structure, pattern, and ecological processes necessary to facilitate terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem sustainability, resilience, and health under current and future conditions. The primary objective of restoration is to place the ecosystem along an ecological trajectory that is sustainable.

    The recommendation to add “growth and mortality” was not adopted. Although they are important processes, they are sub-processes of energy flow and would not be at the same relative level as the basic ecological functions of energy flow, nutrient cycling and retention, soil development and retention, predation and herbivory, and natural disturbances.

    Comment: One respondent wanted to add a definition of ecological composition to the list of definitions at FSM 2020.5 because composition is a critical component of ecological function, structure, and process.

    Response: The definition of ecosystem, in the planning rule and planning handbook, at FSH 1909.12, zero code, secion 05, includes and explains the concept of composition. The addition of a separate definition for ecological composition is, therefore, unnecessary.

    Comment: Revise the definition of “Ecological Integrity” to eliminate the requirement to manage within the NRV.

    Response: The definition of “ecological integrity” was not changed in the final policy. There is no requirement to manage within the NRV. The NRV is a tool for assessing ecological integrity and does not necessarily constitute a management target or desired condition (FSM 2020.5, citing the planning handbook at FSH 19012.12, zero code, section 05).

    Comment: Respondents were concerned that restoration and ecological sustainability were being placed above other forest uses and that all the activities on national forests will be required to have a restoration objective.

    Response: The final policy has been clarified to state that not all activities on National Forest System lands are required to have a restoration objective.

    Comment: FSM 2020.3(6) omits requirements for consultation with State and local government entities.

    Response: There is no statutory, regulatory, or policy requirement to consult with State and local government entities, but the expectation to engage with State and local governments has been added to FSM 2020.3(6).

    Comment: The objectives fail to acknowledge the mandates of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act and the National Forest Management Act of 1976.

    Response: Restoration is accomplished to ensure that resources are usable and sustainable into perpetuity; consequently this policy is wholly compatible with the Multiple-Use and Sustained-Yield Act and the National Forest Management Act of 1976. In addition, a statement has been added to the final policy that explicitly acknowledges that this policy must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Multiple-Use and Sustained-Yield Act, the National Forest Management Act of 1976, and the principal statutes listed in FSM 2020.11.

    Comment: The responsibilities of Forest Supervisors (FSM 2020.45) and District Rangers (FSM 2020.46) should be expanded to include incorporation of net restoration goals and outcomes in all forest management projects. If restoration is just one among many types of projects undertaken by District Rangers, while they also pursue non-restorative actions, there is no assurance of net progress toward restoration objectives.

    Response: The final wording in the policy is unchanged. The Forest Service does not have net restoration goals and outcomes. Although restoration is a key objective for the Forest Service, there are other projects that are not restoration, such as fuels reduction treatments within the wildland urban interface. However, the Forest Supervisors and District Rangers are responsible for development and approval of projects to reestablish and retain ecological resilience of National Forest System lands and resources to achieve sustainable management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services that are consistent with regional and national policy.

    Comment: The proposed policy states that restoration management activities for ecosystems should “assist in their recovery from the impacts of human uses.” This statement implies that human uses should be removed to accomplish objectives.

    Response: The policy statements in the final directive have been revised to provide that “restoration activities should be evaluated within the context of NRV, the potential future climate trajectories, and to counter detrimental human uses.”

    Comment: Respondents suggested that the Policy section (FSM 2020.3) should also promote ecosystem processes and function, biodiversity, and soils.

    Response: No change to the policy is needed. Ecosystem restoration is the objective of the policy, and the definition of “ecosystem” states that it is commonly described in terms of its composition), and function, including soil development and retention (see FSM 2020.5 and the planning handbook at FSH 1909.12, zero code); consequently, the respondent's suggestions were already incorporated in the proposed as well as the final policy.

    Comment: Respondents questioned the presumed link between historic system processes (implied by the use of the word “reestablish”) with the processes required to support “ecosystem sustainability, resilience, and health under current and future conditions.” The respondents believe there will be confusion in the implementation of the policy due to the differences in processes necessary to support historic systems and those to support current and future conditions; one example is warming conditions.

    Response: The final policy includes slight modifications to include the most recent research that more fully takes into account climate change. The term functional restoration has been added to acknowledge that in some situations it is not possible or desirable to reestablish key ecosystem characteristics within the NRV. The policy provides the flexibility to define desired conditions under warming conditions outside the NRV, if necessary.

    Comment: Another respondent found that the Objective section focuses on building resiliency, whereas the Policy section focuses on restoration.

    Response: Resilience is a desired property of a restored ecosystem. The use of the terms “resilience” and “restoration” are found in the Objective section (FSM 2020.2) and the Policy section (FSM 2020.3) by design. However, a definition of the term resilience has been listed as available in FSH 1909.12, zero code chapter, section 05 to clarify the meaning when the term is used in the policy.

    Comment: A respondent was concerned that the proposed policy did not address the causes that contribute to ecological degradation, such as grazing and fire suppression. Another respondent stated that the policy should explicitly recognize the potential conflict between restoration goals, such as fuel reduction versus biomass accumulation, and that an objective of the policy should be to harmonize conflicting goals.

    Response: The purpose of this policy is to establish broad direction for reestablishing and retaining ecological resilience of National Forest System lands and associated resources to achieve sustainable management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services. It is always the case that, as the Forest Service engages in day-to-day management of units of the National Forest System, the responsible official considers potential conflicts, which may include conflicts between restoration goals.

    Comment: Some respondents were concerned that the policy has the potential to limit the available areas of Forest Service land for recreation and to arbitrarily close trails to off-highway-vehicle recreation, and that the Forest Service should recognize that recreation and other multiple uses are legitimate uses on NFS lands.

    Response: A statement has been added in the Policy section (FSM 2020.3) that explicitly acknowledges that this policy must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act (MUSYA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976, and the statutes listed in FSM 2020.11. Managing for multiple-use and sustained-yield of goods and services has often required the Forest Service to deal with several conflicting factors and uses at the same time. In some instances, restoration may indeed limit some uses. But, this policy does not mandate restoration in all situations. When and how to restore specific ecosystems will still be a case-by-case matter for the Forest Service's responsible officials who will be informed by public involvement.

    Comment: The Policy section (FSM 2020.3) in the proposed policy should be rewritten to focus on creating functioning systems.

    Response: The language has been changed to emphasize that goals and activities should focus on restoring the underlying processes that create functioning ecosystems where appropriate.

    Comment: The following sentence should be added within the final Policy section (FSM 2020.3): “The NRV is a tool for assessing the ecological integrity and does not necessarily constitute a management target or desired condition.”

    Response: Although the suggested text was not added to the final Policy section it is included in the definition of the NRV (FSM 2025, citing the planning handbook at FSH 1909.12, zero code, section 05).

    Comment: The policy should stress functional restoration, not ecological restoration, or it should at least provide a logical link between functional restoration and ecological restoration; functional restoration should be defined in the policy.

    Response: In the final directive, functional restoration has been added to the Policy (FSM 2020.3) and the Definition (FSM 2020.5) sections. An explanation of its use and relationship with ecological restoration is in the “Background and Need for the Directive” section of this document.

    Comment: Reversing the order of the objectives would change the tone to a more forward-looking policy.

    Response: The order of the objectives (FSM 2020.2) has been changed and the objectives themselves have been clarified in the final policy.

    Comment: Respondents noted that social and economic sustainability as well as ecological factors should be emphasized within the policy.

    Response: Consideration for public values and desires, and the contribution to ecological, social, and economic sustainability, among other considerations, has been added to the Policy section, FSM 2020.3(3)(b).

    Interim Directives

    The Forest Service has been using an interim directive since 2008. Below are the major differences between the interim directive and the permanent policy:

    1. The title has changed from “Ecological Restoration and Resilience” to “Ecosystem Restoration” in the final policy, to better align its title with its content (establishing that not only ecological restoration but also functional restoration are appropriate approaches) and with the mission of the Agency.

    2. The final policy adopted from the 2012 Planning Rule directives (FSH 1909.12) the concepts, terms, and definitions for the following: Functional restoration, natural range of variation, adaptation, disturbance, disturbance regime, landscape, stressors, and sustainability.

    3. The final policy adds to the Policy section (FSM 2020.50 a requirement to give consideration for the recovery, maintenance, enhancement, and the resilience of carbon stocks associated with National Forest System lands.

    4. The final policy adds in the Policy section public values and desires; contributions to ecological, social, and economic sustainability; the natural range of variation (NRV); and ecological integrity as matters to consider in development of restoration goals or objectives.

    5. The contents of the Principles section (FSM 2020.6) in the interim directive was distributed to other sections of the final policy and the Principle section was dropped.

    6. The final policy adds guidance for ecological and functional restoration activities.

    Regulatory Certification Environmental Impact

    This final directive establishes policy for restoring and managing ecosystems on National Forest System lands, but does not direct that any specific action be taken. Forest Service NEPA procedures at 36 CFR 220.6(d)(2) excludes from documentation in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement “rules, regulations, or policies to establish Service-wide administrative procedures, program processes, or instructions.” The Agency's conclusion is that this final directive falls within the category of actions in 36 CFR 220.6(d)(2); no extraordinary circumstances exist which would require preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

    Regulatory Impact

    This final directive has been reviewed under USDA procedures and Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. This is not an economically significant action. This action would not have an annual effect of $100 million or more on the economy nor adversely affect productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, nor State, local, or Tribal governments. This action would not interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency. This action would not alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients of such programs. However, this final directive has been designated as significant and therefore is subject to Office of Management and Budget review under Executive Order 12866.

    In accordance with OMB circular A-4, “Regulatory Analysis,” a cost/benefit analysis was conducted comparing the costs and benefits associated with the “no action” alternative of not having an Agency policy and the alternative of adopting the final restoration policy. Many benefits and costs associated with the final Agency policy are not quantifiable. Benefits include providing consistent and uniform understanding and Service-wide application of restoration policies, principles, and terminology; increasing Agency effectiveness when planning and implementing ecosystem management activities; and fostering better understanding and collaboration among interests from local to national levels. It is anticipated that this final directive would reduce costs by providing clear policy, definitions, and principles for restoring or modifying ecosystems, thereby reducing ad hoc or inconsistent interpretation of terminology and policy.

    This final directive has been reviewed in light of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), and this action will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities as defined by that Act. A threshold regulatory flexibility analysis is not required, under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, because this directive is broad Agency policy that imposes no impacts or requirements on small or large entities. This directive will increase Agency effectiveness when planning and implementing restoration activities at the local level.

    Federalism

    The Agency considered this final directive under requirements of Executive Order 13132, Federalism. The Agency concludes this final directive conforms to the federalism principles set out in this Executive Order; will not impose any compliance costs on the States; and will not have substantial direct effects on the States or the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, the Agency has determined that no further assessment of federalism implications is necessary.

    Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments

    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,” Tribes were invited to consult on the proposed directive prior to review and comment by the general public. The consultation process was initiated through written instructions from the Deputy Chief for the National Forest System to the Regional Foresters and subsequently to the Forest Supervisors. Upon request from the Tribes, formal consultation was conducted by the Forest Supervisors and/or District Rangers with assistance from staff. Tribal comments were submitted to the Washington Office staff designated as lead for this policy and were addressed in the notice of proposed directive that was published in the Federal Register.

    Implementation of this directive primarily occurs at the local level (national forest or grassland unit) through land management and project-level planning and accomplishment. When local actions are initiated, another level of consultation would occur with Tribes at the local level where site-specific land and resource management goals and objectives are established. Also, at that level, the design and effects of management activities are most effectively addressed in relation to the Agency's tribal trust responsibilities and Indian tribal treaty rights to assure Tribal interests are respected.

    This final directive establishes broad policy for reestablishing and retaining ecological resilience of National Forest System lands and resources to achieve sustainable management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services but does not directly affect the occupancy and use of National Forest System land. The Agency has assessed the impact of this final directive on Indian Tribes through tribal consultation and determined that it does not have substantial direct or unique effects on Indian Tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes.

    The Agency has also determined this final directive does not impose substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal governments or preempt tribal law.

    No Takings Implications

    This final directive has been analyzed in accordance with the principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12630, Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights, and it has been determined this final directive does not pose the risk of a taking of protected private property.

    Civil Justice Reform

    This final directive has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988 “Civil Justice Reform.” After adoption of the final directive, (1) all State and local laws and regulations that conflict with this final directive or that would impede full implementation of this directive would be preempted; (2) no retroactive effect would be given to this final directive; and (3) this final directive would not require the use of administrative proceedings before parties could file suit in court challenging its provisions.

    Unfunded Mandates

    Pursuant to Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531-1538), signed into law on March 22, 1995, the Agency assessed the effects of this final directive on State, local, and tribal governments and the private sector. This final directive does not compel the annual expenditure of $100 million or more by any State, local, or tribal government in the aggregate or by anyone in the private sector. Therefore, a statement under section 202 of the act is not required.

    Energy Effects

    This final directive has been reviewed under Executive Order 13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use. It has been determined this final directive does not constitute a significant energy action as defined in the Executive Order.

    Controlling Paperwork Burdens on the Public

    This final directive does not contain any additional record keeping or reporting requirements or other information collection requirements as defined in 5 CFR part 1320 that are not already required by law and already approved for use, and therefore imposes no additional paperwork burden on the public. Accordingly, the review provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) and its implementing regulations at 5 CFR part 1320 do not apply.

    Forest Service Manual

    The Forest Service policy is established in Forest Service Manual 2020 as follows:

    Chapter 2020—Ecosystem Restoration

    FSM 2020 provides policy for reestablishing and retaining ecological resilience of National Forest System lands and resources to achieve sustainable multiple use management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services. Resilient ecosystems have greater capacity to survive disturbances and large-scale threats, especially under changing and uncertain future environmental conditions, such as those driven by climate change and human uses. The directive reaches across all program areas and activities applicable to management of National Forest System lands and resources so as to ensure integration and coordination at all levels and organizational units. It does not directly affect land management plans or the occupancy and use of National Forest System lands, leaving to responsible officials the discretion to decide when and how to authorize restoration projects and activities. When applying or implementing this policy, the Forest Service must comply with applicable laws and regulations, including the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act (MUSYA), and the principal statutes in section FSM 2020.11.

    2020.1—Authority

    The authority for sustainably managing the National Forest System derives from laws enacted by Congress that set out the purpose for which it has been established and is to be administered. These laws are cited throughout the Forest Service Manual and Handbooks. FSM 1010 lists the most significant laws and provides guidance on where to obtain copies of them.

    The history of federal policies, treaties, statutes, court decisions, and Presidential direction regarding Indian Tribes and tribal rights and interests is extensive. FSM 1563.01a through FSM 1563.01i set out the legal authorities relevant to Forest Service relationships with Tribes.

    The President issued direction through several Executive Orders relevant to protection of resources or restoration of ecosystem processes and functions (FSM 2020.12). Also, numerous regulations governing the sustainable management and restoration of National Forest System lands are found in the Code of Federal Regulations under Title 36, Chapter II, parts 200-299.

    2020.11—Laws

    The principal statutes governing the reestablishing and retaining of the ecological resilience of National Forest System lands and resources to achieve sustainable multiple use management and provide a broad range of ecosystem services, include but are not limited to, the following statutes, which are listed in alphabetical order. Except where specifically stated, these statutes apply to all National Forest System lands and resources.

    1. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974, as amended by National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600-1614, 472a). This Act states that the development and administration of the renewable resources of the National Forest System are to be in full accord with the concepts for multiple use and sustained yield of products and services as set forth in the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960. The Act establishes the policy of the Congress that all forested lands in the National Forest System be maintained in appropriate forest cover with species of trees, degree of stocking, rate of growth, and stand conditions designed to secure the maximum benefits of multiple-use, sustained-yield management in accordance with land management plans. It sets forth the requirements for land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System, including requiring guidelines to provide for diversity of plant and animal communities based on the suitability and capability of the specific land area in order to meet overall multiple-use objectives.

    2. Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6501-6591). This Act provides processes for developing and implementing hazardous fuel reduction projects on certain types of “at-risk” National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and also provides other authorities and direction to help reduce hazardous fuels and protect, restore, and enhance healthy forest and rangeland ecosystems.

    3. Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528-531). This Act states that the National Forests are to be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes, and adds that the establishment and maintenance of wilderness areas are consistent with this Act. This Act directs the Secretary to manage renewable surface resources of the National Forests for multiple use and sustained yield of the several products and services obtained therefrom. Multiple use means the management of all the various renewable surface resources of the National Forests in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people; providing for periodic adjustments in use to conform to changing needs and conditions; and harmonious and coordinated management of the resources without impairment of the productivity of the land. Sustained yield of the several products and services means achieving and maintaining in perpetuity a high-level annual or regular periodic output of renewable resources without impairment of the productivity of the land.

    4. Organic Administration Act (at 16 U.S.C. 475, 551). This Act states the purpose of the National Forests, and directs their control and administration to be in accord with such purpose, that is, “[n]o national forest shall be established, except to improve and protect the forest within the boundaries, or for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States.” The Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to “make such rules and regulations . . . to preserve the [national] forests from destruction.”

    Other statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders related to the policies in the restoration policy are referenced in FSM 2020.6.

    2020.2—Objective

    Ecosystems ecologically or functionally restored, so that over the long term they are resilient and can be managed for multiple use and provide ecosystem services, including but not limited to carbon storage and sequestration.

    2020.3—Policy

    1. The Forest Service will emphasize ecosystem restoration across the National Forest System and within its multiple use mandate.

    2. The Forest Service land and resource management plans, project plans, and other Forest Service activities may include goals or objectives for restoration. The goals or objectives for ecosystem restoration must be consistent to all applicable laws and regulations. In development of restoration goals or objectives, the Forest Service should consider:

    a. Factors such as the following:

    (1) Public values and desires;

    (2) the natural range of variation (NRV);

    (3) ecological integrity;

    (4) current and likely future ecological capabilities;

    (5) a range of climate and other environmental change projections;

    (6) the best available scientific information; and,

    (7) detrimental human uses.

    b. technical and economic feasibility to achieve desired future conditions.

    c. ecological, social, and economic sustainability.

    d. the recovery, maintenance, and enhancement of carbon stocks.

    e. opporunities to incorporate restoration objectives into resource management projects to achieve complementary or synergistic results.

    f. the concept that an ecological system is dynamic and follows an ecological trajectory

    g. the social, economic and ecological influences of restoration activities at multiple scales.

    3. The Forest Service may reestablish, maintain, or modify the composition, structure, function, and connectivity of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in order to sustain their resilience and adaptive capacity.

    4. Activities with localized, short-term adverse effects may be acceptable in order to achieve long-term restoration objectives.

    5. The definitions for following terms in this policy are identical to the definitions for the same terms in the National Forest System, Land Management Planning Directive: adaptation, adaptive capacity, adaptive management, disturbance, disturbance regime, ecological integrity, ecosystem, ecosystem services, landscape, natural range of variation (NRV), resilience, restoration-ecological, restoration-functional, stressors, and sustainability. (FSH 1909.12, zero code, section 05).

    6. When ecosystems have been altered to such an extent that reestablishing key ecosystem characteristics within the NRV may not be ecologically or economically possible, the restoration focus should be to create functioning ecosystems.

    7. Resource managers should consider ecological conditions across ownerships and jurisdictions to develop and achieve landscape restoration objectives by engaging the public, State and local governments, and consultation with Indian Tribes.

    8. Not all natural resource management activities are required to include restoration, and not all National Forest System lands require restoration.

    2020.4—Responsibility

    The responsible officials to carry out the Ecosystem Restoration Policy are the Agency employees who have the delegated authority to approve land and resource management plans, project plans, or other Forest Service activities.

    2020.5—Definitions

    The definitions at the Land Management Planning Handbook, FSH 1909.12, zero code chapter, section 05 at http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives/fsh/1909.12/wo_1909.12_zero_code.docx apply for the following terms in this policy: Adaptation, adaptive capacity, adaptive management, carbon pool, carbon stocks, disturbance, disturbance regime, ecological integrity, ecosystem, ecosystem services, landscape, natural range of variation (NRV), resilience, restoration-ecological, restoration-functional, stressors, and sustainability.

    2020.6—References

    This section displays references to statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders related to the policies in FSM 2020.

    2020.61—References to Statutes 1. Text of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (16 U.S.C. 6591c and 16 U.S.C. 2113a) Title VIII, Sections 8205 & 8206 is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title16/pdf/USCODE-2014-title16-chap84-subchapVI-sec6591c.pdf and http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title16/pdf/USCODE-2014-title16-chap41-sec2113a.pdf. 2. Text of the Anderson-Mansfield Reforestation and Revegetation Joint Resolution Act of 1949 (at 16 U.S.C. 581j and 581j (note)) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap3-subchapII-sec581j.pdf. 3. Text about visibility protection for Federal class I areas (43 U.S.C. 7491) and text about control of air pollution from Federal facilities under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401, 7418, 7470. 7472, 7474, 7475, 7491, 7506, 7602) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title42/pdf/USCODE-2014-title42-chap85-subchapI-partC-subpartii-sec7491.pdf and http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title42/pdf/USCODE-2014-title42-chap85-subchapI-partA-sec7418.pdf. 4. Text about Federal facilities water pollution control responsibilities (33 U.S.C. 1323) under the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251, 1254, 1323, 1324, 1329, 1342, 1344) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title33/pdf/USCODE-2014-title33-chap26-subchapIII-sec1323.pdf. 5. Text of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, as amended) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap35.pdf. 6. Text of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974, as amended by National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600-1614, 472a) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title16/html/USCODE-2010-title16-chap5C.html. 7. Text of the Granger-Thye Act (16 U.S.C. at 580g-h) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap3-subchapI-sec580g.pdf and http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap3-subchapI-sec580h.pdf. 8. Text of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6501-6591) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap84.pdf. 9. Text of the Knutson-Vandenberg Act (16 U.S.C. at 576b) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap3-subchapI-sec576b.pdf. 10. Text of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006 (16 U.S.C. 1855, as amended) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap38-subchapIV-sec1855.pdf. 11. Text of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528-531) is available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nfma/includes/musya60.pdf. 12. Text of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title42/pdf/USCODE-2011-title42-chap55.pdf. 13. Text of the North American Wetland Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 4401 (note), 4401-4413, 16 U.S.C. 669b (note)). Section 9 (U.S.C. 4408) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap64-sec4408.pdf. 14. Text of the Organic Administration Act (at 16 U.S.C. 475, 551) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap2-subchapI-sec475.pdf and http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title16/pdf/USCODE-2011-title16-chap3-subchapI-sec551.pdf. 15. Text of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. at 670g) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title16/html/USCODE-2010-title16-chap5C.htm. 16. Text of the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 (25 U.S.C. 3115a) is available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/documents/stewardship/tfpa/TribalForestProtectionAct2004.pdf. 17. Text of the Weeks Act, as amended (at 16 U.S.C. 515, 552) is available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/Documents/Weeks%20Law.pdf. 18. Text of the Wilderness Act of September 3, 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2012-title16/pdf/USCODE-2012-title16-chap23.pdf. 19. Selected text of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of October 2, 1968 (Public Law 90-572; 16 U.S.C. 1271-1287), as amended, is available at: http://www.rivers.gov/documents/wsr-act.pdf. 2020.62—References to Federal Regulations 1. Text of 36 CFR 219 governing land and resource management planning as amended through April 19, 2013 is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2013-title36-vol2/pdf/CFR-2013-title36-vol2-part219.pdf. 2020.63—References to Executive Orders 1. Text of Executive Order 11514 issued March 5, 1970, as amended by E.O. 11991, issued May 24, 1977. Protection and enhancement of environmental quality (35 FR 4247, March 7, 1970; 42 FR 26967, May 25, 1977) is available at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11514.html. 2. Text of the Executive Order 11644 issued February 8, 1972. Use of off-road vehicles on the public lands. (37 FR 2877, February 9, 1972). Amended by E.O. 11989 issued May 24, 1977 and E.O. 12608 issued September 9, 1987 is available at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11644.html. 3. Text of the Executive Order 11988 issued May 24, 1977. Floodplain management (42 FR 26951 (May 25, 1977)) is available at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11988.html. 4. Text of the Executive Order 11990 issued May 24, 1977. Protection of wetlands. (42 FR 26961, May 25, 1977) is available at: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11990.html. 5. Text of the Executive Order 13112 issued February 3, 1999. Invasive Species. (64 FR 6183 (February 8, 1999)) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/FR-1999-02-08/pdf/99-3184.pdf. 6. Text of the Executive Order 13653 issued November 1, 2013. Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. (78 FR 66819 (November 6, 2013)) is available at: http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-11-06/pdf/2013-26785.pdf. Dated: April 18, 2016. Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief, Forest Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09750 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411-15-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request

    The Department of Commerce will submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35).

    Agency: Bureau of Industry and Security.

    Title: BIS Program Evaluation.

    Form Number(s): N/A.

    OMB Control Number: 0694-0125.

    Type of Request: Regular.

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    Needs and Uses: This collection of information is necessary to obtain feedback from seminar participants. This information helps BIS determine the effectiveness of its programs and identifies areas for improvement. The gathering of performance measures on the BIS seminar program is also essential in meeting the agency's responsibilities under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).

    Affected Public: Businesses and other for-profit institutions.

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    Respondent's Obligation: Voluntary.

    This information collection request may be viewed at www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to view the Department of Commerce collections currently under review by OMB.

    Written comments and recommendations for the proposed information collection should be sent within 30 days of publication of this notice to Jasmeet Seehra, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), by email to [email protected], or by fax to (202) 395-7285.

    Dated: April 25, 2016. Glenna Mickelson, Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09811 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-33-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request

    On behalf of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), the Department of Commerce will submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35).

    Agency: Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements.

    Title: Interim Procedures for Considering Requests from the Public for Textile and Apparel Safeguard Actions on Imports from Panama.

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    OMB Control Number: 0625-0274.

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    Average Hours per Response: 4 hours for a Request; and 4 hours for each Comment.

    Average Annual Cost to Public: $960.

    Needs and Uses: Title III, Subtitle B, Section 321 through Section 328 of the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (the “Act”) [Public Law 112-43] implements the textile and apparel safeguard provisions, provided for in Article 3.24 of the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (the “Agreement”). This safeguard mechanism applies when, as a result of the elimination of a customs duty under the Agreement, a Panamanian textile or apparel article is being imported into the United States in such increased quantities, in absolute terms or relative to the domestic market for that article, and under such conditions as to cause serious damage or actual threat thereof to a U.S. industry producing a like or directly competitive article. In these circumstances, Article 3.24 permits the United States to increase duties on the imported article from Panama to a level that does not exceed the lesser of the prevailing U.S. normal trade relations (NTR)/most-favored-nation (MFN) duty rate for the article or the U.S. NTR/MFN duty rate in effect on the day the Agreement entered into force.

    The Statement of Administrative Action accompanying the Act provides that the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) will issue procedures for requesting such safeguard measures, for making its determinations under section 322(a) of the Act, and for providing relief under section 322(b) of the Act.

    In Proclamation No. 8894 (77 FR 66507, November 5, 2012), the President delegated to CITA his authority under Subtitle B of Title III of the Act with respect to textile and apparel safeguard measures.

    CITA must collect information in order to determine whether a domestic textile or apparel industry is being adversely impacted by imports of these products from Panama, thereby allowing CITA to take corrective action to protect the viability of the domestic textile or apparel industry, subject to section 322(b) of the Act.

    Affected Public: Individuals or households; businesses or other for-profit organizations.

    Frequency: On occasion.

    Respondent's Obligation: Voluntary.

    This information collection request may be viewed at www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to view the Department of Commerce collections currently under review by OMB.

    Written comments and recommendations for the proposed information collection should be sent within 30 days of publication of this notice to [email protected] or fax to (202) 395-5806.

    Dated: April 25, 2016. Glenna Mickelson, Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09810 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request

    On behalf of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), the Department of Commerce will submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35).

    Agency: Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements.

    Title: Interim Procedures for Considering Requests under the Commercial Availability

    Provision of the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.

    Form Number(s): N/A.

    OMB Control Number: 0625-0273.

    Type of Request: Regular submission.

    Burden Hours: 89.

    Number of Respondents: 16 (10 for Requests; 3 for Responses; 3 for Rebuttals).

    Average Hours per Response: 8 hours per Request; 2 hours per Response; and 1 hour per Rebuttal.

    Needs and Uses: Title II, Section 203(o) of the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (the “Act”) [Pub. L. 112-43] implements the commercial availability provision provided for in Article 3.25 of the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (the “Agreement”). The Agreement entered into force on October 31, 2012. Subject to the rules of origin in Annex 4.1 of the Agreement, and pursuant to the textile provisions of the Agreement, a fabric, yarn, or fiber produced in Panama or the United States and traded between the two countries is entitled to duty-free tariff treatment. Annex 3.25 of the Agreement also lists specific fabrics, yarns, and fibers that the two countries agreed are not available in commercial quantities in a timely manner from producers in Panama or the United States. The items listed in Annex 3.25 are commercially unavailable fabrics, yarns, and fibers. Articles containing these items are entitled to duty-free or preferential treatment despite containing inputs not produced in Panama or the United States.

    The list of commercially unavailable fabrics, yarns, and fibers may be changed pursuant to the commercial availability provision in Chapter 3, Article 3.25, Paragraphs 4-6 of the Agreement. Under this provision, interested entities from Panama or the United States have the right to request that a specific fabric, yarn, or fiber be added to, or removed from, the list of commercially unavailable fabrics, yarns, and fibers in Annex 3.25 of the Agreement.

    Pursuant to Chapter 3, Article 3.25, paragraph 6 of the Agreement, which requires that the President publish procedures for parties to exercise the right to make these requests, Section 203(o)(4) of the Act authorizes the President to establish procedures to modify the list of fabrics, yarns, or fibers not available in commercial quantities in a timely manner in either the United States or Panama as set out in Annex 3.25 of the Agreement. The President delegated the responsibility for publishing the procedures and administering commercial availability requests to the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (“CITA”), which issues procedures and acts on requests through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Textiles and Apparel (“OTEXA”) (See Proclamation No. 8894, 77 FR 66507, November 5, 2012).

    The intent of the Commercial Availability Procedures is to foster the use of U.S. and regional products by implementing procedures that allow products to be placed on or removed from a product list, in a timely manner, and in a manner that is consistent with normal business practice. The procedures are intended to facilitate the transmission of requests; allow the market to indicate the availability of the supply of products that are the subject of requests; make available promptly, to interested entities and the public, information regarding the requests for products and offers received for those products; ensure wide participation by interested entities and parties; allow for careful review and consideration of information provided to substantiate requests and responses; and provide timely public dissemination of information used by CITA in making commercial availability determinations.

    CITA must collect certain information about fabric, yarn, or fiber technical specifications and the production capabilities of Panamanian and U.S. textile producers to determine whether certain fabrics, yarns, or fibers are available in commercial quantities in a timely manner in the United States or Panama, subject to Section 203(o) of the Act.

    Affected Public: Business or other for-profit.

    Frequency: Varies.

    Respondent's Obligation: Voluntary.

    This information collection request may be viewed at www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to view the Department of Commerce collections currently under review by OMB.

    Written comments and recommendations for the proposed information collection should be sent within 30 days of publication of this notice to [email protected] or fax to (202) 395-5806.

    Dated: April 25, 2016. Glenna Mickelson, Management Analyst, Office of the Chief Information Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09809 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Evaluation of State Coastal Management Program AGENCY:

    Office for Coastal Management (OCM), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce (DOC).

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office for Coastal Management will hold a public meeting to solicit comments for the performance evaluation of the New Jersey Coastal Management Program.

    DATES:

    The public meeting will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2016, and written comments must be received on or before June 24, 2016. For specific date, time, and location of the public meeting see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments on the coastal program NOAA intends to evaluate by any of the following methods:

    Public Meeting and Oral Comments: A public meeting will be hold in Tuckerton, New Jersey. For specific locations, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

    Written Comments: Please direct written comments to Carrie Hall Evaluator, Planning and Performance Measurement Program, Office for Coastal Management, NOS/NOAA, 1305 East-West Highway, 11th Floor, N/OCM1, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, or [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Carrie Hall, Evaluator, Planning and Performance Measurement Program, Office for Coastal Management, NOS/NOAA, 1305 East-West Highway, 11th Floor, N/OCM1, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, or [email protected]

    Copies of the final evaluation findings and related material (including past performance reports and notices prepared by NOAA's Office for Coastal Management) may be obtained upon written request by contacting the person identified under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Copies of the final evaluation findings may also be downloaded or viewed on the Internet at https://coast.noaa.gov/czm/evaluations/evaluation_findings/index.html.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Section 312 and 315 of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) require NOAA to conduct periodic evaluations of federally approved state and territorial coastal programs and national estuarine research reserves. The process includes a public meeting, consideration of written public comments and consultations with interested Federal, state, and local agencies and members of the public. During the evaluation, NOAA will consider the extent to which the state has met the national objectives, adhered to the final management plan approved by the Secretary of Commerce, and adhered to the terms of financial assistance under the CZMA. When the evaluation is completed, NOAA's Office for Coastal Management will place a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the Final Evaluation Findings.

    Specific information on the periodic evaluation of the state and territorial coastal programs and reserves that are the subject of this notice are detailed below as follows:

    New Jersey Coastal Management Program Evaluation

    You may participate or submit oral comments at the public meeting scheduled as follows:

    Date: June 9, 2016.

    Time: 5:00 p.m. local time.

    Location: Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, Jacques Cousteau Coastal Educational Center, 130 Great Bay Blvd., Tuckerton, New Jersey 08087.

    Written public comments must be received on or before June 24, 2016.

    Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog 11.419.

    Coastal Zone Management Program Administration.

    Dated: April 12, 2016. John King, Deputy Director, Office for Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09805 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-08-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE374 Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee; Charter Renewal AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice of renewed charter.

    SUMMARY:

    Notice is hereby given of the 2 year renewed charter for the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), signed on April 14, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jennifer Lukens, Federal Program Officer, MAFAC, 301-427-8041.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    As required by Section 10(a)(2) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App. (1982), notice is hereby given of the renewed charter for MAFAC. MAFAC was established by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) on February 17, 1972, to advise the Secretary on all living marine resource matters that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. This Committee advises and reviews the adequacy of living marine resources policies and programs to meet the needs of commercial and recreational fisheries, aquaculture, and environmental, consumer, academic, State, tribal, and other national interests. The Committee's charter must be renewed every 2 years from the date of the last renewal. The charter can be accessed on line at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ocs/mafac.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Jennifer Lukens, Federal Program Officer, Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09866 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE578 Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice of final determination and discussion of underlying biological analysis; notice of availability of a Record of Decision.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS has evaluated the joint resource management plans (RMPs) submitted to NMFS by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, Lummi Nation, Nooksack Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, and Tulalip Tribes, pursuant to the limitation on take prohibitions for actions conducted under Limit 6 of the 4(d) Rule for salmon and steelhead promulgated under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The RMPs specify the propagation of early winter steelhead to support recreational and tribal fishing in the Dungeness, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie River watersheds of Washington State. This document serves to notify the public that NMFS, by delegated authority from the Secretary of Commerce, has determined pursuant to Limit 6 of the 4(d) rule for salmon and steelhead that implementing and enforcing the RMPs will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer-run chum salmon, and Puget Sound steelhead. In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), NMFS also announces the availability of its Record of Decision (ROD) on its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the five early-winter steelhead hatchery programs in Puget Sound.

    DATES:

    The final determination on the take limit under the ESA was made on April 15, 2016. The Record of Decision under NEPA was signed on April 15, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written responses to the determinations should be sent to the Sustainable Fisheries Division, 1201 NE. Lloyd Boulevard, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. The complete text of the determinations, the analysis of the effects of the plans, and the ROD, along with additional documents and information, are available on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/hatcheries/salmon_and_steelhead_hatcheries.html.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For ESA determinations, contact Tim Tynan at (360) 753-9579 or via email: [email protected] For information on the ROD, contact Steve Leider at (360) 753-4650 or via email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Species Covered in This Notice

    Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): Threatened, Puget Sound, naturally produced and artificially propagated.

    Chum salmon (O. keta): Threatened, Hood Canal summer-run, naturally produced and artificially propagated.

    Steelhead (O. mykiss): Threatened, Puget Sound, naturally produced and artificially propagated.

    Background

    The RMPs are represented by five Hatchery and Genetics Management Plans (HGMPs). The HGMPs describe hatchery operations intended to produce early winter steelhead to mitigate for impacts on tribal and recreational fishing caused by past and on-going human developmental activities in the Dungeness, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie River watersheds. They would be implemented to provide hatchery fish to: (1) Meet regional recreational fisheries objectives for the citizens of Washington State, and (2) meet tribal fishery harvest allocations that are guaranteed through treaties, as affirmed in United States v. Washington (1974). Adult steelhead produced by the programs are not intended to spawn naturally. All five proposed hatchery programs would use only hatchery fish for broodstock, and all HGMPs include monitoring and evaluation actions to assess the performance of each program, and effects on ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon (Dungeness River only), and Puget Sound steelhead. NMFS has determined that implementing and enforcing the RMPs will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer-run chum salmon, or Puget Sound steelhead.

    NMFS West Coast Region was the lead agency responsible for preparing an FEIS to analyze the impacts of NMFS's 4(d) determination under Limit 6 for the five early winter steelhead hatchery programs. The FEIS evaluates five alternatives, including the proposed action and a no-action alternative. The notice of availability of the FEIS was published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016 (81 FR 12898).

    Discussion of the Biological Analysis Underlying the ESA Determination

    The proposed hatchery activities described in the RMPs are intended to provide non-ESA-listed adult steelhead for harvest in recreational and tribal fisheries in the five watersheds where the programs would operate. The RMPs provide the framework through which the State of Washington and the Tribes can jointly manage early winter steelhead hatchery, monitoring, and evaluation activities while meeting requirements specified under the ESA. The proposed action covers continued operation of the five hatchery programs to produce steelhead for harvest, while minimizing any impacts on the genetic integrity of natural steelhead populations, and ecological and demographic impacts on natural ESA-listed Chinook salmon, chum salmon, and steelhead.

    All steelhead produced through the five programs are derived from broodstock native to Puget Sound but not native to the watersheds where the fish would be planted. The early-winter steelhead stock released through the programs is not included as part of the listed Puget Sound Steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Operational protocols applied through the five hatchery programs would minimize potential risks to associated listed natural-origin steelhead, Chinook salmon, and (for the Dungeness River program) summer chum salmon populations in each of the watersheds where the programs are located. Particular emphasis is placed on ensuring that returning adult hatchery early-winter steelhead do not interact to a substantial degree with natural-origin steelhead populations in natural spawning areas. Hatchery management measures are applied to reduce the risk of spatial and temporal overlap, straying, and interbreeding between early-winter steelhead and natural-origin steelhead. The five HGMPs share very low genetic effects on natural-origin steelhead—essentially no estimated hatchery fish contribution or gene flow—demonstrated by DNA sampling results and other analyses of genetic introgression.

    As part of the proposed hatchery programs, monitoring and evaluation would be implemented to assess their effects on ESA-listed natural-origin steelhead, Chinook salmon, and summer chum salmon, and program performance in meeting harvest augmentation objectives. The hatchery plans emphasize monitoring and evaluation of genetic effects as a key objective to validate that effects are, and will remain, low and within levels identified as posing unsubstantial risks to listed natural-origin steelhead. Information gained through monitoring and evaluation will also be used to assess whether levels for other hatchery-related program impacts on listed fish (e.g., hatchery facilities, competition, and predation) are unsubstantial. The RMPs include provisions for annual reports that will assess compliance with performance standards established in the plans. Review of the RMPs and reports by NMFS, Washington State, and the Tribes will occur annually to evaluate whether assumptions regarding hatchery plan effects and analyses remain valid, and whether the objectives of the plans are being accomplished. NMFS' evaluation is available on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site (see ADDRESSES).

    Summary of Comments Received in Response to the Proposed Evaluation and Pending Determination

    NMFS published two notices of its proposed evaluation and pending determinations for public review and comment on March 26, 2015 (80 FR 15984), and February 23, 2016 (81 FR 8941). The proposed evaluation and pending determination was available for public review and comment for 39 days. During the public comment period, NMFS received substantive comments specifically addressing the proposed evaluation and pending determination from two non-governmental organizations. None of the comments raised issues that required changes to the RMPs, or substantive modification of the NMFS proposed evaluation and pending determination document. In response to the comments, minor revisions were made in the NMFS document to clarify language included in the hatchery plan action description and effects evaluation sections. A detailed summary of the comments and NMFS' responses is also available on the NMFS West Coast Region Web site. Based on its evaluation and recommended determination and taking into account the public comments, NMFS issued its final determination on the early-winter steelhead hatchery RMPs.

    Record of Decision—FEIS on Puget Sound Early-Winter Steelhead Programs

    NMFS has decided to select Alternative 5 from the FEIS. Alternative 5 was the agency's preferred alternative in the FEIS. Under the selected alternative, NMFS would make a determination that the HGMPs submitted by the co-managers, including a revised HGMP for the Skykomish early-winter steelhead program, meet requirements of the ESA 4(d) rule. The early-winter steelhead hatchery programs proposed in the Dungeness, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie River watersheds would be implemented as described in the submitted HGMPs. The ROD documents NMFS's decision, identifies all alternatives considered in reaching the decision, specifies the alternative considered to be environmentally preferable, and identifies and discusses relevant factors which were balanced by NMFS in making its decision.

    Authority

    Under section 4 of the ESA, the Secretary of Commerce is required to adopt such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable for the conservation of species listed as threatened. The ESA salmon and steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000) specifies categories of activities that contribute to the conservation of listed salmonids and sets out the criteria for such activities. The rule further provides that the prohibitions of paragraph (a) of the rule do not apply to actions undertaken in compliance with an RMP developed jointly by the State of Washington and the Tribes and determined by NMFS to be in accordance with the salmon and steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000).

    We also apply this notice in accordance with the requirements of NEPA as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1500 part 1506.6), and other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, and policies and procedures of NMFS for compliance with those regulations.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Angela Somma, Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09766 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Permit Application and Reports for Permits (fka Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument) AGENCY:

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be submitted on or before June 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at [email protected]).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Tia Brown, (808) 397-2660 or [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Abstract

    This request is for revision and extension of a currently approved information collection. There will be minor changes to the forms and instructions.

    On June 15, 2006, President Bush established the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by issuing Presidential Proclamation 8031 (71 FR 36443, June 26, 2006) under the authority of the Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 431). The proclamation includes restrictions and prohibitions regarding activities in the monument consistent with the authority provided by the act. Specifically, the proclamation prohibits access to the monument except when passing through without interruption or as allowed under a permit issued by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Vessels passing through the monument without interruption are required to notify NOAA and FWS upon entering into and leaving the monument. Individuals wishing to access the monument to conduct certain regulated activities must first apply for and be granted a permit issued by NOAA and FWS to certify compliance with vessel monitoring system requirements, monument regulations and best management practices. On August 29, 2006, NOAA and FWS published a final rule codifying the provisions of the proclamation (71 FR 51134).

    II. Method of Collection

    Respondents have a choice of either electronic or paper forms. Methods of submittal include email of electronic forms, and mail and facsimile transmission of paper forms.

    III. Data

    OMB Control Number: 0648-0548.

    Form Number: None.

    Type of Review: Regular submission (revision and extension of a currently approved information collection).

    Affected Public: Individuals, not for profit institutions; Federal, State, local, government, Native Hawaiian organizations; business or other for-profit organizations.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 411.

    Estimated Time per Response: Research, Conservation and Management and Education (“general” permits), 5 hours; Special Ocean Use permits, 10 hours; Native Hawaiian Practices permits, 8 hours; Recreation permits, 6 hours; modification requests and final reports, 10 hours; annual reports, 5 hours.

    Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 1,794.

    Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $61,783 in recordkeeping/reporting costs and vessel monitoring system installation and maintenance.

    IV. Request for Comments

    Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

    Dated: April 23, 2016. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09922 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE United States Patent and Trademark Office Intellectual Property Education Outreach Council Survey ACTION:

    Proposed collection; comment request.

    SUMMARY:

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to comment on the proposed information collection as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13 (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)).

    DATES:

    Written comments must be submitted on or before June 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

    Email: [email protected] Include “0651-00XX comment” in the subject line of the message.

    Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.

    Mail: Marcie Lovett, Records Management Division Director, Office of the Chief Information Officer, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Requests for additional information should be directed to Anthony Knight, Director, Office of Stakeholder Outreach, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450; by telephone at 571-272-3687; or by email to [email protected] with “0651-00XX comment” in the subject line. Additional information about this collection is also available at http://www.reginfo.gov under “Information Collection Review.”

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    I. Abstract

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Intellectual Property Education Outreach Council is responsible for conducting training for parties external to the USPTO. The Council is conducting a new survey to gather public feedback regarding their satisfaction with USPTO lectures and other outreach efforts.

    Collecting feedback will allow for the Agency to have a pulse on customer satisfaction and adjust where necessary to meet and exceed expectations. This feedback collection will provide for ongoing, collaborative, and actionable communication between the Agency and its customers and stakeholders. It also will enable the Agency to garner customer and stakeholder feedback in an efficient and timely manner, in accordance with the USPTO's commitment to improving services. The information collected from Agency customers and stakeholders will help ensure users have an opportunity to convey their experience with USPTO outreach efforts.

    Improving Agency outreach efforts requires ongoing assessment. The Agency will collect, analyze, and interpret information gathered to identify strengths and weaknesses of current services. Based on feedback received, the Agency will identify changes needed to improve services. The Agency is committed to hearing feedback from its customers. If this information is not collected, then the Agency will miss opportunities to obtain vital feedback from its customers and stakeholders on ways to improve their program and services.

    II. Method of Collection

    Respondents can submit the information electronically by means of the internet, or in-person at the conclusion of a USPTO outreach event.

    III. Data

    OMB Number: 0651-00XX.

    IC Instruments and Forms: There are no forms associated with this collection. The individual instruments in this collection are listed in the table below.

    Type of Review: New.

    Affected Public: Individuals or households, businesses or other for-profits; and not-for-profit institutions.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 10,000.

    Estimated Time per Response: 5 minutes (.083 hours).

    Estimated Total Annual Respondent Burden Hours: 833.33 hours.

    Estimated Total Annual Respondent (Hourly) Cost Burden: $161,391.67. The USPTO expects that attorneys, paralegals and pro se applicants will complete these applications. The professional hourly rate for attorneys is $410, and the hourly rates for paralegals and pro se applicants are $141 and $30, respectively. The average of the combined respondent rate is $193.67. The time per response, estimated annual responses, and estimated annual burden associated with each instrument in this information collection is shown in the table below.

    Number Item Estimated time for response
  • (minutes)
  • Estimated annual responses Estimated annual burden hours Rate
  • ($/hr)
  • (a) (b) (a) × (b) / 60 = (c) 1 Survey 5 (0.083 hrs) 10,000 833.33 $193.67 Total 10,000 833.33

    Estimated Total Annual (Non-hour) Respondent Cost Burden: There are no capital start-up, maintenance, postage, or recordkeeping costs associated with this information collection. Additionally, there are no filing fees associated with this collection.

    IV. Request for Comments

    Comments are invited on:

    (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility;

    (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information;

    (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

    (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, e.g., the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Marcie Lovett, Records Management Division Director, OCIO, Office of the Chief Information Officer, United States Patent and Trademark Office.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09808 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-16-P
    CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION [Docket No. CPSC-2012-0026] Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request—Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies AGENCY:

    Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”) of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“Commission” or “CPSC”) announces that the Commission has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) a request for extension of approval of a collection of information under the requirements pertaining to third party conformity assessment bodies (OMB No. 3041-0156). In the Federal Register of February 12, 2016 (81 FR 7511), the CPSC published a notice to announce the agency's intention to seek extension of approval of the collection of information. The Commission received no comments. Therefore, by publication of this notice, the Commission announces that CPSC has submitted to the OMB a request for extension of approval of that collection of information, without change.

    DATES:

    Written comments on this request for extension of approval of information collection requirements should be submitted by May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments about this request by email: [email protected] or fax: 202-395-6881. Comments by mail should be sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attn: OMB Desk Officer for the CPSC, Office of Management and Budget, Room 10235, 725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503. In addition, written comments that are sent to OMB also should be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, under Docket No. CPSC-2012-0026.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For further information contact: Robert H. Squibb, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504-7815, or by email to: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    CPSC has submitted the following currently approved collection of information to OMB for extension:

    Title: Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies.

    OMB Number: 3041-0156.

    Type of Review: Renewal of collection.

    Frequency of Response: On occasion.

    Affected Public: Third party conformity assessment bodies seeking acceptance of accreditation or continuing accreditation.

    Estimated Burden:

    New Applications From Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies

    ○ We estimate approximately 40 new applications from independent third party conformity assessment bodies will be submitted per year, taking an estimated 75 minutes to complete the initial application materials, with an estimated burden of 50 hours per year.

    ○ We estimate approximately 3 firewalled third party conformity assessment bodies will apply per year, taking an estimated 8.4 hours to complete the initial application materials, with an estimated burden of 25.2 hours per year.

    ○ We estimate approximately 4 governmental third party conformity assessment bodies will apply per year, taking an estimated 3 hours to complete the initial application materials, with an estimated burden of 12 hours per year.

    Third party conformity assessment bodies updating information

    ○ We estimate that approximately 5 third party conformity assessment bodies will take 15 minutes to update information for only those elements of information that need updating, with an estimated burden of 1.35 hours per year.

    Third party conformity assessment bodies that subcontracts out tests

    ○ We estimate that approximately 27 third party conformity assessment bodies will take 7 minutes to comply with the subcontracting recordkeeping requirement for an estimated 68,769 subcontract test, with an estimated of approximately 8,023 hours per year.

    Third party conformity assessment bodies that voluntarily withdraw

    ○ We estimate approximately 8 third party conformity assessment bodies will withdraw yearly, taking an estimated 30 minutes to create and submit the required documentation, with an estimated burden of 4 hours per year.

    Third party conformity assessment bodies that are audited

    ○ We estimate that approximately 228 independent third party conformity assessment bodies each year will be audited, taking approximately 4 minutes to resubmit their Form 223 and accreditation certificate, with an estimated burden of 15.2 hours per year.

    ○ We estimate that approximately 18 firewalled third party conformity assessment bodies will spend 226 minutes collecting and preparing the documentation to submit for an audit, with estimated burden of about 68 hours per year.

    ○ We estimate approximately 25 governmental third party conformity assessment bodies will spend 1 hour collecting and preparing the documentation to submit for an audit, with estimated burden of 25 hours per year.

    Total Annual Burden

    Adding all of the annual estimated burden hours results in a total of 8,224 hours for third party conformity assessment bodies per year. At $38.78 per hour, the total cost of the recordkeeping associated with the Requirements Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies is approximately $318,927 (8,224 hours × $38.78 = $318,927).

    General Description of Collection: On March 12, 2013, the Commission issued a rule Pertaining to Third Party Conformity Assessment Bodies (78 FR 15836). The rule established the general requirements concerning third party conformity assessment bodies, such as the requirements and procedures for CPSC acceptance of the accreditation of a third party conformity assessment body, and prescribed adverse actions that may be imposed against CPSC-accepted third party conformity assessment bodies. The rule also amended the audit requirements for third party conformity assessment bodies and amends the Commission's regulation on inspections.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Todd A. Stevenson, Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09711 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6355-01-P
    CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE Information Collection; Submission for OMB Review, Comment Request AGENCY:

    Corporation for National and Community Service.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has submitted a public information collection request (ICR) entitled AmeriCorps NCCC's Sponsor Survey for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13, (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). Copies of this ICR, with applicable supporting documentation, may be obtained by calling the Corporation for National and Community Service, Barbara Lane, at 202-606-6867 or email to [email protected] Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TTY-TDD) may call 1-800-833-3722 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

    DATES:

    Comments may be submitted, identified by the title of the information collection activity, within May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Comments may be submitted, identified by the title of the information collection activity, to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attn: Ms. Sharon Mar, OMB Desk Officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service, by any of the following two methods within 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register:

    (1) By fax to: 202-395-6974, Attention: Ms. Sharon Mar, OMB Desk Officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service; or

    (2) By email to: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The OMB is particularly interested in comments which:

    • Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of CNCS, including whether the information will have practical utility;

    • Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;

    • Propose ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

    • Propose ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments

    A 60-day Notice requesting public comment was published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2105, at Volume 80 FR 80755-80756. This comment period ended February 26, 2016. No public comments were received from this Notice.

    Description: This National Civilian Community Corps Sponsor Survey originally developed this Sponsor Survey to evaluate the program's performance impact on sponsoring organizations and communities. This measurement instrument works to capture outputs and outcomes of the NCCC program on the organizations and communities it serves. Completion of this information collection is not required to be considered for or obtain grant or resource funding support from AmeriCorps NCCC. CNCS also seeks to continue using the current survey until the revised survey is approved by OMB. The current application is due to expire on 8/31/2017.

    Type of Review: Renewal.

    Agency: Corporation for National and Community Service.

    Title: NCCC Sponsor Survey.

    OMB Number: 3045-0138.

    Agency Number: None.

    Affected Public: The NCCC sponsor survey will be administered to the project sponsor for any NCCC service project. These sponsors apply to receive a NCCC team, typically made up of 8-12 Members, for a period of approximately six-eight weeks to implement local service projects. There are approximately 1,200 projects that NCCC perform each year. The project sponsors are uniquely able to provide the information sought in the NCCC Sponsor Survey.

    Total Respondents: Based on the number of projects completed last fiscal year, NCCC expects to administer 2,400 surveys each fiscal year. These may not be unique responders as many sponsors receive teams on a rotating basis and thus may complete the survey more than once per year.

    Frequency: Biweekly. Each sponsor will complete only one survey per team per project.

    Average Time per Response: 30 minutes.

    Estimated Total Burden Hours: 1,200 hours.

    Total Burden Cost (capital/startup): None.

    Total Burden Cost (operating/maintenance): None.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Jacob Sgambati, NCCC Director of Operations.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09813 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6050-28-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of the Secretary Charter Renewal of Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committees AGENCY:

    Department of Defense.

    ACTION:

    Renewal of Federal Advisory Committee.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Defense (DoD) is publishing this notice to announce that it is renewing the charter for the United States Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group (“the Group”).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jim Freeman, Advisory Committee Management Officer for the Department of Defense, 703-692-5952.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Group's charter is being renewed in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended) and 41 CFR 102-3.50(d). The Group's charter and contact information for the Board's Designated Federal Officer (DFO) can be found at http://www.facadatabase.gov/. The Group provides the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander of the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), with independent advice and recommendations on: (a) Scientific, technical, intelligence, and policy-related matters of interest to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the USSTRATCOM concerning the development and implementation of the Nation's strategic war plans; (b) Enhancements in USSTRATCOM's mission area responsibilities; and (c) Other matters related to the Nation's strategic forces, as requested by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Commander, USSTRATCOM.

    The Board is composed of no more than 20 members who are eminent authorities in the fields of strategic policy formulation; nuclear weapon design; national command, control, communications, intelligence, and information operations; or other important aspects of the Nation's strategic forces. All members of the Group are appointed to provide advice on behalf of the Government on the basis of their best judgment without representing any particular point of view and in a manner that is free from conflict of interest. Except for reimbursement of official Group-related travel and per diem, Group members serve without compensation. The DoD, when necessary and consistent with the Group's mission and DoD policies and procedures, may establish subcommittees, task forces, or working groups to support the Board. Currently, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has approved one permanent subcommittee to the Group, the Stockpile Assessment Team (“the Team”). The Team is composed of no more than 15 members who are eminent authorities in the fields of strategic policy formulation; nuclear weapon design; national command, control, communications, intelligence, and information operations; or other important aspects of the Nation's strategic forces. The public or interested organizations may submit written statements to Group membership about the Group's mission and functions. Written statements may be submitted at any time or in response to the stated agenda of planned meeting of the Group. All written statements shall be submitted to the DFO for the Group, and this individual will ensure that the written statements are provided to the membership for their consideration.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09736 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of the Secretary [Docket ID: DOD-2016-OS-0044] Privacy Act of 1974; System of Records; Correction AGENCY:

    Office of the Secretary of Defense, DoD.

    ACTION:

    Notice to amend a System of Records; correction.

    SUMMARY:

    On Wednesday, April 20, 2016 (81 FR 23279-23280), the Department of Defense published a notice titled Privacy Act of 1974; System of Records. Subsequent to the publication of the notice, DoD discovered an error in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section. This notice corrects the error.

    DATES:

    This correction is effective on April 27, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Aaron Siegel, 571-372-0488.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    On page 23279, in the third column, in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section, the sentence “The proposed deletion is not within the purview of subsection (r) of the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a), as amended, which requires the submission of a new or altered system report” should read “The proposed amendment is not within the purview of subsection (r) of the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a), as amended, which requires the submission of a new or altered system report.”

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09712 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION National Assessment Governing Board Quarterly Board Meeting AGENCY:

    National Assessment Governing Board, U.S. Department of Education.

    ACTION:

    Announcement of open and closed meetings.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice sets forth the agenda for the May 12-14, 2016 Quarterly Meeting of the National Assessment Governing Board (hereafter referred to as Governing Board). This notice provides information to members of the public who may be interested in attending the meeting or providing written comments on the meeting. The notice of this meeting is required under § 10(a)(2) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

    DATES:

    The Quarterly Board meeting will be held on the following dates:

    • May 12, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    • May 13, 2016 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    • May 14, 2016 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    Marriott Tysons Corner, 8028 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Munira Mwalimu, Executive Officer/Designated Federal Official, 800 North Capitol Street NW., Suite 825, Washington, DC 20002, telephone: (202) 357-6938, fax: (202) 357-6945.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Statutory Authority and Function: The National Assessment Governing Board is established under Title III—National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act, Public Law 107-279. Information on the Board and its work can be found at www.nagb.gov.

    The Board is established to formulate policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The Board's responsibilities include the following: Selecting subject areas to be assessed, developing assessment frameworks and specifications, developing appropriate student achievement levels for each grade and subject tested, developing standards and procedures for interstate and national comparisons, improving the form and use of NAEP, developing guidelines for reporting and disseminating results, and releasing initial NAEP results to the public.

    May 12-15, 2016 Committee Meetings

    The Board's standing committees will meet to conduct regularly scheduled work, based on agenda items planned for this quarterly Board meeting, and follow-up items as reported in the Board's committee meeting minutes available at http://nagb.gov/what-we-do/board-committee-reports-and-agendas.html.

    Detailed Meeting Agenda: May 12-15, 2016 May 12: Assessment Development Committee: Closed Session: 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. May 12: Executive Committee: Open Session: 4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. May 13: Full Board Meeting: Full Board: Open Session: 8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m.; Closed Session: 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.; Open Session 2:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. May 13: Committee Meetings Assessment Development Committee (ADC): Open Session: 10:00 a.m.-10:40 a.m.; Closed Session: 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Reporting and Dissemination Committee (R&D): Open Session 10:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Committee on Standards, Design and Methodology (COSDAM): Open Session: 10:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. May 14: Full Board and Committee Meetings Nominations Committee: Closed Session: 7:30 a.m.-8:15 a.m. Full Board: Open Session: 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

    On May 12, 2016, the Assessment Development Committee will meet in closed session from 8:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. to review secure test items for U.S. history, civics, geography at grade 8 for the 2018 operational assessment; reading at grades 4, 8, 12 for the 2019 pilot assessment; and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 for the 2019 pilot assessment. This meeting must be conducted in closed session because the test items are secure and have not been released to the public. Public disclosure of the secure test items would significantly impede implementation of the NAEP assessment program if conducted in open session. Such matters are protected by exemption 9(B) of § 552b(c) of Title 5 U.S.C.

    Thereafter, on May 12, the Executive Committee will convene in open session from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to conduct regularly scheduled work.

    On May 13, the Full Board will meet in open session from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The Board will review and approve the May 12-15, 2016 Board meeting agenda and meeting minutes from the March 2016 Quarterly Board meeting. This session will be followed by a report from the Executive Director of the Governing Board, William Bushaw, followed by an update on the work of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) provided by Ruth Neild, Deputy Director for Policy and Research, IES. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) update will be provided by the Acting Commissioner of NCES, Peggy Carr. The Board will recess for committee meetings at 9:45 a.m. which are scheduled to take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

    The Committee on Standards, Design and Methodology and the Reporting and Dissemination (R&D) Committee will meet in open session from 10:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

    The Assessment Development Committee (ADC) will meet in open session from 10:00 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., and thereafter in closed session from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. During the closed session the ADC will continue its review of secure NAEP reading test questions in grades 4, 8, and 12 for the 2019 pilot assessment and mathematics test questions at grades 4 and 8 for the 2019 pilot assessment. These test questions have not been released to the public. Disclosure of the secure NAEP items would significantly impede implementation of the NAEP assessment program if conducted in open session. Such matters are protected by exemption 9(B) of § 552b(c) of Title 5 U.S.C.

    The Committee on Standards, Design and Methodology (COSDAM) will meet in open session from 10:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

    Following the committee meetings, on May 13, the full Board will meet in closed session from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. to receive a briefing and discuss the 2015 NAEP Science Report Card. Results from the science assessment—national results at grades 4, 8, and 12 and state results at grades 4 and 8 have not been released to the public. Following the science presentation, the Board will receive a briefing on the 2015 mathematics results for Puerto Rico at grades 4 and 8, which have not been released to the public. Premature disclosure of the results would significantly impede implementation of the NAEP assessment program if conducted in open session. Such matters are protected by exemption 9(B) of § 552b(c) of Title 5 U.S.C.

    On May 13, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Board will meet in open session to discuss the Department of Education's STEM initiative.

    This session will then be followed by an update on the Board's Strategic Plan, followed by breakout sessions convened to discuss the Strategic Plan in small groups of Board members. Members of the public are welcome to observe the breakout sessions. The May 13 session of the Board meeting will adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

    On May 14, the Nominations Committee will meet in closed session from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. The Nominations Committee will receive an update on the status of the nominations for terms beginning in October 2016. The committee will then discuss planning for the Board's annual call for nominations for Board terms beginning in October 2017. The 2017 call for nominations is scheduled to start in September 2016. The Nominations Committee's discussions pertain solely to internal personnel rules and practices of an agency and information of a personal nature where disclosure would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. As such, the discussions are protected by exemptions 2 and 6 of § 552b(c) of Title 5 of the United States Code.

    The full Board will meet in open session on May 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. to discuss the Governing Board's preparedness research program. Thereafter, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. the Board will receive an update on committee reports and take action on the release plan for the 2016 NAEP Science Report Card. From 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the Board will receive briefings from each breakout session (convened on Friday to discuss the Board's Strategic Plan) and discuss next steps. The May 14, 2016 meeting is scheduled to adjourn at 12:00 p.m.

    Access to Records of the Meeting: Pursuant to FACA requirements, the public may also inspect the meeting materials at www.nagb.gov on Thursday, May 13, 2016 by 10:00 a.m. ET. The official verbatim transcripts of the public meeting sessions will be available for public inspection no later than 30 calendar days following the meeting.

    Reasonable Accommodations: The meeting site is accessible to individuals with disabilities. If you will need an auxiliary aid or service to participate in the meeting (e.g., interpreting service, assistive listening device, or materials in an alternate format), notify the contact person listed in this notice at least two weeks before the scheduled meeting date. Although we will attempt to meet a request received after that date, we may not be able to make available the requested auxiliary aid or service because of insufficient time to arrange it.

    Electronic Access to this Document: The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available via the Federal Digital System at: www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys. At this site you can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the site.

    You may also access documents of the Department published in the Federal Register by using the article search feature at: www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published by the Department.

    Authority:

    Pub. L. 107-279, Title III—National Assessment of Educational Progress § 301.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. William J. Bushaw, Executive Director, National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), U. S. Department of Education.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09870 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P
    DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Service Contract Inventory for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 AGENCY:

    Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education.

    ACTION:

    Notice of availability—FY 2015 Service Contract Inventory.

    SUMMARY:

    Through this notice, the Secretary announces the availability of the Department of Education's service contract inventory on its Web site, at http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/contracts/servicecontractinventoryappendix/servicecontractinventory.html. A service contract inventory is a tool for assisting an agency in better understanding how contracted services are being used to support mission and operations and whether the contractors' skills are being utilized in an appropriate manner.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Pier Connors, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20202 by phone at 202-245-6919 or email at [email protected]

    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf or a text telephone, call the Federal Relay Service, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Section 743 of Division C of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, Public Law 111-117, requires civilian agencies, other than the Department of Defense, that are required to submit an inventory in accordance with the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act of 1998 (Pub. L. 105-270, 31 U.S.C. 501 note) to submit their inventories to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by December 31, 2015. In addition, section 743 requires these agencies, which include the Department of Education, to (1) make the inventory available to the public, and (2) publish in the Federal Register a notice announcing that the inventory is available to the public along with the name, telephone number, and email address of an agency point of contact.

    Through this notice, the Department announces the availability of its inventory on the following Web site: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/contracts/servicecontractinventoryappendix/servicecontractinventory.html. The point of contact for the inventory is provided under the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section in this notice.

    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this document in an accessible format (e.g., Braille, large print, or audiotape, or compact disc) on request to the program contact person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    Electronic Access to This Document: The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available via the Federal Digital System at: www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys. At this site you can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the site.

    You may also access documents of the Department published in the Federal Register by using the article search feature at: www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published by the Department.

    Authority:

    Section 743 of Division C of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-117.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Thomas P. Skelly, Director of Budget Service, Delegated the Duties of the Chief Financial Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09879 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Agency Information Collection Reinstatement AGENCY:

    U.S. Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Submission for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review; public comment request.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Energy (DOE), pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995), intends to extend for three years, an information collection request with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The information collection request, Historic Preservation for Energy Efficiency Programs, was initially approved on December 1, 2010 under OMB Control No. 1910-5155 and expired on September 30, 2015. The reinstatement will allow DOE to continue data collection on the status of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the State Energy Program (SEP), and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program.

    Program activities will ensure compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the extended collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    DATES:

    Comments regarding this proposed information collection must be received on or before June 27, 2016. If you anticipate difficulty in submitting comments within that period, contact the person listed below as soon as possible.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written comments may be sent to Sallie Glaize, EE-52, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20585 or by email to [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    James Carlisle, EE-5W, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20585 or by email to [email protected]

    Additional information and reporting guidance concerning the Historic Preservation reporting requirement for the WAP, SEP, and EECBG programs are available for review at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/historic.preservation.html.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This information collection request contains: (1) OMB No.: 1910-5155; (2) Information Collection Request Title: Historic Preservation for Energy Efficiency Programs; (3) Type of Review: Reinstatement; (4) Purpose: To collect data on the status of the WAP, SEP and EECBG Program activities to ensure compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA; (5) Annual Estimated Number of Respondents: 275; (6) Annual Estimated Number of Total Responses: 275; (7) Annual Estimated Number of Burden Hours: 662; (8) Annual Estimated Reporting and Recordkeeping Cost Burden: $0.

    Statutory Authority:

    Pub. L. 89-665.

    Issued in Washington, DC on April 20, 2016. James Carlisle, Supervisory Policy Advisor, Weatherization and Intergovernmental Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09834 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Paducah AGENCY:

    Department of Energy (DOE)

    ACTION:

    Notice of open meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Paducah. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Thursday, May 19, 2016 6:00 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    Barkley Centre, 111 Memorial Drive, Paducah, Kentucky 42001.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jennifer Woodard, Deputy Designated Federal Officer, Department of Energy Paducah Site Office, Post Office Box 1410, MS-103, Paducah, Kentucky 42001, (270) 441-6825.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE-EM and site management in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management and related activities.

    Tentative Agenda Board Meeting—6:00 p.m. • Call to Order, Introductions, Review of Agenda • Administrative Issues • Public Comments (15 minutes) • Adjourn Environmental Remediation Subcommittee Meeting—7:00 p.m. • Call to Order, Introductions, Review of Agenda • Next Steps and Actions • Public Comments (15 minutes) • Adjourn Breaks Taken as Appropriate

    Public Participation: The EM SSAB, Paducah, welcomes the attendance of the public at its advisory committee meetings and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you require special accommodations due to a disability, please contact Jennifer Woodard as soon as possible in advance of the meeting at the telephone number listed above. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral statements pertaining to agenda items should contact Jennifer Woodard at the telephone number listed above. Requests must be received as soon as possible prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comments will be provided a maximum of five minutes to present their comments. The EM SSAB, Paducah, will hear public comments pertaining to its scope (clean-up standards and environmental restoration; waste management and disposition; stabilization and disposition of non-stockpile nuclear materials; excess facilities; future land use and long-term stewardship; risk assessment and management; and clean-up science and technology activities). Comments outside of the scope may be submitted via written statement as directed above.

    Minutes: Minutes will be available by writing or calling Jennifer Woodard at the address and phone number listed above. Minutes will also be available at the following Web site: http://www.pgdpcab.energy.gov/2016_meetings.htm.

    Issued at Washington, DC, on April 20, 2016. LaTanya R. Butler Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09833 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Nevada AGENCY:

    Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Notice of open meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Nevada. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 5:00 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    Frank H. Rogers Science and Technology Building, 755 East Flamingo, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Barbara Ulmer, Board Administrator, 232 Energy Way, M/S 167, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89030. Phone: (702) 630-0522; Fax (702) 295-2025 or Email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE-EM and site management in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management, and related activities.

    Tentative Agenda 1. Briefing and Recommendation Development for Proposed Change to Long-Term Monitoring at Closed Sites at Tonopah Test Range—Work Plan Item #2 2. Briefing and Recommendation Development for Revegetation at Corrective Action Unit 111—Work Plan Item #3 3. Recommendation Development for Radioactive Waste Acceptance Program Assessment Process—Work Plan Item #7

    Public Participation: The EM SSAB, Nevada, welcomes the attendance of the public at its advisory committee meetings and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you require special accommodations due to a disability, please contact Barbara Ulmer at least seven days in advance of the meeting at the phone number listed above. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral presentations pertaining to agenda items should contact Barbara Ulmer at the telephone number listed above. The request must be received five days prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comments can do so during the 15 minutes allotted for public comments.

    Minutes: Minutes will be available by writing to Barbara Ulmer at the address listed above or at the following Web site: http://nv.energy.gov/nssab/MeetingMinutes.aspx.

    Issued at Washington, DC, on April 21, 2016. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09832 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB) AGENCY:

    Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Notice of open teleconference.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a teleconference call of the State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB). The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463; 86 Stat.770) requires that public notice of these meetings be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Thursday, May 19, 2016 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT). To receive the call-in number and passcode, please contact the Board's Designated Federal Officer at the address or phone number listed below.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Michael Li, Policy Advisor, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20585. Phone number 202-287-5718, and email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: To make recommendations to the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy regarding goals and objectives, programmatic and administrative policies, and to otherwise carry out the Board's responsibilities as designated in the State Energy Efficiency Programs Improvement Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-440).

    Tentative Agenda: Receive STEAB Task Force updates on action items and revised objectives for FY 2016, discuss follow-up opportunities and engagement with EERE and other DOE staff as needed to keep Task Force work moving forward, continue engagement with DOE, EERE and EPSA staff regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and initiatives, and receive updates on member activities within their states. Recap March meeting and follow-up on action items from that meeting.

    Public Participation: The meeting is open to the public. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Members of the public who wish to make oral statements pertaining to agenda items should contact Michael Li at the address or telephone number listed above. Requests to make oral comments must be received five days prior to the meeting; reasonable provision will be made to include requested topic(s) on the agenda. The Chair of the Board is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business.

    Minutes: The minutes of the meeting will be available for public review and copying within 60 days on the STEAB Web site at: http://www.energy.gov/eere/steab/state-energy-advisory-board.

    Issued at Washington, DC, on April 20, 2016. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09829 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Leach XPress Project and Rayne XPress Expansion Project Docket No. Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC CP15-514-000 Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC CP15-539-000

    The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Leach XPress and Rayne XPress Expansion Projects (Projects), proposed by Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC (Columbia Gas) and Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC (Columbia Gulf), respectively, in the above-referenced dockets. Columbia Gas requests authorization to construct, operate, abandon in-place, replace, and operate certain natural gas pipeline facilities to transport about 1.5 million dekatherms of natural gas per day of firm transportation service to natural gas consumers served by the Columbia Gas pipeline systems. Columbia Gulf requests authorization to add new compression and provide about 621,000 dekatherms per day of firm transportation on Columbia Gulf's system.

    The draft EIS assesses the potential environmental effects of the construction and operation of the Projects in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The FERC staff concludes that approval of the Projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forested land; however, these impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels with the implementation of Columbia Gas' and Columbia Gulf's proposed mitigation and the additional measures recommended by staff in the draft EIS.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, and the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection participated as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS. Cooperating agencies have jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to resources potentially affected by the proposals and participate in the NEPA analysis. Although the cooperating agencies provided input to the conclusions and recommendations presented in the draft EIS, the agencies will present their own conclusions and recommendations in their respective Records of Decision for the Projects.

    The draft EIS addresses the potential environmental effects of the construction and operation of the following facilities:

    • 133 miles of new 30- and 36-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline, 27 miles of 36-inch-diameter looping pipeline 1 in Pennsylvania (Greene County), Ohio (Fairfield, Hocking, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry and Vinton Counties) and West Virginia (Marshall County), 28 miles of 20-inch-diameter pipeline to be abandoned in place in Ohio (Fairfield, Hocking, and Vinton Counties), three new compressor stations, three existing compressor station modifications, four new and one modified regulator stations, 13 pig launcher and receiver facilities,2 nine mainline valves, and four odorization facilities proposed by Columbia Gas; and

    1 A pipeline loop is a segment of pipe constructed parallel to an existing pipeline to increase capacity.

    2 A pig is an internal tool that can be used to clean and dry a pipeline and/or to inspect it for damage or corrosion.

    • the new Grayson Compressor Station in Carter County, Kentucky, the new Means Compressor Station in Menifee and Montgomery Counties, Kentucky, and modification of the existing Means Measurement and Regulation Station in Montgomery County, Kentucky proposed by Columbia Gulf.

    The FERC staff mailed copies of the draft EIS to federal, state, and local government representatives and agencies; elected officials; environmental and public interest groups; Native American tribes; potentially affected landowners and other interested individuals and groups; newspapers and libraries in the project area; and parties to this proceeding. Paper copy versions of this EIS were mailed to those specifically requesting them; all others received a CD version. In addition, the draft EIS is available for public viewing on the FERC's Web site (www.ferc.gov) using the eLibrary link. A limited number of copies are available for distribution and public inspection at: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Public Reference Room, 888 First Street NE., Room 2A, Washington, DC 20426, (202) 502-8371.

    Any person wishing to comment on the draft EIS may do so. To ensure consideration of your comments on the proposal in the final EIS, it is important that the Commission receive your comments on or before June 13, 2016.

    For your convenience, there are four methods you can use to submit your comments to the Commission. The Commission will provide equal consideration to all comments received, whether filed in written form or provided verbally. The Commission encourages electronic filing of comments and has expert staff available to assist you at (202) 502-8258 or [email protected] Please carefully follow these instructions so that your comments are properly recorded.

    (1) You can file your comments electronically using the eComment feature on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. This is an easy method for submitting brief, text-only comments on a project;

    (2) You can file your comments electronically by using the eFiling feature on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. With eFiling, you can provide comments in a variety of formats by attaching them as a file with your submission. New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on “eRegister.” If you are filing a comment on a particular project, please select “Comment on a Filing” as the filing type; or

    (3) You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address. Be sure to reference the applicable project docket number (CP15-514-000 or CP15-539-000) with your submission: Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.

    (4) In lieu of sending written or electronic comments, the Commission invites you to attend one of the public comment meetings its staff will conduct in the project area to receive comments on the draft EIS, scheduled as follows:

    Date Location Wednesday, May 18, 2016 Noble County Community Center, Noble County Fairgrounds, (Fairground Road), Caldwell, OH 43724, 740-509-8077. Thursday, May 19, 2016 Grand Vue Park (Banquet Hall), 250 Trail Drive, Moundsville, WV 26041, 304-845-9810. Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Lee's Banquet Haus, 580 Radio Lane, Logan, OH 43138, 740-603-7639. Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Oak Hill Elementary School, 401 East Evans Street, Oak Hill, OH 45656, 740-682-7096. Thursday, May 26, 2016 Huntington High School, 1 Highlander Way, Huntington, WV 25701, 304-528-6400.

    We will begin our sign up of speakers at 5:30 p.m. The comments meetings will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a description of our environmental review process by Commission staff, after which speakers will be called. The meetings will end once all speakers have provided their comments or at 10:00 p.m., whichever comes first. The meetings will be recorded by a court reporter to ensure comments are accurately recorded. Transcripts will be entered into the formal record of the Commission proceeding.

    Any person seeking to become a party to the proceeding must file a motion to intervene pursuant to Rule 214 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedures (18 CFR Part 385.214).3 Only intervenors have the right to seek rehearing of the Commission's decision. The Commission grants affected landowners and others with environmental concerns intervenor status upon showing good cause by stating that they have a clear and direct interest in this proceeding which no other party can adequately represent. Simply filing environmental comments will not give you intervenor status, but you do not need intervenor status to have your comments considered.

    3 See the previous discussion on the methods for filing comments.

    Questions?

    Additional information about the project is available from the Commission's Office of External Affairs, at (866) 208-FERC, or on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov) using the eLibrary link. Click on the eLibrary link, click on “General Search,” and enter the docket number excluding the last three digits in the Docket Number field (i.e., CP15-514 or CP15-539). Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at [email protected] or toll free at (866) 208-3676; for TTY, contact (202) 502-8659. The eLibrary link also provides access to the texts of formal documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, notices, and rulemakings.

    In addition, the Commission offers a free service called eSubscription that allows you to keep track of all formal issuances and submittals in specific dockets. This can reduce the amount of time you spend researching proceedings by automatically providing you with notification of these filings, document summaries, and direct links to the documents. Go to www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09824 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6717-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Combined Notice of Filings #2

    Take notice that the Commission received the following electric rate filings:

    Docket Numbers: ER15-746-003.

    Applicants: RC Cape May Holdings, LLC.

    Description: Report Filing: April 2016 Refund Report to be effective N/A.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5098.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER15-878-000; ER15-878-001.

    Applicants: Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.

    Description: Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. submits tariff filing per 35.19a(b) Refund Report to be effective N/A.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5083.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER15-1825-004.

    Applicants: California Independent System Operator Corporation.

    Description: Compliance filing: 2016-4-20_PetitionLtdWaiver-Request_Short_Comment_Period (ER15-1825) to be effective N/A.

    Filed Date: 4/20/16.

    Accession Number: 20160420-5166.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 4/27/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-438-001; ER15-2211-007; ER13-1266-006.

    Applicants: Marshall Wind Energy LLC, MidAmerican Energy Services, LLC, CalEnergy, LLC.

    Description: Supplement to December 18, 2015 Updated Market Power Analysis for Southwest Power Pool Region of Marshall Wind Energy LLC, et. al.

    Filed Date: 4/20/16.

    Accession Number: 20160420-5194.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/11/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-897-002.

    Applicants: California Independent System Operator Corporation.

    Description: Compliance filing: 2016-4-20_PetitionLtdWaiver-Request_Short_Comment_Period (ER16-897) to be effective N/A.

    Filed Date: 4/20/16.

    Accession Number: 20160420-5167.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 4/27/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1076-001.

    Applicants: 360Recycling.

    Description: Tariff Amendment: Amended 360 Recycling MBR Filing to be effective 4/19/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5097.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1482-000.

    Applicants: PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.

    Description: § 205(d) Rate Filing: Amendment to WMPA SA No. 3524, Queue No. X3-066 per Assignment to Marina Energy to be effective 3/27/2013.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5099.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    The filings are accessible in the Commission's eLibrary system by clicking on the links or querying the docket number.

    Any person desiring to intervene or protest in any of the above proceedings must file in accordance with Rules 211 and 214 of the Commission's Regulations (18 CFR 385.211 and 385.214) on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on the specified comment date. Protests may be considered, but intervention is necessary to become a party to the proceeding.

    eFiling is encouraged. More detailed information relating to filing requirements, interventions, protests, service, and qualifying facilities filings can be found at: http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling/filing-req.pdf. For other information, call (866) 208-3676 (toll free). For TTY, call (202) 502-8659.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09825 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6717-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Combined Notice of Filings

    Take notice that the Commission has received the following Natural Gas Pipeline Rate and Refund Report filings:

    Filings Instituting Proceedings

    Docket Numbers: RP16-853-000.

    Applicants: Centra Pipelines Minnesota Inc.

    Description: § 4(d) Rate Filing: Updated Shipper Index April 2016 to be effective 6/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5125.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-854-000.

    Applicants: Rockies Express Pipeline LLC.

    Description: § 4(d) Rate Filing: Neg Rate BP 2016-04-18 to be effective 4/16/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5170.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-855-000.

    Applicants: National Grid LNG, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Section 34 to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5202.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-856-000.

    Applicants: Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company.

    Description: Compliance filing Docket Nos. RP06-569-008 and RP07-376-005 (consolidated) Compliance Filing to be effective 7/20/2010.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5225.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-857-000.

    Applicants: Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company.

    Description: Compliance filing Order on Compliance with Order to be effective 4/18/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5247.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-858-000.

    Applicants: WestGas InterState, Inc.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB Compliance Filing to be effective 4/16/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5271.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Any person desiring to intervene or protest in any of the above proceedings must file in accordance with Rules 211 and 214 of the Commission's Regulations (18 CFR 385.211 and § 385.214) on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on the specified comment date. Protests may be considered, but intervention is necessary to become a party to the proceeding.

    Filings in Existing Proceedings

    Docket Numbers: RP16-422-001.

    Applicants: Monroe Gas Storage Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Monroe Gas Storage April 2016 Filing for Docket No. RP16-422-000 to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5230.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-423-001.

    Applicants: Perryville Gas Storage LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Perryville Gas Storage April 2016 Filing Docket No. RP16-423-000 to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5223.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-424-001.

    Applicants: Cadeville Gas Storage LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Cadeville Gas Storage April 2016 Filing Docket No. RP16-424-000 to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5227.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-452-001.

    Applicants: Sierrita Gas Pipeline LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5173.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-457-001.

    Applicants: Young Gas Storage Company, Ltd.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5113.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-458-001.

    Applicants: Mojave Pipeline Company, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5165.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-460-001.

    Applicants: Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5002.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-473-001.

    Applicants: High Island Offshore System, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing Order 587 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5139.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-480-001.

    Applicants: Stingray Pipeline Company, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing Stingray Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5089

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-483-001.

    Applicants: Panther Interstate Pipeline Energy, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Panther Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5086.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-492-001.

    Applicants: USG Pipeline Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Order No. 587-W Second Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5129.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-498-001.

    Applicants: MarkWest New Mexico, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing MarkWest New Mexico Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5087.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-502-001.

    Applicants: MarkWest Pioneer, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing MarkWest Pioneer Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5088.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-506-001.

    Applicants: KPC Pipeline, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing KPC Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5081.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-507-001.

    Applicants: NGO Transmission, Inc.

    Description: Compliance filing NGO Transmission Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5077.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-508-001.

    Applicants: Ryckman Creek Resources, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5080.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-510-001.

    Applicants: B-R Pipeline Company.

    Description: Compliance filing Order No. 587-W Second Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5130.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-512-001.

    Applicants: WBI Energy Transmission, Inc.

    Description: Compliance filing Compliance Filing with Order Issued March 29 on Order Nos. 587-W & 809 to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5138.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-518-001.

    Applicants: DBM Pipeline, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing DBM Pipeline Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5079.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-522-001.

    Applicants: Black Hills Shoshone Pipeline, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5083.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-528-001.

    Applicants: Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Order 809 & NAESB 3.0 April Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5177

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-529-001.

    Applicants: Crossroads Pipeline Company.

    Description: Compliance filing GEH—Order No. 809 & NAESB 3.0 April Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5178.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-531-001.

    Applicants: Boardwalk Storage Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Compliance Filing in Docket No. RP16-531-000 to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5180.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-532-001.

    Applicants: Hardy Storage Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Order 809 & NAESB 3.0 April Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5179.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-545-002.

    Applicants: Rendezvous Pipeline Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5071.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-548-001.

    Applicants: Trans-Union Interstate Pipeline, L.P.

    Description: Compliance filing Compliance Filing for March 29th Order to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5157.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-549-001.

    Applicants: PGPipeline LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5070.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-551-001.

    Applicants: Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, L.L.C.

    Description: Compliance filing Maritimes RP16-551 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5124.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-552-001.

    Applicants: Millennium Pipeline Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing GEH—Order No 809 & NAESB 3.0 April Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5183.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-553-001.

    Applicants: Central Kentucky Transmission Company.

    Description: Compliance filing GEH Order 809 & NAESB 3.0 April Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5181.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-554-001.

    Applicants: Arlington Storage Company, LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Arlington Storage Company, LLC.—Order No. 587-W Directed Changes to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5091.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-555-001.

    Applicants: Tres Palacios Gas Storage LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Tres Palacios Gas Storage LLC.—Order No. 587-W Directed Changes to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5099.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-558-001.

    Applicants: Stagecoach Pipeline & Storage Company LL.

    Description: Compliance filing Stagecoach Pipeline & Storage Company LLC.—Order No. 587-W Directed Changes to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5098.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-566-001.

    Applicants: Total Peaking Services, L. L. C.

    Description: Compliance filing TPS Order No. 809 Compliance Filing Order Changes to be effective 4/1/16.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5204.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-570-001.

    Applicants: Cheniere Creole Trail Pipeline, L.P.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5273.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-577-001.

    Applicants: Northwest Pipeline LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing NAESB 3.0 Compliance Filing (2) to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5272.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-584-001.

    Applicants: WestGas InterState, Inc.

    Description: Compliance filing 20160418_NAESB Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5233.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-597-002.

    Applicants: Tallgrass Interstate Gas Transmission, L.

    Description: Compliance filing Order No. 587-W Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5172.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-598-002.

    Applicants: Rockies Express Pipeline LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Order No. 587-W Compliance Filing to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5171.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-599-002.

    Applicants: Trailblazer Pipeline Company LLC.

    Description: Compliance filing Order No. 587 W Compliance to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5174.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Docket Numbers: RP16-800-001.

    Applicants: Texas Gas Transmission, LLC.

    Description: Tariff Amendment: Amendment to Filing (RP16-800) to be effective 4/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/18/16.

    Accession Number: 20160418-5115.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/2/16.

    Any person desiring to protest in any of the above proceedings must file in accordance with Rule 211 of the Commission's Regulations (18 CFR 385.211) on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on the specified comment date.

    The filings are accessible in the Commission's eLibrary system by clicking on the links or querying the docket number.

    eFiling is encouraged. More detailed information relating to filing requirements, interventions, protests, service, and qualifying facilities filings can be found at: http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling/filing-req.pdf. For other information, call (866) 208-3676 (toll free). For TTY, call (202) 502-8659.

    Dated: April 19, 2016. Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09823 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6717-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Combined Notice of Filings #1

    Take notice that the Commission received the following electric rate filings:

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1033-001.

    Applicants: Windrose Power and Gas LLC.

    Description: Tariff Amendment: Market Based Rate Tariff to be effective 5/5/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5055.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1476-000.

    Applicants: Southern California Edison Company.

    Description: § 205(d) Rate Filing: 2016 Revised Added Facilities Rate under TO—Filing No. 1 to be effective 1/1/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5001.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1477-000.

    Applicants: NSTAR Electric Company.

    Description: Notice of Termination of NSTAR Electric Company of 1993 Interconnection Agreement Rate Schedule No. 176.

    Filed Date: 4/20/16.

    Accession Number: 20160420-5171.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/11/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1479-000.

    Applicants: Kentucky Utilities Company.

    Description: § 205(d) Rate Filing: Brown Solar Depreciation Rates to be effective 12/31/9998.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5027.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1480-000.

    Applicants: Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.

    Description: § 205(d) Rate Filing: 2016-04-21_SA 6507 White Pine 1 SSR Renewal to be effective 4/16/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5038.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Docket Numbers: ER16-1481-000.

    Applicants: Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.

    Description: § 205(d) Rate Filing: 2016-04-21_Schedule 43H Renewal White Pine 1 SSR to be effective 4/16/2016.

    Filed Date: 4/21/16.

    Accession Number: 20160421-5041.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/12/16.

    Take notice that the Commission received the following PURPA 210(m)(3) filings:

    Docket Numbers: QM16-2-000.

    Applicants: Ameren Illinois Company, Union Electric Company.

    Description: Application of Ameren Illinois Company and Union Electric Company to Terminate Mandatory Purchase Obligation Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.

    Filed Date: 4/20/16.

    Accession Number: 20160420-5193.

    Comments Due: 5 p.m. ET 5/18/16.

    The filings are accessible in the Commission's eLibrary system by clicking on the links or querying the docket number.

    Any person desiring to intervene or protest in any of the above proceedings must file in accordance with Rules 211 and 214 of the Commission's Regulations (18 CFR 385.211 and 385.214) on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on the specified comment date. Protests may be considered, but intervention is necessary to become a party to the proceeding.

    eFiling is encouraged. More detailed information relating to filing requirements, interventions, protests, service, and qualifying facilities filings can be found at: http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling/filing-req.pdf. For other information, call (866) 208-3676 (toll free). For TTY, call (202) 502-8659.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09822 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6717-01-P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [EPA-HQ-OGC-2016-0237; FRL 9945-73-OGC] Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with section 113(g) of the Clean Air Act, as amended (“CAA” or the “Act”), notice is hereby given of a proposed consent decree to address a lawsuit filed by Sierra Club and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (collectively “Plaintiffs”) in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana: Louisiana Environmental Action Network v. McCarthy, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00858-JJB-RLB (M.D. L.A.). On December 23, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a complaint and amended complaint alleging that Gina McCarthy, in her official capacity as Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), failed to perform a non-discretionary duty to grant or deny within 60 days a petition submitted by Plaintiffs on May 19, 2015 requesting that EPA object to a CAA Title V permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“LDEQ”), to Yuhuang Chemical Inc., authorizing the construction and operation of the Yuhuang methanol manufacturing plant in St. James, Louisiana. The proposed consent decree would establish a deadline for EPA to take such action.

    DATES:

    Written comments on the proposed consent decree must be received by May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID number EPA-HQ-OGC-2016-0237, online at http://www.regulations.gov (EPA's preferred method); by email to [email protected]; by mail to EPA Docket Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001; or by hand delivery or courier to EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Comments on a disk or CD-ROM should be formatted in Word or ASCII file, avoiding the use of special characters and any form of encryption, and may be mailed to the mailing address above.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    John Krallman, Air and Radiation Law Office (2344A), Office of General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone: (202) 564-0904; fax number (202) 564-5603; email address: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Additional Information About the Proposed Consent Decree

    The proposed consent decree would resolve a lawsuit filed by the Plaintiffs seeking to compel the Administrator to take actions under CAA section 505(b)(2). Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, EPA would agree to sign its response granting or denying the petition filed by Plaintiffs regarding the Yuhuang methanol manufacturing plant located in St. James, Louisiana, pursuant to section 505(b)(2) of the CAA, on or before September 1, 2016.

    Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, EPA would expeditiously deliver notice of EPA's response to the Office of the Federal Register for review and publication following signature of such response. In addition, the proposed consent decree outlines the procedure for the Plaintiffs to request costs of litigation, including attorney fees.

    For a period of thirty (30) days following the date of publication of this notice, the Agency will accept written comments relating to the proposed consent decree from persons who are not named as parties or intervenors to the litigation in question. EPA or the Department of Justice may withdraw or withhold consent to the proposed consent decree if the comments disclose facts or considerations that indicate that such consent is inappropriate, improper, inadequate, or inconsistent with the requirements of the Act. Unless EPA or the Department of Justice determines that consent to this consent decree should be withdrawn, the terms of the consent decree will be affirmed.

    II. Additional Information About Commenting on the Proposed Consent Decree A. How can I get a copy of the consent decree?

    The official public docket for this action (identified by Docket ID No EPA-HQ-OGC-2016-0237) contains a copy of the proposed consent decree. The official public docket is available for public viewing at the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) Docket in the EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC. The EPA Docket Center Public Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public Reading Room is (202) 566-1744, and the telephone number for the OEI Docket is (202) 566-1752.

    An electronic version of the public docket is available through http://www.regulations.gov. You may use http://www.regulations.gov to submit or view public comments, access the index listing of the contents of the official public docket, and access those documents in the public docket that are available electronically. Once in the system, key in the appropriate docket identification number then select “search.”

    It is important to note that EPA's policy is that public comments, whether submitted electronically or in paper, will be made available for public viewing online at http://www.regulations.gov without change, unless the comment contains copyrighted material, confidential business information (CBI), or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Information claimed as CBI and other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute is not included in the official public docket or in the electronic public docket. EPA's policy is that copyrighted material, including copyrighted material contained in a public comment, will not be placed in EPA's electronic public docket but will be available only in printed, paper form in the official public docket. Although not all docket materials may be available electronically, you may still access any of the publicly available docket materials through the EPA Docket Center.

    B. How and to whom do I submit comments?

    You may submit comments as provided in the ADDRESSES section. Please ensure that your comments are submitted within the specified comment period. Comments received after the close of the comment period will be marked “late.” EPA is not required to consider these late comments.

    If you submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you include your name, mailing address, and an email address or other contact information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you submit. This ensures that you can be identified as the submitter of the comment and allows EPA to contact you in case EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties or needs further information on the substance of your comment. Any identifying or contact information provided in the body of a comment will be included as part of the comment that is placed in the official public docket, and made available in EPA's electronic public docket. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to consider your comment.

    Use of the http://www.regulations.gov Web site to submit comments to EPA electronically is EPA's preferred method for receiving comments. The electronic public docket system is an “anonymous access” system, which means EPA will not know your identity, email address, or other contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. In contrast to EPA's electronic public docket, EPA's electronic mail (email) system is not an “anonymous access” system. If you send an email comment directly to the Docket without going through www.regulations.gov, your email address is automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the official public docket, and made available in EPA's electronic public docket.

    Dated: April 19, 2016. Lorie J. Schmidt, Associate General Counsel.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09859 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE PA27AP3.
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [EPA-HQ-OECA-2012-0691; FRL-9945-32-OEI] Information Collection Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; NESHAP for Mercury Cell Chlor-Alkali Plants (Renewal) AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency has submitted an information collection request (ICR), “NESHAP for Mercury Cell Chlor-Alkali Plants (40 CFR part 63, subpart IIIII) (Renewal)” (EPA ICR No. 2046.08, OMB Control No. 2060-0542), to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This is a proposed extension of the ICR, which is currently approved through April 30, 2016. Public comments were previously requested via the Federal Register (80 FR 32116) on June 5, 2015 during a 60-day comment period. This notice allows for an additional 30 days for public comments. A fuller description of the ICR is given below, including its estimated burden and cost to the public. An Agency may neither conduct nor sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

    DATES:

    Additional comments may be submitted on or before May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit your comments, referencing Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OECA-2012-0691, to: (1) EPA online using www.regulations.gov (our preferred method), or by email to [email protected], or by mail to: EPA Docket Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; and (2) OMB via email to [email protected] Address comments to OMB Desk Officer for EPA.

    EPA's policy is that all comments received will be included in the public docket without change including any personal information provided, unless the comment includes profanity, threats, information claimed to be Confidential Business Information (CBI), or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Patrick Yellin, Monitoring, Assistance, and Media Programs Division, Office of Compliance, Mail Code 2227A, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: (202) 564-2970; email address: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Supporting documents which explain in detail the information that the EPA will be collecting are available in the public docket for this ICR. The docket can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov or in person at the EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC. The telephone number for the Docket Center is 202-566-1744. For additional information about EPA's public docket, visit: http://www.epa.gov/dockets.

    Abstract: Owners and operators of affected facilities are required to comply with reporting and record keeping requirements for the general provisions of 40 CFR part 63, subpart A, as well as for the specific requirements at 40 CFR part 63, subpart IIIII. This includes submitting initial notification reports, performance tests and periodic reports and results, and maintaining records of the occurrence and duration of any startup, shutdown, or malfunction in the operation of an affected facility, or any period during which the monitoring system is inoperative. These reports are used by EPA to determine compliance with these standards.

    Form Numbers: None.

    Respondents/affected entities: Mercury cell chlor-alkali plants.

    Respondent's obligation to respond: Mandatory (40 CFR part 63, subpart IIIII).

    Estimated number of respondents: 2 (total).

    Frequency of response: Initially and semiannually.

    Total estimated burden: 3,760 hours (per year). Burden is defined at 5 CFR 1320.3(b).

    Total estimated cost: $394,000 (per year), which includes in $16,400 annualized capital/startup and/or operation & maintenance costs.

    Changes in the estimates: There is a small adjustment increase in the respondent labor hours as currently identified in the OMB Inventory of Approved Burdens. The increase is due to a change in assumption. In this ICR, we assume all existing sources will take some time each year to re-familiarize themselves with the regulatory requirements.

    Courtney Kerwin, Acting-Director, Collection Strategies Division.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09891 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50-P
    FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION Sunshine Act Meeting Notice of a Matter To Be Added to the Agenda for Consideration at an Agency Meeting

    Pursuant to the provisions of the “Government in the Sunshine Act” (5 U.S.C. 552b), notice is hereby given that the following matter will be added to the “Discussion Agenda” for consideration at the open meeting of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation scheduled to be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in the Board Room on the sixth floor of the FDIC Building located at 550-17th Street NW., Washington, DC:

    Memorandum and resolution re: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement Liquidity Risk Standards for Certain FDIC Supervised Institutions.

    Requests for further information concerning the meeting may be directed to Mr. Robert E. Feldman, Executive Secretary of the Corporation, at 202-898-7043.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Robert E. Feldman, Executive Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09924 Filed 4-25-16; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE P
    FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION Sunshine Act Meeting

    Pursuant to the provisions of the “Government in the Sunshine Act” (5 U.S.C. 552b), notice is hereby given that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Board of Directors will meet in open session at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, to consider the following matters:

    Summary Agenda: No substantive discussion of the following items is anticipated. These matters will be resolved with a single vote unless a member of the Board of Directors requests that an item be moved to the discussion agenda.

    Disposition of minutes of previous Board of Directors' Meetings.

    Memorandum and resolution re: Notice of Final Rulemaking: Revisions to Part 341 of the FDIC's Rules and Regulations Requiring the Registration of Securities Transfer Agents.

    Summary reports, status reports, and reports of actions taken pursuant to authority delegated by the Board of Directors.

    Discussion Agenda

    Memorandum and resolution re: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Incentive-based Compensation Arrangements.

    Memorandum and resolution re: Deposit Insurance Assessments for Small Banks.

    The meeting will be held in the Board Room located on the sixth floor of the FDIC Building located at 550 17th Street NW., Washington, DC.

    This Board meeting will be Webcast live via the Internet and subsequently made available on-demand approximately one week after the event. Visit https://fdic.primetime.mediaplatform.com/#!/channel/1232003497484/Board+Meetings to view the event. If you need any technical assistance, please visit our Video Help page at: https://www.fdic.gov/video.html.

    The FDIC will provide attendees with auxiliary aids (e.g., sign language interpretation) required for this meeting. Those attendees needing such assistance should call 703-562-2404 (Voice) or 703-649-4354 (Video Phone) to make necessary arrangements.

    Requests for further information concerning the meeting may be directed to Mr. Robert E. Feldman, Executive Secretary of the Corporation, at 202-898-7043.

    Dated: April 20, 2016. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Robert E. Feldman, Executive Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09923 Filed 4-25-16; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE P
    FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION Notice of Agreements Filed

    The Commission hereby gives notice of the filing of the following agreements under the Shipping Act of 1984. Interested parties may submit comments on the agreements to the Secretary, Federal Maritime Commission, Washington, DC 20573, within twelve days of the date this notice appears in the Federal Register. Copies of the agreements are available through the Commission's Web site (www.fmc.gov) or by contacting the Office of Agreements at (202) 523-5793 or [email protected]

    Agreement No.: 011961-021.

    Title: The Maritime Credit Agreement.

    Parties: Maersk Line A/S; Cosco Container Lines Company Limited; Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd.; Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd.; United Arab Shipping Company; Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS; and Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Ltd.

    Filing Party: Wayne R. Rohde, Esq.; Cozen O'Conner; 1200 19th Street NW., Washington, DC 20036.

    Synopsis: The amendment deletes China Shipping Container Lines Co. Ltd. as a party to the Agreement.

    Agreement No.: 012067-015.

    Title: U.S. Supplemental Agreement to HLC Agreement.

    Parties: BBC Chartering Carriers GmbH & Co. KG and BBC Chartering & Logistic GmbH & Co. KG, as a single member; Chipolbrok (Chinese-Polish Joint Stock Shipping Company); Hanssy Shipping Pte. Ltd.; Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., Ltd.; Industrial Maritime Carriers, L.L.C.; Nordana Line A/S; and Rickmers-Linie GmbH & Cie. KG.

    Filing Party: Wade S. Hooker, Esq.; 211 Central Park W; New York, NY 10024.

    Synopsis: The amendment deletes Safmarine MPV N.V. as a party to the U.S. Agreement and the worldwide HLC Agreement.

    Agreement No.: 012327-003.

    Title: “K” Line/WHL/WHS/PIL Space Charter and Sailing Agreement.

    Parties: Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd.; Wan Hai Lines (Singapore) PTE Ltd.; Wan Hai Lines Ltd.; Pacific International Lines (PTE) Ltd.

    Filing Party: Eric. C. Jeffrey, Esq.; Nixon Peabody LLP; 799 9th Street NW., Suite 500; Washington, DC 20001.

    Synopsis: The amendment adds Vietnam to the geographic scope of the Agreement.

    Agreement No.: 012400.

    Title: Trailer Bridge/Marinex Cargo Line Space Charter Agreement.

    Parties: Trailer Bridge, Inc. and Marinex Cargo Line.

    Filing Party: Keith B. Letourneau, Esq.; Blank Rome, LLP; 717 Texas Avenue; Suite 1400; Houston, TX 77002.

    Synopsis: The agreement authorizes Marinex to charter space to Trailer Bridge in the trade between Puerto Rico on the one hand, and St. Maarten, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Tortola on the other hand.

    Agreement No.: 012401.

    Title: Trailer Bridge/America Cruise Ferries Space Charter Agreement.

    Parties: Trailer Bridge, Inc. and American Cruise Ferries, Inc.

    Filing Party: Keith B. Letourneau, Esq.; Blank Rome, LLP; 717 Texas Avenue; Suite 1400; Houston, TX 77002.

    Synopsis: The agreement authorizes American Cruise Ferries to charter space to Trailer Bridge in the trade between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

    Agreement No.: 012402.

    Title: APL/Hamburg Sud Space Charter Agreement.

    Parties: Hamburg Sud; and APL Co. Pte Ltd. and American President Lines, Ltd. (collectively “APL”).

    Filing Party: Eric. C. Jeffrey, Esq.; Nixon Peabody LLP; 799 9th Street NW., Suite 500; Washington, DC 20001.

    Synopsis: The agreement authorizes APL to charter space to Hamburg Sud in the trade from China, Hong Kong, and Korea to the United States Pacific Northwest.

    Agreement No.: 012403.

    Title: MOL/ZIM Slot Exchange Agreement.

    Parties: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. and Zim Integrated Shipping Services Co., Ltd.

    Filing Party: Mark E. Newcomb; ZIM American Integrated Shipping Services, Co. LLC; 5801 Lake Wright Dr.; Norfolk, VA 23508.

    Synopsis: The agreement authorizes the parties to exchange slots on each other's services in the trade between the U.S. on the one hand; and China, Korea, Malaysia, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Vietnam on the other hand.

    Agreement No.: 012404.

    Title: COSCON/UASC Slot Charter Agreement Asia—USWC.

    Parties: COSCO Container Lines Co. Ltd. and United Arab Shipping Co., S.A.G.

    Filing Party: Eric. C. Jeffrey, Esq.; Nixon Peabody LLP; 799 9th Street NW., Suite 500; Washington, DC 20001.

    Synopsis: The agreement provides for the exchange of slots between COSCON and UASC on their respective services in the trade between the United States West Coast and China (including Hong Kong), Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

    Agreement No.: 201232-001.

    Title: NYSA-ILA Assessment Agreement.

    Parties: International Longshoremen's Association and New York Shipping Association.

    Filing Parties: Donato Caruso, Esq.; The Lambos Firm, LLP; 303 South Broadway,Suite 410; Tarrytown, NY 10591 and Andre Mazzola, Esq.; Marrinan & Mazzola Mardon, P.C.; 26 Broadway, 17th Floor; New York, NY 10004.

    Synopsis: The amendment reduces the assessment for all House Containers Within 260 Miles to $89.00 per container in all trades except in the Bermuda Trade.

    By Order of the Federal Maritime Commission.

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Rachel E. Dickon, Assistant Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09845 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6731-AA-P
    FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION Agency Information Collection Activities: 60-Day Public Comment Request AGENCY:

    Federal Maritime Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice and request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    As part of our continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, and as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Federal Maritime Commission (Commission) invites comments on the continuing information collection (extension with no changes) listed below in this notice.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be submitted on or before June 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Address all comments to: Vern W. Hill, Managing Director, Office of the Managing Director, Federal Maritime Commission, 800 North Capitol Street NW., Washington, DC 20573, Phone: (202) 523-5800, Email: [email protected]

    Please send separate comments for each specific information collection listed below. You must reference the information collection's title and OMB number in your comments.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Copies of the information collections and instructions, or copies of any comments received, may be obtained by contacting Donna Lee on (202) 523-5800 or email at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Request for Comments

    The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to comment on the continuing information collection listed in this notice, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.).

    Comments submitted in response to this notice will be included or summarized in our request for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval of the relevant information collection. All comments are part of the public record and subject to disclosure. Please do not include any confidential or inappropriate material in your comments. We invite comments on: (1) The necessity and utility of the proposed information collection for the proper performance of the agency's functions; (2) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology to minimize the information collection burden.

    Information Collection Open for Comment

    Title: 46 CFR part 532—NVOCC Negotiated Rate Arrangements.

    OMB Approval Number: 3072-0071 (Expires July 31, 2016).

    Abstract: Section 16 of the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. 40103, authorizes the Commission to exempt by order or regulation “any class of agreements between persons subject to this [Act] or any specified activity of those persons from any requirement of this [Act] if the Commission finds that the exemption will not result in substantial reduction in competition or be detrimental to commerce.” The Commission may attach conditions to any exemption and may, by order, revoke an exemption. In 46 CFR part 532, the Commission exempted non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs) from the tariff rate publication requirements of Part 520, and allowed an NVOCC to enter into an NVOCC Negotiated Rate Arrangement (NRA) in lieu of publishing its tariff rate(s), provided the NVOCC posts a prominent notice in its rules tariff invoking the NRA exemption and provides electronic access to its rules tariff to the public free of charge. This information collection corresponds to the rules tariff prominent notice and the requirement to make its tariff publicly available free of charge.

    Current Actions: There are no changes to this information collection, and it is being submitted for extension purposes only.

    Type of Review: Extension.

    Needs and Uses: The Commission uses the information filed by an NVOCC in its rules tariff to determine whether the NVOCC has invoked the exemption for a particular shipment or shipments. The Commission has used and will continue to use the information required to be maintained by NVOCCs for monitoring and investigatory purposes, and, in its proceedings, to adjudicate related issues raised by private parties.

    Frequency: An NVOCC invokes the NRA exemption by publishing a prominent notice in its rules tariff once.

    Type of Respondents: NVOCCs.

    Number of Annual Respondents: 255. While there has been a substantial decrease in the number of annual responses, in 2013 the NRA exemption was extended to include foreign unlicensed NVOCCs, which resulted in a “one-time” increase in the number of annual respondents to 626. The Commission expects the number of annual respondents to remain at 255 in the future, as new NVOCCs enter the market and some invoke the exemption.

    Estimated Time per Response: 15 minutes for those adding a tariff rule to use a combination of tariff rates and NRAs. One hour for those who make their tariff rules publicly available by opting to use NRAs exclusively and posting them to their Web site.

    Total Annual Burden: Based on the number of NVOCCs who have filed a rule or prominent notice in their respective tariffs, we calculate that 25% of new NVOCCs will use the NRA exemption. Of those, about 3% will use NRAs exclusively. Almost all will likely use similar language invoking the exemption in their tariffs. For the 255 annual respondents, the total burden is calculated as follows:

    8 × 1 hour = 8 hours (3% using NRAs exclusively) 247 × .25 hour = 61.75 hours rounded to 62 (combination of tariff rates and NRAs)

    Total annual burden is estimated to be 70 hours.

    Rachel E. Dickon, Assistant Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09817 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6731-AA-P
    FEDERAL MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH REVIEW COMMISSION [ BAC 6735-01] Sunshine Act Notice April 25, 2016. TIME AND DATE:

    10:00 a.m., Thursday, May 5, 2016.

    PLACE:

    The Richard V. Backley Hearing Room, Room 511N, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20004 (enter from F Street entrance).

    STATUS:

    Open.

    MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED:

    The Commission will consider and act upon the following in open session: Secretary of Labor on behalf of Charles Riordan v. Knox Creek Coal Corporation, Docket No. VA 2014-343-D (Issues include whether, in this discrimination case, substantial evidence supports the Judge's determination that the miner engaged in protected activity and that the proffered reason for his employment termination was pretextual.)

    Any person attending this meeting who requires special accessibility features and/or auxiliary aids, such as sign language interpreters, must inform the Commission in advance of those needs. Subject to 29 CFR 2706.150(a)(3) and 2706.160(d).

    CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFO:

    Emogene Johnson (202) 434-9935/(202) 708-9300 for TDD Relay/1-800-877-8339 for toll free.

    Sarah L. Stewart, Deputy General Counsel.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09967 Filed 4-25-16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 6735-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION OMB Control No. 9000-0058; Docket 2016-0053; Sequence 9] Submission for OMB Review; Schedules for Construction Contracts AGENCY:

    Department of Defense (DOD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

    ACTION:

    Notice of request for public comment regarding an extension to an existing OMB clearance.

    SUMMARY:

    Under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Regulatory Secretariat Division will be submitting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a request to review and approve an extension of a previously approved information collection requirement concerning schedules for construction contracts. A notice was published in the Federal Register at 81 FR 7799 on February 16, 2016. No comments were received.

    DATES:

    Submit comments on or before May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for GSA, Room 10236, NEOB, Washington, DC 20503. Additionally submit a copy to GSA by any of the following methods:

    Regulations.gov: http://www.regulations.gov.

    Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal by searching the OMB control number. Select the link “Submit a Comment” that corresponds with “Information Collection 9000-0058, Schedules for Construction Contracts”. Follow the instructions provided at the “Submit a Comment” screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “Information Collection 9000-0058, Schedules for Construction Contracts” on your attached document.

    Mail: General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB), 1800 F Street NW., Washington, DC 20405. ATTN: Ms. Flowers/IC 9000-0058, Schedules for Construction Contracts.

    Instructions: Please submit comments only and cite Information Collection 9000-0058, Schedules for Construction Contracts, in all correspondence related to this collection. Comments received generally will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal and/or business confidential information provided. To confirm receipt of your comment(s), please check www.regulations.gov, approximately two to three days after submission to verify posting (except allow 30 days for posting of comments submitted by mail).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Mr. Curtis E. Glover, Sr., Procurement Analyst, Office of Acquisition Policy, 202-501-1448 or email [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A. Purpose

    Federal construction contractors may be required to submit schedules, in the form of a progress chart, showing the order in which the Contractor proposes to perform the work. In accordance with FAR 52.236-15, Schedules for Construction Contracts, the Contractor shall, within five days after work commences on the contract or another period of time determined by the contracting officer, prepare and submit to the contracting officer for approval three copies of a practicable schedule showing the order in which the Contractor proposes to perform the work, and the dates on which the Contractor contemplates starting and completing the several salient features of the work (including acquiring materials, plants, and equipment). This information is used to monitor progress under a Federal construction contract when other management approaches for ensuring adequate progress are not used. If the Contractor fails to submit a schedule within the time prescribes, the Contracting Officer may withhold approval of progress payments until the Contractor submits the required schedule.

    B. Annual Reporting Burden

    Respondents: 3,804.

    Responses per Respondent: 2.

    Annual Responses: 7,608.

    Hours per Response: 4.

    Total Burden Hours: 30,432.

    Affected Public: Businesses or other for-profit and not-for-profit institutions.

    Frequency: On occasion.

    Public comments are particularly invited on: Whether this collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of functions of the FAR, and whether it will have practical utility; whether our estimate of the public burden of this collection of information is accurate, and based on valid assumptions and methodology; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways in which we can minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, through the use of appropriate technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Obtaining Copies of Proposals: Requesters may obtain a copy of the information collection documents from the General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat (MVCB), 1800 F Street NW., Washington, DC 20405, telephone 202-501-4755. Please cite OMB Control No. 9000-0058, Schedules for Construction Contracts, in all correspondence.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Lorin S. Curit, Director, Federal Acquisition Policy Division, Office of Governmentwide Acquisition Policy, Office of Acquisition Policy, Office of Governmentwide Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09742 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6820-EP-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION [OMB Control No. 9000-0029; Docket 2016-0053; Sequence 10] Submission for OMB Review; Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests AGENCY:

    Department of Defense (DOD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA).

    ACTION:

    Notice of request for comments regarding an extension to an existing OMB clearance.

    SUMMARY:

    Under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Regulatory Secretariat Division will be submitting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a request to review and approve an extension of a previously approved information collection requirement concerning extraordinary contractual action requests. A notice was published in the Federal Register at 81 FR 7798 on February 16, 2016. No comments were received.

    DATES:

    Submit comments on or before May 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for GSA, Room 10236, NEOB, Washington, DC 20503. Additionally submit a copy to GSA by any of the following methods:

    Regulations.gov: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal by searching the OMB control number. Select the link “Submit a Comment” that corresponds with “Information Collection 9000-0029, Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests”. Follow the instructions provided at the “Submit a Comment” screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “Information Collection 9000-0029, Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests” on your attached document.

    Mail: General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB), 1800 F Street NW., Washington, DC 20405. ATTN: Ms. Flowers/IC 9000-0029, Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests.

    Instructions: Please submit comments only and cite Information Collection 9000-0029, Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests, in all correspondence related to this collection. Comments received generally will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal and/or business confidential information provided. To confirm receipt of your comment(s), please check www.regulations.gov, approximately two to three days after submission to verify posting (except allow 30 days for posting of comments submitted by mail).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Cecelia L. Davis, Procurement Analyst, Office of Governmentwide Acquisition Policy, GSA, at 202-219-0202 or email at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    A. Purpose

    FAR subpart 50.1 prescribes policies and procedures that allow contracts to be entered into, amended, or modified in order to facilitate national defense under the extraordinary emergency authority granted under 50 U.S.C. 1431 et seq. and Executive Order (E.O.) 10789 dated November 14, 1958, et seq.

    This authority applies to the Government Printing Office; the Department of Homeland Security; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Department of Defense; the Department of the Army; the Department of the Navy; the Department of the Air Force; the Department of the Treasury; the Department of the Interior; the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Commerce; and the Department of Transportation. Also included is the Department of Energy for functions transferred to that Department from other authorized agencies and any other agency that may be authorized by the President.

    In order for a contractor to be granted relief under the FAR, specific evidence must be submitted which supports the firm's assertion that relief is appropriate and that the matter cannot be disposed of under the terms of the contract.

    FAR 50.103-3 specifies the minimum information that a contractor must include in a request for contract adjustment in accordance with FAR 50-103-1 and 50.103-2.

    FAR 50-103-4 sets forth additional information that the contracting officer or other agency official may request from the contractor to support any request made under FAR 50.103-3.

    FAR 50.104-3 sets forth the information that the contractor shall include in a request for the indemnification clause to cover unusually hazardous or nuclear risks.

    FAR 52.250-1, Indemnification under Public Law 850804, requires in paragraph (g) that the contractor shall promptly notify the contracting officer of any claim or action against, or loss by, the contractor or any subcontractors that may reasonably to involve indemnification under the clause.

    The information is used by the Government to determine if relief can be granted under FAR and to determine the appropriate type and amount of relief.

    B. Annual Reporting Burden

    Respondents: 28.

    Responses per Respondent: About 6.

    Total Responses: 164.

    Hours per Response: About 41.5.

    Total Burden Hours: 6,800.

    Obtaining Copies of Proposals: Requester may obtain a copy of the information collection documents from the General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB), 1800 F Street NW., Washington, DC 20405, telephone 202-501-4755. Please cite OMB Control No. 9000-0029, Extraordinary Contractual Action Requests, in all correspondence.

    Dated: April 21, 2016. Lorin S. Curit, Director, Federal Acquisition Policy Division, Office of Governmentwide Acquisition Policy, Office of Acquisition Policy, Office of Governmentwide Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09710 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6820-EP-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC-2014-0014; Docket Number NIOSH-275] Issuance of Final Guidance Publication AGENCY:

    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    ACTION:

    Notice of issuance of final guidance publication.

    SUMMARY:

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announces the availability of the following publication: National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) National Total Worker Health® Agenda (2016-2026): A National Agenda to Advance Total Worker Health® Research, Practice, Policy, and Capacity [2016-114].

    ADDRESSES:

    This document may be obtained at the following link http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2016-114/.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Sara L. Tamers, Ph.D., MPH, NIOSH/CDC, Telephone: (202) 245-0677, Fax: (202) 245-0664 (not toll-free numbers), email: [email protected].

    Dated: April 22, 2016. Frank J. Hearl, Chief of Staff, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09786 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4163-19-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Administration for Children and Families Proposed Information Collection Activity; Comment Request

    Proposed Projects:

    Title: Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED).

    OMB No.: 0970-439.

    Description: The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) seeks an extension without change for an existing data collection called the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED) through September 30, 2018 (OMB no. 0970-439; expiration date September 30, 2016). OCSE is proposing that this information collection be extended to continue using 8 of the 10 currently approved information collection instruments with a reduction in burden hours to reflect only the extension period, estimated to be two years and three months, from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2018.

    In October 2012, OCSE issued grants to eight state child support agencies to provide employment, parenting, and child support services to noncustodial parents who are having difficulty meeting their child support obligation. The overall objective of the CSPED evaluation is to document and evaluate the effectiveness of the approaches taken by these eight CSPED grantees. This evaluation will yield information about effective strategies for improving child support payments by providing noncustodial parents employment and other services through child support programs. It will generate extensive information on how these programs operated, what they cost, the effects the programs had, and whether the benefits of the programs exceed their costs. The information gathered will be critical to informing decisions related to future investments in child support-led employment-focused programs for noncustodial parents who have difficulty meeting their child support obligations.

    The CSPED evaluation includes the following two interconnected components or “studies”:

    1. Implementation and Cost Study. The goal of the implementation and cost study is to provide a detailed description of the programs—how they are implemented, their participants, the contexts in which they are operated, their promising practices, and their costs. The detailed descriptions will assist in interpreting program impacts, identifying program features and conditions necessary for effective program replication or improvement, and carefully documenting the costs of delivering these services. Key activities of the implementation and cost study include: (1) Conducting semi-structured interviews with program staff and selected community partner organizations to gather information on program implementation and costs; (2) conducting focus groups with program participants to elicit participation experiences; (3) administering a web-based survey to program staff and community partners to capture broader staff program experiences; and (4) collecting data on study participant service use, dosage, and duration of enrollment throughout the demonstration using a web-based Management Information System (MIS).

    2. Impact Study. The goal of the impact study is to provide rigorous estimates of the effectiveness of the eight programs using an experimental research design. Program applicants who are eligible for CSPED services are randomly assigned to either a program group that is offered program services or a control group that is not. The study MIS that documents service use for the implementation study is also used by grantee staff to conduct random assignment for the impact study. The impact study relies on data from surveys of participants, as well as administrative records from state and county data systems. Survey data are collected twice from program applicants. Baseline information is collected from all noncustodial parents who apply for the program prior to random assignment. A follow-up survey is collected from sample members twelve months after random assignment. A wide range of measures are collected through surveys, including measures of employment stability and quality, barriers to employment, parenting and co-parenting, and demographic and socio-economic characteristics. In addition, data on child support obligations and payments, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid receipt, involvement with the criminal justice system, and earnings and benefit data collected through the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system are obtained from state and county databases.

    Two components of the data collection have been completed: (1) Focus groups with program participants; and (2) the web-based survey to document program staff and partner experiences. The following data collection activities are not yet complete: (1) The staff interview topic guide; (2) the study MIS functions for tracking participation in the program; (3) the introductory script which program staff use to introduce the study to participants; (4) the introductory script heard by program applicants; (5) the baseline survey; (6) the study MIS functions for conducting random assignment; (7) the protocol for collecting child support, benefit, earnings, and criminal justice data from state and county administrative data systems; and (8) the 12-month follow-up survey. As of January 1, 2016, 8,060 participants have been enrolled and completed the baseline survey and over 2,300 participants have completed the 12-month follow-up survey.

    Respondents

    Respondents to these activities include program applicants, study participants, grantee staff and community partners, as well as state and county staff responsible for extracting data from government databases for the evaluation. Specific respondents per instrument are noted in the burden tables below.

    Annual Burden Estimates

    The following instruments are proposed for public comment under this 60-Day Federal Register Notice. The following table provides the burden estimates for the implementation and cost study and the impact study components of the current request. The requested extension period is estimated to be two years and three months, from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2018. Thus, burden hours for all components are annualized over two years and three months.

    Implementation and Cost Study Instrument Total
  • number of
  • respondents
  • Number of
  • responses per
  • respondent
  • Average
  • burden hours
  • per response
  • Total
  • burden hours
  • Total annual
  • burden hours a
  • Staff interview topic guide 120 1 1 120 53 Study MIS to track program participation 200 468.75 0.0333 3,125 1,390 Impact Study Introductory script: Grantee staff 120 9 0.1667 180 80 Program applicants b 1,050 1 0.1667 175 78 Baseline survey 1,000 1 0.5833 583 259 Study MIS to conduct random assignment 120 9 0.1667 180 80 Protocol for collecting administrative records 32 1 8 256 114 12 month follow-up survey 1,476 1 0.75 1,107 492 a All burden estimates are annualized over 2.25 years. b Five percent of program applicants are not expected to agree to participate in the study; thus there are 5% more program applicants than study participants.

    Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 2,546.

    In compliance with the requirements of Section 506(c)(2)(A) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Administration for Children and Families is soliciting public comment on the specific aspects of the information collection described above. Copies of the proposed collection of information can be obtained and comments may be forwarded by writing to the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, 330 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20201. Attn: ACF Reports Clearance Officer. Email address: [email protected] All requests should be identified by the title of the information collection.

    The Department specifically requests comments on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information; (c) the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Consideration will be given to comments and suggestions submitted within 60 days of this publication.

    Robert Sargis, Reports Clearance Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-09803 Filed 4-26-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4184-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration [Docket No. FDA-N-2016-1134] Public Meeting on Patient-Focused Drug Development for Patients Who Have Received an Organ Transplant AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notice of public meeting; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) is announcing a public meeting and an opportunity for public comment on Patient-Focused Drug Development for patients who have received an organ transplant. Patient-Focused Drug Development is part of FDA's performance commitments made as part of the fifth authorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA V). The public meeting is intended to allow FDA to obtain patient perspectives on the impact of receiving an organ transplant on daily life and patient views on treatment approaches; the input from this public meeting will help in developing topics for further discussion. FDA is also interested in discussing issues related to scientific challenges in developing drugs to manage organ transplantation. In the afternoon, FDA will hold a workshop and provide information for and gain perspective from patients and patient advocacy organizations, health care providers, academic experts, and industry on various aspects of clinical development of drug products intended to manage organ transplantation.

    DATES:

    The public meeting will be held on September 27, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please register here for the meeting by September 20, 2016: http://organtransplantpfdd.eventbrite.com. Submit electronic or written comments to the public docket by November 27, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting and workshop will be held at the FDA White Oak Campus, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Bldg. 31 Conference Center, the Great Room (Rm.1503), Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002. Participants must enter through Building 1 and undergo security screening. For more information on parking and security procedures, please refer to http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WorkingatFDA/BuildingsandFacilities/WhiteOakCampusInformation/ucm241740.htm.

    You may submit comments as follows:

    Electronic Submissions

    Submit electronic comments in the following way:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments submitted electronically, including attachments, to http://www.regulations.gov will be posted to the docket unchanged. Because your comment will be made public