Revisions of Boundaries for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)and Department of Commerce (DOC) have published a notice of intent to revise boundaries, prepare environmental impact statement; scoping meetings.

In accordance with section 304(e) of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as amended, (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has initiated a review of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve (TBNMS or sanctuary) boundaries, to evaluate the opportunity and effects of expanding the sanctuary's boundary. The process required by NMSA will be conducted concurrently with a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). This notice also informs the public that NOAA will coordinate its responsibilities under section 106
of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA, 16 U.S.C. 470) with its ongoing NEPA process, pursuant to 36 CFR 800.8(a) including the use of NEPA documents and public and stakeholder meetings to also meet the requirements of section 106. NOAA anticipates completion of the final environmental impact statement and concomitant documents will require approximately twelve months from the date of publication of this notice of intent.

DATES: Comments must be received by May 25, 2012. Dates for scoping meetings are:
    1. April 17, 2012.
    2. April 18, 2012.
    3. April 19, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any one of the following methods:


     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2012-0077.


     Mail: Jeff Gray, Sanctuary Superintendent, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 500 West Fletcher Street, Alpena, MI 49707.

Instructions

    All comments received are a part of the public record. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ellen Brody, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, Telephone: (734) 741-2270.

 

Background Information

    In 2000, NOAA designated the 448-square-mile Thunder Bay National
Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS or sanctuary), which is jointly managed by NOAA
and the State of Michigan (65 FR 39041). The sanctuary's mission is to
preserve nationally significant shipwrecks and other maritime heritage
resources through resource protection, education, and research. Well-
preserved by Lake Huron's cold, fresh water, these shipwrecks span a
century and a half of Great Lakes maritime history and include
virtually all types of vessels used on the Great Lakes. Within the
existing sanctuary boundary are approximately one hundred shipwrecks.


    NOAA has received a number of comments expressing interest in
expanding the sanctuary's boundary to include the waters adjacent to
Alcona and Presque Isle Counties since the scoping process in 2006 for
the sanctuary's management plan review. Several local government and
non-governmental organizations passed resolutions or submitted written
letters of support for boundary expansion

(see www.thunderbay.noaa.gov/management/mpr/boundexp

for copies of those documents). In 2007, the Thunder Bay Sanctuary

Advisory Council adopted a resolution to increase the boundary to include

Alcona, Alpena, and Presque Isle Counties to the international border

with Canada to provide protection for those
known maritime heritage resources and those yet to be discovered. The
expanded sanctuary could include all or part of a study area proposed
by the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council. The study area for
possible expansion contains approximately one hundred shipwrecks. Among
them are a number of historically, archaeologically, and recreationally
significant shipwrecks not currently included in the sanctuary.


    The sanctuary's final management plan (2009) included the following
strategy: ``Evaluate and assess a proposed expansion of the sanctuary
to a 3,662-square-mile area from Alcona County to Presque Isle County,
east to the international border with Canada to protect, manage, and
interpret additional shipwrecks and other potential maritime heritage
resources.''


    In accordance with Section 304(e) of the National Marine
Sanctuaries Act, as amended (NMSA), 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq., the Office
of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is initiating a review of the Thunder
Bay National Marine Sanctuary boundaries to ``evaluate and assess a
proposed expansion'' for the sanctuary. Expanding the sanctuary
boundary to include some of the best preserved shipwrecks in the Great
Lakes would provide protection to maritime heritage resources under the
NMSA. Designation as a sanctuary draws public attention to the fact
that these cultural resources have national significance and inclusion
in the national marine sanctuary system could provide additional
opportunities for tourism and economic growth.

Review Process

    The review process is composed of four primary stages:
    1. Information collection and characterization, including public
scoping meetings;
    2. Preparation and release of a draft environmental impact
statement (DEIS) as required by Section 304(a) of the NMSA that
identifies boundary expansion alternatives, as well as a notice of
proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the sanctuary regulations to
reflect any new boundary if proposed.
    3. Public review and comment on the DEIS and NPRM; and
    4. Preparation and release of a final environmental impact
statement, including a response to public comments, with a final rule
if appropriate.

NOAA anticipates that the completion of the final environmental impact
statement and concomitant documents will require approximately twelve
months.


    At this time, NOAA is opening a public comment period to:
    1. Gather information and public comments from individuals,
organizations, and government agencies on whether TBNMS should expand
its boundary, suggestions for the extent of an expanded boundary, and
the potential effects of a boundary expansion;
    2. Help determine the scope of issues to be addressed in the
preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) pursuant to the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), if
warranted; and
    3. Conduct a series of public scoping meetings to collect public
comment. The public scoping meeting schedule is presented below.
    Public Scoping Meetings: The public scoping meetings will be held
on the following dates and at the following locations beginning at 5:30
p.m. unless otherwise noted:

1. Alpena, MI
    Date: April 17, 2012 Location: Michigan Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.
    Address: 500 W. Fletcher Street, Alpena, MI 49707.
2. Rogers City, MI
    Date: April 18, 2012. Location: Presque Isle District Library.
    Address: 181 East Erie Street, Roger City, MI 49779.
3. Harrisville, MI
    Date: April 19, 2012. Location: Alcona County EMS Building.
    Address: 2600 E. M-72, Harrisville, MI 48740.

Consultation Under National Historic Preservation Act

    This notice confirms that NOAA will fulfill its responsibility
under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA, 16
U.S.C. 470) through the ongoing NEPA process, pursuant to 36 CFR
800.8(a) including the use of NEPA documents and public and stakeholder
meetings to meet the section 106 requirements. The NHPA specifically
applies to any agency undertaking that may affect historic properties.
Pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(1)(1), historic properties includes: ``Any
prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure or object
included in, or eligible for inclusion in, the National Register of
Historic Places maintained by the Secretary of the Interior. The term
includes artifacts, records, and remains that are related to and
located within such properties. The term includes properties of
traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or
Native Hawaiian organization and that meet the National Register
criteria.''


    In fulfilling its responsibility under the NHPA and NEPA, NOAA
intends to identify consulting parties; identify historic properties
and assess the effects of the undertaking on such properties; initiate
formal consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer, the
Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, and other consulting
parties; involve the public in accordance with NOAA's NEPA procedures,
and develop in consultation with identified consulting parties
alternatives and proposed measures that might avoid, minimize or
mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties and describe them
in any environmental assessment or draft environmental impact
statement.