Possible Boundary Expansion of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries

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

DATES: Comments must be received by March 1, 2013. Dates for scoping meetings are:

    (1) January 24 2013 at the Bodega Bay Grange Hall.

    (2) February 12, 2013 at the Gualala Community Center.

    (3) February 13, 2013 at the Point Arena High School.


ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 


NOAA-NOS-2012-0228, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 

www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2012-0228, click the 

``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 

attach your comments.

     Mail: Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent, Gulf of the 

Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 991 Marine Drive, The Presidio, 

San Francisco, CA 94129.

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 

address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 

may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 

public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 

www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 

information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 

information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 

by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous 

comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 

anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 

Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Brown at Maria.Brown@noaa.gov or 

 415-561-6622; or Dan Howard at Dan.Howard@noaa.gov or  415-663-0314.




Background Information


    Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS), 

designated in 1981, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS), 

designated in 1989, are federally protected marine areas along and 

offshore of California's north-central coast. Centered along an 

important upwelling area, the sanctuaries are able to support important 

commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and recreation 

industries, and coastal economies and communities. Sanctuary personnel 

contribute greatly to ocean and coastal management by engaging in 

public outreach and education to promote stewardship, conducting 

scientific and applied research initiatives, and developing and 

supporting programs that strengthen resource protection for the long-

term health of the region.

    NOAA is considering expansion of GFNMS and CBNMS to an area north 

of the existing sanctuaries that extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma 

County, to Alder Creek in Mendocino County, and west to the edge of the 

continental shelf. This area encompasses the Point Arena upwelling 

center that consistently produces the most intense upwelling in all of 

North America.

    The nutrients brought to the surface during upwelling events at 

Point Arena are carried south into the sanctuaries by the prevailing 

California Current; these nutrients fuel an incredibly productive ocean 

area protected by GFNMS and CBNMS. The sanctuaries are destination 

feeding areas for endangered blue whales and humpback whales, sharks, 

salmon, and seabirds like albatrosses and shearwaters that travel tens 

of thousands of miles. Food that results from the Point Arena upwelling 

center also supports the largest assemblage of breeding seabirds in the 

contiguous United States on the Farallon Islands. Living reefs of 

corals, sponges and a myriad of other invertebrates cover hard bottom 

areas and these sessile invertebrate communities are washed with food 

rich water from the north. These invertebrate reefs also provide 

structure and habitat for many species of juvenile and adult rockfish 

that prosper in these productive waters. Sanctuary waters also support 

valuable commercial fisheries for salmon and Dungeness crab. Local 

ports and coastal communities all derive socioeconomic benefits from 

these healthy ocean habitats. The rich diversity and health of this 

thriving marine ecosystem depends on the cold nutrient rich source 

water originating from the Point Arena upwelling center.

    In 2008, the joint management plan review for CBNMS and GFNMS 

determined that managers in these sanctuaries would facilitate a public 

process in the next five years to ensure that ``current boundaries were 

inclusive of the area's natural resource and ecological qualities, 

including the biogeographic representation of the area.'' Sanctuary 

advisory councils from both sites have regularly discussed the boundary 

expansion alternative and have expressed support for boundary expansion 

when proposed by local congressional members.

    In accordance with Section 304(e) of the NMSA, NOAA is now 

initiating a review of the boundaries for CBNMS and GFNMS to evaluate 

and assess a proposed expansion of the sanctuaries. As noted above, 

NOAA is considering extending the boundaries of the two sanctuaries to 

add the northern area from Bodega Bay, Sonoma County to Alder Creek, 

Mendocino County, and west to the edge of the continental shelf


[[Page 75602]]


(for a map of the area considered and other relevant information, see 

http://farallones.noaa.gov/manage/northern_area.html). In doing so, 

NOAA is considering extending, and as necessary amending, the 

regulations and management plan for GFNMS and CBNMS to this area and is 

specifically requesting public comment on issues that would arise in 

doing so. This expansion would protect the upwelling source waters of 

the sanctuaries as well as nationally-significant seascapes, wildlife, 

and shipwrecks, and would promote ecotourism and sustainable fishing 

practices. Although no decision has been made yet regarding this 

possible action, expanded sanctuary boundaries could protect up to an 

additional 2,771 square statute miles.


Review Process


    The review process for the proposed expansion of the sanctuary 

boundaries is composed of four stages:

    1. Determine the scope of issues to be addressed and identify 

significant issues related to any proposed expansion;

    2. Prepare and release a draft environmental impact statement 

(DEIS) that identifies boundary expansion alternatives, together with 

all other documents required by the NMSA including a resource 

assessment, revised management plans, and a notice of proposed 

rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the sanctuary regulations;

    3. Allow public review and comment on the DEIS, NPRM, and related 

documents; and

    4. Prepare and release a final environmental impact statement and 

related documents, including a response to public comments, with a 

final rule if appropriate.

    NOAA anticipates that completing the review and process for 

potentially expanding sanctuary boundaries will take approximately 18-

24 months.

    At this time, NOAA is soliciting public comments to:

    1. Gather information and comments from individuals, organizations, 

and government agencies on: (a) Whether NOAA should expand GFNMS and 

CBNMS boundaries; and (b) what, if any, potential effects might result 

from a boundary expansion; and

    2. Help determine the scope of issues, including alternatives to be 

considered, in the preparation of an environmental impact statement 

(EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (43 

U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), if warranted.

    Public Scoping Meetings: NOAA intends to conduct a series of public 

scoping meetings to collect public comments. These meetings will be 

held on the following dates and at the following locations and times:


1. Bodega Bay, CA


    Date: January 24, 2013.

    Location: Bodega Bay Grange Hall.

    Address: 1370 Bodega Avenue, Bodega Bay, CA 94923.

    Time: 6 p.m.


2. Gualala, CA


    Date: February 12, 2013.

    Location: Gualala Community Center.

    Address: 47950 Center Street, Gualala, CA 95445

    Time: 6 p.m.


3. Pt. Arena, CA


    Date: February 13, 2013.

    Location: Point Arena High School.

    Address: 185 Lake Street, Point Arena, CA 95468.

    Time: 6 p.m.