NOAA proposes green sturgeon southern DPS critical habitat
73 Fed. Reg. 52083 / 73 FR 52083 (Monday, September 8, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 50 CFR Part 226; ocket No. 080730953-81003-01 RIN 0648-AX04; Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Proposed Rulemaking To Designate Critical Habitat for the Threatened Southern Distinct Population Segment of North American Green Sturgeon)
Green sturgeon range from the Bering Sea, Alaska, to Ensentilde]ada, Mexico, but a genetically distinct population segment exists in coastal watersheds south of the Eel River, with the only known spawning population in the Sacramento River. Green sturgeon utilize both freshwater and saltwater habitat; they spawn in deep pools or "holes" in large, turbulent, freshwater river mainstems, but as adults, they live in oceanic waters, bays, and estuaries when not spawning. As a result, this rule identified critical habitat by considering the essential needs of the species in PCEs essential for the conservation of the Southern DPS in freshwater riverine, estuarine, and coastal marine areas. Photo by Toz Soto, Karuk Tribe Fisheries Department, available from [[<a href="http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/greensturgeon.htm" title="NOAA" target=_new>NOAA</a>]].
SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), propose to designate critical habitat for the threatened Southern distinct population segment of North American green sturgeon (Southern DPS of green sturgeon) pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specific areas proposed for designation include: coastal U.S. marine waters within 110 meters (m) depth from Monterey Bay, California (including Monterey Bay), north to Cape Flattery, Washington, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington, to its United States boundary; the Sacramento River, lower Feather River, and lower Yuba River in California; the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun, San Pablo, and San Francisco bays in California; the lower Columbia River estuary; and certain coastal bays and estuaries in California (Humboldt Bay), Oregon (Coos Bay, Winchester Bay, and Yaquina Bay), and Washington (Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor). The areas proposed for designation comprise approximately 325 miles (524 km) of freshwater river habitat, 1,058 square miles (2,739 sq km) of estuarine habitat, 11,927 square miles (30,890 sq km) of marine habitat, and 136 square miles (352 sq km) of habitat within the Yolo and Sutter bypasses (Sacramento River, CA). We propose to exclude the following areas from designation because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion and exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species: coastal U.S. marine waters within 110 m depth from the California/Mexico border north to Monterey Bay, CA, and from the Alaska/Canada border northwest to the Bering Strait; and certain coastal bays and estuaries in California (Tomales Bay, Elkhorn Slough, Noyo Harbor, and the estuaries to the head of the tide in the Eel and Klamath/Trinity rivers), Oregon (Tillamook Bay and the estuaries to the head of the tide in the Rogue, Siuslaw, and Alsea rivers), and Washington (Puget Sound). The areas excluded from the proposed designation comprise approximately 1,057 square miles (2,738 sq km) of estuarine habitat and 396,917 square miles (1,028,015 sq km) of marine habitat. We acknowledge that there may be costs incurred by those planning to undertake activities in certain areas, in particular Coo Bay, OR, or other areas along the lower Columbia River estuary, as a result of this proposed critical habitat designation for the Southern DPS of green sturgeon that were not captured in our draft economic report. These activities include, but are not limited to, liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, hydropower activities, and alternative energy projects. We solicit comment on what these additional costs might be and will consider any additional information received in developing our final determination to designate or exclude areas from critical habitat for the Southern DPS of green sturgeon.
KEITHINKING: As this announcement explains, "Once critical habitat is designated, section 7 of the ESA requires agencies to ensure they do not fund, authorize, or carry out any actions that will destroy or adversely modify that habitat. This requirement is in addition to the ESA section 7 requirement that Federal agencies ensure their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species." As a result, the decision to exclude critical habitat avoids the potential for these regulatory burdens, but also reduces the protection of the species.