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DOC/NOAA RIN: 0648-AX50 Publication ID: Fall 2010 
Title: Critical Habitat Designation for Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Under the Endangered Species Act 
Abstract: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale Distinct Population Segment as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on October 17, 2009. NMFS is required to designate critical habitat no later than one year after the publication of a listing. NMFS intends to publish a proposed rule by October 17, 2009. 
Agency: Department of Commerce(DOC)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
EO 13771 Designation: uncollected 
CFR Citation: 50 CFR 226   
Legal Authority: 16 USC 1531 et seq   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale Distinct Population Segment as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on October 17, 2009. NMFS is required to designate critical habitat no later than one year after the publication of a listing. NMFS intends to publish a proposed rule by October 17, 2009.

Summary of the Legal Basis: Endangered Species Act

Alternatives: Alternative 1. No action (status quo): NMFS would not designate critical habitat (CH) in Cook Inlet, Alaska, for the Cook Inlet beluga whale. Conservation and recovery of the listed species would depend exclusively upon the protections provided under the "jeopardy" provisions of Section 7 of the ESA. Alternative 2. Designate Area 1 and Area 2, which encompass all of upper-Cook Inlet, north of a line at 60° 25' north latitude, and portions of mid- and lower-Cook Inlet, extending south along the west side of the Cook Inlet, following the tidal flats into Kamishak Bay to Douglas Reef, between MHHW and waters within two nautical miles of shore. It further includes all waters of Kachemak Bay, eastward of 151° 30' west longitude and seaward of MHHW.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: The post-designation incremental costs are estimated to range from $187,000 to $571,000, in present value terms, at a 3 percent discount rate, and from $157,000 to $472,000 at a 7 percent discount rate. Approximately six Federal action agencies for section 7 consultations are anticipated to bear 70 percent ($398,000) of these costs, while 26 percent ($148,000) are expected to accrue to NMFS, as the consulting agency. The remaining four percent ($25,000) of these costs may be borne by third parties, during the consultations. Of the total costs to Federal action agencies, the DOD is anticipated to bear approximately 76 percent ($302,000). This is followed by USACE (9 percent; $37,000), NMFS (7 percent; $28,000), FERC (7 percent; $28,000), EPA (1 percent; $3,000), and FHWA (less than 1 percent; less than $1,000). Benefits are qualitative: Area more attractive to workers in various industrial sectors; anticipated conservation and recovery species; and the general stability in associated environs should provide increases in welfare to tourists, recreationists, wildlife watchers, Cook Inlet Ferry passengers, and future cruise ship passengers. This should result in higher revenues for relevant businesses. Other wildlife and fish species will benefit, resulting in overall improvements in commercial, recreational, personal use, and subsistence uses. The increase in Cook Inlet beluga whale populations, in the longer term, will provide more frequent subsistence harvest opportunities to the Alaska Natives and allow future generations to practice their traditional ways. It will enhance passive-use benefits among those who value this species and the myriad elements and aspects of the natural habitat that sustains it. Finally, as the ESA is carried out, there are expected to be scientific and educational benefits to the Nation.

Risks: Loss of critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale Distinct Population Segment and connected loss of Cook Inlet beluga whale members.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
ANPRM  04/14/2009  74 FR 17131   
ANPRM Comment Period End  05/14/2009    
NPRM  12/02/2009  74 FR 63080   
NPRM Comment Period Extended  01/12/2010  75 FR 1582   
NPRM Comment Period End  02/01/2010    
Final Action  12/00/2010    
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: Federal, Local, State, Tribal 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions, Organizations  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Marta Nammack
Office of Protected Resources
Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1315 East-West Highway,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone:301 713-1401
Fax:301 427-2523
Email: marta.nammack@noaa.gov