[Federal Register: August 8, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 153)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 51530-51532]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH33


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 226

[I.D. 052002A]
RIN 0648-AQ03

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for the Gulf Sturgeon

AGENCIES: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior, and National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of availability (NOA) of draft economic 
analysis, and correction on public hearing location.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine 
Fisheries Service, collectively ``the Services'' are announcing the 
availability of a draft economic analysis of the proposal to designate 
critical habitat for the Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi). 
We are soliciting public comments on both the proposal and the draft 
economic analysis. We also are correcting the address of a public 
hearing to be held in Defuniak Springs, FL on August 20, 2002.

DATES: Comments: We are extending the comment period announced in the 
proposed rule, published at 67 FR 39106, to allow a 60-day comment 
period following this NOA.The revised comment period on both the 
proposed critical habitat designation and the draft economic analysis 
is now open and will close on October 7, 2002. We must receive comments 
from all interested parties by the closing date. Any comments that we 
receive after the closing date will not be considered. Comments 
previously submitted need not be resubmitted as they have already been 
incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in the 
final rule.

[[Page 51531]]

    Public Hearings: The Services have scheduled four public hearings 
from August 19 to 22, 2002, on the proposed critical habitat 
designation and the draft economic analysis. See SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for details including locations, times and dates.

ADDRESSES: Draft Economic Analysis: Copies of the draft economic 
analysis are available on the Internet at http://alabama.fws.gov/gs/ or 
by writing to or calling Patty Kelly, Panama City Field Office, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, FL 32405; 
telephone 850/769-0552.
    Comments: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by 
any one of several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the Project 
Leader, c/o Patty Kelly, Panama City Field Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, FL 32405.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Panama City Field 
Office, at the above address or fax your comments to 850/763-2177.
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
gulfsturgeon@fws.gov. For directions on how to submit electronic filing 
of comments, see ``Public Comments Solicited.''
    4. You may provide oral and/or written comments at any of the 
public hearings.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patty Kelly, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Panama City Field Office (see ADDRESSES) (telephone 850/769-
0552, extension 228) with questions concerning units 1 to 7; or 
Stephania Bolden, NOAA Fisheries, at 9721 Executive Center Drive North, 
St. Petersburg, FL 33702-2449 (telephone 727/570-5312; facsimile 727/
570-5517) with questions concerning units 8 to 14.



    The Services listed the Gulf sturgeon as a threatened species under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), on September 30, 
1991 (56 FR 49653). On June 6, 2002, we published in the Federal 
Register a proposal to designate critical habitat for this species (67 
FR 39106). The proposed designation includes portions of the following 
Gulf of Mexico rivers and tributaries as critical habitat for the Gulf 
sturgeon: Pearl and Bogue Chitto Rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi; 
Pascagoula, Leaf, Bowie (also referred to as Bouie), Big Black Creek 
and Chickasawhay Rivers in Mississippi; Escambia, Conecuh, and Sepulga 
Rivers in Alabama and Florida; Yellow, Blackwater, and Shoal Rivers in 
Alabama and Florida; Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers in Florida and 
Alabama; Apalachicola and Brothers Rivers in Florida; and Suwannee and 
Withlacoochee River in Florida.
    The proposal also includes portions of the following estuarine and 
marine areas: Lake Pontchartrain (east of the Lake Pontchartrain 
Causeway), Lake Catherine, Little Lake, The Rigolets, Lake Borgne, 
Pascagoula Bay and Mississippi Sound systems in Louisiana and 
Mississippi, and sections of the adjacent state waters within the Gulf 
of Mexico; Pensacola Bay system in Florida; Santa Rosa Sound in 
Florida; nearshore Gulf of Mexico in Florida; Choctawhatchee Bay system 
in Florida; Apalachicola Bay system in Florida; and Suwannee Sound and 
adjacent state waters within the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. These 
geographic areas encompass approximately 2,544 river kilometers (1,580 
river miles) and 6,042 square kilometers (2,333 square miles) of 
estuarine and marine habitat.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that the Services designate or 
revise critical habitat based upon the best scientific data available 
and after taking into consideration the economic impact, and any other 
relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. 
We may exclude an area from critical habitat if we determine that the 
benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the 
area as critical habitat, provided such exclusion will not result in 
the extinction of the species. Consequently, we have prepared a draft 
economic analysis concerning the proposed critical habitat designation, 
which is available for review and comment (see ADDRESSES ).

Public Hearings

    The Services have scheduled four public hearings on the proposed 
critical habitat designation and the draft economic analysis. We will 
hold public informational meetings prior to each public hearing at the 
hearing locations. The public information sessions will start at 5 p.m. 
and end at 6:30 p.m. The formal public hearings will start at 7 p.m. 
and end at 9 p.m. on the dates indicated.
    (1) August 19, 2002, Suwannee River Water Management District, 9225 
C.R. 49, Live Oak, FL 32060.
    (2) August 20, 2002, Chautaugua Building, Museum Room, 96 Circle 
Drive, Defuniak Springs, FL 32435
    (3) August 21, 2002, J. L. Scott Marine Education Center and 
Aquarium, 115 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530.
    (4) August 22, 2002, Hilton New Orleans Airport, 901 Airline Drive, 
Kenner, LA 70062.

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit comments on the draft economic analysis, as well as any 
other aspect of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the 
Gulf sturgeon. Anyone wishing to make an oral statement for the record 
at the public hearings is encouraged to provide a written copy of their 
statement to us at the start of the hearing. In the event there is a 
large attendance, the time allotted for oral statements may have to be 
limited. Oral and written statements receive equal consideration. There 
are no limits to the length of written comments presented at the 
hearings or mailed to us. Our final economic analysis and final 
designation of critical habitat will take into consideration comments 
and any additional information received by the date specified above. 
The comment period for both the proposed rule and the draft economic 
analysis closes on [insert date 60 days after date of publication in 
the FEDERAL REGISTER]. All previous comments and information submitted 
during the comment period need not be resubmitted. Written comments may 
be submitted to the Project Leader (see ADDRESSES).
    Please submit electronic comments as an ASCII file format and avoid 
the use of special characters and encryption. Please also include 
``Attn: RIN 1018-A123'' and your name and return address in your e-mail 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we 
have received your e-mail message, please contact us directly by 
calling our Panama City Field Office (see ADDRESSES).
    Our practice is to make all comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by 
law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must 
state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, we 
will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from

[[Page 51532]]

organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.


    In the proposed rule, published at 67 FR 39106, June 6, 2002, we 
inadvertently published an incorrect address for the location of the 
hearing to be held in Defuniak Springs, FL on August 20, 2002. The 
corrected address is provided in this notice under the heading ``Public 


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

    Dated: July 29, 2002.
Donald R. Knowles,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 

    August 1, 2002.
Craig Manson
Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of 
[FR Doc. 02-20091 Filed 8-7-02; 8:45 am]