Skip to main content
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary National Marine Sanctuaries Home Page National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Home Page

Draft Environmental Assessment

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) proposes to issue a revised management plan and revised regulations for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). ONMS prepared this draft environmental assessment (EA) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 United States Code (U.S.C.) §§ 4321 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ’s) Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §§ 1500-1508), and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A and its Companion Manual, “Policy and Procedures for Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Related Authorities.” This draft EA presents to the decision makers and the public an analysis of the potential environmental consequences of the proposed action and alternatives.


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
DRAFT Environmental Assessment

SECTIONS SIZE
  Cover, Consultants, Figures, Acronyms 1.2M PDF
  Introduction 184K PDF
  Proposed Action Purpose & Need
Background • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Setting • Regulations and Prohibitions • Implementing the Management Plan
160K PDF
  Description of Alternatives
Climate Change • Coastal Erosion and Sediment Management • Davidson Seamount • Emerging Issues • Introduced Species • Marine Debris • Water Quality Protection Program • Wildlife Disturbance
795K PDF
  Affected Environment
Education, Outreach, and Communication • Marine Spatial Planning • Maritime Heritage • Operations and Administration • Research and Monitoring • Resource Protection
1.6M PDF
  Environmental Consequences
Education, Outreach, and Communication • Marine Spatial Planning • Maritime Heritage • Operations and Administration • Research and Monitoring • Resource Protection
950K PDF
  References 242K PDF
  Appendices 2.3M PDF

Complete MBNMS DRAFT Environmental Assessment 6.2M PDF

 


 

Draft Environmental Assessment at a glance

In this draft EA, NOAA analyzed the effects on the physical, biological, human/socioeconomic, and historical/cultural settings from three alternatives under consideration. Effects were classified as beneficial or adverse, direct or indirect, significant or less than significant (as defined in Section 5.1.2). Additionally, in Section 5.6, NOAA analyzed the cumulative effects of the actions proposed under all three alternatives within the context of other federal and non-federal activities occurring in the sanctuary. In all cases, the effects of all three alternatives were found to be less than significant. This is a brief summary of the anticipated effects of the actions that would take place under each of the three alternatives on each setting in MBNMS.

Many routine research and monitoring, education and outreach, and resource protection and stewardship activities would continue under all three alternatives. Under Alternatives B and C, NOAA would conduct new outreach, education, and collaboration activities with new and existing partners in new topic areas with the goal of addressing new management areas of concern.

Alternative A (Continuing to manage the sanctuary by conducting routine field activities, and implementing the 2008 sanctuary management plan and existing sanctuary-wide regulations) would have overall beneficial effects on the environment as NOAA would gain more information and take actions to better protect resources in MBNMS. In addition, the public would become more informed about the importance of stewardship of sanctuary resources; and damaged resources would be restored, as needed. While there are some adverse effects expected with this alternative, mostly associated with routine field activities, these effects are not expected to be significant and should be short-term or minor in the context of ongoing activities in the sanctuary. Categories of activities identified to have some potential to contribute to cumulative effects include those that could result in seafloor disturbance, noise pollution, as well as vessel operations and routine resource protection activities.

Alternative B (Continuing to manage the sanctuary by conducting routine field activities, implementing existing sanctuary-wide regulations, and adopting a revised sanctuary management plan) would have similar types and intensity of beneficial and adverse effects as Alternative A, but would allow NOAA to conduct research, monitoring, and resource protection activities in new focus areas in collaboration with partners and to implement some new types of field operations. The revised management plan would address the absence of climate change considerations in the 2008 sanctuary management plan, outline implementation of coastal erosion and sediment management plans, propose action on marine debris and explore potential needs and impacts related to Sanctuary Ecologically Significant Areas, assessment of motorized personal watercraft zone use, offshore wind energy, and artificial reefs. These new activities would provide additional beneficial impacts not gained under Alternative A to further inform the management and protection of MBNMS resources.

In comparison, Alternative C (Continuing to manage the sanctuary by conducting routine field activities, adopting a revised sanctuary management plan and associated action plans, and revising sanctuary-wide regulations) would have similar types and intensity of beneficial and adverse effects as Alternative B. In addition, implementing the proposed regulatory changes would provide further benefits to MBNMS resources by strengthening existing regulations to protect physical, biological, and cultural resources from damage associated with zone marker buoy failure, and motorized personal watercraft interactions; as well as providing recreational opportunities and minimizing interactions of these activities with other human uses of MBNMS. Alternative C would also provide additional benefits to users of coastal areas adjacent to the sanctuary by allowing for permitting of beach nourishment activities to address coastal erosion and maintain public access. Permitting of beach nourishment could result in temporary disturbance to the physical and biological setting during project implementation. However, these projects would be evaluated in detail at the time of a permit application.

In summary, the alternatives are sequentially more protective of the resources in MBNMS, while also providing opportunities for improved recreation and public access to the sanctuary and adjacent shorelines. As demonstrated in the analysis of environmental consequences, the continued operation and management of MBNMS (under alternatives A, B, and C), the revision of the sanctuary management plan (under alternatives B and C), and adoption of revised regulations (under alternative C) would have an overall beneficial effect on resources within the sanctuary. Because the management plan is a broad, guidance document, many of these anticipated beneficial effects would be indirect, resulting from MBNMS efforts to 1) improve public understanding of ocean stewardship issues, 2) further scientific understanding of sanctuary ecosystems and cultural and historical resources, 3) implement resource protection and maritime heritage programs, and, 4) implement regulations to limit stressors on marine resources. These beneficial effects would be less than significant because they are relatively small in scope and intensity and therefore are not likely to result in a substantial, measurable improvement in resource health and protection over the five to ten year life of the proposed management plan.

In addition to these beneficial effects, some actions proposed under all alternatives would have adverse effects on resources. These adverse effects include: disturbance of the seafloor and benthic habitat from marker buoy deployment and sampling activities, and disturbance of wildlife through research and monitoring of species. In all cases, adverse effects were found to be less than significant because NOAA conducts these activities on a small scale and in a manner that implements best practices to substantially minimize the risks of impacts to resources.

NOAA also found that the cumulative effects of the actions proposed under all three alternatives would be less than significant because the effects of MBNMS actions (both beneficial and adverse) are small in scale and localized. Thus, the addition of these minor effects to those of other similar activities occurring in the sanctuary would not significantly alter the cumulative effects of these activities overall.