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e-CFR data is current as of January 15, 2021

Title 15Subtitle BChapter IXSubchapter DPart 970Subpart G → §970.701

Title 15: Commerce and Foreign Trade
Subpart G—Environmental Effects

§970.701   Significant adverse environmental effects.

(a) Activities with no significant impact. NOAA believes that exploration activities of the type listed below are very similar or identical to activities considered in section 6(c)(3) of NOAA Directives Manual 02-10, and therefore have no potential for significant environmental impact, and will require no further environmental assessment.

(1) Gravity and magnetometric observations and measurements;

(2) Bottom and sub-bottom acoustic profiling or imaging without the use of explosives;

(3) Mineral sampling of a limited nature such as those using either core, grab or basket samplers;

(4) Water and biotic sampling, if the sampling does not adversely affect shellfish beds, marine mammals, or an endangered species, or if permitted by the National Marine Fisheries Service or another Federal agency;

(5) Meteorological observations and measurements, including the setting of instruments;

(6) Hydrographic and oceanographic observations and measurements, including the setting of instruments;

(7) Sampling by box core, small diameter core or grab sampler, to determine seabed geological or geotechnical properties;

(8) Television and still photographic observation and measurements;

(9) Shipboard mineral assaying and analysis; and

(10) Positioning systems, including bottom transponders and surface and subsurface buoys filed in Notices to Mariners.

(b) Activities with potential impact. (1) NOAA research has identified at-sea testing of recovery equipment and the operation of processing test facilities as activities which have some potential for significant environmental impacts during exploration. However, the research has revealed that only the following limited effects are expected to have potential for significant adverse environmental impact.

(2) The programmatic EIS's documents three at-sea effects of deep seabed mining which cumulatively during commercial recovery have the potential for significant effect. These three effects also occur during mining system tests that may be conducted under a license, but are expected to be insignificant. These include the following:

(i) Destruction of benthos in and near the collector track. Present information reflects that the impact from this effect during mining tests under exploration licenses will be extremely small.

(ii) Blanketing of benthic fauna and dilution of food supply away from mine site subareas. The settling of fine sediments disturbed by tests under a license of scale-model mining systems which simulate commercial recovery could adversely affect benthic fauna by blanketing, diluation of their food supply, or both. Because of the anticipated slow settling rate of the sediments, the affected area could be quite large. However, research results are insufficient to conclude that this will indeed be a problem.

(iii) Surface plume effect on fish larvae. The impact of demonstration-scale mining tests during exploration is expected to be insignificant.

(3) If processing facilities in the United States are planned to be used for testing during exploration, NOAA also will assess their impacts in the site-specific EIS developed for each license.

(c) NOAA approach. In making determinations on significant adverse environmental effects, the Administrator will draw on the above conclusions and other findings in NOAA's programmatic environmental statement and site-specific statements issued in accordance with the Act. He will issue licenses with terms, conditions and restrictions containing, as appropriate, environmental protection or mitigation requirements (pursuant to §970.518) and monitoring requirements (pursuant to §970.522). The focus of NOAA's environmental efforts will be on environmental research and on monitoring during mining tests to acquire more information on the environmental effects of deep seabed mining. If these efforts reveal that modification is required to protect the quality of the environment, NOAA then may modify terms, conditions and restrictions pursuant to §970.512.

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