Developing a Section 7 Request Letter for Expedited Informal Consultation in Alaska
Section 7 consultations for routine, non-controversial actions that pose minimal threats to listed resources.
Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires federal agencies to consult with NOAA Fisheries or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when any project or action they take may affect an ESA-listed marine species or designated critical habitat. The ESA Consultation process can vary depending on the complexity of the project or action.
If the action agency concludes that the project is not likely to adversely affect listed species and critical habitat, it submits a request for informal consultation to NOAA Fisheries or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depending on the species affected. NOAA Fisheries or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the request and issue a Letter of Concurrence with a "not likely to adversely affect" determination.
The ESA also recognizes the need to respond immediately to emergencies. NOAA Fisheries can provide expedited consultations during emergencies so federal agencies can complete their critical missions in a timely manner while still providing protections to listed species.
Before Requesting an Expedited Consultation
Consider if your request will qualify as an expedited informal consultation. Informal consultations may be expedited for routine, non-controversial actions if the following conditions are met:
- The proposed action is a routine coastal construction project and is substantially similar to actions that have recently received Letters of Concurrence from NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Region.
- The proposed action is not the subject of pending or reasonable foreseeable litigation and is not considered to be controversial.
- The proposed action in its entirety has been evaluated and is not likely to adversely affect any ESA-listed species or critical habitat. All effects and possible results from the action can be categorized as one of the following:
- Wholly beneficial: Any impacts to the species or critical habitat are entirely positive; the action will never have any adverse effects on ESA-listed species.
- Insignificant: Insignificant effects relate to the magnitude of the potential impact. Any action that is likely to result in the take of an ESA-listed species (including harassment) is never considered to have insignificant effects. Based on best professional judgment, a person would not be able to meaningfully measure, detect, or evaluate insignificant effects.
- Discountable: Discountable effects are those extremely unlikely to occur. Based on best professional judgment, a person would not expect discountable effects to occur.
Requesting and Submitting an Expedited Consultation
Prepare and submit a consultation letter using Alaska's template (DOCX, 10 pages). For the consultation to be expedited, it is essential that a comprehensive, accurate, and complete letter is submitted. Letters should describe the action and its anticipated effects. Follow the steps below to prepare and submit a complete and adequate letter for expedited consultation.
- Describe the proposed action, answering the who, what, where, when, and how questions of the project. For multi-phased project, describe each phase separately. Including detailed information and specifications helps us understand the project scope. Required information by project type can be found in the template. Ensure you answer the following:
- What the project/action is.
- Where the project is — attached maps are helpful.
- When the action is going to take place — include timelines and implementation schedules.
- Who is going to do the action and under what authority.
- How the action will be accomplished, including specific mitigation measures to avoid effects to listed resources.
- Describe the action area, which includes all areas affected directly or indirectly by the action, including effects of increased noise, suspended sediment, water quality, and/or vessel traffic. The action area is distinct from and larger than the project footprint because some elements of the project (e.g., noise) may affect listed species some distance from the project footprint. The action area ends at the point where no measurable effects from the project are expected to occur.
- Indirect effects are effects caused by the proposed action that are reasonably certain to occur. They may also include the effects of interrelated or interdependent activities.
- An interrelated activity is part of the proposed action and depends on the proposed action for justification.
- Interdependent activities are those that follow the proposed action in time but are dependent upon the current action having taken place before the interdependent action can commence.
- Identify each Alaska ESA-listed species and/or designated critical habitat that may be affected by the action along with a reference to the most recent listing/designated notice in the Federal Register and any applicable species recovery plans.
- Discuss each potential effect on each ESA-listed species and/or each physical and biological feature of designated critical habitat (Physical and biological features of critical habitat are referred to as "Primary Constituent Elements" or "Essential Features" in older critical habitat designations). This must include a detailed rationale to support the conclusion that all effects are discountable, insignificant, or wholly beneficial.
- Provide a statement certifying that you have used the best scientific and commercial data available.
- Conclude your letter by specifying that you have made the determination that the proposed action is not likely to adversely affect listed species or critical habitat, if present, and that you request the concurrence of NOAA Fisheries.
- Submit your consultation letter to: Alaska Regional Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
What to Expect After Submission
If NOAA Fisheries determines the consultation request is adequate and eligible for expedited consultation, we will provide you with a letter of concurrence using an established template.
Under the current consultations process (not expedited), these letters can take over a month to finalize depending on the amount of detail provided by the action agency in the incoming request. By undergoing expedited consultation, you should receive your concurrence letter much sooner.
Please send requests to initiate an Alaska ESA Section 7 consultation and any questions regarding the consultation process to: AKR.PRD.Section7@noaa.gov.
- Expedited Informal Consultations in Alaska
- Section 7 Consultations in Alaska
- Alaska Biological Opinions Issued
- Understanding Consultations with Federal Agencies
- Interagency Consultation Guidance and Policy
- Environmental Consultation Organizer (ECO)
- Alaska Protected Resources Division