Adequacy and Completeness for MMPA Incidental Take Applications
This page describes NOAA Fisheries' interpretation of, and process for assessing, adequacy and completeness of MMPA applications for incidental take authorizations.
Meaning of Adequate and Complete
While NOAA Fisheries’ implementing regulations for the MMPA do not contain a definition of “adequate and complete,” they do contain a specific description of the information that an applicant is required to provide (50 CFR 216.104 and included below). The statute itself indicates the determinations that we must make in order to issue an authorization. Further, we have developed standard practices and policies that allow for consistent, effective, and efficient analyses in support of authorization issuance. Based on the aforementioned factors, we consider an application adequate and complete when:
(1) the applicant has provided sufficient information in the application in response to the 14 questions required by NOAA Fisheries’ implementing regulations such that we can conduct the essential analysis;
(2) the information, methodologies, and analysis presented conform with the best available scientific information and relevant standard policies and practices of the agency (applicants may deviate from such policies and practices if a robust rationale is provided), and;
(3) the information presented supports the preliminary findings necessary for NOAA Fisheries to proceed with development of a proposed authorization for publication.
Application Review Protocols
This critical application review period includes a comprehensive and in-depth assessment by the primary analyst, as well as supplemental scientific and policy review and input from other staff and/or the supervisor, to maximize consistency across projects and confirm the adequate and complete determination.
The application review period may necessitate significant back-and-forth beyond NOAA Fisheries’ initial information request, depending upon the additional information provided by the applicant and the complexity of the project. Alternately, some applications are nearly adequate and complete upon receipt, and little or no additional information or clarification is needed.
NOAA Fisheries staff may work with applicants in advance of their submission to assist them in providing adequate and complete applications.
Targeted Timing for Application Reviews
NOAA Fisheries has timing targets for application review and the adequate and complete determination. These times do not include the time that it may take the applicant to respond to information requests, which may add significant time to the review process.
- Applicants may expect to receive the initial comprehensive request for additional necessary information within 2-3 weeks from assignment for routine actions (most IHAs) and within up to 5 weeks for more complex actions, e.g., actions that have impacts of high concern or are of significantly larger scale, precedent setting, and/or technically complex (more often incidental take regulations and Letters of Authorization).
- Following our receipt and review of responses and information from the applicant, additional requests for clarification, information, or application modification, if any, will be sent to applicant. We expect it to take between 1 and 4 additional weeks (depending on whether action is routine or complex) to complete the review and to ensure that the additional information provided by the applicant is sufficient to resolve all issues, and that the application has been revised as needed and may thereby be deemed adequate and complete.
Not counting the time that it takes an applicant to provide the necessary requested information, it will typically take between 3 weeks (simple actions with strong initial applications) and 9 weeks (complex, larger scale actions, as described above) for NOAA Fisheries staff to do the work necessary to deem an application adequate and complete.
Adequate and Complete Designation
Designation of the application as adequate and complete does not mean that NOAA Fisheries may not ask the applicant more clarifying questions prior to the publication of the proposed authorization (in the interest of ensuring the most scientifically robust and legally defensible proposal). However, it does mean that significant issues have been resolved. Unless the applicant modifies their activity or there is another major development that would potentially impact our conclusions, the following applies:
- NOAA Fisheries has the information needed to determine that the required findings can be made and move forward with the process.
- Further modification of the application will not be required.
- The 120-day time period has started (for IHAs).
The adequate and complete date will be recorded in 3 ways:
- The primary analyst will communicate to the applicant by email that the application is considered adequate and complete.
- The primary analyst will record the date in NOAA Fisheries’ APPS database, an internal database in which key project information and milestone dates are input and kept for the purposes of project tracking. This will allow for NOAA Fisheries to provide the information requested in the GAO’s second recommendation.
- The adequate and complete date will be reflected in the Federal Register notices announcing proposed or final incidental take authorizations or, in the case of incidental take regulations, receipt of applications.
Once an application is deemed adequate and complete, additional significant information interchange may be required during or following the public comment period in order to adequately respond to public input.