Incidental Harassment Authorization Renewals
This page describes the details and conditions of the Inicidental Harassment Authorization renewal process under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
NOAA Fisheries is now implementing an expedited process (approximately 60 days) whereby the agency may, on a case-by-case basis, issue a one-time, one-year Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15-day public comment period, provided certain conditions are met and the activities covered by the proposed Renewal consist of either:
- up to another year of identical, or nearly identical, activities as were covered by the initial IHA (or a subset of those activities) or
- a subset of the activities covered by the initial IHA because the originally planned activities were not completed within the effective dates of the initial IHA and are planned for completion under the proposed Renewal.
This expedited process is designed for application to simple, relatively low-impact projects with little to no uncertainty regarding the impacts of the activity on marine mammals, including type and amount of expected take. Please consult with NOAA Fisheries prior to submitting a request for a Renewal to ensure the activity qualifies, as the process to obtain authorization will take longer if a Renewal is not appropriate.
The following conditions must be met in order for a Renewal IHA to be issued:
- A request for Renewal is received no later than 60 days prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from expiration of the initial IHA).
- The request for Renewal must include the following:
- An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the proposed Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take).
- A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized.
- Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the affected species or stocks, the preliminary monitoring report, and any other pertinent information, NOAA Fisheries determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid.
Public Comment on Renewal IHAs
In order to ensure adequate public input on Renewal IHAs, NOAA Fisheries is including language in all Federal Register notices for proposed initial IHAs inviting the public to comment both on the proposed initial IHA and the potential for a Renewal. Another notice published in the Federal Register providing an additional 15 days for public comment will allow for submission of any additional comments when and if a request for a Renewal is actually received. The public is thus encouraged to consider and comment upon a potential Renewal IHA during both the initial 30-day public comment period and the additional 15-day public comment period at the time of a Renewal request. Further, NOAA Fisheries will provide direct notice of a proposed Renewal by email, phone, or postal service (in this order) to persons who commented on the proposed initial IHA, to provide further opportunity to submit any additional comments. Language explaining the possibility of and inviting comment upon a Renewal must be included in the Federal Register notice for the proposed initial IHA in order for a Renewal to be considered.
Timeline and Recommended Qualification Pre-Check
We strongly recommend that IHA holders contact NOAA Fisheries prior to submitting a Renewal request to ensure that the activity would qualify for the Renewal process; to ensure that compliance with the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and/or any other applicable law is possible within the 60-day timeframe; and to request any other needed information or clarification on the process.
The 60-day timeline is only attainable for qualifying activities and where the Renewal request is complete and sufficient upon receipt, as the time for additional questions, discussion, or required information is very limited given the time needed for the additional 15-day public comment period, to review the Renewal request and preliminary monitoring report, to prepare the proposed and final Federal Register notices, and to address any additional public comments received. Applicants may submit Renewal requests more than 60 days in advance.
Renewal Requests must clearly describe how the activities qualify for a Renewal IHA, as described above. When requesting a Renewal to cover a subset of activities or remaining activities that were analyzed under the initial IHA, please include the type and amount of activity that is requested to be covered under the Renewal and an explanation of the amount and type of take expected to result from the activity.
Renewal requests must be submitted in writing and clearly indicate how the activities qualify for a Renewal IHA, as described above. Specifically: the request should include all of the following, along with any other pertinent information:
- If the activities are entirely identical, a request may refer to the initial application and indicate that the specified activities planned under the Renewal request are entirely identical to those included in the initial application – specifying: same location, same equipment, same manner of conducting activities, same timing (if activities were seasonal), same total duration/amount, etc.
- If the activities are nearly identical, a request as described in the previous bullet, but also clearly describing the minor change in the activity and why it will have either no effect on the impacts to marine mammals, or will decrease the type and/or amount of expected take.
- If the requested Renewal is to cover a subset of the activities for which take was authorized in the initial IHA, the request should be as described in the first bullet, and also clearly explain what type and amount of work remains to be completed under the Renewal, as well as what type and amount of take is expected to be caused by the remaining work.
- The preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the required monitoring to date and explanation showing that the monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized.
- A statement that mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same.
Renewal qualification pre-checks and Renewal requests should be addressed to both Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and the analyst that processed the initial IHA.
Qualified to apply for Renewal:
- Applicant conducts bird research at three sites (resulting in behavioral harassment of pinnipeds) as covered by the initial IHA. Sixty days prior to expiration of the initial IHA, applicant requests Renewal to authorize take incidental to a second year conducting the same research, at the same three sites, for the same duration, in the same seasons – with no other known changes.
- Applicant plans to build a pier requiring installation of 100 piles and receives an IHA authorizing incidental take of marine mammals from the planned work. Applicant is unable to complete installation of 100 piles before the expiration of the initial IHA and 60 days prior to expiration of the initial IHA, the applicant requests Renewal to install the remaining 25 piles. Nothing about the planned activity is different from what was analyzed in the initial IHA.
Not qualified to apply for Renewal:
- Applicant conducts bird research at three sites (resulting in behavioral harassment of pinnipeds) as covered by the initial IHA. Two months prior to the expiration of the initial IHA, applicant requests Renewal to authorize take incidental to a second year conducting the same research, at the same three sites, for the same duration, in the same seasons – but with one new site also added, which is associated with the need for additional take authorization (i.e., higher numbers than the initial IHA).
- Applicant builds Pier 1 at location X and is authorized under an IHA to incidentally take marine mammals. Applicant completes construction and requests a Renewal to construct Pier 2 at nearby location Y using identical materials and methods, over the course of the same number of days, in the same season, and resulting in fewer takes than the initial IHA.
Of note, even when a project does not qualify for a Renewal IHA, it may be possible to expedite the process when activities are similar to those that have been analyzed previously.