Fire Island Environmental Assessment by oca19154

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									National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

Gulf Islands National Seashore




                                     FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
                                                      Personal Watercraft Use
                                                  Gulf Islands National Seashore

               The National Park Service (NPS) has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) that evaluates a
               range of alternatives and strategies for the management of personal watercraft (PWC) use at Gulf
               Islands National Seashore in order to ensure the protection of park resources and values while offering
               recreational opportunities as provided for in the park’s enabling legislation, purpose, mission, and
               goals. The Environmental Assessment was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental
               Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). NPS is taking action to adopt special regulations to manage or
               discontinue PWC use within park units.

               In May 1998 the Bluewater Network filed a petition urging the NPS to initiate a rulemaking process to
               prohibit PWC use throughout the national park system. In response to the petition, the NPS issued an
               interim management policy requiring superintendents of parks where PWC use can occur but had not
               yet occurred to close the unit to such use until the rule was finalized. The Park Service envisioned the
               servicewide regulation as an opportunity to evaluate impacts from PWC use before authorizing the
               use. On March 21, 2000, the NPS issued a regulation prohibiting PWC use in most units and required
               21 units, including Gulf Islands National Seashore, to determine the appropriateness of continued
               PWC use.

               In response to the PWC final regulation, Bluewater Network sued the NPS, challenging the National
               Park Service’s decision to allow continued PWC use in 21 units while prohibiting PWC use in other
               units. In response to the suit, the NPS and the Bluewater Network negotiated a settlement. While 21
               units could continue PWC use in the short-term, each of those parks desiring to continue long-term
               PWC use would promulgate a park-specific special regulation. In addition, the settlement stipulates
               that the NPS must base its decision to issue a park-specific special regulation to continue PWC use
               through an environmental analysis conducted in accordance with NEPA. The NEPA analysis at a
               minimum, according to the settlement, must evaluate PWC impacts on water quality, air quality,
               soundscapes, wildlife, wildlife habitat, shoreline vegetation, visitor conflicts, and visitor safety.

               On April 22, 2002, PWC use was discontinued at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Since PWC use was
               discontinued, Gulf Islands National Seashore has identified a preferred alternative that continues PWC
               use under a special regulation with new management strategies and additional locational restrictions.

               The purpose of the EA was to evaluate the effects of authorizing a special regulation to address the use
               of PWC within the park boundaries. Three alternatives concerning the use of PWC at Gulf Islands
               National Seashore were evaluated which included two alternatives to continue PWC use under certain
               conditions: alternative A would reinstate PWC use under a special regulation as previously managed,
               and alternative B would reinstate PWC use under a special regulation with additional management
               prescriptions. In addition, a no action alternative was considered that would continue the prohibition of
               all PWC use within the National Seashore.



                                                                  1
                                                                               Finding of No Significant Impact


PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE

The NPS selected alternative (alternative B) is the preferred alternative and the environmentally
preferred alternative in the EA. This alternative allows for the use of PWC within the National
Seashore boundary with wake restrictions and PWC closure areas. With the adoption of the special
regulation under alternative B, PWC use will be allowed as follows.

Wake Restrictions. A flat-wake zone will be established 300 yards from all park shorelines at the
low-water mark with the exception of:

–   At the West Ship Island Pier, a flat-wake zone will extend 0.5 mile from the shoreline and 0.5
    mile from either side of the pier

–   Around all designated wilderness boundaries a flat-wake zone will be established 0.5 mile from
    the shorelines at the low-water mark. These areas include the designated wilderness islands of
    Horn and Petit Bois.

Areas of Use / Location Restrictions. No PWC operation will be permitted within 200 feet of non-
motorized watercraft and people in the water. However, other motorized watercraft will be permitted
in this 200-foot area at flat-wake speed. PWC will be allowed to beach at any point along the shore not
restricted by the above.

Besides the above restrictions, PWC use will be allowed throughout the National Seashore, except for
the following areas:

       The lakes, ponds, lagoons and inlets of East Ship Island, West Ship Island, Horn Island, Petit
        Bois Island and Cat Island (lands under NPS management) are closed to the use of motorized
        vessels.

       No motorized vessels are permitted above the mean high tide line on the designated
        wilderness islands of Horn and Petit Bois.

       The lagoons of Perdido Key within Big Lagoon are closed to all combustion engines.

       The areas 200 feet from the remnants of the old fishing pier and 200 feet from the new fishing
        pier at Fort Pickens are closed to all boating operations.

       Operating a vessel in excess of 5 mph or creating a wake is prohibited within 500 feet of the
        Davis Bayou launch ramp, the West Ship Island Pier, the Horn Island Pier, the Fort Pickens
        Pier, within the buoyed, flat-wake zone at Spoil (Sand) Island, and within the posted area on
        the north side of Perdido Key near the Fort McRee site.

       Seasonal closures within the seashore to protect wildlife and habitat according to the
        Superintendent’s Compendium.

       Harassing, hunting, capturing or killing any marine mammal, including manatees, is illegal.

Equipment and Emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency promulgated a rule to control
exhaust emissions from new marine engines, including outboard and PWC engines. Emission controls
provide for increasingly strict standards beginning in model year 1999 (EPA 1996a, 1997). PWC two-
stroke engines will be converted to cleaner direct-injected or four-stroke engines as part of this rule. It

                                                    2
                                                                             Finding of No Significant Impact


is the responsibility of the PWC industry to meet these regulations, not the responsibility of individual
owners.

It will be prohibited to operate a personal watercraft in park waters that had manufacturer-installed
emissions control equipment removed.

Safety / Operating Restrictions. All state and federal watercraft laws and regulations will apply to
PWC operators including regulations that address reckless or negligent operation, excessive speed,
hazardous wakes or washes, hours of operation, age of driver, and distance between vessels. Boating
regulations by state are as follows.

Florida:

       Everyone on board or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast
        Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device (PFD) at all times. Inflatable
        PFDs are not to be worn on personal watercraft.

       An operator of a personal watercraft equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch must
        attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD.

       Any person operating a personal watercraft must receive instruction in the safe handling of
        personal watercraft, and must have a written statement attesting to this.

       Personal watercraft may be operated only during the hours of one half-hour before sunrise to
        one half-hour after sunset.

       No one under the age of 14 years may operate any personal watercraft. No one under the age
        of 18 years may rent/lease a personal watercraft.

       A personal watercraft must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. It is illegal to:

         Weave personal watercraft through congested waterway traffic.
         Swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision (as in spraying another person
           or boat, or playing “chicken”).
         Jump the wake of another boat unreasonably or unnecessarily close to that boat or when
            visibility is obstructed.
       Escambia County, Florida: Personal watercraft cannot be operated at any time at more than
        idle speed within 200 feet of any fishing pier, dock or wharf; or, within 200 feet of the
        shoreline except within designated PWC operation areas or when in transit to and from the
        shoreline; or within 200 feet of designated swim areas.

Mississippi:

       Persons less than 12 years of age shall not operate a personal watercraft unless accompanied
        by an adult of 21 years of age and they must have completed a boating safety course. Proof of
        completion of the course must be carried onboard while the vessel is operating.




                                                   3
                                                                             Finding of No Significant Impact


       Anyone born after June 30, 1980 must successfully complete an approved boating safety
        course prior to operating any motorized vessel. Proof of completion of the course must be
        carried on board while the vessel is operating.

       Operation of a personal watercraft at any more than flat-wake speed is restricted within and
        100 feet adjacent to any small craft, marina, or public boat launch ramp. Operation is
        prohibited within 100 feet behind a water skier or another vessel.

       Each person riding on or towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a Type I, II, or III U.S.
        Coast Guard-approved PFD. It is recommended that those onboard a personal watercraft wear
        PFDs designed to withstand the impact of hitting the water at high speed.

       Personal watercraft should not be operated in a manner that requires the operator to swerve at
        the last possible moment to avoid collision. Furthermore, a personal watercraft should not
        jump the wake of another boat recklessly or unnecessarily close to that boat.

       Operating a personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal.

       Chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife with your personal watercraft is illegal.

       It is also strongly recommended that personal watercraft are only operated during daylight
        hours.

       In addition to the requirements above, Mississippi Ordinance No. 16.002 states that on marine
        waters south of Interstate Highway 10 (I-10):

         Personal watercraft must have a self-circling device or lanyard-type ignition safety switch
            with the lanyard attached to the operator’s person, clothing or PFD.
         Personal watercraft must not be operated at an excessive speed within 100 feet of another
            occupied boat or personal watercraft except in a crossing situation or overtaking in
            accordance with the navigation rules.
         Personal watercraft may not jump, or attempt to jump, the wake of another boat or personal
            watercraft within 100 feet of that boat.
Education/Enforcement. The following prescriptions will be added to management strategies:

       Enhance PWC user and boater education through interpretive talks, onsite bulletins, and
        brochures given to PWC registrants and visitors who rent personal watercraft.
       Enhance enforcement of federal regulations pertaining to harassment of marine mammals
        through ongoing water patrols (Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act).

ADDITIONAL ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED

As noted above, the EA evaluated three alternatives concerning the use of personal watercraft at Gulf
Islands National Seashore:

       Alternative A would reestablish the PWC policies that existed prior to April 22, 2002, when
        PWC use was permitted under the current Superintendent’s Compendium. This alternative
        was not selected because it would result in adverse impacts to water quality, air quality,

                                                   4
                                                                              Finding of No Significant Impact


        soundscapes, shoreline and submerged aquatic vegetation, wildlife and wildlife habitat,
        aquatic fauna, special status species, visitor experience, and cultural resources.
       Alternative B allows for the use of PWC with locational and wake restrictions, as described
        above. This alternative has been identified as the preferred alternative.
       No action alternative would continue the prohibition of PWC use within the National
        Seashore. This alternative was not selected because it did not meet the purpose, need, and
        objectives of the plan, as defined in the EA.

ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE

The environmentally preferred alternative is determined by applying the criteria suggested in the
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which is guided by the Council on
Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ provides direction that “[t]he environmentally preferable
alternative is the alternative that will promote the national environmental policy as expressed in
NEPA’s Section 101”:

       fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding
        generations;
       assure for all generations safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing
        surroundings;
       attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk of
        health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences;
       preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage and maintain,
        wherever possible, an environment that supports diversity and variety of individual choice;
       achieve a balance between population and resource use that will permit high standards of
        living and a wide sharing of life’s amenities; and
       enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of
        depletable resources.
The environmentally preferred alternative is alternative B. Alternative B will have limited impacts on
the National Seashore’s natural resources through protection of shoreline areas with flat-wake zoning
prescriptions. In addition, the implementation of the flat-wake zoning under alternative B would meet
park goals with respect to the protection of visitor experience and safety by implementing these
restrictions in areas of high visitor activity. This alternative would support visitor enjoyment by
allowing access to National Seashore amenities by PWC users while accommodating recreationists
and meeting resource management objectives. This alternative would accommodate recreational
opportunities for visitors while protecting sensitive natural resources within the National Seashore.
Alternative B is designed to meet the NPS general prohibition on PWC use for the protection of park
resources and values, while providing recreational opportunities for PWC users.

Based on the analysis prepared for PWC use at Gulf Islands National Seashore, alternative B is
considered the environmentally preferred alternative by best fulfilling park responsibilities as trustee
of sensitive habitat; by ensuring safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing
surroundings; and by attaining a wider range of beneficial uses of the environment without
degradation, risk of health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences.



                                                    5
                                                                             Finding of No Significant Impact


WHY THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE WILL NOT HAVE A SIGNIFICANT
EFFECT ON THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT

As documented in the EA, the NPS has determined that the preferred alternative (alternative B) can be
implemented with no significant adverse effects to water quality, air quality, soundscapes, wildlife and
wildlife habitat, threatened, endangered, or special concern species, shoreline vegetation, visitor
experience, visitor safety, cultural resources, the socioeconomic environment, and national recreation
area operations and management. As defined in 40 CFR §1508.27, significance is determined by
examining the following criteria:

Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse: The settlement between NPS and Bluewater
Network requires the NEPA analysis to evaluate PWC impacts to water quality, air quality,
soundscapes, wildlife and wildlife habitat, shoreline vegetation, visitor conflicts, and visitor safety.
PWC with two-stroke engines discharge a gas-oil mixture, which consists of hydrocarbons and
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, into the water, resulting in adverse effects on water quality. At Gulf
Islands National Seashore, hydrocarbon discharges to water are expected to decrease considerably
over the next ten years due to mandated improvements in engine technology. Pollutant emissions such
as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from PWC use may adversely affect air quality,
although boats and PWC would account for only a small fraction of air pollution compared to other
sources. Personal watercraft noise may be more disturbing than other motorized vessels because of
rapid changes in acceleration and direction of noise. Flat-wake zoning would reduce noise levels from
PWC in shoreline areas, specifically those areas around Horn and Petit Bois Islands. Complaints about
PWC noise have been received from visitors.

Under the preferred alternative, marine mammals and sea turtles would still be exposed to high levels
of PWC noise. The extended flat-wake zoning under the preferred alternative would minimize impacts
from PWC activity to terrestrial wildlife species by restricting speed near shoreline habitat areas.
Seasonal closures of areas around avian nesting sites would minimize long-term impacts to nesting
birds. Adverse impacts to fish and wildlife will be negligible to moderate. PWC may affect, but is
unlikely to adversely affect, special status species. Flat-wake zoning for PWC would minimize both
erosion effects from PWC-induced wave action and direct PWC disturbance to shoreline marsh and
dune communities. PWC impacts to seagrass beds would occur, but would be minimized by the wake
restrictions.

The preferred alternative will have a beneficial impact on visitor experience for those visitors that
utilize PWC, compared to banning PWC. Implementation of the flat-wake zones would have
negligible adverse impacts on the visitor experience of PWC users. The impact on other visitors, such
as anglers, boaters, swimmers, divers, hikers and campers would be negligible to minor and adverse.

Degree of effect on public health or safety: Implementation of the preferred alternative would result
in negligible to minor effects on public health and safety. The preferred alternative would have
negligible adverse impacts to water quality for all human health and ecotoxicological benchmarks
analyzed. Impacts to air quality for carbon monoxide and other pollutants of concern would be
negligible and adverse. The preferred alternative would maintain existing air quality conditions and
would not result in an impairment of air quality. PWC use under the preferred alternative would have
negligible to minor adverse impacts on swimmers, boaters, anglers, divers, campers and hikers.
However, the establishment of enhanced PWC user education programs would improve visitor safety
overall.




                                                   6
                                                                             Finding of No Significant Impact


Unique characteristics of the geographic area such as proximity to historic or cultural resources,
park lands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or ecologically critical areas: The preferred alternative
will not impact unique characteristics of the area including park lands, prime farmlands, or wild and
scenic rivers because these resources do not exist in the project area. Critical habitat for the three
special status species found within the park, and essential fish habitat (EFH) within the park, is
discussed in the threatened and endangered species section below.

Wetlands exist in numerous locations within Gulf Island National Seashore. Types of wetland areas
include swales, salt marshes, and fresh marshes. The flat-wake zoning component of alternative B will
minimize effects on wetlands within the park, and impacts will be negligible from PWC use.

Degree to which effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly
controversial: As discussed earlier, the EA was written under NEPA as a result of a settlement
between the NPS and Bluewater Network. The impetus of the lawsuit was the result of studies in
Everglades National Park on PWC use. Studies showed that PWC use resulted in damage to
vegetation, adversely impacted shorebirds, and disturbed the life cycles of other wildlife.

There were no other highly controversial effects identified during either preparation of the EA or the
public comment period.

Degree to which the possible effects on the quality of the human environment are highly uncertain
or involve unique or unknown risks: There were no highly uncertain, unique or unknown risks
identified during either preparation of the EA or the public comment period.

Degree to which the action may establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects or
represents a decision in principle about a future consideration: The preferred alternative neither
establishes a National Park Service precedent for future actions with significant effects nor represents
a decision in principle about a future consideration.

Whether the action is related to other actions with individually insignificant but cumulatively
significant impacts: Cumulative effects were analyzed in the EA, and no significant cumulative
impacts were identified.

Degree to which the action may adversely affect districts, sites, highways, structures, or objects
listed on National Register of Historic Places or may cause loss or destruction of significant
scientific, cultural, or historical resources: Gulf Islands National Seashore has about 170 known
archaeological sites, spanning a period of almost 2,500 years. Elements include shell middens,
cemeteries, shipwrecks, and military fortifications. The French warehouse site on East Ship Island is
on the National Register of Historic Places. Other archaeological sites are contributing elements in
park historic districts that are on or potentially eligible for the National Register. The Santa Rosa
Pensacola site in the Fort Pickens Area of the park was surveyed and partially excavated in 2004 to
gather documentation preparatory to its nomination as a National Historic Landmark. Submerged
cultural resources exist park-wide. Surveys in the Florida District have located a number of
shipwrecks. Much of the underwater acreage of the Mississippi District has not been systematically
surveyed. Restricting area of use and the establishment of a flat-wake speed zone would serve as a
measure to minimize impacts on potentially listed archaeological resources from possible illegal
collection and vandalism. PWC users would have only minor adverse impacts on listed or potentially
listed archaeological resources.

Compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was completed on August 30,
2005. A response from the Florida State Historic Preservation Office was received on August 30,

                                                    7
                                                                               Finding of No Significant Impact


2005, and a response from the Mississippi State Historic Preservation Office was received on August
1, 2005. The Mississippi SHPO stated it has no issues of concern with any of the alternatives. The
Florida SHPO stated that if the no action alternative were not chosen, then “alternative B would be the
next preferred alternative.”

Degree to which the action may adversely affect an endangered or threatened species or its critical
habitat: Consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act was conducted to determine if
any threatened or endangered species exist within Gulf Islands National Seashore. Twelve federally-
listed animal species are documented and listed as occurring within National Seashore boundaries,
including Florida manatee, Perdido Key beach mouse, American alligator, leatherback sea turtle,
Atlantic green turtle, Kemps ridleys sea turtle, Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle, gopher tortoise, gulf
sturgeon, brown pelican, bald eagle, and piping plover. In addition, eleven Florida and Mississippi
State Species of Special Concern (peregrine falcon, southeastern snowy plover, least tern, southeastern
American kestrel, Santa Rosa beach mouse, alligator snapping turtle, saltmarsh topminnow, black
skimmer, reddish egret, little blue heron, and snowy egret) may occur within the National Seashore.
No federally-listed plant species occur in the park. Mississippi or Florida state-listed plant species that
may occur within the park include the white-top pitcher plant, Cruise’s golden aster, Godfrey’s golden
aster, Gulf Coast lupine, Curtiss’ sandgrass, and large-leaved jointweed.

Implementation of the proposed action may affect, but would be unlikely to adversely affect, the
federally or state-listed species, as identified above, in Gulf Islands National Seashore. PWC use
would have no effect on the white-top pitcher plant. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) office
in Panama City, Florida concurred with the determination in a letter dated May 10, 2005, and the
Mississippi Field Office concurred in a letter dated May 18, 2005. The National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) also concurred with the
may affect, unlikely to adversely affect determination on November 4, 2005.

Critical habitat

Critical habitat for three special status species exists within the park. Critical habitat for the Perdido
Key beach mouse, an endangered species, has been designated within the Perdido Key area of the
Florida District of the park. Historically, its habitat was mature coastal barrier sand dunes along the
Gulf of Mexico, but is only present currently in the eastern part of Perdido Key. Adverse effects to this
species under alternative B are unlikely due to its nocturnal nature and its general avoidance of human
activity. The FWS concurred with the determination that there would be no adverse modification of
designated critical habitat for the Perdido Key beach mouse on May 10, 2005.

Critical habitat for the Gulf sturgeon, a threatened species, exists in the Florida District in nearshore
waters within one nautical mile of the mainland from Pensacola Pass to Apalachicola Bay and the
Perdido Key area, and the area north of Santa Rosa Island. These areas are believed to be important
migratory pathways between Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico for feeding and genetic exchange.
In the Mississippi District, critical habitat includes areas within one nautical mile offshore of the
barrier islands of the Mississippi Sound, which are believed to be important feeding habitat for Gulf
sturgeon. The passes, including Ship Island Pass, Dog Keys Pass, Horn Island Pass and Petit Bois Pass
are also designated critical habitat. Alternative B is not likely to adversely affect the Gulf sturgeon or
its designated critical habitat because much of this habitat in the National Seashore occurs within the
300-yard PWC flat-wake zone. NMFS concurred with this determination on November 4, 2005.

Parts of the National Seashore have been designated critical wintering habitat for the piping plover, a
threatened species. Habitat is concentrated in open beaches and tidal flats, and piping plovers are


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                                                                              Finding of No Significant Impact


known to winter in tidal flat areas on Perdido Key and on the north side of Santa Rosa Island. Flat-
wake zoning of PWC within at least 300 yards of shoreline areas will minimize adverse impacts to the
piping plover and its critical habitat. The FWS concurred with the determination that there would be
no adverse modification of designated critical habitat for the piping plover on May 10, 2005.

Essential Fish Habitat

NMFS Habitat Conservation Division was consulted regarding EFH in accordance with the EFH
provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act. NMFS has
developed Fishery Management Plans regarding the Gulf of Mexico for EFH for various species
including several types of shrimp and other shellfish, fish, and shark species. In consideration of the
potential impact to EFH and related fishery resources and a need to protect submerged aquatic
vegetation (SAV) habitat throughout the park, NMFS recommends “EFH Conservation
Recommendation. A SAV management program, consistent with the 1995 Florida Marine Research
Institute (FMRI) seagrass scarring report, should be developed and implemented as the preferred
alternative.”

In response to this recommendation by NMFS, Gulf Islands National Seashore created a subaquatic
vegetation management plan, which outlines how the park proposes to manage PWC use with regard
to the four components in the 1995 FMRI seagrass scarring report. The four-point approach to
management options includes education, channel marking, enforcement, and limited-monitoring
zones.

The education component includes enhancing PWC user and boater education through interpretive
talks, onsite bulletins, pamphlets, and brochures made available to PWC operators at marinas and
boater registration locations, as well as to visitors who rent PWC. The park will also explore the
feasibility of installing informational signs at marinas and boat launching sites to alert PWC operators
to applicable flat-wake zones. All media will clearly delineate and emphasize open and flat-wake
zones. Park staff will also attend boat shows within the greater Pensacola-Gulf Breeze, Florida area to
distribute boater education materials to interested PWC operators.

Gulf Islands National Seashore does not intend to install any new channel markers or aids to
navigation within park waters. Park managers determined that channel markers would impose
substantial visual intrusions to the view shed surrounding the islands and shorelines. It would also be
cost prohibitive to acquire and maintain the number of signs necessary to delineate the 108 miles of
coastal marine areas within the park. If monitoring results indicate a large increase in the number of
scars occurring due to PWC use, the park will implement more restrictive closures through signage or
other measures.

Park-commissioned law enforcement rangers will increase their water based patrols and vigilance in
proximity to all flat-wake zones. The rangers have full delegated authority to enforce all applicable
laws within the jurisdictional boundaries of the park, including issuing verbal and written warnings
and penalty citations at their discretion. NPS also has the wherewithal through the Park System
Resource Protection Recovery Act to pursue legal recourse and secure damage recovery funds from
violators who may cause significant resource injuries requiring restoration.

Regarding limited-monitoring zones, park resource managers will compare aerial photography taken
before and after the implementation of special regulations permitting PWC use to quantify seagrass
injuries and associated scarring. Biologists will also establish random underwater sample plots within
all park seagrass beds in the PWC flat-wake zones to determine if there is any increase in scarring
attributed to PWC use and to characterize observed injuries to seagrass beds. If resource managers

                                                    9
                                                                                 Finding of No Significant Impact


observe a proportional increase to the amount of seagrass scarring after PWC is permitted, these areas
will be identified for subsequent increased enforcement and/or closure. Surveys will also be conducted
on an annual basis to determine the familiarity and understanding of PWC operators’ knowledge of
PWC restrictions.

Marine Mammal Protect Act

The NMFS Office of Protected Resources was consulted with respect to rendering a separate
determination concerning whether a small take authorization or waiver under the Marine Mammal
Protect Act is required. In an email dated November 15, 2005, NMFS stated that an authorization for
incidental taking under section 101(a)(5) of the Marine Mammal Protect Act is not warranted.

Whether the action threatens a violation of federal, state, or local environmental protection law:
The preferred alternative violates no federal, state, or local environmental protection laws.


IMPAIRMENT OF PARK RESOURCES OR VALUES

In addition to reviewing the list of significance criteria, NPS staff determined that implementation of
the preferred alternative would not constitute an impairment of the park’s resources and values. This
conclusion is based on a thorough analysis of the impacts described in the EA, agency and public
comments received, and professional judgment in accordance with the National Park Service’s
Management Policies, 2001 (December 27, 2000). As described in the EA, implementation of the
preferred alternative will not result in major, adverse impacts to a resource or value whose
conservation is (1) necessary to fulfill specific purposes identified in the establishing legislation or
proclamation of Gulf Islands National Seashore; (2) key to the natural or cultural integrity of the park
or to opportunities for enjoyment of the park; or (3) identified as a goal in the park’s general
management plan or other relevant National Park Service planning documents.


PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

The National Park Service published a notice of the availability and the proposed rule in the Federal
Register on March 17, 2005 (69 FR 12988). The public was invited to comment on the EA for an
approximate 30-day comment period that lasted from April 19, 2004 to May 18, 2004, and on the
rulemaking from March 17, 2005 to May 16, 2005. The National Park Service received approximately
4,516 comment letters regarding the EA and proposed regulation. One substantive comment was
received that required changes to the EA, regarding the water quality impacts section. This comment is
included in the attached Errata Sheets, along with changes to the EA text. A summary of Public
Comments and Responses is also attached.


BASIS FOR DECISION

The preferred alternative does not constitute an action that normally requires preparation of an
environmental impact statement (EIS). The preferred alternative will not have a significant effect on
the human environment. Negative environmental impacts that could occur are negligible to moderate
in intensity. There are no significant impacts on public health, public safety, threatened or endangered
species, sites or districts listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, or
other unique characteristics of the region. No highly uncertain or controversial impacts, unique or


                                                     10
unknown risks, significant cumulative effects, or elements of precedence were identified.
Implementation of the action will not violate any federal, state, or local environmental protection law.

Based on the foregoing, it has been determined that an EIS is not required for this project and thus will
not be prepared.



Recommended: _____________________________________                          ___________
             Jerry A. Eubanks
             Superintendent, Gulf Islands National Seashore                 Date




Approved:        _____________________________________                      ___________
                 Patricia A. Hooks
                 Director, Southeast Region                                 Date




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