Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Operation, Maintenance, and Repair of the Northeast Gateway Liquefied Natural Gas Port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Facilities in Massachusetts Bay, 69049-69072 [2013-27466]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be subjects for formal action during these meetings. Actions will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice, and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided that the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. Special Accommodations These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. For more information or request for sign language interpretation and/other auxiliary aids, please contact Mr. ´ Miguel A. Rolon, Executive Director, Caribbean Fishery Management Council, ˜ 270 Munoz Rivera Avenue, Suite 401, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00918, telephone (787) 766–5926, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Dated: November 13, 2013. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–27489 Filed 11–15–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC862 Marine Mammals; File No. 18171 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of permit. AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that a permit has been issued to Wessley Merten, Marine Sciences Department, ¨ University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez ¨ Campus, PO Box 9000, Mayaguez, PR 00682, to conduct commercial or educational photography of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), and killer whales (Orcinus orca) in waters off Puerto Rico. ADDRESSES: The permit and related documents are available for review upon written request or by appointment in the following offices: Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427–8401; fax (301) 713– 0376; and Southeast Region, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701; phone (727) 824–5312; fax (727) 824–5309. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rosa ´ L. Gonzalez or Carrie Hubard, (301) 427–8401. On September 12, 2013, notice was published in the Federal Register (78 FR 56218) that a request for a permit to conduct commercial or educational photography had been submitted by the above-named applicant. The requested permit has been issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), and the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals (50 CFR part 216). Permit No. 18171 authorizes commercial/educational underwater and vessel-based filming and photography of marine mammals in waters off Puerto Rico. Footage will be used in two documentaries, one focused on offshore sport fishing in Puerto Rico and another one focused on Puerto Rico’s marine mammal and marine mammal program (i.e., Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Marine Mammal Rescue Program). The first documentary will be presented at a film festival in Puerto Rico and distributed to schools and the public throughout Puerto Rico. A maximum of 210 bottlenose, 210 spinner, and 210 striped dolphins, 60 false killer and 60 killer whales, could be approached and filmed annually. Filming may occur year-round. The permit is valid through November 7, 2015. In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), a final determination has been made that the activity proposed is categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Dated: November 13, 2013. P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–27516 Filed 11–15–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69049 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XC228 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Operation, Maintenance, and Repair of the Northeast Gateway Liquefied Natural Gas Port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Facilities in Massachusetts Bay National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS has received an application from Tetra Tech EC, Inc. (Tetra Tech), on behalf of the Northeast Gateway® Energy BridgeTM, L.P. (Northeast Gateway or NEG) and Algonquin Gas Transmission, L.L.C. (Algonquin), for authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to operating, maintaining, and repairing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral (Pipeline Lateral) facilities by NEG and Algonquin, in Massachusetts Bay. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an authorization to Northeast Gateway to incidentally take, by harassment, small numbers of marine mammals for a period of 1 year. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than December 18, 2013. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments on this action is ITP.Guan@noaa.gov. Comments sent via email, including all attachments, must not exceed a 10megabyte file size. A copy of the application and a list of references used in this document may be obtained by writing to this address, and is also available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications without change. All Personal Identifying SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69050 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) on the Northeast Gateway Energy Bridge LNG Deepwater Port license application is available for viewing at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shane Guan, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A)(D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review. An authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the U.S. can apply for a one-year authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment, provided that there is no potential for serious injury or mortality to result from the activity. Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 Summary of Request On January 18, 2013, NMFS received an application from Excelerate Energy, L.P. (Excelerate) and Tetra Tech EC, Inc., on behalf of Northeast Gateway and Algonquin, for an authorization to take 14 species of marine mammals by Level B harassment incidental to operations, maintenance, and repair of an LNG port and the Pipeline Lateral facilities in Massachusetts Bay. They are: North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, minke whale, longfinned pilot whale, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, shortbeaked common dolphin, killer whale, Risso’s dolphin, harbor porpoise, harbor seal, and gray seal. Since LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral operation, maintenance, and repair activities have the potential to take marine mammals, a marine mammal take authorization under the MMPA is warranted. NMFS previously issued an IHA to Northeast Gateway and Algonquin to allow for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals resulting from the construction and operation of the NEG Port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral (72 FR 27077; May 14, 2007). Subsequently, NMFS issued four oneyear IHAs for the take of marine mammals incidental to the operation of the NEG Port activity pursuant to section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA (73 FR 29485, May 21, 2008; 74 FR 45613, September 3, 2009; 75 FR 53672, September 1, 2010; and 76 FR 62778, October 11, 2011). The most recent IHA expired on October 6, 2012. Unlike the previous IHAs, which only covered incidental harassment during standard operations of the deepwater port, the new IHA application from Excelerate requests take coverage during standard operations, as well as during planned and unplanned maintenance and repair. Marine mammals could be affected by noise generated by operating the dynamic positioning system during the docking of LNG vessels at the NEG Port, and noises generated from maintenance and repair of the LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral facilities. Description of the Activity The Northeast Gateway Port is located in Massachusetts Bay and consists of a submerged buoy system to dock specially designed LNG carriers approximately 13 mi (21 km) offshore of Massachusetts in federal waters approximately 270 to 290 ft (82 to 88 m) in depth. This facility delivers regasified LNG to onshore markets via the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral (Pipeline Lateral). The Pipeline Lateral consists of a 16.1-mile (25.8-kilometer) long, 24- PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 inch (61-centimeter) outside diameter natural gas pipeline which interconnects the Port to an offshore natural gas pipeline known as the HubLine. The Northeast Gateway Port consists of two subsea Submerged Turret LoadingTM (STL) buoys, each with a flexible riser assembly and a manifold connecting the riser assembly, via a steel Flowline, to the subsea Pipeline Lateral. Northeast Gateway utilizes vessels from its current fleet of specially designed Energy BridgeTM Regasification Vessels (EBRVs), each capable of transporting approximately 2.9 billion ft3 (82 million m3) of natural gas condensed to 4.9 million ft3 (138,000 m3) of LNG. Northeast Gateway has recently added two vessels to its fleet that have a cargo capacity of approximately 151,000 m3 (5.3 million ft3). The mooring system installed at the Northeast Gateway Port is designed to handle each class of vessel. The EBRVs would dock to the STL buoys, which would serve as both the single-point mooring system for the vessels and the delivery conduit for natural gas. Each of the STL buoys is secured to the seafloor using a series of suction anchors and a combination of chain/cable anchor lines. NEG Port Operations During NEG Port operations, EBRVs servicing the NEG Port would utilize the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-approved Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) to delivery LNG to the NEG Port facility. When an EBRV arrives at the NEG Port, it would retrieve one of the two permanently anchored submerged STL buoys. It would make final connection to the buoy through a series of engine and bow thruster actions. The EBRV would require the use of thrusters for dynamic positioning (DP) during docking procedure. Typically, the docking procedure is completed over a 10- to 30minute period, with the thrusters activated as necessary for short periods (bursts in seconds). During this time period thrusters would be engaged in use for docking at the NEG Port approximately 10 to 30 minutes for each vessel arrival and departure. Once connected to the buoy, the EBRV would make ready to begin vaporizing the LNG into its natural gas state using the onboard regasification system. As the LNG is regasified, natural gas would be transferred at pipeline pressures off the EBRV through the STL buoy and flexible riser via a steel flowline leading to the connecting Algonquin Pipeline Lateral. When the LNG vessel is on the buoy, wind and current effects on the E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES vessel would be allowed to ‘‘weathervane’’ on the single-point mooring system; therefore, thrusters would not be used to maintain a stationary position. According to NEG, it is estimated that the NEG Port could receive approximately 65 cargo deliveries a year, although none have been received since February 2010. Detailed information on the operation activities can be found in the MARAD/ USCG Final EIS on the Northeast Gateway Project (see ADDRESSES for availability). Detailed information on the LNG facility’s operation and noise generated from operations was also published in the Federal Register for the proposed IHA for Northeast Gateway’s LNG Port construction and operations on March 13, 2007 (72 FR 11328). NEG Port Maintenance and Repair The specified design life of the NEG Port is about 40 years, with the exception of the anchors, mooring chain/rope, and riser/umbilical assemblies, which are based on a maintenance-free design life of 20 years. The buoy pick-up system components are considered consumable and are inspected following each buoy connection, and replaced (from inside the STL compartment during the normal cargo discharge period) as deemed necessary. The underwater components of the NEG Port are inspected once yearly in accordance with Classification Society Rules (American Bureau of Shipping) using either divers or remotely operated vehicles (ROV) to inspect and record the condition of the various STL system components. These activities are conducted using the NEG Port’s normal support vessel (125-foot [38 meter], 99 gross ton, 2,700 horsepower, aluminum mono-hull vessel), and to the extent possible coincide with planned weekly visits to the NEG Port. In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port necessitate emergency maintenance and/or repair activities. While the extent and number of such maintenance and repair activities at the NEG Port over its expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is reasonable to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair scenario would result in similar types of activities and require the use of similar support vessels and equipment as used for construction. There may also be certain unanticipated circumstances that require the presence of an EBRV at the NEG Port to support these maintenance and repair activities VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 (e.g., maintenance and repair on the STL Buoy, vessel commissioning, and any onboard equipment malfunction or failure occurring while a vessel is present for cargo delivery). To assess the impact to marine mammals from the NEG port maintenance and repair, a 14day maintenance period during one calendar is selected. This is based on evaluation of the potential marine mammal takes associated with similar maintenance and repair at the Neptune Port Facility in Massachusetts Bay, due to the fact that both the NEG and Neptune Ports are very similar in their potential need and type of maintenance and repair of port facilities. Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Routine Operations and Maintenance Activities The planned activities required for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and Flowlines over a 1-year period are limited. Similar to the inspection of the NEG Port underwater components, the only planned O&M activity is the annual inspection of the cathodic protection monitors by a ROV. The monitors are located at the ends of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and the adjacent Flowlines. Each inspection activity would take approximately 3 days and would utilize a ROV launched from a vessel of opportunity. The most likely vessel would be similar to the NEG Port’s normal support vessel referenced earlier in the document. This vessel is self-positioning and requires no anchors or use of thrusters. The vessel would mobilize from Salem, Massachusetts, and would inspect the monitors in the vicinity of the NEG Port and at the point where the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral interconnects with Algonquin’s HubLine. These activities would be performed during daylight hours and during periods of good weather. Unplanned Pipeline Repair Activities Unplanned O&M activities may be required from time to time at a location along the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral or along one of the Flowlines should the line become damaged or malfunction. Repair activities requiring limited excavation to access the pipeline or cathodic protection maintenance are authorized by the FERC certificate. Should repair work be required, it is likely a dive vessel would be the main vessel used to support the repair work. The type of diving spread and the corresponding vessel needed to support the spread would be dictated by the type of repair work required and the water depth at the work location. In addition, the type of vessel used may PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69051 vary depending upon availability. The duration of an unplanned activity would also vary depending upon the repair work involved (e.g., repairing or replacing a section of the pipeline, connection, or valve) but can generally be assumed to take less than 40 work days to complete based on industry experience with underwater pipeline repairs. A diving spread required to execute an unplanned activity might necessitate several vessels. Most likely the dive vessel would support a saturation diving spread and be moored at the work location using four anchors. Once secured at the work location, the dive vessel would remain on site through the completion of the work, weather permitting. A crew/supply boat would be utilized to intermittently provide labor and supply transfers. Once or twice during the work, a tug may be required to bring a material barge to and from the location. While unlikely, there is a small possibility that a second dive vessel would be required to support the main dive vessel, depending upon the work activity. The second dive vessel would be on-site for a shorter work duration. These vessels would be supported from an onshore base located between Quincy and Gloucester, Massachusetts. The selection of a dive vessel would be driven by the technical requirements of the work. In addition, the degree of urgency required to address the work and the availability of vessels will also enter into the decision process for securing a dive vessel. It may be that a four-point moored dive vessel is either not available or doesn’t meet the technical capabilities required by the work. It then becomes possible that a DP dive vessel may have to be utilized. The use of a DP dive vessel removes the need for an attendant tug to support the vessel since no anchors will be deployed. However, potential impacts related to noise are increased when a DP dive vessel is used. The noise generated by a DP dive vessel varies, and results from the use of the thrusters which run at various levels to maintain the vessel’s position during the work depending upon currents, winds, waves and other forces acting on the vessel at the time of the work. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activities Marine mammal species that potentially occur in the vicinity of the Northeast Gateway facility include several species of cetaceans and pinnipeds: North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69052 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), minke whale (B. acutorostrata), long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), coPSOn dolphin (Delphinus delphis), killer whale (Orcinus orca), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and gray seal (Halichoerus grypus). Information on those species that may be affected by this activity is discussed in detail in the USCG Final EIS on the Northeast Gateway LNG proposal. Please refer to that document for more information on these species and potential impacts from construction and operation of this LNG facility. In addition, general information on these marine mammal species can also be ¨ found in Wursig et al. (2000) and in the NMFS Stock Assessment Reports (Waring et al., 2013). This latter document is available at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ ao2012.pdf. An updated summary on several PSO-sighted marine mammal species distribution and abundance in the vicinity of the proposed action area is provided below. Humpback Whale The highest abundance for humpback whales is distributed primarily along a relatively narrow corridor following the 100-m (328 ft) isobath across the southern Gulf of Maine from the northwestern slope of Georges Bank, south to the Great South Channel, and northward alongside Cape Cod to Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge. The relative abundance of whales increases in the spring with the highest occurrence along the slope waters (between the 40- and 140-m, or 131- and 459-ft, isobaths) off Cape Cod and Davis Bank, Stellwagen Basin and Tillies Basin and between the 50- and 200-m (164- and 656-ft) isobaths along the inner slope of Georges Bank. High abundance is also estimated for the waters around Platts Bank. In the summer months, abundance increases markedly over the shallow waters (<50 m, or <164 ft) of Stellwagen Bank, the waters (100–200 m, or 328–656 ft) between Platts Bank and Jeffreys Ledge, the steep slopes (between the 30- and 160-m isobaths) of Phelps and Davis Bank north of the Great South Channel towards Cape Cod, and between the 50and 100-m (164- and 328-ft) isobath for almost the entire length of the steeply sloping northern edge of Georges Bank. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 This general distribution pattern persists in all seasons except winter, when humpbacks remain at high abundance in only a few locations including Porpoise and Neddick Basins adjacent to Jeffreys Ledge, northern Stellwagen Bank and Tillies Basin, and the Great South Channel. The best estimate of abundance for Gulf of Maine, formerly western North Atlantic, humpback whales is 847 animals (Waring et al., 2009). Current data suggest that the Gulf of Maine humpback whale stock is steadily increasing in size, which is consistent with an estimated average trend of 3.1 percent in the North Atlantic population overall for the period 1979–1993 (Stevick et al., 2003, cited in Waring et al., 2009). Fin Whale Spatial patterns of habitat utilization by fin whales are very similar to those of humpback whales. Spring and summer high-use areas follow the 100m (328 ft) isobath along the northern edge of Georges Bank (between the 50and 200-m (164- and 656-ft) isobaths), and northward from the Great South Channel (between the 50- and 160-m, or 164- and 525-ft, isobaths). Waters around Cashes Ledge, Platts Bank, and Jeffreys Ledge are all high-use areas in the summer months. Stellwagen Bank is a high-use area for fin whales in all seasons, with highest abundance occurring over the southern Stellwagen Bank in the summer months. In fact, the southern portion of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is used more frequently than the northern portion in all months except winter, when high abundance is recorded over the northern tip of Stellwagen Bank. In addition to Stellwagen Bank, high abundance in winter is estimated for Jeffreys Ledge and the adjacent Porpoise Basin (100- to 160-m, 328- to 656-ft, isobaths), as well as Georges Basin and northern Georges Bank. The best estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of fin whales is 2,269 (Waring et al., 2009). Currently, there are insufficient data to determine population trends for this species. Minke Whale Like other piscivorous baleen whales, highest abundance for minke whale is strongly associated with regions between the 50- and 100-m (164- and 328-ft) isobaths, but with a slightly stronger preference for the shallower waters along the slopes of Davis Bank, Phelps Bank, Great South Channel and Georges Shoals on Georges Bank. Minke whales are sighted in the SBNMS in all seasons, with highest abundance PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 estimated for the shallow waters (approximately 40 m, or 131 ft) over southern Stellwagen Bank in the summer and fall months. Platts Bank, Cashes Ledge, Jeffreys Ledge, and the adjacent basins (Neddick, Porpoise and Scantium) also support high relative abundance. Very low densities of minke whales remain throughout most of the southern Gulf of Maine in winter. The best estimate of abundance for the Canadian East Coast stock, which occurs from the western half of the Davis Strait to the Gulf of Mexico, of minke whales is 3,312 animals (Waring et al., 2009). Currently, there are insufficient data to determine population trends for this species. North Atlantic Right Whale North Atlantic right whales are generally distributed widely across the southern Gulf of Maine in spring with highest abundance located over the deeper waters (100- to 160-m, or 328- to 525-ft, isobaths) on the northern edge of the Great South Channel and deep waters (100–300 m, 328–984 ft) parallel to the 100-m (328-ft) isobath of northern Georges Bank and Georges Basin. High abundance is also found in the shallowest waters (<30 m, or <98 ft) of Cape Cod Bay, over Platts Bank and around Cashes Ledge. Lower relative abundance is estimated over deep-water basins including Wilkinson Basin, Rodgers Basin and Franklin Basin. In the summer months, right whales move almost entirely away from the coast to deep waters over basins in the central Gulf of Maine (Wilkinson Basin, Cashes Basin between the 160- and 200-m, or 525- and 656-ft, isobaths) and north of Georges Bank (Rogers, Crowell and Georges Basins). Highest abundance is found north of the 100-m (328-ft) isobath at the Great South Channel and over the deep slope waters and basins along the northern edge of Georges Bank. The waters between Fippennies Ledge and Cashes Ledge are also estimated as high-use areas. In the fall months, right whales are sighted infrequently in the Gulf of Maine, with highest densities over Jeffreys Ledge and over deeper waters near Cashes Ledge and Wilkinson Basin. In winter, Cape Cod Bay, Scantum Basin, Jeffreys Ledge, and Cashes Ledge were the main highuse areas. Although SBNMS does not appear to support the highest abundance of right whales, sightings within SBNMS are reported for all four seasons, albeit at low relative abundance. Highest sighting within SBNMS occurred along the southern edge of the Bank. The western North Atlantic population size was estimated to be at E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES least 345 individuals in 2005 based on a census of individual whales identified using photo-identification techniques (Waring et al., 2009). This value is a minimum and does not include animals that were alive prior to 2003 but not recorded in the individual sightings database as seen from December 1, 2003, to October 10, 2008. It also does not include calves known to be born during 2005 or any other individual whale seen during 2005 but not yet entered into the catalog (Waring et al., 2009). Examination of the minimum alive population index calculated from the individual sightings database, as it existed on October 10, 2008, for the years 1990–2005 suggests a positive trend in numbers. These data reveal a significant increase in the number of catalogued whales alive during this period but with significant variation due to apparent losses exceeding gains during 1998–1999. Mean growth rate for the period 1990–2005 was 1.8 percent (Waring et al., 2009). Long-Finned Pilot Whale The long-finned pilot whale is more generally found along the edge of the continental shelf (a depth of 330 to 3,300 ft, or 100 to 1,000 m), choosing areas of high relief or submerged banks in cold or temperate shoreline waters. This species is split between two subspecies: The Northern and Southern subspecies. The Southern subspecies is circumpolar with northern limits of Brazil and South Africa. The Northern subspecies, which could be encountered during operation of the NEG Port, ranges from North Carolina to Greenland (Reeves et al., 2002; Wilson and Ruff, 1999). In the western North Atlantic, long-finned pilot whales are pelagic, occurring in especially high densities in winter and spring over the continental slope, then moving inshore and onto the shelf in summer and autumn following squid and mackerel populations (Reeves et al., 2002). They frequently travel into the central and northern Georges Bank, Great South Channel, and Gulf of Maine areas during the summer and early fall (May and October) (NOAA, 1993). According to the species stock report, the population estimate for the Western North Atlantic long-finned pilot whale is 26,535 individuals (Waring et al., 2010). Currently, there are insufficient data to determine population trends for the long-finned pilot whale. Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin In spring, summer and fall, Atlantic white-sided dolphins are widespread throughout the southern Gulf of Maine, with the high-use areas widely located either side of the 100-m (328-ft) isobath VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 along the northern edge of Georges Bank, and north from the Great South Channel to Stellwagen Bank, Jeffreys Ledge, Platts Bank and Cashes Ledge. In spring, high-use areas exist in the Great South Channel, northern Georges Bank, the steeply sloping edge of Davis Bank and Cape Cod, southern Stellwagen Bank and the waters between Jeffreys Ledge and Platts Bank. In summer, there is a shift and expansion of habitat toward the east and northeast. High-use areas are identified along most of the northern edge of Georges Bank between the 50- and 200-m (164- and 656-ft) isobaths and northward from the Great South Channel along the slopes of Davis Bank and Cape Cod. High numbers of sightings are also recorded over Truxton Swell, Wilkinson Basin, Cashes Ledge and the bathymetrically complex area northeast of Platts Bank. High numbers of sightings of white-sided dolphin are recorded within SBNMS in all seasons, with highest density in summer and most widespread distributions in spring located mainly over the southern end of Stellwagen Bank. In winter, high numbers of sightings are recorded at the northern tip of Stellwagen Bank and Tillies Basin. A comparison of spatial distribution patterns for all baleen whales (Mysticeti) and all porpoises and dolphins combined show that both groups have very similar spatial patterns of high- and low-use areas. The baleen whales, whether piscivorous or planktivorous, are more concentrated than the dolphins and porpoises. They utilize a corridor that extended broadly along the most linear and steeply sloping edges in the southern Gulf of Maine indicated broadly by the 100 m (328 ft) isobath. Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge support a high abundance of baleen whales throughout the year. Species richness maps indicate that high-use areas for individual whales and dolphin species co-occur, resulting in similar patterns of species richness primarily along the southern portion of the 100-m (328-ft) isobath extending northeast and northwest from the Great South Channel. The southern edge of Stellwagen Bank and the waters around the northern tip of Cape Cod are also highlighted as supporting high cetacean species richness. Intermediate to high numbers of species are also calculated for the waters surrounding Jeffreys Ledge, the entire Stellwagen Bank, Platts Bank, Fippennies Ledge and Cashes Ledge. The best estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of white-sided dolphins is 63,368 (Waring et al., 2009). A trend PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69053 analysis has not been conducted for this species. Killer Whale, CoPSOn Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, and Harbor Porpoise Although these five species are some of the most widely distributed small cetacean species in the world (Jefferson et al., 1993), they are not coPSOnly seen in the vicinity of the proposed project area in Massachusetts Bay (Wiley et al., 1994; NCCOS, 2006; Northeast Gateway Marine Mammal Monitoring Weekly Reports, 2007). The total number of killer whales off the eastern U.S. coast is unknown, and present data are insufficient to calculate a minimum population estimate or to determine the population trends for this stock (Blaylock et al., 1995). The best estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of coPSOn dolphins is 120,743 animals, and a trend analysis has not been conducted for this species (Waring et al., 2007). There are several stocks of bottlenose dolphins found along the eastern U.S. from Maine to Florida. The stock that may occur in the area of the Neptune Port is the western North Atlantic coastal northern migratory stock of bottlenose dolphins. The best estimate of abundance for this stock is 7,489 animals (Waring et al., 2009). There are insufficient data to determine the population trend for this stock. The best estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of Risso’s dolphins is 20,479 animals (Waring et al., 2009). There are insufficient data to determine the population trend for this stock. The best estimate of abundance for the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy stock of harbor porpoise is 89,054 animals (Waring et al., 2009). A trend analysis has not been conducted for this species. Harbor Seal and Gray Seal In the U.S. waters of the western North Atlantic, both harbor and gray seals are usually found from the coast of Maine south to southern New England and New York (Waring et al., 2010). Along the southern New England and New York coasts, harbor seals occur seasonally from September through late May (Schneider and Payne, 1983). In recent years, their seasonal interval along the southern New England to New Jersey coasts has increased (deHart, 2002). In U.S. waters, harbor seal breeding and pupping normally occur in waters north of the New Hampshire/ Maine border, although breeding has occurred as far south as Cape Cod in the early part of the 20th century (Temte et al., 1991; Katona et al., 1993). The best estimate of abundance for the western E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69054 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices North Atlantic stock of harbor seals is 99,340 animals (Waring et al., 2009). Between 1981 and 2001, the uncorrected counts of seals increased from 10,543 to 38,014, an annual rate of 6.6 percent (Gilbert et al., 2005, cited in Waring et al., 2009). Although gray seals are often seen off the coast from New England to Labrador, within the U.S. waters, only small numbers of gray seals have been observed pupping on several isolated islands along the Maine coast and in Nantucket-Vineyard Sound, Massachusetts (Katona et al., 1993; Rough, 1995). In the late 1990s, a yearround breeding population of approximately 400 gray seals was documented on outer Cape Cod and Muskeget Island (Warring et al., 2007). Depending on the model used, the minimum estimate for the Canadian gray seal population was estimated to range between 125,541 and 169,064 animals (Trzcinski et al., 2005, cited in Waring et al., 2009); however, present data are insufficient to calculate the minimum population estimate for U.S. waters. Waring et al. (2009) note that gray seal abundance in the U.S. Atlantic is likely increasing, but the rate of increase is unknown. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals The proposed NEG LNG port operations and maintenance and repair activities could adversely affect marine mammal species and stocks by exposing them to elevated noise levels in the vicinity of the activity area. Marine mammals exposed to high intensity sound repeatedly or for prolonged periods can experience hearing threshold shift (TS), which is the loss of hearing sensitivity at certain frequency ranges (Kastak et al. 1999; Schlundt et al. 2000; Finneran et al. 2002; 2005). TS can be permanent (PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is unrecoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal’s hearing threshold will recover over time (Southall et al. 2007). Since marine mammals depend on acoustic cues for vital biological functions, such as orientation, communication, finding prey, and avoiding predators, marine mammals that suffer from PTS or TTS will have reduced fitness in survival and reproduction, either permanently or temporarily. Repeated noise exposure that leads to TTS could cause PTS. Currently, NMFS considers that repeated exposure to received noise levels at 180 dB and 190 dB re 1 mPa (rms) could lead to TTS in cetaceans and pinnipeds, respectively. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 In addition, chronic exposure to excessive, though not high-intensity, noise could cause masking at particular frequencies for marine mammals that utilize sound for vital biological functions (Clark et al. 2009). Masking can interfere with detection of acoustic signals such as communication calls, echolocation sounds, and environmental sounds important to marine mammals. Therefore, under certain circumstances, marine mammals whose acoustical sensors or environment are being severely masked could also be impaired from maximizing their performance fitness in survival and reproduction. Masking occurs at the frequency band which the animals utilize. Therefore, since noise generated from in-water vibratory pile driving and removal is mostly concentrated at low frequency ranges, it may have less effect on high frequency echolocation sounds by odontocetes (toothed whales). However, lower frequency man-made noises are more likely to affect detection of communication calls and other potentially important natural sounds such as surf and prey noise. It may also affect communication signals when they occur near the noise band and thus reduce the communication space of animals (e.g., Clark et al. 2009) and cause increased stress levels (e.g., Foote et al. 2004; Holt et al. 2009). Unlike TS, masking can potentially affect the species at population, community, or even ecosystem levels, as well as individual levels. Masking affects both senders and receivers of the signals and could have long-term chronic effects on marine mammal species and populations. Recent science suggests that low frequency ambient sound levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than 3 times in terms of SPL) in the world’s ocean from preindustrial periods, and most of these increases are from distant shipping (Hildebrand 2009). All anthropogenic noise sources, such as those from vessel traffic, vessel docking and stationing while operating dynamic positioning (DP) thrusters, dredging and pipe laying associated with LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair, and LNG regasification activities, contribute to the elevated ambient noise levels, thus increasing potential for or severity of masking. Finally, exposure of marine mammals to certain sounds could lead to behavioral disturbance (Richardson et al. 1995), such as: Changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/ or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities, changing/cessation of certain PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping), avoidance of areas where noise sources are located, and/or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or rookeries). The biological significance of many of these behavioral disturbances is difficult to predict, especially if the detected disturbances appear minor. However, the consequences of behavioral modification are expected to be biologically significant if the change affects growth, survival, and/or reproduction. The onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise depends on both external factors (characteristics of noise sources and their paths) and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography) and is also difficult to predict (Southall et al. 2007). Currently NMFS uses 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) at received level for impulse noises (such as impact pile driving) as the onset of marine mammal behavioral harassment, and 120 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for non-impulse noises (such as operating DP thrusters, dredging, pipe laying, and LNG regasification). For the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities, only the 120 dB re 1 mPa (rms) threshold is considered because only non-impulse noise sources would be generated. Northeast Gateway contracted with Tetra Tech EC, Inc. (Tetra Tech) to perform field investigations to document various underwater noise levels emitted during the construction of the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and during the operation of NEG Port facilities (namely the operation of EBRVs). Tetra Tech conducted five offshore hydroacoustic field programs: One in 2005 and one in 2006 at the Gulf Gateway Deepwater Port located approximately 116 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico; and three in 2007 at the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Project area. The 2005 measurements were completed to determine underwater noise levels during EBRV onboard regasification and vessel movements. The data from the 2005 field program was used to support the modeling and analysis of potential acoustic effects of EBRV operations in Massachusetts Bay during the NEG Port permitting and licensing process. The data collected in 2006 was also associated with EBRV operation activities and were collected for the purpose of verifying the measurement completed in 2005 as well as to further document sound levels E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES during additional operational and EBRV activities such as EBRV coupling and decoupling from the buoy system, transit and the use of stern and bow thrusters required for dynamic positioning. The 2007 measurements were collected during NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral construction to obtain site-specific underwater sound-level data associated with various construction activities that were previously modeled in support of permitting and licensing. These data are used here to analyze potential noise impacts to marine mammals and to provide the basis for take calculation before new measurements are made onsite (see Proposed Monitoring Measures section below). A detailed report describing both the 2006 and 2007 operation and construction noise measurement events and associated results have been included as Appendix B of the IHA application. The following sections describe those activities that could result in Level B harassment as they relate to NEG Port and Algonquin O&M activities. NEG Port Operations For the purposes of understanding the noise footprint of operations at the NEG Port, measurements taken to capture operational noise (docking, undocking, regasification, and EBRV thruster use) during the 2006 Gulf of Mexico field event were taken at the source. Measurements taken during EBRV transit were normalized to a distance of 328 feet (100 meters) to serve as a basis for modeling sound propagation at the NEG Port site in Massachusetts Bay. Sound propagation calculations for operational activities were then completed at two positions in Massachusetts Bay to determine sitespecific distances to the 120/160/180 dB re 1 mPa isopleths: At LNG Port (EBRV Operations) and at Boston TSS (EBRV Transit). At each of these locations sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the noise footprint of the operation activity at each of the specified locations. Calculations were performed in accordance with Marsh and Schulkin (1985) and Richardson et al (1995) and took into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and seabed composition. In addition, the acoustic modeling performed specifically evaluated sound energy in 1/3-octave spectral bands covering frequencies from 12.5 hertz (Hz) to 20 kilohertz (kHz). This range encompasses the auditory frequency range of marine mammals and the range at which sound VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 69055 propagates beyond the immediate vicinity of the source (i.e., high frequency sounds have a much higher attenuation rate than frequencies in the low to middle range due to a higher absorption rate by seawater and boundary effects). These results were then summed across frequencies to provide the broadband received levels at receptor locations. A literature review of relevant underwater noise measurement data of offshore construction activities in similar shallow water environments were referred to for estimating typical propagation rates. Relevant here, the resulting distances to the 120 dB isopleth (180 dB re 1 mPa does not exist) was estimated to determine the maximum distance at which Level B harassment may occur. To further understand how NEG Port activities may result in underwater noise that could harass marine mammals, Northeast Gateway has engaged scientists from Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as the consultants for collecting and analyzing the acoustic data throughout the project area (see sections 13.0 and 14.0 of the IHA application). Elevated underwater sound levels within Massachusetts Bay due to this existing vessel traffic and other Bay activities may effectively mask sound generated during Port activities. Sound levels recorded by marine autonomous recording units (MARUs) within frequency bands for marine mammals have been reported to include whales, other biotic and abiotic sound sources and ambient noise that could be occurring at the time (BRP 2011). the use of similar support vessels and equipment as used for construction. Modeling analysis conducted by TetraTech concluded that the only underwater noise of critical concern during NEG Port construction would be from vessel noises such as turning screws, engine noise, noise of operating machinery, and thruster use. To confirm these modeled results and better understand the noise footprint associated with construction activities at the NEG Port, field measurements were taken of various construction activities during the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Construction period. Measurements were taken to establish the ‘‘loudest’’ potential construction measurement event. The location at the LNG Port was used to determine site-specific distances to the 120/180 dB re 1 mPa isopleths for NEG Port maintenance and repair activities. As described for NEG Port operations, sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the noise footprint of the construction activity. The calculations took into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and seabed composition, and specifically evaluated sound energy in the range that encompasses the auditory frequencies of marine mammals and at which sound propagates beyond the immediate vicinity of the source. These results were then summed across frequencies to provide the broadband received levels at receptor locations. The resulting distances to the 120 dB isopleth (180 dB re 1 mPa does not exist) was estimated to determine the maximum distance at which Level B harassment may occur (Table 1). NEG Port Maintenance and Repair As stated in earlier in the document, routine inspections of NEG Port mooring components occur after each buoy connection from the Port’s normal support vessel. Inspections of other Port facility components such as the STL Buoy, flexible riser, mooring system, pipeline end manifold (PLEM) are conducted annually by a ROV and/or diver launched from a vessel of opportunity. In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port necessitate emergency maintenance and/or repair activities. While the extent and number of such maintenance and repair activities at the NEG Port over its expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is reasonable to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair scenario would result in similar types of activities and require Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Operations and Maintenance and Unplanned Repair As discussed earlier in the document, routine inspections of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral are conducted annually by a ROV launched from a vessel of opportunity. Planned O&M activity is the annual inspection of the cathodic protection monitors by a ROV. The monitors are located at the ends of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and the adjacent Flowlines. Each inspection activity will take approximately 3 days and will utilize a ROV launched from a vessel of opportunity. The most likely vessel will be similar to the NEG Port’s normal support vessel. In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral necessitate emergency maintenance and/or repair activities. While the extent PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69056 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices and number of such maintenance and repair activities at the Port over its expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is reasonable to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair scenario would result in similar types of activities and require the use of similar support vessels and equipment as used for construction. Modeling analysis conducted in support of the final EIS/EIR concluded that the only underwater noise of critical concern during NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral construction would be from vessel noises such as turning screws, engine noise, noise of operating machinery, and thruster use. As with construction noise at the NEG Port, to confirm modeled results and better understand the noise footprint associated with construction activities along the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral, field measurements were taken of various construction activities during the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Construction period. Again, measurements were taken to establish the ‘‘loudest’’ potential construction measurement event. Two positions within Massachusetts Bay were then used to determine sitespecific distances to the 120/180 dB re 1 mPa isopleths: at PLEM and at MidPipeline. As described for NEG Port operations and maintenance and repair, at each location sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the noise footprint of the construction activity at each of the specified locations. The resulting distances to the 120 dB isopleth (180 dB re 1 mPa does not exist) was estimated to determine the maximum distance at which Level B harassment may occur (Table 1). TABLE 1—MODELED UNDERWATER RECEIVED SOUND PRESSURE LEVELS AND DISTANCES TO THRESHOLD LEVELS FOR NEG PORT AND ALGONQUIN PIPELINE LATERAL OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR ACTIVITIES Estimated distance (m) from source where received SPL falls below 120 dB re 1 μPa Activities NEG Port Operations: EBRV docking with support vessel at Port ...................................................................................................................... EBRV docking with support vessels on station ............................................................................................................... EBRV regasification .......................................................................................................................................................... EBRV transiting TSS ........................................................................................................................................................ NEG Port Maintenance and Repair: Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel ........................................................................................................................ Algonquin Pipeline Lateral O&M and Unplanned Repair: Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel at PLEM ......................................................................................................... Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel at Mid-pipeline ................................................................................................ Potential Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES NEG Port Operations Operation of the NEG Port will not result in short-term effects; however, long-term effects on the marine environment, including alteration of the seafloor conditions, continued disturbance of the seafloor, regular withdrawal of sea water, and regular generation of underwater noise, will result from Port operations. Specifically, a small area (0.14 acre) along the Pipeline Lateral has been permanently altered (armored) at two cable crossings. In addition, the structures associated with the NEG Port (flowlines, mooring wire rope and chain, suction anchors, and pipeline end manifolds) occupy 4.8 acres of seafloor. An additional area of the seafloor of up to 43 acres (worst case scenario based on severe 100-year storm with EBRVs occupying both STL buoys) will be subject to disturbance due to chain sweep while the buoys are occupied. Given the relatively small size of the NEG Port area that will be directly affected by Port operations, NMFS does not anticipate that habitat loss will be significant. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 EBRVs are currently authorized to withdraw an average of 4.97 million gallons per day (mgd) and 2.6 billion gallons per year of sea water for general ship operations during it cargo delivery activities at the NEG Port. However, during the operations of the NEG Port facility, it was revealed that significantly more water usage is needed from what was originally evaluated in the final USCG Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR). The updates for the needed water intake and discharge temperature are: • 11 billion gallons of total annual water use at the Port; • Maximum daily intake volume of up to 56 mgd at a rate of 0.45 feet per second when an EBRV is not able to achieve the heat recovery system (HRS: It is the capability of reducing water use during the regasification process) mode of operation; and, • Maximum daily change in discharge temperature of 12 °C (21.6 °F) from ambient from the vessel’s main condenser cooling system. Under the requested water-use scenario, Tech Tech (2011) conducted an environmental analysis on the potential impacts to marine mammals PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4,250 5,500 < 300 1,750 2,560 3,500 2,831 and their prey. To evaluate impacts to phytoplankton under the increased water usage, the biomass of phytoplankton lost from the Massachusetts Bay ecosystem was estimated based on the method presented in the final EIS/EIR. Phytoplankton densities of 65,000 to 390,000 cells/gallon were multiplied by the annual planned activities of withdrawal rate of 11 billion gallons to estimate a loss of 7.15 × 1014 to 4.29 × 1015 cells per year. Assuming a dryweight biomass of 10¥10 to 10¥11 gram per cell (g/cell), an estimated 7.2 kg to 429 kg of biomass would be lost from Massachusetts Bay under the proposed activity, up to approximately 4.2 times that estimated in the final EIS/EIR for the permitted operational scenario. An order of magnitude estimate of the effect of this annual biomass loss on the regional food web can be calculated assuming a 10 percent transfer of biomass from one trophic level to the next (Sumich 1988) following the method used in the final EIS/EIR. This suggests that the loss of 7.2 kg to 429 kg of phytoplankton will result in the loss of about 0.7 kg to 42.9 kg of zooplankton, less than 0.1 kg to 4.3 kg of small planktivorous fish, and up to E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices 0.4 kg of large piscivorous fish (approximately equivalent to a single 1pound striped bass). Relative to the biomass of these trophic levels in the project area, this biomass loss is minor and consistent with the findings in the final EIS/EIR. In addition, zooplankton losses will also increase proportionally to the increase in water withdrawn. The final EIS/EIR used densities of zooplankton determined by the sampling conducted by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to characterize the area around its offshore outfall and assumed a mean zooplankton density of 34.9 × 103 organisms per m3. Applying this density, the water withdrawal volume under the proposed activity would result in the entrainment of 2.2 × 1010 zooplankton individuals per trip or 1.5 × 1012 individuals per year. Assuming an average biomass of 0.63 × 10¥6 g per individual, this would result in the loss of 14.1 kg of zooplankton per shipment or 916.5 kg of zooplankton per year. As discussed for phytoplankton, biomass transfers from one trophic level to the next at a rate of about 10 percent. Therefore, this entrainment of zooplankton would result in loss of about 91.6 kg of planktivorous fish and 9.2 kg of large piscivorous fish (approximately equivalent to two 9pound striped bass). These losses are minor relative to the total biomass of these trophic levels in Massachusetts Bay. Finally, ichthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae) losses and equivalent age one juvenile fish estimates under the proposed activity were made based on actual monthly ichthyoplankton data collected in the port area from October 2005 through December 2009 and the proposed activity withdrawal volume of 11 billion gallons per year evenly distributed among months (0.92 billion gallons per month) as a worst-case scenario, representing the maximum number of Port deliveries during any given month. Similarly, the lower, upper, and mean annual entrainment estimates are based on the lower and upper 95 percent confidence limits, of the monthly mean ichthyoplankton densities, and the monthly mean estimates multiplied by the monthly withdrawal rate of 0.92 billion gallons per month. At this withdrawal rate approximately 106 million eggs and 67 million larvae are estimated to be lost (see Table 4.2–2 of the IHA application). The most abundant species and life stages estimated to be entrained under the proposed activity are cunner post yolk-sac larvae (33.3 million), yellowtail flounder/Labridae eggs (27.4 million) and hake species eggs (18.7 million). VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 Together, these species and life stages accounted for approximately 46 percent of the total entrainment estimated. Entrainment was estimated to be highest in June through July when 97.4 million eggs and larvae (approximately 57 percent of the annual total) were estimated to be entrained. Nevertheless, since the demand for natural gas and corresponding Port activities will likely be greatest during the winter heating season (November through March) when impacts from entrainment will likely be lower. These estimated losses are not significant given the very high natural mortality of ichthyoplankton. This comparison was done in the final EIS/ EIR where ichthyoplankton losses based on historic regional ichthyoplankton densities and a withdrawal rate of approximately 2.6 billion gallons per year were represented by the equivalent number of age one fish. Under the final EIS/EIR withdrawal scenario, equivalent age one losses due to entrainment ranged from 1 haddock to 43,431 sand lance (Tetra Tech 2010). Equivalent age one losses under the conditions when no NEG Port operation occurrence were recalculated using Northeast Gateway monitoring data in order to facilitate comparisons between the permitted scenario. Using Northeast Gateway monitoring data, withdrawal of 2.6 billion gallons per year would result in equivalent age one losses ranging from less than 1 haddock to 5,602 American sand lance. By comparison, equivalent age one losses under the proposed activity withdrawal rate of 11 billion gallons per year ranged from less than 1 haddock to 23,701 sand lance and were generally similar to or less than those in the final EIS/EIR. Substantially more equivalent age one Atlantic herring, pollock, and butterfish were estimated to be lost under the final EIS/ EIR at a withdrawal rate of 2.6 billion gallons per year, while substantially more equivalent age one Atlantic cod, silver hake and hake species, cunner, and Atlantic mackerel are estimated to be lost under the proposed activity. Although no reliable annual food consumption rates of baleen whales are available for comparison, based on the calculated quantities of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and ichthyoplankton removal analyzed above, it is reasonable to conclude that baleen whale predation rates would dwarf any reasonable estimates of prey removals by NEG Port operations. Therefore, NMFS believes that the prey removals by NEG Port operations resulting from water usage will have negligible impacts on marine mammal habitat. PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69057 NEG Port Maintenance As stated earlier, NEG LNG Port will require scheduled maintenance inspections using either divers or ROVs. The duration of these inspections are not anticipated to be more than two 8-hour working days. An EBRV will not be required to support these annual inspections. Water usage during the LNG Port maintenance would be limited to the standard requirements of NEG’s normal support vessel. As with all vessels operating in Massachusetts Bay, sea water uptake and discharge is required to support engine cooling, typically using a once-through system. The rate of seawater uptake varies with the ship’s horsepower and activity and therefore will differ between vessels and activity type. For example, the Gateway Endeavor is a 90-foot vessel powered with a 1,200 horsepower diesel engine with a four-pump seawater cooling system. This system requires seawater intake of about 68 gallons per minute (gpm) while idling and up to about 150 gpm at full power. Use of full power is required generally for transit. A conservatively high estimate of vessel activity for the Gateway Endeavor would be operation at idle for 75 percent of the time and full power for 25 percent of the time. During the routine activities this would equate to approximately 42,480 gallons of seawater per 8-hour work day. When compared to the engine cooling requirements of an EBRV over an 8-hour period (approximately 18 million gallons), the Gateway Endeavour uses about 0.2 percent of the EBRV requirement. To put this water use into context, potential effects from the waters-use scenario of 56 mgd have been concluded to be orders of magnitude less than the natural fluctuations of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay and not detectable. Water use by support vessels during routine port activities would not materially add to the overall impacts. Certain maintenance and repair activities may also require the presence of an EBRV at the Port. Such instances may include maintenance and repair on the STL Buoy, vessel commissioning, and any onboard equipment malfunction or failure occurring while a vessel is present for cargo delivery. Because the requested water-use scenario allows for daily water use of up to 56 mgd to support standard EBRV requirements when not operating in the HRS mode, vessels would be able to remain at the Port as necessary to support all such maintenance and repair scenarios. Therefore, NMFS considers that NEG Port maintenance and repair E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69058 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices would have negligible impacts to marine mammal habitat in the proposed activity area. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Unanticipated Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Maintenance and Repair As stated earlier, proper care and maintenance of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral should minimize the likelihood of an unanticipated maintenance and/or repair event; however, unanticipated activities may occur from time to time if facility components become damaged or malfunction. Unanticipated repairs may range from relatively minor activities requiring minimal equipment and one or two diver/ROV support vessels to major activities requiring larger construction-type vessels similar to those used to support the construction and installation of the facility. Major repair activities, although unlikely, may include repairing or replacement of pipeline manifolds or a sections of the Pipeline Lateral. This type of work would likely require the use of large specialty construction vessels such as those used during the construction and installation of the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral. The duration of a major unplanned activity would depend upon the type of repair work involved and would require careful planning and coordination. Turbidity would likely be a potential effect of Algonquin Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair activities on listed species. In addition, the possible removal of benthic or planktonic species, resulting from relatively minor construction vessel water use requirements, as measured in comparison to EBRV water use, is unlikely to affect in a measurable way the food sources available to marine mammals. Therefore, NMFS considers that Algonquin Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair would have negligible impacts to marine mammal habitat in the proposed activity area. Proposed Mitigation Measures In order to issue an incidental take authorization under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses. For the proposed NEG LNG Port operations and maintenance and repair activities, Excelerate and Tetra Tech worked with NMFS and proposed the VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 following mitigation measures to minimize the potential impacts to marine mammals in the project vicinity as a result of the LNG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities. The primary purpose of these proposed mitigation measures is to ensure that no marine mammal would be injured or killed by vessels transiting the LNG Port facility, and to minimize the intensity of noise exposure of marine mammals in the activity area. For the proposed NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair, the following mitigation measures are proposed. (a) General Marine Mammal Avoidance Measures (i) All vessels shall utilize the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-approved Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) on their approach to and departure from the NEG Port and/or the repair/maintenance area at the earliest practicable point of transit in order to avoid the risk of whale strikes. (ii) Upon entering the TSS and areas where North Atlantic right whales are known to occur, including the Great South Channel Seasonal Management Area (GSC–SMA) and the SBNMS, the EBRV shall go into ‘‘Heightened Awareness’’ as described below. (A) Prior to entering and navigating the modified TSS the Master of the vessel shall: (I) Consult Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), NOAA Weather Radio, the NOAA Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (SAS) or other means to obtain current right whale sighting information as well as the most recent Cornell acoustic monitoring buoy data for the potential presence of marine mammals; (II) Post a look-out to visually monitor for the presence of marine mammals; (III) Provide the US Coast Guard (USCG) required 96-hour notification of an arriving EBRV to allow the NEG Port Manager to notify Cornell of vessel arrival. (B) The look-out shall concentrate his/ her observation efforts within the 2-mile radius zone of influence (ZOI) from the maneuvering EBRV. (C) If marine mammal detection was reported by NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or an acoustic monitoring buoy, the look-out shall concentrate visual monitoring efforts towards the areas of the most recent detection. (D) If the look-out (or any other member of the crew) visually detects a marine mammal within the 2-mile PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 radius ZOI of a maneuvering EBRV, he/ she will take the following actions: (I) The Officer-of-the-Watch shall be notified immediately; who shall then relay the sighting information to the Master of the vessel to ensure action(s) can be taken to avoid physical contact with marine mammals. (II) The sighting shall be recorded in the sighting log by the designated lookout. (iii) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103(c), all vessels associated with NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral activities shall not approach closer than 500 yards (460 m) to a North Atlantic right whale and 100 yards (91 m) to other whales to the extent physically feasible given navigational constraints. In addition, when approaching and departing the project area, vessels shall be operated so as to remain at least 1 km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whales. (iv) In response to active right whale sightings and active acoustic detections, and taking into account exceptional circumstances, EBRVs, repair and maintenance vessels shall take appropriate actions to minimize the risk of striking whales. Specifically vessels shall: (A) Respond to active right whale sightings and/or DMAs reported on the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) or SAS by concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 10 knots or less if the vessel is within the boundaries of a DMA (50 CFR 224.105) or within the circular area centered on an area 8 nm in radius from a sighting location; (B) Respond to active acoustic detections by concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 10 knots or less within an area 5 nm in radius centered on the detecting AB; and (C) Respond to additional sightings made by the designated look-outs within a 2-mile radius of the vessel by slowing the vessel to 10 knots or less and concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent sighting. (v) All vessels operated under NEG and Algonquin must follow the established specific speed restrictions when calling at the NEG Port. The specific speed restrictions required for all vessels (i.e., EBRVs and vessels associated with maintenance and repair) consist of the following: (A) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the TSS from 12 knots or less to 10 knots or less from March 1 to April 30 in all waters bounded by straight lines E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices connecting the following points in the order stated below unless an emergency situation dictates for an alternate speed. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Off Race Point Seasonal Management Area (ORP–SMA) and tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105: 42°30′ N 70°30′ W 41°40′ N 69°57′ W 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 42°12′ N 70°15′ W 41°40’ N 69°45′ W 42°12′ N 70°30′ W 42°04.8′ N 70°10′ W 42°30′ N 70°30′ W (B) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the TSS to 10 knots or less unless an emergency situation dictates for an alternate speed from April 1 to July 31 in all waters bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated below. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the GSC–SMA and tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105: 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 41°40′ N 69°45′ W 42°30′ N 67°27′ W 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 42°09′ N 67°08.4′ W 41°00′ N 69°05′ W (C) Vessels are not expected to transit the Cape Cod Bay or the Cape Cod Canal; however, in the event that transit through the Cape Cod Bay or the Cape Cod Canal is required, vessels shall reduce maximum transit speed to 10 knots or less from January 1 to May 15 in all waters in Cape Cod Bay, extending to all shorelines of Cape Cod Bay, with a northern boundary of 42°12′ N latitude and the Cape Cod Canal. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Cape Cod Bay Seasonal Management Area (CCB– SMA). (D) All Vessels transiting to and from the project area shall report their activities to the mandatory reporting Section of the USCG to remain apprised of North Atlantic right whale movements within the area. All vessels entering and exiting the MSRA shall report their activities to WHALESNORTH. Vessel operators shall contact the USCG by standard procedures promulgated through the Notice to Mariner system. (E) All Vessels greater than or equal to 300 gross tons (GT) shall maintain a speed of 10 knots or less, unless an emergency situation requires speeds greater than 10 knots. (F) All Vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and the project area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots will contact the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) system, the USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 kilometers) of any sighting location, when traveling in any of the seasonal management areas (SMAs) or when traveling in any active dynamic management area (DMA). (b) NEG Port-Specific Operations (i) In addition to the general marine mammal avoidance requirements identified in (5)(a) above, vessels calling on the NEG Port must comply with the following additional requirements: (A) EBRVs shall travel at 10 knots maximum speed when transiting to/ from the TSS or to/from the NEG Port/ Pipeline Lateral area. For EBRVs, at 1.86 miles (3 km) from the NEG Port, speed will be reduced to 3 knots and to less than 1 knot at 1,640 ft (500 m) from the NEG buoys, unless an emergency situation dictates the need for an alternate speed. (B) EBRVs that are approaching or departing from the NEG Port and are within the ATBA5 surrounding the NEG Port, shall remain at least 1 km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whale and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from all other visually-detected whales unless an emergency situation requires that the vessel stay its course. During EBRV maneuvering, the Vessel Master shall designate at least one look-out to be exclusively and continuously monitoring for the presence of marine mammals at all times while the EBRV is approaching or departing from the NEG Port. (C) During NEG Port operations, in the event that a whale is visually observed within 1 km of the NEG Port or a confirmed acoustic detection is reported on either of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port (western-most in the TSS array), departing EBRVs shall delay their departure from the NEG Port, unless an emergency situation requires that departure is not delayed. This departure delay shall continue until either the observed whale has been visually (during daylight hours) confirmed as more than 1 km from the NEG Port or 30 minutes have passed without another confirmed detection either acoustically within the acoustic detection range of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port, or visually within 1 km from the NEG Port. (ii) Vessel captains shall focus on reducing dynamic positioning (DP) thruster power to the maximum extent practicable, taking into account vessel and Port safety, during the operation activities. Vessel captains will shut down thrusters whenever they are not needed. (c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair Activities (i) NEG Port PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69059 (A) The Northeast Gateway shall conduct empirical source level measurements on all noise emitting construction equipment and all vessels that are involved in maintenance/repair work. (B) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are employed and/or activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m or greater, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements for DP systems listed in (b)(ii) above. (C) Northeast Gateway shall provide the NMFS Headquarters Office of the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and SBNMS with a minimum of 30 days notice prior to any planned repair and/ or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/ maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Northeast Gateway shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field. (ii) Pipeline Lateral (A) Pipeline maintenance/repair vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and the maintenance/ repair area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots shall contact the MSR system, the USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 km) of any sighting location, when travelling in any of the seasonal management areas (SMAs) as defined above. (B) Maintenance/repair vessels greater than 300 GT shall not exceed 10 knots, unless an emergency situation that requires speeds greater than 10 knots. (C) Planned maintenance and repair activities shall be restricted to the period between May 1 and November 30. (D) Unplanned/emergency maintenance and repair activities shall be conducted utilizing anchor-moored dive vessel whenever operationally possible. (E) Algonquin shall also provide the NMFS Office of the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) with a minimum of 30-day notice prior to any planned repair and/or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/ E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 69060 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Algonquin shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field. (F) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m or greater, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements for DP systems listed in (b)(ii) above. (G) In the event that a whale is visually observed within 0.5 mile (0.8 kilometers) of a repair or maintenance vessel, the vessel superintendent or ondeck supervisor shall be notified immediately. The vessel’s crew shall be put on a heightened state of alert and the marine mammal shall be monitored constantly to determine if it is moving toward the repair or maintenance area. (H) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa @ 1 m or higher when a right whale is sighted within or approaching at 500 yd (457 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed outside the established zones (500 yd [457 m]) or 30 minutes have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation distances. (I) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa @ 1 m or higher when a marine mammal other than a right whale is sighted within or approaching at 100 yd (91 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed outside the established zones (100 yd [91 m]) or 30 minutes have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation distances. (J) Algonquin and associated contractors shall also comply with the following: (I) Operations involving equipment with sound source levels exceeding 139 dB re 1mPa @ 1 m shall ‘‘ramp-up’’ sound sources, allowing whales a chance to leave the area before sounds reach maximum levels. In addition, Northeast Gateway, Algonquin, and VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 other associated contractors shall maintain equipment to manufacturers’ specifications, including any soundmuffling devices or engine covers in order to minimize noise effects. Noisy construction equipment shall only be used as needed and equipment shall be turned off when not in operation. (II) Any material that has the potential to entangle marine mammals (e.g., anchor lines, cables, rope or other construction debris) shall only be deployed as needed and measures shall be taken to minimize the chance of entanglement. (III) For any material mentioned above that has the potential to entangle marine mammals, such material shall be removed from the water immediately unless such action jeopardizes the safety of the vessel and crew as determined by the Captain of the vessel. (IV) In the event that a marine mammal becomes entangled, the marine mammal coordinator and/or PSO will notify NMFS (if outside the SBNMS), and SBNMS staff (if inside the SBNMS) immediately so that a rescue effort may be initiated. (K) All maintenance/repair activities shall be scheduled to occur between May 1 and November 30; however, in the event of unplanned/emergency repair work that cannot be scheduled during the preferred May through November work window, the following additional measures shall be followed for Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair related activities between December and April: (I) Between December 1 and April 30, if on-board PSOs do not have at least 0.5-mile visibility, they shall call for a shutdown. At the time of shutdown, the use of thrusters must be minimized. If there are potential safety problems due to the shutdown, the captain will decide what operations can safely be shut down. (II) Prior to leaving the dock to begin transit, the barge shall contact one of the PSOs on watch to receive an update of sightings within the visual observation area. If the PSO has observed a North Atlantic right whale within 30 minutes of the transit start, the vessel shall hold for 30 minutes and again get a clearance to leave from the PSOs on board. PSOs shall assess whale activity and visual observation ability at the time of the transit request to clear the barge for release. (III) Transit route, destination, sea conditions and any marine mammal sightings/mitigation actions during watch shall be recorded in the log book. Any whale sightings within 1,000 m of the vessel shall result in a high alert and slow speed of 4 knots or less and a PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 sighting within 750 m shall result in idle speed and/or ceasing all movement. (IV) The material barges and tugs used in repair and maintenance shall transit from the operations dock to the work sites during daylight hours when possible provided the safety of the vessels is not compromised. Should transit at night be required, the maximum speed of the tug shall be 5 knots. (V) All repair vessels must maintain a speed of 10 knots or less during daylight hours. All vessels shall operate at 5 knots or less at all times within 5 km of the repair area. (d) Acoustic Monitoring Related Activities (i) Vessels associated with maintaining the acoustic seafloor array of Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and the AB network operating as part of the mitigation/monitoring protocols shall adhere to the following speed restrictions and marine mammal monitoring requirements. (A) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are greater than 300 gross tons (GT) shall not exceed 10 knots. (B) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are less than 300 GT shall not exceed 15 knots at any time, but shall adhere to speeds of 10 knots or less in the following areas and seasons: (I) In the ORP–SMA between March 1 and April 30; and (II) In the CCB–SMA between January 1 and May 15. (C) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103 (c), all vessels associated with NEG Port activities shall not approach closer than 500 yards (460 meters) to a North Atlantic right whale. (D) All vessels shall obtain the latest DMA or right whale sighting information via the NAVTEX, MSR, SAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or other available means prior to operations to determine if there are right whales present in the operational area. Mitigation Conclusions NMFS has carefully evaluated the proposed mitigation measures in the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: • The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals; E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices • The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and • The practicability of the measure for applicant implementation. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Proposed Monitoring and Reporting Measures In order to issue an ITA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ‘‘requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking.’’ The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. Proposed Monitoring Measures mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (a) Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring (i) Vessel-Based monitoring for marine mammals shall be done by trained look-outs during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities. The observers shall monitor the occurrence of marine mammals near the vessels during LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related activities. Lookout duties include watching for and identifying marine mammals; recording their numbers, distances, and reactions to the activities; and documenting ‘‘take by harassment’’. (ii) The vessel look-outs assigned to visually monitor for the presence of marine mammals and shall be provided with the following: (A) Recent NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or acoustic monitoring buoy detection data; (B) Binoculars to support observations; (C) Marine mammal detection guide sheets; and (D) Sighting log. (b) NEG LNG Port Operations (i) All individuals onboard the EBRVs responsible for the navigation duties and any other personnel that could be VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 assigned to monitor for marine mammals shall receive training on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures. (ii) While an EBRV is navigating within the designated TSS, there shall be three people with look-out duties on or near the bridge of the ship including the Master, the Officer-of-the-Watch and the Helmsman-on-watch. In addition to the standard watch procedures, while the EBRV is transiting within the designated TSS, maneuvering within the Area to be Avoided (ATBA), and/or while actively engaging in the use of thrusters, an additional look-out shall be designated to exclusively and continuously monitor for marine mammals. (iii) All sightings of marine mammals by the designated look-out, individuals posted to navigational look-out duties and/or any other crew member while the EBRV is transiting within the TSS, maneuvering within the ATBA and/or when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, shall be immediately reported to the Officer-of-the-Watch who shall then alert the Master. The Master or Officer-of-the-Watch shall ensure the required reporting procedures are followed and the designated marine mammal look-out records all pertinent information relevant to the sighting. (iv) Visual sightings made by lookouts from the EBRVs shall be recorded using a standard sighting log form. Estimated locations shall be reported for each individual and/or group of individuals categorized by species when known. This data shall be entered into a database and a summary of monthly sighting activity shall be provided to NMFS. Estimates of take and copies of these log sheets shall also be included in the reports to NMFS. (c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair (i) Two (2) qualified and NMFSapproved protected species observers (PSOs) shall be assigned to each vessel that will use dynamic positioning (DP) systems during maintenance and repair related activities. PSOs shall operate individually in designated shifts to accommodate adequate rest schedules. Additional PSOs shall be assigned to additional vessels if auto-detection buoy (AB) data indicates that sound levels exceed 120 dB re 1 mPa, further then 100 meters (328 feet) from these vessels. (ii) All PSOs shall receive NMFSapproved marine mammal observer training and be approved in advance by NMFS after review of their resume. All PSOs shall have direct field experience on marine mammal vessels and/or aerial PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69061 surveys in the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico. (iii) PSOs (one primary and one secondary) shall be responsible for visually locating marine mammals at the ocean’s surface and, to the extent possible, identifying the species. The primary PSO shall act as the identification specialist and the secondary PSO will serve as data recorder and also assist with identification. Both PSOs shall have responsibility for monitoring for the presence of marine mammals and sea turtles. Specifically PSO’s shall: (A) Monitor at all hours of the day, scanning the ocean surface by eye for a minimum of 40 minutes every hour. (B) Monitor the area where maintenance and repair work is conducted beginning at daybreak using 25x power binoculars and/or hand-held binoculars. Night vision devices must be provided as standard equipment for monitoring during low-light hours and at night. (C) Conduct general 360° visual monitoring during any given watch period and target scanning by the observer shall occur when alerted of a whale presence. (D) Alert the vessel superintendent or construction crew supervisor of visual detections within 2 miles (3.31 kilometers) immediately. (E) Record all sightings on marine mammal field sighting logs. Specifically, all data shall be entered at the time of observation, notes of activities will be kept, and a daily report prepared and attached to the daily field sighting log form. The basic reporting requirements include the following: • Beaufort sea state; • Wind speed; • Wind direction; • Temperature; • Precipitation; • Glare; • Percent cloud cover; • Number of animals; • Species; • Position; • Distance; • Behavior; • Direction of movement; and • Apparent reaction to construction activity. (iv) In the event that a whale is visually observed within the 2-mile (3.31-kilometers) zone of influence (ZOI) of a DP vessel or other construction vessel that has shown to emit noise with source level in excess of 139 dB re 1 mPa @ 1 m, the PSO will notify the repair/maintenance construction crew to minimize the use of thrusters until the animal has moved away, unless there are divers in the water or an ROV is deployed. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69062 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices (d) Acoustic Monitoring (i) Northeast Gateway shall monitor the noise environment in Massachusetts Bay in the vicinity of the NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral using an array of 19 MARUs that were deployed initially in April 2007 to collect data during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related activities. (ii) The acoustic data collected by the MARUs shall be analyzed to document the seasonal occurrences and overall distributions of whales (primarily fin, humpback and right whales) within approximately 10 nm of the NEG Port and shall measure and document the noise ‘‘budget’’ of Massachusetts Bay so as to eventually assist in determining whether or not an overall increase in noise in the Bay associated with the Project might be having a potentially negative impact on marine mammals. (iii) In addition to the 19 MARUs, Northeast Gateway shall deploy 10 ABs within the Separation Zone of the TSS for the operational life of the Project. (iv) The ABs shall be used to detect a calling North Atlantic right whale an average of 5 nm from each AB. The AB system shall be the primary detection mechanism that alerts the EBRV Master to the occurrence of right whales, heightens EBRV awareness, and triggers necessary mitigation actions as described in section (5) above. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (e) Acoustic Whale Detection and Response Plan (i) NEG Port Operations (A) Ten (10) ABs that have been deployed since 2007 shall be used to continuously screen the low-frequency acoustic environment (less than 1,000 Hertz) for right whale contact calls occurring within an approximately 5nm radius from each buoy (the AB’s detection range). (B) Once a confirmed detection is made, the Master of any EBRVs operating in the area will be alerted immediately. (ii) NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral Planned and Unplanned/Emergency Repair and Maintenance Activities (A) If the repair/maintenance work is located outside of the detectible range of the 10 project area ABs, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin shall consult with NOAA (NMFS and SBNMS) to determine if the work to be conducted warrants the temporary installation of an additional AB(s) to help detect and provide early warnings for potential occurrence of right whales in the vicinity of the repair area. (B) The number of ABs installed around the activity site shall be commensurate with the type and spatial VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 extent of maintenance/repair work required, but must be sufficient to detect vocalizing right whales within the 120dB impact zone. (C) Should acoustic monitoring be deemed necessary during a planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance event, active monitoring for right whale calls shall begin 24 hours prior to the start of activities. (D) Source level data from the acoustic recording units deployed in the NEG Port and/or Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair area shall be provided to NMFS. Proposed Reporting Measures (a) Throughout NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin shall provide a monthly Monitoring Report. The Monitoring Report shall include: (i) Both copies of the raw visual EBRV lookout sighting information of marine mammals that occurred within 2 miles of the EBRV while the vessel transits within the TSS, maneuvers within the ATBA, and/or when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, and a summary of the data collected by the look-outs over each reporting period. (ii) Copies of the raw PSO sightings information on marine mammals gathered during pipeline repair or maintenance activities. This visual sighting data shall then be correlated to periods of thruster activity to provide estimates of marine mammal takes (per species/species class) that took place during each reporting period. (iii) Conclusion of any planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance period, a report shall be submitted to NMFS summarizing the repair/maintenance activities, marine mammal sightings (both visual and acoustic), empirical source-level measurements taken during the repair work, and any mitigation measures taken. (b) During the maintenance and repair of NEG Port components, weekly status reports shall be provided to NOAA (both NMFS and SBNMS) using standardized reporting forms. The weekly reports shall include data collected for each distinct marine mammal species observed in the repair/ maintenance area during the period that maintenance and repair activities were taking place. The weekly reports shall include the following information: (i) Location (in longitude and latitude coordinates), time, and the nature of the maintenance and repair activities; (ii) Indication of whether a DP system was operated, and if so, the number of thrusters being used and the time and duration of DP operation; PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (iii) Marine mammals observed in the area (number, species, age group, and initial behavior); (iv) The distance of observed marine mammals from the maintenance and repair activities; (v) Changes, if any, in marine mammal behaviors during the observation; (vi) A description of any mitigation measures (power-down, shutdown, etc.) implemented; (vii) Weather condition (Beaufort sea state, wind speed, wind direction, ambient temperature, precipitation, and percent cloud cover etc.); (viii) Condition of the observation (visibility and glare); and (ix) Details of passive acoustic detections and any action taken in response to those detections. (d) Injured/Dead Protected Species Reporting (i) In the unanticipated event that survey operations clearly cause the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the proposed IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), NEG and/or Algonquin shall immediately cease activities and immediately report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the Northeast Regional Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300. The report must include the following information: (A) time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; (B) the name and type of vessel involved; (C) the vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; (D) description of the incident; (E) status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (F) water depth; (G) environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); (H) description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (I) species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; (J) the fate of the animal(s); and (K) photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices NMFS shall work with NEG and/or Algonquin to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. NEG and/or Algonquin may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. (ii) In the event that NEG and/or Algonquin discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), NEG and/or Algonquin will immediately report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. The report must include the same information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with NEG and/or Algonquin to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. (iii) In the event that NEG or Algonquin discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized (if the IHA is issued) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), NEG and/or Algonquin shall report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. NEG and/or Algonquin shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. NEG and/or Algonquin can continue its operations under such a case. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 Summary of Previous Monitoring Reports Based on monthly activity reports submitted to NMFS for the period between August 2010 and October 2013, there were no activities at the NEG Port during the period. Therefore, no take of marine mammals occurred or were reported during this period. Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment]. Only take by Level B harassment is anticipated as a result of NEG’s operation and maintenance and repair activities. Anticipated take of marine mammals is associated with operation of dynamic positioning during the docking of the LNG vessels and positioning of maintenance and dive vessels, and by operations of certain machinery during maintenance and repair activities. The regasification process itself is an activity that does not rise to the level of taking, as the modeled source level for this activity is 108 dB. Certain species may have a behavioral reaction to the sound emitted during the activities. Hearing impairment is not anticipated. Additionally, vessel strikes are not anticipated, especially because of the speed restriction measures that are proposed that were described earlier in this document. The full suite of potential impacts to marine mammals was described in detail in the ‘‘Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals’’ section found earlier in this document. The potential effects of sound from the proposed open water marine survey programs might include one or more of the following: masking of natural sounds; behavioral disturbance; nonauditory physical effects; and, at least in theory, temporary or permanent hearing impairment (Richardson et al. 1995). As discussed earlier in this document, the most common impact will likely be from behavioral disturbance, including avoidance of the ensonified area or changes in speed, direction, and/or PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69063 diving profile of the animal. For reasons discussed previously in this document, hearing impairment (TTS and PTS) is highly unlikely to occur based on the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures that would preclude marine mammals from being exposed to noise levels high enough to cause hearing impairment. For non-pulse sounds, such as those produced by operating dynamic positioning (DP) thruster during vessel docking and supporting underwater construction and repair activities and the operations of various machineries that produces non-pulse noises, NMFS uses the 120 dB (rms) re 1 mPa isopleth to indicate the onset of Level B harassment. NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Activities Acoustic Footprints I. NEG Port Operations For the purposes of understanding the noise footprint of operations at the NEG Port, measurements taken to capture operational noise (docking, undocking, regasification, and EBRV thruster use) during the 2006 Gulf of Mexico field event were taken at the source. Measurements taken during EBRV transit were normalized to a distance of 328 feet (100 meters) to serve as a basis for modeling sound propagation at the NEG Port site in Massachusetts Bay. Sound propagation calculations for operational activities were then completed at two positions in Massachusetts Bay to determine sitespecific distances to the 120/160/180 dB isopleths: • Operations Position 1—Port (EBRV Operations): 70°36.261′ W and 42°23.790′ N • Operations Position 2—Boston TSS (EBRV Transit): 70°17.621′ W and 42°17.539′ N At each of these locations sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the noise footprint of the operation activity at each of the specified locations. Calculations were performed in accordance with Marsh and Schulkin (1985) and Richardson et al. (1995) and took into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and seabed composition. In addition, the acoustic modeling performed specifically evaluated sound energy in 1/3-octave spectral bands covering frequencies from 12.5 Hz to 20 kHz. The resultant underwater sound pressure levels to the 120 dB isopleth is presented in Table 2. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69064 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES vessel noises such as turning screws, TABLE 2—RADII OF 120-dB SPL ISOPLETHS FROM NEG LNG OPER- engine noise, noise of operating density estimates, and then multiplying by the estimated dates such activities machinery, and thruster use. As with would occur during a year-long period. ATIONS construction noise at the NEG Port, to For the NEG Port operations, the 120-dB confirm modeled results and better esonfied area is 56.8 km2 for a single Radius to 120-dB understand the noise footprint visit during docking when running DP zone (m) associated with construction activities system. For NEG Port and Algonquin along the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral, Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair One EBRV docking procedure activities, modeling based on the with support vessel ............... 4,250 field measurements were taken of various construction activities during empirical measurements showed that Two EBRV docking procedure the distance of the 120-dB radius is with support vessel ............... 5,500 the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin expected to be 3.6 km, making a EBRV regasification .................. <300 Pipeline Lateral construction period. EBRV transiting the TSS (10 Measurements were taken and maximum 120-dB ZOI of approximately knot) ...................................... 1,750 normalized to establish the ‘‘loudest’’ 40.7 km2. potential construction measurement Although there have been no LNG II. NEG Port Maintenance and Repair event. Two positions within deliveries since February 2010 at the Massachusetts Bay were then used to NEG LNG Port, NEG expected when the Modeling analysis conducted for the Port is under full operation, NEW construction of the NEG Port concluded determine site-specific distances to the 120/160/180 dB isopleths: expects it will receive up to 65 LNG that the only underwater noise of • Construction Position 2. PLEM: shipments per year, and would require critical concern during NEG Port 70°46.755′ W and 42°28.764′ N. 14 days for NEG Port maintenance and construction would be from vessel • Construction Position 3. Midup to 40 days for planned and noises such as turning screws, engine unplanned Algonquin Pipeline Lateral noise, noise of operating machinery, and Pipeline: 70°40.842′ W and 42°31.328′ N. maintenance and repair. thruster use. To confirm these modeled results and better understand the noise NMFS recognizes that baleen whale Sound propagation calculations were footprint associated with construction species other than North Atlantic right performed to determine the noise activities at the NEG Port, field whales have been sighted in the project footprint of the construction activity. measurements were taken of various The calculations took into consideration area from May to November. However, construction activities during the 2007 the occurrence and abundance of fin, aspects of water depth, sea state, NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline humpback, and minke whales is not bathymetry, and seabed composition, Lateral Construction period. and specifically evaluated sound energy well documented within the project Measurements were taken and area. Nonetheless, NMFS uses the data in the range that encompasses the normalized as described to establish the auditory frequencies of marine on cetacean distribution within ‘‘loudest’’ potential construction Massachusetts Bay, such as those mammals and at which sound measurement event. One position published by the National Centers for propagates beyond the immediate within Massachusetts Bay was then Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS 2006), vicinity of the source. These results used to determine site-specific distances were then summed across frequencies to to estimate potential takes of marine to the 120/180 dB isopleths for NEG provide the broadband received levels at mammals species in the vicinity of Port maintenance and repair activities: project area. receptor locations. The results of the The NCCOS study used cetacean distances to the 120-dB are shown in • Construction Position 1. Port: sightings from two sources: (1) The Table 3. 70°36.261′ W and 42°23.790′ N North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium Sound propagation calculations were (NARWC) sightings database held at the TABLE 3—RADII OF 120-dB SPL performed to determine the noise ISOPLETHS FROM ALGONQUIN PIPE- University of Rhode Island (Kenney, footprint of the construction activity. The calculations took into consideration LINE LATERAL OPERATION AND 2001); and (2) the Manomet Bird Observatory (MBO) database, held at aspects of water depth, sea state, MAINTENANCE NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science bathymetry, and seabed composition, Center (NEFSC). The NARWC data and specifically evaluated sound energy Radius to contained survey efforts and sightings 120-dB in the range that encompasses the zone (m) data from ship and aerial surveys and auditory frequencies of marine opportunistic sources between 1970 and mammals and at which sound Barge/tug (pulling & pushing)/ 2005. The main data contributors propagates beyond the immediate construction vessel/barge @ vicinity of the source. These results PLEM .................................... 3,600 included: Cetacean and Turtles Assessment Program (CETAP), Canadian were then summed across frequencies to Barge/tug (pulling & pushing)/ Department of Fisheries and Oceans, construction vessel/barge @ provide the broadband received levels at mid-pipeline ........................... 2,831 PCCS, International Fund for Animal receptor locations. The results showed Welfare, NOAA’s NEFSC, New England that the estimated distance from the The basis for Northeast Gateway and Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic loudest source involved in construction Algonquin’s ‘‘take’’ estimate is the Institution, and the University of Rhode activities fell to 120 dB re 1 mPa at a number of marine mammals that would Island. A total of 653,725 km (406,293 distance of 3,600 m. be exposed to sound levels in excess of mi) of survey track and 34,589 cetacean III. Algonquin Pipeline Lateral 120 dB, which is the threshold used by observations were provisionally selected Operation and Maintenance Activities NMFS for non-pulse sounds. For the for the NCCOS study in order to Modeling analysis conducted during NEG LNG Port and Algonquin Pipeline minimize bias from uneven allocation of the NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral Lateral operations and maintenance and survey effort in both time and space. construction concluded that the only repair activities, the take estimates are The sightings-per-unit-effort (SPUE) was underwater noise of critical concern determined by multiplying the 120-dB calculated for all cetacean species by during such activities would be from esonified area by local marine mammal month covering the southern Gulf of VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices Maine study area, which also includes the project area (NCCOS, 2006). The MBO’s Cetacean and Seabird Assessment Program (CSAP) was contracted from 1980 to 1988 by NMFS NEFSC to provide an assessment of the relative abundance and distribution of cetaceans, seabirds, and marine turtles in the shelf waters of the northeastern United States (MBO, 1987). The CSAP program was designed to be completely compatible with NMFS NEFSC databases so that marine mammal data could be compared directly with fisheries data throughout the time series during which both types of information were gathered. A total of 5,210 km (8,383 mi) of survey distance and 636 cetacean observations from the MBO data were included in the NCCOS analysis. Combined valid survey effort for the NCCOS studies included 567,955 km (913,840 mi) of survey track for small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) and 658,935 km (1,060,226 mi) for large cetaceans (whales) in the southern Gulf of Maine. The NCCOS study then combined these two data sets by extracting cetacean sighting records, updating database field names to match the NARWC database, creating geometry to represent survey tracklines and applying a set of data selection criteria designed to minimize uncertainty and bias in the data used. Owing to the comprehensiveness and total coverage of the NCCOS cetacean distribution and abundance study, NMFS calculated the estimated take number of marine mammals based on the most recent NCCOS report published in December 2006. A summary of seasonal cetacean distribution and abundance in the project area is provided above, in the ‘‘Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activities’’ section. For a detailed description and calculation of the cetacean abundance data and SPUE, please refer to the NCCOS study (NCCOS, 2006). These data show that the relative abundance of North Atlantic right, fin, humpback, minke, sei, and pilot whales, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins for all seasons, as calculated by SPUE in number of animals per square kilometer, is 0.0082, 0.0097, 0.0118, 0.0059, 0.0084, 0.0407, and 0.1314 n/km, respectively. In calculating the area density of these species from these linear density data, NMFS used 0.5 mi (0.825 km) as the hypothetical strip width (W). This strip width is based on the distance of visibility used in the NARWC data that was part of the NCCOS (2006) study. However, those surveys used a strip transect instead of a line transect methodology. Therefore, in order to obtain a strip width, one must divide the visibility or transect value in half. Since the visibility value used in the NARWC data was 2.3 mi (3.7 km), it thus gives a strip width of 1.15 mi (1.85 km). The hypothetical strip width used in the analysis is less than half of that derived from the NARWC data, 69065 therefore, the analysis provided here is more protective in calculating marine mammal densities in the area. Based on this information, the area density (D) of these species in the project area can be obtained by the following formula: D = SPUE/2W where D is marine mammal density in the area, and W is the strip width. Based on this calculation method, the estimated take numbers per year for North Atlantic right, fin, humpback, minke, sei, and pilot whales, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins by the NEG Port facility operations (maximum 65 visits per year), NEG Port maintenance and repair (up to 14 days per year), and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operation and maintenance (up to 40 days per year), are 29, 35, 42, 21, 30, 145, and 469, respectively (Table 4). These numbers represent approximately 6.59%, 1%, 5.12%, 0.1%, 8.4%, 1.2%, and 1% of the populations for these species based on the latest NMFS Atlantic marine mammal stock assessment reports (Waring et al. 2013), respectively. Since it is very likely that individual animals could be ‘‘taken’’ by harassment multiple times, these percentages are the upper boundary of the animal population that could be affected. The actual number of individual animals being exposed or taken would likely be far less. There is no danger of injury, death, or hearing impairment from the exposure to these noise levels. TABLE 4—ESTIMATED ANNUAL TAKES OF MARINE MAMMALS FROM THE NEG PORT AND ALGONQUIN PIPELINE LATERAL OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR ACTIVITIES IN MASSACHUSETTS BAY Population/stock Right whale .............................................................................. Humpback whale ..................................................................... Fin whale ................................................................................. Sei whale ................................................................................. Minke whale ............................................................................. Long-finned pilot whale ............................................................ Atlantic white-sided dolphin ..................................................... Bottlenose dolphin ................................................................... Short-beaked common dolphin ................................................ Risso’s dolphin ......................................................................... Killer whale .............................................................................. Harbor porpoise ....................................................................... Harbor seal .............................................................................. Gray seal ................................................................................. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Species Western Atlantic ...................................................................... Gulf of Maine ........................................................................... Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Nova Scotia ............................................................................. Canadian East Coast .............................................................. Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Western North Atlantic Southern Migratory ............................ Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy .................................................... Western North Atlantic ............................................................ Western North Atlantic ............................................................ In addition, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and gray seals could also be taken by Level B harassment as a result of deepwater NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair. Since these VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 species are less likely to occur in the area, and there are no density estimates specific to this particular area, NMFS based the take estimates on typical group size. Therefore, NMFS estimates that up to approximately 20 bottlenose dolphins, 40 short-beaked common dolphins, 40 Risso’s dolphins, 10 killer PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Number of takes 29 42 35 30 21 145 469 20 40 40 10 20 60 30 whales, 20 harbor porpoises, 60 harbor seals, and 30 gray seals could be exposed to continuous noise at or above 120 dB re 1 mPa rms incidental to operations during the one year period of the IHA, respectively. These numbers represent 0.16%, 0.06%, 0.26%, and 0.03% of the bottlenose dolphin, short- E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69066 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices beaked common dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, and harbor porpoise populations/stocks. Since no population/stock estimates for killer whale, and harbor and gray seals is available, the percentage of estimated takes for these species is unknown. Nevertheless, since Massachusetts Bay represents only a small fraction of the western North Atlantic basin where these animals occur NMFS has preliminarily determined that the takes of 10 killer whales, 60 harbor seals, and 30 gray seals represent a small fraction of the population and stocks of these species (Table 3). The take estimates presented in this section of the document do not take into consideration the mitigation and monitoring measures that are proposed for inclusion in the IHA. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Preliminary Determination NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ In making a negligible impact determination, NMFS considers a variety of factors, including but not limited to: (1) The number of anticipated mortalities; (2) the number and nature of anticipated injuries; (3) the number, nature, intensity, and duration of Level B harassment; and (4) the context in which the takes occur. No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of proposed Northeast Gateway LNG Port Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities, and none are proposed to be authorized by NMFS. Additionally, animals in the area are not anticipated to incur any hearing impairment (i.e., TTS or PTS), as the modeling of source levels indicates that none of the source received levels exceed 180 dB (rms). While some of the species occur in the proposed project area year-round, some species only occur in the area during certain seasons. Humpback and minke whales are not expected in the project area in the winter. During the winter, a large portion of the North Atlantic right whale population occurs in the southeastern U.S. calving grounds (i.e., South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida). The fact that certain activities will occur during times when certain species are not commonly found in the area will help reduce the amount of Level B harassment for these species. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hr cycle). Behavioral reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical life functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are more likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). Consequently, a behavioral response lasting less than one day and not recurring on subsequent days is not considered particularly severe unless it could directly affect reproduction or survival (Southall et al. 2007). Operational activities are not anticipated to occur at the Port on consecutive days. In addition, Northeast Gateway EBRVs are expected to make 65 port calls throughout the year, with thruster use needed for a couple of hours. Therefore, Northeast Gateway will not be creating increased sound levels in the marine environment for prolonged periods of time. Of the 14 marine mammal species likely to occur in the area, four are listed as endangered under the ESA: North Atlantic right, humpback, and fin whales. All of these species are also considered depleted under the MMPA. There is currently no designated critical habitat or known reproductive areas for any of these species in or near the proposed project area. However, there are several well known North Atlantic right whale feeding grounds in the Cape Cod Bay and Great South Channel. No mortality or injury is expected to occur, and due to the nature, degree, and context of the Level B harassment anticipated, the activity is not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival. There is no critical habitat or biologically important areas for marine mammals within the proposed project area. The population estimates for the species that may be taken by Level B behavioral harassment contained in the most recent U.S. Atlantic Stock Assessment Reports were provided earlier in this document. From the most protective estimates of both marine mammal densities in the project area and the size of the 120-dB ZOI, the maximum calculated number of individual marine mammals for each species that could potentially be harassed annually is small relative to the overall population sizes. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 proposed Northeast Gateway LNG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities would result in the incidental take of small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, and that the total taking from Northeast Gateway and Algonquin’s proposed activities will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks. Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for Subsistence Uses There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization This section contains a draft of the IHA itself. The wording contained in this section is proposed for inclusion in the IHA (if issued). (1) This Authorization is valid from January 6, 2014, through January 5, 2015. (2) This Authorization is valid only for activities associated with Northeast Gateway’s LNG Port and Algonquin’s Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities in the Massachusetts Bay. The specific area of the activities is shown in Figure 2–1 of the Excelerate Energy, L.P. and Tetra Tech EC., Inc.’s IHA application. (3)(a) The species authorized for incidental harassment takings, Level B harassment only, are: Right whales (Eubalaena glacialis); fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus); humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae); minke whales (B. acutorostrata); sei whales (B. borealis); long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas); Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus); bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus); short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis); Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus); killer whales (Orcinus orca); harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus). (3)(b) The authorization for taking by harassment is limited to the following acoustic sources and from the following activities: (i) NEG Port operations; (ii) NEG Port maintenance and repair; and (iii) Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices (3)(c) The taking of any marine mammal in a manner prohibited under this Authorization must be reported within 24 hours of the taking to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Regional Administrator (978–281–9300) or his designee (978–282–8468), NMFS Headquarter Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301– 427–8401), or his designee (301–427– 8418). (4) Prohibitions (a) The taking, by incidental harassment only, is limited to the species listed under condition 3(a) above and by the numbers listed in Table 3. The taking by Level A harassment, injury or death of these species or the taking by harassment, injury or death of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this Authorization. (b) The taking of any marine mammal is prohibited whenever the required mitigation measures under (5) of this authorization are not implemented. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (5) Mitigation (a) General Marine Mammal Avoidance Measures (i) All vessels shall utilize the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-approved Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) on their approach to and departure from the NEG Port and/or the repair/maintenance area at the earliest practicable point of transit in order to avoid the risk of whale strikes. (ii) Upon entering the TSS and areas where North Atlantic right whales are known to occur, including the Great South Channel Seasonal Management Area (GSC–SMA) and the SBNMS, the EBRV shall go into ‘‘Heightened Awareness’’ as described below. (A) Prior to entering and navigating the modified TSS the Master of the vessel shall: (I) Consult Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), NOAA Weather Radio, the NOAA Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (SAS) or other means to obtain current right whale sighting information as well as the most recent Cornell acoustic monitoring buoy data for the potential presence of marine mammals; (II) Post a look-out to visually monitor for the presence of marine mammals; (III) Provide the US Coast Guard (USCG) required 96-hour notification of an arriving EBRV to allow the NEG Port Manager to notify Cornell of vessel arrival. VerDate Mar<15>2010 18:45 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 (B) The look-out shall concentrate his/ her observation efforts within the 2-mile radius zone of influence (ZOI) from the maneuvering EBRV. (C) If marine mammal detection was reported by NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or an acoustic monitoring buoy, the look-out shall concentrate visual monitoring efforts towards the areas of the most recent detection. (D) If the look-out (or any other member of the crew) visually detects a marine mammal within the 2-mile radius ZOI of a maneuvering EBRV, he/ she will take the following actions: (I) The Officer-of-the-Watch shall be notified immediately; who shall then relay the sighting information to the Master of the vessel to ensure action(s) can be taken to avoid physical contact with marine mammals. (II) The sighting shall be recorded in the sighting log by the designated lookout. (iii) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103(c), all vessels associated with NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral activities shall not approach closer than 500 yards (460 m) to a North Atlantic right whale and 100 yards (91 m) to other whales to the extent physically feasible given navigational constraints. In addition, when approaching and departing the project area, vessels shall be operated so as to remain at least 1 km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whales. (iv) In response to active right whale sightings and active acoustic detections, and taking into account exceptional circumstances, EBRVs, repair and maintenance vessels shall take appropriate actions to minimize the risk of striking whales. Specifically vessels shall: (A) Respond to active right whale sightings and/or DMAs reported on the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) or SAS by concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 10 knots or less if the vessel is within the boundaries of a DMA (50 CFR 224.105) or within the circular area centered on an area 8 nm in radius from a sighting location; (B) Respond to active acoustic detections by concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 10 knots or less within an area 5 nm in radius centered on the detecting AB; and (C) Respond to additional sightings made by the designated look-outs within a 2-mile radius of the vessel by slowing the vessel to 10 knots or less PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69067 and concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent sighting. (v) All vessels operated under NEG and Algonquin must follow the established specific speed restrictions when calling at the NEG Port. The specific speed restrictions required for all vessels (i.e., EBRVs and vessels associated with maintenance and repair) consist of the following: (A) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the TSS from 12 knots or less to 10 knots or less from March 1 to April 30 in all waters bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated below unless an emergency situation dictates for an alternate speed. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Off Race Point Seasonal Management Area (ORP–SMA) and tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105: 42°30′ N 70°30′ W 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 41°40′ N 69°45′ W 42°04.8′ N 70°10′ W 41°40′ N 69°57′ W 42°12′ N 70°15′ W 42°12′ N 70°30′ W W 42°30′ N 70°30′ W (B) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the TSS to 10 knots or less unless an emergency situation dictates for an alternate speed from April 1 to July 31 in all waters bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated below. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the GSC–SMA and tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105: 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 42°30′ N 67°27′ W 42°09′ N 67°08.4′ W 41°40′ N 69°45′ W 42°30′ N 69°45′ W 41°00′ N 69°05′ W (C) Vessels are not expected to transit the Cape Cod Bay or the Cape Cod Canal; however, in the event that transit through the Cape Cod Bay or the Cape Cod Canal is required, vessels shall reduce maximum transit speed to 10 knots or less from January 1 to May 15 in all waters in Cape Cod Bay, extending to all shorelines of Cape Cod Bay, with a northern boundary of 42°12’ N latitude and the Cape Cod Canal. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Cape Cod Bay Seasonal Management Area (CCB– SMA). (D) All Vessels transiting to and from the project area shall report their activities to the mandatory reporting Section of the USCG to remain apprised of North Atlantic right whale movements within the area. All vessels E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 69068 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices entering and exiting the MSRA shall report their activities to WHALESNORTH. Vessel operators shall contact the USCG by standard procedures promulgated through the Notice to Mariner system. (E) All Vessels greater than or equal to 300 gross tons (GT) shall maintain a speed of 10 knots or less, unless an emergency situation requires speeds greater than 10 knots. (F) All Vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and the project area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots will contact the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) system, the USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of any sighting location, when traveling in any of the seasonal management areas (SMAs) or when traveling in any active dynamic management area (DMA). (b) NEG Port-Specific Operations (i) In addition to the general marine mammal avoidance requirements identified in (5)(a) above, vessels calling on the NEG Port must comply with the following additional requirements: (A) EBRVs shall travel at 10 knots maximum speed when transiting to/ from the TSS or to/from the NEG Port/ Pipeline Lateral area. For EBRVs, at 1.86 miles (3 km) from the NEG Port, speed will be reduced to 3 knots and to less than 1 knot at 1,640 ft (500 m) from the NEG buoys, unless an emergency situation dictates the need for an alternate speed. (B) EBRVs that are approaching or departing from the NEG Port and are within the ATBA5 surrounding the NEG Port, shall remain at least 1 km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whale and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from all other visually-detected whales unless an emergency situation requires that the vessel stay its course. During EBRV maneuvering, the Vessel Master shall designate at least one look-out to be exclusively and continuously monitoring for the presence of marine mammals at all times while the EBRV is approaching or departing from the NEG Port. (C) During NEG Port operations, in the event that a whale is visually observed within 1 km of the NEG Port or a confirmed acoustic detection is reported on either of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port (western-most in the TSS array), departing EBRVs shall delay their departure from the NEG Port, unless an emergency situation requires VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 that departure is not delayed. This departure delay shall continue until either the observed whale has been visually (during daylight hours) confirmed as more than 1 km from the NEG Port or 30 minutes have passed without another confirmed detection either acoustically within the acoustic detection range of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port, or visually within 1 km from the NEG Port. (ii) Vessel captains shall focus on reducing dynamic positioning (DP) thruster power to the maximum extent practicable, taking into account vessel and Port safety, during the operation activities. Vessel captains will shut down thrusters whenever they are not needed. (c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair Activities (i) NEG Port (A) The Northeast Gateway shall conduct empirical source level measurements on all noise emitting construction equipment and all vessels that are involved in maintenance/repair work. (B) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements for DP systems listed in (5)(b)(ii). (C) Northeast Gateway shall provide the NMFS Headquarters Office of the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and SBNMS with a minimum of 30 days notice prior to any planned repair and/ or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/ maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Northeast Gateway shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field. (ii) Pipeline Lateral (A) Pipeline maintenance/repair vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and the maintenance/ repair area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots shall contact the MSR system, the USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 km) of PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 any sighting location, when travelling in any of the seasonal management areas (SMAs) as defined above. (B) Maintenance/repair vessels greater than 300 GT shall not exceed 10 knots, unless an emergency situation that requires speeds greater than 10 knots. (C) Planned maintenance and repair activities shall be restricted to the period between May 1 and November 30. (D) Unplanned/emergency maintenance and repair activities shall be conducted utilizing anchor-moored dive vessel whenever operationally possible. (E) Algonquin shall also provide the NMFS Office of the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) with a minimum of 30-day notice prior to any planned repair and/or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/ maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Algonquin shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field. (F) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa at 1 m, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements for DP systems listed in (5)(b)(ii). (G) In the event that a whale is visually observed within 0.5 mile (0.8 kilometers) of a repair or maintenance vessel, the vessel superintendent or ondeck supervisor shall be notified immediately. The vessel’s crew shall be put on a heightened state of alert and the marine mammal shall be monitored constantly to determine if it is moving toward the repair or maintenance area. (H) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa @1 1 m or higher when a right whale is sighted within or approaching at 500 yd (457 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed outside the established zones (500 yd [457 m]) or 30 minutes have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation distances. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices (I) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 mPa @1 1 m or higher when a marine mammal other than a right whale is sighted within or approaching at 100 yd (91 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed outside the established zones (100 yd [91 m]) or 30 minutes have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation distances. (J) Algonquin and associated contractors shall also comply with the following: (I) Operations involving excessively noisy equipment (source level exceeding 139 dB re 1mPa @ 1 m) shall ‘‘ramp-up’’ sound sources, allowing whales a chance to leave the area before sounds reach maximum levels. In addition, Northeast Gateway, Algonquin, and other associated contractors shall maintain equipment to manufacturers’ specifications, including any sound-muffling devices or engine covers in order to minimize noise effects. Noisy construction equipment shall only be used as needed and equipment shall be turned off when not in operation. (II) Any material that has the potential to entangle marine mammals (e.g., anchor lines, cables, rope or other construction debris) shall only be deployed as needed and measures shall be taken to minimize the chance of entanglement. (III) For any material that has the potential to entangle marine mammals, such material shall be removed from the water immediately unless such action jeopardizes the safety of the vessel and crew as determined by the Captain of the vessel. (IV) In the event that a marine mammal becomes entangled, the marine mammal coordinator and/or PSO will notify NMFS (if outside the SBNMS), and SBNMS staff (if inside the SBNMS) immediately so that a rescue effort may be initiated. (K) All maintenance/repair activities shall be scheduled to occur between May 1 and November 30; however, in the event of unplanned/emergency repair work that cannot be scheduled during the preferred May through November work window, the following additional measures shall be followed for Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair related activities between December and April: (I) Between December 1 and April 30, if on-board PSOs do not have at least VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 0.5-mile visibility, they shall call for a shutdown. At the time of shutdown, the use of thrusters must be minimized. If there are potential safety problems due to the shutdown, the captain will decide what operations can safely be shut down. (II) Prior to leaving the dock to begin transit, the barge shall contact one of the PSOs on watch to receive an update of sightings within the visual observation area. If the PSO has observed a North Atlantic right whale within 30 minutes of the transit start, the vessel shall hold for 30 minutes and again get a clearance to leave from the PSOs on board. PSOs shall assess whale activity and visual observation ability at the time of the transit request to clear the barge for release. (III) Transit route, destination, sea conditions and any marine mammal sightings/mitigation actions during watch shall be recorded in the log book. Any whale sightings within 1,000 m of the vessel shall result in a high alert and slow speed of 4 knots or less and a sighting within 750 m shall result in idle speed and/or ceasing all movement. (IV) The material barges and tugs used in repair and maintenance shall transit from the operations dock to the work sites during daylight hours when possible provided the safety of the vessels is not compromised. Should transit at night be required, the maximum speed of the tug shall be 5 knots. (V) All repair vessels must maintain a speed of 10 knots or less during daylight hours. All vessels shall operate at 5 knots or less at all times within 5 km of the repair area. (d) Acoustic Monitoring Related Activities (i) Vessels associated with maintaining the acoustic seafloor array of Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and the AB network operating as part of the mitigation/monitoring protocols shall adhere to the following speed restrictions and marine mammal monitoring requirements. (A) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are greater than 300 gross tons (GT) shall not exceed 10 knots. (B) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are less than 300 GT shall not exceed 15 knots at any time, but shall adhere to speeds of 10 knots or less in the following areas and seasons: (I) In the ORP–SMA between March 1 and April 30; and (II) In the CCB–SMA between January 1 and May 15. (C) In accordance with NOAA Regulation 50 CFR 224.103 (c), all vessels associated with NEG Port PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69069 activities shall not approach closer than 500 yards (460 meters) to a North Atlantic right whale. (D) All vessels shall obtain the latest DMA or right whale sighting information via the NAVTEX, MSR, SAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or other available means prior to operations to determine if there are right whales present in the operational area. (6) Monitoring (a) Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring (i) Vessel-based monitoring for marine mammals shall be done by trained lookouts during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities. The observers shall monitor the occurrence of marine mammals near the vessels during LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related activities. Lookout duties include watching for and identifying marine mammals; recording their numbers, distances, and reactions to the activities; and documenting ‘‘take by harassment’’. (ii) The vessel look-outs assigned to visually monitor for the presence of marine mammals and shall be provided with the following: (A) Recent NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or acoustic monitoring buoy detection data; (B) Binoculars to support observations; (C) Marine mammal detection guide sheets; and (D) Sighting log. (b) NEG LNG Port Operations (i) All individuals onboard the EBRVs responsible for the navigation duties and any other personnel that could be assigned to monitor for marine mammals shall receive training on marine mammal sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures. (ii) While an EBRV is navigating within the designated TSS, there shall be three people with look-out duties on or near the bridge of the ship including the Master, the Officer-of-the-Watch and the Helmsman-on-watch. In addition to the standard watch procedures, while the EBRV is transiting within the designated TSS, maneuvering within the Area to be Avoided (ATBA), and/or while actively engaging in the use of thrusters, an additional look-out shall be designated to exclusively and continuously monitor for marine mammals. (iii) All sightings of marine mammals by the designated look-out, individuals posted to navigational look-out duties and/or any other crew member while the EBRV is transiting within the TSS, maneuvering within the ATBA and/or E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69070 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, shall be immediately reported to the Officer-of-the-Watch who shall then alert the Master. The Master or Officer-of-the-Watch shall ensure the required reporting procedures are followed and the designated marine mammal look-out records all pertinent information relevant to the sighting. (iv) Visual sightings made by lookouts from the EBRVs shall be recorded using a standard sighting log form. Estimated locations shall be reported for each individual and/or group of individuals categorized by species when known. This data shall be entered into a database and a summary of monthly sighting activity shall be provided to NMFS. Estimates of take and copies of these log sheets shall also be included in the reports to NMFS. (c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair (i) Two (2) qualified and NMFSapproved protected species observers (PSOs) shall be assigned to each vessel that will use dynamic positioning (DP) systems during maintenance and repair related activities. PSOs shall operate individually in designated shifts to accommodate adequate rest schedules. Additional PSOs shall be assigned to additional vessels if auto-detection buoy (AB) data indicates that sound levels exceed 120 dB re 1 mPa, farther than 100 meters (328 feet) from these vessels. (ii) All PSOs shall receive NMFSapproved marine mammal observer training and be approved in advance by NMFS after review of their resume. All PSOs shall have direct field experience on marine mammal vessels and/or aerial surveys in the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico. (iii) PSOs (one primary and one secondary) shall be responsible for visually locating marine mammals at the ocean’s surface and, to the extent possible, identifying the species. The primary PSO shall act as the identification specialist and the secondary PSO will serve as data recorder and also assist with identification. Both PSOs shall have responsibility for monitoring for the presence of marine mammals and sea turtles. Specifically PSO’s shall: (A) Monitor at all hours of the day, scanning the ocean surface by eye for a minimum of 40 minutes every hour. (B) Monitor the area where maintenance and repair work is conducted beginning at daybreak using 25x power binoculars and/or hand-held binoculars. Night vision devices must be provided as standard equipment for monitoring during low-light hours and at night. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 (C) Conduct general 360° visual monitoring during any given watch period and target scanning by the observer shall occur when alerted of a whale presence. (D) Alert the vessel superintendent or construction crew supervisor of visual detections within 2 miles (3.31 kilometers) immediately. (E) Record all sightings on marine mammal field sighting logs. Specifically, all data shall be entered at the time of observation, notes of activities will be kept, and a daily report prepared and attached to the daily field sighting log form. The basic reporting requirements include the following: • Beaufort sea state; • Wind speed; • Wind direction; • Temperature; • Precipitation; • Glare; • Percent cloud cover; • Number of animals; • Species; • Position; • Distance; • Behavior; • Direction of movement; and • Apparent reaction to construction activity. (iv) In the event that a whale is visually observed within the 2-mile (3.31-kilometers) zone of influence (ZOI) of a DP vessel or other construction vessel that has shown to emit noise with source level in excess of 139 dB re 1 mPa @1 1 m, the PSO will notify the repair/maintenance construction crew to minimize the use of thrusters until the animal has moved away, unless there are divers in the water or an ROV is deployed. (d) Acoustic Monitoring (i) Northeast Gateway shall monitor the noise environment in Massachusetts Bay in the vicinity of the NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral using an array of 19 MARUs that were deployed initially in April 2007 to collect data during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related activities. (ii) The acoustic data collected by the MARUs shall be analyzed to document the seasonal occurrences and overall distributions of whales (primarily fin, humpback and right whales) within approximately 10 nm of the NEG Port and shall measure and document the noise ‘‘budget’’ of Massachusetts Bay so as to eventually assist in determining whether or not an overall increase in noise in the Bay associated with the Project might be having a potentially negative impact on marine mammals. (iii) In addition to the 19 MARUs, Northeast Gateway shall deploy 10 ABs PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 within the Separation Zone of the TSS for the operational life of the Project. (iv) The ABs shall be used to detect a calling North Atlantic right whale an average of 5 nm from each AB. The AB system shall be the primary detection mechanism that alerts the EBRV Master to the occurrence of right whales, heightens EBRV awareness, and triggers necessary mitigation actions as described in section (5) above. (e) Acoustic Whale Detection and Response Plan (i) NEG Port Operations (A) Ten (10) ABs that have been deployed since 2007 shall be used to continuously screen the low-frequency acoustic environment (less than 1,000 Hertz) for right whale contact calls occurring within an approximately 5nm radius from each buoy (the AB’s detection range). (B) Once a confirmed detection is made, the Master of any EBRVs operating in the area will be alerted immediately. (ii) NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral Planned and Unplanned/Emergency Repair and Maintenance Activities (A) If the repair/maintenance work is located outside of the detectible range of the 10 project area ABs, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin shall consult with NOAA (NMFS and SBNMS) to determine if the work to be conducted warrants the temporary installation of an additional AB(s) to help detect and provide early warnings for potential occurrence of right whales in the vicinity of the repair area. (B) The number of ABs installed around the activity site shall be commensurate with the type and spatial extent of maintenance/repair work required, but must be sufficient to detect vocalizing right whales within the 120dB impact zone. (C) Should acoustic monitoring be deemed necessary during a planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance event, active monitoring for right whale calls shall begin 24 hours prior to the start of activities. (D) Source level data from the acoustic recording units deployed in the NEG Port and/or Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair area shall be provided to NMFS. (7) Reporting (a) Throughout NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin shall provide a monthly Monitoring Report. The Monitoring Report shall include: (i) Both copies of the raw visual EBRV lookout sighting information of marine mammals that occurred within 2 miles E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices of the EBRV while the vessel transits within the TSS, maneuvers within the ATBA, and/or when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, and a summary of the data collected by the look-outs over each reporting period. (ii) Copies of the raw PSO sightings information on marine mammals gathered during pipeline repair or maintenance activities. This visual sighting data shall then be correlated to periods of thruster activity to provide estimates of marine mammal takes (per species/species class) that took place during each reporting period. (iii) Conclusion of any planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance period, a report shall be submitted to NMFS summarizing the repair/maintenance activities, marine mammal sightings (both visual and acoustic), empirical source-level measurements taken during the repair work, and any mitigation measures taken. (b) During the maintenance and repair of NEG Port components, weekly status reports shall be provided to NOAA (both NMFS and SBNMS) using standardized reporting forms. The weekly reports shall include data collected for each distinct marine mammal species observed in the repair/ maintenance area during the period that maintenance and repair activities were taking place. The weekly reports shall include the following information: (i) Location (in longitude and latitude coordinates), time, and the nature of the maintenance and repair activities; (ii) Indication of whether a DP system was operated, and if so, the number of thrusters being used and the time and duration of DP operation; (iii) Marine mammals observed in the area (number, species, age group, and initial behavior); (iv) The distance of observed marine mammals from the maintenance and repair activities; (v) Changes, if any, in marine mammal behaviors during the observation; (vi) A description of any mitigation measures (power-down, shutdown, etc.) implemented; (vii) Weather condition (Beaufort sea state, wind speed, wind direction, ambient temperature, precipitation, and percent cloud cover etc.); (viii) Condition of the observation (visibility and glare); and (ix) Details of passive acoustic detections and any action taken in response to those detections. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 (d) Injured/Dead Protected Species Reporting (i) In the unanticipated event that survey operations clearly cause the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the proposed IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality (e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), NEG and/or Algonquin shall immediately cease activities and immediately report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the Northeast Regional Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300. The report must include the following information: (A) Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the incident; (B) the name and type of vessel involved; (C) the vessel’s speed during and leading up to the incident; (D) description of the incident; (E) status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (F) water depth; (G) environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); (H) description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; (I) species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; (J) the fate of the animal(s); and (K) photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is available). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with NEG and/or Algonquin to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. NEG and/or Algonquin may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. (ii) In the event that NEG and/or Algonquin discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), NEG and/or Algonquin will immediately report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69071 427–8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. The report must include the same information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with NEG and/or Algonquin to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. (iii) In the event that NEG or Algonquin discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized (if the IHA is issued) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), NEG and/or Algonquin shall report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301– 427–8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978–281–9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. NEG and/or Algonquin shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. NEG and/or Algonquin can continue its operations under such a case. Endangered Species Act (ESA) On February 5, 2007, NMFS concluded consultation with MARAD and the USCG, under section 7 of the ESA, on the proposed construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG facility and issued a biological opinion. The finding of that consultation was that the construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG terminal may adversely affect, but is not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of northern right, humpback, and fin whales, and is not likely to adversely affect sperm, sei, or blue whales and Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, green or leatherback sea turtles. An incidental take statement (ITS) was issued following NMFS’ issuance of the 2007 IHA. On November 15, 2007, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin submitted a letter to NMFS requesting an extension for the LNG Port construction into December 2007. Upon reviewing E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1 69072 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 222 / Monday, November 18, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Northeast Gateway’s weekly marine mammal monitoring reports submitted under the previous IHA, NMFS Permits and Conservation Division (PR1) recognized that the potential take of some marine mammals resulting from the LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral by Level B behavioral harassment likely had exceeded the original take estimates. Therefore, NMFS Northeast Regional Office (NERO) reinitiated consultation with MARAD and USCG on the construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG facility. On November 30, 2007, NMFS NERO issued a revised biological opinion, reflecting the revised construction time period and including a revised ITS. This revised biological opinion concluded that the construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG terminal may adversely affect, but is not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of northern right, humpback, and fin whales, and is not likely to adversely affect sperm, sei, or blue whales. However, both biological opinions only analyzed ESA-listed species for activities under the initial short construction period and during operations, and did not take into consideration potential impacts to marine mammals that could result from the subsequent LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair activities. In addition, NEG also revealed that significantly more water usage and vessel operating air emissions are needed from what was originally evaluated for the LNG Port operation. NMFS PR1 has initiated consultation with NMFS NERO under section 7 of the ESA on the issuance of an IHA to NEG under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for the proposed activities that include increased NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair and water usage for the LNG Port operations this activity. Consultation will be concluded prior to a determination on the issuance of an IHA. National Environmental Policy Act MARAD and the USCG released a Final EIS/Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Northeast Gateway Port and Pipeline Lateral. A notice of availability was published by MARAD on October 26, 2006 (71 FR 62657). The Final EIS/EIR provides detailed information on the proposed project facilities, construction methods and analysis of potential impacts on marine mammals. NMFS was a cooperating agency (as defined by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1501.6)) in the preparation of the Draft and Final VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:33 Nov 15, 2013 Jkt 232001 EISs. NMFS reviewed the Final EIS and adopted it on May 4, 2007. NMFS issued a separate Record of Decision for issuance of authorizations pursuant to section 101(a)(5) of the MMPA for the construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway’s LNG Port Facility in Massachusetts Bay. Dated: November 12, 2013. Helen M. Golde, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2013–27466 Filed 11–15–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–BC69 Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Elliott Bay Seawall Project in Seattle, Washington National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of issuance of a Letter of Authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, and implementing regulations, notification is hereby given that a Letter of Authorization (LOA) has been issued to the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) for the take of nine species of marine mammals incidental to pile driving activities associated with the Elliott Bay Seawall Project (EBSP). DATES: Effective from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2014. ADDRESSES: The LOA and supporting documentation are available for review on the Internet at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental.htm#applications. Documents cited in this notice may also be viewed, by appointment, during regular business hours at the Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910– 3225, by telephoning the contact listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michelle Magliocca, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 301–427–8401. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) directs the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are issued. Under the MMPA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill marine mammals. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the identified species or stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth in the regulations. NMFS has defined ‘‘negligible impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as ‘‘. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.’’ Regulations governing the taking of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), California sea lions, Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), harbor porpoise, Dall’s porpoise, southern resident and transient killer whales, gray whales, and humpback whales, by harassment, incidental to pile driving activities in Elliott Bay, were issued on October 21, 2013 (78 FR 63396, October 24, 2013), and remain in effect until October 21, 2018. For detailed information on this action, please refer to that document. The regulations include mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements for the incidental take of marine mammals during pile driving activities associated with the Elliott Bay Seawall. Pursuant to those regulations, NMFS issued an LOA, effective from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2014, which authorizes the incidental take of the nine marine mammal species listed above that may result from construction associated with the Elliott Bay Seawall project. Take of marine mammals will be minimized through implementation of the following mitigation measures: (1) Limited impact pile driving; (2) containment of impact pile driving; (3) additional sound attenuation measures; (4) ramp-up of pile-related activities; (5) marine mammal exclusion zones; and (6) shutdown and delay procedures. E:\FR\FM\18NON1.SGM 18NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 222 (Monday, November 18, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 69049-69072]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-27466]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XC228


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Operation, Maintenance, and Repair 
of the Northeast Gateway Liquefied Natural Gas Port and the Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral Facilities in Massachusetts Bay

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS has received an application from Tetra Tech EC, Inc. 
(Tetra Tech), on behalf of the Northeast Gateway[supreg] Energy 
BridgeTM, L.P. (Northeast Gateway or NEG) and Algonquin Gas 
Transmission, L.L.C. (Algonquin), for authorization to take marine 
mammals, by harassment, incidental to operating, maintaining, and 
repairing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) port and the Algonquin Pipeline 
Lateral (Pipeline Lateral) facilities by NEG and Algonquin, in 
Massachusetts Bay. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 
NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an authorization 
to Northeast Gateway to incidentally take, by harassment, small numbers 
of marine mammals for a period of 1 year.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than December 
18, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to P. Michael Payne, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910. The mailbox address for providing email comments on 
this action is ITP.Guan@noaa.gov. Comments sent via email, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 10-megabyte file size. A copy of the 
application and a list of references used in this document may be 
obtained by writing to this address, and is also available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.
    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record 
and will generally be posted to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications without change. All Personal Identifying

[[Page 69050]]

Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential 
Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.
    The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) on the Northeast 
Gateway Energy Bridge LNG Deepwater Port license application is 
available for viewing at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm#applications.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Shane Guan, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A)(D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to allow, upon request, 
the incidental, but not intentional taking of marine mammals by U.S. 
citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial 
fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are 
made and regulations are issued or, if the taking is limited to 
harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the 
public for review.
    An authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS 
finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings 
are set forth. NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as ``. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot 
be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.''
    Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process 
by which citizens of the U.S. can apply for a one-year authorization to 
incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment, 
provided that there is no potential for serious injury or mortality to 
result from the activity. Section 101(a)(5)(D) establishes a 45-day 
time limit for NMFS review of an application followed by a 30-day 
public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the 
incidental harassment of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of 
the comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization.

Summary of Request

    On January 18, 2013, NMFS received an application from Excelerate 
Energy, L.P. (Excelerate) and Tetra Tech EC, Inc., on behalf of 
Northeast Gateway and Algonquin, for an authorization to take 14 
species of marine mammals by Level B harassment incidental to 
operations, maintenance, and repair of an LNG port and the Pipeline 
Lateral facilities in Massachusetts Bay. They are: North Atlantic right 
whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, minke whale, long-finned 
pilot whale, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, short-
beaked common dolphin, killer whale, Risso's dolphin, harbor porpoise, 
harbor seal, and gray seal. Since LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral 
operation, maintenance, and repair activities have the potential to 
take marine mammals, a marine mammal take authorization under the MMPA 
is warranted. NMFS previously issued an IHA to Northeast Gateway and 
Algonquin to allow for the incidental harassment of small numbers of 
marine mammals resulting from the construction and operation of the NEG 
Port and the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral (72 FR 27077; May 14, 2007). 
Subsequently, NMFS issued four one-year IHAs for the take of marine 
mammals incidental to the operation of the NEG Port activity pursuant 
to section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA (73 FR 29485, May 21, 2008; 74 FR 
45613, September 3, 2009; 75 FR 53672, September 1, 2010; and 76 FR 
62778, October 11, 2011). The most recent IHA expired on October 6, 
2012. Unlike the previous IHAs, which only covered incidental 
harassment during standard operations of the deepwater port, the new 
IHA application from Excelerate requests take coverage during standard 
operations, as well as during planned and unplanned maintenance and 
repair. Marine mammals could be affected by noise generated by 
operating the dynamic positioning system during the docking of LNG 
vessels at the NEG Port, and noises generated from maintenance and 
repair of the LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral facilities.

Description of the Activity

    The Northeast Gateway Port is located in Massachusetts Bay and 
consists of a submerged buoy system to dock specially designed LNG 
carriers approximately 13 mi (21 km) offshore of Massachusetts in 
federal waters approximately 270 to 290 ft (82 to 88 m) in depth. This 
facility delivers regasified LNG to onshore markets via the Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral (Pipeline Lateral). The Pipeline Lateral consists of a 
16.1-mile (25.8-kilometer) long, 24-inch (61-centimeter) outside 
diameter natural gas pipeline which interconnects the Port to an 
offshore natural gas pipeline known as the HubLine.
    The Northeast Gateway Port consists of two subsea Submerged Turret 
LoadingTM (STL) buoys, each with a flexible riser assembly 
and a manifold connecting the riser assembly, via a steel Flowline, to 
the subsea Pipeline Lateral. Northeast Gateway utilizes vessels from 
its current fleet of specially designed Energy BridgeTM 
Regasification Vessels (EBRVs), each capable of transporting 
approximately 2.9 billion ft\3\ (82 million m\3\) of natural gas 
condensed to 4.9 million ft\3\ (138,000 m\3\) of LNG. Northeast Gateway 
has recently added two vessels to its fleet that have a cargo capacity 
of approximately 151,000 m\3\ (5.3 million ft\3\). The mooring system 
installed at the Northeast Gateway Port is designed to handle each 
class of vessel. The EBRVs would dock to the STL buoys, which would 
serve as both the single-point mooring system for the vessels and the 
delivery conduit for natural gas. Each of the STL buoys is secured to 
the seafloor using a series of suction anchors and a combination of 
chain/cable anchor lines.

NEG Port Operations

    During NEG Port operations, EBRVs servicing the NEG Port would 
utilize the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-approved Boston 
Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) to delivery LNG to the NEG Port 
facility. When an EBRV arrives at the NEG Port, it would retrieve one 
of the two permanently anchored submerged STL buoys. It would make 
final connection to the buoy through a series of engine and bow 
thruster actions. The EBRV would require the use of thrusters for 
dynamic positioning (DP) during docking procedure. Typically, the 
docking procedure is completed over a 10- to 30-minute period, with the 
thrusters activated as necessary for short periods (bursts in seconds). 
During this time period thrusters would be engaged in use for docking 
at the NEG Port approximately 10 to 30 minutes for each vessel arrival 
and departure. Once connected to the buoy, the EBRV would make ready to 
begin vaporizing the LNG into its natural gas state using the onboard 
regasification system. As the LNG is regasified, natural gas would be 
transferred at pipeline pressures off the EBRV through the STL buoy and 
flexible riser via a steel flowline leading to the connecting Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral. When the LNG vessel is on the buoy, wind and current 
effects on the

[[Page 69051]]

vessel would be allowed to ``weathervane'' on the single-point mooring 
system; therefore, thrusters would not be used to maintain a stationary 
position.
    According to NEG, it is estimated that the NEG Port could receive 
approximately 65 cargo deliveries a year, although none have been 
received since February 2010.
    Detailed information on the operation activities can be found in 
the MARAD/USCG Final EIS on the Northeast Gateway Project (see 
ADDRESSES for availability). Detailed information on the LNG facility's 
operation and noise generated from operations was also published in the 
Federal Register for the proposed IHA for Northeast Gateway's LNG Port 
construction and operations on March 13, 2007 (72 FR 11328).

NEG Port Maintenance and Repair

    The specified design life of the NEG Port is about 40 years, with 
the exception of the anchors, mooring chain/rope, and riser/umbilical 
assemblies, which are based on a maintenance-free design life of 20 
years. The buoy pick-up system components are considered consumable and 
are inspected following each buoy connection, and replaced (from inside 
the STL compartment during the normal cargo discharge period) as deemed 
necessary. The underwater components of the NEG Port are inspected once 
yearly in accordance with Classification Society Rules (American Bureau 
of Shipping) using either divers or remotely operated vehicles (ROV) to 
inspect and record the condition of the various STL system components. 
These activities are conducted using the NEG Port's normal support 
vessel (125-foot [38 meter], 99 gross ton, 2,700 horsepower, aluminum 
mono-hull vessel), and to the extent possible coincide with planned 
weekly visits to the NEG Port.
    In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances 
whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port necessitate emergency 
maintenance and/or repair activities. While the extent and number of 
such maintenance and repair activities at the NEG Port over its 
expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is reasonable 
to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair scenario would 
result in similar types of activities and require the use of similar 
support vessels and equipment as used for construction. There may also 
be certain unanticipated circumstances that require the presence of an 
EBRV at the NEG Port to support these maintenance and repair activities 
(e.g., maintenance and repair on the STL Buoy, vessel commissioning, 
and any onboard equipment malfunction or failure occurring while a 
vessel is present for cargo delivery). To assess the impact to marine 
mammals from the NEG port maintenance and repair, a 14-day maintenance 
period during one calendar is selected. This is based on evaluation of 
the potential marine mammal takes associated with similar maintenance 
and repair at the Neptune Port Facility in Massachusetts Bay, due to 
the fact that both the NEG and Neptune Ports are very similar in their 
potential need and type of maintenance and repair of port facilities.

Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Routine Operations and Maintenance 
Activities

    The planned activities required for the operations and maintenance 
(O&M) of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and Flowlines over a 1-year 
period are limited. Similar to the inspection of the NEG Port 
underwater components, the only planned O&M activity is the annual 
inspection of the cathodic protection monitors by a ROV. The monitors 
are located at the ends of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and the 
adjacent Flowlines. Each inspection activity would take approximately 3 
days and would utilize a ROV launched from a vessel of opportunity. The 
most likely vessel would be similar to the NEG Port's normal support 
vessel referenced earlier in the document. This vessel is self-
positioning and requires no anchors or use of thrusters. The vessel 
would mobilize from Salem, Massachusetts, and would inspect the 
monitors in the vicinity of the NEG Port and at the point where the 
Algonquin Pipeline Lateral interconnects with Algonquin's HubLine. 
These activities would be performed during daylight hours and during 
periods of good weather.

Unplanned Pipeline Repair Activities

    Unplanned O&M activities may be required from time to time at a 
location along the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral or along one of the 
Flowlines should the line become damaged or malfunction. Repair 
activities requiring limited excavation to access the pipeline or 
cathodic protection maintenance are authorized by the FERC certificate.
    Should repair work be required, it is likely a dive vessel would be 
the main vessel used to support the repair work. The type of diving 
spread and the corresponding vessel needed to support the spread would 
be dictated by the type of repair work required and the water depth at 
the work location. In addition, the type of vessel used may vary 
depending upon availability. The duration of an unplanned activity 
would also vary depending upon the repair work involved (e.g., 
repairing or replacing a section of the pipeline, connection, or valve) 
but can generally be assumed to take less than 40 work days to complete 
based on industry experience with underwater pipeline repairs.
    A diving spread required to execute an unplanned activity might 
necessitate several vessels. Most likely the dive vessel would support 
a saturation diving spread and be moored at the work location using 
four anchors. Once secured at the work location, the dive vessel would 
remain on site through the completion of the work, weather permitting. 
A crew/supply boat would be utilized to intermittently provide labor 
and supply transfers. Once or twice during the work, a tug may be 
required to bring a material barge to and from the location. While 
unlikely, there is a small possibility that a second dive vessel would 
be required to support the main dive vessel, depending upon the work 
activity. The second dive vessel would be on-site for a shorter work 
duration. These vessels would be supported from an onshore base located 
between Quincy and Gloucester, Massachusetts.
    The selection of a dive vessel would be driven by the technical 
requirements of the work. In addition, the degree of urgency required 
to address the work and the availability of vessels will also enter 
into the decision process for securing a dive vessel. It may be that a 
four-point moored dive vessel is either not available or doesn't meet 
the technical capabilities required by the work. It then becomes 
possible that a DP dive vessel may have to be utilized. The use of a DP 
dive vessel removes the need for an attendant tug to support the vessel 
since no anchors will be deployed. However, potential impacts related 
to noise are increased when a DP dive vessel is used. The noise 
generated by a DP dive vessel varies, and results from the use of the 
thrusters which run at various levels to maintain the vessel's position 
during the work depending upon currents, winds, waves and other forces 
acting on the vessel at the time of the work.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activities

    Marine mammal species that potentially occur in the vicinity of the 
Northeast Gateway facility include several species of cetaceans and 
pinnipeds:

North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis),

[[Page 69052]]

humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae),
fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus),
minke whale (B. acutorostrata),
long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas),
Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus),
bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus),
coPSOn dolphin (Delphinus delphis),
killer whale (Orcinus orca),
Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus),
harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena),
harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and
gray seal (Halichoerus grypus).

    Information on those species that may be affected by this activity 
is discussed in detail in the USCG Final EIS on the Northeast Gateway 
LNG proposal. Please refer to that document for more information on 
these species and potential impacts from construction and operation of 
this LNG facility. In addition, general information on these marine 
mammal species can also be found in W[uuml]rsig et al. (2000) and in 
the NMFS Stock Assessment Reports (Waring et al., 2013). This latter 
document is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/pdf/ao2012.pdf. An updated summary on several PSO-sighted marine mammal 
species distribution and abundance in the vicinity of the proposed 
action area is provided below.

Humpback Whale

    The highest abundance for humpback whales is distributed primarily 
along a relatively narrow corridor following the 100-m (328 ft) isobath 
across the southern Gulf of Maine from the northwestern slope of 
Georges Bank, south to the Great South Channel, and northward alongside 
Cape Cod to Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge. The relative abundance 
of whales increases in the spring with the highest occurrence along the 
slope waters (between the 40- and 140-m, or 131- and 459-ft, isobaths) 
off Cape Cod and Davis Bank, Stellwagen Basin and Tillies Basin and 
between the 50- and 200-m (164- and 656-ft) isobaths along the inner 
slope of Georges Bank. High abundance is also estimated for the waters 
around Platts Bank. In the summer months, abundance increases markedly 
over the shallow waters (<50 m, or <164 ft) of Stellwagen Bank, the 
waters (100-200 m, or 328-656 ft) between Platts Bank and Jeffreys 
Ledge, the steep slopes (between the 30- and 160-m isobaths) of Phelps 
and Davis Bank north of the Great South Channel towards Cape Cod, and 
between the 50- and 100-m (164- and 328-ft) isobath for almost the 
entire length of the steeply sloping northern edge of Georges Bank. 
This general distribution pattern persists in all seasons except 
winter, when humpbacks remain at high abundance in only a few locations 
including Porpoise and Neddick Basins adjacent to Jeffreys Ledge, 
northern Stellwagen Bank and Tillies Basin, and the Great South 
Channel. The best estimate of abundance for Gulf of Maine, formerly 
western North Atlantic, humpback whales is 847 animals (Waring et al., 
2009). Current data suggest that the Gulf of Maine humpback whale stock 
is steadily increasing in size, which is consistent with an estimated 
average trend of 3.1 percent in the North Atlantic population overall 
for the period 1979-1993 (Stevick et al., 2003, cited in Waring et al., 
2009).

Fin Whale

    Spatial patterns of habitat utilization by fin whales are very 
similar to those of humpback whales. Spring and summer high-use areas 
follow the 100-m (328 ft) isobath along the northern edge of Georges 
Bank (between the 50- and 200-m (164- and 656-ft) isobaths), and 
northward from the Great South Channel (between the 50- and 160-m, or 
164- and 525-ft, isobaths). Waters around Cashes Ledge, Platts Bank, 
and Jeffreys Ledge are all high-use areas in the summer months. 
Stellwagen Bank is a high-use area for fin whales in all seasons, with 
highest abundance occurring over the southern Stellwagen Bank in the 
summer months. In fact, the southern portion of the Stellwagen Bank 
National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is used more frequently than the 
northern portion in all months except winter, when high abundance is 
recorded over the northern tip of Stellwagen Bank. In addition to 
Stellwagen Bank, high abundance in winter is estimated for Jeffreys 
Ledge and the adjacent Porpoise Basin (100- to 160-m, 328- to 656-ft, 
isobaths), as well as Georges Basin and northern Georges Bank. The best 
estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of fin 
whales is 2,269 (Waring et al., 2009). Currently, there are 
insufficient data to determine population trends for this species.

Minke Whale

    Like other piscivorous baleen whales, highest abundance for minke 
whale is strongly associated with regions between the 50- and 100-m 
(164- and 328-ft) isobaths, but with a slightly stronger preference for 
the shallower waters along the slopes of Davis Bank, Phelps Bank, Great 
South Channel and Georges Shoals on Georges Bank. Minke whales are 
sighted in the SBNMS in all seasons, with highest abundance estimated 
for the shallow waters (approximately 40 m, or 131 ft) over southern 
Stellwagen Bank in the summer and fall months. Platts Bank, Cashes 
Ledge, Jeffreys Ledge, and the adjacent basins (Neddick, Porpoise and 
Scantium) also support high relative abundance. Very low densities of 
minke whales remain throughout most of the southern Gulf of Maine in 
winter. The best estimate of abundance for the Canadian East Coast 
stock, which occurs from the western half of the Davis Strait to the 
Gulf of Mexico, of minke whales is 3,312 animals (Waring et al., 2009). 
Currently, there are insufficient data to determine population trends 
for this species.

North Atlantic Right Whale

    North Atlantic right whales are generally distributed widely across 
the southern Gulf of Maine in spring with highest abundance located 
over the deeper waters (100- to 160-m, or 328- to 525-ft, isobaths) on 
the northern edge of the Great South Channel and deep waters (100-300 
m, 328-984 ft) parallel to the 100-m (328-ft) isobath of northern 
Georges Bank and Georges Basin. High abundance is also found in the 
shallowest waters (<30 m, or <98 ft) of Cape Cod Bay, over Platts Bank 
and around Cashes Ledge. Lower relative abundance is estimated over 
deep-water basins including Wilkinson Basin, Rodgers Basin and Franklin 
Basin. In the summer months, right whales move almost entirely away 
from the coast to deep waters over basins in the central Gulf of Maine 
(Wilkinson Basin, Cashes Basin between the 160- and 200-m, or 525- and 
656-ft, isobaths) and north of Georges Bank (Rogers, Crowell and 
Georges Basins). Highest abundance is found north of the 100-m (328-ft) 
isobath at the Great South Channel and over the deep slope waters and 
basins along the northern edge of Georges Bank. The waters between 
Fippennies Ledge and Cashes Ledge are also estimated as high-use areas. 
In the fall months, right whales are sighted infrequently in the Gulf 
of Maine, with highest densities over Jeffreys Ledge and over deeper 
waters near Cashes Ledge and Wilkinson Basin. In winter, Cape Cod Bay, 
Scantum Basin, Jeffreys Ledge, and Cashes Ledge were the main high-use 
areas. Although SBNMS does not appear to support the highest abundance 
of right whales, sightings within SBNMS are reported for all four 
seasons, albeit at low relative abundance. Highest sighting within 
SBNMS occurred along the southern edge of the Bank.
    The western North Atlantic population size was estimated to be at

[[Page 69053]]

least 345 individuals in 2005 based on a census of individual whales 
identified using photo-identification techniques (Waring et al., 2009). 
This value is a minimum and does not include animals that were alive 
prior to 2003 but not recorded in the individual sightings database as 
seen from December 1, 2003, to October 10, 2008. It also does not 
include calves known to be born during 2005 or any other individual 
whale seen during 2005 but not yet entered into the catalog (Waring et 
al., 2009). Examination of the minimum alive population index 
calculated from the individual sightings database, as it existed on 
October 10, 2008, for the years 1990-2005 suggests a positive trend in 
numbers. These data reveal a significant increase in the number of 
catalogued whales alive during this period but with significant 
variation due to apparent losses exceeding gains during 1998-1999. Mean 
growth rate for the period 1990-2005 was 1.8 percent (Waring et al., 
2009).

Long-Finned Pilot Whale

    The long-finned pilot whale is more generally found along the edge 
of the continental shelf (a depth of 330 to 3,300 ft, or 100 to 1,000 
m), choosing areas of high relief or submerged banks in cold or 
temperate shoreline waters. This species is split between two 
subspecies: The Northern and Southern subspecies. The Southern 
subspecies is circumpolar with northern limits of Brazil and South 
Africa. The Northern subspecies, which could be encountered during 
operation of the NEG Port, ranges from North Carolina to Greenland 
(Reeves et al., 2002; Wilson and Ruff, 1999). In the western North 
Atlantic, long-finned pilot whales are pelagic, occurring in especially 
high densities in winter and spring over the continental slope, then 
moving inshore and onto the shelf in summer and autumn following squid 
and mackerel populations (Reeves et al., 2002). They frequently travel 
into the central and northern Georges Bank, Great South Channel, and 
Gulf of Maine areas during the summer and early fall (May and October) 
(NOAA, 1993). According to the species stock report, the population 
estimate for the Western North Atlantic long-finned pilot whale is 
26,535 individuals (Waring et al., 2010). Currently, there are 
insufficient data to determine population trends for the long-finned 
pilot whale.

Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin

    In spring, summer and fall, Atlantic white-sided dolphins are 
widespread throughout the southern Gulf of Maine, with the high-use 
areas widely located either side of the 100-m (328-ft) isobath along 
the northern edge of Georges Bank, and north from the Great South 
Channel to Stellwagen Bank, Jeffreys Ledge, Platts Bank and Cashes 
Ledge. In spring, high-use areas exist in the Great South Channel, 
northern Georges Bank, the steeply sloping edge of Davis Bank and Cape 
Cod, southern Stellwagen Bank and the waters between Jeffreys Ledge and 
Platts Bank. In summer, there is a shift and expansion of habitat 
toward the east and northeast. High-use areas are identified along most 
of the northern edge of Georges Bank between the 50- and 200-m (164- 
and 656-ft) isobaths and northward from the Great South Channel along 
the slopes of Davis Bank and Cape Cod. High numbers of sightings are 
also recorded over Truxton Swell, Wilkinson Basin, Cashes Ledge and the 
bathymetrically complex area northeast of Platts Bank. High numbers of 
sightings of white-sided dolphin are recorded within SBNMS in all 
seasons, with highest density in summer and most widespread 
distributions in spring located mainly over the southern end of 
Stellwagen Bank. In winter, high numbers of sightings are recorded at 
the northern tip of Stellwagen Bank and Tillies Basin.
    A comparison of spatial distribution patterns for all baleen whales 
(Mysticeti) and all porpoises and dolphins combined show that both 
groups have very similar spatial patterns of high- and low-use areas. 
The baleen whales, whether piscivorous or planktivorous, are more 
concentrated than the dolphins and porpoises. They utilize a corridor 
that extended broadly along the most linear and steeply sloping edges 
in the southern Gulf of Maine indicated broadly by the 100 m (328 ft) 
isobath. Stellwagen Bank and Jeffreys Ledge support a high abundance of 
baleen whales throughout the year. Species richness maps indicate that 
high-use areas for individual whales and dolphin species co-occur, 
resulting in similar patterns of species richness primarily along the 
southern portion of the 100-m (328-ft) isobath extending northeast and 
northwest from the Great South Channel. The southern edge of Stellwagen 
Bank and the waters around the northern tip of Cape Cod are also 
highlighted as supporting high cetacean species richness. Intermediate 
to high numbers of species are also calculated for the waters 
surrounding Jeffreys Ledge, the entire Stellwagen Bank, Platts Bank, 
Fippennies Ledge and Cashes Ledge. The best estimate of abundance for 
the western North Atlantic stock of white-sided dolphins is 63,368 
(Waring et al., 2009). A trend analysis has not been conducted for this 
species.

Killer Whale, CoPSOn Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, and 
Harbor Porpoise

    Although these five species are some of the most widely distributed 
small cetacean species in the world (Jefferson et al., 1993), they are 
not coPSOnly seen in the vicinity of the proposed project area in 
Massachusetts Bay (Wiley et al., 1994; NCCOS, 2006; Northeast Gateway 
Marine Mammal Monitoring Weekly Reports, 2007). The total number of 
killer whales off the eastern U.S. coast is unknown, and present data 
are insufficient to calculate a minimum population estimate or to 
determine the population trends for this stock (Blaylock et al., 1995). 
The best estimate of abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of 
coPSOn dolphins is 120,743 animals, and a trend analysis has not been 
conducted for this species (Waring et al., 2007). There are several 
stocks of bottlenose dolphins found along the eastern U.S. from Maine 
to Florida. The stock that may occur in the area of the Neptune Port is 
the western North Atlantic coastal northern migratory stock of 
bottlenose dolphins. The best estimate of abundance for this stock is 
7,489 animals (Waring et al., 2009). There are insufficient data to 
determine the population trend for this stock. The best estimate of 
abundance for the western North Atlantic stock of Risso's dolphins is 
20,479 animals (Waring et al., 2009). There are insufficient data to 
determine the population trend for this stock. The best estimate of 
abundance for the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy stock of harbor porpoise 
is 89,054 animals (Waring et al., 2009). A trend analysis has not been 
conducted for this species.

Harbor Seal and Gray Seal

    In the U.S. waters of the western North Atlantic, both harbor and 
gray seals are usually found from the coast of Maine south to southern 
New England and New York (Waring et al., 2010).
    Along the southern New England and New York coasts, harbor seals 
occur seasonally from September through late May (Schneider and Payne, 
1983). In recent years, their seasonal interval along the southern New 
England to New Jersey coasts has increased (deHart, 2002). In U.S. 
waters, harbor seal breeding and pupping normally occur in waters north 
of the New Hampshire/Maine border, although breeding has occurred as 
far south as Cape Cod in the early part of the 20th century (Temte et 
al., 1991; Katona et al., 1993). The best estimate of abundance for the 
western

[[Page 69054]]

North Atlantic stock of harbor seals is 99,340 animals (Waring et al., 
2009). Between 1981 and 2001, the uncorrected counts of seals increased 
from 10,543 to 38,014, an annual rate of 6.6 percent (Gilbert et al., 
2005, cited in Waring et al., 2009).
    Although gray seals are often seen off the coast from New England 
to Labrador, within the U.S. waters, only small numbers of gray seals 
have been observed pupping on several isolated islands along the Maine 
coast and in Nantucket-Vineyard Sound, Massachusetts (Katona et al., 
1993; Rough, 1995). In the late 1990s, a year-round breeding population 
of approximately 400 gray seals was documented on outer Cape Cod and 
Muskeget Island (Warring et al., 2007). Depending on the model used, 
the minimum estimate for the Canadian gray seal population was 
estimated to range between 125,541 and 169,064 animals (Trzcinski et 
al., 2005, cited in Waring et al., 2009); however, present data are 
insufficient to calculate the minimum population estimate for U.S. 
waters. Waring et al. (2009) note that gray seal abundance in the U.S. 
Atlantic is likely increasing, but the rate of increase is unknown.

Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    The proposed NEG LNG port operations and maintenance and repair 
activities could adversely affect marine mammal species and stocks by 
exposing them to elevated noise levels in the vicinity of the activity 
area.
    Marine mammals exposed to high intensity sound repeatedly or for 
prolonged periods can experience hearing threshold shift (TS), which is 
the loss of hearing sensitivity at certain frequency ranges (Kastak et 
al. 1999; Schlundt et al. 2000; Finneran et al. 2002; 2005). TS can be 
permanent (PTS), in which case the loss of hearing sensitivity is 
unrecoverable, or temporary (TTS), in which case the animal's hearing 
threshold will recover over time (Southall et al. 2007). Since marine 
mammals depend on acoustic cues for vital biological functions, such as 
orientation, communication, finding prey, and avoiding predators, 
marine mammals that suffer from PTS or TTS will have reduced fitness in 
survival and reproduction, either permanently or temporarily. Repeated 
noise exposure that leads to TTS could cause PTS. Currently, NMFS 
considers that repeated exposure to received noise levels at 180 dB and 
190 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) could lead to TTS in cetaceans and pinnipeds, 
respectively.
    In addition, chronic exposure to excessive, though not high-
intensity, noise could cause masking at particular frequencies for 
marine mammals that utilize sound for vital biological functions (Clark 
et al. 2009). Masking can interfere with detection of acoustic signals 
such as communication calls, echolocation sounds, and environmental 
sounds important to marine mammals. Therefore, under certain 
circumstances, marine mammals whose acoustical sensors or environment 
are being severely masked could also be impaired from maximizing their 
performance fitness in survival and reproduction.
    Masking occurs at the frequency band which the animals utilize. 
Therefore, since noise generated from in-water vibratory pile driving 
and removal is mostly concentrated at low frequency ranges, it may have 
less effect on high frequency echolocation sounds by odontocetes 
(toothed whales). However, lower frequency man-made noises are more 
likely to affect detection of communication calls and other potentially 
important natural sounds such as surf and prey noise. It may also 
affect communication signals when they occur near the noise band and 
thus reduce the communication space of animals (e.g., Clark et al. 
2009) and cause increased stress levels (e.g., Foote et al. 2004; Holt 
et al. 2009).
    Unlike TS, masking can potentially affect the species at 
population, community, or even ecosystem levels, as well as individual 
levels. Masking affects both senders and receivers of the signals and 
could have long-term chronic effects on marine mammal species and 
populations. Recent science suggests that low frequency ambient sound 
levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than 3 times in terms 
of SPL) in the world's ocean from pre-industrial periods, and most of 
these increases are from distant shipping (Hildebrand 2009). All 
anthropogenic noise sources, such as those from vessel traffic, vessel 
docking and stationing while operating dynamic positioning (DP) 
thrusters, dredging and pipe laying associated with LNG Port and 
Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair, and LNG regasification 
activities, contribute to the elevated ambient noise levels, thus 
increasing potential for or severity of masking.
    Finally, exposure of marine mammals to certain sounds could lead to 
behavioral disturbance (Richardson et al. 1995), such as: Changing 
durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or 
moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities, 
changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as 
socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive 
behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping), avoidance of 
areas where noise sources are located, and/or flight responses (e.g., 
pinnipeds flushing into water from haulouts or rookeries).
    The biological significance of many of these behavioral 
disturbances is difficult to predict, especially if the detected 
disturbances appear minor. However, the consequences of behavioral 
modification are expected to be biologically significant if the change 
affects growth, survival, and/or reproduction.
    The onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise 
depends on both external factors (characteristics of noise sources and 
their paths) and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, 
experience, demography) and is also difficult to predict (Southall et 
al. 2007). Currently NMFS uses 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) at received 
level for impulse noises (such as impact pile driving) as the onset of 
marine mammal behavioral harassment, and 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for 
non-impulse noises (such as operating DP thrusters, dredging, pipe 
laying, and LNG regasification). For the NEG Port and Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair activities, only 
the 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) threshold is considered because only non-
impulse noise sources would be generated.
    Northeast Gateway contracted with Tetra Tech EC, Inc. (Tetra Tech) 
to perform field investigations to document various underwater noise 
levels emitted during the construction of the NEG Port and Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral and during the operation of NEG Port facilities 
(namely the operation of EBRVs). Tetra Tech conducted five offshore 
hydroacoustic field programs: One in 2005 and one in 2006 at the Gulf 
Gateway Deepwater Port located approximately 116 miles off the coast of 
Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico; and three in 2007 at the NEG Port and 
Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Project area. The 2005 measurements were 
completed to determine underwater noise levels during EBRV onboard 
regasification and vessel movements. The data from the 2005 field 
program was used to support the modeling and analysis of potential 
acoustic effects of EBRV operations in Massachusetts Bay during the NEG 
Port permitting and licensing process. The data collected in 2006 was 
also associated with EBRV operation activities and were collected for 
the purpose of verifying the measurement completed in 2005 as well as 
to further document sound levels

[[Page 69055]]

during additional operational and EBRV activities such as EBRV coupling 
and decoupling from the buoy system, transit and the use of stern and 
bow thrusters required for dynamic positioning. The 2007 measurements 
were collected during NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral 
construction to obtain site-specific underwater sound-level data 
associated with various construction activities that were previously 
modeled in support of permitting and licensing. These data are used 
here to analyze potential noise impacts to marine mammals and to 
provide the basis for take calculation before new measurements are made 
on-site (see Proposed Monitoring Measures section below).
    A detailed report describing both the 2006 and 2007 operation and 
construction noise measurement events and associated results have been 
included as Appendix B of the IHA application. The following sections 
describe those activities that could result in Level B harassment as 
they relate to NEG Port and Algonquin O&M activities.

NEG Port Operations

    For the purposes of understanding the noise footprint of operations 
at the NEG Port, measurements taken to capture operational noise 
(docking, undocking, regasification, and EBRV thruster use) during the 
2006 Gulf of Mexico field event were taken at the source. Measurements 
taken during EBRV transit were normalized to a distance of 328 feet 
(100 meters) to serve as a basis for modeling sound propagation at the 
NEG Port site in Massachusetts Bay.
    Sound propagation calculations for operational activities were then 
completed at two positions in Massachusetts Bay to determine site-
specific distances to the 120/160/180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa isopleths: At 
LNG Port (EBRV Operations) and at Boston TSS (EBRV Transit).
    At each of these locations sound propagation calculations were 
performed to determine the noise footprint of the operation activity at 
each of the specified locations. Calculations were performed in 
accordance with Marsh and Schulkin (1985) and Richardson et al (1995) 
and took into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, 
bathymetry, and seabed composition. In addition, the acoustic modeling 
performed specifically evaluated sound energy in 1/3-octave spectral 
bands covering frequencies from 12.5 hertz (Hz) to 20 kilohertz (kHz). 
This range encompasses the auditory frequency range of marine mammals 
and the range at which sound propagates beyond the immediate vicinity 
of the source (i.e., high frequency sounds have a much higher 
attenuation rate than frequencies in the low to middle range due to a 
higher absorption rate by seawater and boundary effects). These results 
were then summed across frequencies to provide the broadband received 
levels at receptor locations. A literature review of relevant 
underwater noise measurement data of offshore construction activities 
in similar shallow water environments were referred to for estimating 
typical propagation rates. Relevant here, the resulting distances to 
the 120 dB isopleth (180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa does not exist) was 
estimated to determine the maximum distance at which Level B harassment 
may occur.
    To further understand how NEG Port activities may result in 
underwater noise that could harass marine mammals, Northeast Gateway 
has engaged scientists from Cornell University's Bioacoustics Research 
Program (BRP) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as 
the consultants for collecting and analyzing the acoustic data 
throughout the project area (see sections 13.0 and 14.0 of the IHA 
application). Elevated underwater sound levels within Massachusetts Bay 
due to this existing vessel traffic and other Bay activities may 
effectively mask sound generated during Port activities. Sound levels 
recorded by marine autonomous recording units (MARUs) within frequency 
bands for marine mammals have been reported to include whales, other 
biotic and abiotic sound sources and ambient noise that could be 
occurring at the time (BRP 2011).

NEG Port Maintenance and Repair

    As stated in earlier in the document, routine inspections of NEG 
Port mooring components occur after each buoy connection from the 
Port's normal support vessel. Inspections of other Port facility 
components such as the STL Buoy, flexible riser, mooring system, 
pipeline end manifold (PLEM) are conducted annually by a ROV and/or 
diver launched from a vessel of opportunity.
    In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances 
whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port necessitate emergency 
maintenance and/or repair activities. While the extent and number of 
such maintenance and repair activities at the NEG Port over its 
expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is reasonable 
to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair scenario would 
result in similar types of activities and require the use of similar 
support vessels and equipment as used for construction.
    Modeling analysis conducted by TetraTech concluded that the only 
underwater noise of critical concern during NEG Port construction would 
be from vessel noises such as turning screws, engine noise, noise of 
operating machinery, and thruster use. To confirm these modeled results 
and better understand the noise footprint associated with construction 
activities at the NEG Port, field measurements were taken of various 
construction activities during the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline 
Lateral Construction period. Measurements were taken to establish the 
``loudest'' potential construction measurement event. The location at 
the LNG Port was used to determine site-specific distances to the 120/
180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa isopleths for NEG Port maintenance and repair 
activities.
    As described for NEG Port operations, sound propagation 
calculations were performed to determine the noise footprint of the 
construction activity. The calculations took into consideration aspects 
of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and seabed composition, and 
specifically evaluated sound energy in the range that encompasses the 
auditory frequencies of marine mammals and at which sound propagates 
beyond the immediate vicinity of the source. These results were then 
summed across frequencies to provide the broadband received levels at 
receptor locations. The resulting distances to the 120 dB isopleth (180 
dB re 1 [micro]Pa does not exist) was estimated to determine the 
maximum distance at which Level B harassment may occur (Table 1).

Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Operations and Maintenance and Unplanned 
Repair

    As discussed earlier in the document, routine inspections of the 
Algonquin Pipeline Lateral are conducted annually by a ROV launched 
from a vessel of opportunity. Planned O&M activity is the annual 
inspection of the cathodic protection monitors by a ROV. The monitors 
are located at the ends of the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral and the 
adjacent Flowlines. Each inspection activity will take approximately 3 
days and will utilize a ROV launched from a vessel of opportunity. The 
most likely vessel will be similar to the NEG Port's normal support 
vessel.
    In addition to these routine activities, there may be instances 
whereby unanticipated events at the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline 
Lateral necessitate emergency maintenance and/or repair activities. 
While the extent

[[Page 69056]]

and number of such maintenance and repair activities at the Port over 
its expected 25 year life cannot be accurately estimated, it is 
reasonable to assume that a worst-case maintenance and/or repair 
scenario would result in similar types of activities and require the 
use of similar support vessels and equipment as used for construction.
    Modeling analysis conducted in support of the final EIS/EIR 
concluded that the only underwater noise of critical concern during NEG 
Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral construction would be from vessel 
noises such as turning screws, engine noise, noise of operating 
machinery, and thruster use. As with construction noise at the NEG 
Port, to confirm modeled results and better understand the noise 
footprint associated with construction activities along the Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral, field measurements were taken of various construction 
activities during the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral 
Construction period. Again, measurements were taken to establish the 
``loudest'' potential construction measurement event. Two positions 
within Massachusetts Bay were then used to determine site-specific 
distances to the 120/180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa isopleths: at PLEM and at 
Mid-Pipeline.
    As described for NEG Port operations and maintenance and repair, at 
each location sound propagation calculations were performed to 
determine the noise footprint of the construction activity at each of 
the specified locations. The resulting distances to the 120 dB isopleth 
(180 dB re 1 [micro]Pa does not exist) was estimated to determine the 
maximum distance at which Level B harassment may occur (Table 1).

Table 1--Modeled Underwater Received Sound Pressure Levels and Distances
     to Threshold Levels for NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral
            Operations and Maintenance and Repair Activities
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Estimated distance
                                                       (m) from source
                    Activities                       where received SPL
                                                     falls below 120 dB
                                                       re 1 [micro]Pa
------------------------------------------------------------------------
NEG Port Operations:
    EBRV docking with support vessel at Port......                 4,250
    EBRV docking with support vessels on station..                 5,500
    EBRV regasification...........................                 < 300
    EBRV transiting TSS...........................                 1,750
NEG Port Maintenance and Repair:
    Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel.....                 2,560
Algonquin Pipeline Lateral O&M and Unplanned
 Repair:
    Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel at                   3,500
     PLEM.........................................
    Barge/tug (with load)/construction vessel at                   2,831
     Mid-pipeline.................................
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Potential Effects on Marine Mammal Habitat

NEG Port Operations

    Operation of the NEG Port will not result in short-term effects; 
however, long-term effects on the marine environment, including 
alteration of the seafloor conditions, continued disturbance of the 
seafloor, regular withdrawal of sea water, and regular generation of 
underwater noise, will result from Port operations. Specifically, a 
small area (0.14 acre) along the Pipeline Lateral has been permanently 
altered (armored) at two cable crossings. In addition, the structures 
associated with the NEG Port (flowlines, mooring wire rope and chain, 
suction anchors, and pipeline end manifolds) occupy 4.8 acres of 
seafloor. An additional area of the seafloor of up to 43 acres (worst 
case scenario based on severe 100-year storm with EBRVs occupying both 
STL buoys) will be subject to disturbance due to chain sweep while the 
buoys are occupied. Given the relatively small size of the NEG Port 
area that will be directly affected by Port operations, NMFS does not 
anticipate that habitat loss will be significant.
    EBRVs are currently authorized to withdraw an average of 4.97 
million gallons per day (mgd) and 2.6 billion gallons per year of sea 
water for general ship operations during it cargo delivery activities 
at the NEG Port. However, during the operations of the NEG Port 
facility, it was revealed that significantly more water usage is needed 
from what was originally evaluated in the final USCG Environmental 
Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR). The updates for 
the needed water intake and discharge temperature are:
     11 billion gallons of total annual water use at the Port;
     Maximum daily intake volume of up to 56 mgd at a rate of 
0.45 feet per second when an EBRV is not able to achieve the heat 
recovery system (HRS: It is the capability of reducing water use during 
the regasification process) mode of operation; and,
     Maximum daily change in discharge temperature of 12 [deg]C 
(21.6 [deg]F) from ambient from the vessel's main condenser cooling 
system.
    Under the requested water-use scenario, Tech Tech (2011) conducted 
an environmental analysis on the potential impacts to marine mammals 
and their prey. To evaluate impacts to phytoplankton under the 
increased water usage, the biomass of phytoplankton lost from the 
Massachusetts Bay ecosystem was estimated based on the method presented 
in the final EIS/EIR. Phytoplankton densities of 65,000 to 390,000 
cells/gallon were multiplied by the annual planned activities of 
withdrawal rate of 11 billion gallons to estimate a loss of 7.15 x 
10\14\ to 4.29 x 10\15\ cells per year. Assuming a dry-weight biomass 
of 10-\10\ to 10-\11\ gram per cell (g/cell), an 
estimated 7.2 kg to 429 kg of biomass would be lost from Massachusetts 
Bay under the proposed activity, up to approximately 4.2 times that 
estimated in the final EIS/EIR for the permitted operational scenario. 
An order of magnitude estimate of the effect of this annual biomass 
loss on the regional food web can be calculated assuming a 10 percent 
transfer of biomass from one trophic level to the next (Sumich 1988) 
following the method used in the final EIS/EIR. This suggests that the 
loss of 7.2 kg to 429 kg of phytoplankton will result in the loss of 
about 0.7 kg to 42.9 kg of zooplankton, less than 0.1 kg to 4.3 kg of 
small planktivorous fish, and up to

[[Page 69057]]

0.4 kg of large piscivorous fish (approximately equivalent to a single 
1-pound striped bass). Relative to the biomass of these trophic levels 
in the project area, this biomass loss is minor and consistent with the 
findings in the final EIS/EIR.
    In addition, zooplankton losses will also increase proportionally 
to the increase in water withdrawn. The final EIS/EIR used densities of 
zooplankton determined by the sampling conducted by the Massachusetts 
Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to characterize the area around its 
offshore outfall and assumed a mean zooplankton density of 34.9 x 10\3\ 
organisms per m\3\. Applying this density, the water withdrawal volume 
under the proposed activity would result in the entrainment of 2.2 x 
10\10\ zooplankton individuals per trip or 1.5 x 10\12\ individuals per 
year. Assuming an average biomass of 0.63 x 10-\6\ g per 
individual, this would result in the loss of 14.1 kg of zooplankton per 
shipment or 916.5 kg of zooplankton per year. As discussed for 
phytoplankton, biomass transfers from one trophic level to the next at 
a rate of about 10 percent. Therefore, this entrainment of zooplankton 
would result in loss of about 91.6 kg of planktivorous fish and 9.2 kg 
of large piscivorous fish (approximately equivalent to two 9-pound 
striped bass). These losses are minor relative to the total biomass of 
these trophic levels in Massachusetts Bay.
    Finally, ichthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae) losses and 
equivalent age one juvenile fish estimates under the proposed activity 
were made based on actual monthly ichthyoplankton data collected in the 
port area from October 2005 through December 2009 and the proposed 
activity withdrawal volume of 11 billion gallons per year evenly 
distributed among months (0.92 billion gallons per month) as a worst-
case scenario, representing the maximum number of Port deliveries 
during any given month. Similarly, the lower, upper, and mean annual 
entrainment estimates are based on the lower and upper 95 percent 
confidence limits, of the monthly mean ichthyoplankton densities, and 
the monthly mean estimates multiplied by the monthly withdrawal rate of 
0.92 billion gallons per month. At this withdrawal rate approximately 
106 million eggs and 67 million larvae are estimated to be lost (see 
Table 4.2-2 of the IHA application). The most abundant species and life 
stages estimated to be entrained under the proposed activity are cunner 
post yolk-sac larvae (33.3 million), yellowtail flounder/Labridae eggs 
(27.4 million) and hake species eggs (18.7 million). Together, these 
species and life stages accounted for approximately 46 percent of the 
total entrainment estimated. Entrainment was estimated to be highest in 
June through July when 97.4 million eggs and larvae (approximately 57 
percent of the annual total) were estimated to be entrained. 
Nevertheless, since the demand for natural gas and corresponding Port 
activities will likely be greatest during the winter heating season 
(November through March) when impacts from entrainment will likely be 
lower.
    These estimated losses are not significant given the very high 
natural mortality of ichthyoplankton. This comparison was done in the 
final EIS/EIR where ichthyoplankton losses based on historic regional 
ichthyoplankton densities and a withdrawal rate of approximately 2.6 
billion gallons per year were represented by the equivalent number of 
age one fish. Under the final EIS/EIR withdrawal scenario, equivalent 
age one losses due to entrainment ranged from 1 haddock to 43,431 sand 
lance (Tetra Tech 2010). Equivalent age one losses under the conditions 
when no NEG Port operation occurrence were recalculated using Northeast 
Gateway monitoring data in order to facilitate comparisons between the 
permitted scenario. Using Northeast Gateway monitoring data, withdrawal 
of 2.6 billion gallons per year would result in equivalent age one 
losses ranging from less than 1 haddock to 5,602 American sand lance. 
By comparison, equivalent age one losses under the proposed activity 
withdrawal rate of 11 billion gallons per year ranged from less than 1 
haddock to 23,701 sand lance and were generally similar to or less than 
those in the final EIS/EIR. Substantially more equivalent age one 
Atlantic herring, pollock, and butterfish were estimated to be lost 
under the final EIS/EIR at a withdrawal rate of 2.6 billion gallons per 
year, while substantially more equivalent age one Atlantic cod, silver 
hake and hake species, cunner, and Atlantic mackerel are estimated to 
be lost under the proposed activity.
    Although no reliable annual food consumption rates of baleen whales 
are available for comparison, based on the calculated quantities of 
phytoplankton, zooplankton, and ichthyoplankton removal analyzed above, 
it is reasonable to conclude that baleen whale predation rates would 
dwarf any reasonable estimates of prey removals by NEG Port operations. 
Therefore, NMFS believes that the prey removals by NEG Port operations 
resulting from water usage will have negligible impacts on marine 
mammal habitat.

NEG Port Maintenance

    As stated earlier, NEG LNG Port will require scheduled maintenance 
inspections using either divers or ROVs. The duration of these 
inspections are not anticipated to be more than two 8-hour working 
days. An EBRV will not be required to support these annual inspections. 
Water usage during the LNG Port maintenance would be limited to the 
standard requirements of NEG's normal support vessel. As with all 
vessels operating in Massachusetts Bay, sea water uptake and discharge 
is required to support engine cooling, typically using a once-through 
system. The rate of seawater uptake varies with the ship's horsepower 
and activity and therefore will differ between vessels and activity 
type. For example, the Gateway Endeavor is a 90-foot vessel powered 
with a 1,200 horsepower diesel engine with a four-pump seawater cooling 
system. This system requires seawater intake of about 68 gallons per 
minute (gpm) while idling and up to about 150 gpm at full power. Use of 
full power is required generally for transit. A conservatively high 
estimate of vessel activity for the Gateway Endeavor would be operation 
at idle for 75 percent of the time and full power for 25 percent of the 
time. During the routine activities this would equate to approximately 
42,480 gallons of seawater per 8-hour work day. When compared to the 
engine cooling requirements of an EBRV over an 8-hour period 
(approximately 18 million gallons), the Gateway Endeavour uses about 
0.2 percent of the EBRV requirement. To put this water use into 
context, potential effects from the waters-use scenario of 56 mgd have 
been concluded to be orders of magnitude less than the natural 
fluctuations of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay and not detectable. 
Water use by support vessels during routine port activities would not 
materially add to the overall impacts.
    Certain maintenance and repair activities may also require the 
presence of an EBRV at the Port. Such instances may include maintenance 
and repair on the STL Buoy, vessel commissioning, and any onboard 
equipment malfunction or failure occurring while a vessel is present 
for cargo delivery. Because the requested water-use scenario allows for 
daily water use of up to 56 mgd to support standard EBRV requirements 
when not operating in the HRS mode, vessels would be able to remain at 
the Port as necessary to support all such maintenance and repair 
scenarios. Therefore, NMFS considers that NEG Port maintenance and 
repair

[[Page 69058]]

would have negligible impacts to marine mammal habitat in the proposed 
activity area.

Unanticipated Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Maintenance and Repair

    As stated earlier, proper care and maintenance of the Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral should minimize the likelihood of an unanticipated 
maintenance and/or repair event; however, unanticipated activities may 
occur from time to time if facility components become damaged or 
malfunction. Unanticipated repairs may range from relatively minor 
activities requiring minimal equipment and one or two diver/ROV support 
vessels to major activities requiring larger construction-type vessels 
similar to those used to support the construction and installation of 
the facility.
    Major repair activities, although unlikely, may include repairing 
or replacement of pipeline manifolds or a sections of the Pipeline 
Lateral. This type of work would likely require the use of large 
specialty construction vessels such as those used during the 
construction and installation of the NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline 
Lateral. The duration of a major unplanned activity would depend upon 
the type of repair work involved and would require careful planning and 
coordination.
    Turbidity would likely be a potential effect of Algonquin Pipeline 
Lateral maintenance and repair activities on listed species. In 
addition, the possible removal of benthic or planktonic species, 
resulting from relatively minor construction vessel water use 
requirements, as measured in comparison to EBRV water use, is unlikely 
to affect in a measurable way the food sources available to marine 
mammals. Therefore, NMFS considers that Algonquin Pipeline Lateral 
maintenance and repair would have negligible impacts to marine mammal 
habitat in the proposed activity area.

Proposed Mitigation Measures

    In order to issue an incidental take authorization under Section 
101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods 
of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the 
least practicable adverse impact on such species or stock and its 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species 
or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.
    For the proposed NEG LNG Port operations and maintenance and repair 
activities, Excelerate and Tetra Tech worked with NMFS and proposed the 
following mitigation measures to minimize the potential impacts to 
marine mammals in the project vicinity as a result of the LNG Port and 
Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair 
activities. The primary purpose of these proposed mitigation measures 
is to ensure that no marine mammal would be injured or killed by 
vessels transiting the LNG Port facility, and to minimize the intensity 
of noise exposure of marine mammals in the activity area. For the 
proposed NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and 
maintenance and repair, the following mitigation measures are proposed.
(a) General Marine Mammal Avoidance Measures
    (i) All vessels shall utilize the International Maritime 
Organization (IMO)-approved Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) on 
their approach to and departure from the NEG Port and/or the repair/
maintenance area at the earliest practicable point of transit in order 
to avoid the risk of whale strikes.
    (ii) Upon entering the TSS and areas where North Atlantic right 
whales are known to occur, including the Great South Channel Seasonal 
Management Area (GSC-SMA) and the SBNMS, the EBRV shall go into 
``Heightened Awareness'' as described below.
    (A) Prior to entering and navigating the modified TSS the Master of 
the vessel shall:
    (I) Consult Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), NOAA Weather Radio, the 
NOAA Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (SAS) or other means to 
obtain current right whale sighting information as well as the most 
recent Cornell acoustic monitoring buoy data for the potential presence 
of marine mammals;
    (II) Post a look-out to visually monitor for the presence of marine 
mammals;
    (III) Provide the US Coast Guard (USCG) required 96-hour 
notification of an arriving EBRV to allow the NEG Port Manager to 
notify Cornell of vessel arrival.
    (B) The look-out shall concentrate his/her observation efforts 
within the 2-mile radius zone of influence (ZOI) from the maneuvering 
EBRV.
    (C) If marine mammal detection was reported by NAVTEX, NOAA Weather 
Radio, SAS and/or an acoustic monitoring buoy, the look-out shall 
concentrate visual monitoring efforts towards the areas of the most 
recent detection.
    (D) If the look-out (or any other member of the crew) visually 
detects a marine mammal within the 2-mile radius ZOI of a maneuvering 
EBRV, he/she will take the following actions:
    (I) The Officer-of-the-Watch shall be notified immediately; who 
shall then relay the sighting information to the Master of the vessel 
to ensure action(s) can be taken to avoid physical contact with marine 
mammals.
    (II) The sighting shall be recorded in the sighting log by the 
designated look-out.
    (iii) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103(c), all vessels associated 
with NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral activities shall not approach closer 
than 500 yards (460 m) to a North Atlantic right whale and 100 yards 
(91 m) to other whales to the extent physically feasible given 
navigational constraints. In addition, when approaching and departing 
the project area, vessels shall be operated so as to remain at least 1 
km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whales.
    (iv) In response to active right whale sightings and active 
acoustic detections, and taking into account exceptional circumstances, 
EBRVs, repair and maintenance vessels shall take appropriate actions to 
minimize the risk of striking whales. Specifically vessels shall:
    (A) Respond to active right whale sightings and/or DMAs reported on 
the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) or SAS by concentrating monitoring 
efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 
10 knots or less if the vessel is within the boundaries of a DMA (50 
CFR 224.105) or within the circular area centered on an area 8 nm in 
radius from a sighting location;
    (B) Respond to active acoustic detections by concentrating 
monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and 
reducing speed to 10 knots or less within an area 5 nm in radius 
centered on the detecting AB; and
    (C) Respond to additional sightings made by the designated look-
outs within a 2-mile radius of the vessel by slowing the vessel to 10 
knots or less and concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of 
most recent sighting.
    (v) All vessels operated under NEG and Algonquin must follow the 
established specific speed restrictions when calling at the NEG Port. 
The specific speed restrictions required for all vessels (i.e., EBRVs 
and vessels associated with maintenance and repair) consist of the 
following:
    (A) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the 
TSS from 12 knots or less to 10 knots or less from March 1 to April 30 
in all waters bounded by straight lines

[[Page 69059]]

connecting the following points in the order stated below unless an 
emergency situation dictates for an alternate speed. This area shall 
hereafter be referred to as the Off Race Point Seasonal Management Area 
(ORP-SMA) and tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105:

42[deg]30' N 70[deg]30' W 41[deg]40' N 69[deg]57' W
42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W 42[deg]12' N 70[deg]15' W
41[deg]40' N 69[deg]45' W 42[deg]12' N 70[deg]30' W
42[deg]04.8' N 70[deg]10' W 42[deg]30' N 70[deg]30' W

    (B) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the 
TSS to 10 knots or less unless an emergency situation dictates for an 
alternate speed from April 1 to July 31 in all waters bounded by 
straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated 
below. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the GSC-SMA and 
tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105:

42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W 41[deg]40' N 69[deg]45' W
42[deg]30' N 67[deg]27' W 42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W
42[deg]09' N 67[deg]08.4' W 41[deg]00' N 69[deg]05' W

    (C) Vessels are not expected to transit the Cape Cod Bay or the 
Cape Cod Canal; however, in the event that transit through the Cape Cod 
Bay or the Cape Cod Canal is required, vessels shall reduce maximum 
transit speed to 10 knots or less from January 1 to May 15 in all 
waters in Cape Cod Bay, extending to all shorelines of Cape Cod Bay, 
with a northern boundary of 42[deg]12' N latitude and the Cape Cod 
Canal. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Cape Cod Bay 
Seasonal Management Area (CCB-SMA).
    (D) All Vessels transiting to and from the project area shall 
report their activities to the mandatory reporting Section of the USCG 
to remain apprised of North Atlantic right whale movements within the 
area. All vessels entering and exiting the MSRA shall report their 
activities to WHALESNORTH. Vessel operators shall contact the USCG by 
standard procedures promulgated through the Notice to Mariner system.
    (E) All Vessels greater than or equal to 300 gross tons (GT) shall 
maintain a speed of 10 knots or less, unless an emergency situation 
requires speeds greater than 10 knots.
    (F) All Vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and 
the project area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots will 
contact the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) system, the USCG, or the 
project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or 
recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, 
restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of 
any sighting location, when traveling in any of the seasonal management 
areas (SMAs) or when traveling in any active dynamic management area 
(DMA).
    (b) NEG Port-Specific Operations
    (i) In addition to the general marine mammal avoidance requirements 
identified in (5)(a) above, vessels calling on the NEG Port must comply 
with the following additional requirements:
    (A) EBRVs shall travel at 10 knots maximum speed when transiting 
to/from the TSS or to/from the NEG Port/Pipeline Lateral area. For 
EBRVs, at 1.86 miles (3 km) from the NEG Port, speed will be reduced to 
3 knots and to less than 1 knot at 1,640 ft (500 m) from the NEG buoys, 
unless an emergency situation dictates the need for an alternate speed.
    (B) EBRVs that are approaching or departing from the NEG Port and 
are within the ATBA5 surrounding the NEG Port, shall remain at least 1 
km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whale and at 
least 100 yards (91 m) away from all other visually-detected whales 
unless an emergency situation requires that the vessel stay its course. 
During EBRV maneuvering, the Vessel Master shall designate at least one 
look-out to be exclusively and continuously monitoring for the presence 
of marine mammals at all times while the EBRV is approaching or 
departing from the NEG Port.
    (C) During NEG Port operations, in the event that a whale is 
visually observed within 1 km of the NEG Port or a confirmed acoustic 
detection is reported on either of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port 
(western-most in the TSS array), departing EBRVs shall delay their 
departure from the NEG Port, unless an emergency situation requires 
that departure is not delayed. This departure delay shall continue 
until either the observed whale has been visually (during daylight 
hours) confirmed as more than 1 km from the NEG Port or 30 minutes have 
passed without another confirmed detection either acoustically within 
the acoustic detection range of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port, or 
visually within 1 km from the NEG Port.
    (ii) Vessel captains shall focus on reducing dynamic positioning 
(DP) thruster power to the maximum extent practicable, taking into 
account vessel and Port safety, during the operation activities. Vessel 
captains will shut down thrusters whenever they are not needed.
    (c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair Activities
    (i) NEG Port
    (A) The Northeast Gateway shall conduct empirical source level 
measurements on all noise emitting construction equipment and all 
vessels that are involved in maintenance/repair work.
    (B) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are employed and/or 
activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 [mu]Pa at 
1 m or greater, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the 
requirements for DP systems listed in (b)(ii) above.
    (C) Northeast Gateway shall provide the NMFS Headquarters Office of 
the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, 
and SBNMS with a minimum of 30 days notice prior to any planned repair 
and/or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/
maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as 
soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Northeast 
Gateway shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work 
plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the 
repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to 
agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field.
    (ii) Pipeline Lateral
    (A) Pipeline maintenance/repair vessels less than 300 GT traveling 
between the shore and the maintenance/repair area that are not 
generally restricted to 10 knots shall contact the MSR system, the 
USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active 
DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with 
navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles 
(8 km) of any sighting location, when travelling in any of the seasonal 
management areas (SMAs) as defined above.
    (B) Maintenance/repair vessels greater than 300 GT shall not exceed 
10 knots, unless an emergency situation that requires speeds greater 
than 10 knots.
    (C) Planned maintenance and repair activities shall be restricted 
to the period between May 1 and November 30.
    (D) Unplanned/emergency maintenance and repair activities shall be 
conducted utilizing anchor-moored dive vessel whenever operationally 
possible.
    (E) Algonquin shall also provide the NMFS Office of the Protected 
Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and 
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) with a minimum of 30-
day notice prior to any planned repair and/or maintenance activity. For 
any unplanned/emergency repair/

[[Page 69060]]

maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as 
soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Algonquin 
shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work plans as 
further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the repair) 
become available. A final notification shall be provided to agencies 72 
hours prior to crews being deployed into the field.
    (F) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or 
activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 [mu]Pa at 
1 m or greater, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the 
requirements for DP systems listed in (b)(ii) above.
    (G) In the event that a whale is visually observed within 0.5 mile 
(0.8 kilometers) of a repair or maintenance vessel, the vessel 
superintendent or on-deck supervisor shall be notified immediately. The 
vessel's crew shall be put on a heightened state of alert and the 
marine mammal shall be monitored constantly to determine if it is 
moving toward the repair or maintenance area.
    (H) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or 
cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 
[mu]Pa @ 1 m or higher when a right whale is sighted within or 
approaching at 500 yd (457 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance 
work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed 
outside the established zones (500 yd [457 m]) or 30 minutes have 
passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance 
area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation 
distances.
    (I) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or 
cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 
[mu]Pa @ 1 m or higher when a marine mammal other than a right whale is 
sighted within or approaching at 100 yd (91 m) from the vessel. Repair 
and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively 
reconfirmed outside the established zones (100 yd [91 m]) or 30 minutes 
have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the 
maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these 
separation distances.
    (J) Algonquin and associated contractors shall also comply with the 
following:
    (I) Operations involving equipment with sound source levels 
exceeding 139 dB re 1[mu]Pa @ 1 m shall ``ramp-up'' sound sources, 
allowing whales a chance to leave the area before sounds reach maximum 
levels. In addition, Northeast Gateway, Algonquin, and other associated 
contractors shall maintain equipment to manufacturers' specifications, 
including any sound-muffling devices or engine covers in order to 
minimize noise effects. Noisy construction equipment shall only be used 
as needed and equipment shall be turned off when not in operation.
    (II) Any material that has the potential to entangle marine mammals 
(e.g., anchor lines, cables, rope or other construction debris) shall 
only be deployed as needed and measures shall be taken to minimize the 
chance of entanglement.
    (III) For any material mentioned above that has the potential to 
entangle marine mammals, such material shall be removed from the water 
immediately unless such action jeopardizes the safety of the vessel and 
crew as determined by the Captain of the vessel.
    (IV) In the event that a marine mammal becomes entangled, the 
marine mammal coordinator and/or PSO will notify NMFS (if outside the 
SBNMS), and SBNMS staff (if inside the SBNMS) immediately so that a 
rescue effort may be initiated.
    (K) All maintenance/repair activities shall be scheduled to occur 
between May 1 and November 30; however, in the event of unplanned/
emergency repair work that cannot be scheduled during the preferred May 
through November work window, the following additional measures shall 
be followed for Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair related 
activities between December and April:
    (I) Between December 1 and April 30, if on-board PSOs do not have 
at least 0.5-mile visibility, they shall call for a shutdown. At the 
time of shutdown, the use of thrusters must be minimized. If there are 
potential safety problems due to the shutdown, the captain will decide 
what operations can safely be shut down.
    (II) Prior to leaving the dock to begin transit, the barge shall 
contact one of the PSOs on watch to receive an update of sightings 
within the visual observation area. If the PSO has observed a North 
Atlantic right whale within 30 minutes of the transit start, the vessel 
shall hold for 30 minutes and again get a clearance to leave from the 
PSOs on board. PSOs shall assess whale activity and visual observation 
ability at the time of the transit request to clear the barge for 
release.
    (III) Transit route, destination, sea conditions and any marine 
mammal sightings/mitigation actions during watch shall be recorded in 
the log book. Any whale sightings within 1,000 m of the vessel shall 
result in a high alert and slow speed of 4 knots or less and a sighting 
within 750 m shall result in idle speed and/or ceasing all movement.
    (IV) The material barges and tugs used in repair and maintenance 
shall transit from the operations dock to the work sites during 
daylight hours when possible provided the safety of the vessels is not 
compromised. Should transit at night be required, the maximum speed of 
the tug shall be 5 knots.
    (V) All repair vessels must maintain a speed of 10 knots or less 
during daylight hours. All vessels shall operate at 5 knots or less at 
all times within 5 km of the repair area.
(d) Acoustic Monitoring Related Activities
    (i) Vessels associated with maintaining the acoustic seafloor array 
of Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and the AB network 
operating as part of the mitigation/monitoring protocols shall adhere 
to the following speed restrictions and marine mammal monitoring 
requirements.
    (A) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are greater than 300 
gross tons (GT) shall not exceed 10 knots.
    (B) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are less than 300 GT 
shall not exceed 15 knots at any time, but shall adhere to speeds of 10 
knots or less in the following areas and seasons:
    (I) In the ORP-SMA between March 1 and April 30; and
    (II) In the CCB-SMA between January 1 and May 15.
    (C) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103 (c), all vessels associated 
with NEG Port activities shall not approach closer than 500 yards (460 
meters) to a North Atlantic right whale.
    (D) All vessels shall obtain the latest DMA or right whale sighting 
information via the NAVTEX, MSR, SAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or other 
available means prior to operations to determine if there are right 
whales present in the operational area.

Mitigation Conclusions

    NMFS has carefully evaluated the proposed mitigation measures in 
the context of ensuring that NMFS prescribes the means of effecting the 
least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and 
stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included 
consideration of the following factors in relation to one another:
     The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize 
adverse impacts to marine mammals;

[[Page 69061]]

     The proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to 
minimize adverse impacts as planned; and
     The practicability of the measure for applicant 
implementation.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, NMFS 
has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures 
provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine 
mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention 
to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting Measures

    In order to issue an ITA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for ITAs 
must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary 
monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the 
species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine 
mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area.

Proposed Monitoring Measures

(a) Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring
    (i) Vessel-Based monitoring for marine mammals shall be done by 
trained look-outs during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations 
and maintenance and repair activities. The observers shall monitor the 
occurrence of marine mammals near the vessels during LNG Port and 
Pipeline Lateral related activities. Lookout duties include watching 
for and identifying marine mammals; recording their numbers, distances, 
and reactions to the activities; and documenting ``take by 
harassment''.
    (ii) The vessel look-outs assigned to visually monitor for the 
presence of marine mammals and shall be provided with the following:
    (A) Recent NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or acoustic 
monitoring buoy detection data;
    (B) Binoculars to support observations;
    (C) Marine mammal detection guide sheets; and
    (D) Sighting log.
(b) NEG LNG Port Operations
    (i) All individuals onboard the EBRVs responsible for the 
navigation duties and any other personnel that could be assigned to 
monitor for marine mammals shall receive training on marine mammal 
sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures.
    (ii) While an EBRV is navigating within the designated TSS, there 
shall be three people with look-out duties on or near the bridge of the 
ship including the Master, the Officer-of-the-Watch and the Helmsman-
on-watch. In addition to the standard watch procedures, while the EBRV 
is transiting within the designated TSS, maneuvering within the Area to 
be Avoided (ATBA), and/or while actively engaging in the use of 
thrusters, an additional look-out shall be designated to exclusively 
and continuously monitor for marine mammals.
    (iii) All sightings of marine mammals by the designated look-out, 
individuals posted to navigational look-out duties and/or any other 
crew member while the EBRV is transiting within the TSS, maneuvering 
within the ATBA and/or when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, 
shall be immediately reported to the Officer-of-the-Watch who shall 
then alert the Master. The Master or Officer-of-the-Watch shall ensure 
the required reporting procedures are followed and the designated 
marine mammal look-out records all pertinent information relevant to 
the sighting.
    (iv) Visual sightings made by look-outs from the EBRVs shall be 
recorded using a standard sighting log form. Estimated locations shall 
be reported for each individual and/or group of individuals categorized 
by species when known. This data shall be entered into a database and a 
summary of monthly sighting activity shall be provided to NMFS. 
Estimates of take and copies of these log sheets shall also be included 
in the reports to NMFS.
(c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair
    (i) Two (2) qualified and NMFS-approved protected species observers 
(PSOs) shall be assigned to each vessel that will use dynamic 
positioning (DP) systems during maintenance and repair related 
activities. PSOs shall operate individually in designated shifts to 
accommodate adequate rest schedules. Additional PSOs shall be assigned 
to additional vessels if auto-detection buoy (AB) data indicates that 
sound levels exceed 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa, further then 100 meters (328 
feet) from these vessels.
    (ii) All PSOs shall receive NMFS-approved marine mammal observer 
training and be approved in advance by NMFS after review of their 
resume. All PSOs shall have direct field experience on marine mammal 
vessels and/or aerial surveys in the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico.
    (iii) PSOs (one primary and one secondary) shall be responsible for 
visually locating marine mammals at the ocean's surface and, to the 
extent possible, identifying the species. The primary PSO shall act as 
the identification specialist and the secondary PSO will serve as data 
recorder and also assist with identification. Both PSOs shall have 
responsibility for monitoring for the presence of marine mammals and 
sea turtles. Specifically PSO's shall:
    (A) Monitor at all hours of the day, scanning the ocean surface by 
eye for a minimum of 40 minutes every hour.
    (B) Monitor the area where maintenance and repair work is conducted 
beginning at daybreak using 25x power binoculars and/or hand-held 
binoculars. Night vision devices must be provided as standard equipment 
for monitoring during low-light hours and at night.
    (C) Conduct general 360[deg] visual monitoring during any given 
watch period and target scanning by the observer shall occur when 
alerted of a whale presence.
    (D) Alert the vessel superintendent or construction crew supervisor 
of visual detections within 2 miles (3.31 kilometers) immediately.
    (E) Record all sightings on marine mammal field sighting logs. 
Specifically, all data shall be entered at the time of observation, 
notes of activities will be kept, and a daily report prepared and 
attached to the daily field sighting log form. The basic reporting 
requirements include the following:
     Beaufort sea state;
     Wind speed;
     Wind direction;
     Temperature;
     Precipitation;
     Glare;
     Percent cloud cover;
     Number of animals;
     Species;
     Position;
     Distance;
     Behavior;
     Direction of movement; and
     Apparent reaction to construction activity.
    (iv) In the event that a whale is visually observed within the 2-
mile (3.31-kilometers) zone of influence (ZOI) of a DP vessel or other 
construction vessel that has shown to emit noise with source level in 
excess of 139 dB re 1 [micro]Pa @ 1 m, the PSO will notify the repair/
maintenance construction crew to minimize the use of thrusters until 
the animal has moved away, unless there are divers in the water or an 
ROV is deployed.

[[Page 69062]]

(d) Acoustic Monitoring
    (i) Northeast Gateway shall monitor the noise environment in 
Massachusetts Bay in the vicinity of the NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral 
using an array of 19 MARUs that were deployed initially in April 2007 
to collect data during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related 
activities.
    (ii) The acoustic data collected by the MARUs shall be analyzed to 
document the seasonal occurrences and overall distributions of whales 
(primarily fin, humpback and right whales) within approximately 10 nm 
of the NEG Port and shall measure and document the noise ``budget'' of 
Massachusetts Bay so as to eventually assist in determining whether or 
not an overall increase in noise in the Bay associated with the Project 
might be having a potentially negative impact on marine mammals.
    (iii) In addition to the 19 MARUs, Northeast Gateway shall deploy 
10 ABs within the Separation Zone of the TSS for the operational life 
of the Project.
    (iv) The ABs shall be used to detect a calling North Atlantic right 
whale an average of 5 nm from each AB. The AB system shall be the 
primary detection mechanism that alerts the EBRV Master to the 
occurrence of right whales, heightens EBRV awareness, and triggers 
necessary mitigation actions as described in section (5) above.
(e) Acoustic Whale Detection and Response Plan
    (i) NEG Port Operations
    (A) Ten (10) ABs that have been deployed since 2007 shall be used 
to continuously screen the low-frequency acoustic environment (less 
than 1,000 Hertz) for right whale contact calls occurring within an 
approximately 5-nm radius from each buoy (the AB's detection range).
    (B) Once a confirmed detection is made, the Master of any EBRVs 
operating in the area will be alerted immediately.
    (ii) NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral Planned and Unplanned/Emergency 
Repair and Maintenance Activities
    (A) If the repair/maintenance work is located outside of the 
detectible range of the 10 project area ABs, Northeast Gateway and 
Algonquin shall consult with NOAA (NMFS and SBNMS) to determine if the 
work to be conducted warrants the temporary installation of an 
additional AB(s) to help detect and provide early warnings for 
potential occurrence of right whales in the vicinity of the repair 
area.
    (B) The number of ABs installed around the activity site shall be 
commensurate with the type and spatial extent of maintenance/repair 
work required, but must be sufficient to detect vocalizing right whales 
within the 120-dB impact zone.
    (C) Should acoustic monitoring be deemed necessary during a planned 
or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance event, active 
monitoring for right whale calls shall begin 24 hours prior to the 
start of activities.
    (D) Source level data from the acoustic recording units deployed in 
the NEG Port and/or Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair area shall 
be provided to NMFS.

Proposed Reporting Measures

    (a) Throughout NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations, Northeast 
Gateway and Algonquin shall provide a monthly Monitoring Report. The 
Monitoring Report shall include:
    (i) Both copies of the raw visual EBRV lookout sighting information 
of marine mammals that occurred within 2 miles of the EBRV while the 
vessel transits within the TSS, maneuvers within the ATBA, and/or when 
actively engaging in the use of thrusters, and a summary of the data 
collected by the look-outs over each reporting period.
    (ii) Copies of the raw PSO sightings information on marine mammals 
gathered during pipeline repair or maintenance activities. This visual 
sighting data shall then be correlated to periods of thruster activity 
to provide estimates of marine mammal takes (per species/species class) 
that took place during each reporting period.
    (iii) Conclusion of any planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/
or maintenance period, a report shall be submitted to NMFS summarizing 
the repair/maintenance activities, marine mammal sightings (both visual 
and acoustic), empirical source-level measurements taken during the 
repair work, and any mitigation measures taken.
    (b) During the maintenance and repair of NEG Port components, 
weekly status reports shall be provided to NOAA (both NMFS and SBNMS) 
using standardized reporting forms. The weekly reports shall include 
data collected for each distinct marine mammal species observed in the 
repair/maintenance area during the period that maintenance and repair 
activities were taking place. The weekly reports shall include the 
following information:
    (i) Location (in longitude and latitude coordinates), time, and the 
nature of the maintenance and repair activities;
    (ii) Indication of whether a DP system was operated, and if so, the 
number of thrusters being used and the time and duration of DP 
operation;
    (iii) Marine mammals observed in the area (number, species, age 
group, and initial behavior);
    (iv) The distance of observed marine mammals from the maintenance 
and repair activities;
    (v) Changes, if any, in marine mammal behaviors during the 
observation;
    (vi) A description of any mitigation measures (power-down, 
shutdown, etc.) implemented;
    (vii) Weather condition (Beaufort sea state, wind speed, wind 
direction, ambient temperature, precipitation, and percent cloud cover 
etc.);
    (viii) Condition of the observation (visibility and glare); and
    (ix) Details of passive acoustic detections and any action taken in 
response to those detections.
(d) Injured/Dead Protected Species Reporting
    (i) In the unanticipated event that survey operations clearly cause 
the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the proposed IHA, 
such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality 
(e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), NEG and/or 
Algonquin shall immediately cease activities and immediately report the 
incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-
8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov 
and the Northeast Regional Stranding Coordinators 
(Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978-281-
9300. The report must include the following information:
    (A) time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;
    (B) the name and type of vessel involved;
    (C) the vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
    (D) description of the incident;
    (E) status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the 
incident;
    (F) water depth;
    (G) environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
    (H) description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    (I) species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
    (J) the fate of the animal(s); and
    (K) photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is 
available).
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take.

[[Page 69063]]

NMFS shall work with NEG and/or Algonquin to determine what is 
necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and 
ensure MMPA compliance. NEG and/or Algonquin may not resume their 
activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.
    (ii) In the event that NEG and/or Algonquin discovers an injured or 
dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next 
paragraph), NEG and/or Algonquin will immediately report the incident 
to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-
8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and 
Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators 
(Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978-281-
9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. The report must include the 
same information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with NEG and/
or Algonquin to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    (iii) In the event that NEG or Algonquin discovers an injured or 
dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized 
(if the IHA is issued) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with 
moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), NEG and/or 
Algonquin shall report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental 
Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401, and/or by email to 
Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast 
Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) 
or by phone at 978-281-9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. NEG and/
or Algonquin shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) 
or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the 
Marine Mammal Stranding Network. NEG and/or Algonquin can continue its 
operations under such a case.

Summary of Previous Monitoring Reports

    Based on monthly activity reports submitted to NMFS for the period 
between August 2010 and October 2013, there were no activities at the 
NEG Port during the period. Therefore, no take of marine mammals 
occurred or were reported during this period.

Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering [Level B harassment]. Only take by Level B harassment is 
anticipated as a result of NEG's operation and maintenance and repair 
activities. Anticipated take of marine mammals is associated with 
operation of dynamic positioning during the docking of the LNG vessels 
and positioning of maintenance and dive vessels, and by operations of 
certain machinery during maintenance and repair activities. The 
regasification process itself is an activity that does not rise to the 
level of taking, as the modeled source level for this activity is 108 
dB. Certain species may have a behavioral reaction to the sound emitted 
during the activities. Hearing impairment is not anticipated. 
Additionally, vessel strikes are not anticipated, especially because of 
the speed restriction measures that are proposed that were described 
earlier in this document.
    The full suite of potential impacts to marine mammals was described 
in detail in the ``Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on 
Marine Mammals'' section found earlier in this document. The potential 
effects of sound from the proposed open water marine survey programs 
might include one or more of the following: masking of natural sounds; 
behavioral disturbance; non-auditory physical effects; and, at least in 
theory, temporary or permanent hearing impairment (Richardson et al. 
1995). As discussed earlier in this document, the most common impact 
will likely be from behavioral disturbance, including avoidance of the 
ensonified area or changes in speed, direction, and/or diving profile 
of the animal. For reasons discussed previously in this document, 
hearing impairment (TTS and PTS) is highly unlikely to occur based on 
the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures that would preclude 
marine mammals from being exposed to noise levels high enough to cause 
hearing impairment.
    For non-pulse sounds, such as those produced by operating dynamic 
positioning (DP) thruster during vessel docking and supporting 
underwater construction and repair activities and the operations of 
various machineries that produces non-pulse noises, NMFS uses the 120 
dB (rms) re 1 [mu]Pa isopleth to indicate the onset of Level B 
harassment.

NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Activities Acoustic Footprints

I. NEG Port Operations
    For the purposes of understanding the noise footprint of operations 
at the NEG Port, measurements taken to capture operational noise 
(docking, undocking, regasification, and EBRV thruster use) during the 
2006 Gulf of Mexico field event were taken at the source. Measurements 
taken during EBRV transit were normalized to a distance of 328 feet 
(100 meters) to serve as a basis for modeling sound propagation at the 
NEG Port site in Massachusetts Bay.
    Sound propagation calculations for operational activities were then 
completed at two positions in Massachusetts Bay to determine site-
specific distances to the 120/160/180 dB isopleths:

 Operations Position 1--Port (EBRV Operations): 70[deg]36.261' 
W and 42[deg]23.790' N
 Operations Position 2--Boston TSS (EBRV Transit): 
70[deg]17.621' W and 42[deg]17.539' N

    At each of these locations sound propagation calculations were 
performed to determine the noise footprint of the operation activity at 
each of the specified locations. Calculations were performed in 
accordance with Marsh and Schulkin (1985) and Richardson et al. (1995) 
and took into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, 
bathymetry, and seabed composition. In addition, the acoustic modeling 
performed specifically evaluated sound energy in 1/3-octave spectral 
bands covering frequencies from 12.5 Hz to 20 kHz. The resultant 
underwater sound pressure levels to the 120 dB isopleth is presented in 
Table 2.

[[Page 69064]]



     Table 2--Radii of 120-dB SPL Isopleths From NEG LNG Operations
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Radius to
                                                             120-dB zone
                                                                 (m)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
One EBRV docking procedure with support vessel.............        4,250
Two EBRV docking procedure with support vessel.............        5,500
EBRV regasification........................................         <300
EBRV transiting the TSS (10 knot)..........................        1,750
------------------------------------------------------------------------

II. NEG Port Maintenance and Repair
    Modeling analysis conducted for the construction of the NEG Port 
concluded that the only underwater noise of critical concern during NEG 
Port construction would be from vessel noises such as turning screws, 
engine noise, noise of operating machinery, and thruster use. To 
confirm these modeled results and better understand the noise footprint 
associated with construction activities at the NEG Port, field 
measurements were taken of various construction activities during the 
2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Construction period. 
Measurements were taken and normalized as described to establish the 
``loudest'' potential construction measurement event. One position 
within Massachusetts Bay was then used to determine site-specific 
distances to the 120/180 dB isopleths for NEG Port maintenance and 
repair activities:

 Construction Position 1. Port: 70[deg]36.261' W and 
42[deg]23.790' N

    Sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the 
noise footprint of the construction activity. The calculations took 
into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and 
seabed composition, and specifically evaluated sound energy in the 
range that encompasses the auditory frequencies of marine mammals and 
at which sound propagates beyond the immediate vicinity of the source. 
These results were then summed across frequencies to provide the 
broadband received levels at receptor locations. The results showed 
that the estimated distance from the loudest source involved in 
construction activities fell to 120 dB re 1 [micro]Pa at a distance of 
3,600 m.
III. Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Operation and Maintenance Activities
    Modeling analysis conducted during the NEG Port and Pipeline 
Lateral construction concluded that the only underwater noise of 
critical concern during such activities would be from vessel noises 
such as turning screws, engine noise, noise of operating machinery, and 
thruster use. As with construction noise at the NEG Port, to confirm 
modeled results and better understand the noise footprint associated 
with construction activities along the Algonquin Pipeline Lateral, 
field measurements were taken of various construction activities during 
the 2007 NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral construction period. 
Measurements were taken and normalized to establish the ``loudest'' 
potential construction measurement event. Two positions within 
Massachusetts Bay were then used to determine site-specific distances 
to the 120/160/180 dB isopleths:
     Construction Position 2. PLEM: 70[deg]46.755' W and 
42[deg]28.764' N.
     Construction Position 3. Mid-Pipeline: 70[deg]40.842' W 
and 42[deg]31.328' N.

    Sound propagation calculations were performed to determine the 
noise footprint of the construction activity. The calculations took 
into consideration aspects of water depth, sea state, bathymetry, and 
seabed composition, and specifically evaluated sound energy in the 
range that encompasses the auditory frequencies of marine mammals and 
at which sound propagates beyond the immediate vicinity of the source. 
These results were then summed across frequencies to provide the 
broadband received levels at receptor locations. The results of the 
distances to the 120-dB are shown in Table 3.

 Table 3--Radii of 120-dB SPL Isopleths From Algonquin Pipeline Lateral
                        Operation and Maintenance
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              Radius to
                                                             120-dB zone
                                                                 (m)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Barge/tug (pulling & pushing)/construction vessel/barge @          3,600
 PLEM......................................................
Barge/tug (pulling & pushing)/construction vessel/barge @          2,831
 mid-pipeline..............................................
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The basis for Northeast Gateway and Algonquin's ``take'' estimate 
is the number of marine mammals that would be exposed to sound levels 
in excess of 120 dB, which is the threshold used by NMFS for non-pulse 
sounds. For the NEG LNG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations 
and maintenance and repair activities, the take estimates are 
determined by multiplying the 120-dB esonified area by local marine 
mammal density estimates, and then multiplying by the estimated dates 
such activities would occur during a year-long period. For the NEG Port 
operations, the 120-dB esonfied area is 56.8 km\2\ for a single visit 
during docking when running DP system. For NEG Port and Algonquin 
Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair activities, modeling based on 
the empirical measurements showed that the distance of the 120-dB 
radius is expected to be 3.6 km, making a maximum 120-dB ZOI of 
approximately 40.7 km\2\.
    Although there have been no LNG deliveries since February 2010 at 
the NEG LNG Port, NEG expected when the Port is under full operation, 
NEW expects it will receive up to 65 LNG shipments per year, and would 
require 14 days for NEG Port maintenance and up to 40 days for planned 
and unplanned Algonquin Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair.
    NMFS recognizes that baleen whale species other than North Atlantic 
right whales have been sighted in the project area from May to 
November. However, the occurrence and abundance of fin, humpback, and 
minke whales is not well documented within the project area. 
Nonetheless, NMFS uses the data on cetacean distribution within 
Massachusetts Bay, such as those published by the National Centers for 
Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS 2006), to estimate potential takes of 
marine mammals species in the vicinity of project area.
    The NCCOS study used cetacean sightings from two sources: (1) The 
North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium (NARWC) sightings database held 
at the University of Rhode Island (Kenney, 2001); and (2) the Manomet 
Bird Observatory (MBO) database, held at NMFS Northeast Fisheries 
Science Center (NEFSC). The NARWC data contained survey efforts and 
sightings data from ship and aerial surveys and opportunistic sources 
between 1970 and 2005. The main data contributors included: Cetacean 
and Turtles Assessment Program (CETAP), Canadian Department of 
Fisheries and Oceans, PCCS, International Fund for Animal Welfare, 
NOAA's NEFSC, New England Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic 
Institution, and the University of Rhode Island. A total of 653,725 km 
(406,293 mi) of survey track and 34,589 cetacean observations were 
provisionally selected for the NCCOS study in order to minimize bias 
from uneven allocation of survey effort in both time and space. The 
sightings-per-unit-effort (SPUE) was calculated for all cetacean 
species by month covering the southern Gulf of

[[Page 69065]]

Maine study area, which also includes the project area (NCCOS, 2006).
    The MBO's Cetacean and Seabird Assessment Program (CSAP) was 
contracted from 1980 to 1988 by NMFS NEFSC to provide an assessment of 
the relative abundance and distribution of cetaceans, seabirds, and 
marine turtles in the shelf waters of the northeastern United States 
(MBO, 1987). The CSAP program was designed to be completely compatible 
with NMFS NEFSC databases so that marine mammal data could be compared 
directly with fisheries data throughout the time series during which 
both types of information were gathered. A total of 5,210 km (8,383 mi) 
of survey distance and 636 cetacean observations from the MBO data were 
included in the NCCOS analysis. Combined valid survey effort for the 
NCCOS studies included 567,955 km (913,840 mi) of survey track for 
small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) and 658,935 km (1,060,226 mi) 
for large cetaceans (whales) in the southern Gulf of Maine. The NCCOS 
study then combined these two data sets by extracting cetacean sighting 
records, updating database field names to match the NARWC database, 
creating geometry to represent survey tracklines and applying a set of 
data selection criteria designed to minimize uncertainty and bias in 
the data used.
    Owing to the comprehensiveness and total coverage of the NCCOS 
cetacean distribution and abundance study, NMFS calculated the 
estimated take number of marine mammals based on the most recent NCCOS 
report published in December 2006. A summary of seasonal cetacean 
distribution and abundance in the project area is provided above, in 
the ``Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified 
Activities'' section. For a detailed description and calculation of the 
cetacean abundance data and SPUE, please refer to the NCCOS study 
(NCCOS, 2006). These data show that the relative abundance of North 
Atlantic right, fin, humpback, minke, sei, and pilot whales, and 
Atlantic white-sided dolphins for all seasons, as calculated by SPUE in 
number of animals per square kilometer, is 0.0082, 0.0097, 0.0118, 
0.0059, 0.0084, 0.0407, and 0.1314 n/km, respectively.
    In calculating the area density of these species from these linear 
density data, NMFS used 0.5 mi (0.825 km) as the hypothetical strip 
width (W). This strip width is based on the distance of visibility used 
in the NARWC data that was part of the NCCOS (2006) study. However, 
those surveys used a strip transect instead of a line transect 
methodology. Therefore, in order to obtain a strip width, one must 
divide the visibility or transect value in half. Since the visibility 
value used in the NARWC data was 2.3 mi (3.7 km), it thus gives a strip 
width of 1.15 mi (1.85 km). The hypothetical strip width used in the 
analysis is less than half of that derived from the NARWC data, 
therefore, the analysis provided here is more protective in calculating 
marine mammal densities in the area. Based on this information, the 
area density (D) of these species in the project area can be obtained 
by the following formula:

D = SPUE/2W

where D is marine mammal density in the area, and W is the strip width. 
Based on this calculation method, the estimated take numbers per year 
for North Atlantic right, fin, humpback, minke, sei, and pilot whales, 
and Atlantic white-sided dolphins by the NEG Port facility operations 
(maximum 65 visits per year), NEG Port maintenance and repair (up to 14 
days per year), and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operation and 
maintenance (up to 40 days per year), are 29, 35, 42, 21, 30, 145, and 
469, respectively (Table 4). These numbers represent approximately 
6.59%, 1%, 5.12%, 0.1%, 8.4%, 1.2%, and 1% of the populations for these 
species based on the latest NMFS Atlantic marine mammal stock 
assessment reports (Waring et al. 2013), respectively. Since it is very 
likely that individual animals could be ``taken'' by harassment 
multiple times, these percentages are the upper boundary of the animal 
population that could be affected. The actual number of individual 
animals being exposed or taken would likely be far less. There is no 
danger of injury, death, or hearing impairment from the exposure to 
these noise levels.

 Table 4--Estimated Annual Takes of Marine Mammals From the NEG Port and
    Algonquin Pipeline Lateral Operations and Maintenance and Repair
                     Activities in Massachusetts Bay
------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Species                Population/stock     Number of takes
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Right whale...................  Western Atlantic.....                 29
Humpback whale................  Gulf of Maine........                 42
Fin whale.....................  Western North                         35
                                 Atlantic.
Sei whale.....................  Nova Scotia..........                 30
Minke whale...................  Canadian East Coast..                 21
Long-finned pilot whale.......  Western North                        145
                                 Atlantic.
Atlantic white-sided dolphin..  Western North                        469
                                 Atlantic.
Bottlenose dolphin............  Western North                         20
                                 Atlantic Southern
                                 Migratory.
Short-beaked common dolphin...  Western North                         40
                                 Atlantic.
Risso's dolphin...............  Western North                         40
                                 Atlantic.
Killer whale..................  Western North                         10
                                 Atlantic.
Harbor porpoise...............  Gulf of Maine/Bay of                  20
                                 Fundy.
Harbor seal...................  Western North                         60
                                 Atlantic.
Gray seal.....................  Western North                         30
                                 Atlantic.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, killer whales, 
Risso's dolphins, harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and gray seals could 
also be taken by Level B harassment as a result of deepwater NEG Port 
and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and repair. 
Since these species are less likely to occur in the area, and there are 
no density estimates specific to this particular area, NMFS based the 
take estimates on typical group size. Therefore, NMFS estimates that up 
to approximately 20 bottlenose dolphins, 40 short-beaked common 
dolphins, 40 Risso's dolphins, 10 killer whales, 20 harbor porpoises, 
60 harbor seals, and 30 gray seals could be exposed to continuous noise 
at or above 120 dB re 1 [micro]Pa rms incidental to operations during 
the one year period of the IHA, respectively. These numbers represent 
0.16%, 0.06%, 0.26%, and 0.03% of the bottlenose dolphin, short-

[[Page 69066]]

beaked common dolphin, Risso's dolphin, and harbor porpoise 
populations/stocks. Since no population/stock estimates for killer 
whale, and harbor and gray seals is available, the percentage of 
estimated takes for these species is unknown. Nevertheless, since 
Massachusetts Bay represents only a small fraction of the western North 
Atlantic basin where these animals occur NMFS has preliminarily 
determined that the takes of 10 killer whales, 60 harbor seals, and 30 
gray seals represent a small fraction of the population and stocks of 
these species (Table 3). The take estimates presented in this section 
of the document do not take into consideration the mitigation and 
monitoring measures that are proposed for inclusion in the IHA.

Negligible Impact and Small Numbers Analysis and Preliminary 
Determination

    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as ``. . . 
an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be 
reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely 
affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of 
recruitment or survival.'' In making a negligible impact determination, 
NMFS considers a variety of factors, including but not limited to: (1) 
The number of anticipated mortalities; (2) the number and nature of 
anticipated injuries; (3) the number, nature, intensity, and duration 
of Level B harassment; and (4) the context in which the takes occur.
    No injuries or mortalities are anticipated to occur as a result of 
proposed Northeast Gateway LNG Port Algonquin Pipeline Lateral 
operations and maintenance and repair activities, and none are proposed 
to be authorized by NMFS. Additionally, animals in the area are not 
anticipated to incur any hearing impairment (i.e., TTS or PTS), as the 
modeling of source levels indicates that none of the source received 
levels exceed 180 dB (rms).
    While some of the species occur in the proposed project area year-
round, some species only occur in the area during certain seasons. 
Humpback and minke whales are not expected in the project area in the 
winter. During the winter, a large portion of the North Atlantic right 
whale population occurs in the southeastern U.S. calving grounds (i.e., 
South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida). The fact that certain 
activities will occur during times when certain species are not 
commonly found in the area will help reduce the amount of Level B 
harassment for these species.
    Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, 
traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hr cycle). Behavioral 
reactions to noise exposure (such as disruption of critical life 
functions, displacement, or avoidance of important habitat) are more 
likely to be significant if they last more than one diel cycle or recur 
on subsequent days (Southall et al., 2007). Consequently, a behavioral 
response lasting less than one day and not recurring on subsequent days 
is not considered particularly severe unless it could directly affect 
reproduction or survival (Southall et al. 2007). Operational activities 
are not anticipated to occur at the Port on consecutive days. In 
addition, Northeast Gateway EBRVs are expected to make 65 port calls 
throughout the year, with thruster use needed for a couple of hours. 
Therefore, Northeast Gateway will not be creating increased sound 
levels in the marine environment for prolonged periods of time.
    Of the 14 marine mammal species likely to occur in the area, four 
are listed as endangered under the ESA: North Atlantic right, humpback, 
and fin whales. All of these species are also considered depleted under 
the MMPA. There is currently no designated critical habitat or known 
reproductive areas for any of these species in or near the proposed 
project area. However, there are several well known North Atlantic 
right whale feeding grounds in the Cape Cod Bay and Great South 
Channel. No mortality or injury is expected to occur, and due to the 
nature, degree, and context of the Level B harassment anticipated, the 
activity is not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival. 
There is no critical habitat or biologically important areas for marine 
mammals within the proposed project area.
    The population estimates for the species that may be taken by Level 
B behavioral harassment contained in the most recent U.S. Atlantic 
Stock Assessment Reports were provided earlier in this document. From 
the most protective estimates of both marine mammal densities in the 
project area and the size of the 120-dB ZOI, the maximum calculated 
number of individual marine mammals for each species that could 
potentially be harassed annually is small relative to the overall 
population sizes.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the proposed Northeast Gateway 
LNG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance and 
repair activities would result in the incidental take of small numbers 
of marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, and that the total 
taking from Northeast Gateway and Algonquin's proposed activities will 
have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks.

Impact on Availability of Affected Species or Stock for Taking for 
Subsistence Uses

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated 
by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of 
affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact 
on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for 
subsistence purposes.

Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization

    This section contains a draft of the IHA itself. The wording 
contained in this section is proposed for inclusion in the IHA (if 
issued).
    (1) This Authorization is valid from January 6, 2014, through 
January 5, 2015.
    (2) This Authorization is valid only for activities associated with 
Northeast Gateway's LNG Port and Algonquin's Pipeline Lateral 
operations and maintenance and repair activities in the Massachusetts 
Bay. The specific area of the activities is shown in Figure 2-1 of the 
Excelerate Energy, L.P. and Tetra Tech EC., Inc.'s IHA application.
    (3)(a) The species authorized for incidental harassment takings, 
Level B harassment only, are: Right whales (Eubalaena glacialis); fin 
whales (Balaenoptera physalus); humpback whales (Megaptera 
novaeangliae); minke whales (B. acutorostrata); sei whales (B. 
borealis); long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas); Atlantic 
white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus); bottlenose dolphins 
(Tursiops truncatus); short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis); 
Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus); killer whales (Orcinus orca); harbor 
porpoises (Phocoena phocoena); harbor seals (Phoca vitulina); and gray 
seals (Halichoerus grypus).
    (3)(b) The authorization for taking by harassment is limited to the 
following acoustic sources and from the following activities:
    (i) NEG Port operations;
    (ii) NEG Port maintenance and repair; and
    (iii) Algonquin Pipeline Lateral operations and maintenance.

[[Page 69067]]

    (3)(c) The taking of any marine mammal in a manner prohibited under 
this Authorization must be reported within 24 hours of the taking to 
the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Regional 
Administrator (978-281-9300) or his designee (978-282-8468), NMFS 
Headquarter Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, at (301-427-8401), or his designee (301-427-
8418).
(4) Prohibitions
    (a) The taking, by incidental harassment only, is limited to the 
species listed under condition 3(a) above and by the numbers listed in 
Table 3. The taking by Level A harassment, injury or death of these 
species or the taking by harassment, injury or death of any other 
species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the 
modification, suspension, or revocation of this Authorization.
    (b) The taking of any marine mammal is prohibited whenever the 
required mitigation measures under (5) of this authorization are not 
implemented.
(5) Mitigation
    (a) General Marine Mammal Avoidance Measures
    (i) All vessels shall utilize the International Maritime 
Organization (IMO)-approved Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) on 
their approach to and departure from the NEG Port and/or the repair/
maintenance area at the earliest practicable point of transit in order 
to avoid the risk of whale strikes.
    (ii) Upon entering the TSS and areas where North Atlantic right 
whales are known to occur, including the Great South Channel Seasonal 
Management Area (GSC-SMA) and the SBNMS, the EBRV shall go into 
``Heightened Awareness'' as described below.
    (A) Prior to entering and navigating the modified TSS the Master of 
the vessel shall:
    (I) Consult Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), NOAA Weather Radio, the 
NOAA Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (SAS) or other means to 
obtain current right whale sighting information as well as the most 
recent Cornell acoustic monitoring buoy data for the potential presence 
of marine mammals;
    (II) Post a look-out to visually monitor for the presence of marine 
mammals;
    (III) Provide the US Coast Guard (USCG) required 96-hour 
notification of an arriving EBRV to allow the NEG Port Manager to 
notify Cornell of vessel arrival.
    (B) The look-out shall concentrate his/her observation efforts 
within the 2-mile radius zone of influence (ZOI) from the maneuvering 
EBRV.
    (C) If marine mammal detection was reported by NAVTEX, NOAA Weather 
Radio, SAS and/or an acoustic monitoring buoy, the look-out shall 
concentrate visual monitoring efforts towards the areas of the most 
recent detection.
    (D) If the look-out (or any other member of the crew) visually 
detects a marine mammal within the 2-mile radius ZOI of a maneuvering 
EBRV, he/she will take the following actions:
    (I) The Officer-of-the-Watch shall be notified immediately; who 
shall then relay the sighting information to the Master of the vessel 
to ensure action(s) can be taken to avoid physical contact with marine 
mammals.
    (II) The sighting shall be recorded in the sighting log by the 
designated look-out.
    (iii) In accordance with 50 CFR 224.103(c), all vessels associated 
with NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral activities shall not approach closer 
than 500 yards (460 m) to a North Atlantic right whale and 100 yards 
(91 m) to other whales to the extent physically feasible given 
navigational constraints. In addition, when approaching and departing 
the project area, vessels shall be operated so as to remain at least 1 
km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whales.
    (iv) In response to active right whale sightings and active 
acoustic detections, and taking into account exceptional circumstances, 
EBRVs, repair and maintenance vessels shall take appropriate actions to 
minimize the risk of striking whales. Specifically vessels shall:
    (A) Respond to active right whale sightings and/or DMAs reported on 
the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) or SAS by concentrating monitoring 
efforts towards the area of most recent detection and reducing speed to 
10 knots or less if the vessel is within the boundaries of a DMA (50 
CFR 224.105) or within the circular area centered on an area 8 nm in 
radius from a sighting location;
    (B) Respond to active acoustic detections by concentrating 
monitoring efforts towards the area of most recent detection and 
reducing speed to 10 knots or less within an area 5 nm in radius 
centered on the detecting AB; and
    (C) Respond to additional sightings made by the designated look-
outs within a 2-mile radius of the vessel by slowing the vessel to 10 
knots or less and concentrating monitoring efforts towards the area of 
most recent sighting.
    (v) All vessels operated under NEG and Algonquin must follow the 
established specific speed restrictions when calling at the NEG Port. 
The specific speed restrictions required for all vessels (i.e., EBRVs 
and vessels associated with maintenance and repair) consist of the 
following:
    (A) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the 
TSS from 12 knots or less to 10 knots or less from March 1 to April 30 
in all waters bounded by straight lines connecting the following points 
in the order stated below unless an emergency situation dictates for an 
alternate speed. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Off 
Race Point Seasonal Management Area (ORP-SMA) and tracks NMFS 
regulations at 50 CFR 224.105:

42[deg]30' N 70[deg]30' W
42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W
41[deg]40' N 69[deg]45' W
42[deg]04.8' N 70[deg]10' W
41[deg]40' N 69[deg]57' W
42[deg]12' N 70[deg]15' W
42[deg]12' N 70[deg]30' W
W 42[deg]30' N 70[deg]30' W

    (B) Vessels shall reduce their maximum transit speed while in the 
TSS to 10 knots or less unless an emergency situation dictates for an 
alternate speed from April 1 to July 31 in all waters bounded by 
straight lines connecting the following points in the order stated 
below. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the GSC-SMA and 
tracks NMFS regulations at 50 CFR 224.105:

42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W
42[deg]30' N 67[deg]27' W
42[deg]09' N 67[deg]08.4' W
41[deg]40' N 69[deg]45' W
42[deg]30' N 69[deg]45' W
41[deg]00' N 69[deg]05' W

    (C) Vessels are not expected to transit the Cape Cod Bay or the 
Cape Cod Canal; however, in the event that transit through the Cape Cod 
Bay or the Cape Cod Canal is required, vessels shall reduce maximum 
transit speed to 10 knots or less from January 1 to May 15 in all 
waters in Cape Cod Bay, extending to all shorelines of Cape Cod Bay, 
with a northern boundary of 42[deg]12' N latitude and the Cape Cod 
Canal. This area shall hereafter be referred to as the Cape Cod Bay 
Seasonal Management Area (CCB-SMA).
    (D) All Vessels transiting to and from the project area shall 
report their activities to the mandatory reporting Section of the USCG 
to remain apprised of North Atlantic right whale movements within the 
area. All vessels

[[Page 69068]]

entering and exiting the MSRA shall report their activities to 
WHALESNORTH. Vessel operators shall contact the USCG by standard 
procedures promulgated through the Notice to Mariner system.
    (E) All Vessels greater than or equal to 300 gross tons (GT) shall 
maintain a speed of 10 knots or less, unless an emergency situation 
requires speeds greater than 10 knots.
    (F) All Vessels less than 300 GT traveling between the shore and 
the project area that are not generally restricted to 10 knots will 
contact the Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) system, the USCG, or the 
project site before leaving shore for reports of active DMAs and/or 
recent right whale sightings and, consistent with navigation safety, 
restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of 
any sighting location, when traveling in any of the seasonal management 
areas (SMAs) or when traveling in any active dynamic management area 
(DMA).
    (b) NEG Port-Specific Operations
    (i) In addition to the general marine mammal avoidance requirements 
identified in (5)(a) above, vessels calling on the NEG Port must comply 
with the following additional requirements:
    (A) EBRVs shall travel at 10 knots maximum speed when transiting 
to/from the TSS or to/from the NEG Port/Pipeline Lateral area. For 
EBRVs, at 1.86 miles (3 km) from the NEG Port, speed will be reduced to 
3 knots and to less than 1 knot at 1,640 ft (500 m) from the NEG buoys, 
unless an emergency situation dictates the need for an alternate speed.
    (B) EBRVs that are approaching or departing from the NEG Port and 
are within the ATBA5 surrounding the NEG Port, shall remain at least 1 
km away from any visually-detected North Atlantic right whale and at 
least 100 yards (91 m) away from all other visually-detected whales 
unless an emergency situation requires that the vessel stay its course. 
During EBRV maneuvering, the Vessel Master shall designate at least one 
look-out to be exclusively and continuously monitoring for the presence 
of marine mammals at all times while the EBRV is approaching or 
departing from the NEG Port.
    (C) During NEG Port operations, in the event that a whale is 
visually observed within 1 km of the NEG Port or a confirmed acoustic 
detection is reported on either of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port 
(western-most in the TSS array), departing EBRVs shall delay their 
departure from the NEG Port, unless an emergency situation requires 
that departure is not delayed. This departure delay shall continue 
until either the observed whale has been visually (during daylight 
hours) confirmed as more than 1 km from the NEG Port or 30 minutes have 
passed without another confirmed detection either acoustically within 
the acoustic detection range of the two ABs closest to the NEG Port, or 
visually within 1 km from the NEG Port.
    (ii) Vessel captains shall focus on reducing dynamic positioning 
(DP) thruster power to the maximum extent practicable, taking into 
account vessel and Port safety, during the operation activities. Vessel 
captains will shut down thrusters whenever they are not needed.
(c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair Activities
(i) NEG Port
    (A) The Northeast Gateway shall conduct empirical source level 
measurements on all noise emitting construction equipment and all 
vessels that are involved in maintenance/repair work.
    (B) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or 
activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 [mu]Pa at 
1 m, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements 
for DP systems listed in (5)(b)(ii).
    (C) Northeast Gateway shall provide the NMFS Headquarters Office of 
the Protected Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, 
and SBNMS with a minimum of 30 days notice prior to any planned repair 
and/or maintenance activity. For any unplanned/emergency repair/
maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway shall notify the agencies as 
soon as it determines that repair work must be conducted. Northeast 
Gateway shall continue to keep the agencies apprised of repair work 
plans as further details (e.g., the time, location, and nature of the 
repair) become available. A final notification shall be provided to 
agencies 72 hours prior to crews being deployed into the field.
(ii) Pipeline Lateral
    (A) Pipeline maintenance/repair vessels less than 300 GT traveling 
between the shore and the maintenance/repair area that are not 
generally restricted to 10 knots shall contact the MSR system, the 
USCG, or the project site before leaving shore for reports of active 
DMAs and/or recent right whale sightings and, consistent with 
navigation safety, restrict speeds to 10 knots or less within 5 miles 
(8 km) of any sighting location, when travelling in any of the seasonal 
management areas (SMAs) as defined above.
    (B) Maintenance/repair vessels greater than 300 GT shall not exceed 
10 knots, unless an emergency situation that requires speeds greater 
than 10 knots.
    (C) Planned maintenance and repair activities shall be restricted 
to the period between May 1 and November 30.
    (D) Unplanned/emergency maintenance and repair activities shall be 
conducted utilizing anchor-moored dive vessel whenever operationally 
possible.
    (E) Algonquin shall also provide the NMFS Office of the Protected 
Resources, NMFS Northeast Region Ship Strike Coordinator, and 
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) with a minimum of 30-
day notice prior to any planned repair and/or maintenance activity. For 
any unplanned/emergency repair/maintenance activity, Northeast Gateway 
shall notify the agencies as soon as it determines that repair work 
must be conducted. Algonquin shall continue to keep the agencies 
apprised of repair work plans as further details (e.g., the time, 
location, and nature of the repair) become available. A final 
notification shall be provided to agencies 72 hours prior to crews 
being deployed into the field.
    (F) If dynamic positioning (DP) systems are to be employed and/or 
activities will emit noise with a source level of 139 dB re 1 [mu]Pa at 
1 m, activities shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements 
for DP systems listed in (5)(b)(ii).
    (G) In the event that a whale is visually observed within 0.5 mile 
(0.8 kilometers) of a repair or maintenance vessel, the vessel 
superintendent or on-deck supervisor shall be notified immediately. The 
vessel's crew shall be put on a heightened state of alert and the 
marine mammal shall be monitored constantly to determine if it is 
moving toward the repair or maintenance area.
    (H) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or 
cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 
[mu]Pa @ 1 m or higher when a right whale is sighted within or 
approaching at 500 yd (457 m) from the vessel. Repair and maintenance 
work may resume after the marine mammal is positively reconfirmed 
outside the established zones (500 yd [457 m]) or 30 minutes have 
passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the maintenance 
area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these separation 
distances.

[[Page 69069]]

    (I) Repair/maintenance vessel(s) must cease any movement and/or 
cease all activities that emit noises with source level of 139 dB re 1 
[mu]Pa @ 1 m or higher when a marine mammal other than a right whale is 
sighted within or approaching at 100 yd (91 m) from the vessel. Repair 
and maintenance work may resume after the marine mammal is positively 
reconfirmed outside the established zones (100 yd [91 m]) or 30 minutes 
have passed without a redetection. Any vessels transiting the 
maintenance area, such as barges or tugs, must also maintain these 
separation distances.
    (J) Algonquin and associated contractors shall also comply with the 
following:
    (I) Operations involving excessively noisy equipment (source level 
exceeding 139 dB re 1[mu]Pa @ 1 m) shall ``ramp-up'' sound sources, 
allowing whales a chance to leave the area before sounds reach maximum 
levels. In addition, Northeast Gateway, Algonquin, and other associated 
contractors shall maintain equipment to manufacturers' specifications, 
including any sound-muffling devices or engine covers in order to 
minimize noise effects. Noisy construction equipment shall only be used 
as needed and equipment shall be turned off when not in operation.
    (II) Any material that has the potential to entangle marine mammals 
(e.g., anchor lines, cables, rope or other construction debris) shall 
only be deployed as needed and measures shall be taken to minimize the 
chance of entanglement.
    (III) For any material that has the potential to entangle marine 
mammals, such material shall be removed from the water immediately 
unless such action jeopardizes the safety of the vessel and crew as 
determined by the Captain of the vessel.
    (IV) In the event that a marine mammal becomes entangled, the 
marine mammal coordinator and/or PSO will notify NMFS (if outside the 
SBNMS), and SBNMS staff (if inside the SBNMS) immediately so that a 
rescue effort may be initiated.
    (K) All maintenance/repair activities shall be scheduled to occur 
between May 1 and November 30; however, in the event of unplanned/
emergency repair work that cannot be scheduled during the preferred May 
through November work window, the following additional measures shall 
be followed for Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair related 
activities between December and April:
    (I) Between December 1 and April 30, if on-board PSOs do not have 
at least 0.5-mile visibility, they shall call for a shutdown. At the 
time of shutdown, the use of thrusters must be minimized. If there are 
potential safety problems due to the shutdown, the captain will decide 
what operations can safely be shut down.
    (II) Prior to leaving the dock to begin transit, the barge shall 
contact one of the PSOs on watch to receive an update of sightings 
within the visual observation area. If the PSO has observed a North 
Atlantic right whale within 30 minutes of the transit start, the vessel 
shall hold for 30 minutes and again get a clearance to leave from the 
PSOs on board. PSOs shall assess whale activity and visual observation 
ability at the time of the transit request to clear the barge for 
release.
    (III) Transit route, destination, sea conditions and any marine 
mammal sightings/mitigation actions during watch shall be recorded in 
the log book. Any whale sightings within 1,000 m of the vessel shall 
result in a high alert and slow speed of 4 knots or less and a sighting 
within 750 m shall result in idle speed and/or ceasing all movement.
    (IV) The material barges and tugs used in repair and maintenance 
shall transit from the operations dock to the work sites during 
daylight hours when possible provided the safety of the vessels is not 
compromised. Should transit at night be required, the maximum speed of 
the tug shall be 5 knots.
    (V) All repair vessels must maintain a speed of 10 knots or less 
during daylight hours. All vessels shall operate at 5 knots or less at 
all times within 5 km of the repair area.
(d) Acoustic Monitoring Related Activities
    (i) Vessels associated with maintaining the acoustic seafloor array 
of Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) and the AB network 
operating as part of the mitigation/monitoring protocols shall adhere 
to the following speed restrictions and marine mammal monitoring 
requirements.
    (A) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are greater than 300 
gross tons (GT) shall not exceed 10 knots.
    (B) Vessels maintaining the MARU array that are less than 300 GT 
shall not exceed 15 knots at any time, but shall adhere to speeds of 10 
knots or less in the following areas and seasons:
    (I) In the ORP-SMA between March 1 and April 30; and
    (II) In the CCB-SMA between January 1 and May 15.
    (C) In accordance with NOAA Regulation 50 CFR 224.103 (c), all 
vessels associated with NEG Port activities shall not approach closer 
than 500 yards (460 meters) to a North Atlantic right whale.
    (D) All vessels shall obtain the latest DMA or right whale sighting 
information via the NAVTEX, MSR, SAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or other 
available means prior to operations to determine if there are right 
whales present in the operational area.
(6) Monitoring
(a) Vessel-Based Visual Monitoring
    (i) Vessel-based monitoring for marine mammals shall be done by 
trained look-outs during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations 
and maintenance and repair activities. The observers shall monitor the 
occurrence of marine mammals near the vessels during LNG Port and 
Pipeline Lateral related activities. Lookout duties include watching 
for and identifying marine mammals; recording their numbers, distances, 
and reactions to the activities; and documenting ``take by 
harassment''.
    (ii) The vessel look-outs assigned to visually monitor for the 
presence of marine mammals and shall be provided with the following:
    (A) Recent NAVTEX, NOAA Weather Radio, SAS and/or acoustic 
monitoring buoy detection data;
    (B) Binoculars to support observations;
    (C) Marine mammal detection guide sheets; and
    (D) Sighting log.
(b) NEG LNG Port Operations
    (i) All individuals onboard the EBRVs responsible for the 
navigation duties and any other personnel that could be assigned to 
monitor for marine mammals shall receive training on marine mammal 
sighting/reporting and vessel strike avoidance measures.
    (ii) While an EBRV is navigating within the designated TSS, there 
shall be three people with look-out duties on or near the bridge of the 
ship including the Master, the Officer-of-the-Watch and the Helmsman-
on-watch. In addition to the standard watch procedures, while the EBRV 
is transiting within the designated TSS, maneuvering within the Area to 
be Avoided (ATBA), and/or while actively engaging in the use of 
thrusters, an additional look-out shall be designated to exclusively 
and continuously monitor for marine mammals.
    (iii) All sightings of marine mammals by the designated look-out, 
individuals posted to navigational look-out duties and/or any other 
crew member while the EBRV is transiting within the TSS, maneuvering 
within the ATBA and/or

[[Page 69070]]

when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, shall be immediately 
reported to the Officer-of-the-Watch who shall then alert the Master. 
The Master or Officer-of-the-Watch shall ensure the required reporting 
procedures are followed and the designated marine mammal look-out 
records all pertinent information relevant to the sighting.
    (iv) Visual sightings made by look-outs from the EBRVs shall be 
recorded using a standard sighting log form. Estimated locations shall 
be reported for each individual and/or group of individuals categorized 
by species when known. This data shall be entered into a database and a 
summary of monthly sighting activity shall be provided to NMFS. 
Estimates of take and copies of these log sheets shall also be included 
in the reports to NMFS.
(c) Planned and Unplanned Maintenance and Repair
    (i) Two (2) qualified and NMFS-approved protected species observers 
(PSOs) shall be assigned to each vessel that will use dynamic 
positioning (DP) systems during maintenance and repair related 
activities. PSOs shall operate individually in designated shifts to 
accommodate adequate rest schedules. Additional PSOs shall be assigned 
to additional vessels if auto-detection buoy (AB) data indicates that 
sound levels exceed 120 dB re 1 [micro]Pa, farther than 100 meters (328 
feet) from these vessels.
    (ii) All PSOs shall receive NMFS-approved marine mammal observer 
training and be approved in advance by NMFS after review of their 
resume. All PSOs shall have direct field experience on marine mammal 
vessels and/or aerial surveys in the Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico.
    (iii) PSOs (one primary and one secondary) shall be responsible for 
visually locating marine mammals at the ocean's surface and, to the 
extent possible, identifying the species. The primary PSO shall act as 
the identification specialist and the secondary PSO will serve as data 
recorder and also assist with identification. Both PSOs shall have 
responsibility for monitoring for the presence of marine mammals and 
sea turtles. Specifically PSO's shall:
    (A) Monitor at all hours of the day, scanning the ocean surface by 
eye for a minimum of 40 minutes every hour.
    (B) Monitor the area where maintenance and repair work is conducted 
beginning at daybreak using 25x power binoculars and/or hand-held 
binoculars. Night vision devices must be provided as standard equipment 
for monitoring during low-light hours and at night.
    (C) Conduct general 360[deg] visual monitoring during any given 
watch period and target scanning by the observer shall occur when 
alerted of a whale presence.
    (D) Alert the vessel superintendent or construction crew supervisor 
of visual detections within 2 miles (3.31 kilometers) immediately.
    (E) Record all sightings on marine mammal field sighting logs. 
Specifically, all data shall be entered at the time of observation, 
notes of activities will be kept, and a daily report prepared and 
attached to the daily field sighting log form. The basic reporting 
requirements include the following:
     Beaufort sea state;
     Wind speed;
     Wind direction;
     Temperature;
     Precipitation;
     Glare;
     Percent cloud cover;
     Number of animals;
     Species;
     Position;
     Distance;
     Behavior;
     Direction of movement; and
     Apparent reaction to construction activity.
    (iv) In the event that a whale is visually observed within the 2-
mile (3.31-kilometers) zone of influence (ZOI) of a DP vessel or other 
construction vessel that has shown to emit noise with source level in 
excess of 139 dB re 1 [micro]Pa @ 1 m, the PSO will notify the repair/
maintenance construction crew to minimize the use of thrusters until 
the animal has moved away, unless there are divers in the water or an 
ROV is deployed.
(d) Acoustic Monitoring
    (i) Northeast Gateway shall monitor the noise environment in 
Massachusetts Bay in the vicinity of the NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral 
using an array of 19 MARUs that were deployed initially in April 2007 
to collect data during NEG LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral related 
activities.
    (ii) The acoustic data collected by the MARUs shall be analyzed to 
document the seasonal occurrences and overall distributions of whales 
(primarily fin, humpback and right whales) within approximately 10 nm 
of the NEG Port and shall measure and document the noise ``budget'' of 
Massachusetts Bay so as to eventually assist in determining whether or 
not an overall increase in noise in the Bay associated with the Project 
might be having a potentially negative impact on marine mammals.
    (iii) In addition to the 19 MARUs, Northeast Gateway shall deploy 
10 ABs within the Separation Zone of the TSS for the operational life 
of the Project.
    (iv) The ABs shall be used to detect a calling North Atlantic right 
whale an average of 5 nm from each AB. The AB system shall be the 
primary detection mechanism that alerts the EBRV Master to the 
occurrence of right whales, heightens EBRV awareness, and triggers 
necessary mitigation actions as described in section (5) above.
(e) Acoustic Whale Detection and Response Plan
    (i) NEG Port Operations
    (A) Ten (10) ABs that have been deployed since 2007 shall be used 
to continuously screen the low-frequency acoustic environment (less 
than 1,000 Hertz) for right whale contact calls occurring within an 
approximately 5-nm radius from each buoy (the AB's detection range).
    (B) Once a confirmed detection is made, the Master of any EBRVs 
operating in the area will be alerted immediately.
    (ii) NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral Planned and Unplanned/Emergency 
Repair and Maintenance Activities
    (A) If the repair/maintenance work is located outside of the 
detectible range of the 10 project area ABs, Northeast Gateway and 
Algonquin shall consult with NOAA (NMFS and SBNMS) to determine if the 
work to be conducted warrants the temporary installation of an 
additional AB(s) to help detect and provide early warnings for 
potential occurrence of right whales in the vicinity of the repair 
area.
    (B) The number of ABs installed around the activity site shall be 
commensurate with the type and spatial extent of maintenance/repair 
work required, but must be sufficient to detect vocalizing right whales 
within the 120-dB impact zone.
    (C) Should acoustic monitoring be deemed necessary during a planned 
or unplanned/emergency repair and/or maintenance event, active 
monitoring for right whale calls shall begin 24 hours prior to the 
start of activities.
    (D) Source level data from the acoustic recording units deployed in 
the NEG Port and/or Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair area shall 
be provided to NMFS.
(7) Reporting
    (a) Throughout NEG Port and Pipeline Lateral operations, Northeast 
Gateway and Algonquin shall provide a monthly Monitoring Report. The 
Monitoring Report shall include:
    (i) Both copies of the raw visual EBRV lookout sighting information 
of marine mammals that occurred within 2 miles

[[Page 69071]]

of the EBRV while the vessel transits within the TSS, maneuvers within 
the ATBA, and/or when actively engaging in the use of thrusters, and a 
summary of the data collected by the look-outs over each reporting 
period.
    (ii) Copies of the raw PSO sightings information on marine mammals 
gathered during pipeline repair or maintenance activities. This visual 
sighting data shall then be correlated to periods of thruster activity 
to provide estimates of marine mammal takes (per species/species class) 
that took place during each reporting period.
    (iii) Conclusion of any planned or unplanned/emergency repair and/
or maintenance period, a report shall be submitted to NMFS summarizing 
the repair/maintenance activities, marine mammal sightings (both visual 
and acoustic), empirical source-level measurements taken during the 
repair work, and any mitigation measures taken.
    (b) During the maintenance and repair of NEG Port components, 
weekly status reports shall be provided to NOAA (both NMFS and SBNMS) 
using standardized reporting forms. The weekly reports shall include 
data collected for each distinct marine mammal species observed in the 
repair/maintenance area during the period that maintenance and repair 
activities were taking place. The weekly reports shall include the 
following information:
    (i) Location (in longitude and latitude coordinates), time, and the 
nature of the maintenance and repair activities;
    (ii) Indication of whether a DP system was operated, and if so, the 
number of thrusters being used and the time and duration of DP 
operation;
    (iii) Marine mammals observed in the area (number, species, age 
group, and initial behavior);
    (iv) The distance of observed marine mammals from the maintenance 
and repair activities;
    (v) Changes, if any, in marine mammal behaviors during the 
observation;
    (vi) A description of any mitigation measures (power-down, 
shutdown, etc.) implemented;
    (vii) Weather condition (Beaufort sea state, wind speed, wind 
direction, ambient temperature, precipitation, and percent cloud cover 
etc.);
    (viii) Condition of the observation (visibility and glare); and
    (ix) Details of passive acoustic detections and any action taken in 
response to those detections.
(d) Injured/Dead Protected Species Reporting
    (i) In the unanticipated event that survey operations clearly cause 
the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the proposed IHA, 
such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury or mortality 
(e.g., ship-strike, gear interaction, and/or entanglement), NEG and/or 
Algonquin shall immediately cease activities and immediately report the 
incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-
8401 and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov 
and the Northeast Regional Stranding Coordinators 
(Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978-281-
9300. The report must include the following information:
    (A) Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the incident;
    (B) the name and type of vessel involved;
    (C) the vessel's speed during and leading up to the incident;
    (D) description of the incident;
    (E) status of all sound source use in the 24 hours preceding the 
incident;
    (F) water depth;
    (G) environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
    (H) description of marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    (I) species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
    (J) the fate of the animal(s); and
    (K) photographs or video footage of the animal (if equipment is 
available).
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS shall work with NEG and/or 
Algonquin to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. NEG and/or 
Algonquin may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via 
letter, email, or telephone.
    (ii) In the event that NEG and/or Algonquin discovers an injured or 
dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (i.e., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next 
paragraph), NEG and/or Algonquin will immediately report the incident 
to the Supervisor of the Incidental Take Program, Permits and 
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-
8401, and/or by email to Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and 
Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast Stranding Coordinators 
(Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) or by phone at 978-281-
9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. The report must include the 
same information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with NEG and/
or Algonquin to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    (iii) In the event that NEG or Algonquin discovers an injured or 
dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the injury or 
death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized 
(if the IHA is issued) (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with 
moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), NEG and/or 
Algonquin shall report the incident to the Supervisor of the Incidental 
Take Program, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, at 301-427-8401, and/or by email to 
Jolie.Harrison@noaa.gov and Shane.Guan@noaa.gov and the NMFS Northeast 
Stranding Coordinators (Mendy.Garron@noaa.gov or Lanni.Hall@noaa.gov) 
or by phone at 978-281-9300, within 24 hours of the discovery. NEG and/
or Algonquin shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) 
or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the 
Marine Mammal Stranding Network. NEG and/or Algonquin can continue its 
operations under such a case.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    On February 5, 2007, NMFS concluded consultation with MARAD and the 
USCG, under section 7 of the ESA, on the proposed construction and 
operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG facility and issued a biological 
opinion. The finding of that consultation was that the construction and 
operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG terminal may adversely affect, 
but is not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of northern 
right, humpback, and fin whales, and is not likely to adversely affect 
sperm, sei, or blue whales and Kemp's ridley, loggerhead, green or 
leatherback sea turtles. An incidental take statement (ITS) was issued 
following NMFS' issuance of the 2007 IHA.
    On November 15, 2007, Northeast Gateway and Algonquin submitted a 
letter to NMFS requesting an extension for the LNG Port construction 
into December 2007. Upon reviewing

[[Page 69072]]

Northeast Gateway's weekly marine mammal monitoring reports submitted 
under the previous IHA, NMFS Permits and Conservation Division (PR1) 
recognized that the potential take of some marine mammals resulting 
from the LNG Port and Pipeline Lateral by Level B behavioral harassment 
likely had exceeded the original take estimates. Therefore, NMFS 
Northeast Regional Office (NERO) reinitiated consultation with MARAD 
and USCG on the construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG 
facility. On November 30, 2007, NMFS NERO issued a revised biological 
opinion, reflecting the revised construction time period and including 
a revised ITS. This revised biological opinion concluded that the 
construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway LNG terminal may 
adversely affect, but is not likely to jeopardize, the continued 
existence of northern right, humpback, and fin whales, and is not 
likely to adversely affect sperm, sei, or blue whales.
    However, both biological opinions only analyzed ESA-listed species 
for activities under the initial short construction period and during 
operations, and did not take into consideration potential impacts to 
marine mammals that could result from the subsequent LNG Port and 
Pipeline Lateral maintenance and repair activities. In addition, NEG 
also revealed that significantly more water usage and vessel operating 
air emissions are needed from what was originally evaluated for the LNG 
Port operation. NMFS PR1 has initiated consultation with NMFS NERO 
under section 7 of the ESA on the issuance of an IHA to NEG under 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for the proposed activities that 
include increased NEG Port and Algonquin Pipeline Lateral maintenance 
and repair and water usage for the LNG Port operations this activity. 
Consultation will be concluded prior to a determination on the issuance 
of an IHA.

National Environmental Policy Act

    MARAD and the USCG released a Final EIS/Environmental Impact Report 
(EIR) for the proposed Northeast Gateway Port and Pipeline Lateral. A 
notice of availability was published by MARAD on October 26, 2006 (71 
FR 62657). The Final EIS/EIR provides detailed information on the 
proposed project facilities, construction methods and analysis of 
potential impacts on marine mammals.
    NMFS was a cooperating agency (as defined by the Council on 
Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1501.6)) in the preparation of the Draft 
and Final EISs. NMFS reviewed the Final EIS and adopted it on May 4, 
2007. NMFS issued a separate Record of Decision for issuance of 
authorizations pursuant to section 101(a)(5) of the MMPA for the 
construction and operation of the Northeast Gateway's LNG Port Facility 
in Massachusetts Bay.

    Dated: November 12, 2013.
Helen M. Golde,
Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-27466 Filed 11-15-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P