Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Casitas Pier Fender Pile Replacement, 42306-42327 [2017-18974]

Download as PDF 42306 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE References mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Dated: August 11, 2017. John Armor, Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. RIN 0648–XF640 1. MBNMS Guidelines for Desalination Plants in the MBNMS; May 2010, online: http://montereybay.noaa.gov/ resourcepro/resmanissues/pdf/ 050610desal.pdf. 2. ONMS Fair Market Value Analysis for a Fiber Optic Cable Permit in National Marine Sanctuaries, Aug 2002. 3. NOAA Final Notice of Applicability of Special Use Permit Requirements to Certain Categories of Activities Conducted Within the National Marine Sanctuary System; May 2013, online: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/ management/fr/78fr25957.pdf. 4. NOAA Notice of Applicability of Special Use Permit Requirements to Certain Categories of Activities Conducted Within the National Marine Sanctuary System; January 2013, online: https:// sanctuaries.noaa.gov/management/fr/ 78fr2957.pdf. 5. NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Final Policy and Permit Guidance for Submarine Cable Projects; September 2011, online: http:// sanctuaries.noaa.gov/management/fr/ submarinecablespolicy.pdf. 6. Moss Landing Marine Lab, Ecological Effects of the Moss Landing Powerplant Thermal Discharge; June 2006. 7. Ballard Marine Construction report prepared for Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency; 2014. 8. Chambers Group Memo: Pretreatment and Design Considerations for Large-Scale Seawater Facilities; 2010, online: http:// www.mwdoc.com/cms2/ckfinder/files/ files/Evaluation%20of%20Potential %20Impacts%20%20to%20 Marine%20Life%20by%20Slant%20 Wells%20-%20MLPA%20DEIR %20Comment%202010-10-13.pdf. 9. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information Web site; Table 1; online: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/global/ etopo1_ocean_volumes.html. 10. Final Notice of Fee Calculations for Special Use Permits; 80 FR 72415 (November 19, 2015); online: https:// www.federalregister.gov/documents/ 2015/11/19/2015-29524/final-notice-offee-calculations-for-special-use-permits. 11. Final Notice of Applicability of Special Use Permit Requirements to Certain Categories of Activities Conducted Within the National Marine Sanctuary System; 71 FR 4898 (January 30, 2006); online: https://www.federalregister.gov/ documents/2006/01/30/06-808/finalnotice-of-applicability-of-special-usepermit-requirements-to-certaincategories-of-activities. Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Alaska Groundfish and Halibut Seabird Working Group; Public Meeting [FR Doc. 2017–18995 Filed 9–6–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–NK–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meeting. AGENCY: NMFS Alaska Groundfish and Halibut Seabird Working Group will meet to discuss emerging seabird mitigation technologies and additional seabird species that could warrant more attention as bycatch in fisheries off Alaska. DATES: The meeting will be held on September 21, 2017, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and on September 22, 2017, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Alaska Daylight Time. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the NMFS Alaska Regional Office located at 709 W. 9th St., Room 445C, Juneau, AK. Photo identification is required to enter this facility. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anne Marie Eich, 907–586–7172. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Alaska Groundfish and Halibut Seabird Working Group formed as a result of the 2015 biological opinion on effects of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries on shorttailed albatross. The working group is tasked with reviewing information for mitigating effects of the groundfish fisheries on short-tailed albatross and other seabirds. The working group will hold its first in-person meeting in Juneau, AK, on September 21 and 22, 2017. Meeting topics include emerging seabird mitigation technologies and additional seabird species that could warrant more attention as bycatch in fisheries off Alaska. NMFS will keep the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) apprised of the working group’s activities and any resulting recommendations for methods to reduce seabird bycatch. Any changes to seabird avoidance regulations are expected to follow the standard Council process. SUMMARY: Special Accommodations This workshop will be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 should be directed to Anne Marie Eich, 907–586–7172, at least 5 working days prior to the meeting date. Dated: September 1, 2017. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–18960 Filed 9–6–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF603 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Casitas Pier Fender Pile Replacement 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 a request from Venoco, LLC (Venoco) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to fender pile replacement at Casitas Pier in Carpinteria, CA. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than October 10, 2017. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 EastWest Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Young@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/construction.htm without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sara Young, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/construction.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Background Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) 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 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. The MMPA states that the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, hunt, capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 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). National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in CE B4 of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216–6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request. Summary of Request On June 13, 2017, NMFS received a request from Venoco LLC for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to replacement of fender piles at Casitas Pier in Carpinteria, California. Venoco’s request is for take of harbor seal, California sea lions, and bottlenose dolphins by Level B harassment only. Neither Venoco LLC nor NMFS expect mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. Description of Proposed Activity Overview Venoco is proposing to replace 13 fender piles at Casitas Pier (herein after ‘‘Pier’’) in Carpinteria, California. Fender piles at the end of the Pier are used to enable safe transfer of personnel and equipment between the Pier and vessels. Certain fender piles on both the west and east side of the Pier have failed or are likely to fail due to corrosion and physical damage from many years of use and require replacement. Repairs are PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42307 planned prior to the 2017–2018 winter storm season to enable safe transfer of personnel and equipment on both sides of the Pier. Dates and Duration Venoco proposes to replace these 13 fender piles during the fall of 2017 to minimize impact to the local harbor seal population which uses Carpinteria beach as a haulout. Work on the pier will take place over a period of 2 to 3 weeks during fall 2017. Any work that is not completed during this period will be deferred to late summer or fall 2018. Two and a half days of pile driving are needed to complete the work but these days may not be consecutive. The proposed authorization effective dates would be October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017 to allow pile driving to occur when all of the necessary permits and permissions are acquired. Specific Geographic Region The Pier is located on the Pacific Ocean along the south coast of Santa Barbara County in Southern California, near the southeastern corner of the City of Carpinteria. This area is used routinely for oil and gas operations, as well as for recreation. The Carpinteria Bluffs, located immediately upland of the Pier, provide a heavily used recreational trail system connecting downtown Carpinteria and the Carpinteria Beach State Park to the west with the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve to the east. The beach at the base of the Pier is accessible from points to the west, and is open to the public during summer and fall months. During the City of Carpinteria’s established beach closure period for the seal pupping season (December 1 to May 31), the City restricts public access along the beach in an area extending approximately 750 feet (230 meters) east and west of the base of the Pier. Detailed Description of Specific Activity The Pier is owned by the City of Carpinteria and leased to Venoco, who operates and maintains the Pier. The Pier is located in offshore tidelands, owned and governed by the City of Carpinteria. The Pier was built in the mid- to late-1960s and extends approximately 720 feet (220 meters) from shore. The onshore uplands, adjacent to the Pier, are owned by Venoco. Fender piles at the end of the Pier are used to enable safe transfer of personnel and equipment between the Pier and vessels. Certain fender piles on both the west and east side of the Pier have failed or are likely to fail due to corrosion and physical damage from E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42308 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices many years of use and require replacement. Up to 13 fender piles located on the end of the Pier will be replaced (six on west side, and seven on the east side). The replacement piles will consist of an upper section approximately 48 to 50 feet (15 meters) to long consisting of 16-inch diameter x 0.50-inch wall thickness steel pipe pile with a 12-foot (4-meter) long driven lower section consisting of 14 inch x 73 pound H-pile spliced to the bottom of the upper pipe pile section. Epoxy coating will be used on the new fender piles. Installation will be accomplished utilizing impact and vibratory pile driving techniques supported from the Pier. The replacement piles will be installed offset slightly (about 2 feet) from the original fender pile positions. This spliced pile design has been in service for more than 60 years at the Pier. The flow of work for the pile replacement is outlined below. The contractor will mobilize diving equipment, welding equipment, replacement pile, and associated rigging to the site. Divers, along with on-site facility crane and personnel, will remove debris and damaged fender pile from the work area, as required. The damaged portions of existing fender piles will be cut above the mudline and removed, and the remainder of the piles below the mudline will remain in place unless they present a hazard to the pier. A project-specific pile driving crew, crane and pile driving hammer will be positioned on, and operated from, the Pier to place and drive the replacement piles. Each new pile will be guided by a diver and positioned adjacent to an existing stub. Once positioned, the weight of the pile and vibratory pile hammer will be applied to the seabed and the pile will penetrate into the seabed slightly. At this point, the diver will confirm that the replacement pile remains adjacent to the old stub and exit the water or reposition the new pile and repeat. Once the replacement pile has slightly penetrated the seabed adjacent to the old pile stub and the diver has exited the water, the pile will be driven to an approximate elevation of 12 feet (4 meters) below the mudline or to refusal. Once the replacement pile is driven, welders will connect the replacement pile top to the main horizontal fender beam. Project-related debris will be removed from the seafloor and Pier. Debris will be properly disposed of, and project personnel and equipment will be demobilized from site. Each pile will require approximately 25 minutes of vibratory driving, and up to six piles could be installed by this method in a single day (i.e., up to 2.5 hours of vibratory pile driving per day). During this time the sound levels above and in water will be in excess of normal pier operations. Sound levels from various other fender pile construction activities will not be discernible from daily pier operations and are below NMFS’ thresholds. In the unlikely event that an impact hammer is used, installation of a single pile will require an estimated 400 hammer strikes over 15 minutes, and up to six piles could be installed by this method in a single day (i.e., up to 1.5 hours of pile driving per day). This information is summarized in Table 1. TABLE 1—PILE DRIVING SUMMARY INFORMATION Estimated duration of driving per pile (minutes) Pile driving method Vibratory Hammer ............................................................................................ Impact Hammer ............................................................................................... mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are described in detail later in this document (please see ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ and ‘‘Proposed Monitoring and Reporting’’). Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities There are three marine mammal species that may likely transit through the waters nearby the project area, and are expected to potentially be taken by the specified activity. These include harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Multiple additional marine mammal species may occasionally enter coastal California waters but they would not be expected to occur in shallow nearshore waters of the action area. Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and behavior and life history, of the potentially VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 25 15 affected species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be found in NMFS’s Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’s Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ species/mammals/). Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in coastal southern California and summarizes information related to the population or stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and ESA and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, we follow Committee on Taxonomy (2016). PBR is defined by the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population (as PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Estimated strikes per pile N.A. 400 Maximum number of piles per day Total duration per day (minutes) 6 6 150 90 described in NMFS’s SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and other threats. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. NMFS’s stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’s U.S. Pacific SARs (NMFS 2016). All values presented in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the 2016 SARs (NMFS, 2016). E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42309 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMAL POTENTIALLY PRESENT IN THE VICINITY OF CARPINTERIA Common name Scientific name Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 ESA/ MMPA status; Strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock PBR Annual M/SI 3 Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Eschrichtiidae: Gray whale ................. Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals): Bryde’s whale ............. Humpback whale ........ Eschrichtius robustus ........ Eastern North Pacific ........ -;N .05, 20,125, 2011 ...... 624 132 Balaenoptera edeni ........... Megaptera novaeangliae .. -;N -;N Unk, unk, unk, N/A .... .03, 1,876, 2014 ........ unk 11 unk 6.5 Blue whale .................. Fin whale .................... Balaenoptera musculus .... Balaenoptera physalus ..... E;Y E;Y .07, 1,551, 2011 ........ .12, 8,127, 2014 ........ 2.3 81 0.9 2 Sei whale .................... Balaenoptera borealis ....... Eastern Pacific .................. California-Oregon-Washington. Eastern North Pacific ........ California-Oregon-Washington. California-Oregon-Washington. E;Y 0.4, 374, 2104 ........... 0.75 0 Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Physeteridae: Sperm whale ............... Physeter macrocephalus .. California-Oregon-Washington. E;Y 0.58, 1,332, 2008 ...... 2.7 1.7 Family Kogiidae: Pygmy sperm whale ... Kogia breviceps ................ -;N 1.12, 1,924, 2014 ...... 19 0 Dwarf sperm whale ..... Kogia sima ........................ California-Oregon-Washington. California-Oregon-Washington. Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales): Baird’s beaked whale Cuvier’s beaked whale Berardius bairdii ................ Ziphius cavirostris ............. Eastern North Pacific ........ California-Oregon-Washington. California-Oregon-Washington. -;N -;N 0.81, 466, 2008 ......... Unk, unk, 2014 .......... 4.7 Unk 0 0 -;Y 0.65, 389, 2008 ......... 0.5 3.9 California-Oregon-Washington. California ........................... -;N 0.17, 839,325, 2014 .. 5,393 40 -;N 0.49, 88,432, 2014 .... 657 35.4 California-Oregon-Washington northern and southern stocks. California-Oregon-Washington. California-Oregon-Washington. California-Oregon-Washington offshore stock. California coastal stock ..... -;N 0.28, 21,195, 2014 .... 191 7.5 -;N 0.2, 24,782, 2014 ...... 238 0.8 -;N 0.32, 4,817, 2014 ...... 46 3.7 -;N 0.54, 1,255, 2014 ...... 11 1.6 -;N 0.06, 346, 2011 ......... 2.7 2 California-Oregon-Washington. Eastern North Pacific offshore. West Coast Transient ....... California-Oregon-Washington. -;N 0.44, 18,608, 2014 .... 179 3.8 -;N 0.49, 162, 2014 ......... 1.6 0 -;N -;N Unk, 243, 2009 .......... 0.79, 466, 2014 ......... 2.4 4.5 0 1.2 California-Oregon-Washington. -;N 0.45, 17,954, 2014 .... 172 0.3 542 9,200 2,498 451 4,882 3.2 389 108 1.8 8.8 Mesoplodon spp. .............. Striped dolphin ............ Stenella coeruleoalba ....... Risso’s dolphin ........... Grampus griseus .............. Common bottlenose dolphin. Common bottlenose dolphin. Northern right whale dolphin. Killer whale ................. Tursiops truncatus t. ......... Killer whale ................. Short-finned pilot whale. Family Phocoenidae (porpoises): Dall’s porpoise ............ mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Mesoplodont beaked whales (six species). Family Delphinidae: Short-beaked common dolphin. Long-beaked common dolphin. Pacific white-sided dolphin. Orcinus orca ..................... Globicephala macrorhynchus. Delphinus delphis d. ......... Delphinus capensis c. ....... Lagenorhynchus obliquidens. Tursiops truncatus t. ......... Lissodelphis borealis ........ Orcinus orca ..................... Phocoenoides dalli ............ Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions): Guadalupe fur seal ..... California sea lion ....... Steller sea lion ............ Northern fur seal ......... Northern elephant seal VerDate Sep<11>2014 Arctocephalus townsendi .. Zalophus californianus ...... Eumetopias jubatus .......... Callorhinus ursinus ........... Mirounga angustirostris .... 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Guadalupe Island .............. U.S. stock ......................... Eastern .............................. California stock ................. California breeding stock .. Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E;Y -;N -;N -;N -;N Unk, Unk, Unk, Unk, Unk, E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 15,830, 2010 ..... 153,337, 2011 ... 41,638, 2015 ..... 7,524, 2013 ....... 81,368, 2010 ..... 07SEN1 42310 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMAL POTENTIALLY PRESENT IN THE VICINITY OF CARPINTERIA—Continued Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 ESA/ MMPA status; Strategic (Y/N) 1 Common name Scientific name Stock Family Phocidae (earless seals): Pacific harbor seal ...... Phoca vitulina richardii ...... California stock ................. -;N Unk, 27,348, 2012 ..... PBR 1,641 Annual M/SI 3 43 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES 1—Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock. 2—NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable [explain if this is the case]. 3—These values, found in NMFS’s SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial fisheries, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. A CV associated with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases. Note—Italicized species are not expected to be taken or proposed for authorization. All species that could potentially occur in the proposed construction area are included in Table 2. However, the temporal and spatial occurrence of all but three of the species listed in Table 2 with respect to the timing and location of the specified activity is such that take is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed further beyond the explanation provided here. Most of the species included in Table 2 above are unlikely to occur during the proposed work because they are not resident to this part of California during the late summer and early fall months. For those species that may occur in coastal southern California during that time, they are unlikely to occur at such close proximity to the shoreline and the proposed work is conducted from a pier connected to a beach with maximum water depths of 4–8 meters. The longbeaked common dolphin may occasionally venture within one nautical mile of the project site but is unlikely. The short-beaked common dolphin is much less likely to appear in the vicinity than the long-beaked common dolphin. The gray whale occurs within one nautical mile of the project site, but it does not migrate through the region until late December through May, with most gray whales sighted near the project area in the spring. The other species generally occur farther offshore and have not been reported in the vicinity of this area of the Southern California Bight (SCB), so they will not be discussed further in this document. Of the MMPA-listed species of marine mammals summarized in Table 2, only the Pacific harbor seal, the California sea lion, and the coastal stock of bottlenose dolphin are anticipated to be found in the immediate vicinity of the project site and subsequently may be VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 taken by pile driving. Below are descriptions of those species and the relevant stock, as well as information regarding population trends and threats, and describe any information regarding local occurrence. Harbor seal Pacific harbor seals inhabit the entire coast of California, including the offshore islands, forming small, relatively stable populations. The California stock of harbor seals is estimated at 30,968 (Carretta et al., 2015). This species is non-migratory, but local movements of short to moderate distances sometimes occur (California Department of Fish and Game [CDFG] 1990). They breed along the California coast between March and June. The preferred habitat of the Pacific harbor seal includes offshore rocks, sandy beaches, gravelly or rocky beaches, and estuarine mud flats (NMFS 1997). Molting occurs from late May through July or August and lasts approximately 6 weeks. Between fall and winter, harbor seals spend less time on land, but they usually remain relatively close to shore while at sea. The project area is in the vicinity of one of the most well-known seal rookeries on the mainland shore of the SCB. This rookery, east of the base of the Pier, is inhabited year-round but the beach is closed to all activity, including construction during the winter pupping season. Since 1991 the Carpinteria seal rookery has been monitored from January 1 through May 30 by the Carpinteria Seal Watch, an ad hoc citizens’ group. (The group does not start watches until January 1 because of the holidays.) In the 15-year period prior to 2008, the highest record of seals hauling out during pupping season (December to May) was 390 animals in PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2006. A calculation, known as Hanan’s and Beeson’s formula (1994), was applied to the observed number of 390 individuals, to account for individuals in the water during the count. Such a calculation brings the population to 507 individuals in 2006. However, Hanan’s and Beeson’s formula was designed to estimate total population from aerial counts conducted once a year, one time over each area, as opposed to extensive daily ground counts over a period of six months each year. Population counts have occasionally occurred during or after molting season (April to June), when the number of seals utilizing the rookery are believed to be even higher than during pupping season. However, the rookery beach is open to the public during this time, so accurate counts are more difficult to obtain, since human use of the beach disturbs the animals. As such, the most accurate counts have occurred early in the morning before animals have been disturbed. The highest number of seals ever recorded by a Carpinteria Seal Watch member (not during their usual watch season) totaled 364 in September 1993. Applying Hanan’s and Beeson’s formula to this count revealed a total population during molting season of 473. In 2006, field studies of marine mammals were conducted for the environmental evaluation of the Paredon project, which would have involved slant drilling under the Carpinteria seal rookery to offshore oil reserves. These studies resulted in a count of 482 animals in October and 462 animals in November (Marine Mammal Consulting Group 2007a and b). Boveng (1988) calculated that 50 to 70 percent of all harbor seals were hauled out during molting. However, his calculations were based on once-a-year E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices annual aerial surveys, with only one pass over each site. These were conducted during daytime hours. The MMCG studies were conducted on multiple occasions at night from October through December, using black and white film, digital photos, and infrared photos. These were pasted into photo mosaics to accurately count every animal by dividing the area up into segments. The lowest total number of animals was selected from the photos taken during the highest count (482), which was tallied in October. In November, another count revealed 452 animals, suggesting that the high count was not an anomaly. The lowest nighttime count was 310. Using Boveng’s formula, this suggests that the population ranged from 443 to 964 animals. Obviously the highest actual count exceeded Boveng’s lowest estimate. It is clear that the minimum population was 482, but that assumes all animals were present on the beach. The more likely population estimate is probably from 500 to 700 animals. This is believed to be an accurate estimate of the total population of harbor seals at Carpinteria in 2006. However, this estimate was derived from a nighttime count and does not reflect a daytime estimate of the Carpinteria population, especially when the beaches are open to the public and very few seals are present (MMCG 2007b). Years of observations have revealed that harbor seals sometimes react to various anthropogenic stimuli. These include low-flying aircraft of all descriptions (including even a blimp on one occasion) hang and para gliders, people and dogs on the beach and bluff, bicyclists, boats, jet skis, surfers, divers, swimmers, fishers, passing trains, equipment activity and people on the Pier, crews coming and going from boats, and various oil company repair activities. All of these activities have been short-lived and have not deterred the seals from the haul-out area except during daytime from June 1 through November 30, when the beach is open to the public. At such times, the beach is often deserted by the seals, although some haul out on offshore rocks beyond the action area to the west during low tides (MMCG 2007a and b). During very high tides, when the beach is inaccessible to humans because of prominent points jutting to the sea, a few seals may remain on the beach. Natural disturbances also startle the seals. These include birds suddenly taking flight or making low passes, coyotes roaming the beach, ground squirrels and rabbits burrowing into the coastal bluffs, large waves washing ashore, high tides that preclude most VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 seals from finding a spot to haul out, excessive heat during periods of little wind, and white sharks in the water (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2007a and b; 2011c; 2013b; and 2014b; SBMMC 1976–2015; SBMMC 1976–2015; Seagars 1988). Based on review of the available observational data, similar past experience in the project vicinity, and project timing (fall season, during daytime hours), an estimated range of zero to 50 harbor seals is anticipated to be present on the beach and in the ocean within the project vicinity during work periods. California sea lion California sea lions are the most abundant pinniped in the SCB. Although no rookeries occur on the mainland shore of the SCB, this species regularly hauls out on buoys, oil platforms, docks, breakwaters and other structures along the coast in the vicinity of the project. Individuals are regularly observed hauled out on mooring buoys used by oil supply vessels southeast of the Pier, although these buoys are small and only allow less than a dozen animals to haul out. These buoys are beyond the action area. They also haul out on oil platforms and attendant buoys off Carpinteria, but these are miles away for the action area. Occasionally, individual stranded specimens haul out at the Carpinteria seal rookery (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 2014b; SBMMC 1976–2015). Such occurrences are rare, with less than half a dozen animals stranded in the action area a year and usually even less (SBMMC 1976–2015). The action area is not a sea lion haul-out site. During the breeding season, the majority of California sea lions are found in Southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in Southern California are limited to San Miguel Island and to the more southerly Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente (NMFS 1997). Rocky ledges and sandy beaches on offshore islands are the preferred rookery habitat. Pupping season begins in mid-May, peaking in the third week of June and tapering off in July. The California sea lion molts gradually over several months during late summer and fall. California sea lions exhibit annual migratory movements; in the spring, males migrate southward to breeding rookeries in the Channel Islands and Mexico, then migrate northward in late summer following breeding season. Females migrate as far north as San Francisco Bay in winter, but during El PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42311 ˜ Nino events, have moved as far north as central Oregon. The minimum population size of the U.S. stock of California sea lions in 2011 was estimated at 296,750 (Carretta et al., 2015). This estimate is likely to be revised downward because of a longlasting Unusual Mortality Event (UME). The causes are still being studied, but lack of prey, domoic acid outbreaks, and shark predation are being examined. Based on review of the available opportunistic sightings data from the Seal Watch, other construction projects in the project vicinity, and project timing (fall season), an estimated range of zero to 15 sea lions is anticipated to be present within the project vicinity during work periods. Bottlenose Dolphin Coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) range from San Francisco, California to Baja California. This stock prefers coastal waters between the surf zone and 0.6 nautical miles offshore. Almost all (99 percent) are found within 0.6 nautical miles of shore (Hansen and DeFran 1993). The stock size is estimated at only 323 animals throughout its entire range (Carretta et al., 2015). The project site represents a very small portion of its overall range. Past projects in the vicinity of the pier have revealed anywhere from 2 to 32 animals present at any one time, with an average pod size of 8 animals, although many days or even weeks go by with no dolphins seen (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 2014b). Carpinteria Seal Watch data are incomplete, in that bottlenose dolphins are sometimes noted and sometimes not. Long-beaked common dolphins are occasionally noted as bottlenose dolphins during opportunistic sighting reports. Based on review of opportunistic sightings data in the area from Seal Watch and other construction projects in the project vicinity, and project timing (fall season, during daytime hours), an estimated range of 2 to 32 coastal bottlenose dolphins is anticipated to be present within the project vicinity during work periods, with an average pod size of 8 animals, although many days or even weeks go by with no dolphins seen. Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section later in this document includes a quantitative E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42312 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The ‘‘Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination’’ section considers the content of this section, the ‘‘Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment’’ section, and the ‘‘Proposed Mitigation’’ section, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or stocks. Description of Sound Sources Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and is measured in hertz (Hz) or cycles per second. Wavelength is the distance between two peaks of a sound wave; lower frequency sounds have longer wavelengths than higher frequency sounds. Amplitude is the height of the sound pressure wave or the ‘loudness’ of a sound and is typically measured using the decibel (dB) scale. A dB is the ratio between a measured pressure (with sound) and a reference pressure (sound at a constant pressure, established by scientific standards). It is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations in amplitude; therefore, relatively small changes in dB ratings correspond to large changes in sound pressure. When referring to sound pressure levels (SPLs; the sound force per unit area), sound is referenced in the context of underwater sound pressure to 1 microPascal (mPa). One pascal is the pressure resulting from a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square meter. The source level (SL) represents the sound level at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 mPa). The received level is the sound level at the listener’s position. Note that all underwater sound levels in this document are referenced to a pressure of 1 mPa and all airborne sound levels in this document are referenced to a pressure of 20 mPa. Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over the duration of an impulse. Rms is calculated by squaring all of the sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the square root of the average (Urick 1983). Rms accounts for both positive and negative values; squaring the pressures makes all values positive so that they may be accounted for in the summation of pressure levels (Hastings and Popper 2005). This measurement is often used in the context of discussing behavioral effects, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 in part because behavioral effects, which often result from auditory cues, may be better expressed through averaged units than by peak pressures. When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in all directions away from the source (similar to ripples on the surface of a pond), except in cases where the source is directional. The compressions and decompressions associated with sound waves are detected as changes in pressure by aquatic life and man-made sound receptors such as hydrophones. Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound. Ambient sound is defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a single source or point (Richardson et al., 1995), and the sound level of a region is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic sound (e.g., vessels, dredging, aircraft, construction). A number of sources contribute to ambient sound, including the following (Richardson et al., 1995): • Wind and waves: The complex interactions between wind and water surface, including processes such as breaking waves and wave-induced bubble oscillations and cavitation, are a main source of naturally occurring ambient noise for frequencies between 200 Hz and 50 kHz (Mitson 1995). In general, ambient sound levels tend to increase with increasing wind speed and wave height. Surf noise becomes important near shore, with measurements collected at a distance of 8.5 km from shore showing an increase of 10 dB in the 100 to 700 Hz band during heavy surf conditions. • Precipitation: Sound from rain and hail impacting the water surface can become an important component of total noise at frequencies above 500 Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet times. • Biological: Marine mammals can contribute significantly to ambient noise levels, as can some fish and shrimp. The frequency band for biological contributions is from approximately 12 Hz to over 100 kHz. • Anthropogenic: Sources of ambient noise related to human activity include transportation (surface vessels and aircraft), dredging and construction, oil PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 and gas drilling and production, seismic surveys, sonar, explosions, and ocean acoustic studies. Shipping noise typically dominates the total ambient noise for frequencies between 20 and 300 Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are below 1 kHz and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they attenuate rapidly (Richardson et al., 1995). Sound from identifiable anthropogenic sources other than the activity of interest (e.g., a passing vessel) is sometimes termed background sound, as opposed to ambient sound. The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at any given location and time—which comprise ‘‘ambient’’ or ‘‘background’’ sound—depends not only on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and shipping activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10–20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from the specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. In-water construction activities associated with the project would include impact pile driving and vibratory pile driving. The sounds produced by these activities fall into one of two general sound types: Pulsed and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction between these two sound types is important because they have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see Southall et a.l (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts. Pulsed sound sources (e.g., explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients (ANSI 1986; Harris 1998; NIOSH 1998; ISO 2003; ANSI 2005) and occur either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42313 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices pressure to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period that may include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and minimal pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce physical injury as compared with sounds that lack these features. Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or prolonged, and may be either continuous or non-continuous (ANSI 1995; NIOSH 1998). Some of these nonpulsed sounds can be transient signals of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems (such as those used by the U.S. Navy). The duration of such sounds, as received at a distance, can be greatly extended in a highly reverberant environment. Impact hammers operate by repeatedly dropping a heavy piston onto a pile to drive the pile into the substrate. Sound generated by impact hammers is characterized by rapid rise times and high peak levels, a potentially injurious combination (Hastings and Popper 2005). Vibratory hammers install piles by vibrating them and allowing the weight of the hammer to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers produce significantly less sound than impact hammers. Peak SPLs may be 180 dB or greater, but are generally 10 to 20 dB lower than SPLs generated during impact pile driving of the same-sized pile (Oestman et al., 2009). Rise time is slower, reducing the probability and severity of injury, and sound energy is distributed over a greater amount of time (Nedwell and Edwards 2002; Carlson et al., 2005). Marine Mammal Hearing Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2016) described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 dB threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with the exception for lower limits for lowfrequency cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. The functional groups and the associated frequencies are indicated below (note that these frequency ranges correspond to the range for the composite group, with the entire range not necessarily reflecting the capabilities of every species within that group): TABLE 3—MARINE MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS AND THEIR GENERALIZED HEARING RANGE Generalized hearing range * Hearing group Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales) ..................................................................................................................... Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales) ........................................... High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger and L. australis). Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals) ................................................................................................................... Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur seals) .............................................................................................. 7 Hz to 35 kHz. 150 Hz to 160 kHz. 275 Hz to 160 kHz. 50 Hz to 86 kHz. 60 Hz to 39 kHz. mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range ¨ (Hemila et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 2013). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. As mentioned previously in this document, three marine mammal species (one cetacean and two pinnipeds) may occur in the project area. Of these three, the bottlenose dolphin is classified as a mid-frequency cetacean (Southall et al., 2007). Additionally, harbor seals are classified as members of the phocid pinnipeds in VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 water functional hearing group while California sea lions are grouped under the Otariid pinnipeds in water functional hearing group. A species’ functional hearing group is a consideration when we analyze the effects of exposure to sound on marine mammals. Acoustic Impacts Please refer to the information given previously (Description of Sound Sources) regarding sound, characteristics of sound types, and metrics used in this document. Anthropogenic sounds cover a broad range of frequencies and sound levels and can have a range of highly variable impacts on marine life, from none or minor to potentially severe responses, depending on received levels, duration PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 of exposure, behavioral context, and various other factors. The potential effects of underwater sound from active acoustic sources can potentially result in one or more of the following; temporary or permanent hearing impairment, non-auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, stress, and masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et al., 2004; Nowacek et al., 2007; Southall et al., 2007; Gotz et al., 2009). The degree of effect is intrinsically related to the signal characteristics, received level, distance from the source, and duration of the sound exposure. In general, sudden, high level sounds can cause hearing loss, as can longer exposures to lower level sounds. Temporary or permanent loss of hearing will occur almost exclusively for noise within an E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES 42314 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices animal’s hearing range. We first describe specific manifestations of acoustic effects before providing discussion specific to the Venoco’s construction activities. Richardson et al. (1995) described zones of increasing intensity of effect that might be expected to occur, in relation to distance from a source and assuming that the signal is within an animal’s hearing range. First is the area within which the acoustic signal would be audible (potentially perceived) to the animal, but not strong enough to elicit any overt behavioral or physiological response. The next zone corresponds with the area where the signal is audible to the animal and of sufficient intensity to elicit behavioral or physiological responsiveness. Third is a zone within which, for signals of high intensity, the received level is sufficient to potentially cause discomfort or tissue damage to auditory or other systems. Overlaying these zones to a certain extent is the area within which masking (i.e., when a sound interferes with or masks the ability of an animal to detect a signal of interest that is above the absolute hearing threshold) may occur; the masking zone may be highly variable in size. We describe the more severe effects (i.e., permanent hearing impairment, certain non-auditory physical or physiological effects) only briefly as we do not expect that there is a reasonable likelihood that Venoco’s activities may result in such effects (see below for further discussion). Marine mammals exposed to high-intensity sound, or to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can experience hearing threshold shift (TS), a change, usually an increase, in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 2016). TS can be permanent (PTS), an irreversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level, or temporary (TTS), a temporary, reversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 2016). Repeated sound exposure that leads to TTS could cause PTS. In severe cases of PTS, there can be total or partial deafness, while in most cases the animal has an impaired ability to hear sounds in specific frequency ranges (Kryter 1985). When PTS occurs, there is physical damage to the sound receptors in the ear (i.e., tissue damage), whereas TTS VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 represents primarily tissue fatigue and is reversible (Southall et al., 2007). In addition, other investigators have suggested that TTS is within the normal bounds of physiological variability and tolerance and does not represent physical injury (e.g., Ward 1997). Therefore, NMFS does not consider TTS to constitute auditory injury. Relationships between TTS and PTS thresholds have not been studied in marine mammals—PTS data exists only for a single harbor seal (Kastak et al., 2008)—but are assumed to be similar to those in humans and other terrestrial mammals. PTS typically occurs at exposure levels at least several dB above a 40-dB threshold shift approximates PTS onset; e.g., Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974) that inducing mild TTS (a 6-dB threshold shift approximates TTS onset; e.g., Southall et al., 2007). Based on data from terrestrial mammals, a precautionary assumption is that the PTS thresholds for impulse sounds (such as impact pile driving pulses as received close to the source) are at least 6 dB higher than the TTS threshold on a peak-pressure basis and PTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds are 15 to 20 dB higher than TTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds (Southall et al., 2007). Given the higher level of sound or longer exposure duration necessary to cause PTS as compared with TTS, it is considerably less likely that PTS could occur. Non-auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically might occur in marine mammals exposed to high level underwater sound or as a secondary effect of extreme behavioral reactions (e.g., change in dive profile as a result of an avoidance reaction) caused by exposure to sound include neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; Southall et al., 2007; Zimmer and Tyack 2007). Venoco’s activities do not involve the use of devices such as explosives or mid-frequency active sonar that are associated with these types of effects; therefore, no non-auditory physical effects or injuries is anticipated Temporary threshold shift—TTS is the mildest form of hearing impairment that can occur during exposure to sound (Kryter 1985). While experiencing TTS, the hearing threshold rises, and a sound must be at a higher level in order to be heard. In terrestrial and marine mammals, TTS can last from minutes or hours to days (in cases of strong TTS). In many cases, hearing sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to the sound ends. Few data on sound levels and durations necessary to elicit mild PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 TTS have been obtained for marine mammals. Marine mammal hearing plays a critical role in communication with conspecifics, and interpretation of environmental cues for purposes such as predator avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious. For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency range that occurs during a time where ambient noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during a time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts. Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) and three species of pinnipeds (northern elephant seal, harbor seal, and California sea lion) exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octaveband noise) in laboratory settings (e.g., Finneran et al., 2002; Nachtigall et al., 2004; Kastak et al., 2005; Lucke et al., 2009; Popov et al., 2011). In general, harbor seals (Kastak et al., 2005; Kastelein et al., 2012a) and harbor porpoises (Lucke et al., 2009; Kastelein et al., 2012b) have a lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species. Additionally, the existing marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within these species. There are no data available on noise-induced hearing loss for mysticetes. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007) and Finneran and Jenkins (2012). Behavioral effects—Behavioral disturbance may include a variety of effects, including subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief avoidance of an area or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous changes in similar behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or potentially severe reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment of high-quality habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2003; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral reactions can vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, depending on previous experience with a sound source, context, and numerous other factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can vary depending on characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). Please see Appendices B–C of Southall et al. (2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to sound. Habituation can occur when an animal’s response to a stimulus wanes with repeated exposure, usually in the absence of unpleasant associated events (Wartzok et al., 2003). Animals are most likely to habituate to sounds that are predictable and unvarying. It is important to note that habituation is appropriately considered as a ‘‘progressive reduction in response to stimuli that are perceived as neither aversive nor beneficial,’’ rather than as, more generally, moderation in response to human disturbance (Bejder et al., 2009). The opposite process is sensitization, when an unpleasant experience leads to subsequent responses, often in the form of avoidance, at a lower level of exposure. As noted above, behavioral state may affect the type of response. For example, animals that are resting may show greater behavioral change in response to disturbing sound levels than animals that are highly motivated to remain in an area for feeding (Richardson et al., 1995; NRC, 2003; Wartzok et al., 2003). Controlled experiments with captive marine mammals have showed pronounced behavioral reactions, including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997; Finneran et al., 2003). Observed responses of wild marine mammals to loud pulsed sound sources (typically seismic airguns or acoustic harassment devices) have been varied but often consist of avoidance behavior or other behavioral changes suggesting discomfort (Morton and Symonds 2002; see also Richardson et al., 1995; Nowacek et al., 2007). Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder 2007; Weilgart 2007; NRC 2005). However, there are broad categories of potential response, which we describe in greater detail here, that include alteration of dive behavior, alteration of foraging behavior, effects to breathing, interference with or alteration of vocalization, avoidance, and flight. Changes in dive behavior can vary widely, and may consist of increased or decreased dive times and surface intervals as well as changes in the rates of ascent and descent during a dive (e.g., Frankel and Clark 2000; Costa et al., 2003; Ng and Leung 2003; Nowacek et al., 2004; Goldbogen et al., 2013a,b). Variations in dive behavior may reflect interruptions in biologically significant activities (e.g., foraging) or they may be of little biological significance. The impact of an alteration to dive behavior resulting from an acoustic exposure depends on what the animal is doing at the time of the exposure and the type and magnitude of the response. Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 2001; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history stage of the animal. Variations in respiration naturally vary with different behaviors and alterations to breathing rate as a function of acoustic exposure can be expected to co-occur with other behavioral reactions, such as a flight response or an alteration in diving. However, respiration rates in and of themselves may be representative of annoyance or an acute stress response. Various studies have shown that PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42315 respiration rates may either be unaffected or could increase, depending on the species and signal characteristics, again highlighting the importance in understanding species differences in the tolerance of underwater noise when determining the potential for impacts resulting from anthropogenic sound exposure (e.g., Kastelein et al., 2001, 2005b, 2006; Gailey et al., 2007). Marine mammals vocalize for different purposes and across multiple modes, such as whistling, echolocation click production, calling, and singing. Changes in vocalization behavior in response to anthropogenic noise can occur for any of these modes and may result from a need to compete with an increase in background noise or may reflect increased vigilance or a startle response. For example, in the presence of potentially masking signals, humpback whales and killer whales have been observed to increase the length of their songs (Miller et al., 2000; Fristrup et al., 2003; Foote et al., 2004), while right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) have been observed to shift the frequency content of their calls upward while reducing the rate of calling in areas of increased anthropogenic noise (Parks et al., 2007b). In some cases, animals may cease sound production during production of aversive signals (Bowles et al., 1994). Avoidance is the displacement of an individual from an area or migration path as a result of the presence of a sound or other stressors, and is one of the most obvious manifestations of disturbance in marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). For example, gray whales (Eschrictius robustus) are known to change direction—deflecting from customary migratory paths—in order to avoid noise from seismic surveys (Malme et al., 1984). Avoidance may be short-term, with animals returning to the area once the noise has ceased (e.g., Bowles et al., 1994; Goold 1996; Stone et al., 2000; Morton and Symonds, 2002; Gailey et al., 2007). Longer-term displacement is possible, however, which may lead to changes in abundance or distribution patterns of the affected species in the affected region if habituation to the presence of the sound does not occur (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2004; Bejder et al., 2006; Teilmann et al., 2006). A flight response is a dramatic change in normal movement to a directed and rapid movement away from the perceived location of a sound source. The flight response differs from other avoidance responses in the intensity of the response (e.g., directed movement, rate of travel). Relatively little information on flight responses of E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES 42316 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices marine mammals to anthropogenic signals exist, although observations of flight responses to the presence of predators have occurred (Connor and Heithaus 1996). The result of a flight response could range from brief, temporary exertion and displacement from the area where the signal provokes flight to, in extreme cases, marine mammal strandings (Evans and England 2001). However, it should be noted that response to a perceived predator does not necessarily invoke flight (Ford and Reeves 2008), and whether individuals are solitary or in groups may influence the response. Behavioral disturbance can also impact marine mammals in more subtle ways. Increased vigilance may result in costs related to diversion of focus and attention (i.e., when a response consists of increased vigilance, it may come at the cost of decreased attention to other critical behaviors such as foraging or resting). These effects have generally not been demonstrated for marine mammals, but studies involving fish and terrestrial animals have shown that increased vigilance may substantially reduce feeding rates (e.g., Beauchamp and Livoreil 1997; Fritz et al,, 2002; Purser and Radford 2011). In addition, chronic disturbance can cause population declines through reduction of fitness (e.g., decline in body condition) and subsequent reduction in reproductive success, survival, or both (e.g., Harrington and Veitch, 1992; Daan et al., 1996; Bradshaw et al., 1998). However, Ridgway et al. (2006) reported that increased vigilance in bottlenose dolphins exposed to sound over a fiveday period did not cause any sleep deprivation or stress effects. Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hour cycle). Disruption of such functions resulting from reactions to stressors such as sound exposure 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). Note that there is a difference between multi-day substantive behavioral reactions and multi-day anthropogenic activities. For example, just because an activity lasts for multiple days does not necessarily mean that individual animals are either exposed to activity-related stressors for multiple days or, further, exposed in a manner resulting in sustained multi-day substantive behavioral responses. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 Stress responses—An animal’s perception of a threat may be sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle 1950; Moberg 2000). In many cases, an animal’s first and sometimes most economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an animal’s fitness. Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-pituitaryadrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that are affected by stress—including immune competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior—are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated with stress (Romano et al., 2004). The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and ‘‘distress’’ is the cost of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves sufficient to restore normal function. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals (e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., Romano et al., 2002a). For PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be classified as ‘‘distress.’’ In addition, any animal experiencing TTS would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003). Auditory masking—Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering with, an animal’s ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to mask biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and to an animal’s hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation conditions. Under certain circumstances, marine mammals experiencing significant masking could also be impaired from maximizing their performance fitness in survival and reproduction. Therefore, when the coincident (masking) sound is man-made, it may be considered harassment when disrupting or altering critical behaviors. It is important to distinguish TTS and PTS, which persist after the sound exposure, from masking, which occurs during the sound exposure. Because masking (without resulting in TS) is not associated with abnormal physiological function, it is not considered a physiological effect, but rather a potential behavioral effect. The frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important in determining any potential behavioral impacts. For example, low-frequency signals may have less effect on highfrequency echolocation sounds produced by odontocetes but are more E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices likely to affect detection of mysticete communication calls and other potentially important natural sounds such as those produced by surf and some prey species. The masking of communication signals by anthropogenic noise may be considered as a reduction in the communication space of animals (e.g., Clark et al., 2009) and may result in energetic or other costs as animals change their vocalization behavior (e.g., Miller et al., 2000; Foote et al., 2004; Parks et al., 2007b; Di Iorio and Clark 2009; Holt et al., 2009). Masking can be reduced in situations where the signal and noise come from different directions (Richardson et al., 1995), through amplitude modulation of the signal, or through other compensatory behaviors (Houser and Moore 2014). Masking can be tested directly in captive species (e.g., Erbe 2008), but in wild populations it must be either modeled or inferred from evidence of masking compensation. There are few studies addressing real-world masking sounds likely to be experienced by marine mammals in the wild (e.g., Branstetter et al., 2013). Masking affects both senders and receivers of acoustic signals and can potentially have long-term chronic effects on marine mammals at the population level as well as at the individual level. Low-frequency ambient sound levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than three times in terms of SPL) in the world’s ocean from pre-industrial periods, with most of the increase from distant commercial shipping (Hildebrand 2009). All anthropogenic sound sources, but especially chronic and lower-frequency signals (e.g., from vessel traffic), contribute to elevated ambient sound levels, thus intensifying masking. mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Acoustic Effects, Underwater Potential Effects of Pile Driving Sound The effects of sounds from pile driving might include one or more of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment, non-auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, and masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et al., 2003; Nowacek et al., 2007; Southall et al., 2007). The effects of pile driving on marine mammals are dependent on several factors, including the type and depth of the animal; the pile size and type, and the intensity and duration of the pile driving sound; the substrate; the standoff distance between the pile and the animal; and the sound propagation properties of the environment. Impacts to marine mammals from pile driving VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 activities are expected to result primarily from acoustic pathways. As such, the degree of effect is intrinsically related to the frequency, received level, and duration of the sound exposure, which are in turn influenced by the distance between the animal and the source. The further away from the source, the less intense the exposure should be. The substrate and depth of the habitat affect the sound propagation properties of the environment. In addition, substrates that are soft (e.g., sand) would absorb or attenuate the sound more readily than hard substrates (e.g., rock), which may reflect the acoustic wave. Soft porous substrates would also likely require less time to drive the pile, and possibly less forceful equipment, which would ultimately decrease the intensity of the acoustic source. In the absence of mitigation, impacts to marine species could be expected to include physiological and behavioral responses to the acoustic signature (Viada et al., 2008). Potential effects from impulsive sound sources like pile driving can range in severity from effects such as behavioral disturbance to temporary or permanent hearing impairment (Yelverton et al., 1973). Due to the nature of the pile driving sounds in the project, behavioral disturbance is the most likely effect from the proposed activity. Marine mammals exposed to high intensity sound repeatedly or for prolonged periods can experience hearing threshold shifts. PTS constitutes injury, but TTS does not (Southall et al., 2007). Based on the best scientific information available, the SPLs for the construction activities in this project are below the thresholds that could cause TTS or the onset of PTS (Table 4). Non-auditory Physiological Effects Non-auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically might occur in marine mammals exposed to strong underwater sound include stress, neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; Southall et al., 2007). Studies examining such effects are limited. In general, little is known about the potential for pile driving to cause non-auditory physical effects in marine mammals. Available data suggest that such effects, if they occur at all, would presumably be limited to short distances from the sound source and to activities that extend over a prolonged period. The available data do not allow identification of a specific exposure level above which non-auditory effects can be expected (Southall et al., 2007) or any meaningful quantitative PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42317 predictions of the numbers (if any) of marine mammals that might be affected in those ways. We do not expect any non-auditory physiological effects because of mitigation that prevents animals from approach the source too closely, as well as source levels with very small Level A isopleths. Marine mammals that show behavioral avoidance of pile driving, including some odontocetes and some pinnipeds, are especially unlikely to incur onauditory physical effects. Disturbance Reactions Responses to continuous sound, such as vibratory pile installation, have not been documented as well as responses to pulsed sounds. With both types of pile driving, it is likely that the onset of pile driving could result in temporary, short term changes in an animal’s typical behavior and/or avoidance of the affected area. These behavioral changes may include (Richardson et al., 1995): 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 sound sources are located; and/or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haul-outs or rookeries). Pinnipeds may increase their haul-out time, possibly to avoid inwater disturbance (Thorson and Reyff 2006). If a marine mammal responds to a stimulus by changing its behavior (e.g., through relatively minor changes in locomotion direction/speed or vocalization behavior), the response may or may not constitute taking at the individual level, and is unlikely to affect the stock or the species as a whole. However, if a sound source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on animals, and if so potentially on the stock or species, could potentially be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder 2007; Weilgart 2007). 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 could be expected to be biologically significant if the change affects growth, survival, or reproduction. Significant behavioral modifications that could potentially lead to effects on growth, survival, or reproduction include: E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42318 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES • Drastic changes in diving/surfacing patterns (such as those thought to cause beaked whale stranding due to exposure to military mid-frequency tactical sonar); • Longer-term habitat abandonment due to loss of desirable acoustic environment; and • Longer-term cessation of feeding or social interaction. The onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic sound depends on both external factors (characteristics of sound sources and their paths) and the specific characteristics of the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography) and is difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007). Auditory Masking Natural and artificial sounds can disrupt behavior by masking. The frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important in determining any potential behavioral impacts. Because sound generated from in-water pile driving is mostly concentrated at low frequency ranges, it may have less effect on high frequency echolocation sounds made by porpoises. The most intense underwater sounds in the proposed action are those produced by impact pile driving. Given that the energy distribution of pile driving covers a broad frequency spectrum, sound from these sources would likely be within the audible range of marine mammals present in the project area. Impact pile driving activity is relatively short-term, with rapid pulses occurring for approximately fifteen minutes per pile. The probability for impact pile driving resulting from this proposed action masking acoustic signals important to the behavior and survival of marine mammal species is low. Vibratory pile driving is also relatively short-term, with rapid oscillations occurring for approximately one and a half hours per pile. It is possible that vibratory pile driving resulting from this proposed action may mask acoustic signals important to the behavior and survival of marine mammal species, but the short-term duration and limited affected area would result in insignificant impacts from masking. Any masking event that could possibly rise to Level B harassment under the MMPA would occur concurrently within the zones of behavioral harassment already estimated for vibratory and impact pile driving, and which have already been taken into account in the exposure analysis. Pile driving would occur for only two to three hours per day for two to three days so we do not anticipate masking to significantly affect marine mammals. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 Acoustic Effects, Airborne Pinnipeds that occur near the project site could be exposed to airborne sounds associated with pile driving that have the potential to cause behavioral harassment, depending on their distance from pile driving activities. This primarily is related to harbor seals due to the close proximity of the adjacent rookery; however, California sea lions may also be randomly haul-out nearby. Cetaceans are not expected to be exposed to airborne sounds that would result in harassment as defined under the MMPA. Airborne noise will primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise levels elevated above the acoustic criteria. The airborne threshold for harbor seals is 90 dB rms re 20mPa and for other pinnipeds is 100 dB rms re 20mPa. We recognize that pinnipeds in the water could be exposed to airborne sound that may result in behavioral harassment when looking with their heads above water. Most likely, airborne sound would cause behavioral responses similar to those discussed above in relation to underwater sound. For instance, anthropogenic sound could cause hauled-out pinnipeds to exhibit changes in their normal behavior, such as reduction in vocalizations, or cause them to temporarily abandon the area and move further from the source. However, these animals would previously have been ‘taken’ as a result of exposure to underwater sound above the behavioral harassment thresholds, which are in all cases larger than those associated with airborne sound. Thus, the behavioral harassment of these animals is already accounted for in these estimates of potential take. Multiple instances of exposure to sound above NMFS’ thresholds for behavioral harassment are not believed to result in increased behavioral disturbance, in either nature or intensity of disturbance reaction. Therefore, we do not believe that authorization of incidental take resulting from airborne sound for pinnipeds is warranted, and airborne sound is not discussed further here. Anticipated Effects on Habitat The proposed activities at the Project area would not result in permanent negative impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals, but may have potential short-term impacts to food sources such as forage fish and may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion above). There are no known foraging hotspots or other ocean bottom structure of significant biological PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 importance to marine mammals present in the marine waters of the project area during the construction window. Therefore, the main impact issue associated with the proposed activity would be temporarily elevated sound levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals, as discussed previously in this document. The primary potential acoustic impacts to marine mammal habitat are associated with elevated sound levels produced by vibratory and impact pile driving in the area. Physical impacts to the environment such as construction debris are unlikely and no pile driving will occur on the haulout beach. In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Prey (Fish) Construction activities would produce continuous (i.e., vibratory pile driving) and pulsed (i.e. impact driving) sounds. Fish react to sounds that are especially strong and/or intermittent lowfrequency sounds. Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local distribution. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies have documented effects of pile driving on fish, although several are based on studies in support of large, multiyear bridge construction projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings 2009). Sound pulses at received levels of 160 dB may cause subtle changes in fish behavior. SPLs of 180 dB may cause noticeable changes in behavior (Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992). SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish and fish mortality. The most likely impact to fish from pile driving activities at the project area would be temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated. In general, impacts to marine mammal prey species are expected to be minor and temporary due to the short timeframe for the project. In summary, given the short daily duration of sound associated with individual pile driving events and the relatively small areas being affected, pile driving associated with the proposed action are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat, or populations of fish species. Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices for individual marine mammals or their populations. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS’ consideration of whether the number of takes is ‘‘small’’ and the negligible impact determination. Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of 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). Authorized takes would be by Level B harassment only, in the form of disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals resulting from exposure to pile driving. Based on the nature of the activity, Level A harassment is neither anticipated nor proposed to be authorized. As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Described in the most basic way, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these components in more detail and present the proposed take estimate. Acoustic Thresholds Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A harassment). Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources—Though significantly driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2011). Based on what the available science indicates and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine 42319 mammals are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 120 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for continuous (e.g. vibratory piledriving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. Venoco’s project includes the use of continuous (vibratory pile driving) and impulsive (impact pile driving) sources, and therefore the 120 and 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) thresholds are applicable. Level A harassment for non-explosive sources—NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Technical Guidance, 2016) identifies dual criteria to assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or nonimpulsive). Venoco’s construction activity includes the use of impulsive (impact pile driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving) sources. These thresholds were developed by compiling and synthesizing the best available science and soliciting input multiple times from both the public and peer reviewers to inform the final product, and are provided in the table below. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/ guidelines.htm. TABLE 4—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT PTS onset acoustic thresholds * (received level) Hearing group Impulsive mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans ..................................... Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans ..................................... High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ................................... Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater) ............................ Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater) ............................ Cell Cell Cell Cell Cell 1: 3: 5: 7: 9: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: 219 230 202 218 232 dB; dB; dB; dB; dB; Non-impulsive LE,LF,24h: 183 dB ....................... LE,MF,24h: 185 dB ...................... LE,HF,24h: 155 dB ...................... LE,PW,24h: 185 dB ...................... LE,OW,24h: 203 dB ..................... Cell Cell Cell Cell Cell 2: LE,LF,24h: 199 dB. 4: LE,MF,24h: 198 dB. 6: LE,HF,24h: 173 dB. 8: LE,PW,24h: 201 dB. 10: LE,OW,24h: 219 dB. * Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for calculating PTS onset. If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered. Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 μPa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has a reference value of 1μPa2s. In this Table, hresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ‘‘flat’’ is being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be exceeded. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42320 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices Ensonified Area Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the acoustic thresholds. Pile driving generates underwater noise that can potentially result in disturbance to marine mammals in the project area. Transmission loss (TL) is the decrease in acoustic intensity as an acoustic pressure wave propagates out from a source. TL parameters vary with frequency, temperature, sea conditions, current, source and receiver depth, water depth, water chemistry, and bottom composition and topography. The general formula for underwater TL is: TL = B * log10(R1/R2), mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Where: R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven pile, and R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial measurement. This formula neglects loss due to scattering and absorption, which is assumed to be zero here. The degree to which underwater sound propagates away from a sound source is dependent on a variety of factors, most notably the water bathymetry and presence or absence of reflective or absorptive conditions including in-water structures and sediments. Spherical spreading occurs in a perfectly unobstructed (freefield) environment not limited by depth or water surface, resulting in a 6 dB reduction in sound level for each doubling of distance from the source (20*log[range]). Cylindrical spreading occurs in an environment in which sound propagation is bounded by the water surface and sea bottom, resulting in a reduction of 3 dB in sound level for each doubling of distance from the source (10*log[range]). A practical spreading value of 15 is often used under conditions, such as at the Biorka Island dock, where water increases with depth as the receiver moves away from the shoreline, resulting in an expected propagation environment that would lie between spherical and cylindrical spreading loss conditions. Practical spreading loss (4.5 dB reduction in sound level for each doubling of distance) is assumed here. Underwater Sound—The intensity of pile driving sounds is greatly influenced by factors such as the type of piles, hammers, and the physical environment in which the activity takes place. A number of studies, primarily on the west coast, have measured sound produced during underwater pile driving projects. These data are largely for impact driving of steel pipe piles VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 and concrete piles as well as vibratory driving of steel pipe piles. Reference sound levels used by Venoco were based on underwater sound measurements documented for a number of pile-driving projects with similar pile sizes and types at similar sites in California (i.e., areas of soft substrate where water depths are less than 16 feet (5 meters) (Caltrans 2009)). The noise energy would dissipate as it spreads from the pile at a rate of at least 4.5 dB per doubling of distance, which is practical spreading (Caltrans 2009). This is a conservative value for areas of shallow water with soft substrates, and actual dissipation rates would likely be higher. Using this information, and the pile information presented in Table 1, underwater sound levels were estimated using the practical spreading model to determine over what distance the thresholds would be exceeded. Venoco used the NMFS Optional User Spreadsheet, available at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/ Acoustic%20Guidance%20Files/ march_v1.1_blank_spreadsheet.xlsx, to input project-specific parameters and calculate the isopleths for Level A and Level B zones from both impact and vibratory pile driving. Input to the Optional User Spreadsheet are based on project-specific parameters that provide the sound source characteristics, including the estimated duration of pile driving, the estimated number of strikes per pile (for the impact hammer method); and the maximum number of piles to be driven in a day. The estimated source level, duration of pile driving for each pile, the number of strikes per pile (for impact driving), and the number of piles per day for each pile driving method, as listed in Table 1. As noted in Table 1, each pile will require approximately 25 minutes of vibratory driving, and up to 6 piles could be installed by this method in a single day. During this time the sound levels above and below water will be in excess of normal pier operations. In the unlikely event that an impact hammer is used, installation of a single pile will require an estimated 400 hammer strikes over 15 minutes, and up to 6 piles could be installed by this method in a single day. Venoco used the Caltrans (2015) guidelines for selection of an appropriate pile driving sound source level for a composite 50-foot, 16-inch pipe/12-foot,14-inch H-pile configuration, for both vibratory and impact driving methods, taking into consideration that only the H-pile segment of the pile (the bottom portion) will be driven below the mudline, thus the predominant underwater noise PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 source will emanate from the steel pipe segment. Source Levels For the impact hammer method, the average sound pressure level measured in dB is based on the 16-inch steel pipe sound levels (Caltrans 2015, Table I.2– 1), adjusted upward for the composite 16-inch pipe/14-inch H-pile design because the sound level for the composite pile is anticipated to be greater than the Caltrans reference sound level for 16-inch steel pipe (158 dB), but less than the Caltrans reference sound level for 14-inch steel H-pile (177 dB). As described above, the replacement piles will be a composite of two materials, pre-welded into a single pile prior to driving. The upper section will consist of 48 to 50 feet (15 meters) of 16-inch diameter x 0.50-inch wall thickness pipe pile and the bottom segment will consist of a 12-foot (4meter) long 14 inch x 73 pound H-pile. The water depth ranges from 13 to 27 feet (4 to 8 meters) at the end of the Pier, with seasonal variations due to beach sand withdraw and return between the winter and summer seasons. When impact driving is initiated the H-pile will partially enter the mud substrate (e.g., up to two to four feet) pushed by hammer weight and the weight of the pipe itself due to soft substrate (mud) at the seafloor surface. Thus, when impact driving begins only a portion of the 12foot H pile would be exposed in the water column and most of the length of pile within the water column will be steel pipe pile. As pile driving progresses, the H-pile portion of the fender pile will continue to enter the seabed, and the proportion of H-pile to steel pipe exposed to the water column will decrease until the H-pile is entirely buried or until pile driving is suspended at a minimum depth of 6 feet. Consequently, the sound level for the composite pile is anticipated to be greater than the Caltrans reference sound level for 16-inch steel pipe (158 dB), and less than the Caltrans reference sound level for 14-inch steel H-pile (177 dB). Based on these factors, the reference sound level from composite pile was based on 16-inch steel pipe pile, with an upward adjustment of 6 dB (to 164 dB). This 6 dB adjustment is divided into two parts: 3 dB (one doubling) adjustment for the H-pile itself (i.e., the portion of H-pile being driven by impact hammer); and 3 dB (a second doubling) adjustment for the H-pile that is acting as a foundation, and thus providing some resistance to the pipe pile while it is being driven by impact hammer. This sound level, which represents two E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42321 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices doublings of the reference sound level of the 16-inch steel pipe, is considered sufficiently conservative to account for the H-pile portion of the fender pile that would be exposed in the water column and serving as a foundation to the pipe pile during impact driving. For the vibratory driving method, the average sound pressure level measured in dB is based on the 12-inch H-pile sound levels (Caltrans 2015, Table I.2– 2), adjusted upward by 4 dB for composite 16-inch pipe/14-inch H-pile design. Caltrans data do not include specific vibratory reference sound levels for the 14-inch H-pile. Therefore, it was assumed that doubling the reference sound level for 12-inch H-pile plus 1 dB [i.e., a 4 dB increase], would provide a sufficiently conservative assumption for a 14-inch H-pile. TABLE 5—NMFS OPTION USER SPREADSHEET INPUTS User spreadsheet input Impact driver Vibratory driver Spreadsheet Tab Used ............................................... (E.1) Impact piledriving ..... Spreadsheet Tab Used ..... Source Level (Single Strike/shot SEL) ....................... Weighting Factor Adjustment (kHz) ............................ 197.8 .................................. 2 ......................................... (a) Number of strikes per pile ..................................... 400 ..................................... Source Level (RMS SPL) .. Weighting Factor Adjustment (kHz). Activity duration within 24 hours (hrs). (a) Number of piles per day ........................................ Propagation (xLogR) ................................................... Distance of source level measurement (meters) + ...... 6. 15 ....................................... 10 ....................................... + Unless Propagation (xLogR) ......... ............................................ (A) Non-impulsive, continuous. 154. 2.5. 2.5. 15. 10. otherwise specified, source levels are referenced 1 m from the source. Level A Isopleths When NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in the new thresholds, we developed an Optional User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going to be overestimates of some degree, which will result in some degree of overestimate of Level A take. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address the output where appropriate. For stationary sources, NMFS Optional User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which, if a marine mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the activity, it would not incur PTS. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet, and the resulting isopleths are reported below. The inputs Venoco used to obtain the isopleths discussed below are summarized in Table 5 above. TABLE 6—EXPECTED DISTANCES OF LEVEL A THRESHOLD EXCEEDANCE WITH IMPACT AND VIBRATORY DRIVER User spreadsheet output PTS isopleth (meters) Lowfrequency cetaceans Source type Impact driving ....................................................................... Vibratory driving ................................................................... mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Level B Isopleths Using the same source level and transmission loss inputs discussed in the Level A isopleths section above, the Level B distance was calculated for both impact and vibratory driving, assuming practical spreading. For vibratory driving, the Level B isopleth extends out to 1,848 meters (1.15 miles; 6,063 feet) from the pile driving site. For impact driving, the Level B isopleth extends out to 34 meters (112 feet) from the pile driving site. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 Midfrequency cetaceans 96.9 4.3 Highfrequency cetaceans 3.4 0.4 115.4 6.4 Phocid pinnipeds 51.8 2.6 Otariid pinnipeds 3.8 0.2 TABLE 7—EXPECTED DISTANCES OF or group dynamics of marine mammals LEVEL B THRESHOLD EXCEEDANCE that will inform the take calculations. WITH IMPACT AND VIBRATORY DRIVAt-sea densities for marine mammal ER Level B isopleth (meters) Source type 160 dB (impact) Impact driving ....... Vibratory driving .... 74 N/A 120 dB (vibratory) N/A 1,848 Marine Mammal Occurrence In this section we provide the information about the presence, density, PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 species have not been determined for marine mammals in the coastal Carpinteria area; therefore, all estimates here are determined by using observational data from biologists, peerreviewed literature, and information obtained from personal communication with other companies that have conducted activities on or near the Carpinteria beach area. Additionally, some harbor seal information was collected by the Carpinteria Seal Watch. E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42322 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Take Calculation and Estimation Here we describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. Level A take is not expected or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Of the two types of pile driving, the largest Level A isopleth is from impact driving at 51.8 meters for harbor seals, 3.8 meters for California sea lion, and 3.45 meters for bottlenose dolphins. Neither bottlenose dolphins nor California sea lions are resident to this area and are not expected to remain in water near the beach for an extended duration of time. At 15 minutes per pile, this is equal to 90 minutes per day; however, those 90 minutes would be spread out over multiple hours to account for equipment re-sets, breaks, etc. Because dolphin and sea lion are not resident and not known to linger in the area, full exposure to all impact pile driving within a day is highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely that these species would remain within 4 meters of the sound source for a continuous period of two and a half hours in a day. Harbor seals are resident to the area and the beach at the base of the pier is a frequently used haulout. However, it is unlikely a harbor seal would remain in water during the total time of construction within a day, as they likely will be transiting out from the beach to forage and then returning to the beach. Therefore, it is estimated that no marine mammal of the three species most likely to occur would remain in close enough proximity for the duration of daily construction to be exposed to accumulated energy levels reaching the onset of PTS. Hence no Level A take is proposed to be authorized. Because of the lack of at-sea density information in the region of the project, estimated marine mammal takes were calculated using the following formula: Level B exposure estimate = N (number of animals) in the ensonified area * Number of days of noise generating activities. Harbor Seal Harbor seals are the most abundant species found at the project site. This beach is a known rookery for the local population, although work will be conducted outside of the pupping season. Although a wealth of data exists from the Carpinteria Seal Watch, these data are sometimes incomplete and data from some periods are missing. Moreover, these data were gathered during the period the Carpinteria Seal Watch does its monitoring (about January 1 through May 30 of each year). From June 1 through December 30 of VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 each year, such data are virtually absent. The project is scheduled to begin in the fall, when the seals have largely abandoned the beach because it is open to the public and disturbances are chronic. The seals switch to a nighttime haul-out pattern during this period, hauling out after sundown and before dawn, unless the tide is very high (Seagars 1988). In such cases, the amount of haul-out area is very restricted and the seals are largely absent during this season. Reliable density data are not available from which to calculate the expected number of harbor seals within the Level B harassment zone from vibratory pile driving. Based on review of the available observational data, similar past experience in the project vicinity, and project timing (fall season, daytime hours), an estimated range of 0 to 50 harbor seals is anticipated to be present within the project vicinity during work periods. Therefore, it is estimated that up to 50 seals may be taken per day by Level B harassment. Over two and a half days of activity, that results in a total of 125 instances of harbor seal takes during the project. California Sea Lion California sea lions are abundant throughout the SCB but do not regularly use Carpinteria as a haulout in large numbers. Individuals are usually observed hauled out on offshore structures approximately 0.75 miles southeast of the pier. Reliable density data are not available from which to calculate the expected number of sea lions within the Level B harassment impact zone for vibratory pile. Based on the available observational data and project timing (fall season), an estimated range of zero to 15 sea lions is anticipated to be present within the project vicinity during work periods. Therefore it is estimated that up to 15 California sea lions may be taken per day by Level B harassment in a day. Over two and a half days of activity, that results in a total of 38 California sea lions taken during the project as it is not known if the California sea lions that come to the beach are the same individuals. Bottlenose Dolphin Bottlenose dolphins may occur sporadically near the project area, but never in large numbers. Past projects have revealed anywhere from 2 to 32 animals present at any one time, with an average pod size of 8 (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 2014b). Therefore, it is estimated that no more than 16 coastal bottlenose dolphins (two pods of PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 average group size) may be taken by Level B harassment in a day. Over two and a half days of activity, that results in a total of 40 bottlenose dolphins taken during the project as it is not known if any of the animals sighted would be repeated individuals. Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an IHA 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 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 (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS regulations require applicants for incidental take authorizations to include information about the availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 216.104(a)(11)). In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we carefully consider two primary factors: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented (probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as planned) the likelihood of effective implementation (probability implemented as planned). and; (2) the practicability of the measures for applicant implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. The following measures would apply to Venoco’s mitigation through shutdown and disturbance zones: E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices Shutdown Zone For all pile driving activities, Venoco will establish a shutdown zone intended to contain the area in which SELs equal or exceed the auditory injury criteria for cetaceans and pinnipeds. The purpose of a shutdown zone is to define an area within which shutdown of activity would occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering the defined area), thus further preventing injury of marine mammals (as described previously under Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals, serious injury or death are unlikely outcomes even in the absence of mitigation measures). Venoco proposes a shutdown zone for the largest Level A isopleth, which is the phocid Level A isopleth of 51.8 meters. mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Disturbance Zone Disturbance zones are the areas in which SPLs equal or exceed 160 and 120 dB rms (for impact and vibratory pile driving, respectively). Disturbance zones provide utility for monitoring conducted for mitigation purposes (i.e., shutdown zone monitoring) by establishing monitoring protocols for areas adjacent to the shutdown zones and identifying amount of take. Monitoring of disturbance zones enables observers to be aware of and communicate the presence of marine mammals in the project area but outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for potential shutdowns of activity. However, the primary purpose of disturbance zone monitoring is for documenting instances of Level B harassment; disturbance zone monitoring is discussed in greater detail later (see Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). Nominal radial distances for disturbance zones are shown in Table 7. Given the size of the disturbance zone for vibratory pile driving, it is impossible to guarantee that all animals would be observed or to make comprehensive observations of finescale behavioral reactions to sound, and only a portion of the zone (e.g., what may be reasonably observed by visual observers stationed on the pier and bluff above the beach) would be observed. In order to document observed instances of harassment, monitors record all marine mammal observations, regardless of location. The observer’s location, as well as the location of the pile being driven, is known from a GPS. The location of the animal is estimated as a distance from the observer, which is then compared to the location from the pile. It may then be estimated whether the animal was exposed to sound levels constituting incidental harassment on VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 42323 the basis of predicted distances to relevant thresholds in post-processing of observational and acoustic data, and a precise accounting of observed incidences of harassment created. This information may then be used to extrapolate observed takes in the observable zone multiplied by the porton of the zone that is unseen to reach an approximate understanding of predicted total takes (Area seen/area unseen = takes observed/takes unobserved). Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. driving will not commence or proceed if it is underway. If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone during the course of pile driving operations, activity will be halted and delayed until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed without re-detection. If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or if a species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, approaches or is observed within the Level B harassment zone, activities will shut down immediately and not restart until the animals have been confirmed to have left the area for 15 minutes. If pile driving has ceased for more than 30 minutes, the 30 minute pre- pile driving monitoring will begin. Monitoring Protocols Soft Start Monitoring would be conducted before, during, and after pile driving activities. Observers shall record all instances of marine mammal occurrence, regardless of distance from activity, and shall document any apparent behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles being driven. Observations made outside the shutdown zone will not result in shutdown; that pile segment would be completed without cessation, unless the animal approaches or enters the shutdown zone, at which point all pile driving activities would be halted. Monitoring will take place from 15 minutes prior to initiation through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activities. Pile driving activities include the time to install a single pile or series of piles, as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile driving equipment is no more than 30 minutes. If pile driving ceases for more than 30 minutes, the 30 minute pre-pile driving monitoring effort will take place prior to onset of pile driving. Prior to the start of pile driving activity, the shutdown zone will be monitored for 30 minutes to ensure that it is clear of marine mammals. Pile driving will only commence once observers have declared the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. If the shutdown zone is not clear of marine mammals, pile driving will not commence until the shut-down zone is clear. Any animals in the shut down zone prior to commencement of pile driving will be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone and their behavior will be monitored and documented. If the 51.84 m shutdown zone is not entirely visible (e.g., due to dark, fog, etc.), pile The use of a soft start procedure provides additional protection to marine mammals by warning or providing a chance to leave the area prior to the hammer operating at full capacity, and typically involves a requirement to initiate sound from the hammer at reduced energy followed by a waiting period. This procedure is repeated two additional times. It is difficult to specify the reduction in energy for any given hammer because of variation across drivers and, for impact hammers, the actual number of strikes at reduced energy will vary because operating the hammer at less than full power results in ‘‘bouncing’’ of the hammer as it strikes the pile, resulting in multiple ‘‘strikes.’’ For impact driving, we require an initial set of three strikes from the impact hammer at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period, then 2 subsequent 3 strike sets. Soft start will be required at the beginning of each day’s impact pile driving work and at any time following a cessation of impact pile driving of 30 minutes or longer. PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Timing Restrictions Venoco will only conduct construction activities during daytime hours. Construction will also be restricted to the fall and late summer months (July through November) to avoid overlap with harbor seal pupping. Based on our evaluation of the Venoco’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, E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42324 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Proposed Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an IHA 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 authorizations 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. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density). • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas). • Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors. • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks. • Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of marine mammal habitat). • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Visual Marine Mammal Observations Venoco will collect sighting data and behavioral responses to construction for marine mammal species observed in the region of activity during the period of VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 activity. All marine mammal observers (MMOs) will be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors and are required to have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring. A minimum of two MMOs will be required for all pile driving activities. Venoco will monitor the shutdown zone and disturbance zone before, during, and after pile driving, with observers located at the best practicable vantage points. Based on our requirements, Venoco would implement the following procedures for pile driving: • MMOs would be located at the best vantage point(s) in order to properly see the entire shutdown zone and as much of the disturbance zone as possible; • During all observation periods, observers will use binoculars and the naked eye to search continuously for marine mammals; • If the shutdown zones are obscured by fog or poor lighting conditions, pile driving at that location will not be initiated until that zone is visible. Should such conditions arise while impact driving is underway, the activity would be halted; and • The shutdown zone (51.84 m) and observable portion of the disturbance zone around the pile will be monitored for the presence of marine mammals 30 min before, during, and 30 min after any pile driving activity. Data Collection We require that observers use approved data forms. Among other pieces of information, Venoco will record detailed information about any implementation of shutdowns, including the distance of animals to the pile and description of specific actions that ensued and resulting behavior of the animal, if any. In addition, Venoco will attempt to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take. We require that, at a minimum, the following information be collected on the sighting forms: • Date and time that monitored activity begins or ends; • Construction activities occurring during each observation period; • Weather parameters (e.g., percent cover, visibility); • Water conditions (e.g., sea state, tide state); • Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of marine mammals; • Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel, and if possible, the correlation to SPLs; PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 • Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point; • Description of implementation of mitigation measures (e.g., shutdown or delay); • Locations of all marine mammal observations; and • Other human activity in the area. Reporting A draft report would be submitted to NMFS within 90 days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 60 days prior to the requested date of issuance of any future IHA for projects at the same location, whichever comes first. The report will include marine mammal observations pre-activity, during-activity, and post-activity during pile driving days, and will also provide descriptions of any behavioral responses to construction activities by marine mammals and a complete description of all mitigation shutdowns and the results of those actions and an extrapolated total take estimate based on the number of marine mammals observed during the course of construction. A final report must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of comments on the draft report. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined negligible impact 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 (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS’s implementing regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices incorporated into this analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise levels). Pile driving activities associated from the Casitas Pier project, as outlined previously, have the potential to disturb or displace marine mammals. Specifically, the specified activities may result in take, in the form of Level B harassment (behavioral disturbance), from underwater sounds generated from pile driving. Potential takes could occur if individuals of these species are present in the ensonified zone when pile driving occurs. No serious injury or mortality is anticipated given the nature of the activities and measures designed to minimize the possibility of injury to marine mammals. The potential for these outcomes is minimized through the construction method and the implementation of the planned mitigation measures. Specifically, vibratory and impact hammers and drilling will be the primary methods of installation. Impact pile driving produces short, sharp pulses with higher peak levels and much sharper rise time to reach those peaks. If impact driving is necessary, implementation of soft start and shutdown zones significantly reduces any possibility of injury. Given sufficient ‘‘notice’’ through use of soft start (for impact driving), marine mammals are expected to move away from a sound source that is annoying prior to it becoming potentially injurious. Venoco will use a minimum of two MMOs stationed strategically to increase detectability of marine mammals, enabling a high rate of success in implementation of shutdowns to avoid injury. Venoco’s proposed activities are localized and of relatively short duration (two and a half days of pile driving 16 piles). The project area is also very limited in scope spatially, as all work is concentrated on a single pier. These localized and short-term noise exposures may cause short-term behavioral modifications in harbor seals, California sea lions, and killer whales. Moreover, the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to further reduce the likelihood of injury, as it is unlikely an animal would remain in close proximity to the sound source with small Level A isoplths, as well as reduce behavioral disturbances. While the project area is VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 known to be a rookery for harbor seals, the work will be conducted in a season when few harbor seals are known to be present and no breeding activities occur. The project also is not expected to have significant adverse effects on affected marine mammals’ habitat. The project activities would not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant amount of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals’ foraging opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range. However, because of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area of the habitat that may be affected, and the decreased potential of prey species to be in the Project area during the construction work window, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative consequences. Effects on individuals that are taken by Level B harassment, on the basis of reports in the literature as well as monitoring from other similar activities, will likely be limited to temporary reactions such as increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, flushing, or decreased foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and Reyff 2006; Lerma 2014). Most likely, individuals will simply move away from the sound source and be temporarily displaced from the areas of pile driving and drilling, although even this reaction has been observed primarily only in association with impact pile driving. Thus, even repeated Level B harassment of some small subset of the overall stock is unlikely to result in any significant realized decrease in fitness for the affected individuals, and thus would not result in any adverse impact to the stock as a whole. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: • No mortality is anticipated or authorized; • Level B harassment may consist of, at worst, temporary modifications in behavior (e.g. temporary avoidance of habitat or changes in behavior); • The lack of important feeding, pupping, or other areas in the action area during the construction window; • The small impact area relative to species range size PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42325 • Mitigation is expected to minimize the likelihood and severity of the level of harassment; and • The small percentage of the stock that may be affected by project activities (<9 percent for all stocks). 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 proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be authorized under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not define small numbers and so, in practice, where estimated numbers are available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. Table 8 details the number of instances (harbor seals) or individuals (California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins) that animals could be exposed to received noise levels that could cause Level B harassment for the proposed work at the project site relative to the total stock abundance. The numbers of animals authorized to be taken for all species would be considered small relative to the relevant stocks or populations even if each estimated instance of take occurred to a new individual. The total percent of the population (if each instance was a separate individual) for which take is requested is less than nine percent for all stocks (Table 8). Based on the analysis contained herein of the proposed activity (including the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species or stocks. E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 42326 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices TABLE 8—ESTIMATED NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGE OF STOCK THAT MAY BE EXPOSED TO LEVEL B HARASSMENT Proposed authorized Level B takes Species Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) Alaska stock .................................................................................. California sea lion (Eumatopias jubatus) U.S. Stock .................................................................. Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) California-Oregon-Washington Stock California Coastal Stock ........................................................................................................................... 1 All Percentage of total stock (percent) 125 38 30,968 296,750 .40 .013 40 1,924 453 2.1 8.83 stock abundance estimates presented here are from the 2016 Pacific and Alaska Stock Assessment Report. Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination There are no relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal stocks or species implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has preliminarily 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. Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally, in this case with West Coast Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. Proposed Authorization mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Stock(s) abundance estimate 1 As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Venoco LLC for conducting fender pile replacement at Casitas Pier from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. 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 Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is valid for 1 year from October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018. 2. This IHA is valid only for pile driving activities associated with the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 Casitas Pier Fender Pile Replacement in Carpinteria, California. 3. General Conditions. (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of Venoco, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of this IHA. (b) The species authorized for taking are summarized in Table 9. (c) The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the species listed in condition 3(b). See Table 9 for numbers of take authorized. being driven, as well as behavior and potential behavioral reactions of the animals. iii. All observers shall be equipped for communication of marine mammal observations amongst themselves and to other relevant personnel (e.g., those necessary to effect activity delay or shutdown). (d) Monitoring shall take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. In the event of a delay or shutdown of TABLE 9—AUTHORIZED TAKE activity resulting from marine mammals NUMBERS in the shutdown zone, animals shall be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone Species Level B (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior shall be monitored Harbor seal ........................... 125 and documented. Monitoring shall California sea lion ................. 38 Killer whale ........................... 40 occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. The shutdown zone must be determined to be clear during periods (d) The taking by injury (Level A of good visibility (i.e., the entire harassment), serious injury, or death of shutdown zone and surrounding waters the species listed in condition 3(b) of must be visible to the naked eye). the Authorization or any taking of any (e) If a marine mammal approaches or other species of marine mammal is enters the 51m shutdown zone, all pile prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation driving activities at that location shall of this IHA, unless authorization of take be halted. If pile driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine by Level A harassment is listed in mammal, the activity may not condition 3(b) of this Authorization. commence or resume until either the 4. Mitigation Measures. animal has voluntarily left and been The holder of this Authorization is visually confirmed beyond the required to implement the following shutdown zone or fifteen minutes have mitigation measures. passed without re-detection of small (a) For all pile driving, Venoco shall cetaceans and pinnipeds. implement a minimum shutdown zone (f) Using delay and shut-down of 51 m radius around the pile. If a procedures, if a species for which marine mammal comes within or authorization has not been granted or if approaches the shutdown zone, such a species for which authorization has operations shall cease. been granted but the authorized takes (b) Venoco shall establish monitoring are met, approaches or is observed locations as described below. Please within the Level B harassment zone, also refer to Venoco’s application (see activities will shut down immediately www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ and not restart until the animals have incidental/construction.htm). been confirmed to have left the area. i. For all pile driving activities, a (g) Venoco shall use soft start minimum of two observers shall be techniques recommended by NMFS for deployed, with one positioned on the impact pile driving. Soft start requires pier and one on the bluff above the contractors to provide an initial set of rookery. ii. These observers shall record all strikes at reduced energy, followed by a observations of marine mammals, thirty-second waiting period, then two regardless of distance from the pile subsequent reduced energy strike sets. PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1 mstockstill on DSK30JT082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 172 / Thursday, September 7, 2017 / Notices Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer. (h) Pile driving shall only be conducted during daylight hours. (i) Pile driving shall only occur during July to November months. 5. Monitoring. The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine mammal monitoring during pile driving and removal activities. Marine mammal monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with the monitoring measures in the application. (a) Venoco shall collect sighting data and behavioral responses to pile driving for marine mammal species observed in the region of activity during the period of activity. All observers shall be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors, and shall have no other construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring. (b) Monitoring shall be conducted by qualified observers. Trained observers shall be placed from the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. Observer training must be provided prior to project start and in accordance with the monitoring measures in the application, and shall include instruction on species identification (sufficient to distinguish the species listed in 3(b)), description and categorization of observed behaviors and interpretation of behaviors that may be construed as being reactions to the specified activity, proper completion of data forms, and other basic components of biological monitoring, including tracking of observed animals or groups of animals such that repeat sound exposures may be attributed to individuals (to the extent possible). (c) For all marine mammal monitoring, the information shall be recorded as described in the monitoring measures section of the application. 6. Reporting. The holder of this Authorization is required to: (a) Submit a draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA within 90 days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 60 days prior to the issuance of any subsequent IHA for projects at the Project area, whichever comes first. A final report shall be prepared and submitted within thirty days following resolution of comments on the draft report from NMFS. This report must contain the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:42 Sep 06, 2017 Jkt 241001 informational elements described in the application, at minimum (see www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/construction.htm), and shall also include: i. Detailed information about any implementation of shutdowns, including the distance of animals to the pile and description of specific actions that ensued and resulting behavior of the animal, if any. ii. Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidents of take, such as ability to track groups or individuals. iii. An estimated total take estimate extrapolated from the number of marine mammals observed during the course of construction activities, if necessary. (b) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals: i. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, such as a serious injury or mortality, Venoco shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: A. Time and date of the incident; B. Description of the incident; C. Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility); D. Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; E. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; F. Fate of the animal(s); and G. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s). Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Venoco to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Venoco may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. ii. In the event that the Venoco discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), Venoco shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified in 6(b)(i) of this IHA. Activities may continue while PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 42327 NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Venoco to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate. iii. In the event that Venoco discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, scavenger damage), Venoco shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Venoco shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS. 7. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals. Request for Public Comments We request comment on our analyses, the draft authorization, and any other aspect of this Notice of Proposed IHA for the proposed fender pile replacement. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. Dated: September 1, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2017–18974 Filed 9–6–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Deep Seabed Mining: Approval of Exploration License Extensions Office for Coastal Management, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of extension of Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Exploration Licenses. AGENCY: NOAA is announcing the approval of two, five-year extensions of deep seabed hard mineral exploration licenses issued under the Deep Seabed SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\07SEN1.SGM 07SEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 172 (Thursday, September 7, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 42306-42327]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-18974]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF603


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Casitas Pier Fender Pile 
Replacement

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 a request from Venoco, LLC (Venoco) for 
authorization to take marine mammals incidental to fender pile 
replacement at Casitas Pier in Carpinteria, CA. Pursuant to the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its 
proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to 
incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS 
will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the 
issuance of the requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will 
be summarized in the final notice of our decision.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than October 
10, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 
1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments 
should be sent to ITP.Young@noaa.gov.
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments 
to electronic comments will be accepted in

[[Page 42307]]

Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments 
received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted 
online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm 
without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, 
address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly 
accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or 
otherwise sensitive or protected information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sara Young, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the application 
and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in 
this document, may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm. In case of problems accessing these 
documents, please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) 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 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.
    The MMPA states that the term ``take'' means to harass, hunt, 
capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine 
mammal.
    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).

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an 
incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts 
on the human environment.
    This action is consistent with categories of activities identified 
in CE B4 of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216-6A, 
which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for 
significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for 
which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would 
preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review.
    We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice 
prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the 
IHA request.

Summary of Request

    On June 13, 2017, NMFS received a request from Venoco LLC for an 
IHA to take marine mammals incidental to replacement of fender piles at 
Casitas Pier in Carpinteria, California. Venoco's request is for take 
of harbor seal, California sea lions, and bottlenose dolphins by Level 
B harassment only. Neither Venoco LLC nor NMFS expect mortality to 
result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    Venoco is proposing to replace 13 fender piles at Casitas Pier 
(herein after ``Pier'') in Carpinteria, California. Fender piles at the 
end of the Pier are used to enable safe transfer of personnel and 
equipment between the Pier and vessels. Certain fender piles on both 
the west and east side of the Pier have failed or are likely to fail 
due to corrosion and physical damage from many years of use and require 
replacement. Repairs are planned prior to the 2017-2018 winter storm 
season to enable safe transfer of personnel and equipment on both sides 
of the Pier.

Dates and Duration

    Venoco proposes to replace these 13 fender piles during the fall of 
2017 to minimize impact to the local harbor seal population which uses 
Carpinteria beach as a haulout. Work on the pier will take place over a 
period of 2 to 3 weeks during fall 2017. Any work that is not completed 
during this period will be deferred to late summer or fall 2018. Two 
and a half days of pile driving are needed to complete the work but 
these days may not be consecutive. The proposed authorization effective 
dates would be October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017 to allow pile 
driving to occur when all of the necessary permits and permissions are 
acquired.

Specific Geographic Region

    The Pier is located on the Pacific Ocean along the south coast of 
Santa Barbara County in Southern California, near the southeastern 
corner of the City of Carpinteria. This area is used routinely for oil 
and gas operations, as well as for recreation. The Carpinteria Bluffs, 
located immediately upland of the Pier, provide a heavily used 
recreational trail system connecting downtown Carpinteria and the 
Carpinteria Beach State Park to the west with the Carpinteria Bluffs 
Nature Preserve to the east. The beach at the base of the Pier is 
accessible from points to the west, and is open to the public during 
summer and fall months. During the City of Carpinteria's established 
beach closure period for the seal pupping season (December 1 to May 
31), the City restricts public access along the beach in an area 
extending approximately 750 feet (230 meters) east and west of the base 
of the Pier.

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    The Pier is owned by the City of Carpinteria and leased to Venoco, 
who operates and maintains the Pier. The Pier is located in offshore 
tidelands, owned and governed by the City of Carpinteria. The Pier was 
built in the mid- to late-1960s and extends approximately 720 feet (220 
meters) from shore. The onshore uplands, adjacent to the Pier, are 
owned by Venoco. Fender piles at the end of the Pier are used to enable 
safe transfer of personnel and equipment between the Pier and vessels. 
Certain fender piles on both the west and east side of the Pier have 
failed or are likely to fail due to corrosion and physical damage from

[[Page 42308]]

many years of use and require replacement. Up to 13 fender piles 
located on the end of the Pier will be replaced (six on west side, and 
seven on the east side). The replacement piles will consist of an upper 
section approximately 48 to 50 feet (15 meters) to long consisting of 
16-inch diameter x 0.50-inch wall thickness steel pipe pile with a 12-
foot (4-meter) long driven lower section consisting of 14 inch x 73 
pound H-pile spliced to the bottom of the upper pipe pile section. 
Epoxy coating will be used on the new fender piles. Installation will 
be accomplished utilizing impact and vibratory pile driving techniques 
supported from the Pier. The replacement piles will be installed offset 
slightly (about 2 feet) from the original fender pile positions. This 
spliced pile design has been in service for more than 60 years at the 
Pier.
    The flow of work for the pile replacement is outlined below. The 
contractor will mobilize diving equipment, welding equipment, 
replacement pile, and associated rigging to the site. Divers, along 
with on-site facility crane and personnel, will remove debris and 
damaged fender pile from the work area, as required. The damaged 
portions of existing fender piles will be cut above the mudline and 
removed, and the remainder of the piles below the mudline will remain 
in place unless they present a hazard to the pier. A project-specific 
pile driving crew, crane and pile driving hammer will be positioned on, 
and operated from, the Pier to place and drive the replacement piles. 
Each new pile will be guided by a diver and positioned adjacent to an 
existing stub. Once positioned, the weight of the pile and vibratory 
pile hammer will be applied to the seabed and the pile will penetrate 
into the seabed slightly. At this point, the diver will confirm that 
the replacement pile remains adjacent to the old stub and exit the 
water or reposition the new pile and repeat. Once the replacement pile 
has slightly penetrated the seabed adjacent to the old pile stub and 
the diver has exited the water, the pile will be driven to an 
approximate elevation of 12 feet (4 meters) below the mudline or to 
refusal. Once the replacement pile is driven, welders will connect the 
replacement pile top to the main horizontal fender beam. Project-
related debris will be removed from the seafloor and Pier. Debris will 
be properly disposed of, and project personnel and equipment will be 
demobilized from site.
    Each pile will require approximately 25 minutes of vibratory 
driving, and up to six piles could be installed by this method in a 
single day (i.e., up to 2.5 hours of vibratory pile driving per day). 
During this time the sound levels above and in water will be in excess 
of normal pier operations. Sound levels from various other fender pile 
construction activities will not be discernible from daily pier 
operations and are below NMFS' thresholds. In the unlikely event that 
an impact hammer is used, installation of a single pile will require an 
estimated 400 hammer strikes over 15 minutes, and up to six piles could 
be installed by this method in a single day (i.e., up to 1.5 hours of 
pile driving per day). This information is summarized in Table 1.

                                    Table 1--Pile Driving Summary Information
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Estimated
                                                    duration of      Estimated    Maximum number  Total duration
               Pile driving method                  driving per     strikes per    of piles per       per day
                                                  pile (minutes)       pile             day          (minutes)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Vibratory Hammer................................              25            N.A.               6             150
Impact Hammer...................................              15             400               6              90
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are 
described in detail later in this document (please see ``Proposed 
Mitigation'' and ``Proposed Monitoring and Reporting'').

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    There are three marine mammal species that may likely transit 
through the waters nearby the project area, and are expected to 
potentially be taken by the specified activity. These include harbor 
seal (Phoca vitulina), California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), 
and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Multiple additional marine 
mammal species may occasionally enter coastal California waters but 
they would not be expected to occur in shallow nearshore waters of the 
action area.
    Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information 
regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and 
behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. 
Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be 
found in NMFS's Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical 
and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS's Web site 
(www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/).
    Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
coastal southern California and summarizes information related to the 
population or stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and ESA 
and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, we 
follow Committee on Taxonomy (2016). PBR is defined by the MMPA as the 
maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may 
be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to 
reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population (as described in 
NMFS's SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR 
and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are 
included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and 
other threats.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or 
the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. 
NMFS's stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that 
comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend 
beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in 
NMFS's U.S. Pacific SARs (NMFS 2016). All values presented in Table 2 
are the most recent available at the time of publication and are 
available in the 2016 SARs (NMFS, 2016).

[[Page 42309]]



                                        Table 2--Marine Mammal Potentially Present in the Vicinity of Carpinteria
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   ESA/MMPA status;  Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most
            Common name                Scientific name             Stock           Strategic (Y/N)     recent abundance survey) \2\      PBR    Annual M/
                                                                                         \1\                                                     SI \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
Family Eschrichtiidae:
    Gray whale....................  Eschrichtius robustus  Eastern North Pacific  -;N                .05, 20,125, 2011..............       624       132
Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals):
    Bryde's whale.................  Balaenoptera edeni...  Eastern Pacific......  -;N                Unk, unk, unk, N/A.............       unk       unk
    Humpback whale................  Megaptera              California-Oregon-     -;N                .03, 1,876, 2014...............        11       6.5
                                     novaeangliae.          Washington.
    Blue whale....................  Balaenoptera musculus  Eastern North Pacific  E;Y                .07, 1,551, 2011...............       2.3       0.9
    Fin whale.....................  Balaenoptera physalus  California-Oregon-     E;Y                .12, 8,127, 2014...............        81         2
                                                            Washington.
    Sei whale.....................  Balaenoptera borealis  California-Oregon-     E;Y                0.4, 374, 2104.................      0.75         0
                                                            Washington.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Physeteridae:
    Sperm whale...................  Physeter               California-Oregon-     E;Y                0.58, 1,332, 2008..............       2.7       1.7
                                     macrocephalus.         Washington.
Family Kogiidae:
    Pygmy sperm whale.............  Kogia breviceps......  California-Oregon-     -;N                1.12, 1,924, 2014..............        19         0
                                                            Washington.
    Dwarf sperm whale.............  Kogia sima...........  California-Oregon-
                                                            Washington.
Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales):
    Baird's beaked whale..........  Berardius bairdii....  Eastern North Pacific  -;N                0.81, 466, 2008................       4.7         0
    Cuvier's beaked whale.........  Ziphius cavirostris..  California-Oregon-     -;N                Unk, unk, 2014.................       Unk         0
                                                            Washington.
    Mesoplodont beaked whales (six  Mesoplodon spp.......  California-Oregon-     -;Y                0.65, 389, 2008................       0.5       3.9
     species).                                              Washington.
Family Delphinidae:
    Short-beaked common dolphin...  Delphinus delphis d..  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.17, 839,325, 2014............     5,393        40
                                                            Washington.
    Long-beaked common dolphin....  Delphinus capensis c.  California...........  -;N                0.49, 88,432, 2014.............       657      35.4
    Pacific white-sided dolphin...  Lagenorhynchus         California-Oregon-     -;N                0.28, 21,195, 2014.............       191       7.5
                                     obliquidens.           Washington northern
                                                            and southern stocks.
    Striped dolphin...............  Stenella coeruleoalba  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.2, 24,782, 2014..............       238       0.8
                                                            Washington.
    Risso's dolphin...............  Grampus griseus......  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.32, 4,817, 2014..............        46       3.7
                                                            Washington.
    Common bottlenose dolphin.....  Tursiops truncatus t.  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.54, 1,255, 2014..............        11       1.6
                                                            Washington offshore
                                                            stock.
    Common bottlenose dolphin.....  Tursiops truncatus t.  California coastal     -;N                0.06, 346, 2011................       2.7         2
                                                            stock.
    Northern right whale dolphin..  Lissodelphis borealis  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.44, 18,608, 2014.............       179       3.8
                                                            Washington.
    Killer whale..................  Orcinus orca.........  Eastern North Pacific  -;N                0.49, 162, 2014................       1.6         0
                                                            offshore.
    Killer whale..................  Orcinus orca.........  West Coast Transient.  -;N                Unk, 243, 2009.................       2.4         0
    Short-finned pilot whale......  Globicephala           California-Oregon-     -;N                0.79, 466, 2014................       4.5       1.2
                                     macrorhynchus.         Washington.
Family Phocoenidae (porpoises):
    Dall's porpoise...............  Phocoenoides dalli...  California-Oregon-     -;N                0.45, 17,954, 2014.............       172       0.3
                                                            Washington.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Otariidae (eared seals and
 sea lions):
    Guadalupe fur seal............  Arctocephalus          Guadalupe Island.....  E;Y                Unk, 15,830, 2010..............       542       3.2
                                     townsendi.
    California sea lion...........  Zalophus               U.S. stock...........  -;N                Unk, 153,337, 2011.............     9,200       389
                                     californianus.
    Steller sea lion..............  Eumetopias jubatus...  Eastern..............  -;N                Unk, 41,638, 2015..............     2,498       108
    Northern fur seal.............  Callorhinus ursinus..  California stock.....  -;N                Unk, 7,524, 2013...............       451       1.8
    Northern elephant seal........  Mirounga               California breeding    -;N                Unk, 81,368, 2010..............     4,882       8.8
                                     angustirostris.        stock.

[[Page 42310]]

 
Family Phocidae (earless seals):
    Pacific harbor seal...........  Phoca vitulina         California stock.....  -;N                Unk, 27,348, 2012..............     1,641        43
                                     richardii.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1--Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed
  under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality
  exceeds PBR or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed
  under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock.
2--NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of
  stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable [explain if this is the case].
3--These values, found in NMFS's SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial
  fisheries, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. A CV associated
  with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases.
Note--Italicized species are not expected to be taken or proposed for authorization.

    All species that could potentially occur in the proposed 
construction area are included in Table 2. However, the temporal and 
spatial occurrence of all but three of the species listed in Table 2 
with respect to the timing and location of the specified activity is 
such that take is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed 
further beyond the explanation provided here.
    Most of the species included in Table 2 above are unlikely to occur 
during the proposed work because they are not resident to this part of 
California during the late summer and early fall months. For those 
species that may occur in coastal southern California during that time, 
they are unlikely to occur at such close proximity to the shoreline and 
the proposed work is conducted from a pier connected to a beach with 
maximum water depths of 4-8 meters. The long-beaked common dolphin may 
occasionally venture within one nautical mile of the project site but 
is unlikely. The short-beaked common dolphin is much less likely to 
appear in the vicinity than the long-beaked common dolphin. The gray 
whale occurs within one nautical mile of the project site, but it does 
not migrate through the region until late December through May, with 
most gray whales sighted near the project area in the spring. The other 
species generally occur farther offshore and have not been reported in 
the vicinity of this area of the Southern California Bight (SCB), so 
they will not be discussed further in this document.
    Of the MMPA-listed species of marine mammals summarized in Table 2, 
only the Pacific harbor seal, the California sea lion, and the coastal 
stock of bottlenose dolphin are anticipated to be found in the 
immediate vicinity of the project site and subsequently may be taken by 
pile driving. Below are descriptions of those species and the relevant 
stock, as well as information regarding population trends and threats, 
and describe any information regarding local occurrence.

Harbor seal

    Pacific harbor seals inhabit the entire coast of California, 
including the offshore islands, forming small, relatively stable 
populations. The California stock of harbor seals is estimated at 
30,968 (Carretta et al., 2015). This species is non-migratory, but 
local movements of short to moderate distances sometimes occur 
(California Department of Fish and Game [CDFG] 1990). They breed along 
the California coast between March and June. The preferred habitat of 
the Pacific harbor seal includes offshore rocks, sandy beaches, 
gravelly or rocky beaches, and estuarine mud flats (NMFS 1997). Molting 
occurs from late May through July or August and lasts approximately 6 
weeks. Between fall and winter, harbor seals spend less time on land, 
but they usually remain relatively close to shore while at sea.
    The project area is in the vicinity of one of the most well-known 
seal rookeries on the mainland shore of the SCB. This rookery, east of 
the base of the Pier, is inhabited year-round but the beach is closed 
to all activity, including construction during the winter pupping 
season. Since 1991 the Carpinteria seal rookery has been monitored from 
January 1 through May 30 by the Carpinteria Seal Watch, an ad hoc 
citizens' group. (The group does not start watches until January 1 
because of the holidays.) In the 15-year period prior to 2008, the 
highest record of seals hauling out during pupping season (December to 
May) was 390 animals in 2006. A calculation, known as Hanan's and 
Beeson's formula (1994), was applied to the observed number of 390 
individuals, to account for individuals in the water during the count. 
Such a calculation brings the population to 507 individuals in 2006. 
However, Hanan's and Beeson's formula was designed to estimate total 
population from aerial counts conducted once a year, one time over each 
area, as opposed to extensive daily ground counts over a period of six 
months each year.
    Population counts have occasionally occurred during or after 
molting season (April to June), when the number of seals utilizing the 
rookery are believed to be even higher than during pupping season. 
However, the rookery beach is open to the public during this time, so 
accurate counts are more difficult to obtain, since human use of the 
beach disturbs the animals. As such, the most accurate counts have 
occurred early in the morning before animals have been disturbed. The 
highest number of seals ever recorded by a Carpinteria Seal Watch 
member (not during their usual watch season) totaled 364 in September 
1993. Applying Hanan's and Beeson's formula to this count revealed a 
total population during molting season of 473.
    In 2006, field studies of marine mammals were conducted for the 
environmental evaluation of the Paredon project, which would have 
involved slant drilling under the Carpinteria seal rookery to offshore 
oil reserves. These studies resulted in a count of 482 animals in 
October and 462 animals in November (Marine Mammal Consulting Group 
2007a and b). Boveng (1988) calculated that 50 to 70 percent of all 
harbor seals were hauled out during molting. However, his calculations 
were based on once-a-year

[[Page 42311]]

annual aerial surveys, with only one pass over each site. These were 
conducted during daytime hours. The MMCG studies were conducted on 
multiple occasions at night from October through December, using black 
and white film, digital photos, and infrared photos. These were pasted 
into photo mosaics to accurately count every animal by dividing the 
area up into segments. The lowest total number of animals was selected 
from the photos taken during the highest count (482), which was tallied 
in October. In November, another count revealed 452 animals, suggesting 
that the high count was not an anomaly. The lowest nighttime count was 
310. Using Boveng's formula, this suggests that the population ranged 
from 443 to 964 animals. Obviously the highest actual count exceeded 
Boveng's lowest estimate. It is clear that the minimum population was 
482, but that assumes all animals were present on the beach. The more 
likely population estimate is probably from 500 to 700 animals. This is 
believed to be an accurate estimate of the total population of harbor 
seals at Carpinteria in 2006. However, this estimate was derived from a 
nighttime count and does not reflect a daytime estimate of the 
Carpinteria population, especially when the beaches are open to the 
public and very few seals are present (MMCG 2007b).
    Years of observations have revealed that harbor seals sometimes 
react to various anthropogenic stimuli. These include low-flying 
aircraft of all descriptions (including even a blimp on one occasion) 
hang and para gliders, people and dogs on the beach and bluff, 
bicyclists, boats, jet skis, surfers, divers, swimmers, fishers, 
passing trains, equipment activity and people on the Pier, crews coming 
and going from boats, and various oil company repair activities. All of 
these activities have been short-lived and have not deterred the seals 
from the haul-out area except during daytime from June 1 through 
November 30, when the beach is open to the public. At such times, the 
beach is often deserted by the seals, although some haul out on 
offshore rocks beyond the action area to the west during low tides 
(MMCG 2007a and b). During very high tides, when the beach is 
inaccessible to humans because of prominent points jutting to the sea, 
a few seals may remain on the beach.
    Natural disturbances also startle the seals. These include birds 
suddenly taking flight or making low passes, coyotes roaming the beach, 
ground squirrels and rabbits burrowing into the coastal bluffs, large 
waves washing ashore, high tides that preclude most seals from finding 
a spot to haul out, excessive heat during periods of little wind, and 
white sharks in the water (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 
2006; 2007a and b; 2011c; 2013b; and 2014b; SBMMC 1976-2015; SBMMC 
1976-2015; Seagars 1988).
    Based on review of the available observational data, similar past 
experience in the project vicinity, and project timing (fall season, 
during daytime hours), an estimated range of zero to 50 harbor seals is 
anticipated to be present on the beach and in the ocean within the 
project vicinity during work periods.

California sea lion

    California sea lions are the most abundant pinniped in the SCB. 
Although no rookeries occur on the mainland shore of the SCB, this 
species regularly hauls out on buoys, oil platforms, docks, breakwaters 
and other structures along the coast in the vicinity of the project. 
Individuals are regularly observed hauled out on mooring buoys used by 
oil supply vessels southeast of the Pier, although these buoys are 
small and only allow less than a dozen animals to haul out. These buoys 
are beyond the action area. They also haul out on oil platforms and 
attendant buoys off Carpinteria, but these are miles away for the 
action area. Occasionally, individual stranded specimens haul out at 
the Carpinteria seal rookery (MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and 
b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 2014b; SBMMC 1976-2015). Such occurrences 
are rare, with less than half a dozen animals stranded in the action 
area a year and usually even less (SBMMC 1976-2015). The action area is 
not a sea lion haul-out site.
    During the breeding season, the majority of California sea lions 
are found in Southern California and Mexico. Rookery sites in Southern 
California are limited to San Miguel Island and to the more southerly 
Channel Islands of San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente (NMFS 
1997). Rocky ledges and sandy beaches on offshore islands are the 
preferred rookery habitat. Pupping season begins in mid-May, peaking in 
the third week of June and tapering off in July. The California sea 
lion molts gradually over several months during late summer and fall. 
California sea lions exhibit annual migratory movements; in the spring, 
males migrate southward to breeding rookeries in the Channel Islands 
and Mexico, then migrate northward in late summer following breeding 
season. Females migrate as far north as San Francisco Bay in winter, 
but during El Ni[ntilde]o events, have moved as far north as central 
Oregon.
    The minimum population size of the U.S. stock of California sea 
lions in 2011 was estimated at 296,750 (Carretta et al., 2015). This 
estimate is likely to be revised downward because of a long- lasting 
Unusual Mortality Event (UME). The causes are still being studied, but 
lack of prey, domoic acid outbreaks, and shark predation are being 
examined. Based on review of the available opportunistic sightings data 
from the Seal Watch, other construction projects in the project 
vicinity, and project timing (fall season), an estimated range of zero 
to 15 sea lions is anticipated to be present within the project 
vicinity during work periods.

Bottlenose Dolphin

    Coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) range from San 
Francisco, California to Baja California. This stock prefers coastal 
waters between the surf zone and 0.6 nautical miles offshore. Almost 
all (99 percent) are found within 0.6 nautical miles of shore (Hansen 
and DeFran 1993). The stock size is estimated at only 323 animals 
throughout its entire range (Carretta et al., 2015). The project site 
represents a very small portion of its overall range. Past projects in 
the vicinity of the pier have revealed anywhere from 2 to 32 animals 
present at any one time, with an average pod size of 8 animals, 
although many days or even weeks go by with no dolphins seen (MMCG 
1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 2014b). 
Carpinteria Seal Watch data are incomplete, in that bottlenose dolphins 
are sometimes noted and sometimes not. Long-beaked common dolphins are 
occasionally noted as bottlenose dolphins during opportunistic sighting 
reports.
    Based on review of opportunistic sightings data in the area from 
Seal Watch and other construction projects in the project vicinity, and 
project timing (fall season, during daytime hours), an estimated range 
of 2 to 32 coastal bottlenose dolphins is anticipated to be present 
within the project vicinity during work periods, with an average pod 
size of 8 animals, although many days or even weeks go by with no 
dolphins seen.

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that 
components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and 
their habitat. The ``Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment'' section 
later in this document includes a quantitative

[[Page 42312]]

analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by 
this activity. The ``Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination'' 
section considers the content of this section, the ``Estimated Take by 
Incidental Harassment'' section, and the ``Proposed Mitigation'' 
section, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these 
activities on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals 
and how those impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal 
species or stocks.

Description of Sound Sources

    Sound travels in waves, the basic components of which are 
frequency, wavelength, velocity, and amplitude. Frequency is the number 
of pressure waves that pass by a reference point per unit of time and 
is measured in hertz (Hz) or cycles per second. Wavelength is the 
distance between two peaks of a sound wave; lower frequency sounds have 
longer wavelengths than higher frequency sounds. Amplitude is the 
height of the sound pressure wave or the `loudness' of a sound and is 
typically measured using the decibel (dB) scale. A dB is the ratio 
between a measured pressure (with sound) and a reference pressure 
(sound at a constant pressure, established by scientific standards). It 
is a logarithmic unit that accounts for large variations in amplitude; 
therefore, relatively small changes in dB ratings correspond to large 
changes in sound pressure. When referring to sound pressure levels 
(SPLs; the sound force per unit area), sound is referenced in the 
context of underwater sound pressure to 1 microPascal ([mu]Pa). One 
pascal is the pressure resulting from a force of one newton exerted 
over an area of one square meter. The source level (SL) represents the 
sound level at a distance of 1 m from the source (referenced to 1 
[mu]Pa). The received level is the sound level at the listener's 
position. Note that all underwater sound levels in this document are 
referenced to a pressure of 1 [micro]Pa and all airborne sound levels 
in this document are referenced to a pressure of 20 [micro]Pa.
    Root mean square (rms) is the quadratic mean sound pressure over 
the duration of an impulse. Rms is calculated by squaring all of the 
sound amplitudes, averaging the squares, and then taking the square 
root of the average (Urick 1983). Rms accounts for both positive and 
negative values; squaring the pressures makes all values positive so 
that they may be accounted for in the summation of pressure levels 
(Hastings and Popper 2005). This measurement is often used in the 
context of discussing behavioral effects, in part because behavioral 
effects, which often result from auditory cues, may be better expressed 
through averaged units than by peak pressures.
    When underwater objects vibrate or activity occurs, sound-pressure 
waves are created. These waves alternately compress and decompress the 
water as the sound wave travels. Underwater sound waves radiate in all 
directions away from the source (similar to ripples on the surface of a 
pond), except in cases where the source is directional. The 
compressions and decompressions associated with sound waves are 
detected as changes in pressure by aquatic life and man-made sound 
receptors such as hydrophones.
    Even in the absence of sound from the specified activity, the 
underwater environment is typically loud due to ambient sound. Ambient 
sound is defined as environmental background sound levels lacking a 
single source or point (Richardson et al., 1995), and the sound level 
of a region is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated 
by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., 
waves, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds 
produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic 
sound (e.g., vessels, dredging, aircraft, construction). A number of 
sources contribute to ambient sound, including the following 
(Richardson et al., 1995):
     Wind and waves: The complex interactions between wind and 
water surface, including processes such as breaking waves and wave-
induced bubble oscillations and cavitation, are a main source of 
naturally occurring ambient noise for frequencies between 200 Hz and 50 
kHz (Mitson 1995). In general, ambient sound levels tend to increase 
with increasing wind speed and wave height. Surf noise becomes 
important near shore, with measurements collected at a distance of 8.5 
km from shore showing an increase of 10 dB in the 100 to 700 Hz band 
during heavy surf conditions.
     Precipitation: Sound from rain and hail impacting the 
water surface can become an important component of total noise at 
frequencies above 500 Hz, and possibly down to 100 Hz during quiet 
times.
     Biological: Marine mammals can contribute significantly to 
ambient noise levels, as can some fish and shrimp. The frequency band 
for biological contributions is from approximately 12 Hz to over 100 
kHz.
     Anthropogenic: Sources of ambient noise related to human 
activity include transportation (surface vessels and aircraft), 
dredging and construction, oil and gas drilling and production, seismic 
surveys, sonar, explosions, and ocean acoustic studies. Shipping noise 
typically dominates the total ambient noise for frequencies between 20 
and 300 Hz. In general, the frequencies of anthropogenic sounds are 
below 1 kHz and, if higher frequency sound levels are created, they 
attenuate rapidly (Richardson et al., 1995). Sound from identifiable 
anthropogenic sources other than the activity of interest (e.g., a 
passing vessel) is sometimes termed background sound, as opposed to 
ambient sound.
    The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at 
any given location and time--which comprise ``ambient'' or 
``background'' sound--depends not only on the source levels (as 
determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and 
shipping activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate 
through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the 
spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea 
floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a 
large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected 
to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. 
Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10-20 dB 
from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, 
depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from the 
specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local 
environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine 
mammals.
    In-water construction activities associated with the project would 
include impact pile driving and vibratory pile driving. The sounds 
produced by these activities fall into one of two general sound types: 
Pulsed and non-pulsed (defined in the following). The distinction 
between these two sound types is important because they have differing 
potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to 
hearing (e.g., Ward, 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Please see 
Southall et a.l (2007) for an in-depth discussion of these concepts.
    Pulsed sound sources (e.g., explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, 
impact pile driving) produce signals that are brief (typically 
considered to be less than one second), broadband, atonal transients 
(ANSI 1986; Harris 1998; NIOSH 1998; ISO 2003; ANSI 2005) and occur 
either as isolated events or repeated in some succession. Pulsed sounds 
are all characterized by a relatively rapid rise from ambient

[[Page 42313]]

pressure to a maximal pressure value followed by a rapid decay period 
that may include a period of diminishing, oscillating maximal and 
minimal pressures, and generally have an increased capacity to induce 
physical injury as compared with sounds that lack these features.
    Non-pulsed sounds can be tonal, narrowband, or broadband, brief or 
prolonged, and may be either continuous or non-continuous (ANSI 1995; 
NIOSH 1998). Some of these non-pulsed sounds can be transient signals 
of short duration but without the essential properties of pulses (e.g., 
rapid rise time). Examples of non-pulsed sounds include those produced 
by vessels, aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or 
dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems (such as 
those used by the U.S. Navy). The duration of such sounds, as received 
at a distance, can be greatly extended in a highly reverberant 
environment.
    Impact hammers operate by repeatedly dropping a heavy piston onto a 
pile to drive the pile into the substrate. Sound generated by impact 
hammers is characterized by rapid rise times and high peak levels, a 
potentially injurious combination (Hastings and Popper 2005). Vibratory 
hammers install piles by vibrating them and allowing the weight of the 
hammer to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers produce 
significantly less sound than impact hammers. Peak SPLs may be 180 dB 
or greater, but are generally 10 to 20 dB lower than SPLs generated 
during impact pile driving of the same-sized pile (Oestman et al., 
2009). Rise time is slower, reducing the probability and severity of 
injury, and sound energy is distributed over a greater amount of time 
(Nedwell and Edwards 2002; Carlson et al., 2005).

Marine Mammal Hearing

    Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals 
underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious 
effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to 
sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine 
mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine 
mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et 
al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect 
this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided 
into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated 
hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, 
audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, 
anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements 
of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes 
(i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2016) described 
generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. 
Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 dB 
threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with the exception 
for lower limits for low-frequency cetaceans where the lower bound was 
deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower bound from Southall 
et al. (2007) retained. The functional groups and the associated 
frequencies are indicated below (note that these frequency ranges 
correspond to the range for the composite group, with the entire range 
not necessarily reflecting the capabilities of every species within 
that group):

   Table 3--Marine Mammal Hearing Groups and Their Generalized Hearing
                                  Range
------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Hearing group                Generalized  hearing range *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen  7 Hz to 35 kHz.
 whales).
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans          150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked
 whales, bottlenose whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true   275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins,
 cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus
 cruciger and L. australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater)    50 Hz to 86 kHz.
 (true seals).
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater)   60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 (sea lions and fur seals).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a
  composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual
  species' hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized
  hearing range chosen based on ~65 dB threshold from normalized
  composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF
  cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation).

    The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et 
al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have 
consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing 
compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range 
(Hemil[auml] et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 
2013). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. 
As mentioned previously in this document, three marine mammal species 
(one cetacean and two pinnipeds) may occur in the project area. Of 
these three, the bottlenose dolphin is classified as a mid-frequency 
cetacean (Southall et al., 2007). Additionally, harbor seals are 
classified as members of the phocid pinnipeds in water functional 
hearing group while California sea lions are grouped under the Otariid 
pinnipeds in water functional hearing group. A species' functional 
hearing group is a consideration when we analyze the effects of 
exposure to sound on marine mammals.

Acoustic Impacts

    Please refer to the information given previously (Description of 
Sound Sources) regarding sound, characteristics of sound types, and 
metrics used in this document. Anthropogenic sounds cover a broad range 
of frequencies and sound levels and can have a range of highly variable 
impacts on marine life, from none or minor to potentially severe 
responses, depending on received levels, duration of exposure, 
behavioral context, and various other factors. The potential effects of 
underwater sound from active acoustic sources can potentially result in 
one or more of the following; temporary or permanent hearing 
impairment, non-auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral 
disturbance, stress, and masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et 
al., 2004; Nowacek et al., 2007; Southall et al., 2007; Gotz et al., 
2009). The degree of effect is intrinsically related to the signal 
characteristics, received level, distance from the source, and duration 
of the sound exposure. In general, sudden, high level sounds can cause 
hearing loss, as can longer exposures to lower level sounds. Temporary 
or permanent loss of hearing will occur almost exclusively for noise 
within an

[[Page 42314]]

animal's hearing range. We first describe specific manifestations of 
acoustic effects before providing discussion specific to the Venoco's 
construction activities.
    Richardson et al. (1995) described zones of increasing intensity of 
effect that might be expected to occur, in relation to distance from a 
source and assuming that the signal is within an animal's hearing 
range. First is the area within which the acoustic signal would be 
audible (potentially perceived) to the animal, but not strong enough to 
elicit any overt behavioral or physiological response. The next zone 
corresponds with the area where the signal is audible to the animal and 
of sufficient intensity to elicit behavioral or physiological 
responsiveness. Third is a zone within which, for signals of high 
intensity, the received level is sufficient to potentially cause 
discomfort or tissue damage to auditory or other systems. Overlaying 
these zones to a certain extent is the area within which masking (i.e., 
when a sound interferes with or masks the ability of an animal to 
detect a signal of interest that is above the absolute hearing 
threshold) may occur; the masking zone may be highly variable in size.
    We describe the more severe effects (i.e., permanent hearing 
impairment, certain non-auditory physical or physiological effects) 
only briefly as we do not expect that there is a reasonable likelihood 
that Venoco's activities may result in such effects (see below for 
further discussion). Marine mammals exposed to high-intensity sound, or 
to lower-intensity sound for prolonged periods, can experience hearing 
threshold shift (TS), a change, usually an increase, in the threshold 
of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual's 
hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 
2016). TS can be permanent (PTS), an irreversible increase in the 
threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an 
individual's hearing range above a previously established reference 
level, or temporary (TTS), a temporary, reversible increase in the 
threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an 
individual's hearing range above a previously established reference 
level (NMFS 2016). Repeated sound exposure that leads to TTS could 
cause PTS. In severe cases of PTS, there can be total or partial 
deafness, while in most cases the animal has an impaired ability to 
hear sounds in specific frequency ranges (Kryter 1985).
    When PTS occurs, there is physical damage to the sound receptors in 
the ear (i.e., tissue damage), whereas TTS represents primarily tissue 
fatigue and is reversible (Southall et al., 2007). In addition, other 
investigators have suggested that TTS is within the normal bounds of 
physiological variability and tolerance and does not represent physical 
injury (e.g., Ward 1997). Therefore, NMFS does not consider TTS to 
constitute auditory injury.
    Relationships between TTS and PTS thresholds have not been studied 
in marine mammals--PTS data exists only for a single harbor seal 
(Kastak et al., 2008)--but are assumed to be similar to those in humans 
and other terrestrial mammals. PTS typically occurs at exposure levels 
at least several dB above a 40-dB threshold shift approximates PTS 
onset; e.g., Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974) that inducing mild TTS 
(a 6-dB threshold shift approximates TTS onset; e.g., Southall et al., 
2007). Based on data from terrestrial mammals, a precautionary 
assumption is that the PTS thresholds for impulse sounds (such as 
impact pile driving pulses as received close to the source) are at 
least 6 dB higher than the TTS threshold on a peak-pressure basis and 
PTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds are 15 to 20 dB higher 
than TTS cumulative sound exposure level thresholds (Southall et al., 
2007). Given the higher level of sound or longer exposure duration 
necessary to cause PTS as compared with TTS, it is considerably less 
likely that PTS could occur.
    Non-auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically 
might occur in marine mammals exposed to high level underwater sound or 
as a secondary effect of extreme behavioral reactions (e.g., change in 
dive profile as a result of an avoidance reaction) caused by exposure 
to sound include neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance 
effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; 
Southall et al., 2007; Zimmer and Tyack 2007). Venoco's activities do 
not involve the use of devices such as explosives or mid-frequency 
active sonar that are associated with these types of effects; 
therefore, no non-auditory physical effects or injuries is anticipated
    Temporary threshold shift--TTS is the mildest form of hearing 
impairment that can occur during exposure to sound (Kryter 1985). While 
experiencing TTS, the hearing threshold rises, and a sound must be at a 
higher level in order to be heard. In terrestrial and marine mammals, 
TTS can last from minutes or hours to days (in cases of strong TTS). In 
many cases, hearing sensitivity recovers rapidly after exposure to the 
sound ends. Few data on sound levels and durations necessary to elicit 
mild TTS have been obtained for marine mammals. Marine mammal hearing 
plays a critical role in communication with conspecifics, and 
interpretation of environmental cues for purposes such as predator 
avoidance and prey capture. Depending on the degree (elevation of 
threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and frequency range 
of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have 
effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious. For 
example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, 
relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency range that 
occurs during a time where ambient noise is lower and there are not as 
many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and 
longer duration of TTS sustained during a time when communication is 
critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more 
serious impacts.
    Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans 
(bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor 
porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) 
and three species of pinnipeds (northern elephant seal, harbor seal, 
and California sea lion) exposed to a limited number of sound sources 
(i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings 
(e.g., Finneran et al., 2002; Nachtigall et al., 2004; Kastak et al., 
2005; Lucke et al., 2009; Popov et al., 2011). In general, harbor seals 
(Kastak et al., 2005; Kastelein et al., 2012a) and harbor porpoises 
(Lucke et al., 2009; Kastelein et al., 2012b) have a lower TTS onset 
than other measured pinniped or cetacean species. Additionally, the 
existing marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of 
individuals within these species. There are no data available on noise-
induced hearing loss for mysticetes. For summaries of data on TTS in 
marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, 
please see Southall et al. (2007) and Finneran and Jenkins (2012).
    Behavioral effects--Behavioral disturbance may include a variety of 
effects, including subtle changes in behavior (e.g., minor or brief 
avoidance of an area or changes in vocalizations), more conspicuous 
changes in similar behavioral activities, and more sustained and/or 
potentially severe reactions, such as displacement from or abandonment 
of high-quality habitat. Behavioral responses to sound are highly 
variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous 
intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, 
experience, current activity, reproductive state,

[[Page 42315]]

auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between 
factors (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2003; Southall 
et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral 
reactions can vary not only among individuals but also within an 
individual, depending on previous experience with a sound source, 
context, and numerous other factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can 
vary depending on characteristics associated with the sound source 
(e.g., whether it is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance 
from the source). Please see Appendices B-C of Southall et al. (2007) 
for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to 
sound.
    Habituation can occur when an animal's response to a stimulus wanes 
with repeated exposure, usually in the absence of unpleasant associated 
events (Wartzok et al., 2003). Animals are most likely to habituate to 
sounds that are predictable and unvarying. It is important to note that 
habituation is appropriately considered as a ``progressive reduction in 
response to stimuli that are perceived as neither aversive nor 
beneficial,'' rather than as, more generally, moderation in response to 
human disturbance (Bejder et al., 2009). The opposite process is 
sensitization, when an unpleasant experience leads to subsequent 
responses, often in the form of avoidance, at a lower level of 
exposure.
    As noted above, behavioral state may affect the type of response. 
For example, animals that are resting may show greater behavioral 
change in response to disturbing sound levels than animals that are 
highly motivated to remain in an area for feeding (Richardson et al., 
1995; NRC, 2003; Wartzok et al., 2003). Controlled experiments with 
captive marine mammals have showed pronounced behavioral reactions, 
including avoidance of loud sound sources (Ridgway et al., 1997; 
Finneran et al., 2003). Observed responses of wild marine mammals to 
loud pulsed sound sources (typically seismic airguns or acoustic 
harassment devices) have been varied but often consist of avoidance 
behavior or other behavioral changes suggesting discomfort (Morton and 
Symonds 2002; see also Richardson et al., 1995; Nowacek et al., 2007).
    Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater 
sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given 
sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving 
the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater 
sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts 
of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let 
alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces 
marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a 
prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be 
significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder 2007; Weilgart 2007; NRC 2005). 
However, there are broad categories of potential response, which we 
describe in greater detail here, that include alteration of dive 
behavior, alteration of foraging behavior, effects to breathing, 
interference with or alteration of vocalization, avoidance, and flight.
    Changes in dive behavior can vary widely, and may consist of 
increased or decreased dive times and surface intervals as well as 
changes in the rates of ascent and descent during a dive (e.g., Frankel 
and Clark 2000; Costa et al., 2003; Ng and Leung 2003; Nowacek et al., 
2004; Goldbogen et al., 2013a,b). Variations in dive behavior may 
reflect interruptions in biologically significant activities (e.g., 
foraging) or they may be of little biological significance. The impact 
of an alteration to dive behavior resulting from an acoustic exposure 
depends on what the animal is doing at the time of the exposure and the 
type and magnitude of the response.
    Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with 
anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed 
displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary 
indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive 
behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, 
duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as 
differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to 
differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 
2001; Nowacek et al.; 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 
2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness 
consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic 
requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between 
prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history 
stage of the animal.
    Variations in respiration naturally vary with different behaviors 
and alterations to breathing rate as a function of acoustic exposure 
can be expected to co-occur with other behavioral reactions, such as a 
flight response or an alteration in diving. However, respiration rates 
in and of themselves may be representative of annoyance or an acute 
stress response. Various studies have shown that respiration rates may 
either be unaffected or could increase, depending on the species and 
signal characteristics, again highlighting the importance in 
understanding species differences in the tolerance of underwater noise 
when determining the potential for impacts resulting from anthropogenic 
sound exposure (e.g., Kastelein et al., 2001, 2005b, 2006; Gailey et 
al., 2007).
    Marine mammals vocalize for different purposes and across multiple 
modes, such as whistling, echolocation click production, calling, and 
singing. Changes in vocalization behavior in response to anthropogenic 
noise can occur for any of these modes and may result from a need to 
compete with an increase in background noise or may reflect increased 
vigilance or a startle response. For example, in the presence of 
potentially masking signals, humpback whales and killer whales have 
been observed to increase the length of their songs (Miller et al., 
2000; Fristrup et al., 2003; Foote et al., 2004), while right whales 
(Eubalaena glacialis) have been observed to shift the frequency content 
of their calls upward while reducing the rate of calling in areas of 
increased anthropogenic noise (Parks et al., 2007b). In some cases, 
animals may cease sound production during production of aversive 
signals (Bowles et al., 1994).
    Avoidance is the displacement of an individual from an area or 
migration path as a result of the presence of a sound or other 
stressors, and is one of the most obvious manifestations of disturbance 
in marine mammals (Richardson et al., 1995). For example, gray whales 
(Eschrictius robustus) are known to change direction--deflecting from 
customary migratory paths--in order to avoid noise from seismic surveys 
(Malme et al., 1984). Avoidance may be short-term, with animals 
returning to the area once the noise has ceased (e.g., Bowles et al., 
1994; Goold 1996; Stone et al., 2000; Morton and Symonds, 2002; Gailey 
et al., 2007). Longer-term displacement is possible, however, which may 
lead to changes in abundance or distribution patterns of the affected 
species in the affected region if habituation to the presence of the 
sound does not occur (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2004; Bejder et al., 
2006; Teilmann et al., 2006).
    A flight response is a dramatic change in normal movement to a 
directed and rapid movement away from the perceived location of a sound 
source. The flight response differs from other avoidance responses in 
the intensity of the response (e.g., directed movement, rate of 
travel). Relatively little information on flight responses of

[[Page 42316]]

marine mammals to anthropogenic signals exist, although observations of 
flight responses to the presence of predators have occurred (Connor and 
Heithaus 1996). The result of a flight response could range from brief, 
temporary exertion and displacement from the area where the signal 
provokes flight to, in extreme cases, marine mammal strandings (Evans 
and England 2001). However, it should be noted that response to a 
perceived predator does not necessarily invoke flight (Ford and Reeves 
2008), and whether individuals are solitary or in groups may influence 
the response.
    Behavioral disturbance can also impact marine mammals in more 
subtle ways. Increased vigilance may result in costs related to 
diversion of focus and attention (i.e., when a response consists of 
increased vigilance, it may come at the cost of decreased attention to 
other critical behaviors such as foraging or resting). These effects 
have generally not been demonstrated for marine mammals, but studies 
involving fish and terrestrial animals have shown that increased 
vigilance may substantially reduce feeding rates (e.g., Beauchamp and 
Livoreil 1997; Fritz et al,, 2002; Purser and Radford 2011). In 
addition, chronic disturbance can cause population declines through 
reduction of fitness (e.g., decline in body condition) and subsequent 
reduction in reproductive success, survival, or both (e.g., Harrington 
and Veitch, 1992; Daan et al., 1996; Bradshaw et al., 1998). However, 
Ridgway et al. (2006) reported that increased vigilance in bottlenose 
dolphins exposed to sound over a five-day period did not cause any 
sleep deprivation or stress effects.
    Many animals perform vital functions, such as feeding, resting, 
traveling, and socializing, on a diel cycle (24-hour cycle). Disruption 
of such functions resulting from reactions to stressors such as sound 
exposure 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). Note that there is a difference between multi-day 
substantive behavioral reactions and multi-day anthropogenic 
activities. For example, just because an activity lasts for multiple 
days does not necessarily mean that individual animals are either 
exposed to activity-related stressors for multiple days or, further, 
exposed in a manner resulting in sustained multi-day substantive 
behavioral responses.
    Stress responses--An animal's perception of a threat may be 
sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination 
of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, 
neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle 1950; Moberg 
2000). In many cases, an animal's first and sometimes most economical 
(in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the 
potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress 
typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and 
gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short 
duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an 
animal's fitness.
    Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-
pituitary-adrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that 
are affected by stress--including immune competence, reproduction, 
metabolism, and behavior--are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-
induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been 
implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune 
competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 
2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated 
with stress (Romano et al., 2004).
    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and ``distress'' is the cost of 
the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores 
that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such 
circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious 
fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient 
energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, 
energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of 
distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves 
sufficient to restore normal function.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through 
controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals 
(e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; 
Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to 
exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects 
on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano 
et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., 
Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that 
noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was 
associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These 
and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine 
mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to 
acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be 
classified as ``distress.'' In addition, any animal experiencing TTS 
would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003).
    Auditory masking--Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or 
interfering with, an animal's ability to detect, recognize, or 
discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for 
intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, 
predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995). Masking 
occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another 
coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher 
intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping 
shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., shipping, 
sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to 
mask biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of 
both the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-to-noise 
ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and 
to an animal's hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, 
critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, 
age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation 
conditions.
    Under certain circumstances, marine mammals experiencing 
significant masking could also be impaired from maximizing their 
performance fitness in survival and reproduction. Therefore, when the 
coincident (masking) sound is man-made, it may be considered harassment 
when disrupting or altering critical behaviors. It is important to 
distinguish TTS and PTS, which persist after the sound exposure, from 
masking, which occurs during the sound exposure. Because masking 
(without resulting in TS) is not associated with abnormal physiological 
function, it is not considered a physiological effect, but rather a 
potential behavioral effect.
    The frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important 
in determining any potential behavioral impacts. For example, low-
frequency signals may have less effect on high-frequency echolocation 
sounds produced by odontocetes but are more

[[Page 42317]]

likely to affect detection of mysticete communication calls and other 
potentially important natural sounds such as those produced by surf and 
some prey species. The masking of communication signals by 
anthropogenic noise may be considered as a reduction in the 
communication space of animals (e.g., Clark et al., 2009) and may 
result in energetic or other costs as animals change their vocalization 
behavior (e.g., Miller et al., 2000; Foote et al., 2004; Parks et al., 
2007b; Di Iorio and Clark 2009; Holt et al., 2009). Masking can be 
reduced in situations where the signal and noise come from different 
directions (Richardson et al., 1995), through amplitude modulation of 
the signal, or through other compensatory behaviors (Houser and Moore 
2014). Masking can be tested directly in captive species (e.g., Erbe 
2008), but in wild populations it must be either modeled or inferred 
from evidence of masking compensation. There are few studies addressing 
real-world masking sounds likely to be experienced by marine mammals in 
the wild (e.g., Branstetter et al., 2013).
    Masking affects both senders and receivers of acoustic signals and 
can potentially have long-term chronic effects on marine mammals at the 
population level as well as at the individual level. Low-frequency 
ambient sound levels have increased by as much as 20 dB (more than 
three times in terms of SPL) in the world's ocean from pre-industrial 
periods, with most of the increase from distant commercial shipping 
(Hildebrand 2009). All anthropogenic sound sources, but especially 
chronic and lower-frequency signals (e.g., from vessel traffic), 
contribute to elevated ambient sound levels, thus intensifying masking.

Acoustic Effects, Underwater

Potential Effects of Pile Driving Sound
    The effects of sounds from pile driving might include one or more 
of the following: Temporary or permanent hearing impairment, non-
auditory physical or physiological effects, behavioral disturbance, and 
masking (Richardson et al., 1995; Gordon et al., 2003; Nowacek et al., 
2007; Southall et al., 2007). The effects of pile driving on marine 
mammals are dependent on several factors, including the type and depth 
of the animal; the pile size and type, and the intensity and duration 
of the pile driving sound; the substrate; the standoff distance between 
the pile and the animal; and the sound propagation properties of the 
environment. Impacts to marine mammals from pile driving activities are 
expected to result primarily from acoustic pathways. As such, the 
degree of effect is intrinsically related to the frequency, received 
level, and duration of the sound exposure, which are in turn influenced 
by the distance between the animal and the source. The further away 
from the source, the less intense the exposure should be. The substrate 
and depth of the habitat affect the sound propagation properties of the 
environment. In addition, substrates that are soft (e.g., sand) would 
absorb or attenuate the sound more readily than hard substrates (e.g., 
rock), which may reflect the acoustic wave. Soft porous substrates 
would also likely require less time to drive the pile, and possibly 
less forceful equipment, which would ultimately decrease the intensity 
of the acoustic source.
    In the absence of mitigation, impacts to marine species could be 
expected to include physiological and behavioral responses to the 
acoustic signature (Viada et al., 2008). Potential effects from 
impulsive sound sources like pile driving can range in severity from 
effects such as behavioral disturbance to temporary or permanent 
hearing impairment (Yelverton et al., 1973). Due to the nature of the 
pile driving sounds in the project, behavioral disturbance is the most 
likely effect from the proposed activity. Marine mammals exposed to 
high intensity sound repeatedly or for prolonged periods can experience 
hearing threshold shifts. PTS constitutes injury, but TTS does not 
(Southall et al., 2007). Based on the best scientific information 
available, the SPLs for the construction activities in this project are 
below the thresholds that could cause TTS or the onset of PTS (Table 
4).
Non-auditory Physiological Effects
    Non-auditory physiological effects or injuries that theoretically 
might occur in marine mammals exposed to strong underwater sound 
include stress, neurological effects, bubble formation, resonance 
effects, and other types of organ or tissue damage (Cox et al., 2006; 
Southall et al., 2007). Studies examining such effects are limited. In 
general, little is known about the potential for pile driving to cause 
non-auditory physical effects in marine mammals. Available data suggest 
that such effects, if they occur at all, would presumably be limited to 
short distances from the sound source and to activities that extend 
over a prolonged period. The available data do not allow identification 
of a specific exposure level above which non-auditory effects can be 
expected (Southall et al., 2007) or any meaningful quantitative 
predictions of the numbers (if any) of marine mammals that might be 
affected in those ways. We do not expect any non-auditory physiological 
effects because of mitigation that prevents animals from approach the 
source too closely, as well as source levels with very small Level A 
isopleths. Marine mammals that show behavioral avoidance of pile 
driving, including some odontocetes and some pinnipeds, are especially 
unlikely to incur on-auditory physical effects.

Disturbance Reactions

    Responses to continuous sound, such as vibratory pile installation, 
have not been documented as well as responses to pulsed sounds. With 
both types of pile driving, it is likely that the onset of pile driving 
could result in temporary, short term changes in an animal's typical 
behavior and/or avoidance of the affected area. These behavioral 
changes may include (Richardson et al., 1995): 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 sound sources are located; and/
or flight responses (e.g., pinnipeds flushing into water from haul-outs 
or rookeries). Pinnipeds may increase their haul-out time, possibly to 
avoid in-water disturbance (Thorson and Reyff 2006). If a marine mammal 
responds to a stimulus by changing its behavior (e.g., through 
relatively minor changes in locomotion direction/speed or vocalization 
behavior), the response may or may not constitute taking at the 
individual level, and is unlikely to affect the stock or the species as 
a whole. However, if a sound source displaces marine mammals from an 
important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on 
animals, and if so potentially on the stock or species, could 
potentially be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder 2007; Weilgart 
2007).
    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 could be expected to be biologically significant if the 
change affects growth, survival, or reproduction. Significant 
behavioral modifications that could potentially lead to effects on 
growth, survival, or reproduction include:

[[Page 42318]]

     Drastic changes in diving/surfacing patterns (such as 
those thought to cause beaked whale stranding due to exposure to 
military mid-frequency tactical sonar);
     Longer-term habitat abandonment due to loss of desirable 
acoustic environment; and
     Longer-term cessation of feeding or social interaction.
    The onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic sound 
depends on both external factors (characteristics of sound sources and 
their paths) and the specific characteristics of the receiving animals 
(hearing, motivation, experience, demography) and is difficult to 
predict (Southall et al., 2007).

Auditory Masking

    Natural and artificial sounds can disrupt behavior by masking. The 
frequency range of the potentially masking sound is important in 
determining any potential behavioral impacts. Because sound generated 
from in-water pile driving is mostly concentrated at low frequency 
ranges, it may have less effect on high frequency echolocation sounds 
made by porpoises. The most intense underwater sounds in the proposed 
action are those produced by impact pile driving. Given that the energy 
distribution of pile driving covers a broad frequency spectrum, sound 
from these sources would likely be within the audible range of marine 
mammals present in the project area. Impact pile driving activity is 
relatively short-term, with rapid pulses occurring for approximately 
fifteen minutes per pile. The probability for impact pile driving 
resulting from this proposed action masking acoustic signals important 
to the behavior and survival of marine mammal species is low. Vibratory 
pile driving is also relatively short-term, with rapid oscillations 
occurring for approximately one and a half hours per pile. It is 
possible that vibratory pile driving resulting from this proposed 
action may mask acoustic signals important to the behavior and survival 
of marine mammal species, but the short-term duration and limited 
affected area would result in insignificant impacts from masking. Any 
masking event that could possibly rise to Level B harassment under the 
MMPA would occur concurrently within the zones of behavioral harassment 
already estimated for vibratory and impact pile driving, and which have 
already been taken into account in the exposure analysis. Pile driving 
would occur for only two to three hours per day for two to three days 
so we do not anticipate masking to significantly affect marine mammals.

Acoustic Effects, Airborne

    Pinnipeds that occur near the project site could be exposed to 
airborne sounds associated with pile driving that have the potential to 
cause behavioral harassment, depending on their distance from pile 
driving activities. This primarily is related to harbor seals due to 
the close proximity of the adjacent rookery; however, California sea 
lions may also be randomly haul-out nearby. Cetaceans are not expected 
to be exposed to airborne sounds that would result in harassment as 
defined under the MMPA.
    Airborne noise will primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are 
swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise 
levels elevated above the acoustic criteria. The airborne threshold for 
harbor seals is 90 dB rms re 20[mu]Pa and for other pinnipeds is 100 dB 
rms re 20[mu]Pa. We recognize that pinnipeds in the water could be 
exposed to airborne sound that may result in behavioral harassment when 
looking with their heads above water. Most likely, airborne sound would 
cause behavioral responses similar to those discussed above in relation 
to underwater sound. For instance, anthropogenic sound could cause 
hauled-out pinnipeds to exhibit changes in their normal behavior, such 
as reduction in vocalizations, or cause them to temporarily abandon the 
area and move further from the source. However, these animals would 
previously have been `taken' as a result of exposure to underwater 
sound above the behavioral harassment thresholds, which are in all 
cases larger than those associated with airborne sound. Thus, the 
behavioral harassment of these animals is already accounted for in 
these estimates of potential take. Multiple instances of exposure to 
sound above NMFS' thresholds for behavioral harassment are not believed 
to result in increased behavioral disturbance, in either nature or 
intensity of disturbance reaction. Therefore, we do not believe that 
authorization of incidental take resulting from airborne sound for 
pinnipeds is warranted, and airborne sound is not discussed further 
here.

Anticipated Effects on Habitat

    The proposed activities at the Project area would not result in 
permanent negative impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals, 
but may have potential short-term impacts to food sources such as 
forage fish and may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion 
above). There are no known foraging hotspots or other ocean bottom 
structure of significant biological importance to marine mammals 
present in the marine waters of the project area during the 
construction window. Therefore, the main impact issue associated with 
the proposed activity would be temporarily elevated sound levels and 
the associated direct effects on marine mammals, as discussed 
previously in this document. The primary potential acoustic impacts to 
marine mammal habitat are associated with elevated sound levels 
produced by vibratory and impact pile driving in the area. Physical 
impacts to the environment such as construction debris are unlikely and 
no pile driving will occur on the haulout beach.

In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Prey (Fish)

    Construction activities would produce continuous (i.e., vibratory 
pile driving) and pulsed (i.e. impact driving) sounds. Fish react to 
sounds that are especially strong and/or intermittent low-frequency 
sounds. Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes 
in fish behavior and local distribution. Hastings and Popper (2005) 
identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid 
certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies have documented 
effects of pile driving on fish, although several are based on studies 
in support of large, multiyear bridge construction projects (e.g., 
Scholik and Yan 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings 2009). Sound pulses at 
received levels of 160 dB may cause subtle changes in fish behavior. 
SPLs of 180 dB may cause noticeable changes in behavior (Pearson et 
al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992). SPLs of sufficient strength have been 
known to cause injury to fish and fish mortality.
    The most likely impact to fish from pile driving activities at the 
project area would be temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The 
duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is 
unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and 
behavior is anticipated. In general, impacts to marine mammal prey 
species are expected to be minor and temporary due to the short 
timeframe for the project.
    In summary, given the short daily duration of sound associated with 
individual pile driving events and the relatively small areas being 
affected, pile driving associated with the proposed action are not 
likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat, or 
populations of fish species. Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat 
are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences

[[Page 42319]]

for individual marine mammals or their populations.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both 
NMFS' consideration of whether the number of takes is ``small'' and the 
negligible impact determination.
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, section 3(18) of 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).
    Authorized takes would be by Level B harassment only, in the form 
of disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals 
resulting from exposure to pile driving. Based on the nature of the 
activity, Level A harassment is neither anticipated nor proposed to be 
authorized.
    As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to 
be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is 
estimated.
    Described in the most basic way, we estimate take by considering: 
(1) Acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available 
science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur 
some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of 
water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the 
density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; 
and, (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these 
components in more detail and present the proposed take estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic 
thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above 
which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be 
behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS 
of some degree (equated to Level A harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources--Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, 
Ellison et al., 2011). Based on what the available science indicates 
and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is 
both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a 
generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the 
onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are 
likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B 
harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above 
received levels of 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for continuous (e.g. 
vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) 
for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent 
(e.g., scientific sonar) sources.
    Venoco's project includes the use of continuous (vibratory pile 
driving) and impulsive (impact pile driving) sources, and therefore the 
120 and 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) thresholds are applicable.
    Level A harassment for non-explosive sources--NMFS' Technical 
Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine 
Mammal Hearing (Technical Guidance, 2016) identifies dual criteria to 
assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine 
mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to 
noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or non-impulsive). 
Venoco's construction activity includes the use of impulsive (impact 
pile driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving) sources.
    These thresholds were developed by compiling and synthesizing the 
best available science and soliciting input multiple times from both 
the public and peer reviewers to inform the final product, and are 
provided in the table below. The references, analysis, and methodology 
used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 
Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm.

                     Table 4--Thresholds Identifying the Onset of Permanent Threshold Shift
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    PTS onset acoustic thresholds * (received level)
             Hearing group             -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                Impulsive                          Non-impulsive
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans..........  Cell 1: Lpk,flat: 219 dB;  Cell 2: LE,LF,24h: 199 dB.
                                         LE,LF,24h: 183 dB.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans..........  Cell 3: Lpk,flat: 230 dB;  Cell 4: LE,MF,24h: 198 dB.
                                         LE,MF,24h: 185 dB.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans.........  Cell 5: Lpk,flat: 202 dB;  Cell 6: LE,HF,24h: 173 dB.
                                         LE,HF,24h: 155 dB.
Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater)....  Cell 7: Lpk,flat: 218 dB;  Cell 8: LE,PW,24h: 201 dB.
                                         LE,PW,24h: 185 dB.
Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater)...  Cell 9: Lpk,flat: 232 dB;  Cell 10: LE,OW,24h: 219 dB.
                                         LE,OW,24h: 203 dB.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for
  calculating PTS onset. If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level
  thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered.
Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 [mu]Pa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has
  a reference value of 1[mu]Pa\2\s. In this Table, hresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National
  Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating
  frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ``flat'' is
  being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized
  hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the
  designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and
  that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be
  exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it
  is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be
  exceeded.


[[Page 42320]]

Ensonified Area

    Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the 
activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the 
acoustic thresholds.
    Pile driving generates underwater noise that can potentially result 
in disturbance to marine mammals in the project area. Transmission loss 
(TL) is the decrease in acoustic intensity as an acoustic pressure wave 
propagates out from a source. TL parameters vary with frequency, 
temperature, sea conditions, current, source and receiver depth, water 
depth, water chemistry, and bottom composition and topography. The 
general formula for underwater TL is:

TL = B * log10(R1/R2),

Where:

R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven pile, and
R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial measurement.

This formula neglects loss due to scattering and absorption, which is 
assumed to be zero here. The degree to which underwater sound 
propagates away from a sound source is dependent on a variety of 
factors, most notably the water bathymetry and presence or absence of 
reflective or absorptive conditions including in-water structures and 
sediments. Spherical spreading occurs in a perfectly unobstructed 
(free-field) environment not limited by depth or water surface, 
resulting in a 6 dB reduction in sound level for each doubling of 
distance from the source (20*log[range]). Cylindrical spreading occurs 
in an environment in which sound propagation is bounded by the water 
surface and sea bottom, resulting in a reduction of 3 dB in sound level 
for each doubling of distance from the source (10*log[range]). A 
practical spreading value of 15 is often used under conditions, such as 
at the Biorka Island dock, where water increases with depth as the 
receiver moves away from the shoreline, resulting in an expected 
propagation environment that would lie between spherical and 
cylindrical spreading loss conditions. Practical spreading loss (4.5 dB 
reduction in sound level for each doubling of distance) is assumed 
here.
    Underwater Sound--The intensity of pile driving sounds is greatly 
influenced by factors such as the type of piles, hammers, and the 
physical environment in which the activity takes place. A number of 
studies, primarily on the west coast, have measured sound produced 
during underwater pile driving projects. These data are largely for 
impact driving of steel pipe piles and concrete piles as well as 
vibratory driving of steel pipe piles.
    Reference sound levels used by Venoco were based on underwater 
sound measurements documented for a number of pile-driving projects 
with similar pile sizes and types at similar sites in California (i.e., 
areas of soft substrate where water depths are less than 16 feet (5 
meters) (Caltrans 2009)). The noise energy would dissipate as it 
spreads from the pile at a rate of at least 4.5 dB per doubling of 
distance, which is practical spreading (Caltrans 2009). This is a 
conservative value for areas of shallow water with soft substrates, and 
actual dissipation rates would likely be higher. Using this 
information, and the pile information presented in Table 1, underwater 
sound levels were estimated using the practical spreading model to 
determine over what distance the thresholds would be exceeded.
    Venoco used the NMFS Optional User Spreadsheet, available at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/Acoustic%20Guidance%20Files/march_v1.1_blank_spreadsheet.xlsx, to input project-specific parameters 
and calculate the isopleths for Level A and Level B zones from both 
impact and vibratory pile driving. Input to the Optional User 
Spreadsheet are based on project-specific parameters that provide the 
sound source characteristics, including the estimated duration of pile 
driving, the estimated number of strikes per pile (for the impact 
hammer method); and the maximum number of piles to be driven in a day. 
The estimated source level, duration of pile driving for each pile, the 
number of strikes per pile (for impact driving), and the number of 
piles per day for each pile driving method, as listed in Table 1. As 
noted in Table 1, each pile will require approximately 25 minutes of 
vibratory driving, and up to 6 piles could be installed by this method 
in a single day. During this time the sound levels above and below 
water will be in excess of normal pier operations. In the unlikely 
event that an impact hammer is used, installation of a single pile will 
require an estimated 400 hammer strikes over 15 minutes, and up to 6 
piles could be installed by this method in a single day.
    Venoco used the Caltrans (2015) guidelines for selection of an 
appropriate pile driving sound source level for a composite 50-foot, 
16-inch pipe/12-foot,14-inch H-pile configuration, for both vibratory 
and impact driving methods, taking into consideration that only the H-
pile segment of the pile (the bottom portion) will be driven below the 
mudline, thus the predominant underwater noise source will emanate from 
the steel pipe segment.

Source Levels

    For the impact hammer method, the average sound pressure level 
measured in dB is based on the 16-inch steel pipe sound levels 
(Caltrans 2015, Table I.2-1), adjusted upward for the composite 16-inch 
pipe/14-inch H-pile design because the sound level for the composite 
pile is anticipated to be greater than the Caltrans reference sound 
level for 16-inch steel pipe (158 dB), but less than the Caltrans 
reference sound level for 14-inch steel H-pile (177 dB). As described 
above, the replacement piles will be a composite of two materials, pre-
welded into a single pile prior to driving. The upper section will 
consist of 48 to 50 feet (15 meters) of 16-inch diameter x 0.50-inch 
wall thickness pipe pile and the bottom segment will consist of a 12-
foot (4-meter) long 14 inch x 73 pound H-pile. The water depth ranges 
from 13 to 27 feet (4 to 8 meters) at the end of the Pier, with 
seasonal variations due to beach sand withdraw and return between the 
winter and summer seasons. When impact driving is initiated the H-pile 
will partially enter the mud substrate (e.g., up to two to four feet) 
pushed by hammer weight and the weight of the pipe itself due to soft 
substrate (mud) at the seafloor surface. Thus, when impact driving 
begins only a portion of the 12-foot H pile would be exposed in the 
water column and most of the length of pile within the water column 
will be steel pipe pile. As pile driving progresses, the H-pile portion 
of the fender pile will continue to enter the seabed, and the 
proportion of H-pile to steel pipe exposed to the water column will 
decrease until the H-pile is entirely buried or until pile driving is 
suspended at a minimum depth of 6 feet. Consequently, the sound level 
for the composite pile is anticipated to be greater than the Caltrans 
reference sound level for 16-inch steel pipe (158 dB), and less than 
the Caltrans reference sound level for 14-inch steel H-pile (177 dB).
    Based on these factors, the reference sound level from composite 
pile was based on 16-inch steel pipe pile, with an upward adjustment of 
6 dB (to 164 dB). This 6 dB adjustment is divided into two parts: 3 dB 
(one doubling) adjustment for the H-pile itself (i.e., the portion of 
H-pile being driven by impact hammer); and 3 dB (a second doubling) 
adjustment for the H-pile that is acting as a foundation, and thus 
providing some resistance to the pipe pile while it is being driven by 
impact hammer. This sound level, which represents two

[[Page 42321]]

doublings of the reference sound level of the 16-inch steel pipe, is 
considered sufficiently conservative to account for the H-pile portion 
of the fender pile that would be exposed in the water column and 
serving as a foundation to the pipe pile during impact driving.
    For the vibratory driving method, the average sound pressure level 
measured in dB is based on the 12-inch H-pile sound levels (Caltrans 
2015, Table I.2-2), adjusted upward by 4 dB for composite 16-inch pipe/
14-inch H-pile design. Caltrans data do not include specific vibratory 
reference sound levels for the 14-inch H-pile. Therefore, it was 
assumed that doubling the reference sound level for 12-inch H-pile plus 
1 dB [i.e., a 4 dB increase], would provide a sufficiently conservative 
assumption for a 14-inch H-pile.

                                  Table 5--NMFS Option User Spreadsheet Inputs
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             User spreadsheet input
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Impact driver                                    Vibratory driver
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spreadsheet Tab Used.................  (E.1) Impact             Spreadsheet Tab Used...  (A) Non-impulsive,
                                        piledriving.                                      continuous.
Source Level (Single Strike/shot SEL)  197.8..................  Source Level (RMS SPL).  154.
Weighting Factor Adjustment (kHz)....  2......................  Weighting Factor         2.5.
                                                                 Adjustment (kHz).
(a) Number of strikes per pile.......  400....................  Activity duration        2.5.
                                                                 within 24 hours (hrs).
(a) Number of piles per day..........  6......................
Propagation (xLogR)..................  15.....................  Propagation (xLogR)....  15.
Distance of source level measurement   10.....................  .......................  10.
 (meters) \+\.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\+\ Unless otherwise specified, source levels are referenced 1 m from the source.

Level A Isopleths

    When NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in recognition 
of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more technically 
challenging to predict because of the duration component in the new 
thresholds, we developed an Optional User Spreadsheet that includes 
tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction 
with marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note 
that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used 
for these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically 
going to be overestimates of some degree, which will result in some 
degree of overestimate of Level A take. However, these tools offer the 
best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D 
modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways 
to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address 
the output where appropriate. For stationary sources, NMFS Optional 
User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which, if a marine 
mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the activity, it 
would not incur PTS. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet, and the 
resulting isopleths are reported below. The inputs Venoco used to 
obtain the isopleths discussed below are summarized in Table 5 above.

          Table 6--Expected Distances of Level A Threshold Exceedance With Impact and Vibratory Driver
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             User spreadsheet output
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              PTS isopleth (meters)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       High-
           Source type            Low- frequency  Mid- frequency     frequency        Phocid          Otariid
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans       pinnipeds       pinnipeds
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Impact driving..................            96.9             3.4           115.4            51.8             3.8
Vibratory driving...............             4.3             0.4             6.4             2.6             0.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Level B Isopleths

    Using the same source level and transmission loss inputs discussed 
in the Level A isopleths section above, the Level B distance was 
calculated for both impact and vibratory driving, assuming practical 
spreading. For vibratory driving, the Level B isopleth extends out to 
1,848 meters (1.15 miles; 6,063 feet) from the pile driving site. For 
impact driving, the Level B isopleth extends out to 34 meters (112 
feet) from the pile driving site.

 Table 7--Expected Distances of Level B Threshold Exceedance With Impact
                          and Vibratory Driver
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Level B isopleth (meters)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    160 dB      120 dB
                   Source type                     (impact)  (vibratory)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Impact driving..................................         74          N/A
Vibratory driving...............................        N/A        1,848
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Marine Mammal Occurrence

    In this section we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations.
    At-sea densities for marine mammal species have not been determined 
for marine mammals in the coastal Carpinteria area; therefore, all 
estimates here are determined by using observational data from 
biologists, peer-reviewed literature, and information obtained from 
personal communication with other companies that have conducted 
activities on or near the Carpinteria beach area. Additionally, some 
harbor seal information was collected by the Carpinteria Seal Watch.

[[Page 42322]]

Take Calculation and Estimation

    Here we describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate.
    Level A take is not expected or proposed to be authorized for this 
activity. Of the two types of pile driving, the largest Level A 
isopleth is from impact driving at 51.8 meters for harbor seals, 3.8 
meters for California sea lion, and 3.45 meters for bottlenose 
dolphins. Neither bottlenose dolphins nor California sea lions are 
resident to this area and are not expected to remain in water near the 
beach for an extended duration of time. At 15 minutes per pile, this is 
equal to 90 minutes per day; however, those 90 minutes would be spread 
out over multiple hours to account for equipment re-sets, breaks, etc. 
Because dolphin and sea lion are not resident and not known to linger 
in the area, full exposure to all impact pile driving within a day is 
highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely that these species would 
remain within 4 meters of the sound source for a continuous period of 
two and a half hours in a day. Harbor seals are resident to the area 
and the beach at the base of the pier is a frequently used haulout. 
However, it is unlikely a harbor seal would remain in water during the 
total time of construction within a day, as they likely will be 
transiting out from the beach to forage and then returning to the 
beach. Therefore, it is estimated that no marine mammal of the three 
species most likely to occur would remain in close enough proximity for 
the duration of daily construction to be exposed to accumulated energy 
levels reaching the onset of PTS. Hence no Level A take is proposed to 
be authorized.
    Because of the lack of at-sea density information in the region of 
the project, estimated marine mammal takes were calculated using the 
following formula:

Level B exposure estimate = N (number of animals) in the ensonified 
area * Number of days of noise generating activities.

Harbor Seal

    Harbor seals are the most abundant species found at the project 
site. This beach is a known rookery for the local population, although 
work will be conducted outside of the pupping season. Although a wealth 
of data exists from the Carpinteria Seal Watch, these data are 
sometimes incomplete and data from some periods are missing. Moreover, 
these data were gathered during the period the Carpinteria Seal Watch 
does its monitoring (about January 1 through May 30 of each year). From 
June 1 through December 30 of each year, such data are virtually 
absent. The project is scheduled to begin in the fall, when the seals 
have largely abandoned the beach because it is open to the public and 
disturbances are chronic. The seals switch to a nighttime haul-out 
pattern during this period, hauling out after sundown and before dawn, 
unless the tide is very high (Seagars 1988). In such cases, the amount 
of haul-out area is very restricted and the seals are largely absent 
during this season. Reliable density data are not available from which 
to calculate the expected number of harbor seals within the Level B 
harassment zone from vibratory pile driving. Based on review of the 
available observational data, similar past experience in the project 
vicinity, and project timing (fall season, daytime hours), an estimated 
range of 0 to 50 harbor seals is anticipated to be present within the 
project vicinity during work periods. Therefore, it is estimated that 
up to 50 seals may be taken per day by Level B harassment. Over two and 
a half days of activity, that results in a total of 125 instances of 
harbor seal takes during the project.

California Sea Lion

    California sea lions are abundant throughout the SCB but do not 
regularly use Carpinteria as a haulout in large numbers. Individuals 
are usually observed hauled out on offshore structures approximately 
0.75 miles southeast of the pier. Reliable density data are not 
available from which to calculate the expected number of sea lions 
within the Level B harassment impact zone for vibratory pile. Based on 
the available observational data and project timing (fall season), an 
estimated range of zero to 15 sea lions is anticipated to be present 
within the project vicinity during work periods. Therefore it is 
estimated that up to 15 California sea lions may be taken per day by 
Level B harassment in a day. Over two and a half days of activity, that 
results in a total of 38 California sea lions taken during the project 
as it is not known if the California sea lions that come to the beach 
are the same individuals.

Bottlenose Dolphin

    Bottlenose dolphins may occur sporadically near the project area, 
but never in large numbers. Past projects have revealed anywhere from 2 
to 32 animals present at any one time, with an average pod size of 8 
(MMCG 1995; 1998a, b, d, and e; 2001a and b; 2006; 2011c, 2013b, and 
2014b). Therefore, it is estimated that no more than 16 coastal 
bottlenose dolphins (two pods of average group size) may be taken by 
Level B harassment in a day. Over two and a half days of activity, that 
results in a total of 40 bottlenose dolphins taken during the project 
as it is not known if any of the animals sighted would be repeated 
individuals.

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA 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 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 (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS 
regulations require applicants for incidental take authorizations to 
include information about the availability and feasibility (economic 
and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting such 
activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact upon the affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 
216.104(a)(11)).
    In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to 
ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and 
their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we 
carefully consider two primary factors:
    (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful 
implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to 
marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. 
This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being 
mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the 
likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented 
(probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as 
planned) the likelihood of effective implementation (probability 
implemented as planned). and;
    (2) the practicability of the measures for applicant 
implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on 
operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, 
personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the 
effectiveness of the military readiness activity.
    The following measures would apply to Venoco's mitigation through 
shutdown and disturbance zones:

[[Page 42323]]

Shutdown Zone

    For all pile driving activities, Venoco will establish a shutdown 
zone intended to contain the area in which SELs equal or exceed the 
auditory injury criteria for cetaceans and pinnipeds. The purpose of a 
shutdown zone is to define an area within which shutdown of activity 
would occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an 
animal entering the defined area), thus further preventing injury of 
marine mammals (as described previously under Potential Effects of the 
Specified Activity on Marine Mammals, serious injury or death are 
unlikely outcomes even in the absence of mitigation measures). Venoco 
proposes a shutdown zone for the largest Level A isopleth, which is the 
phocid Level A isopleth of 51.8 meters.

Disturbance Zone

    Disturbance zones are the areas in which SPLs equal or exceed 160 
and 120 dB rms (for impact and vibratory pile driving, respectively). 
Disturbance zones provide utility for monitoring conducted for 
mitigation purposes (i.e., shutdown zone monitoring) by establishing 
monitoring protocols for areas adjacent to the shutdown zones and 
identifying amount of take. Monitoring of disturbance zones enables 
observers to be aware of and communicate the presence of marine mammals 
in the project area but outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for 
potential shutdowns of activity. However, the primary purpose of 
disturbance zone monitoring is for documenting instances of Level B 
harassment; disturbance zone monitoring is discussed in greater detail 
later (see Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). Nominal radial distances 
for disturbance zones are shown in Table 7.
    Given the size of the disturbance zone for vibratory pile driving, 
it is impossible to guarantee that all animals would be observed or to 
make comprehensive observations of fine-scale behavioral reactions to 
sound, and only a portion of the zone (e.g., what may be reasonably 
observed by visual observers stationed on the pier and bluff above the 
beach) would be observed. In order to document observed instances of 
harassment, monitors record all marine mammal observations, regardless 
of location. The observer's location, as well as the location of the 
pile being driven, is known from a GPS. The location of the animal is 
estimated as a distance from the observer, which is then compared to 
the location from the pile. It may then be estimated whether the animal 
was exposed to sound levels constituting incidental harassment on the 
basis of predicted distances to relevant thresholds in post-processing 
of observational and acoustic data, and a precise accounting of 
observed incidences of harassment created. This information may then be 
used to extrapolate observed takes in the observable zone multiplied by 
the porton of the zone that is unseen to reach an approximate 
understanding of predicted total takes (Area seen/area unseen = takes 
observed/takes unobserved).
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, NMFS 
has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures 
provide the means effecting the least practicable impact on the 
affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular 
attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance.

Monitoring Protocols

    Monitoring would be conducted before, during, and after pile 
driving activities. Observers shall record all instances of marine 
mammal occurrence, regardless of distance from activity, and shall 
document any apparent behavioral reactions in concert with distance 
from piles being driven. Observations made outside the shutdown zone 
will not result in shutdown; that pile segment would be completed 
without cessation, unless the animal approaches or enters the shutdown 
zone, at which point all pile driving activities would be halted. 
Monitoring will take place from 15 minutes prior to initiation through 
30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activities. Pile driving 
activities include the time to install a single pile or series of 
piles, as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile driving 
equipment is no more than 30 minutes. If pile driving ceases for more 
than 30 minutes, the 30 minute pre-pile driving monitoring effort will 
take place prior to onset of pile driving.
    Prior to the start of pile driving activity, the shutdown zone will 
be monitored for 30 minutes to ensure that it is clear of marine 
mammals. Pile driving will only commence once observers have declared 
the shutdown zone clear of marine mammals. If the shutdown zone is not 
clear of marine mammals, pile driving will not commence until the shut-
down zone is clear. Any animals in the shut down zone prior to 
commencement of pile driving will be allowed to remain in the shutdown 
zone and their behavior will be monitored and documented. If the 51.84 
m shutdown zone is not entirely visible (e.g., due to dark, fog, etc.), 
pile driving will not commence or proceed if it is underway.
    If a marine mammal approaches or enters the shutdown zone during 
the course of pile driving operations, activity will be halted and 
delayed until either the animal has voluntarily left and been visually 
confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed without 
re-detection.
    If a species for which authorization has not been granted, or if a 
species for which authorization has been granted but the authorized 
takes are met, approaches or is observed within the Level B harassment 
zone, activities will shut down immediately and not restart until the 
animals have been confirmed to have left the area for 15 minutes. If 
pile driving has ceased for more than 30 minutes, the 30 minute pre- 
pile driving monitoring will begin.

Soft Start

    The use of a soft start procedure provides additional protection to 
marine mammals by warning or providing a chance to leave the area prior 
to the hammer operating at full capacity, and typically involves a 
requirement to initiate sound from the hammer at reduced energy 
followed by a waiting period. This procedure is repeated two additional 
times. It is difficult to specify the reduction in energy for any given 
hammer because of variation across drivers and, for impact hammers, the 
actual number of strikes at reduced energy will vary because operating 
the hammer at less than full power results in ``bouncing'' of the 
hammer as it strikes the pile, resulting in multiple ``strikes.'' For 
impact driving, we require an initial set of three strikes from the 
impact hammer at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting 
period, then 2 subsequent 3 strike sets. Soft start will be required at 
the beginning of each day's impact pile driving work and at any time 
following a cessation of impact pile driving of 30 minutes or longer.

Timing Restrictions

    Venoco will only conduct construction activities during daytime 
hours. Construction will also be restricted to the fall and late summer 
months (July through November) to avoid overlap with harbor seal 
pupping.
    Based on our evaluation of the Venoco'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,

[[Page 42324]]

mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA 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 
authorizations 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. Effective reporting is critical both to 
compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the 
required monitoring.
    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
density).
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas).
     Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors.
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks.
     Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat).
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.

Visual Marine Mammal Observations

    Venoco will collect sighting data and behavioral responses to 
construction for marine mammal species observed in the region of 
activity during the period of activity. All marine mammal observers 
(MMOs) will be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors 
and are required to have no other construction-related tasks while 
conducting monitoring. A minimum of two MMOs will be required for all 
pile driving activities. Venoco will monitor the shutdown zone and 
disturbance zone before, during, and after pile driving, with observers 
located at the best practicable vantage points. Based on our 
requirements, Venoco would implement the following procedures for pile 
driving:
     MMOs would be located at the best vantage point(s) in 
order to properly see the entire shutdown zone and as much of the 
disturbance zone as possible;
     During all observation periods, observers will use 
binoculars and the naked eye to search continuously for marine mammals;
     If the shutdown zones are obscured by fog or poor lighting 
conditions, pile driving at that location will not be initiated until 
that zone is visible. Should such conditions arise while impact driving 
is underway, the activity would be halted; and
     The shutdown zone (51.84 m) and observable portion of the 
disturbance zone around the pile will be monitored for the presence of 
marine mammals 30 min before, during, and 30 min after any pile driving 
activity.

Data Collection

    We require that observers use approved data forms. Among other 
pieces of information, Venoco will record detailed information about 
any implementation of shutdowns, including the distance of animals to 
the pile and description of specific actions that ensued and resulting 
behavior of the animal, if any. In addition, Venoco will attempt to 
distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the 
number of incidences of take. We require that, at a minimum, the 
following information be collected on the sighting forms:
     Date and time that monitored activity begins or ends;
     Construction activities occurring during each observation 
period;
     Weather parameters (e.g., percent cover, visibility);
     Water conditions (e.g., sea state, tide state);
     Species, numbers, and, if possible, sex and age class of 
marine mammals;
     Description of any observable marine mammal behavior 
patterns, including bearing and direction of travel, and if possible, 
the correlation to SPLs;
     Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals 
and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point;
     Description of implementation of mitigation measures 
(e.g., shutdown or delay);
     Locations of all marine mammal observations; and
     Other human activity in the area.

Reporting

    A draft report would be submitted to NMFS within 90 days of the 
completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 60 days prior to the 
requested date of issuance of any future IHA for projects at the same 
location, whichever comes first. The report will include marine mammal 
observations pre-activity, during-activity, and post-activity during 
pile driving days, and will also provide descriptions of any behavioral 
responses to construction activities by marine mammals and a complete 
description of all mitigation shutdowns and the results of those 
actions and an extrapolated total take estimate based on the number of 
marine mammals observed during the course of construction. A final 
report must be submitted within 30 days following resolution of 
comments on the draft report.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact 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 (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough 
information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to 
considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be 
``taken'' through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the 
likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context 
of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, 
migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness 
of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of 
estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population 
status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS's implementing 
regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other 
past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are

[[Page 42325]]

incorporated into this analysis via their impacts on the environmental 
baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, 
population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-
caused mortality, or ambient noise levels).
    Pile driving activities associated from the Casitas Pier project, 
as outlined previously, have the potential to disturb or displace 
marine mammals. Specifically, the specified activities may result in 
take, in the form of Level B harassment (behavioral disturbance), from 
underwater sounds generated from pile driving. Potential takes could 
occur if individuals of these species are present in the ensonified 
zone when pile driving occurs.
    No serious injury or mortality is anticipated given the nature of 
the activities and measures designed to minimize the possibility of 
injury to marine mammals. The potential for these outcomes is minimized 
through the construction method and the implementation of the planned 
mitigation measures. Specifically, vibratory and impact hammers and 
drilling will be the primary methods of installation. Impact pile 
driving produces short, sharp pulses with higher peak levels and much 
sharper rise time to reach those peaks. If impact driving is necessary, 
implementation of soft start and shutdown zones significantly reduces 
any possibility of injury. Given sufficient ``notice'' through use of 
soft start (for impact driving), marine mammals are expected to move 
away from a sound source that is annoying prior to it becoming 
potentially injurious. Venoco will use a minimum of two MMOs stationed 
strategically to increase detectability of marine mammals, enabling a 
high rate of success in implementation of shutdowns to avoid injury.
    Venoco's proposed activities are localized and of relatively short 
duration (two and a half days of pile driving 16 piles). The project 
area is also very limited in scope spatially, as all work is 
concentrated on a single pier. These localized and short-term noise 
exposures may cause short-term behavioral modifications in harbor 
seals, California sea lions, and killer whales. Moreover, the proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to further reduce the 
likelihood of injury, as it is unlikely an animal would remain in close 
proximity to the sound source with small Level A isoplths, as well as 
reduce behavioral disturbances. While the project area is known to be a 
rookery for harbor seals, the work will be conducted in a season when 
few harbor seals are known to be present and no breeding activities 
occur.
    The project also is not expected to have significant adverse 
effects on affected marine mammals' habitat. The project activities 
would not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant 
amount of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of 
disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals' foraging 
opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range. However, 
because of the short duration of the activities and the relatively 
small area of the habitat that may be affected, and the decreased 
potential of prey species to be in the Project area during the 
construction work window, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not 
expected to cause significant or long-term negative consequences.
    Effects on individuals that are taken by Level B harassment, on the 
basis of reports in the literature as well as monitoring from other 
similar activities, will likely be limited to temporary reactions such 
as increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, flushing, or 
decreased foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and 
Reyff 2006; Lerma 2014). Most likely, individuals will simply move away 
from the sound source and be temporarily displaced from the areas of 
pile driving and drilling, although even this reaction has been 
observed primarily only in association with impact pile driving. Thus, 
even repeated Level B harassment of some small subset of the overall 
stock is unlikely to result in any significant realized decrease in 
fitness for the affected individuals, and thus would not result in any 
adverse impact to the stock as a whole.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from 
this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality is anticipated or authorized;
     Level B harassment may consist of, at worst, temporary 
modifications in behavior (e.g. temporary avoidance of habitat or 
changes in behavior);
     The lack of important feeding, pupping, or other areas in 
the action area during the construction window;
     The small impact area relative to species range size
     Mitigation is expected to minimize the likelihood and 
severity of the level of harassment; and
     The small percentage of the stock that may be affected by 
project activities (<9 percent for all stocks).
    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 proposed monitoring and 
mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine 
mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on 
all affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be 
authorized under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified 
activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not 
define small numbers and so, in practice, where estimated numbers are 
available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most 
appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in 
our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small 
numbers of marine mammals. Additionally, other qualitative factors may 
be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of 
the activities.
    Table 8 details the number of instances (harbor seals) or 
individuals (California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins) that animals 
could be exposed to received noise levels that could cause Level B 
harassment for the proposed work at the project site relative to the 
total stock abundance. The numbers of animals authorized to be taken 
for all species would be considered small relative to the relevant 
stocks or populations even if each estimated instance of take occurred 
to a new individual. The total percent of the population (if each 
instance was a separate individual) for which take is requested is less 
than nine percent for all stocks (Table 8). Based on the analysis 
contained herein of the proposed activity (including the proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine 
mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals 
will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species 
or stocks.

[[Page 42326]]



          Table 8--Estimated Numbers and Percentage of Stock That May Be Exposed to Level B Harassment
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                     Proposed        Stock(s)      Percentage of
                             Species                                authorized       abundance      total stock
                                                                   Level B takes   estimate \1\      (percent)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) Alaska stock.......................             125          30,968             .40
California sea lion (Eumatopias jubatus) U.S. Stock.............              38         296,750            .013
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) California-Oregon-                    40           1,924             2.1
 Washington Stock California Coastal Stock......................                             453            8.83
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ All stock abundance estimates presented here are from the 2016 Pacific and Alaska Stock Assessment Report.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine 
mammal stocks or species implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has 
preliminarily 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.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS consults internally, in this case with West Coast Regional Office, 
whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened 
species.
    No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for 
authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS 
has determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is 
not required for this action.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to Venoco LLC for conducting fender pile replacement at 
Casitas Pier from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, provided the 
previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements 
are incorporated. 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 Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is valid for 1 
year from October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018.
    2. This IHA is valid only for pile driving activities associated 
with the Casitas Pier Fender Pile Replacement in Carpinteria, 
California.
    3. General Conditions.
    (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of Venoco, its 
designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of 
this IHA.
    (b) The species authorized for taking are summarized in Table 9.
    (c) The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
species listed in condition 3(b). See Table 9 for numbers of take 
authorized.

                    Table 9--Authorized Take Numbers
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                         Species                              Level B
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal.............................................             125
California sea lion.....................................              38
Killer whale............................................              40
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (d) The taking by injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or 
death of the species listed in condition 3(b) of the Authorization or 
any taking of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may 
result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA, 
unless authorization of take by Level A harassment is listed in 
condition 3(b) of this Authorization.
    4. Mitigation Measures.
    The holder of this Authorization is required to implement the 
following mitigation measures.
    (a) For all pile driving, Venoco shall implement a minimum shutdown 
zone of 51 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or 
approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease.
    (b) Venoco shall establish monitoring locations as described below. 
Please also refer to Venoco's application (see www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm).
    i. For all pile driving activities, a minimum of two observers 
shall be deployed, with one positioned on the pier and one on the bluff 
above the rookery.
    ii. These observers shall record all observations of marine 
mammals, regardless of distance from the pile being driven, as well as 
behavior and potential behavioral reactions of the animals.
    iii. All observers shall be equipped for communication of marine 
mammal observations amongst themselves and to other relevant personnel 
(e.g., those necessary to effect activity delay or shutdown).
    (d) Monitoring shall take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation 
of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile 
driving activity. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity 
resulting from marine mammals in the shutdown zone, animals shall be 
allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own 
volition) and their behavior shall be monitored and documented. 
Monitoring shall occur throughout the time required to drive a pile. 
The shutdown zone must be determined to be clear during periods of good 
visibility (i.e., the entire shutdown zone and surrounding waters must 
be visible to the naked eye).
    (e) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the 51m shutdown zone, 
all pile driving activities at that location shall be halted. If pile 
driving is halted or delayed due to the presence of a marine mammal, 
the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has 
voluntarily left and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone 
or fifteen minutes have passed without re-detection of small cetaceans 
and pinnipeds.
    (f) Using delay and shut-down procedures, if a species for which 
authorization has not been granted or if a species for which 
authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, 
approaches or is observed within the Level B harassment zone, 
activities will shut down immediately and not restart until the animals 
have been confirmed to have left the area.
    (g) Venoco shall use soft start techniques recommended by NMFS for 
impact pile driving. Soft start requires contractors to provide an 
initial set of strikes at reduced energy, followed by a thirty-second 
waiting period, then two subsequent reduced energy strike sets.

[[Page 42327]]

Soft start shall be implemented at the start of each day's impact pile 
driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for 
a period of thirty minutes or longer.
    (h) Pile driving shall only be conducted during daylight hours.
    (i) Pile driving shall only occur during July to November months.
    5. Monitoring.
    The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine 
mammal monitoring during pile driving and removal activities. Marine 
mammal monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with 
the monitoring measures in the application.
    (a) Venoco shall collect sighting data and behavioral responses to 
pile driving for marine mammal species observed in the region of 
activity during the period of activity. All observers shall be trained 
in marine mammal identification and behaviors, and shall have no other 
construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring.
    (b) Monitoring shall be conducted by qualified observers. Trained 
observers shall be placed from the best vantage point(s) practicable to 
monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown or delay procedures 
when applicable through communication with the equipment operator. 
Observer training must be provided prior to project start and in 
accordance with the monitoring measures in the application, and shall 
include instruction on species identification (sufficient to 
distinguish the species listed in 3(b)), description and categorization 
of observed behaviors and interpretation of behaviors that may be 
construed as being reactions to the specified activity, proper 
completion of data forms, and other basic components of biological 
monitoring, including tracking of observed animals or groups of animals 
such that repeat sound exposures may be attributed to individuals (to 
the extent possible).
    (c) For all marine mammal monitoring, the information shall be 
recorded as described in the monitoring measures section of the 
application.
    6. Reporting.
    The holder of this Authorization is required to:
    (a) Submit a draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA 
within 90 days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 60 
days prior to the issuance of any subsequent IHA for projects at the 
Project area, whichever comes first. A final report shall be prepared 
and submitted within thirty days following resolution of comments on 
the draft report from NMFS. This report must contain the informational 
elements described in the application, at minimum (see 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm), and shall 
also include:
    i. Detailed information about any implementation of shutdowns, 
including the distance of animals to the pile and description of 
specific actions that ensued and resulting behavior of the animal, if 
any.
    ii. Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of 
individual animals taken and the number of incidents of take, such as 
ability to track groups or individuals.
    iii. An estimated total take estimate extrapolated from the number 
of marine mammals observed during the course of construction 
activities, if necessary.
    (b) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals:
    i. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, 
such as a serious injury or mortality, Venoco shall immediately cease 
the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding 
Coordinator. The report must include the following information:
    A. Time and date of the incident;
    B. Description of the incident;
    C. Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, 
Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);
    D. Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    E. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;
    F. Fate of the animal(s); and
    G. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with Venoco to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Venoco may not 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS.
    ii. In the event that the Venoco discovers an injured or dead 
marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the 
injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in 
less than a moderate state of decomposition), Venoco shall immediately 
report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the 
West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator.
    The report must include the same information identified in 6(b)(i) 
of this IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the 
circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with Venoco to determine 
whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the 
activities are appropriate.
    iii. In the event that Venoco discovers an injured or dead marine 
mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is 
not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA 
(e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, scavenger damage), Venoco shall report the incident to 
the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional 
Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Venoco 
shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of 
the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.
    7. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if 
the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if 
NMFS determines the authorized taking is having more than a negligible 
impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses, the draft authorization, and 
any other aspect of this Notice of Proposed IHA for the proposed fender 
pile replacement. Please include with your comments any supporting data 
or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the 
request for MMPA authorization.

    Dated: September 1, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-18974 Filed 9-6-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P