Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Bravo Wharf Recapitalization Project, Year 2, 55990-56006 [2017-25482]

Download as PDF 55990 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices This notice is issued and published pursuant to section 733(c)(2) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(f)(1). Dated: November 20, 2017. Gary Taverman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations, performing the non-exclusive functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2017–25536 Filed 11–24–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [A–570–972; A–583–848] Certain Stilbenic Optical Brightening Agents From the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan: Continuation of Antidumping Duty Orders Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce. DATES: Applicable November 27, 2017. SUMMARY: As a result of the determinations by the Department of Commerce (the Department) and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that revocation of the antidumping duty orders on certain stilbenic optical brightening agents (stilbenic OBAs) from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and material injury to an industry in the United States, the Department is publishing a notice of continuation of the antidumping duty orders. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eli Lovely, AD/CVD Operations, Office IV, Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230; telephone (202) 482–1593. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On April 3, 2017, the Department published the notice of initiation of the first sunset reviews of the antidumping duty orders on stilbenic OBAs from the PRC and Taiwan pursuant to section 751(c) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act).1 As a result of its review, the Department determined that revocation of the antidumping duty orders on certain stilbenic OBAs from the PRC and Taiwan would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and, therefore, notified the ITC of the magnitude of the margins of dumping asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES AGENCY: 1 See Initiation of Five-Year (Sunset) Reviews, 82 FR 16159 (April 3, 2017). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 likely to prevail should the orders be revoked.2 On October 27, 2017, the ITC published its determination, pursuant to section 751(c)(1) of the Act, that revocation of the antidumping duty orders on certain stilbenic OBAs from the PRC and Taiwan would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury to an industry in the United States within a reasonably foreseeable time.3 Scope of the Orders The stilbenic OBAs covered by the orders are all forms (whether free acid or salt) of compounds known as triazinylaminostilbenes (i.e., all derivatives of 4,4′-bis [1,3,5-triazin-2yl] 4 amino-2,2′-stilbenedisulfonic acid), except for compounds listed in the following paragraph. The stilbenic OBAs covered by the orders include final stilbenic OBA products, as well as intermediate products that are themselves triazinylaminostilbenes produced during the synthesis of stilbenic OBA products. Excluded from the orders are all forms of 4,4′-bis[4-anilino-6-morpholino-1,3,5triazin-2-yl] 5 amino-2,2′stilbenedisulfonic acid, C40H40N12O8S2 (Fluorescent Brightener 71). The orders cover the above-described compounds in any state (including but not limited to powder, slurry, or solution), of any concentrations of active stilbenic OBA ingredient, as well as any compositions regardless of additives (i.e., mixtures or blends, whether of stilbenic OBAs with each other, or of stilbenic OBAs with additives that are not stilbenic OBAs), and in any type of packaging. These stilbenic OBAs are classifiable under subheading 3204.20.8000 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), but they may also enter under subheadings 2933.69.6050, 2921.59.4000 and 2921.59.8090. Although the HTSUS subheadings are provided for convenience and customs purposes, the written description of the merchandise is dispositive. Continuation of the Orders As a result of these determinations by the Department and the ITC that 2 See Certain Stilbenic Optical Brightening Agents from the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan: Final Results of the Expedited Sunset Reviews of the Antidumping Duty Orders, 82 FR 36732 (August 7, 2017). 3 See USITC Publication 4737 (October 2017), entitled Certain Stilbenic Optical Brightening Agents from China and Taiwan: Investigation Nos. 731–TA–1186–1187 (Review). 4 The brackets in this sentence are part of the chemical formula. 5 Id. PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 revocation of the antidumping duty orders would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and material injury to an industry in the United States, pursuant to section 751(d)(2) of the Act, the Department hereby orders the continuation of the antidumping orders on certain stilbenic OBAs from the PRC and Taiwan. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to collect antidumping duty cash deposits at the rates in effect at the time of entry for all imports of subject merchandise. The effective date of the continuation of these orders will be the date of publication in the Federal Register of this notice of continuation. Pursuant to section 751(c)(2) of the Act, the Department intends to initiate the next five-year review of the orders not later than 30 days prior to the fifth anniversary of the effective date of continuation. This five-year (sunset) review and this notice are in accordance with section 751(c) of the Act and published pursuant to section 777(i)(1) of the Act. Dated: November 20, 2017. Gary Taverman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations, performing the non-exclusive functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. [FR Doc. 2017–25537 Filed 11–24–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF582 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Bravo Wharf Recapitalization Project, Year 2 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 Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic (the Navy) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to Bravo Wharf Recapitalization, Year 2 in Naval Station Mayport (NSM), Jacksonville, Florida. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 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 December 27, 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.elliott@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 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: Brianna Elliott, 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 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 PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 55991 or making a final decision on the IHA request. Summary of Request On July 12, 2017, NMFS received a request from the Navy for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to pile driving in association with the Bravo Wharf recapitalization project at NSM, FL. The Navy’s request is for take of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus truncatus) by Level B harassment only. Neither the Navy nor NMFS expect mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. NMFS previously issued IHAs to the Navy for similar work at Bravo Wharf (81 FR 52637, 1 December 2016; revised IHA for this activity: 82 FR 11344, 13 March 2017) and Wharf C–2, also located within NSM (80 FR 55598, 8 September 2015; 78 FR 71566, 1 December 2013 and revised IHA for this activity: 79 FR 27863, 1 September 2014). The Navy complied with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) of previous IHAs at Wharf C–2 (80 FR 55598, 8 September 2015; 79 FR 27863, 1 September 2014) and information regarding their monitoring results may be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm. This proposed IHA would cover one year of a larger project for which the Navy obtained a prior IHA at Bravo Wharf. The larger project involves recapitalization of Bravo Wharf at three berths in NSM spread across Phase I and Phase II, which involves installing 880 single sheet piles through the two phases. The majority of construction activity is occurring in the first year of the project, with Phase I estimated to be fully complete and Phase II estimated to be 60 percent complete by March 13, 2018, the proposed start date for this proposed IHA; therefore, this IHA is for the remaining work at Bravo Wharf. Description of Proposed Activity Overview Bravo Wharf is a medium draft, general purpose berthing wharf that was constructed in 1970 and lies at the western edge of the NSM turning basin. Bravo Wharf is approximately 2,000 feet (ft) long, 125 ft wide, and has a berthing depth of 50 ft mean lower low water. The wharf is one of two primary deep draft berths at the basin and is capable of berthing ships up to and including large amphibious ships; it is one of three primary ordnance handling berths at the basin. The wharf is a diaphragm steel sheet pile cell structure with a concrete apron, partial concrete encasement of the piling, and asphalt paved deck. The E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 55992 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices wharf is currently in poor condition due to advanced deterioration of the steel sheeting and lack of corrosion protection. This structural deterioration has resulted in the institution of load restrictions within 60 ft of the wharf face. The purpose of the second year of this project is to finish installing remaining sheet piles by vibratory pile driving, though contingency impact driving may be necessary, in order to complete necessary repairs to Bravo Wharf. Please refer to the Navy’s application for a schematic of the project plan. Both vibratory and impact pile driving could result in take, by Level B harassment only, of bottlenose dolphins through exposure to the sound source in waters surrounding NSM. Activity will be confined to forty days, including 30 days for vibratory pile driving and 10 contingency days for impact pile driving. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Dates and Duration The total project, including the first year of construction for which an IHA was issued (82 FR 11344; 22 February 2017) is expected to require a maximum of 130 days of in-water pile driving. The second year of the project, reflected in this proposed IHA, will involve a maximum of 40 days of in-water construction. Vibratory pile driving is expected to take 30 days, with a contingent 10 days of impact pile driving. Operators would only conduct pile driving during daylight hours as determined by NOAA data, and no inwater construction activities could occur between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at any point during the year. The specified activities are expected to occur between March 13, 2018 and March 12, 2019. Specific Geographic Region NSM is located in northeastern Florida, at the mouth of the St. Johns River and adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean (see Figures 1–1, 2–1, and 2–2 of the Navy’s application). The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida, with the final 35 miles (mi) flowing through the city of Jacksonville. This portion of the river is significant for commercial shipping and military use. At the mouth of the river, near the action area, the Atlantic Ocean is the dominant influence and typical salinities are above 30 parts per million. Outside the river mouth, in nearshore waters, moderate oceanic currents tend to flow southward parallel to the coast. Sea surface temperatures range from around 16 °C in winter to 28 °C in summer. The specific action area consists of the NSM turning basin, an area of approximately 2,000 by 3,000 ft VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 containing ship-berthing facilities at sixteen locations along wharves around the basin perimeter. The basin was constructed during the early 1940s by dredging the eastern part of Ribault Bay (at the mouth of the St. Johns River), with dredge material from the basin used to fill parts of the bay and other low-lying areas in order to elevate the land surface. The basin is currently maintained through regular dredging at a depth of 50 ft, with depths at the berths ranging from 30–50 ft. The turning basin, connected to the St. Johns River by a 500-ft-wide entrance channel, will largely contain sound produced by project activities, with the exception of sound propagating east into nearshore Atlantic waters through the entrance channel (see Figure 2–2 of the Navy’s application). Bravo Wharf is located in the western corner of the Mayport turning basin. Detailed Description of Specific Activity In order to rehabilitate Bravo Wharf, the Navy proposes to install a new steel sheet pile bulkhead at Bravo Wharf. The entire recapitalization project consists of installing a total of approximately 880 single sheet piles. By March 2018, it is estimated that Phase I will be 100 percent complete and Phase II will be 60 percent complete, with 234 piles remaining to be installed. The wall will be anchored at the top and fill consisting of clean gravel and concrete fill will be placed behind the wall. A concrete cap will be formed along the top and outside face of the wall to tie the entire structure together and provide a berthing surface for vessels. The new bulkhead will be designed for a 50-year service life. All piles would be driven by vibratory hammer, although impact pile driving may be used as a contingency in cases when vibratory driving is not sufficient to reach the necessary depth. In the unlikely event that impact driving is required, either impact or vibratory driving could occur on a given day, but concurrent use of vibratory and impact drivers would not occur. The Navy estimates that a total of 40 in-water work days may be required to complete pile driving activity, which includes 10 days for contingency impact driving, if necessary. 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 four marine mammal species which may inhabit or transit PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 through the waters nearby NSM at the mouth of the St. Johns River and in nearby nearshore Atlantic waters. These include the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus truncatus), Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Multiple additional cetacean species occur in south Atlantic waters but 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/). Please also refer to the Navy’s Marine Resource Assessment for the Charleston/Jacksonville Operating Area, which documents and describes the marine resources that occur in Navy operating areas of the Southeast (DoN 2008). The document is publicly available at www.navfac.navy.mil/products_and_ services/ev/products_and_services/ marine_resources/marine_resource_ assessments.html (accessed October 12, 2017). Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in the vicinity of NSM 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 E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 55993 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices 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. 2016 SARs (Hayes et al., 2016). All values presented in Table 1 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the 2016 SARs (Hayes et al., 2016). In addition, the West Indian manatees may be found in the vicinity of NSM. However, West Indian manatees are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are not considered further in this document. TABLE 1—MARINE MAMMALS POTENTIALLY PRESENT IN THE VICINITY OF NSM Common name Scientific name ESA/MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 Annual M/SI 3 PBR Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Eschrichtiidae North Atlantic Right Whale. Humpback whale ........... Eubalaena glacialis ....... Western North Atlantic .. E/D; Y 440 (0; 440; 2013) ........ 1 5.66 Megaptera novaeangliae Gulf of Maine ................ -; N 823 (0; 823; 2011) ........ 13 9.05 316 0 unk 1.2 7 0.4 63 0–12 63 0–12 Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Delphinidae Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Stenella frontalis ........... Western North Atlantic .. -; N Common bottlenose dolphin. Common bottlenose dolphin. Tursiops truncatus truncatus. Tursiops truncatus truncatus. -; Y Common bottlenose dolphin. Common bottlenose dolphin. Tursiops truncatus truncatus. Tursiops truncatus truncatus. Jacksonville Estuarine System. Western North Atlantic, northern Florida coastal. Western North Atlantic, offshore. Western North Atlantic, southern migratory coastal. -/D; Y -; N -/D; Y 44,715 (0.43; 31,610; 2011). 412 (0.06; unk; 1994– 97) 4. 1,219 (0.67; 730; 2010– 11). 77,532 (0.40; 56,053; 2011). 9,173 (0.46; 6,326; 2010–11). asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD 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. 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. 4 This abundance estimate is considered an overestimate because it includes non- and seasonally-resident animals. Note—Italicized species are not expected to be taken or proposed for authorization. All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey areas are included in Table 1. However, the temporal and/or spatial occurrence of North Atlantic right whales, humpback whales, and Atlantic spotted dolphins is such that take is not expected to occur. Regarding North Atlantic right whales, an estimate of potential exposures shows that there is potential for two Level B exposures of North Atlantic right whales from vibratory pile driving. However, the North Atlantic right whale density used in this analysis reflects their expected occurrence in waters outside of the St. Johns River, as there is no applicable density for waters affected by the specified activity. We consider the likelihood of occurrence to be extremely low, given that the only known sighting of a North Atlantic right whale in the St. Johns River occurred in 2011, resulting in a disruption of all VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 boat traffic (Gibbons 2011; Cravey 2016). Therefore, the potential for interaction with this species is unlikely and NMFS does not believe take authorization is warranted for right whales. The Navy has not requested, and NMFS is not proposing to authorize, incidental take of right whales. The likelihood of encountering a humpback whale in NSM or around the mouth of the river is similarly considered discountable. In the winter, some humpback whales migrate from their summer foraging grounds in the Gulf of Maine to their winter breeding habitat around the Cape Verde Islands and West Indies (Stevick et al., 1998; Wenzel et al., 2009, Stevick et al., 2016). Significant numbers of whales do not migrate to these wintering grounds, and there have been a number of humpback whale sightings and detections in the southeastern U.S. during the winter PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (Wiley et al., 1995; Laerm et al., 1997; Norris et al., 2013; Waring et al., 2014). When considering the low frequency of occurrence, small size of ensonified area, short duration (40 days total), and proposed monitoring and mitigation (see Proposed Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting below), we consider the possibility for harassment of humpback and right whales to be discountable. Concerning Atlantic spotted dolphins, no acoustic exposures were predicted and, from recent observation reports from the Navy from previous construction activity at Naval Station Mayport, no spotted dolphins were observed. Similarly, dolphin research studies that have been conducted in the area also reported zero observed spotted dolphins in the project area (Q. Gibson, pers. comm. with L. McCue, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 2015). We E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 55994 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES consider the likelihood of Atlantic spotted dolphins being impacted by the construction activities to be discountable based on this information, combined with the zero estimated exposures. Therefore, the North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, and Atlantic spotted dolphins are excluded from further analysis and are not discussed further in this document. Bottlenose Dolphins Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in tropical to temperate waters and can be found in all depths from estuarine inshore to deep offshore waters. Temperature appears to limit the range of the species, either directly, or indirectly, for example, through distribution of prey. Off North American coasts, common bottlenose dolphins are found where surface water temperatures range from about 10 °C to 32 °C. In many regions, including the southeastern U.S., separate coastal and offshore populations are known. There is significant genetic, morphological, and hematological differentiation evident between the two ecotypes (e.g., Walker 1981; Duffield et al., 1983; Duffield 1987; Hoelzel et al., 1998), which correspond to shallow, warm water and deep, cold water. Both ecotypes have been shown to inhabit the western North Atlantic (Hersh and Duffield 1990; Mead and Potter 1995), where the deep-water ecotype tends to be larger and darker. In addition, several lines of evidence, including photo-identification and genetic studies, support a distinction between dolphins inhabiting coastal waters near the shore and those present in the inshore waters of bays, sounds and estuaries. This complex differentiation of bottlenose dolphin populations is observed throughout the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts where bottlenose dolphins are found, although estuarine populations have not been fully defined. In the Mayport area, four stocks of bottlenose dolphins are currently managed, none of which are protected under the ESA. Of the four stocks— offshore, southern migratory coastal, northern Florida coastal, and Jacksonville estuarine system—only the latter three are likely to occur in the action area. Bottlenose dolphins typically occur in groups of 2–15 individuals (Shane et al., 1986; Kerr et al., 2005). Although significantly larger groups have also been reported, smaller groups are typical of shallow, confined waters. In addition, such waters typically support some degree of regional site fidelity and limited movement patterns (Shane et al., 1986; Wells et al., 1987). Observations made VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 during marine mammal surveys conducted during 2012–2013 in the Mayport turning basin show bottlenose dolphins typically occurring individually or in pairs, or less frequently in larger groups. The maximum observed group size during these surveys was six, while the mode was one. Navy observations indicate that bottlenose dolphins rarely linger in a particular area in the turning basin, but rather appear to move purposefully through the basin and then leave, which likely reflects a lack of biological importance for these dolphins in the basin. Based on currently available information, it is not possible to determine the stock to which the dolphins occurring in the action area may belong. These stocks are described in greater detail below. Western North Atlantic Offshore— This stock, consisting of the deep-water ecotype or offshore form of bottlenose dolphin in the western North Atlantic, is distributed primarily along the outer continental shelf and continental slope, but has been documented to occur relatively close to shore (Waring et al., 2014). The separation between offshore and coastal morphotypes varies depending on location and season, with the ranges overlapping to some degree south of Cape Hatteras. Based on genetic analysis, Torres et al. (2003) found a distributional break at 34 km from shore, with the offshore form found exclusively seaward of 34 km and in waters deeper than 34 m. Within 7.5 km of shore, all animals were of the coastal morphotype. More recently, coastwide, systematic biopsy collection surveys were conducted during the summer and winter to evaluate the degree of spatial overlap between the two morphotypes. South of Cape Hatteras, spatial overlap was found although the probability of a sampled group being from the offshore morphotype increased with increasing depth, and the closest distance for offshore animals was 7.3 km from shore, in water depths of 13 m just south of Cape Lookout (Garrison et al., 2003). The maximum radial distance for the largest ZOI is approximately 1.2 km (Table 2); therefore, it is unlikely that any individuals of the offshore morphotype would be affected by project activities. In terms of water depth, the affected area is generally in the range of the shallower depth reported for offshore dolphins by Garrison et al. (2003), but is far shallower than the depths reported by Torres et al. (2003). South of Cape Lookout, the zone of spatial overlap between offshore and coastal ecotypes is generally considered to occur in water PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 depths between 20–100 m (Waring et al., 2014), which is generally deeper than waters in the action area. This stock is thus excluded from further analysis. Western North Atlantic, southern migratory coastal—The coastal morphotype of bottlenose dolphin is continuously distributed from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic and north approximately to Long Island (Waring et al., 2014). On the Atlantic coast, Scott et al. (1988) hypothesized a single coastal stock, citing stranding patterns during a high mortality event in 1987– 88 and observed density patterns. More recent studies demonstrate that there is instead a complex mosaic of stocks (Zolman 2002; McLellan et al., 2002; Rosel et al., 2009). The coastal morphotype was managed by NMFS as a single stock until 2009, when it was split into five separate stocks, including northern and southern migratory stocks. The original, single stock of coastal dolphins recognized from 1995–2001 was listed as depleted under the MMPA as a result of a 1987–88 mortality event. That designation was retained when the single stock was split into multiple coastal stocks. Therefore, all coastal stocks of bottlenose dolphins are listed as depleted under the MMPA, and are also considered strategic stocks. According to the Scott et al. (1988) hypothesis, a single stock was thought to migrate seasonally between New Jersey (summer) and central Florida (winter). Instead, it was more recently determined that a mix of resident and migratory stocks exists, with the migratory movements and spatial distribution of the southern migratory stock the most poorly understood of these. Stable isotope analysis and telemetry studies provide evidence for seasonal movements of dolphins between North Carolina and northern Florida (Knoff 2004; Waring et al., 2014), and genetic analyses and tagging studies support differentiation of northern and southern migratory stocks (Rosel et al., 2009; Waring et al., 2014). Although there is significant uncertainty regarding the southern migratory stock’s spatial movements, telemetry data indicates that the stock occupies waters of southern North Carolina (south of Cape Lookout) during the fall (OctoberDecember). In winter months (January– March), the stock moves as far south as northern Florida where it overlaps spatially with the northern Florida coastal and Jacksonville estuarine system stocks. In spring (April-June), the stock returns north to waters of North Carolina, and is presumed to remain north of Cape Lookout during the summer months. Therefore, the E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices potential exists for harassment of southern migratory dolphins, most likely during the winter only. Bottlenose dolphins are ubiquitous in coastal waters from the mid-Atlantic through the Gulf of Mexico, and therefore interact with multiple coastal fisheries, including gillnet, trawl, and trap/pot fisheries. Stock-specific total fishery-related mortality and serious injury cannot be directly estimated because of the spatial overlap among stocks of bottlenose dolphins, and because of unobserved fisheries. The primary known source of fishery mortality for the southern migratory stock is the mid-Atlantic gillnet fishery (Waring et al., 2014). Between 2004 and 2008, 588 bottlenose dolphins stranded along the Atlantic coast between Florida and Maryland that could potentially be assigned to the southern migratory stock, although the assignment of animals to a particular stock is impossible in some seasons and regions due to spatial overlap amongst stocks (Waring et al., 2014). Many of these animals exhibited some evidence of human interaction, such as line/net marks, gunshot wounds, or vessel strike. In addition, nearshore and estuarine habitats occupied by the coastal morphotype are adjacent to areas of high human population and some are highly industrialized. It should also be noted that stranding data underestimate the extent of fishery-related mortality and serious injury because not all of the marine mammals that die or are seriously injured in fishery interactions are discovered, reported or investigated, nor will all of those that are found necessarily show signs of entanglement or other fishery interaction. The level of technical expertise among stranding network personnel varies widely as does the ability to recognize signs of fishery interactions. Finally, multiple resident populations of bottlenose dolphins have been shown to have high concentrations of organic pollutants (e.g., Kuehl et al., 1991) and, despite little study of contaminant loads in migrating coastal dolphins, exposure to environmental pollutants and subsequent effects on population health is an area of concern and active research. Western North Atlantic, Northern Florida Coastal—Please see above for description of the differences between coastal and offshore ecotypes and the delineation of coastal dolphins into management stocks. The northern Florida coastal stock is one of five stocks of coastal dolphins and one of three known resident stocks (other resident stocks include South Carolina/ Georgia and central Florida dolphins). The spatial extent of these stocks, their VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 potential seasonal movements, and their relationships with estuarine stocks are poorly understood. During summer months, when the migratory stocks are known to be in North Carolina waters and further north, bottlenose dolphins are still seen in coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, indicating the presence of additional stocks of coastal animals. Speakman et al. (2006) documented dolphins in coastal waters off Charleston, South Carolina, that are not known resident members of the estuarine stock, and genetic analyses indicate significant differences between coastal dolphins from northern Florida, Georgia and central South Carolina (NMFS 2001; Rosel et al., 2009). The northern Florida stock is thought to be present from approximately the Georgia-Florida border south to 29.4° N. (Waring et al., 2014). The northern Florida coastal stock ventures into the St. Johns River in large numbers, but rarely moves past NSM. The mouth of the St. Johns River may serve as a foraging area for this stock and the Jacksonville estuarine stock (Q. Gibson, pers. comm. with L. McCue, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 2015). The northern Florida coastal stock is susceptible to interactions with similar fisheries as those described above for the southern migratory stock, including gillnet, trawl, and trap/pot fisheries. From 2004–08, 78 stranded dolphins were recovered in northern Florida waters, although it was not possible to determine whether there was evidence of human interaction for the majority of these (Waring et al., 2014). The same concerns discussed above regarding underestimation of mortality hold for this stock and, as for southern migratory dolphins, pollutant loading is a concern. Western North Atlantic, Jacksonville Estuarine System—Please see above for description of the differences between coastal and offshore ecotypes and the delineation of coastal dolphins into management stocks primarily inhabiting nearshore waters. The coastal morphotype of bottlenose dolphin is also resident to certain inshore estuarine waters (Caldwell 2001; Gubbins 2002; Zolman 2002; Gubbins et al., 2003). Multiple lines of evidence support demographic separation between coastal dolphins found in nearshore waters and those in estuarine waters, as well as between dolphins residing within estuaries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts (e.g., Wells et al., 1987; Scott et al., 1990; Wells et al., 1996; Cortese 2000; Zolman 2002; Speakman et al. 2006; Stolen et al., 2007; Balmer et al., 2008; Mazzoil et al., 2008). In particular, PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 55995 a study conducted near Jacksonville demonstrated significant genetic differences between coastal and estuarine dolphins (Caldwell 2001; Rosel et al., 2009). Despite evidence for genetic differentiation between estuarine and nearshore populations, the degree of spatial overlap between these populations remains unclear. Photo-identification studies within estuaries demonstrate seasonal immigration and emigration and the presence of transient animals (e.g., Speakman et al., 2006). In addition, the degree of movement of resident estuarine animals into coastal waters on seasonal or shorter time scales is poorly understood (Waring et al., 2014). The Jacksonville estuarine system (JES) stock has been defined as separate primarily by the results of photoidentification and genetic studies. The stock range is considered to be bounded in the north by the Georgia-Florida border at Cumberland Sound, extending south to approximately Jacksonville Beach, Florida. This encompasses an area defined during a photoidentification study of bottlenose dolphin residency patterns in the area (Caldwell 2001), and the borders are subject to change upon further study of dolphin residency patterns in estuarine waters of southern Georgia and northern/central Florida. The habitat is comprised of several large brackish rivers, including the St. Johns River, as well as tidal marshes and shallow riverine systems. Three behaviorally different communities were identified during Caldwell’s (2001) study: The estuarine waters north (Northern) and south (Southern) of the St. Johns River and the coastal area, all of which differed in density, habitat fidelity and social affiliation patterns. The coastal dolphins are believed to be members of a coastal stock, however (Waring et al., 2014). Although Northern and Southern members of the JES stock show strong site fidelity, members of both groups have been observed outside their preferred areas. Dolphins residing within estuaries south of Jacksonville Beach down to the northern boundary of the Indian River Lagoon Estuarine System (IRLES) stock are currently not included in any stock, as there are insufficient data to determine whether animals in this area exhibit affiliation to the JES stock, the IRLES stock, or are simply transient animals associated with coastal stocks. Further research is needed to establish affinities of dolphins in the area between the ranges, as currently understood, of the JES and IRLES stocks. The JES stock is susceptible to similar fisheries interactions as those described E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 55996 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices above for coastal stocks, although only trap/pot fisheries are likely to occur in estuarine waters frequented by the stock. Only one dolphin carcass bearing evidence of fisheries interaction was recovered during 2003–07 in the JES area, and an additional 16 stranded dolphins were recovered during this time, but no determinations regarding human interactions could be made for the majority (Waring et al., 2014). Nineteen bottlenose dolphins died in the St. Johns River (SJR), Florida between May 24 and November 7, 2010, all of which came from the JES stock. The cause of these deaths was undetermined. The same concerns discussed above regarding underestimation of mortality hold for this stock and, as for stocks discussed above, pollutant loading is a concern. Although no contaminant analyses have yet been conducted in this area, the JES stock inhabits areas with significant drainage from industrial and urban sources, and as such is exposed to contaminants in runoff from these. In other estuarine areas where such analyses have been conducted, exposure to anthropogenic contaminants has been found to likely have an effect (Hansen et al. 2004; Schwacke et al., 2004; Reif et al., 2008). The original, single stock of coastal dolphins recognized from 1995–2001 was listed as depleted under the MMPA as a result of a 1987–88 mortality event. That designation was retained when the single stock was split into multiple coastal stocks. However, Scott et al. (1988) suggested that dolphins residing in the bays, sounds and estuaries adjacent to these coastal waters were not affected by the mortality event and these animals were explicitly excluded from the depleted listing (Waring et al., 2014). Gubbins et al. (2003), using data from Caldwell (2001), estimated the stock size to be 412 (CV = 0.06). However, NMFS considers abundance unknown because this estimate likely includes an unknown number of nonresident and seasonally-resident dolphins. It nevertheless represents the best available information regarding stock size. Because the stock size is likely small, and relatively few mortalities and serious injuries would exceed PBR, the stock is considered to be a strategic stock (Waring et al., 2014). A UME occurred between 2013 and 2015 spanning the Atlantic coast, which impacted all stocks of bottlenose dolphins in the area. Over 1,800 dolphins stranded in this time period. The preliminary conclusion of the cause of this UME was morbillivirus. The bottlenose dolphin stocks in this area (SJR and coastal areas) may be VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 considered vulnerable to impacts from future activities due to this recent event. 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 decibels (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): • Low-frequency cetaceans (mysticetes): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 7 hertz (Hz) and 35 kilohertz (kHz), with best hearing estimated to be from 100 Hz to 8 kHz; • Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked whales, and most delphinids): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz, with best hearing from 10 to less than 100 kHz; • High-frequency cetaceans (porpoises, river dolphins, and members of the genera Kogia and Cephalorhynchus; including two members of the genus Lagenorhynchus, on the basis of recent echolocation data and genetic data): Generalized hearing is PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 estimated to occur between approximately 275 Hz and 160 kHz. For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. Bottlenose dolphins, the species that could cooccur with proposed survey activities and for which take is estimated, are are classified as mid-frequency cetaceans. 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 section later in this document includes a quantitative 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 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. We provided discussion of the potential effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat in our Federal Register notice of proposed authorization associated with the first IHA for recapitalization at Bravo Wharf (80 FR 75978; 7 December 2015). The specified activity associated with this proposed IHA is substantially similar to that considered for the first IHA, and the potential effects of the specified activity are nearly the same as those identified in those documents. In the aforementioned Federal Register notice, we also provided general background information on sound and a description of sound sources and ambient sound and refer the reader to those documents. Therefore, we briefly summarize potential effects here, but refer the reader to that document (80 FR 75978; 7 December 2015). An increase in noise levels from pile driving in waters surrounding NSM is the primary means by which marine mammals and their habitat could be impacted. Marine mammals exposed to elevated sound levels could experience physical and behavioral effects, though the magnitude of potential impact depends on a range of factors on the physical environment and biological state of marine mammals, such as sound type (e.g. impulsive sounds of impact driving or non-impulsive sound of vibratory pile driving), bottom profile characteristics, species, age and sex E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES class, duration of exposure, and many other factors (Wartzok et al., 2003; Southall et al., 2007; Hildebrand 2009). Potential effects include potential behavioral harassment (e.g. avoidance behavior or temporary displacement), masking—or interference, with marine mammals’ ability to receive other sounds vital for biological functioning, and increased stress. Marine Mammal Habitat Effects 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, though the surrounding areas may be foraging habitat for the dolphins. The most likely impact to marine mammal habitat occurs from pile driving effects on likely marine mammal prey (i.e., fish) within NSM. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Furthermore, sound pulses at received levels of 160 dB re 1 mPa (all dB values in this document are referenced to a pressure of 1 mPa) may cause subtle changes in fish behavior, while 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, though 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. The Mayport turning basin itself is a man-made basin with significant levels of industrial activity and regular dredging, and is unlikely to harbor significant amounts of forage fish. Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations. In summary, given the short daily duration of sound associated with individual pile driving events and the relatively small areas being affected, pile driving activities associated with the proposed action are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on marine mammal prey or their habitat. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes proposed for authorization through this IHA, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 which will inform both NMFS’s 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 vibratory and impact pile driving. Based on the nature of the activity, Level A harassment is neither anticipated nor proposed to be authorized. In order to estimate the potential incidents of take that may occur incidental to the specified activity, we must first estimate the extent of the sound field that may be produced by the activity and then consider in combination with information about marine mammal density or abundance in the project area. 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 PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 55997 degree (equated to Level A harassment) (Table 2). 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). 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 micro Pascal (mPa) root mean square (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. Recapitalization of Bravo Wharf 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) (Table 2). The Navy’s proposed recapitalization of Bravo Wharf 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. E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 55998 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices TABLE 2—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT PTS Onset thresholds Hearing group Impulsive Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans ........................................... Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans .......................................... High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ......................................... Non-impulsive Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB ......................................... Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB ........................................ Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB ........................................ LE,LF,24h: 199 dB. LE,MF,24h: 198 dB. LE,HF,24h: 173 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, thresholds 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. Ensonified Area Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the acoustic thresholds. Distance to Sound Thresholds Underwater Sound Propagation Formula—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 (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 fifteen is often used under conditions, such as at the NSM turning basin, 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. However, these data are largely for impact driving of steel pipe piles and concrete piles as well as vibratory driving of steel pipe piles. Vibratory driving of steel sheet piles was monitored during the first year of construction at the nearby Wharf C–2 at Naval Station Mayport during 2015. Measurements were conducted from a small boat in the turning basin and from the construction barge itself. Average SPLs for steel sheet piles ranged from 135 to 158 dB (DoN 2015) and SPLs for a 10-second period of driving averaged 156 dB re 1mPa rms (DoN, 2017a). No impact driving was measured at this location; therefore, proxy levels for impact driving have been calculated from other available source levels. In order to determine reasonable SPLs and their associated effects on marine mammals that are likely to result from impact pile driving at NSM, we considered existing measurements from similar physical environments (sandy sediments and water depths greater than 15 ft) for driving of steel sheet piles (all measured at 10 m; e.g., Laughlin, 2005a, 2005b; Illingworth and Rodkin, 2010, 2012, 2013; CalTrans 2012; CalTrans 2015). Proxy source values based on similarity to the physical environment at NSM and measurement location in the mid-water column were selected for acoustic modeling: 156 dB for vibratory driving (DoN 2017a) and 190 dB for impact driving (CalTrans 2015). All calculated distances to and the total area encompassed by the marine mammal sound thresholds are provided in Table 3. asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES TABLE 3—DISTANCE TO RELEVANT UNDERWATER SOUND TRESHOLDS AND AREAS OF ENSONIFICATION Distance (m) Pile type Method Threshold Steel sheet piles ............... Vibratory .......................... MF Level A (injury): 198 dB SELcum ........................ Level B (behavior): 120 dB re 1μPa rms .................. MF Level A (injury): 185 dB SELcum ........................ Level B (behavior): 160 dB re 1μPa rms .................. Impact (contingency only) 1 Sound 0.1 2,512 7.7 1,000 pressure levels used for calculations are 156 dB rms and 190 dB rms for vibratory and impact driving, respectively. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Area (km2) 0 1.3550776 0.004 0.5313217 55999 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices The Mayport turning basin does not represent open water, or free field, conditions. Therefore, sounds would attenuate as per the confines of the basin, and may only reach the full estimated distances to the harassment thresholds via the narrow, east-facing entrance channel. Distances shown in Table 3 are estimated for free-field conditions, but areas are calculated per the actual conditions of the action area. See Figures 6–1 and 6–2 of the Navy’s application for a depiction of areas in which each underwater sound threshold is predicted to occur at the project area due to pile driving. 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. Marine Mammal Densities For all species, the best scientific information available was considered for use in the marine mammal take assessment calculations. All densities for marine mammals with the possibility of occurring in the project area were calculated from the Navy’s Marine Species Density Database and Technical Report (DoN 2017b). Density for bottlenose dolphins is derived from site-specific surveys conducted by the Navy (see Appendix C of the Navy’s application for more information); it is not currently possible to identify observed individuals to stock. This survey effort consists of 24 half-day observation periods covering mornings and afternoons during four seasons (December 10–13, 2012, March 4–7, 2013, June 3–6, 2013, and September 9– 12, 2013). During each observation period, two observers (a primary observer at an elevated observation point and a secondary observer at ground level) monitored for the presence of marine mammals in the turning basin (0.712 km2) and an additional grid east of the basin entrance. Observers tracked marine mammal movements and behavior within the observation area, with observations recorded for five-minute intervals every half-hour. Morning sessions typically ran from 7:00–11:30 and afternoon sessions from 1:00 to 5:30. Most observations of bottlenose dolphins were of individuals or pairs, although larger groups were occasionally observed (median number of dolphins observed ranged from 1–3.5 across seasons). Densities were calculated using observational data from the primary observer supplemented with data from the secondary observer for grids not visible by the primary observer. Season-specific density was then adjusted by applying a correction factor for observer error (i.e., perception bias). The seasonal densities range from 1.98603 (winter) to 4.15366 (summer) dolphins/km2. We conservatively use the largest density value to assess take, as the Navy does not have specific information about when in-water work may occur during the proposed period of validity. Take Calculation and Estimation Here we describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. The following assumptions are made when estimating potential incidents of take: • All marine mammal individuals potentially available are assumed to be present within the relevant area, and thus incidentally taken; • An individual can only be taken once during a 24-h period; • There will be 30 total days of vibratory driving and 10 days of contingency of impact pile driving; • Exposures to sound levels at or above the relevant thresholds equate to take, as defined by the MMPA. The estimation of marine mammal takes typically uses the following calculation: Exposure estimate (rounded to the nearest whole number) = n * ZOI * total activity days Where: n = density estimate used for each species/ season ZOI = sound threshold ZOI area; the area encompassed by all locations where the SPLs equal or exceed the threshold being evaluated The ZOI impact area is estimated using the relevant distances in Table 3, taking into consideration the possible affected area with attenuation due to the constraints of the basin. Because the basin restricts sound from propagating outward, with the exception of the eastfacing entrance channel, the radial distances to thresholds are not generally reached. There are a number of reasons why estimates of potential incidents of take may be conservative, assuming that available density or abundance estimates and estimated ZOI areas are accurate. We assume, in the absence of information supporting a more refined conclusion, that the output of the calculation represents the number of individuals that may be taken by the specified activity. In fact, in the context of stationary activities such as pile driving and in areas where resident animals may be present, this number more realistically represents the number of incidents of take that may accrue to a smaller number of individuals. While pile driving can occur any day throughout the in-water work window, and the analysis is conducted on a per day basis, only a fraction of that time (typically a matter of hours on any given day) is actually spent pile driving. The potential effectiveness of mitigation measures in reducing the number of takes is typically not quantified in the take estimation process. For these reasons, these take estimates may be conservative. The quantitative exercise described above indicates that no incidents of Level A harassment would be expected, independent of the implementation of required mitigation measures. See Table 4 for total estimated incidents of take. TABLE 4—CALCULATIONS FOR INCIDENTAL TAKE ESTIMATION n (animals/km2) asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Species Proposed authorized takes 2 n * ZOI 1 Activity Phase II (40 days) Bottlenose dolphin 1 ........................................ Bottlenose dolphin 3 ........................................ 4.15366 4.15366 Vibratory driving (30 days) ............................. Contingency impact driving (10 days) ........... 6 2 169 22 Total exposures ....................................... ........................ ......................................................................... ........................ 191 1 See Table 3 for relevant ZOIs. The product of this calculation is rounded to the nearest whole number. product of n * ZOI * total activity days (rounded to the nearest whole number) is used to estimate the number of takes. 3 It is impossible to estimate from available information which stock these takes may accrue to. 2 The VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 56000 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 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. Measurements from similar pile driving events were coupled with practical spreading loss to estimate zones of influence (ZOI; see Estimated Take); these values were used to develop mitigation measures for pile driving activities at NSM. The ZOIs effectively represent the mitigation zone that would be established around each pile to prevent Level A harassment to marine mammals, while providing estimates of the areas within which Level B harassment might occur. In VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 addition to the specific measures described later in this section, the Navy would conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews, marine mammal monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures. Monitoring and Shutdown for Pile Driving Shutdown Zone—For all pile driving activities, the Navy will establish a shutdown zone intended to contain the area in which SPLs equal or exceed the acoustic injury criteria for midfrequency hearing specialists (e.g. bottlenose dolphins) at 198 dB SELcum for vibratory driving and 185 dB SELcum for impact driving. 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 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). Modeled radial distances for shutdown zones are shown in Table 3. However, a minimum shutdown zone of 15 m (which is larger than the maximum predicted injury zone) will be established during all pile driving activities, regardless of the estimated zone. Vibratory pile driving activities are not predicted to produce sound exceeding 198 dB SELcum threshold, but these precautionary measures are intended to prevent the already unlikely possibility of physical interaction with construction equipment and to further reduce any possibility of acoustic injury. Disturbance Zone—Disturbance zones are the areas in which SPLs equal or exceed 160 and 120 dB rms (for impulse and continuous sound, 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. 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 incidents of Level B harassment; disturbance zone PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 monitoring is discussed in greater detail later (see Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). Nominal radial distances for disturbance zones are shown in Table 3. 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 within the turning basin) would be observed. In order to document observed incidents 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 postprocessing 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 to reach an approximate understanding of actual total takes. Monitoring Protocols—Monitoring would be conducted before, during, and after pile driving activities. In addition, observers shall record all incidents of marine mammal occurrence within the ZOI and shall document any 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 or remove a single pile or series of piles, as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile driving equipment is no more than thirty minutes. Please see the Monitoring Plan (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/ incidental/construction.htm), developed by the Navy in agreement with NMFS, for full details of the monitoring protocols. The following additional measures apply to visual monitoring: (1) Marine mammal observer (MMO) requirements for this construction action are as follows: E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices (a) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer. (b) Other observers may substitute education (undergraduate degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience. (c) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer should be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer. (2) Qualified MMOs are trained biologists, and need the following additional minimum qualifications: (a) Visual acuity in both eyes (correction is permissible) sufficient for discernment of moving targets at the water’s surface with ability to estimate target size and distance; use of binoculars may be necessary to correctly identify the target; (b) Ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols (c) Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors; (d) Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations; (e) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were conducted; dates and times when in-water construction activities were suspended to avoid potential incidental injury from construction sound of marine mammals observed within a defined shutdown zone; and marine mammal behavior; and (f) Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary. (2) Prior to the start of pile driving activity, the shutdown zone will be monitored for fifteen 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; animals will be allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own volition) and their behavior will be monitored and documented. The shutdown zone may only be declared clear, and pile driving started, when the entire shutdown zone is visible (i.e., when not obscured by dark, rain, fog, etc.). In addition, if such conditions should arise during impact pile driving VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 that is already underway, the activity would be halted. (3) 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 (30 minutes in the case of a large whale) have passed without re-detection of the animal. Should any marine mammal not authorized for Level B harassment in this IHA enter the ensonified area, pile driving will cease until the animal(s) leaves the area and will resume after the observer has determined through resighting or by waiting 15 minutes that the animal moved outside the ensonified area. Monitoring will be conducted throughout the time required to drive a pile. (4) Monitoring of the shutdown zone will continue for 30 minutes following completion of construction activity. Soft-Start—The use of a soft start procedure is believed to provide 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 two subsequent three 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 thirty minutes or longer. 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. 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 PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 56001 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. The Navy’s proposed monitoring and reporting is also described in their Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan, on the Internet at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ permits/incidental/construction.htm. Visual Marine Mammal Observations The Navy 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 E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 56002 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES identification and behaviors and are required to have no other constructionrelated tasks while conducting monitoring. The Navy 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, the Navy 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 and disturbance zones around the pile will be monitored for the presence of marine mammals before, during, and after any pile driving or removal activity. Individuals implementing the monitoring protocol will assess its effectiveness using an adaptive approach. The monitoring biologists will use their best professional judgment throughout implementation and seek improvements to these methods when deemed appropriate. Any modifications to protocol will be coordinated between NMFS and the Navy. Data Collection We require that observers use approved data forms. Among other pieces of information, the Navy 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, the Navy 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; VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 • Description of any observable marine mammal behavior patterns, including bearing and direction of travel, and if possible, the correlation to SPLs; • Duration of marine mammals within the shutdown area; • 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 sixty 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 thirty days following resolution of comments on the draft report. Prior Monitoring The Navy met all monitoring requirements for similar construction activity at nearby Wharf C–2 in NSM (80 FR 55598, 8 September 2015; 78 FR 71566, 1 December 2013 and revised IHA for this activity: 79 FR 27863, 1 September 2014). During the course of both IHAs, the Navy did not exceed authorized take levels. The first IHA (covering the period of May 26 to August 17, 2015) authorized incidental take of 365 bottlenose dolphins and 95 Atlantic spotted dolphins by Level B harassment. Observers documented 272 bottlenose dolphins based on derived correction factors, and no Atlantic spotted dolphins were observed (DoN 2015b). As mentioned in the Estimated Take section, the Navy also monitored underwater acoustics during vibratory installation of king piles and steel sheet piles during the period of this IHA at NSM; the sound pressure level average ranged from 135 to 158 dB and averaged 21 seconds to install a sheet pile (DoN 2015b). Collection of underwater sound and production of a subsequent report PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 was not required under the respective IHA, and is thus not discussed below for the second IHA at Wharf C–2. An IHA for the second year of construction (covering a period from September 8, 2015 to September 7, 2016) authorized incidental take of 304 total bottlenose dolphins. After applying correction factors to derive a total number of estimated takes, estimated Level B takes were calculated to be 128 bottlenose dolphins (DoN 2016). 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 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 with the wharf construction 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) only, 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 is happening. No injury, serious injury, or mortality is anticipated given the nature of the E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices 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 hammers will be the primary method of installation (impact driving is included only as a contingency). Vibratory pile driving does have the potential to cause injury to marine mammals, but sound pressure levels in this activity (156 dB rms) do not exceed the threshold for injury in midfrequency cetaceans. 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. Environmental conditions in the confined and protected Mayport turning basin mean that marine mammal detection ability by trained observers is high, enabling a high rate of success in implementation of shutdowns to avoid injury. 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 reactions such as increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, or decreased foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and Reyff 2006; HDR Inc. 2012). Most likely, individuals will simply move away from the sound source and be temporarily displaced from the areas of pile driving, although even this reaction has been observed primarily only in association with impact pile driving. The pile driving activities analyzed here are similar to, or less impactful than, numerous other construction activities conducted in San Francisco Bay and in the Puget Sound region, which have taken place with no reported injuries or mortality to marine mammals, and no known long-term adverse consequences from behavioral harassment. These activities are also nearly identical to the pile driving activities that took place at Wharf C–2 at NSM, which also reported zero injuries or mortality to marine mammals and no known long-term adverse consequences from behavioral harassment. Repeated exposures of individuals to levels of sound that may cause Level B harassment are unlikely VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 to result in hearing impairment or to significantly disrupt foraging behavior. Thus, even repeated Level B harassment of some small subset of the overall stock is unlikely to result in any significant realized decrease in viability for the affected individuals, and thus would not result in any adverse impact to the stock as a whole. Level B harassment will be reduced to the level of least practicable impact through use of mitigation measures described herein and, if sound produced by project activities is sufficiently disturbing, animals are likely to simply avoid the turning basin while the activity is occurring. The turning basin is not considered important habitat for marine mammals, as it is a man-made, semi-enclosed basin with frequent industrial activity and regular maintenance dredging. The surrounding waters may be an important foraging habitat for the dolphins, but the small area of ensonification does not extend outside of the turning basin and into this foraging habitat (see Figure 6–1 in the Navy’s application). Therefore, behavioral disturbances that could result from anthropogenic sound associated with these activities are expected to affect only a relatively small number of individual marine mammals that may venture near the turning basin, although those effects could be recurring over the life of the project if the same individuals remain in the project vicinity. 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 or injury is anticipated or authorized; • Behavioral disturbance is possible, but the significance to the affected stocks is expected to be minimal due to: Æ No more than 40 days of pile driving during the proposed authorized year; Æ The time required to drive each pile is brief, with no more than 60 seconds per pile via vibratory driving and no more than 10 minutes per pile via impact driving; Æ Proposed mitigation (e.g. shutdowns and soft start) would reduce acoustic impacts to species in the area of activities; • The absence of any significant habitat within the project area, including known areas or features of special significance for foraging or reproduction; Noise associated with pile driving will ensonify relatively small PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 56003 areas, the majority of which are within the industrialized turning basin. 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. Of the 191 incidents of behavioral harassment proposed to be authorized for bottlenose dolphins, we have no information allowing us to parse the predicted incidents amongst the four stocks that may occur in the project area. Therefore, we assessed the total number of predicted incidents of take against the best abundance estimate for each stock, as though the total would occur for the stock in question. For two of the bottlenose dolphin stocks— Western North Atlantic Southern Migratory Coastal and Western North Atlantic Northern Florida coastal stock—the total predicted number of incidents of take authorized would be considered small at 2.82 percent and 15.67 percent, respectively. This estimate assumes that estimated take occurs to a new individual, which is an extremely unlikely scenario and therefore a conservative estimate, as there is likely to be some overlap in both bottlenose dolphin stocks and individuals from day to day. Likelihood of actual take to the latter Northern Florida coastal stock is relatively low, and this estimate assumes all takes would occur to this one stock. In the western North Atlantic, the Northern Florida Coastal Stock is present in coastal Atlantic waters from the Georgia/Florida border south to 29.4° N. (Waring et al., 2014), a span of more than 90 miles. There is no obvious E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 56004 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES boundary defining the offshore extent of this stock. They occur in waters less than 20 m deep; however, they may also occur in lower densities over the continental shelf (waters between 20 m and 100 m depth) and overlap spatially with the offshore morphotype (Waring et al., 2014). For the other stock, the Jacksonville Estuarine System stock, if all takes occurred to this one stock, this could take 46.36 percent of the stock (n=412). It is, however, highly unlikely that all takes would occur to this one stock due to their distribution relative to Bravo Wharf and social patterns within stock range. JES bottlenose dolphins range from Cumberland Sound at the GeorgiaFlorida border south to approximately Jacksonville Beach, FL, an area consisting of coastline and complex estuarine habitat of riverines and tidal marshes. Three behaviorally different communities exist within the JES stock: In estuarine waters north of St. Johns River (termed the Northern area), estuarine waters south of St. Johns River to Jacksonville Beach (the Southern area), and the coastal area (Caldwell 2001). Caldwell (2001) found that dolphins in the northern area exhibit year-round site fidelity and are the most isolated of the three communities. They are also not known to socialize with dolphins in the Southern area, which show summer site fidelity but traverse in and out of the Jacksonville area each year (Caldwell 2001). Dolphins in the coastal area are much more mobile, exhibit fluid social patterns, and show no long-term site fidelity. Furthermore, genetic analysis also supports differentiation from JES dolphins between the Northern and Southern areas (Caldwell 2011). Although members of both groups have been observed outside their preferred areas, it is likely that the majority of JES dolphins would not occur within waters ensonified by project activities. In summary, JES dolphins largely comprise two predominant groups and exhibit strong site fidelity to those areas, which does not significantly overlap with the larger ZOI, which is almost entirely confined within NSM. Furthermore, assessing potential impacts to individuals or stocks based on take estimates alone, in the absence of further context (e.g. quality of surrounding habitat, site fidelity, etc.), has limitations. It is common practice to estimate how many animals are likely to be present within a particular distance of a given activity, or exposed to a particular level of sound, given the many uncertainties in predicting the quantity and types of impacts of sound on marine mammals. In practice, depending on the amount of information available to characterize daily and seasonal movement and distribution of affected marine mammals, it can be difficult to distinguish between the number of individuals harassed and the instances of harassment and, when duration of the activity is considered, it can result in a take estimate that overestimates the number of individuals harassed. In particular, for stationary activities, it is more likely that some smaller number of individuals may accrue a number of incidences of harassment per individual than for each incidence to accrue to a new individual, especially if those individuals display some degree of residency or site fidelity and the impetus to use the site (e.g., because of foraging opportunities) is stronger than the deterrence presented by the harassing activity. Given stock distribution, site fidelity, social patterns, the small likelihood that all takes would occur to new individuals within this stock, and that fact that NSM does not include any particularly unique habitat to aggregate dolphins, the majority of JES dolphins are not expected to occur within ensonified waters of project activities. Therefore, proposed takes are not expected to exceed small numbers relative to stock abundance. 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. 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 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. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has determined that 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 the U.S. Navy for conducting pile driving associated with recapitalization of Bravo Wharf at NSM, Jacksonville, FL from March 13, 2018 to March 12, 2019, 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 one year from March 13, 2018 to March 12, 2019. 2. This IHA is valid only for pile driving activities associated with the Bravo Wharf Recapitalization Project at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. 3. General Conditions (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of the Navy, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of this IHA. (b) The species authorized for taking is the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). (c) The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the species listed in condition 3(b). See Table 1 for numbers of take authorized. TABLE 1—AUTHORIZED TAKE NUMBERS Proposed authorized take Species Level B Bottlenose dolphin ................................................................................................................................................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 Level A 191 0 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices (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. (e) The Navy shall conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews, marine mammal monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures. 4. Mitigation measures The holder of this Authorization is required to implement the following mitigation measures: (a) For all pile driving, the Navy shall implement a minimum shutdown zone of 15 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease; (b) The Navy shall establish monitoring locations as described below. Please also refer to the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan (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 to achieve optimal monitoring of the shutdown zone and the second positioned to achieve optimal monitoring of surrounding waters of the turning basin, the entrance to that basin, and portions of the Atlantic Ocean. If practicable, the second observer should be deployed to an elevated position, preferably opposite Bravo Wharf and with clear sight lines to the wharf and out the entrance channel; 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. Observations within the turning basin shall be distinguished from those in the entrance channel and nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean; and 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); (c) Monitoring shall take place from fifteen minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through thirty minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. In the event of a delay or shutdown of activity resulting from marine mammals VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 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); (d) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the 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 the animal. No pile driving may occur if any whale is detected within the Level B harassment zone (e.g. pile driving must be delayed or cease until the animal leaves the ZOI for at least 30 minutes). (e) Monitoring shall be conducted by qualified observers, as described in the Monitoring Plan. 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 plan, 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); (f) The Navy 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. 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; and (g) Pile driving shall only be conducted during daylight hours. 5. Monitoring The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine mammal PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 56005 monitoring during pile driving activity. Marine mammal monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with the Monitoring Plan. (a) The Navy 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) For all marine mammal monitoring, the information shall be recorded as described in the Monitoring Plan. 6. Reporting The holder of this Authorization is required to: (a) Submit a draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA within ninety days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or sixty days prior to the issuance of any subsequent IHA for projects at NSM, 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 Monitoring Plan, at minimum, 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; and 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 an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, Navy shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. 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); E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1 asabaliauskas on DSKBBXCHB2PROD with NOTICES 56006 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 226 / Monday, November 27, 2017 / Notices 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 Navy to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Navy may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. ii. In the event that Navy 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), Navy shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. 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 Navy to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate; and iii. In the event that Navy 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), Navy shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Navy 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 construction activities. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Nov 24, 2017 Jkt 244001 help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. Dated: November 20, 2017. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Review proposed MSA reauthorization legislation and CCC Working Paper Tilefish Survey Project Report Update of the fisheries-independent pilot survey for tilefish [FR Doc. 2017–25482 Filed 11–24–17; 8:45 am] Tuesday, December 12, 2017 BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Executive Committee—CLOSED SESSION Ricks E Savage Award Squid Buffer Zone Framework—Meeting 1 Discuss framework goals and review and approve preliminary alternatives Chub Mackerel Amendment Review scoping comments and discuss next steps Law Enforcement Reports Reports will be received from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard Scup Recreational Specifications Review Monitoring Committee and Advisory Panel recommendations and adopt recommendations for 2018 Federal waters management measures Summer Flounder Recreational Specifications Review Monitoring Committee and Advisory Panel recommendations and recommend Conservation Equivalency or coastwide management and associated measures for 2018 Summer Flounder Amendment Review and approve November 2017 Demersal Committee recommendations for further staff analysis DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XF857 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public Meetings National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meetings. AGENCY: The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold public meetings of the Council and its Committees. DATES: The meetings will be held Monday, December 11, 2017 through Thursday, December 14, 2017. For agenda details, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. SUMMARY: The meeting will be held at: The Westin Annapolis, 100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401, telephone: (410) 972–4300. Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State St., Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; telephone: (302) 674–2331. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; telephone: (302) 526–5255. The Council’s Web site, www.mafmc.org also has details on the meeting location, proposed agenda, webinar listen-in access, and briefing materials. ADDRESSES: The following items are on the agenda, though agenda items may be addressed out of order (changes will be noted on the Council’s Web site when possible.) SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Monday, December 11, 2017 Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Risk Assessment Review and approve EAFM based assessment Risk Policy Framework—Meeting 2 Review and approve recommended modifications to Council’s Risk Policy Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Wednesday, December 13, 2017 Black Sea Bass Recreational Specifications Review Monitoring Committee and Advisory Panel recommendations and adopt recommendations for 2018 Federal waters management measures. Review Wave 1 fishery implementation. Board Addendum XXX Black Sea Bass Wave 1 Letter of Authorization Framework Review background and provide guidance for development of draft alternatives Black Sea Bass Amendment Review initiation of black sea bass amendment (December 2015 motion) Bluefish Amendment Initiate Bluefish Amendment and discuss next steps Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Presentation Updates of Atlantic Offshore Renewable Projects and Atlantic E:\FR\FM\27NON1.SGM 27NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 226 (Monday, November 27, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 55990-56006]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-25482]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF582


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Bravo Wharf Recapitalization 
Project, Year 2

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 Naval Facilities Engineering 
Command Southeast and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic 
(the Navy) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to Bravo 
Wharf Recapitalization, Year 2 in Naval Station Mayport (NSM), 
Jacksonville, Florida. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
(MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an 
incidental

[[Page 55991]]

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 December 
27, 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.elliott@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 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: Brianna Elliott, 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 July 12, 2017, NMFS received a request from the Navy for an IHA 
to take marine mammals incidental to pile driving in association with 
the Bravo Wharf recapitalization project at NSM, FL. The Navy's request 
is for take of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus truncatus) by 
Level B harassment only. Neither the Navy nor NMFS expect mortality to 
result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate.
    NMFS previously issued IHAs to the Navy for similar work at Bravo 
Wharf (81 FR 52637, 1 December 2016; revised IHA for this activity: 82 
FR 11344, 13 March 2017) and Wharf C-2, also located within NSM (80 FR 
55598, 8 September 2015; 78 FR 71566, 1 December 2013 and revised IHA 
for this activity: 79 FR 27863, 1 September 2014). The Navy complied 
with all the requirements (e.g., mitigation, monitoring, and reporting) 
of previous IHAs at Wharf C-2 (80 FR 55598, 8 September 2015; 79 FR 
27863, 1 September 2014) and information regarding their monitoring 
results may be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm.
    This proposed IHA would cover one year of a larger project for 
which the Navy obtained a prior IHA at Bravo Wharf. The larger project 
involves recapitalization of Bravo Wharf at three berths in NSM spread 
across Phase I and Phase II, which involves installing 880 single sheet 
piles through the two phases. The majority of construction activity is 
occurring in the first year of the project, with Phase I estimated to 
be fully complete and Phase II estimated to be 60 percent complete by 
March 13, 2018, the proposed start date for this proposed IHA; 
therefore, this IHA is for the remaining work at Bravo Wharf.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    Bravo Wharf is a medium draft, general purpose berthing wharf that 
was constructed in 1970 and lies at the western edge of the NSM turning 
basin. Bravo Wharf is approximately 2,000 feet (ft) long, 125 ft wide, 
and has a berthing depth of 50 ft mean lower low water. The wharf is 
one of two primary deep draft berths at the basin and is capable of 
berthing ships up to and including large amphibious ships; it is one of 
three primary ordnance handling berths at the basin. The wharf is a 
diaphragm steel sheet pile cell structure with a concrete apron, 
partial concrete encasement of the piling, and asphalt paved deck. The

[[Page 55992]]

wharf is currently in poor condition due to advanced deterioration of 
the steel sheeting and lack of corrosion protection. This structural 
deterioration has resulted in the institution of load restrictions 
within 60 ft of the wharf face. The purpose of the second year of this 
project is to finish installing remaining sheet piles by vibratory pile 
driving, though contingency impact driving may be necessary, in order 
to complete necessary repairs to Bravo Wharf. Please refer to the 
Navy's application for a schematic of the project plan.
    Both vibratory and impact pile driving could result in take, by 
Level B harassment only, of bottlenose dolphins through exposure to the 
sound source in waters surrounding NSM. Activity will be confined to 
forty days, including 30 days for vibratory pile driving and 10 
contingency days for impact pile driving.

Dates and Duration

    The total project, including the first year of construction for 
which an IHA was issued (82 FR 11344; 22 February 2017) is expected to 
require a maximum of 130 days of in-water pile driving. The second year 
of the project, reflected in this proposed IHA, will involve a maximum 
of 40 days of in-water construction. Vibratory pile driving is expected 
to take 30 days, with a contingent 10 days of impact pile driving. 
Operators would only conduct pile driving during daylight hours as 
determined by NOAA data, and no in-water construction activities could 
occur between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at any point during the year. The 
specified activities are expected to occur between March 13, 2018 and 
March 12, 2019.

Specific Geographic Region

    NSM is located in northeastern Florida, at the mouth of the St. 
Johns River and adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean (see Figures 1-1, 2-1, 
and 2-2 of the Navy's application). The St. Johns River is the longest 
river in Florida, with the final 35 miles (mi) flowing through the city 
of Jacksonville. This portion of the river is significant for 
commercial shipping and military use. At the mouth of the river, near 
the action area, the Atlantic Ocean is the dominant influence and 
typical salinities are above 30 parts per million. Outside the river 
mouth, in nearshore waters, moderate oceanic currents tend to flow 
southward parallel to the coast. Sea surface temperatures range from 
around 16[thinsp][deg]C in winter to 28[thinsp][deg]C in summer.
    The specific action area consists of the NSM turning basin, an area 
of approximately 2,000 by 3,000 ft containing ship-berthing facilities 
at sixteen locations along wharves around the basin perimeter. The 
basin was constructed during the early 1940s by dredging the eastern 
part of Ribault Bay (at the mouth of the St. Johns River), with dredge 
material from the basin used to fill parts of the bay and other low-
lying areas in order to elevate the land surface. The basin is 
currently maintained through regular dredging at a depth of 50 ft, with 
depths at the berths ranging from 30-50 ft. The turning basin, 
connected to the St. Johns River by a 500-ft-wide entrance channel, 
will largely contain sound produced by project activities, with the 
exception of sound propagating east into nearshore Atlantic waters 
through the entrance channel (see Figure 2-2 of the Navy's 
application). Bravo Wharf is located in the western corner of the 
Mayport turning basin.

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    In order to rehabilitate Bravo Wharf, the Navy proposes to install 
a new steel sheet pile bulkhead at Bravo Wharf. The entire 
recapitalization project consists of installing a total of 
approximately 880 single sheet piles. By March 2018, it is estimated 
that Phase I will be 100 percent complete and Phase II will be 60 
percent complete, with 234 piles remaining to be installed. The wall 
will be anchored at the top and fill consisting of clean gravel and 
concrete fill will be placed behind the wall. A concrete cap will be 
formed along the top and outside face of the wall to tie the entire 
structure together and provide a berthing surface for vessels. The new 
bulkhead will be designed for a 50-year service life.
    All piles would be driven by vibratory hammer, although impact pile 
driving may be used as a contingency in cases when vibratory driving is 
not sufficient to reach the necessary depth. In the unlikely event that 
impact driving is required, either impact or vibratory driving could 
occur on a given day, but concurrent use of vibratory and impact 
drivers would not occur. The Navy estimates that a total of 40 in-water 
work days may be required to complete pile driving activity, which 
includes 10 days for contingency impact driving, if necessary.
    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 four marine mammal species which may inhabit or transit 
through the waters nearby NSM at the mouth of the St. Johns River and 
in nearby nearshore Atlantic waters. These include the bottlenose 
dolphin (Tursiops truncatus truncatus), Atlantic spotted dolphin 
(Stenella frontalis), North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), 
and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Multiple additional 
cetacean species occur in south Atlantic waters but 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/). Please also refer to the 
Navy's Marine Resource Assessment for the Charleston/Jacksonville 
Operating Area, which documents and describes the marine resources that 
occur in Navy operating areas of the Southeast (DoN 2008). The document 
is publicly available at www.navfac.navy.mil/products_and_services/ev/products_and_services/marine_resources/marine_resource_assessments.html 
(accessed October 12, 2017).
    Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
the vicinity of NSM 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

[[Page 55993]]

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. 2016 SARs (Hayes et al., 2016). All values 
presented in Table 1 are the most recent available at the time of 
publication and are available in the 2016 SARs (Hayes et al., 2016).
    In addition, the West Indian manatees may be found in the vicinity 
of NSM. However, West Indian manatees are managed by the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service and are not considered further in this document.

                                           Table 1--Marine Mammals Potentially Present in the Vicinity of NSM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                             Stock abundance (CV,
            Common name                  Scientific name              Stock             ESA/MMPA status;       Nmin, most recent       PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                      strategic (Y/N) \1\    abundance survey) \2\               SI \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Family Eschrichtiidae
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Atlantic Right Whale.........  Eubalaena glacialis...  Western North Atlantic  E/D; Y                 440 (0; 440; 2013)....          1       5.66
Humpback whale.....................  Megaptera novaeangliae  Gulf of Maine.........  -; N                   823 (0; 823; 2011)....         13       9.05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Family Delphinidae
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin...........  Stenella frontalis....  Western North Atlantic  -; N                   44,715 (0.43; 31,610;         316          0
                                                                                                             2011).
Common bottlenose dolphin..........  Tursiops truncatus      Jacksonville Estuarine  -; Y                   412 (0.06; unk; 1994-         unk        1.2
                                      truncatus.              System.                                        97) \4\.
Common bottlenose dolphin..........  Tursiops truncatus      Western North           -/D; Y                 1,219 (0.67; 730; 2010-         7        0.4
                                      truncatus.              Atlantic, northern                             11).
                                                              Florida coastal.
Common bottlenose dolphin..........  Tursiops truncatus      Western North           -; N                   77,532 (0.40; 56,053;          63       0-12
                                      truncatus.              Atlantic, offshore.                            2011).
Common bottlenose dolphin..........  Tursiops truncatus      Western North           -/D; Y                 9,173 (0.46; 6,326;            63       0-12
                                      truncatus.              Atlantic, southern                             2010-11).
                                                              migratory coastal.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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.
\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.
\4\ This abundance estimate is considered an overestimate because it includes non- and seasonally-resident animals.
Note--Italicized species are not expected to be taken or proposed for authorization.

    All species that could potentially occur in the proposed survey 
areas are included in Table 1. However, the temporal and/or spatial 
occurrence of North Atlantic right whales, humpback whales, and 
Atlantic spotted dolphins is such that take is not expected to occur.
    Regarding North Atlantic right whales, an estimate of potential 
exposures shows that there is potential for two Level B exposures of 
North Atlantic right whales from vibratory pile driving. However, the 
North Atlantic right whale density used in this analysis reflects their 
expected occurrence in waters outside of the St. Johns River, as there 
is no applicable density for waters affected by the specified activity. 
We consider the likelihood of occurrence to be extremely low, given 
that the only known sighting of a North Atlantic right whale in the St. 
Johns River occurred in 2011, resulting in a disruption of all boat 
traffic (Gibbons 2011; Cravey 2016). Therefore, the potential for 
interaction with this species is unlikely and NMFS does not believe 
take authorization is warranted for right whales. The Navy has not 
requested, and NMFS is not proposing to authorize, incidental take of 
right whales.
    The likelihood of encountering a humpback whale in NSM or around 
the mouth of the river is similarly considered discountable. In the 
winter, some humpback whales migrate from their summer foraging grounds 
in the Gulf of Maine to their winter breeding habitat around the Cape 
Verde Islands and West Indies (Stevick et al., 1998; Wenzel et al., 
2009, Stevick et al., 2016). Significant numbers of whales do not 
migrate to these wintering grounds, and there have been a number of 
humpback whale sightings and detections in the southeastern U.S. during 
the winter (Wiley et al., 1995; Laerm et al., 1997; Norris et al., 
2013; Waring et al., 2014). When considering the low frequency of 
occurrence, small size of ensonified area, short duration (40 days 
total), and proposed monitoring and mitigation (see Proposed Mitigation 
and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting below), we consider the 
possibility for harassment of humpback and right whales to be 
discountable.
    Concerning Atlantic spotted dolphins, no acoustic exposures were 
predicted and, from recent observation reports from the Navy from 
previous construction activity at Naval Station Mayport, no spotted 
dolphins were observed. Similarly, dolphin research studies that have 
been conducted in the area also reported zero observed spotted dolphins 
in the project area (Q. Gibson, pers. comm. with L. McCue, NMFS Office 
of Protected Resources, 2015). We

[[Page 55994]]

consider the likelihood of Atlantic spotted dolphins being impacted by 
the construction activities to be discountable based on this 
information, combined with the zero estimated exposures. Therefore, the 
North Atlantic right whale, humpback whale, and Atlantic spotted 
dolphins are excluded from further analysis and are not discussed 
further in this document.

Bottlenose Dolphins

    Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in tropical to temperate 
waters and can be found in all depths from estuarine inshore to deep 
offshore waters. Temperature appears to limit the range of the species, 
either directly, or indirectly, for example, through distribution of 
prey. Off North American coasts, common bottlenose dolphins are found 
where surface water temperatures range from about 10[thinsp][deg]C to 
32[thinsp][deg]C. In many regions, including the southeastern U.S., 
separate coastal and offshore populations are known. There is 
significant genetic, morphological, and hematological differentiation 
evident between the two ecotypes (e.g., Walker 1981; Duffield et al., 
1983; Duffield 1987; Hoelzel et al., 1998), which correspond to 
shallow, warm water and deep, cold water. Both ecotypes have been shown 
to inhabit the western North Atlantic (Hersh and Duffield 1990; Mead 
and Potter 1995), where the deep-water ecotype tends to be larger and 
darker. In addition, several lines of evidence, including photo-
identification and genetic studies, support a distinction between 
dolphins inhabiting coastal waters near the shore and those present in 
the inshore waters of bays, sounds and estuaries. This complex 
differentiation of bottlenose dolphin populations is observed 
throughout the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts where bottlenose 
dolphins are found, although estuarine populations have not been fully 
defined.
    In the Mayport area, four stocks of bottlenose dolphins are 
currently managed, none of which are protected under the ESA. Of the 
four stocks--offshore, southern migratory coastal, northern Florida 
coastal, and Jacksonville estuarine system--only the latter three are 
likely to occur in the action area. Bottlenose dolphins typically occur 
in groups of 2-15 individuals (Shane et al., 1986; Kerr et al., 2005). 
Although significantly larger groups have also been reported, smaller 
groups are typical of shallow, confined waters. In addition, such 
waters typically support some degree of regional site fidelity and 
limited movement patterns (Shane et al., 1986; Wells et al., 1987). 
Observations made during marine mammal surveys conducted during 2012-
2013 in the Mayport turning basin show bottlenose dolphins typically 
occurring individually or in pairs, or less frequently in larger 
groups. The maximum observed group size during these surveys was six, 
while the mode was one. Navy observations indicate that bottlenose 
dolphins rarely linger in a particular area in the turning basin, but 
rather appear to move purposefully through the basin and then leave, 
which likely reflects a lack of biological importance for these 
dolphins in the basin. Based on currently available information, it is 
not possible to determine the stock to which the dolphins occurring in 
the action area may belong. These stocks are described in greater 
detail below.
    Western North Atlantic Offshore--This stock, consisting of the 
deep-water ecotype or offshore form of bottlenose dolphin in the 
western North Atlantic, is distributed primarily along the outer 
continental shelf and continental slope, but has been documented to 
occur relatively close to shore (Waring et al., 2014). The separation 
between offshore and coastal morphotypes varies depending on location 
and season, with the ranges overlapping to some degree south of Cape 
Hatteras. Based on genetic analysis, Torres et al. (2003) found a 
distributional break at 34 km from shore, with the offshore form found 
exclusively seaward of 34 km and in waters deeper than 34 m. Within 7.5 
km of shore, all animals were of the coastal morphotype. More recently, 
coastwide, systematic biopsy collection surveys were conducted during 
the summer and winter to evaluate the degree of spatial overlap between 
the two morphotypes. South of Cape Hatteras, spatial overlap was found 
although the probability of a sampled group being from the offshore 
morphotype increased with increasing depth, and the closest distance 
for offshore animals was 7.3 km from shore, in water depths of 13 m 
just south of Cape Lookout (Garrison et al., 2003). The maximum radial 
distance for the largest ZOI is approximately 1.2 km (Table 2); 
therefore, it is unlikely that any individuals of the offshore 
morphotype would be affected by project activities. In terms of water 
depth, the affected area is generally in the range of the shallower 
depth reported for offshore dolphins by Garrison et al. (2003), but is 
far shallower than the depths reported by Torres et al. (2003). South 
of Cape Lookout, the zone of spatial overlap between offshore and 
coastal ecotypes is generally considered to occur in water depths 
between 20-100 m (Waring et al., 2014), which is generally deeper than 
waters in the action area. This stock is thus excluded from further 
analysis.
    Western North Atlantic, southern migratory coastal--The coastal 
morphotype of bottlenose dolphin is continuously distributed from the 
Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic and north approximately to Long Island 
(Waring et al., 2014). On the Atlantic coast, Scott et al. (1988) 
hypothesized a single coastal stock, citing stranding patterns during a 
high mortality event in 1987-88 and observed density patterns. More 
recent studies demonstrate that there is instead a complex mosaic of 
stocks (Zolman 2002; McLellan et al., 2002; Rosel et al., 2009). The 
coastal morphotype was managed by NMFS as a single stock until 2009, 
when it was split into five separate stocks, including northern and 
southern migratory stocks. The original, single stock of coastal 
dolphins recognized from 1995-2001 was listed as depleted under the 
MMPA as a result of a 1987-88 mortality event. That designation was 
retained when the single stock was split into multiple coastal stocks. 
Therefore, all coastal stocks of bottlenose dolphins are listed as 
depleted under the MMPA, and are also considered strategic stocks.
    According to the Scott et al. (1988) hypothesis, a single stock was 
thought to migrate seasonally between New Jersey (summer) and central 
Florida (winter). Instead, it was more recently determined that a mix 
of resident and migratory stocks exists, with the migratory movements 
and spatial distribution of the southern migratory stock the most 
poorly understood of these. Stable isotope analysis and telemetry 
studies provide evidence for seasonal movements of dolphins between 
North Carolina and northern Florida (Knoff 2004; Waring et al., 2014), 
and genetic analyses and tagging studies support differentiation of 
northern and southern migratory stocks (Rosel et al., 2009; Waring et 
al., 2014). Although there is significant uncertainty regarding the 
southern migratory stock's spatial movements, telemetry data indicates 
that the stock occupies waters of southern North Carolina (south of 
Cape Lookout) during the fall (October-December). In winter months 
(January-March), the stock moves as far south as northern Florida where 
it overlaps spatially with the northern Florida coastal and 
Jacksonville estuarine system stocks. In spring (April-June), the stock 
returns north to waters of North Carolina, and is presumed to remain 
north of Cape Lookout during the summer months. Therefore, the

[[Page 55995]]

potential exists for harassment of southern migratory dolphins, most 
likely during the winter only.
    Bottlenose dolphins are ubiquitous in coastal waters from the mid-
Atlantic through the Gulf of Mexico, and therefore interact with 
multiple coastal fisheries, including gillnet, trawl, and trap/pot 
fisheries. Stock-specific total fishery-related mortality and serious 
injury cannot be directly estimated because of the spatial overlap 
among stocks of bottlenose dolphins, and because of unobserved 
fisheries. The primary known source of fishery mortality for the 
southern migratory stock is the mid-Atlantic gillnet fishery (Waring et 
al., 2014). Between 2004 and 2008, 588 bottlenose dolphins stranded 
along the Atlantic coast between Florida and Maryland that could 
potentially be assigned to the southern migratory stock, although the 
assignment of animals to a particular stock is impossible in some 
seasons and regions due to spatial overlap amongst stocks (Waring et 
al., 2014). Many of these animals exhibited some evidence of human 
interaction, such as line/net marks, gunshot wounds, or vessel strike. 
In addition, nearshore and estuarine habitats occupied by the coastal 
morphotype are adjacent to areas of high human population and some are 
highly industrialized. It should also be noted that stranding data 
underestimate the extent of fishery-related mortality and serious 
injury because not all of the marine mammals that die or are seriously 
injured in fishery interactions are discovered, reported or 
investigated, nor will all of those that are found necessarily show 
signs of entanglement or other fishery interaction. The level of 
technical expertise among stranding network personnel varies widely as 
does the ability to recognize signs of fishery interactions. Finally, 
multiple resident populations of bottlenose dolphins have been shown to 
have high concentrations of organic pollutants (e.g., Kuehl et al., 
1991) and, despite little study of contaminant loads in migrating 
coastal dolphins, exposure to environmental pollutants and subsequent 
effects on population health is an area of concern and active research.
    Western North Atlantic, Northern Florida Coastal--Please see above 
for description of the differences between coastal and offshore 
ecotypes and the delineation of coastal dolphins into management 
stocks. The northern Florida coastal stock is one of five stocks of 
coastal dolphins and one of three known resident stocks (other resident 
stocks include South Carolina/Georgia and central Florida dolphins). 
The spatial extent of these stocks, their potential seasonal movements, 
and their relationships with estuarine stocks are poorly understood. 
During summer months, when the migratory stocks are known to be in 
North Carolina waters and further north, bottlenose dolphins are still 
seen in coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, 
indicating the presence of additional stocks of coastal animals. 
Speakman et al. (2006) documented dolphins in coastal waters off 
Charleston, South Carolina, that are not known resident members of the 
estuarine stock, and genetic analyses indicate significant differences 
between coastal dolphins from northern Florida, Georgia and central 
South Carolina (NMFS 2001; Rosel et al., 2009). The northern Florida 
stock is thought to be present from approximately the Georgia-Florida 
border south to 29.4[deg][thinsp]N. (Waring et al., 2014).
    The northern Florida coastal stock ventures into the St. Johns 
River in large numbers, but rarely moves past NSM. The mouth of the St. 
Johns River may serve as a foraging area for this stock and the 
Jacksonville estuarine stock (Q. Gibson, pers. comm. with L. McCue, 
NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 2015).
    The northern Florida coastal stock is susceptible to interactions 
with similar fisheries as those described above for the southern 
migratory stock, including gillnet, trawl, and trap/pot fisheries. From 
2004-08, 78 stranded dolphins were recovered in northern Florida 
waters, although it was not possible to determine whether there was 
evidence of human interaction for the majority of these (Waring et al., 
2014). The same concerns discussed above regarding underestimation of 
mortality hold for this stock and, as for southern migratory dolphins, 
pollutant loading is a concern.
    Western North Atlantic, Jacksonville Estuarine System--Please see 
above for description of the differences between coastal and offshore 
ecotypes and the delineation of coastal dolphins into management stocks 
primarily inhabiting nearshore waters. The coastal morphotype of 
bottlenose dolphin is also resident to certain inshore estuarine waters 
(Caldwell 2001; Gubbins 2002; Zolman 2002; Gubbins et al., 2003). 
Multiple lines of evidence support demographic separation between 
coastal dolphins found in nearshore waters and those in estuarine 
waters, as well as between dolphins residing within estuaries along the 
Atlantic and Gulf coasts (e.g., Wells et al., 1987; Scott et al., 1990; 
Wells et al., 1996; Cortese 2000; Zolman 2002; Speakman et al. 2006; 
Stolen et al., 2007; Balmer et al., 2008; Mazzoil et al., 2008). In 
particular, a study conducted near Jacksonville demonstrated 
significant genetic differences between coastal and estuarine dolphins 
(Caldwell 2001; Rosel et al., 2009). Despite evidence for genetic 
differentiation between estuarine and nearshore populations, the degree 
of spatial overlap between these populations remains unclear. Photo-
identification studies within estuaries demonstrate seasonal 
immigration and emigration and the presence of transient animals (e.g., 
Speakman et al., 2006). In addition, the degree of movement of resident 
estuarine animals into coastal waters on seasonal or shorter time 
scales is poorly understood (Waring et al., 2014).
    The Jacksonville estuarine system (JES) stock has been defined as 
separate primarily by the results of photo-identification and genetic 
studies. The stock range is considered to be bounded in the north by 
the Georgia-Florida border at Cumberland Sound, extending south to 
approximately Jacksonville Beach, Florida. This encompasses an area 
defined during a photo-identification study of bottlenose dolphin 
residency patterns in the area (Caldwell 2001), and the borders are 
subject to change upon further study of dolphin residency patterns in 
estuarine waters of southern Georgia and northern/central Florida. The 
habitat is comprised of several large brackish rivers, including the 
St. Johns River, as well as tidal marshes and shallow riverine systems. 
Three behaviorally different communities were identified during 
Caldwell's (2001) study: The estuarine waters north (Northern) and 
south (Southern) of the St. Johns River and the coastal area, all of 
which differed in density, habitat fidelity and social affiliation 
patterns. The coastal dolphins are believed to be members of a coastal 
stock, however (Waring et al., 2014). Although Northern and Southern 
members of the JES stock show strong site fidelity, members of both 
groups have been observed outside their preferred areas. Dolphins 
residing within estuaries south of Jacksonville Beach down to the 
northern boundary of the Indian River Lagoon Estuarine System (IRLES) 
stock are currently not included in any stock, as there are 
insufficient data to determine whether animals in this area exhibit 
affiliation to the JES stock, the IRLES stock, or are simply transient 
animals associated with coastal stocks. Further research is needed to 
establish affinities of dolphins in the area between the ranges, as 
currently understood, of the JES and IRLES stocks.
    The JES stock is susceptible to similar fisheries interactions as 
those described

[[Page 55996]]

above for coastal stocks, although only trap/pot fisheries are likely 
to occur in estuarine waters frequented by the stock. Only one dolphin 
carcass bearing evidence of fisheries interaction was recovered during 
2003-07 in the JES area, and an additional 16 stranded dolphins were 
recovered during this time, but no determinations regarding human 
interactions could be made for the majority (Waring et al., 2014). 
Nineteen bottlenose dolphins died in the St. Johns River (SJR), Florida 
between May 24 and November 7, 2010, all of which came from the JES 
stock. The cause of these deaths was undetermined. The same concerns 
discussed above regarding underestimation of mortality hold for this 
stock and, as for stocks discussed above, pollutant loading is a 
concern. Although no contaminant analyses have yet been conducted in 
this area, the JES stock inhabits areas with significant drainage from 
industrial and urban sources, and as such is exposed to contaminants in 
runoff from these. In other estuarine areas where such analyses have 
been conducted, exposure to anthropogenic contaminants has been found 
to likely have an effect (Hansen et al. 2004; Schwacke et al., 2004; 
Reif et al., 2008).
    The original, single stock of coastal dolphins recognized from 
1995-2001 was listed as depleted under the MMPA as a result of a 1987-
88 mortality event. That designation was retained when the single stock 
was split into multiple coastal stocks. However, Scott et al. (1988) 
suggested that dolphins residing in the bays, sounds and estuaries 
adjacent to these coastal waters were not affected by the mortality 
event and these animals were explicitly excluded from the depleted 
listing (Waring et al., 2014). Gubbins et al. (2003), using data from 
Caldwell (2001), estimated the stock size to be 412 (CV = 0.06). 
However, NMFS considers abundance unknown because this estimate likely 
includes an unknown number of non-resident and seasonally-resident 
dolphins. It nevertheless represents the best available information 
regarding stock size. Because the stock size is likely small, and 
relatively few mortalities and serious injuries would exceed PBR, the 
stock is considered to be a strategic stock (Waring et al., 2014).
    A UME occurred between 2013 and 2015 spanning the Atlantic coast, 
which impacted all stocks of bottlenose dolphins in the area. Over 
1,800 dolphins stranded in this time period. The preliminary conclusion 
of the cause of this UME was morbillivirus. The bottlenose dolphin 
stocks in this area (SJR and coastal areas) may be considered 
vulnerable to impacts from future activities due to this recent event.

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 
decibels (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):
     Low-frequency cetaceans (mysticetes): Generalized hearing 
is estimated to occur between approximately 7 hertz (Hz) and 35 
kilohertz (kHz), with best hearing estimated to be from 100 Hz to 8 
kHz;
     Mid-frequency cetaceans (larger toothed whales, beaked 
whales, and most delphinids): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur 
between approximately 150 Hz and 160 kHz, with best hearing from 10 to 
less than 100 kHz;
     High-frequency cetaceans (porpoises, river dolphins, and 
members of the genera Kogia and Cephalorhynchus; including two members 
of the genus Lagenorhynchus, on the basis of recent echolocation data 
and genetic data): Generalized hearing is estimated to occur between 
approximately 275 Hz and 160 kHz.
    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2016) for a review of available information. 
Bottlenose dolphins, the species that could co-occur with proposed 
survey activities and for which take is estimated, are are classified 
as mid-frequency cetaceans.

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 section later in this document 
includes a quantitative 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 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.
    We provided discussion of the potential effects of the specified 
activity on marine mammals and their habitat in our Federal Register 
notice of proposed authorization associated with the first IHA for 
recapitalization at Bravo Wharf (80 FR 75978; 7 December 2015). The 
specified activity associated with this proposed IHA is substantially 
similar to that considered for the first IHA, and the potential effects 
of the specified activity are nearly the same as those identified in 
those documents. In the aforementioned Federal Register notice, we also 
provided general background information on sound and a description of 
sound sources and ambient sound and refer the reader to those 
documents. Therefore, we briefly summarize potential effects here, but 
refer the reader to that document (80 FR 75978; 7 December 2015).
    An increase in noise levels from pile driving in waters surrounding 
NSM is the primary means by which marine mammals and their habitat 
could be impacted. Marine mammals exposed to elevated sound levels 
could experience physical and behavioral effects, though the magnitude 
of potential impact depends on a range of factors on the physical 
environment and biological state of marine mammals, such as sound type 
(e.g. impulsive sounds of impact driving or non-impulsive sound of 
vibratory pile driving), bottom profile characteristics, species, age 
and sex

[[Page 55997]]

class, duration of exposure, and many other factors (Wartzok et al., 
2003; Southall et al., 2007; Hildebrand 2009). Potential effects 
include potential behavioral harassment (e.g. avoidance behavior or 
temporary displacement), masking--or interference, with marine mammals' 
ability to receive other sounds vital for biological functioning, and 
increased stress.

Marine Mammal Habitat Effects

    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, though the 
surrounding areas may be foraging habitat for the dolphins. The most 
likely impact to marine mammal habitat occurs from pile driving effects 
on likely marine mammal prey (i.e., fish) within NSM. Hastings and 
Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate 
to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Furthermore, sound pulses at 
received levels of 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (all dB values in this document 
are referenced to a pressure of 1 [mu]Pa) may cause subtle changes in 
fish behavior, while 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, though 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.
    The Mayport turning basin itself is a man-made basin with 
significant levels of industrial activity and regular dredging, and is 
unlikely to harbor significant amounts of forage fish. Thus, any 
impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant 
or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their 
populations. In summary, given the short daily duration of sound 
associated with individual pile driving events and the relatively small 
areas being affected, pile driving activities associated with the 
proposed action are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on 
marine mammal prey or their habitat.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both 
NMFS's 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 vibratory and impact pile driving. Based on 
the nature of the activity, Level A harassment is neither anticipated 
nor proposed to be authorized.
    In order to estimate the potential incidents of take that may occur 
incidental to the specified activity, we must first estimate the extent 
of the sound field that may be produced by the activity and then 
consider in combination with information about marine mammal density or 
abundance in the project area. 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) (Table 2).
    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). 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 micro Pascal 
([mu]Pa) root mean square (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.
    Recapitalization of Bravo Wharf 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) 
(Table 2). The Navy's proposed recapitalization of Bravo Wharf 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.

[[Page 55998]]



                     Table 2--Thresholds Identifying the Onset of Permanent Threshold Shift
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                    PTS Onset thresholds
              Hearing group               ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Impulsive                        Non-impulsive
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans.............  Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h:  LE,LF,24h: 199 dB.
                                            183 dB.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans.............  Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h:  LE,MF,24h: 198 dB.
                                            185 dB.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans............  Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h:  LE,HF,24h: 173 dB.
                                            155 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]Pa2s. In this Table, thresholds 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.

Ensonified Area

    Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the 
activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the 
acoustic thresholds.

Distance to Sound Thresholds

    Underwater Sound Propagation Formula--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 fifteen is often used under conditions, 
such as at the NSM turning basin, 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. However, these data are 
largely for impact driving of steel pipe piles and concrete piles as 
well as vibratory driving of steel pipe piles. Vibratory driving of 
steel sheet piles was monitored during the first year of construction 
at the nearby Wharf C-2 at Naval Station Mayport during 2015. 
Measurements were conducted from a small boat in the turning basin and 
from the construction barge itself. Average SPLs for steel sheet piles 
ranged from 135 to 158 dB (DoN 2015) and SPLs for a 10-second period of 
driving averaged 156 dB re 1[micro]Pa rms (DoN, 2017a). No impact 
driving was measured at this location; therefore, proxy levels for 
impact driving have been calculated from other available source levels.
    In order to determine reasonable SPLs and their associated effects 
on marine mammals that are likely to result from impact pile driving at 
NSM, we considered existing measurements from similar physical 
environments (sandy sediments and water depths greater than 15 ft) for 
driving of steel sheet piles (all measured at 10 m; e.g., Laughlin, 
2005a, 2005b; Illingworth and Rodkin, 2010, 2012, 2013; CalTrans 2012; 
CalTrans 2015). Proxy source values based on similarity to the physical 
environment at NSM and measurement location in the mid-water column 
were selected for acoustic modeling: 156 dB for vibratory driving (DoN 
2017a) and 190 dB for impact driving (CalTrans 2015). All calculated 
distances to and the total area encompassed by the marine mammal sound 
thresholds are provided in Table 3.

              Table 3--Distance to Relevant Underwater Sound Tresholds and Areas of Ensonification
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Area  (km2)
            Pile type                     Method                Threshold          Distance  (m)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Steel sheet piles................  Vibratory..........  MF Level A (injury): 198             0.1               0
                                                         dB SELcum.
                                                        Level B (behavior): 120            2,512       1.3550776
                                                         dB re 1[mu]Pa rms.
                                   Impact (contingency  MF Level A (injury): 185             7.7           0.004
                                    only).               dB SELcum.
                                                        Level B (behavior): 160            1,000       0.5313217
                                                         dB re 1[mu]Pa rms.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Sound pressure levels used for calculations are 156 dB rms and 190 dB rms for vibratory and impact driving,
  respectively.


[[Page 55999]]

    The Mayport turning basin does not represent open water, or free 
field, conditions. Therefore, sounds would attenuate as per the 
confines of the basin, and may only reach the full estimated distances 
to the harassment thresholds via the narrow, east-facing entrance 
channel. Distances shown in Table 3 are estimated for free-field 
conditions, but areas are calculated per the actual conditions of the 
action area. See Figures 6-1 and 6-2 of the Navy's application for a 
depiction of areas in which each underwater sound threshold is 
predicted to occur at the project area due to pile driving.

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.

Marine Mammal Densities

    For all species, the best scientific information available was 
considered for use in the marine mammal take assessment calculations. 
All densities for marine mammals with the possibility of occurring in 
the project area were calculated from the Navy's Marine Species Density 
Database and Technical Report (DoN 2017b). Density for bottlenose 
dolphins is derived from site-specific surveys conducted by the Navy 
(see Appendix C of the Navy's application for more information); it is 
not currently possible to identify observed individuals to stock. This 
survey effort consists of 24 half-day observation periods covering 
mornings and afternoons during four seasons (December 10-13, 2012, 
March 4-7, 2013, June 3-6, 2013, and September 9-12, 2013). During each 
observation period, two observers (a primary observer at an elevated 
observation point and a secondary observer at ground level) monitored 
for the presence of marine mammals in the turning basin (0.712 km\2\) 
and an additional grid east of the basin entrance. Observers tracked 
marine mammal movements and behavior within the observation area, with 
observations recorded for five-minute intervals every half-hour. 
Morning sessions typically ran from 7:00-11:30 and afternoon sessions 
from 1:00 to 5:30.
    Most observations of bottlenose dolphins were of individuals or 
pairs, although larger groups were occasionally observed (median number 
of dolphins observed ranged from 1-3.5 across seasons). Densities were 
calculated using observational data from the primary observer 
supplemented with data from the secondary observer for grids not 
visible by the primary observer. Season-specific density was then 
adjusted by applying a correction factor for observer error (i.e., 
perception bias). The seasonal densities range from 1.98603 (winter) to 
4.15366 (summer) dolphins/km\2\. We conservatively use the largest 
density value to assess take, as the Navy does not have specific 
information about when in-water work may occur during the proposed 
period of validity.

Take Calculation and Estimation

    Here we describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate.
    The following assumptions are made when estimating potential 
incidents of take:
     All marine mammal individuals potentially available are 
assumed to be present within the relevant area, and thus incidentally 
taken;
     An individual can only be taken once during a 24-h period;
     There will be 30 total days of vibratory driving and 10 
days of contingency of impact pile driving;
     Exposures to sound levels at or above the relevant 
thresholds equate to take, as defined by the MMPA.
    The estimation of marine mammal takes typically uses the following 
calculation:

Exposure estimate (rounded to the nearest whole number) = n * ZOI * 
total activity days

Where:

n = density estimate used for each species/season
ZOI = sound threshold ZOI area; the area encompassed by all 
locations where the SPLs equal or exceed the threshold being 
evaluated

    The ZOI impact area is estimated using the relevant distances in 
Table 3, taking into consideration the possible affected area with 
attenuation due to the constraints of the basin. Because the basin 
restricts sound from propagating outward, with the exception of the 
east-facing entrance channel, the radial distances to thresholds are 
not generally reached.
    There are a number of reasons why estimates of potential incidents 
of take may be conservative, assuming that available density or 
abundance estimates and estimated ZOI areas are accurate. We assume, in 
the absence of information supporting a more refined conclusion, that 
the output of the calculation represents the number of individuals that 
may be taken by the specified activity. In fact, in the context of 
stationary activities such as pile driving and in areas where resident 
animals may be present, this number more realistically represents the 
number of incidents of take that may accrue to a smaller number of 
individuals. While pile driving can occur any day throughout the in-
water work window, and the analysis is conducted on a per day basis, 
only a fraction of that time (typically a matter of hours on any given 
day) is actually spent pile driving. The potential effectiveness of 
mitigation measures in reducing the number of takes is typically not 
quantified in the take estimation process. For these reasons, these 
take estimates may be conservative.
    The quantitative exercise described above indicates that no 
incidents of Level A harassment would be expected, independent of the 
implementation of required mitigation measures. See Table 4 for total 
estimated incidents of take.

                              Table 4--Calculations for Incidental Take Estimation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                     Proposed
                Species                  n  (animals/           Activity            n * ZOI \1\     authorized
                                           km[sup2])                                                 takes \2\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                               Phase II (40 days)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bottlenose dolphin \1\................         4.15366  Vibratory driving (30                  6             169
                                                         days).
Bottlenose dolphin \3\................         4.15366  Contingency impact                     2              22
                                                         driving (10 days).
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total exposures...................  ..............  ........................  ..............             191
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ See Table 3 for relevant ZOIs. The product of this calculation is rounded to the nearest whole number.
\2\ The product of n * ZOI * total activity days (rounded to the nearest whole number) is used to estimate the
  number of takes.
\3\ It is impossible to estimate from available information which stock these takes may accrue to.


[[Page 56000]]

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.
    Measurements from similar pile driving events were coupled with 
practical spreading loss to estimate zones of influence (ZOI; see 
Estimated Take); these values were used to develop mitigation measures 
for pile driving activities at NSM. The ZOIs effectively represent the 
mitigation zone that would be established around each pile to prevent 
Level A harassment to marine mammals, while providing estimates of the 
areas within which Level B harassment might occur. In addition to the 
specific measures described later in this section, the Navy would 
conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews, marine 
mammal monitoring team, and Navy staff prior to the start of all pile 
driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, in order to 
explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal 
monitoring protocol, and operational procedures.

Monitoring and Shutdown for Pile Driving

    Shutdown Zone--For all pile driving activities, the Navy will 
establish a shutdown zone intended to contain the area in which SPLs 
equal or exceed the acoustic injury criteria for mid-frequency hearing 
specialists (e.g. bottlenose dolphins) at 198 dB SELcum for 
vibratory driving and 185 dB SELcum for impact driving. 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 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). Modeled radial distances for shutdown zones are shown in 
Table 3. However, a minimum shutdown zone of 15 m (which is larger than 
the maximum predicted injury zone) will be established during all pile 
driving activities, regardless of the estimated zone. Vibratory pile 
driving activities are not predicted to produce sound exceeding 198 dB 
SELcum threshold, but these precautionary measures are 
intended to prevent the already unlikely possibility of physical 
interaction with construction equipment and to further reduce any 
possibility of acoustic injury.
    Disturbance Zone--Disturbance zones are the areas in which SPLs 
equal or exceed 160 and 120 dB rms (for impulse and continuous sound, 
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. 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 incidents 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 3. 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 within 
the turning basin) would be observed.
    In order to document observed incidents 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 to reach an approximate understanding of 
actual total takes.
    Monitoring Protocols--Monitoring would be conducted before, during, 
and after pile driving activities. In addition, observers shall record 
all incidents of marine mammal occurrence within the ZOI and shall 
document any 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 or remove a single pile or series of piles, 
as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile driving equipment 
is no more than thirty minutes. Please see the Monitoring Plan 
(www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm), developed 
by the Navy in agreement with NMFS, for full details of the monitoring 
protocols.
    The following additional measures apply to visual monitoring:
    (1) Marine mammal observer (MMO) requirements for this construction 
action are as follows:

[[Page 56001]]

    (a) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an 
observer.
    (b) Other observers may substitute education (undergraduate degree 
in biological science or related field) or training for experience.
    (c) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one 
observer should be designated as lead observer or monitoring 
coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an 
observer.
    (2) Qualified MMOs are trained biologists, and need the following 
additional minimum qualifications:
    (a) Visual acuity in both eyes (correction is permissible) 
sufficient for discernment of moving targets at the water's surface 
with ability to estimate target size and distance; use of binoculars 
may be necessary to correctly identify the target;
    (b) Ability to conduct field observations and collect data 
according to assigned protocols
    (c) Experience or training in the field identification of marine 
mammals, including the identification of behaviors;
    (d) Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the 
construction operation to provide for personal safety during 
observations;
    (e) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations 
including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals 
observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were 
conducted; dates and times when in-water construction activities were 
suspended to avoid potential incidental injury from construction sound 
of marine mammals observed within a defined shutdown zone; and marine 
mammal behavior; and
    (f) Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with 
project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals 
observed in the area as necessary.
    (2) Prior to the start of pile driving activity, the shutdown zone 
will be monitored for fifteen 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; animals will be 
allowed to remain in the shutdown zone (i.e., must leave of their own 
volition) and their behavior will be monitored and documented. The 
shutdown zone may only be declared clear, and pile driving started, 
when the entire shutdown zone is visible (i.e., when not obscured by 
dark, rain, fog, etc.). In addition, if such conditions should arise 
during impact pile driving that is already underway, the activity would 
be halted.
    (3) 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 (30 minutes 
in the case of a large whale) have passed without re-detection of the 
animal. Should any marine mammal not authorized for Level B harassment 
in this IHA enter the ensonified area, pile driving will cease until 
the animal(s) leaves the area and will resume after the observer has 
determined through re-sighting or by waiting 15 minutes that the animal 
moved outside the ensonified area. Monitoring will be conducted 
throughout the time required to drive a pile.
    (4) Monitoring of the shutdown zone will continue for 30 minutes 
following completion of construction activity.
    Soft-Start--The use of a soft start procedure is believed to 
provide 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 two subsequent three 
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 thirty minutes or longer.
    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.

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.
    The Navy's proposed monitoring and reporting is also described in 
their Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan, on the Internet at 
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm.

Visual Marine Mammal Observations

    The Navy 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

[[Page 56002]]

identification and behaviors and are required to have no other 
construction-related tasks while conducting monitoring. The Navy 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, the Navy 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 and disturbance zones around the pile will be 
monitored for the presence of marine mammals before, during, and after 
any pile driving or removal activity.
    Individuals implementing the monitoring protocol will assess its 
effectiveness using an adaptive approach. The monitoring biologists 
will use their best professional judgment throughout implementation and 
seek improvements to these methods when deemed appropriate. Any 
modifications to protocol will be coordinated between NMFS and the 
Navy.

Data Collection

    We require that observers use approved data forms. Among other 
pieces of information, the Navy 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, the Navy 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;
     Duration of marine mammals within the shutdown area;
     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 sixty 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 thirty days following resolution of 
comments on the draft report.

Prior Monitoring

    The Navy met all monitoring requirements for similar construction 
activity at nearby Wharf C-2 in NSM (80 FR 55598, 8 September 2015; 78 
FR 71566, 1 December 2013 and revised IHA for this activity: 79 FR 
27863, 1 September 2014). During the course of both IHAs, the Navy did 
not exceed authorized take levels. The first IHA (covering the period 
of May 26 to August 17, 2015) authorized incidental take of 365 
bottlenose dolphins and 95 Atlantic spotted dolphins by Level B 
harassment. Observers documented 272 bottlenose dolphins based on 
derived correction factors, and no Atlantic spotted dolphins were 
observed (DoN 2015b). As mentioned in the Estimated Take section, the 
Navy also monitored underwater acoustics during vibratory installation 
of king piles and steel sheet piles during the period of this IHA at 
NSM; the sound pressure level average ranged from 135 to 158 dB and 
averaged 21 seconds to install a sheet pile (DoN 2015b). Collection of 
underwater sound and production of a subsequent report was not required 
under the respective IHA, and is thus not discussed below for the 
second IHA at Wharf C-2.
    An IHA for the second year of construction (covering a period from 
September 8, 2015 to September 7, 2016) authorized incidental take of 
304 total bottlenose dolphins. After applying correction factors to 
derive a total number of estimated takes, estimated Level B takes were 
calculated to be 128 bottlenose dolphins (DoN 2016).

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 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 with the wharf construction 
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) only, 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 is happening.
    No injury, serious injury, or mortality is anticipated given the 
nature of the

[[Page 56003]]

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 hammers will be the 
primary method of installation (impact driving is included only as a 
contingency). Vibratory pile driving does have the potential to cause 
injury to marine mammals, but sound pressure levels in this activity 
(156 dB rms) do not exceed the threshold for injury in mid-frequency 
cetaceans. 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. Environmental conditions in 
the confined and protected Mayport turning basin mean that marine 
mammal detection ability by trained observers is high, enabling a high 
rate of success in implementation of shutdowns to avoid injury.
    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 reactions such as 
increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, or decreased 
foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and Reyff 
2006; HDR Inc. 2012). Most likely, individuals will simply move away 
from the sound source and be temporarily displaced from the areas of 
pile driving, although even this reaction has been observed primarily 
only in association with impact pile driving. The pile driving 
activities analyzed here are similar to, or less impactful than, 
numerous other construction activities conducted in San Francisco Bay 
and in the Puget Sound region, which have taken place with no reported 
injuries or mortality to marine mammals, and no known long-term adverse 
consequences from behavioral harassment. These activities are also 
nearly identical to the pile driving activities that took place at 
Wharf C-2 at NSM, which also reported zero injuries or mortality to 
marine mammals and no known long-term adverse consequences from 
behavioral harassment. Repeated exposures of individuals to levels of 
sound that may cause Level B harassment are unlikely to result in 
hearing impairment or to significantly disrupt foraging behavior. Thus, 
even repeated Level B harassment of some small subset of the overall 
stock is unlikely to result in any significant realized decrease in 
viability for the affected individuals, and thus would not result in 
any adverse impact to the stock as a whole. Level B harassment will be 
reduced to the level of least practicable impact through use of 
mitigation measures described herein and, if sound produced by project 
activities is sufficiently disturbing, animals are likely to simply 
avoid the turning basin while the activity is occurring.
    The turning basin is not considered important habitat for marine 
mammals, as it is a man-made, semi-enclosed basin with frequent 
industrial activity and regular maintenance dredging. The surrounding 
waters may be an important foraging habitat for the dolphins, but the 
small area of ensonification does not extend outside of the turning 
basin and into this foraging habitat (see Figure 6-1 in the Navy's 
application). Therefore, behavioral disturbances that could result from 
anthropogenic sound associated with these activities are expected to 
affect only a relatively small number of individual marine mammals that 
may venture near the turning basin, although those effects could be 
recurring over the life of the project if the same individuals remain 
in the project vicinity. 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 or injury is anticipated or authorized;
     Behavioral disturbance is possible, but the significance 
to the affected stocks is expected to be minimal due to:
    [cir] No more than 40 days of pile driving during the proposed 
authorized year;
    [cir] The time required to drive each pile is brief, with no more 
than 60 seconds per pile via vibratory driving and no more than 10 
minutes per pile via impact driving;
    [cir] Proposed mitigation (e.g. shut-downs and soft start) would 
reduce acoustic impacts to species in the area of activities;
     The absence of any significant habitat within the project 
area, including known areas or features of special significance for 
foraging or reproduction; Noise associated with pile driving will 
ensonify relatively small areas, the majority of which are within the 
industrialized turning basin.
    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.
    Of the 191 incidents of behavioral harassment proposed to be 
authorized for bottlenose dolphins, we have no information allowing us 
to parse the predicted incidents amongst the four stocks that may occur 
in the project area. Therefore, we assessed the total number of 
predicted incidents of take against the best abundance estimate for 
each stock, as though the total would occur for the stock in question. 
For two of the bottlenose dolphin stocks--Western North Atlantic 
Southern Migratory Coastal and Western North Atlantic Northern Florida 
coastal stock--the total predicted number of incidents of take 
authorized would be considered small at 2.82 percent and 15.67 percent, 
respectively. This estimate assumes that estimated take occurs to a new 
individual, which is an extremely unlikely scenario and therefore a 
conservative estimate, as there is likely to be some overlap in both 
bottlenose dolphin stocks and individuals from day to day. Likelihood 
of actual take to the latter Northern Florida coastal stock is 
relatively low, and this estimate assumes all takes would occur to this 
one stock. In the western North Atlantic, the Northern Florida Coastal 
Stock is present in coastal Atlantic waters from the Georgia/Florida 
border south to 29.4[deg] N. (Waring et al., 2014), a span of more than 
90 miles. There is no obvious

[[Page 56004]]

boundary defining the offshore extent of this stock. They occur in 
waters less than 20 m deep; however, they may also occur in lower 
densities over the continental shelf (waters between 20 m and 100 m 
depth) and overlap spatially with the offshore morphotype (Waring et 
al., 2014).
    For the other stock, the Jacksonville Estuarine System stock, if 
all takes occurred to this one stock, this could take 46.36 percent of 
the stock (n=412). It is, however, highly unlikely that all takes would 
occur to this one stock due to their distribution relative to Bravo 
Wharf and social patterns within stock range. JES bottlenose dolphins 
range from Cumberland Sound at the Georgia-Florida border south to 
approximately Jacksonville Beach, FL, an area consisting of coastline 
and complex estuarine habitat of riverines and tidal marshes. Three 
behaviorally different communities exist within the JES stock: In 
estuarine waters north of St. Johns River (termed the Northern area), 
estuarine waters south of St. Johns River to Jacksonville Beach (the 
Southern area), and the coastal area (Caldwell 2001). Caldwell (2001) 
found that dolphins in the northern area exhibit year-round site 
fidelity and are the most isolated of the three communities. They are 
also not known to socialize with dolphins in the Southern area, which 
show summer site fidelity but traverse in and out of the Jacksonville 
area each year (Caldwell 2001). Dolphins in the coastal area are much 
more mobile, exhibit fluid social patterns, and show no long-term site 
fidelity. Furthermore, genetic analysis also supports differentiation 
from JES dolphins between the Northern and Southern areas (Caldwell 
2011). Although members of both groups have been observed outside their 
preferred areas, it is likely that the majority of JES dolphins would 
not occur within waters ensonified by project activities. In summary, 
JES dolphins largely comprise two predominant groups and exhibit strong 
site fidelity to those areas, which does not significantly overlap with 
the larger ZOI, which is almost entirely confined within NSM.
    Furthermore, assessing potential impacts to individuals or stocks 
based on take estimates alone, in the absence of further context (e.g. 
quality of surrounding habitat, site fidelity, etc.), has limitations. 
It is common practice to estimate how many animals are likely to be 
present within a particular distance of a given activity, or exposed to 
a particular level of sound, given the many uncertainties in predicting 
the quantity and types of impacts of sound on marine mammals. In 
practice, depending on the amount of information available to 
characterize daily and seasonal movement and distribution of affected 
marine mammals, it can be difficult to distinguish between the number 
of individuals harassed and the instances of harassment and, when 
duration of the activity is considered, it can result in a take 
estimate that overestimates the number of individuals harassed. In 
particular, for stationary activities, it is more likely that some 
smaller number of individuals may accrue a number of incidences of 
harassment per individual than for each incidence to accrue to a new 
individual, especially if those individuals display some degree of 
residency or site fidelity and the impetus to use the site (e.g., 
because of foraging opportunities) is stronger than the deterrence 
presented by the harassing activity. Given stock distribution, site 
fidelity, social patterns, the small likelihood that all takes would 
occur to new individuals within this stock, and that fact that NSM does 
not include any particularly unique habitat to aggregate dolphins, the 
majority of JES dolphins are not expected to occur within ensonified 
waters of project activities. Therefore, proposed takes are not 
expected to exceed small numbers relative to stock abundance.
    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.

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 
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.
    No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for 
authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS 
has determined that 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 the U.S. Navy for conducting pile driving associated 
with recapitalization of Bravo Wharf at NSM, Jacksonville, FL from 
March 13, 2018 to March 12, 2019, 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 one 
year from March 13, 2018 to March 12, 2019.
    2. This IHA is valid only for pile driving activities associated 
with the Bravo Wharf Recapitalization Project at Naval Station Mayport, 
Florida.
    3. General Conditions
    (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of the Navy, its 
designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of 
this IHA.
    (b) The species authorized for taking is the bottlenose dolphin 
(Tursiops truncatus).
    (c) The taking, by Level B harassment only, is limited to the 
species listed in condition 3(b). See Table 1 for numbers of take 
authorized.

                    Table 1--Authorized Take Numbers
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Proposed authorized take
                Species                ---------------------------------
                                            Level B          Level A
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bottlenose dolphin....................             191                0
------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 56005]]

    (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.
    (e) The Navy shall conduct briefings between construction 
supervisors and crews, marine mammal monitoring team, and Navy staff 
prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel 
join the work, in order to explain responsibilities, communication 
procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational 
procedures.
    4. Mitigation measures
    The holder of this Authorization is required to implement the 
following mitigation measures:
    (a) For all pile driving, the Navy shall implement a minimum 
shutdown zone of 15 m radius around the pile. If a marine mammal comes 
within or approaches the shutdown zone, such operations shall cease;
    (b) The Navy shall establish monitoring locations as described 
below. Please also refer to the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan (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 to achieve optimal monitoring of 
the shutdown zone and the second positioned to achieve optimal 
monitoring of surrounding waters of the turning basin, the entrance to 
that basin, and portions of the Atlantic Ocean. If practicable, the 
second observer should be deployed to an elevated position, preferably 
opposite Bravo Wharf and with clear sight lines to the wharf and out 
the entrance channel;
    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. 
Observations within the turning basin shall be distinguished from those 
in the entrance channel and nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean; and
    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);
    (c) Monitoring shall take place from fifteen minutes prior to 
initiation of pile driving activity through thirty 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);
    (d) If a marine mammal approaches or enters the 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 the animal. No 
pile driving may occur if any whale is detected within the Level B 
harassment zone (e.g. pile driving must be delayed or cease until the 
animal leaves the ZOI for at least 30 minutes).
    (e) Monitoring shall be conducted by qualified observers, as 
described in the Monitoring Plan. 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 plan, 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);
    (f) The Navy 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. 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; and
    (g) Pile driving shall only be conducted during daylight hours.
    5. Monitoring
    The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct marine 
mammal monitoring during pile driving activity. Marine mammal 
monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with the 
Monitoring Plan.
    (a) The Navy 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) For all marine mammal monitoring, the information shall be 
recorded as described in the Monitoring Plan.
    6. Reporting
    The holder of this Authorization is required to:
    (a) Submit a draft report on all monitoring conducted under the IHA 
within ninety days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring, or 
sixty days prior to the issuance of any subsequent IHA for projects at 
NSM, 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 Monitoring Plan, at minimum, 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; and
    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 an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, 
Navy shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the 
incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast 
Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. 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);

[[Page 56006]]

    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 Navy to 
determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. Navy may not resume 
their activities until notified by NMFS.
    ii. In the event that Navy 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), Navy shall immediately report 
the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the 
Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS.
    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 Navy to determine 
whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the 
activities are appropriate; and
    iii. In the event that Navy 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), Navy shall report the incident to the 
Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Southeast Regional 
Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. Navy 
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 
construction activities. Please include with your comments any 
supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final 
decision on the request for MMPA authorization.

    Dated: November 20, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-25482 Filed 11-24-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P