Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Railroad Dock Dolphin Installation Project, Skagway, Alaska, 4777-4790 [2019-02685]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices notice.10 Requests should contain the party’s name, address, and telephone number, the number of participants, and a list of the issues to be discussed. Oral argument presentations will be limited to issues raised in the briefs. If a request for a hearing is made, Commerce intends to hold the hearing at the U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20230, at a date and time to be determined.11 Parties should confirm by telephone the date, time, and location of the hearing two days before the scheduled date. All submissions, with limited exceptions, must be filed electronically using ACCESS. An electronically filed document must be received successfully in its entirety by Commerce’s electronic records system, ACCESS, by 5 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on the due date. Documents excepted from the electronic submission requirements must be filed manually (i.e., in paper form) with the APO/Dockets Unit in Room 18022, and stamped with the date and time of receipt by 5 p.m. ET on the due date.12 Commerce intends to issue the final results of this administrative review, which will include the results of its analysis of issues raised in any briefs received, no later than 90 days after the date these preliminary results of review are issued pursuant to section 751(a)(2)(B) of the Act. Assessment Rates tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Cash Deposit Requirements If Commerce proceeds to a final rescission of this administrative review, NLMK’s cash deposit rate will continue to be the all-others rate of 184.56 percent. If Commerce issues final results for this administrative review, Commerce will instruct CBP to collect cash deposits, effective upon the publication of the final results, at the rates established therein. 10 See 19 CFR 351.310(c). 19 CFR 351.310(d). 12 See Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Electronic Filing Procedures; Administrative Protective Order Procedures, 76 FR 39263 (July 6, 2011). 11 See 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Dated: February 11, 2019. Christian Marsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. Appendix I List of Topics Discussed in the Preliminary Decision Memorandum I. Summary II. Background III. Scope of the Order IV. Discussion of the Methodology V. Conclusion [FR Doc. 2019–02586 Filed 2–15–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG628 If Commerce proceeds to a final rescission of this administrative review, the assessment rate to which NLMK’s shipments will be subject will not be affected by this review. If Commerce does not proceed to a final rescission of this administrative review, pursuant to 19 CFR 351.212(b)(1), we will calculate importer-specific (or customer-specific) assessment rates based on the final results of this review. VerDate Sep<11>2014 Notification to Importers This notice also serves as a reminder to importers of their responsibility under 19 CFR 351.402(f)(2) to file a certificate regarding the reimbursement of antidumping duties prior to liquidation of the relevant entries during this review period. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in Commerce’s presumption that reimbursement of antidumping duties occurred and the subsequent assessment of double antidumping duties. We are issuing and publishing this notice in accordance with sections 751(a)(1) and 777(i)(1) of the Act. Jkt 247001 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Railroad Dock Dolphin Installation Project, Skagway, Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; Issuance of an incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) to incidentally take, by Level A and Level B harassment, seven species of marine mammals during the Railroad Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska. DATES: This IHA is valid from February 15, 2019 through February 14, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wendy Piniak, Office of Protected SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4777 Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the authorization, application, and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The MMPA prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine mammals, with certain exceptions. 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 incidental take authorization may be provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as ‘‘mitigation’’); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth. The NDAA (Pub. L. 108–136) removed the ‘‘small numbers’’ and ‘‘specified geographical region’’ limitations indicated above and amended the definition of ‘‘harassment’’ as it applies to a ‘‘military readiness activity.’’ The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. Summary of Request On August 21, 2018, NMFS received a request from WP&YR for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to the E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4778 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Railroad Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska. WP&YR submitted a revised version of the application on November 9, 2018, which was deemed adequate and complete on November 15, 2018. WP&YR’s request is for take of seven species of marine mammals by Level B harassment and Level A harassment incidental to impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving and removal, and down-the-hole drilling activities. Neither WP&YR nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. In-water activities (pile installation and extraction) associated with the project are scheduled to begin in February, 2019, and be completed April 30, 2019. Description of Activity WP&YR requested the authorization of take of small numbers of marine mammals incidental to pile driving/ removal and down-the-hole drilling associated with the installation of two new 200-ton pile supported mooring dolphins in Skagway Harbor, Alaska. The new mooring dolphins will provide ample safe moorage when both Norwegian Breakaway and Royal Caribbean Quantum class cruise ship vessels are in port. The existing dolphin infrastructure does not allow for both cruise ships to be moored at the dock at the same time. The additional dolphins will allow for both ships to be docked simultaneously. To facilitate dual mooring, the project includes the installation of two 200-ton dolphins, each comprised of six 42-inch steel permanent piles 300 feet in length. WP&YR will also install and subsequently remove 14 36-inch template (temporary) piles (200 feet in length) at the two dolphin locations which are approximately 100 feet and 200 feet, respectively, south of the existing southernmost mooring dolphin at the WP&YR Railroad Dock. The template and permanent piles are comprised of two to three 100-feet long segments which will be spliced (i.e., welded) together as they are installed. All temporary and permanent piles will require a combination of three pile installation methods: vibratory driving, impact driving, and down-the-hole drilling. Sounds produced by these activities may result in take, by Level A and Level B harassment, of marine mammals located in Taiya Inlet, Alaska. In-water activities (pile installation and extraction) associated with the project are scheduled to begin in February, 2019, and be completed April 30, 2019. Pile installation and removal will occur over the course of the three VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 months. WP&YR anticipates up to 10 hours of activity (vibratory driving, impact driving, and down-the-hole drilling) during daylight hours will occur per day. A detailed description of the planned activities is provided in the Federal Register notice announcing the proposed IHA (83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018). Since that time no changes have been made to WP&YR’s planned activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not provided here. Please refer to the proposed IHA Federal Register notice for a detailed description of the activity. Comments and Responses A notice of NMFS’ proposal to issue an IHA to WP&YR was published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2018 (83 FR 64541). That notice described, in detail, WP&YR’s activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, the anticipated effects on marine mammals and their habitat, proposed amount and manner of take, and proposed mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures. On January 31, 2019, NMFS received a comment letter from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission); the Commission’s recommendations and our responses are provided here, and the comments have been posted online at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. The Commission recommended that NMFS issue the IHA, subject to inclusion of the proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures. Comment 1: The Commission expressed concern that the renewal process proposed in the Federal Register notice is inconsistent with the statutory requirements. The Commission recommended that NMFS refrain from implementing its proposed renewal process and instead use abbreviated Federal Register notices and reference existing documents to streamline the incidental harassment authorization process. The Commission further recommended that if NMFS did not pursue a more general route, NMFS should provide the Commission and the public with a legal analysis supporting its conclusion that the process is consistent with the requirements under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. Response 1: The notice of the proposed IHA expressly notifies the public that under certain, limited conditions an applicant could seek a renewal IHA for an additional year. The notice describes the conditions under which such a renewal request could be PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 considered and expressly seeks public comment in the event such a renewal is sought. Additional reference to this solicitation of public comment has recently been added at the beginning of Federal Register notices that consider renewals. NMFS appreciates the streamlining achieved by the use of abbreviated Federal Register notices and intends to continue using them for proposed IHAs that include minor changes from previously issued IHAs, but which do not satisfy the renewal requirements. However, we believe our proposed method for issuing renewals meets statutory requirements and maximizes efficiency. Importantly, such renewals would be limited to where the activities are identical or nearly identical to those analyzed in the proposed IHA, monitoring does not indicate impacts that were not previously analyzed and authorized, and the mitigation and monitoring requirements remain the same, all of which allow the public to comment on the appropriateness and effects of a renewal at the same time the public provides comments on the initial IHA. NMFS has, however, modified the language for future proposed IHAs to clarify that all IHAs, including renewal IHAs, are valid for no more than one year and that the agency would consider only one renewal for a project at this time. In addition, notice of issuance or denial of a renewal IHA would be published in the Federal Register, as are all IHAs. Last, NMFS will publish on our website a description of the renewal process before any renewal is issued utilizing the new process. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities A detailed description of the species likely to be affected by WP&YR’s project, including brief introductions to the species and relevant stocks as well as available information regarding population trends and threats, and information regarding local occurrence, were provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018). Since that time, we are not aware of any changes in the status of these species and stocks; therefore, detailed descriptions are not provided here. Please refer to the proposed IHA Federal Register notice for these descriptions; we provide a summary of marine mammals that may potentially be present in the project area here (Table 1). Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be found in NMFS’ Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marine- E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4779 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices mammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’ website (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species). Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in the Taiya Inlet and larger Lynn Canal 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 (2018). 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’ 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’ stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’ U.S. Alaska SARs (e.g., Muto et al. 2018). All values presented in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the 2017 SARs (Muto et al. 2018) and draft 2018 SARs (available online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ draft-marine-mammal-stockassessment-reports). TABLE 1—MARINE MAMMALS POTENTIALLY PRESENT DURING THE SPECIFIED ACTIVITY Common name Scientific name ESA/ MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Stock Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 PBR Annual M/SI 3 Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Eschrichtiidae: Gray whale ....................... Family Balaenidae: Humpback whale .............. Minke Whale .................... Eschrichtius robustus ............. Eastern North Pacific ............. -, -, N 26,960 (0.05, 25,849, 2016) .. 801 138 Megaptera novaeangliae ........ Balaenoptera acutorostrata .... Central North Pacific .............. Alaska ..................................... -, -, Y -, -, N 10,103 (0.3, 7,890, 2006) ...... N/A ......................................... 83 UND 25 0 Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Physeteridae, Family Delphinidae: Killer whale ....................... Family Phocoenidae (porpoises): Harbor porpoise ............... Dall’s porpoise .................. Orcinus orca ........................... Phocoena phocoena .............. Phocoenoides dalli ................. Alaska Resident ..................... Northern Resident .................. Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea Transient. West Coast Transient ............ -, -, N -, -, N -, -, N 2,347 (N/A, 2,347, 2012) 4 ..... 261 (N/A, 261, 2011) 4 ........... 587 (N/A, 587, 2012) 4 ........... 24 1.96 5.87 1 0 1 -, -, N 243 (N/A, 243, 2009) 4 ........... 2.4 0 Southeast Alaska ................... Alaska ..................................... -, -, Y -, -, N 975 (0.12–0.14, 897, 2012) 5 83,400 (0.097, N/A, 1991) ..... 8.9 UND 34 38 Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions): Steller sea lion ................. Eumetopias jubatus ................ Western U.S ........................... Eastern U.S ............................ E, D, Y T, D, Y 54,267 (N/A, 54,267, 2017) ... 41,638 (N/A, 41,638, 2015) ... 326 2498 252 108 Family Phocidae (earless seals): Harbor seal ....................... Phoca vitulina richardii ........... Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage. -, -, N 9,478 (N/A, 8,605, 2011) ....... 155 50 tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD 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: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable (N/A). 3 These values, found in NMFS’ 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 N is based on counts of individual animals identified from photo-identification catalogs. 5 In the SAR for harbor porpoise, NMFS identified population estimates and PBR for porpoises within inland southeast Alaska waters (these abundance estimates have not been corrected for g(0); therefore, they are likely conservative). Habitat No Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) or ESA-designated critical habitat overlap with the project area, however there is seasonally important foraging habitat for some species of marine mammal which overlap spatially and VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 temporally with planned project activities. The annual eulachon run (which occurs for approximately three to four weeks during April through May) in Lynn Canal is important to all marine mammals (particularly Steller sea lions, and harbor seals, and PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 humpback whales) for seasonal foraging and many species travel into Taiya Inlet to forage on this prey. E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4780 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat Underwater noise from impact and vibratory pile driving and down-thehole drilling activities associated with the planned Railroad Dock dolphin installation project have the potential to result in harassment of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action area. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018) included a discussion of the potential effects of such disturbances on marine mammals and their habitat, therefore that information is not repeated in detail here; please refer to the Federal Register notice (83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018) for that information. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes authorized through this IHA, which informs both NMFS’ consideration of ‘‘small numbers’’ 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 will primarily be by Level B harassment, as use of the impact and vibratory hammers and down-thehole drilling has the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for low-frequency cetaceans, highfrequency cetaceans, and/or phocids because predicted auditory injury zones are larger than for mid-frequency cetaceans and otariids. Auditory injury is unlikely to occur for mid-frequency cetaceans and otariids. The planned mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the severity of such taking to the extent practicable. As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Generally speaking, 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. We note that while these basic factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the factors considered here in more detail and present the take estimate. Acoustic Thresholds Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A harassment). Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources—Though significantly driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al. 2007; Ellison et al. 2012). Based on what the available science indicates and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 120 decibels (dB) re 1 micropascal (mPa) (root mean square (rms)) for continuous (e.g., vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for nonexplosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. WP&YR’s planned activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory pile driving/removal and drilling) 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 (Version 2.0) (NMFS 2018) 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). WP&YR’s planned activity includes the use of impulsive (impact pile driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving/removal and drilling) sources. These thresholds are provided in Table 2. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-acoustic-technical-guidance. TABLE 2—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT (PTS) PTS onset thresholds * (received level) Hearing group tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Impulsive Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans ...................................... Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans ...................................... High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ..................................... Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater) ............................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Lp,0-pk,flat: Lp,0-pk,flat: Lp,0-pk,flat: Lp,0-pk.flat: Frm 00018 219 230 202 218 Fmt 4703 dB; dB; dB; dB; Non-impulsive LE,p, LF,24h: 183 .................................. LE,p, MF,24h: 185 ................................. LE,p,HF,24h: 155 ................................... LE,p,PW,24h: 185 .................................. Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 LE,p, LF,24h: 199 dB. LE,p, MF,24h: 198 dB. LE,p, HF,24h: 173 dB. LE,p,PW,24h: 201 dB. 4781 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices TABLE 2—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT (PTS)—Continued PTS onset thresholds * (received level) Hearing group Impulsive Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater) ............................. Non-impulsive Lp,0-pk,flat: 232 dB; LE,p,OW,24h: 203 .................................. LE,p,OW,24h: 219 dB. * Dual metric 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 are recommended for consideration. Note: Peak sound pressure level (Lp,0-pk) has a reference value of 1 μPa, and weighted cumulative sound exposure level (LE,p) has a reference value of 1μPa2s. In this table, thresholds are abbreviated to be more reflective of International Organization for Standardization standards (ISO 2017). The subscript ‘‘flat’’ is being included to indicate peak sound pressure are flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized hearing range of marine mammals (i.e., 7 Hz to 160 kHz). 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 weighted 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 thresholds will be exceeded. Ensonified Area tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the acoustic thresholds, which include source levels and transmission loss coefficient. The sound field in the project area is the existing background noise plus additional construction noise from the planned project. Marine mammals are expected to be affected via sound generated by the primary components of the project (i.e., impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving and removal and down-the-hole drilling). The maximum (underwater) ensonification area of 17.9 km2 due to project activities is governed by the topography of Taiya Inlet (see Figure 6 in the application). The eastern shoreline of the inlet is acoustically shadowed due to land located just south of the project site. Similarly, Yakutania Point and Dyea Point will inhibit transmission of project sounds from reaching Nahku Bay and the upper inlet VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 at the mouth of the Taiya River. Additionally, vessel traffic and other commercial and industrial activities in the project (and ensonified) area may contribute to elevated background noise levels which may mask sounds produced by the project. In order to calculate distances to the Level A and Level B harassment thresholds for piles of various sizes being used in this project, NMFS used acoustic monitoring data from other pile driving projects in Alaska. Empirical data from recent sound source verification (SSV) studies in Anchorage and Kodiak, Alaska were used to estimate sound source levels (SSLs) for impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving/removal, and down-the-hole drilling installations of the 42-inch steel pipe permanent piles and the 36-inch steel pipe template piles (Austin et al. 2016; Denes et al. 2016). These Alaskan construction sites were generally assumed to best represent the environmental conditions found in Skagway and represent the nearest PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 available source level data for 42-inch steel piles. Note that piles of differing sizes have different sound source levels. Table 3 provides the sound source values used in calculating harassment isopleths for each source type. No data are currently available for 42-inch steel pipe piles. For impact and vibratory hammer source levels WP&YR used the median levels (sound exposure level single-strike (SELS-S) for impact and SPL rms for vibratory) measured 11 m from the pile by Austin et al. (2016) during installation of 48-inch piles at Port of Anchorage (see Table 3). These 48-inch pile impact and vibratory levels are conservatively used for both the 42-inch permanent piles and the 36-inch template piles. Few SSV and SSL data are available for down-the-hole drilling. WP&YR used the 90th percentile source levels measured 10 m from the pile by Denes et al. (2016) during drilling down the center of 30-inch piles in Kodiak (see Table 3)). BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4782 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices 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: tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES TL = B * Log10 (R1/R2), where TL = transmission loss in dB B = transmission loss coefficient; for practical spreading equals 15 R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven pile, and R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial measurement A practical spreading value of fifteen is often used under conditions, such as at the WP&YR Railroad Dock, where water increases with depth as the receiver moves away from the shoreline, resulting in an expected propagation environment that would lie between spherical and cylindrical spreading loss conditions. Practical spreading loss is assumed here. When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in recognition of VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of overestimate of Level A harassment take. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as pile driving and drilling, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which, if a marine mammal remained at that distance (or greater) the whole duration of the activity, it would not incur PTS. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet and PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 the resulting isopleths are reported in Tables 4 and 5. As WP&YR will employ two continuous sound sources (vibratory pile driving and drilling) it is necessary to account for accumulation of sound caused by both activities during the full 10-hour work day when calculating Level A harassment isopleths. As drilling has the higher sound pressure level, the 171 dB re 1 mPa (rms) sound level was used to calculate the Level A harassment isopleths for both drilling and vibratory pile driving activities (Table 4). Therefore, the resulting Level A isopleth distance is precautionary as WP&YR does not intend to drill for 10 hours per day; some hours will be allocated to vibratory pile driving which has a lower source level. For impact pile driving, isopleths calculated using the SELS–S metric were used as it produces larger isopleths than the sound pressure level peak (SPLPK) and takes into account the duration of each strike. Isopleths for Level B harassment associated with impact pile driving (160 dB) and vibratory pile driving/removal and drilling (120 dB) can be found in Table 5. E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 EN19FE19.000</GPH> BILLING CODE 3510–22–C 4783 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices TABLE 4—USER SPREADSHEET INPUT PARAMETERS USED FOR CALCULATING HARASSMENT ISOPLETHS Parameter Impact pile driving Vibratory pile driving and drilling Spreadsheet Tab Used ........................................................................... Source Level ........................................................................................... Weighting Factor Adjustment (kHz) ........................................................ Number of strikes per day ....................................................................... Activity Duration (h) within 24-hourperiod ............................................... Propagation (xLogR) ............................................................................... Distance of source level measurement (meters) .................................... E.1) Impact pile driving .................. 186.7 dB SELS–S ........................... 2 ..................................................... 2,000 .............................................. N/A ................................................. 15LogR .......................................... 11 ................................................... A. 1) Drilling/Vibratory pile driving. 171 dB SPL rms. 2. N/A. 10 hours. 15LogR. 10. TABLE 5—CALCULATED DISTANCES TO LEVEL A HARASSMENT AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT ISOPLETHS DURING PILE INSTALLATION AND REMOVAL AND DRILLING Level A harassment zone (meters) Source Low-frequency cetacean Mid-frequency cetacean 148 3,077.2 8.3 109.4 Drilling and Vibratory Installation ............. Impact Installation .................................... Source ...................................................... 4.1 Otariid pinniped 79.2 1,646.8 Cetaceans & Pinnipeds 5.8 119.9 1 13,000 3,698.8 n/a 55.1 4.7 n/a on maximum distance before landfall. Calculated distance was 25.1 km. Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation In this section we provide the information about the presence, density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take calculations, and how this information is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. Density information is not available for marine mammals in the project area in Taiya Inlet. Potential exposures to impact and vibratory pile driving and down-the-hole drilling noise for each threshold for all marine mammals were estimated using published reports of group sizes and population estimates, and anecdotal observational reports from local commercial entities. For several species, it is not currently possible to identify all observed individuals to stock. Level B Harassment Calculations tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 129.7 3,665.4 Phocid pinniped PTS Onset Isopleth—Peak (meters) Impact Installation .................................... 1 Based Highfrequency cetacean Level B harassment zone (meters) Unless otherwise noted, the estimation of takes by Level B harassment uses the following calculation: Level B harassment estimate = N (number of animals in the ensonified area) * Number of days of noise generating activities. Humpback Whale Humpback whales are the most commonly observed baleen whale in Southeast Alaska, particularly during spring and summer months. Humpback whales in Alaska, although not limited VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 to these areas, return to specific feeding locations such as Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, North Pass, Sitka Sound, Glacier Bay, Point Adolphus, and Prince William Sound, as well as other similar coastal areas (Wing and Krieger 1983). In Lynn Canal they have been observed in the spring and fall from Haines to Juneau, however scientific surveys have not documented the species within Taiya Inlet (Dahlheim et al. 2009). Local observations indicate that humpback whales are not common in the project action area but, if they are sighted, are generally present during mid to late spring and vacate the area by July to follow large aggregations of forage fish in lower Lynn Canal. Local observers have reported humpback whales in Taiya Inlet, sometimes fairly close to the Skagway waterfront. Due to seasonal migration patterns, the low frequency of humpbacks in the area, and that no humpback whales have been reported during winter months it is anticipated that no humpback whales will be present in the project area in February; therefore, we predict no exposure to noise generated from the project in February. As it is unclear whether humpback whales occur in the inlet in March (for example, should the eulachon run begin very early), it is conservatively estimated that one whale might be found in the inlet during February for five days resulting in five exposures. On average, four to five PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 individuals may occur near Skagway during the spring eulachon run in April and May, after which, only a few individuals are observed throughout the summer. In 2015, only one whale was observed (for several) weeks close to Skagway (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). Based on humpback whale occurrence in the project area and local observations, it is conservatively estimated that four individuals may be present in the action area each day during April, coinciding with 30 days of project activity (120 exposures). In total, NMFS authorized 125 exposures to humpback whales for the planned activity. Minke Whale Minke whales are rarely observed in the project area, and scientific surveys have not documented the species within Taiya Inlet (Dahlheim et al. 2009). A single minke whale was observed in the inlet in 2015 (K. Gross, Never Monday Charters, personal communication; R. Ford, Taiya Inlet Watershed Council, both personal communications reported in MOS 2016), and is the only known record of a minke whale in Taiya Inlet. However one minke whale was reported by local observers in the action area in 2015. Based on the available information it is very unlikely minke whales will be present in the inlet, however, minke whale presence is possible based on a single sighting and E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4784 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices presence of potential prey (eulachon) in the spring. Thus, we estimate a total of two potential exposures of minke whales. tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Killer Whale Although killer whale stocks’ ranges include southeast Alaska, they have only been documented as far north as Lynn Canal; therefore, while possible, occurrence north of Lynn Canal into Taiya Inlet is rare. According to local observations, pods of resident killer whales are occasionally seen in Taiya Inlet. Local observations indicate killer whales are observed four or five times a year (between spring and fall) usually in a group of 15 to 20 whales. In 2015 a resident pod was only observed in Taiya Inlet twice, remaining for one to four days per visit (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). There is no evidence of transient whales occurring within Taiya Inlet. While the resident pods remain in Alaska yearround there are no reports of sightings during winter months (JanuaryFebruary) in Taiya Inlet so it is assumed no killer whales will be present in the project area in February. Based on local observations in the project area in the spring, it is assumed that a group of 20 whales may enter the project area once in each of March and April and remain within the inlet for 2.5 days each time, for a total of 100 potential exposures. This is an increase from the proposed IHA to account for the average duration of pod visits according to local observations. Harbor Porpoise Harbor porpoises are primarily found in coastal waters, and in the Gulf of Alaska and Southeast Alaska, they occur most frequently in waters less than 100 meters (Dahlheim et al. 2009). Dedicated research studies of harbor porpoise in the project area only occur as far north in Lynn Canal as Haines during the summer (Dahlheim et al. 2009; 2015), approximately 16 miles south of Skagway. Group sizes were, on average, between 1.37–1.59 animals (less than 2) (Dahlheim et al. 2009; 2015). In Lynn Canal, observations were less frequent, primarily in lower Lynn Canal from Chatham Strait to Juneau, though harbor porpoises have been observed as far north as Haines during the summer (Dahlheim et al. 2009; 2015). Despite lack of observations during dedicated surveys, local charter captains indicate that harbor porpoises commonly occur in small groups of two or three in Taiya Inlet, although they are not encountered on a daily basis and are rarely seen in areas close to the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 waterfront (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). Therefore, it is conservatively estimated that one group of three individuals may be present in the inlet 75 percent of the days during each month for a total of 201 potential exposures. Dall’s Porpoise Dall’s porpoises are widely distributed across the entire North Pacific Ocean. Throughout most of the eastern North Pacific they are present during all months of the year, although there may be seasonal onshore-offshore movements along the west coast of the continental United States and winter movements of populations out of Prince William Sound and areas in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea (Muto et al. 2018). Dahlheim et al. (2009) observed Dall’s porpoise throughout Southeast Alaska, with concentrations of animals consistently found in Lynn Canal, Stephens Passage, Icy Strait, upper Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound, and Clarence Strait. Dahlheim et al. (2009), documented Dall’s porpoise in Lynn Canal as far north as Haines, Alaska, about 15 miles south of Skagway. Local observation indicate that three to six Dall’s porpoises may be present in Taiya Inlet during the early spring and late fall. Observations have been occasional to sporadic and do not occur on a daily basis. The species has not been observed during winter months and has not been observed near the waterfront (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). The mean group size of Dall’s porpoise in Southeast Alaska is estimated to be 3.7 individuals (Dahlheim et al. 2009). Therefore, it is estimated that a group of four Dall’s porpoises will be present in the project area every other day in March and April, for a total of 122 potential exposures. Steller Sea Lion Several long-term Steller sea lion haulouts are located in Lynn Canal, however none occur in Taiya Inlet. The nearest long-term Steller sea lion haulout is located at Gran Point, south of Haines and 24 mi (38 km) south of the project area. Other year-round haulouts in Lynn Canal are present at Met Point, Benjamin Island, and Little Island, closer to Juneau (Fritz et al. 2015). Observations from local charter boat captains and watershed stewards indicate Steller sea lions can be abundant in the action area, particularly in April and May during the eulachon run, but are rarely observed in the project area during the winter (K. Gross, Never Monday Charters, personal communication; R. Ford, Taiya Inlet PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Watershed Council, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). This is consistent with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory database (Fritz et al. 2015), which has identified the largest number of Lynn Canal sea lions during the fall and winter months at Benjamin Island in the lower reaches of the canal. During surveys conducted in 2002 and 2003, Womble et al. (2005) observed a maximum of approximately 400 Steller sea lions in the water at the mouth of the Taiya River feeding on eulachon in 2003, but observed very few in the same area in 2002. Steller sea lions have also been observed in Lutak Inlet, a foraging site closer to both Taiya Point and Gran Point haulouts. During the spring eulachon run, a seasonal haulout site is located on Taiya Point at the southern tip of Taiya Inlet, approximately 11 mi (18 km) from the project site. Twenty-five to 40 sea lions are estimated to use this haulout for about three weeks during spring run, during which they frequently are observed in the inlet (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). However, most animals leave the inlet shortly after the eulachon run and are rarely observed in the summer. Based on survey data and local observations in the project area, it is estimated that two animals may be present each day in February (56 exposures), 16 animals may be present on each day in March (half of the mean found on Taiya Rocks during the eulachon run, 496 exposures), and 40 animals may be present each day in April (1,200 exposures) for a total of 1,752 potential exposures. Harbor Seal No long-term haulout sites have been documented for harbor seals in Taiya Inlet; however, seasonal haulouts are present within six miles of the project area at Seal Cove and at the mouth of the Taiya River. Based on reports from local observers, a few resident harbor seals are expected to occur within Taiya Inlet during the winter months, but during the April and May eulachon run numbers can range from 20 to over 100 (K. Gross and R. Ford, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). Before and after the spawning run, much lower numbers of harbor seals are present. Based on survey data and local observations in the project area it is assumed that 20 seals (the lower estimate in the range) occur within the project area each day in February through March (560 takes in February and 620 takes in March) and 100 seals (the higher estimate in the range) during E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4785 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices April (3,000 takes) for a total of 4,180 potential exposures. Level A Harassment Calculations WP&YR intends to avoid Level A harassment take by shutting down installation activities at approach of any marine mammal to the representative Level A harassment (PTS onset) ensonification zone up to a practical shutdown monitoring distance. As small/cryptic marine mammal species may enter the Level A harassment zone before shutdown mitigation procedures can be implemented, and some animals may occur between the maximum Level A harassment ensonification zone and the maximum shutdown safety zone, we conservatively estimate that 20 percent of the Level B harassment takes calculated above for humpback whales, harbor porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, and harbor seals, have the potential to be takes by Level A harassment (Table 6). Minke whale occurrence in Taiya Inlet is rare. Because vessel-based PSOs are able to monitor the entire Level A harassment zone (whales entering the inlet), WP&YR did not request, and NMFS is not proposing, to authorize Level A harassment take of minke whales. TABLE 6—ESTIMATED TAKE BY LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT, BY SPECIES AND STOCK, RESULTING FROM WP&YR PROJECT ACTIVITIES Stock abundance 1 Common name Stock Humpback whale ................ Minke Whale ....................... Killer whale .......................... Central North Pacific .......... Alaska ................................. Alaska Resident ................. Northern Resident .............. Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea Transient. West Coast Transient ......... Southeast Alaska ............... Alaska ................................. Western U.S. ...................... Eastern U.S. ....................... Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage. Harbor porpoise .................. Dall’s porpoise .................... Steller sea lion .................... Harbor seal ......................... Level A 2 10,103 N/A 2,347 261 587 243 975 83,400 54,267 41,638 9,478 Level B Total take 25 0 0 100 2 100 125 2 100 40 24 0 0 836 161 98 3 35 1,717 3,344 201 122 35 1,717 4,180 Take as percentage of stock 1.23 N/A 4.3 38.3 17.0 41.2 20.6 0.01 0.06 4.1 44.1 1 Stock or DPS size is Nbest according to NMFS 2018 Draft Stock Assessment Reports. ESA section 7 consultation purposes, 6.1 percent are designated to the Mexico DPS and the remaining are designated to the Hawaii DPS; therefore, we assigned 2 Level B takes to the Mexico DPS. 3 Based on the percent of branded animals at Gran Point and in consultation with the Alaska Regional Office, we used a 2 percent distinction factor to determine the number of animals potentially from the western DPS. tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 2 For There are a number of reasons why the estimates of potential incidents of take are likely to be conservative. Given the lack of density information, we use conservative estimates of marine mammal presence to calculate takes for each species. Additionally, in the context of stationary activities such as pile driving, and in areas where resident animals may be present, this number represents the number of instances of take that may occur to a small number of individuals, with a notably smaller number of animals being exposed more than once per individual. While pile driving or drilling 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 is actually spent pile driving or drilling. The potential effectiveness of mitigation measures in reducing the number of takes or exposure time is also not quantified in the take estimation process. For these reasons, these take estimates may be conservative, especially if each take is considered a separate individual animal, and especially for pinnipeds. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 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: PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (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. Mitigation for Marine Mammals and Their Habitat In addition to the measures described later in this section, WP&YR will employ the following standard mitigation measures: E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 4786 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices • Conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews and the marine mammal monitoring team prior to the start of all pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures; • For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving (e.g., standard barges, etc.), if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, operations shall cease and vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions. This type of work could include the following activities: (1) Movement of the barge to the pile location; or (2) positioning of the pile on the substrate via a crane (i.e., stabbing the pile); • Work may only occur during daylight hours, when visual monitoring of marine mammals can be conducted; • For those marine mammals for which Level B harassment has not been authorized, in-water pile installation/ removal and drilling will shut down immediately if such species are observed within or on a path towards the monitoring zone (i.e., Level B harassment zone); and • If take reaches the authorized limit for an authorized species, pile installation will be stopped as these species approach the Level B harassment zone to avoid additional take. The following measures will apply to WP&YR’s mitigation requirements: Establishment of Shutdown Zone for Level A Harassment—For all pile driving/removal and drilling activities, WP&YR will establish a shutdown zone. The purpose of a shutdown zone is generally to define an area within which shutdown of activity will occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering the defined area). Conservative shutdown zones of 150 m for low- and highfrequency cetaceans, 80 m for phocid pinnipeds, and 10 m for mid-frequency cetaceans and otariid pinnipeds will be used during all drilling and vibratory pile driving/removal activities to prevent incidental Level A harassment exposure for these activities (Table 7). During impact pile driving, a 150 m zone will be established for all species except for low-frequency cetaceans for which a 2,000 m zone will be used. These shutdown zones will be used to prevent incidental Level A exposures from impact pile driving for midfrequency cetaceans and otariid pinnipeds, and to reduce the potential for such take for other species. The placement of Protected Species Observers (PSOs) during all pile driving and drilling activities (described in detail in the Monitoring and Reporting Section) will ensure marine mammals in the shutdown zones are visible. The 150 m zone is the practical distance WP&YR anticipates phocid pinnipeds and highfrequency cetaceans can be effectively observed in the project area. The 2,000 m zone for low-frequency cetaceans is determined by the width of Taiya Inlet at Skagway Harbor. Observers will be present on vessels in the Taiya Inlet and able to observe large whales traveling north into the inlet and project area. TABLE 7—MONITORING AND SHUTDOWN ZONES FOR EACH PROJECT ACTIVITY Monitoring zone (m) tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Source Drilling and Vibratory Installation/Removal ................................................ 13,000 Impact Installation ...................................................................................... 3,700 Establishment of Monitoring Zones for Level B Harassment—WP&YR will establish monitoring zones to correlate with Level B monitoring zones which are areas where SPLs are equal to or exceed the 160 dB rms threshold for impact driving and the 120 dB rms threshold during vibratory driving and drilling. Monitoring zones provide utility for observing by establishing monitoring protocols for areas adjacent to the shutdown zones. Monitoring zones enable observers to be aware of and communicate the presence of marine mammals in the project area outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for a potential cease of activity should the animal enter the shutdown zone. The monitoring zones are described in Table 7. The monitoring zone for drilling and vibratory pile driving/removal activities is 13,000 m, corresponding to the maximum distance before landfall. The monitoring zone for impact pile driving will be 3,700 m. Placement of PSOs on vessels in the Taiya Inlet allow PSOs to observe VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 Shutdown zone (m) Low- and high- frequency cetaceans: 150. Phocid pinnipeds: 80. Mid-frequency cetaceans and otariid pinnipeds: 10. Low-frequency cetaceans: 2,000. All other species: 150. marine mammals traveling north into the inlet and Skagway Harbor. Should PSOs determine the monitoring zone cannot be effectively observed in its entirety, Level B harassment exposures will be recorded and extrapolated based upon the number of observed take and the percentage of the Level B zone that was not visible. Soft Start—The use of soft-start procedures are believed to provide additional protection to marine mammals by providing warning and/or giving marine mammals a chance to leave the area prior to the hammer operating at full capacity. For impact pile driving, contractors will be required to provide an initial set of strikes from the hammer at reduced energy, with each strike followed by a 30-second waiting period. This procedure will be conducted a total of three times before impact pile driving begins. Soft start will 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 PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 longer. Soft start is not required during vibratory pile driving and removal activities. Pre-Activity Monitoring—Prior to the start of daily in-water construction activity, or whenever a break in pile driving/removal or drilling of 30 minutes or longer occurs, PSOs will observe the shutdown and monitoring zones for a period of 30 minutes. The shutdown zone will be cleared when a marine mammal has not been observed within the zone for that 30-minute period. If a marine mammal is observed within the shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal has left the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. If the Level B harassment zone has been observed for 30 minutes and non-permitted species are not present within the zone, soft start procedures can commence and work can continue even if visibility becomes impaired within the Level B monitoring zone. When a marine mammal permitted for Level B take is present in the Level B harassment zone, activities may begin E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES and Level B take will be recorded. As stated above, if the entire Level B zone is not visible at the start of construction, piling or drilling activities can begin. If work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-activity monitoring of both the Level B and shutdown zone will commence. Due to the depth of the water column and strong currents present at the project site, bubble curtains will not be implemented as they would not be effective in this environment. Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s measures, NMFS has determined that the planned mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Monitoring 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 action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as to 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 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); and • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Marine Mammal Visual Monitoring Monitoring shall be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs per the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan dated January 18, 2019 available online at online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-take-authorizationsconstruction-activities. 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 shall include instruction on species identification (sufficient to distinguish the species in the project area), 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). Monitoring will be conducted 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after pile driving/removal and drilling activities. In addition, observers shall record all incidents of marine mammal occurrence, regardless of distance from activity, and shall document any behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles being driven or removed. Pile driving/removal and drilling 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 30 minutes. A total of five PSOs will be based on land and vessels. During all pile driving/removal and drilling activities observers will be stationed at the Railroad Dock, Yakutania Point, and Dyea Point. These stations will allow full monitoring of the impact hammer monitoring zone and the Level A shutdown zones. The vibratory and PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4787 drilling monitoring zone will be monitored by the three land-based PSOs and two PSOs stationed on boats anchored near the shoreline, with each team (vessel operator and observer) stationed approximately 2 km apart in the inlet south of the project site (Figure 2 in the WP&YR Marine Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan). PSOs will scan the waters using binoculars, and/or spotting scopes, and will use a handheld GPS or range-finder device to verify the distance to each sighting from the project site. All PSOs will be trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors and are required to have no other project-related tasks while conducting monitoring. In addition, monitoring will be conducted by qualified observers, who will be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and implement shutdown/ delay procedures when applicable by calling for the shutdown to the hammer operator. WP&YR will adhere to the following observer qualifications: (i) Independent observers (i.e., not construction personnel) are required; (ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an observer; (iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience; (iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an observer; and (v) WP&YR shall submit observer CVs for approval by NMFS. Additional standard observer qualifications include: • Ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors; • Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations; • 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 E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 4788 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices • 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. WP&YR will submit monthly marine mammal monitoring reports. A draft marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the completion of pile driving and removal and drilling activities. It will include an overall description of work completed, a narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and associated PSO data sheets. Specifically, the report must include: • 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 distance from pile driving activity; • Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point; • Locations of all marine mammal observations; and • Other human activity in the area. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft final report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days after receipt of comments. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA (if issued), such as an injury, serious injury or mortality, WP&YR will immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report will include the following information: • Description of the incident; • Environmental conditions (e.g., Beaufort sea state, visibility); • Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; • Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; • Fate of the animal(s); and • Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if equipment is available). Activities may not resume until NMFS is able to review the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with WP&YR to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. WP&YR will not be able to resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that WP&YR discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), WP&YR will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report will include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities will be able to continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with WP&YR to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that WP&YR discovers an injured or dead marine mammal and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), WP&YR will report the incident to the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, within 24 hours of the discovery. WP&YR will provide photographs, video footage (if available), or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Acoustic Monitoring WP&YR will conduct acoustic monitoring for the purposes of SSV in accordance with the Acoustic Monitoring Plan, dated January 28, 2019 available online at online at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. WP&YR will collect acoustic data for at least one 42-inch permanent pile, using all three installation methods (impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving, and down-the-hole drilling) from at least two distances from the pile (one approximately 10 meters from the pile and at least one additional measurement in the far field). Equipment will record, and sound PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 spectra in one-third octave bands will be reported, from 10 Hz to 20 kHz. The following data, at minimum, shall be collected during acoustic monitoring and reported: • Hydrophone equipment and methods: recording device, sampling rate, distance from the pile where recordings were made; depth of recording device(s); • Type of pile (42-inch), and segment of pile (1, 2, or 3), being driven and method of driving/removal and drilling during recordings; and • Mean, median, and maximum (or 90th percentile), and range sound levels (dB re 1mPa): cumulative sound exposure level (SELCUM), peak sound pressure level (SPLPK), root mean square sound pressure level (SPLRMS), and single-strike sound exposure level (SELS–S) as appropriate for the sound source. For more details please see WP&YR’s acoustic monitoring plan, available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-take-authorizationsconstruction-activities. 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’ 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 E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise levels). Pile driving/removal and drilling activities associated with the Railroad Dock installation project as outlined previously, have the potential to disturb or displace marine mammals in Taiya Inlet near Skagway. Specifically, the specified activities may result in take, in the form of Level A harassment and Level B harassment from underwater sounds generated from pile driving and removal and down-the-hole drilling. Potential takes could occur if individuals of these species are present in the ensonified zone when these activities are underway. The takes from Level A and Level B harassment will be due to potential behavioral disturbance, TTS, and PTS (for select species). No mortality is anticipated given the nature of the activity and measures designed to minimize the possibility of injury to marine mammals. Level A harassment is only anticipated for humpback whales, Dall’s porpoise, harbor porpoise, and harbor seal. The potential for harassment is minimized through the construction method and the implementation of the planned mitigation measures (see Mitigation section). As described previously, minke whales are considered rare in the project area and we authorize only nominal and precautionary take of two individuals. Therefore, we do not expect meaningful impacts to minke whales and find that the total minke whale take from each of the specified activities will have a negligible impact on this species. For remaining species, we discuss the likely effects of the specified activities in greater detail. 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; Lerma 2014; ABR 2016). Most likely, individuals will move away from the sound source and be temporarily displaced from the areas of pile driving and drilling, although even this reaction has been observed primarily only in association with impact pile driving. The pile driving activities analyzed here are similar to, or less impactful than, numerous other construction activities conducted in southeast Alaska, which have taken place with no known long-term adverse consequences from behavioral harassment. Level B harassment will be VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 reduced to the level of least practicable adverse impact through use of mitigation measures described herein and, if sound produced by project activities is sufficiently disturbing, animals are likely to avoid the area while the activity is occurring. While vibratory driving and drilling associated with the planned project may produce sound at distances of many kilometers from the project site, thus intruding on some habitat, the project site itself is located in a busy harbor and the majority of sound fields produced by the specified activities are close to the harbor. Therefore, we expect that animals annoyed by project sound would avoid the area and use morepreferred habitats. In addition to the expected effects resulting from authorized Level B harassment, we anticipate that humpback whales, harbor porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, and harbor seals may sustain some limited Level A harassment in the form of auditory injury. However, animals in these locations that experience PTS would likely only receive slight PTS, i.e., minor degradation of hearing capabilities within regions of hearing that align most completely with the energy produced by pile driving, i.e., the low-frequency region below 2 kHz, not severe hearing impairment or impairment in the regions of greatest hearing sensitivity. If hearing impairment occurs, it is most likely that the affected animal would lose only a small number of decibels in its hearing sensitivity, which in most cases is not likely to meaningfully affect its ability to forage and communicate with conspecifics. As described above, we expect that marine mammals would be likely to move away from a sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, especially at levels that would be expected to result in PTS, given sufficient notice through use of soft start. The project also is not expected to have significant adverse effects on affected marine mammals’ habitat. The project activities will not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant amount of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals’ foraging opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range; but, because of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area of the habitat that may be affected, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative consequences. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4789 In summary and as described above, the following factors support our determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: • No mortality is anticipated or authorized; • The Level A harassment exposures are anticipated to result only in slight PTS, within the lower frequencies associated with pile driving; • The anticipated incidents of Level B harassment are likely to consist of temporary modifications in behavior that are not anticipated to result in fitness impacts to individuals; • The specified activity and ensonification area is very small relative to the overall habitat ranges of all species and does not include habitat areas of special significance (BIAs or ESA-designated critical habitat); and • The presumed efficacy of the mitigation measures in reducing the effects of the specified activity to the level of least practicable adverse impact. In addition, although affected humpback whales and Steller sea lions may be from a DPS that is listed under the ESA, it is unlikely that minor noise effects in a small, localized area of habitat would effect the stocks’ ability to recover. In combination, we believe that these factors, as well as the available body of evidence from other similar activities, demonstrate that the potential effects of the specified activities will have only minor, short-term effects on individuals. The specified activities are not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival and will therefore not result in population-level impacts. 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 monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the 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 sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (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 E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1 tkelley on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 4790 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 33 / Tuesday, February 19, 2019 / Notices an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. Table 6 demonstrates the number of animals that could be exposed to received noise levels that could cause Level A harassment and Level B harassment for the planned activities in the WP&YR project area. With the exception of the Northern Resident and West Coast Transient killer whale stocks and harbor seals, our analysis shows that less than 25 percent of each affected stock could be taken by harassment. The numbers of animals anticipated to be taken for these stocks would be considered small relative to the relevant stock’s abundances even if each estimated taking occurred to a new individual—an extremely unlikely scenario. Calculated takes do not assume multiple harassments of the same individual(s), resulting in larger estimates of take as a percentage of stock abundance than are likely given resident individuals. This is the case with the resident stocks of killer whale (Alaska and Northern Resident stocks and harbor seal (Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage stock). When assuming the total take authorized would occur to a single stock and that these numbers represent individuals taken, rather than instances of take, the total authorized take for killer whales as compared to each potentially affected stock ranges from 4.3 percent to 41.2 percent of each stock abundance. In reality, it is highly unlikely that 100 individuals of any one killer whale stock will be harassed. Instead, as pods remain in the area over a period of days, it is assumed that take will occur on a smaller number of the same individuals from any stock, (20 individuals, or the estimated group size from one stock, or 40 individuals, if different pods from the same stock are taken in both March and April), which would result in smaller takes as a percentages of stocks (ranging from 0.9 percent to 8.2 percent if takes are from 20 whales from the same stock, or 1.7 percent to 16.5 percent if takes are from 40 whales from the same stock). As reported, a small number of harbor seals, most of which reside in Taiya Inlet year-round, will be exposed to construction activities for three months. The total population estimate in the Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage stock is 9,478 animals over 1.37 million acres (5,500 km2) of area in their range, which results in an estimated density of 36 animals within Taiya Inlet. The largest VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:46 Feb 15, 2019 Jkt 247001 Level B harassment zone within the inlet occupies 17.9 km2, which represents less than 0.4 percent of the total geographical area occupied by the stock. The great majority of these exposures will be to the same animals given their residency patterns. Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity (including the planned mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS 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 No relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal stocks or species are implicated by this action in the project area. The planned project will occur near but not overlap with the subsistence area used by the villages of Hoonah and Angoon where harbor seals and Steller sea lions are available for subsistence harvest (Wolfe et al. 2013; N. Kovaces, Skagway Traditional Council, personal communication). Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. 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 action with respect to environmental consequences on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (incidental harassments authorizations with no anticipated serious injury or mortality) 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 determined that the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. Endangered Species Act 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 PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally, in this case with the Alaska Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. On February 11, 2019 NMFS Alaska Region issued a Biological Opinion to NMFS Office of Protected Resources on the issuance of this IHA. The Biological Opinion determined that the proposed action was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the humpback whale Mexico DPS and the Steller sea lion western DPS or adversely affect designated critical habitat. Authorization NMFS has issued an IHA to WP&YR for the incidental take of marine mammals due to in-water construction work associated with the Railroad Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska from February 15, 2019 through February 14, 2020, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Dated: February 13, 2019. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–02685 Filed 2–15–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hydrographic Services Review Panel Meeting National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. ACTION: Notice of open public meeting. AGENCY: The Hydrographic Services Review Panel (HSRP) will hold a meeting that will be open to the public and public comments are requested in advance and/or during the meeting. Information about the HSRP meeting, agenda, presentations, webinar registration, and other background documents will be posted online at: https://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/ hsrp/hsrp.htm and https:// www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/hsrp/ meetings.htm. Dated: The meeting is planned for two and a half days during March 5–7, 2019. The dates, agenda, and times are subject SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\19FEN1.SGM 19FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 33 (Tuesday, February 19, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4777-4790]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-02685]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XG628


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Railroad Dock Dolphin 
Installation Project, Skagway, Alaska

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

ACTION: Notice; Issuance of an incidental harassment authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, notification is hereby given 
that NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to 
White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) to incidentally take, by Level A and 
Level B harassment, seven species of marine mammals during the Railroad 
Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska.

DATES: This IHA is valid from February 15, 2019 through February 14, 
2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wendy Piniak, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the 
authorization, application, and supporting documents, as well as a list 
of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. In case of 
problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed 
above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The MMPA prohibits the ``take'' of marine mammals, with certain 
exceptions. 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 incidental take authorization may be provided to the public 
for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses 
(where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods 
of taking and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for 
taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as 
``mitigation''); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, 
monitoring and reporting of such takings are set forth.
    The NDAA (Pub. L. 108-136) removed the ``small numbers'' and 
``specified geographical region'' limitations indicated above and 
amended the definition of ``harassment'' as it applies to a ``military 
readiness activity.'' The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory 
terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below.

Summary of Request

    On August 21, 2018, NMFS received a request from WP&YR for an IHA 
to take marine mammals incidental to the

[[Page 4778]]

Railroad Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska. WP&YR 
submitted a revised version of the application on November 9, 2018, 
which was deemed adequate and complete on November 15, 2018. WP&YR's 
request is for take of seven species of marine mammals by Level B 
harassment and Level A harassment incidental to impact pile driving, 
vibratory pile driving and removal, and down-the-hole drilling 
activities. Neither WP&YR nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality 
to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. In-
water activities (pile installation and extraction) associated with the 
project are scheduled to begin in February, 2019, and be completed 
April 30, 2019.

Description of Activity

    WP&YR requested the authorization of take of small numbers of 
marine mammals incidental to pile driving/removal and down-the-hole 
drilling associated with the installation of two new 200-ton pile 
supported mooring dolphins in Skagway Harbor, Alaska. The new mooring 
dolphins will provide ample safe moorage when both Norwegian Breakaway 
and Royal Caribbean Quantum class cruise ship vessels are in port. The 
existing dolphin infrastructure does not allow for both cruise ships to 
be moored at the dock at the same time. The additional dolphins will 
allow for both ships to be docked simultaneously. To facilitate dual 
mooring, the project includes the installation of two 200-ton dolphins, 
each comprised of six 42-inch steel permanent piles 300 feet in length. 
WP&YR will also install and subsequently remove 14 36-inch template 
(temporary) piles (200 feet in length) at the two dolphin locations 
which are approximately 100 feet and 200 feet, respectively, south of 
the existing southernmost mooring dolphin at the WP&YR Railroad Dock. 
The template and permanent piles are comprised of two to three 100-feet 
long segments which will be spliced (i.e., welded) together as they are 
installed. All temporary and permanent piles will require a combination 
of three pile installation methods: vibratory driving, impact driving, 
and down-the-hole drilling. Sounds produced by these activities may 
result in take, by Level A and Level B harassment, of marine mammals 
located in Taiya Inlet, Alaska.
    In-water activities (pile installation and extraction) associated 
with the project are scheduled to begin in February, 2019, and be 
completed April 30, 2019. Pile installation and removal will occur over 
the course of the three months. WP&YR anticipates up to 10 hours of 
activity (vibratory driving, impact driving, and down-the-hole 
drilling) during daylight hours will occur per day.
    A detailed description of the planned activities is provided in the 
Federal Register notice announcing the proposed IHA (83 FR 64541; 
December 17, 2018). Since that time no changes have been made to 
WP&YR's planned activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not 
provided here. Please refer to the proposed IHA Federal Register notice 
for a detailed description of the activity.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of NMFS' proposal to issue an IHA to WP&YR was published 
in the Federal Register on December 17, 2018 (83 FR 64541). That notice 
described, in detail, WP&YR's activity, the marine mammal species that 
may be affected by the activity, the anticipated effects on marine 
mammals and their habitat, proposed amount and manner of take, and 
proposed mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures. On January 31, 
2019, NMFS received a comment letter from the Marine Mammal Commission 
(Commission); the Commission's recommendations and our responses are 
provided here, and the comments have been posted online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. The Commission recommended 
that NMFS issue the IHA, subject to inclusion of the proposed 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures.
    Comment 1: The Commission expressed concern that the renewal 
process proposed in the Federal Register notice is inconsistent with 
the statutory requirements. The Commission recommended that NMFS 
refrain from implementing its proposed renewal process and instead use 
abbreviated Federal Register notices and reference existing documents 
to streamline the incidental harassment authorization process. The 
Commission further recommended that if NMFS did not pursue a more 
general route, NMFS should provide the Commission and the public with a 
legal analysis supporting its conclusion that the process is consistent 
with the requirements under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA.
    Response 1: The notice of the proposed IHA expressly notifies the 
public that under certain, limited conditions an applicant could seek a 
renewal IHA for an additional year. The notice describes the conditions 
under which such a renewal request could be considered and expressly 
seeks public comment in the event such a renewal is sought. Additional 
reference to this solicitation of public comment has recently been 
added at the beginning of Federal Register notices that consider 
renewals. NMFS appreciates the streamlining achieved by the use of 
abbreviated Federal Register notices and intends to continue using them 
for proposed IHAs that include minor changes from previously issued 
IHAs, but which do not satisfy the renewal requirements. However, we 
believe our proposed method for issuing renewals meets statutory 
requirements and maximizes efficiency. Importantly, such renewals would 
be limited to where the activities are identical or nearly identical to 
those analyzed in the proposed IHA, monitoring does not indicate 
impacts that were not previously analyzed and authorized, and the 
mitigation and monitoring requirements remain the same, all of which 
allow the public to comment on the appropriateness and effects of a 
renewal at the same time the public provides comments on the initial 
IHA. NMFS has, however, modified the language for future proposed IHAs 
to clarify that all IHAs, including renewal IHAs, are valid for no more 
than one year and that the agency would consider only one renewal for a 
project at this time. In addition, notice of issuance or denial of a 
renewal IHA would be published in the Federal Register, as are all 
IHAs. Last, NMFS will publish on our website a description of the 
renewal process before any renewal is issued utilizing the new process.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    A detailed description of the species likely to be affected by 
WP&YR's project, including brief introductions to the species and 
relevant stocks as well as available information regarding population 
trends and threats, and information regarding local occurrence, were 
provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (83 FR 
64541; December 17, 2018). Since that time, we are not aware of any 
changes in the status of these species and stocks; therefore, detailed 
descriptions are not provided here. Please refer to the proposed IHA 
Federal Register notice for these descriptions; we provide a summary of 
marine mammals that may potentially be present in the project area here 
(Table 1). Additional information regarding population trends and 
threats may be found in NMFS' Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; https://
www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-

[[Page 4779]]

mammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these 
species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on 
NMFS' website (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species).
    Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
the Taiya Inlet and larger Lynn Canal 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 (2018). 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' 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' stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that 
comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend 
beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in 
NMFS' U.S. Alaska SARs (e.g., Muto et al. 2018). All values presented 
in Table 2 are the most recent available at the time of publication and 
are available in the 2017 SARs (Muto et al. 2018) and draft 2018 SARs 
(available online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/draft-marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports).

                                        Table 1--Marine Mammals Potentially Present During the Specified Activity
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         ESA/MMPA status;    Stock abundance (CV,
             Common name                  Scientific name               Stock             strategic (Y/N)      Nmin, most recent       PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                                \1\          abundance survey) \2\               SI \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Eschrichtiidae:
    Gray whale......................  Eschrichtius robustus..  Eastern North Pacific..  -, -, N             26,960 (0.05, 25,849,         801       138
                                                                                                             2016).
Family Balaenidae:
    Humpback whale..................  Megaptera novaeangliae.  Central North Pacific..  -, -, Y             10,103 (0.3, 7,890,            83         25
                                                                                                             2006).
    Minke Whale.....................  Balaenoptera             Alaska.................  -, -, N             N/A...................        UND          0
                                       acutorostrata.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Physeteridae,
Family Delphinidae:
    Killer whale....................  Orcinus orca...........  Alaska Resident........  -, -, N             2,347 (N/A, 2,347,             24          1
                                                                                                             2012) \4\.
                                                               Northern Resident......  -, -, N             261 (N/A, 261, 2011)         1.96          0
                                                                                                             \4\.
                                                               Gulf of Alaska,          -, -, N             587 (N/A, 587, 2012)         5.87          1
                                                                Aleutian Islands,                            \4\.
                                                                Bering Sea Transient.
                                                               West Coast Transient...  -, -, N             243 (N/A, 243, 2009)          2.4          0
                                                                                                             \4\.
Family Phocoenidae (porpoises):
    Harbor porpoise.................  Phocoena phocoena......  Southeast Alaska.......  -, -, Y             975 (0.12-0.14, 897,          8.9         34
                                                                                                             2012) \5\.
    Dall's porpoise.................  Phocoenoides dalli.....  Alaska.................  -, -, N             83,400 (0.097, N/A,           UND         38
                                                                                                             1991).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Otariidae (eared seals and
 sea lions):
    Steller sea lion................  Eumetopias jubatus.....  Western U.S............  E, D, Y             54,267 (N/A, 54,267,          326        252
                                                                                                             2017).
                                                               Eastern U.S............  T, D, Y             41,638 (N/A, 41,638,         2498        108
                                                                                                             2015).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Phocidae (earless seals):
    Harbor seal.....................  Phoca vitulina           Lynn Canal/Stephens      -, -, N             9,478 (N/A, 8,605,            155         50
                                       richardii.               Passage.                                     2011).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\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: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments assessments. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable (N/A).
\3\ These values, found in NMFS' 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\ N is based on counts of individual animals identified from photo-identification catalogs.
\5\ In the SAR for harbor porpoise, NMFS identified population estimates and PBR for porpoises within inland southeast Alaska waters (these abundance
  estimates have not been corrected for g(0); therefore, they are likely conservative).

Habitat

    No Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) or ESA-designated critical 
habitat overlap with the project area, however there is seasonally 
important foraging habitat for some species of marine mammal which 
overlap spatially and temporally with planned project activities. The 
annual eulachon run (which occurs for approximately three to four weeks 
during April through May) in Lynn Canal is important to all marine 
mammals (particularly Steller sea lions, and harbor seals, and humpback 
whales) for seasonal foraging and many species travel into Taiya Inlet 
to forage on this prey.

[[Page 4780]]

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

    Underwater noise from impact and vibratory pile driving and down-
the-hole drilling activities associated with the planned Railroad Dock 
dolphin installation project have the potential to result in harassment 
of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action area. The Federal 
Register notice for the proposed IHA (83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018) 
included a discussion of the potential effects of such disturbances on 
marine mammals and their habitat, therefore that information is not 
repeated in detail here; please refer to the Federal Register notice 
(83 FR 64541; December 17, 2018) for that information.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
authorized through this IHA, which informs both NMFS' consideration of 
``small numbers'' 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 will primarily be by Level B harassment, as use of 
the impact and vibratory hammers and down-the-hole drilling has the 
potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual 
marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level 
A harassment) to result, primarily for low-frequency cetaceans, high-
frequency cetaceans, and/or phocids because predicted auditory injury 
zones are larger than for mid-frequency cetaceans and otariids. 
Auditory injury is unlikely to occur for mid-frequency cetaceans and 
otariids. The planned mitigation and monitoring measures are expected 
to minimize the severity of such taking to the extent practicable. As 
described previously, no mortality is anticipated or authorized for 
this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated.
    Generally speaking, 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. We note that while these basic 
factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial 
prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively 
inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous 
monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the 
factors considered here in more detail and present the take estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic 
thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above 
which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be 
behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS 
of some degree (equated to Level A harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources--Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al. 2007; Ellison 
et al. 2012). Based on what the available science indicates and the 
practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both 
predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized 
acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of 
behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to 
be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B harassment 
when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 
120 decibels (dB) re 1 micropascal ([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. WP&YR's 
planned activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory pile 
driving/removal and drilling) 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 (Version 2.0) (NMFS 2018) 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). 
WP&YR's planned activity includes the use of impulsive (impact pile 
driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving/removal and 
drilling) sources.
    These thresholds are provided in Table 2. The references, analysis, 
and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described 
in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-acoustic-technical-guidance.

                  Table 2--Thresholds Identifying the Onset of Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        PTS onset thresholds \*\ (received level)
             Hearing group              ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Impulsive                         Non-impulsive
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans...........  L0-pk,flat: 219 dB; LE,     LE,, LF,24h: 199 dB.
                                          LF,24h: 183.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans...........  L0-pk,flat: 230 dB; LE,     LE,, MF,24h: 198 dB.
                                          MF,24h: 185.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans..........  L0-pk,flat: 202 dB;         LE, HF,24h: 173 dB.
                                          LE,,HF,24h: 155.
Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater).....  L0-pk.flat: 218 dB;         LE,PW,24h: 201 dB.
                                          LE,,PW,24h: 185.

[[Page 4781]]

 
Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater)....  Lp,0-pk,flat: 232 dB;       LE,OW,24h: 219 dB.
                                          LE,,OW,24h: 203.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Dual metric 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 are recommended for consideration.
Note: Peak sound pressure level (Lp,0-pk) has a reference value of 1 [micro]Pa, and weighted cumulative sound
  exposure level (LE,p) has a reference value of 1[micro]Pa\2\s. In this table, thresholds are abbreviated to be
  more reflective of International Organization for Standardization standards (ISO 2017). The subscript ``flat''
  is being included to indicate peak sound pressure are flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized
  hearing range of marine mammals (i.e., 7 Hz to 160 kHz). 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 weighted
  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 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, which include source levels and transmission loss 
coefficient.
    The sound field in the project area is the existing background 
noise plus additional construction noise from the planned project. 
Marine mammals are expected to be affected via sound generated by the 
primary components of the project (i.e., impact pile driving, vibratory 
pile driving and removal and down-the-hole drilling). The maximum 
(underwater) ensonification area of 17.9 km\2\ due to project 
activities is governed by the topography of Taiya Inlet (see Figure 6 
in the application). The eastern shoreline of the inlet is acoustically 
shadowed due to land located just south of the project site. Similarly, 
Yakutania Point and Dyea Point will inhibit transmission of project 
sounds from reaching Nahku Bay and the upper inlet at the mouth of the 
Taiya River. Additionally, vessel traffic and other commercial and 
industrial activities in the project (and ensonified) area may 
contribute to elevated background noise levels which may mask sounds 
produced by the project.
    In order to calculate distances to the Level A and Level B 
harassment thresholds for piles of various sizes being used in this 
project, NMFS used acoustic monitoring data from other pile driving 
projects in Alaska. Empirical data from recent sound source 
verification (SSV) studies in Anchorage and Kodiak, Alaska were used to 
estimate sound source levels (SSLs) for impact pile driving, vibratory 
pile driving/removal, and down-the-hole drilling installations of the 
42-inch steel pipe permanent piles and the 36-inch steel pipe template 
piles (Austin et al. 2016; Denes et al. 2016). These Alaskan 
construction sites were generally assumed to best represent the 
environmental conditions found in Skagway and represent the nearest 
available source level data for 42-inch steel piles. Note that piles of 
differing sizes have different sound source levels.
    Table 3 provides the sound source values used in calculating 
harassment isopleths for each source type. No data are currently 
available for 42-inch steel pipe piles. For impact and vibratory hammer 
source levels WP&YR used the median levels (sound exposure level 
single-strike (SELS-S) for impact and SPL rms for vibratory) 
measured 11 m from the pile by Austin et al. (2016) during installation 
of 48-inch piles at Port of Anchorage (see Table 3). These 48-inch pile 
impact and vibratory levels are conservatively used for both the 42-
inch permanent piles and the 36-inch template piles. Few SSV and SSL 
data are available for down-the-hole drilling. WP&YR used the 90th 
percentile source levels measured 10 m from the pile by Denes et al. 
(2016) during drilling down the center of 30-inch piles in Kodiak (see 
Table 3)).
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 4782]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN19FE19.000

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C
    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
TL = transmission loss in dB
B = transmission loss coefficient; for practical spreading equals 15
R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven 
pile, and
R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial 
measurement

    A practical spreading value of fifteen is often used under 
conditions, such as at the WP&YR Railroad Dock, where water increases 
with depth as the receiver moves away from the shoreline, resulting in 
an expected propagation environment that would lie between spherical 
and cylindrical spreading loss conditions. Practical spreading loss is 
assumed here.
    When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in 
recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more 
technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in 
the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools 
to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with 
marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that 
because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for 
these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going 
to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of 
overestimate of Level A harassment take. However, these tools offer the 
best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D 
modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways 
to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address 
the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as pile 
driving and drilling, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the closest 
distance at which, if a marine mammal remained at that distance (or 
greater) the whole duration of the activity, it would not incur PTS. 
Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet and the resulting isopleths are 
reported in Tables 4 and 5. As WP&YR will employ two continuous sound 
sources (vibratory pile driving and drilling) it is necessary to 
account for accumulation of sound caused by both activities during the 
full 10-hour work day when calculating Level A harassment isopleths. As 
drilling has the higher sound pressure level, the 171 dB re 1 [micro]Pa 
(rms) sound level was used to calculate the Level A harassment 
isopleths for both drilling and vibratory pile driving activities 
(Table 4). Therefore, the resulting Level A isopleth distance is 
precautionary as WP&YR does not intend to drill for 10 hours per day; 
some hours will be allocated to vibratory pile driving which has a 
lower source level. For impact pile driving, isopleths calculated using 
the SELS-S metric were used as it produces larger isopleths 
than the sound pressure level peak (SPLPK) and takes into 
account the duration of each strike. Isopleths for Level B harassment 
associated with impact pile driving (160 dB) and vibratory pile 
driving/removal and drilling (120 dB) can be found in Table 5.

[[Page 4783]]



     Table 4--User Spreadsheet Input Parameters Used for Calculating
                          Harassment Isopleths
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Vibratory pile
            Parameter                 Impact pile         driving and
                                        driving            drilling
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spreadsheet Tab Used............  E.1) Impact pile    A. 1) Drilling/
                                   driving.            Vibratory pile
                                                       driving.
Source Level....................  186.7 dB SELS-S...  171 dB SPL rms.
Weighting Factor Adjustment       2.................  2.
 (kHz).
Number of strikes per day.......  2,000.............  N/A.
Activity Duration (h) within 24-  N/A...............  10 hours.
 hourperiod.
Propagation (xLogR).............  15LogR............  15LogR.
Distance of source level          11................  10.
 measurement (meters).
------------------------------------------------------------------------


         Table 5--Calculated Distances to Level A Harassment and Level B Harassment Isopleths During Pile Installation and Removal and Drilling
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 Level A harassment zone (meters)                             Level B
                                                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------   harassment
                                                                                                                                           zone (meters)
                         Source                            Low-frequency   Mid-frequency       High-          Phocid          Otariid    ---------------
                                                             cetacean        cetacean        frequency       pinniped        pinniped       Cetaceans &
                                                                                             cetacean                                        Pinnipeds
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Drilling and Vibratory Installation.....................             148             8.3           129.7            79.2             5.8      \1\ 13,000
Impact Installation.....................................         3,077.2           109.4         3,665.4         1,646.8           119.9         3,698.8
                                                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source..................................................                         PTS Onset Isopleth--Peak (meters)
                                                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Impact Installation.....................................             4.1             n/a            55.1             4.7             n/a
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Based on maximum distance before landfall. Calculated distance was 25.1 km.

Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation

    In this section we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations, and how this information is brought together to produce a 
quantitative take estimate.
    Density information is not available for marine mammals in the 
project area in Taiya Inlet. Potential exposures to impact and 
vibratory pile driving and down-the-hole drilling noise for each 
threshold for all marine mammals were estimated using published reports 
of group sizes and population estimates, and anecdotal observational 
reports from local commercial entities. For several species, it is not 
currently possible to identify all observed individuals to stock.
Level B Harassment Calculations
    Unless otherwise noted, the estimation of takes by Level B 
harassment uses the following calculation: Level B harassment estimate 
= N (number of animals in the ensonified area) * Number of days of 
noise generating activities.
Humpback Whale
    Humpback whales are the most commonly observed baleen whale in 
Southeast Alaska, particularly during spring and summer months. 
Humpback whales in Alaska, although not limited to these areas, return 
to specific feeding locations such as Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, 
North Pass, Sitka Sound, Glacier Bay, Point Adolphus, and Prince 
William Sound, as well as other similar coastal areas (Wing and Krieger 
1983). In Lynn Canal they have been observed in the spring and fall 
from Haines to Juneau, however scientific surveys have not documented 
the species within Taiya Inlet (Dahlheim et al. 2009).
    Local observations indicate that humpback whales are not common in 
the project action area but, if they are sighted, are generally present 
during mid to late spring and vacate the area by July to follow large 
aggregations of forage fish in lower Lynn Canal. Local observers have 
reported humpback whales in Taiya Inlet, sometimes fairly close to the 
Skagway waterfront. Due to seasonal migration patterns, the low 
frequency of humpbacks in the area, and that no humpback whales have 
been reported during winter months it is anticipated that no humpback 
whales will be present in the project area in February; therefore, we 
predict no exposure to noise generated from the project in February. As 
it is unclear whether humpback whales occur in the inlet in March (for 
example, should the eulachon run begin very early), it is 
conservatively estimated that one whale might be found in the inlet 
during February for five days resulting in five exposures. On average, 
four to five individuals may occur near Skagway during the spring 
eulachon run in April and May, after which, only a few individuals are 
observed throughout the summer. In 2015, only one whale was observed 
(for several) weeks close to Skagway (K. Gross, personal communication 
reported in MOS 2016). Based on humpback whale occurrence in the 
project area and local observations, it is conservatively estimated 
that four individuals may be present in the action area each day during 
April, coinciding with 30 days of project activity (120 exposures). In 
total, NMFS authorized 125 exposures to humpback whales for the planned 
activity.
Minke Whale
    Minke whales are rarely observed in the project area, and 
scientific surveys have not documented the species within Taiya Inlet 
(Dahlheim et al. 2009). A single minke whale was observed in the inlet 
in 2015 (K. Gross, Never Monday Charters, personal communication; R. 
Ford, Taiya Inlet Watershed Council, both personal communications 
reported in MOS 2016), and is the only known record of a minke whale in 
Taiya Inlet. However one minke whale was reported by local observers in 
the action area in 2015. Based on the available information it is very 
unlikely minke whales will be present in the inlet, however, minke 
whale presence is possible based on a single sighting and

[[Page 4784]]

presence of potential prey (eulachon) in the spring. Thus, we estimate 
a total of two potential exposures of minke whales.
Killer Whale
    Although killer whale stocks' ranges include southeast Alaska, they 
have only been documented as far north as Lynn Canal; therefore, while 
possible, occurrence north of Lynn Canal into Taiya Inlet is rare. 
According to local observations, pods of resident killer whales are 
occasionally seen in Taiya Inlet. Local observations indicate killer 
whales are observed four or five times a year (between spring and fall) 
usually in a group of 15 to 20 whales. In 2015 a resident pod was only 
observed in Taiya Inlet twice, remaining for one to four days per visit 
(K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). There is no 
evidence of transient whales occurring within Taiya Inlet. While the 
resident pods remain in Alaska year-round there are no reports of 
sightings during winter months (January-February) in Taiya Inlet so it 
is assumed no killer whales will be present in the project area in 
February. Based on local observations in the project area in the 
spring, it is assumed that a group of 20 whales may enter the project 
area once in each of March and April and remain within the inlet for 
2.5 days each time, for a total of 100 potential exposures. This is an 
increase from the proposed IHA to account for the average duration of 
pod visits according to local observations.
Harbor Porpoise
    Harbor porpoises are primarily found in coastal waters, and in the 
Gulf of Alaska and Southeast Alaska, they occur most frequently in 
waters less than 100 meters (Dahlheim et al. 2009). Dedicated research 
studies of harbor porpoise in the project area only occur as far north 
in Lynn Canal as Haines during the summer (Dahlheim et al. 2009; 2015), 
approximately 16 miles south of Skagway. Group sizes were, on average, 
between 1.37-1.59 animals (less than 2) (Dahlheim et al. 2009; 2015). 
In Lynn Canal, observations were less frequent, primarily in lower Lynn 
Canal from Chatham Strait to Juneau, though harbor porpoises have been 
observed as far north as Haines during the summer (Dahlheim et al. 
2009; 2015).
    Despite lack of observations during dedicated surveys, local 
charter captains indicate that harbor porpoises commonly occur in small 
groups of two or three in Taiya Inlet, although they are not 
encountered on a daily basis and are rarely seen in areas close to the 
waterfront (K. Gross, personal communication reported in MOS 2016). 
Therefore, it is conservatively estimated that one group of three 
individuals may be present in the inlet 75 percent of the days during 
each month for a total of 201 potential exposures.
Dall's Porpoise
    Dall's porpoises are widely distributed across the entire North 
Pacific Ocean. Throughout most of the eastern North Pacific they are 
present during all months of the year, although there may be seasonal 
onshore-offshore movements along the west coast of the continental 
United States and winter movements of populations out of Prince William 
Sound and areas in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea (Muto et al. 
2018). Dahlheim et al. (2009) observed Dall's porpoise throughout 
Southeast Alaska, with concentrations of animals consistently found in 
Lynn Canal, Stephens Passage, Icy Strait, upper Chatham Strait, 
Frederick Sound, and Clarence Strait. Dahlheim et al. (2009), 
documented Dall's porpoise in Lynn Canal as far north as Haines, 
Alaska, about 15 miles south of Skagway.
    Local observation indicate that three to six Dall's porpoises may 
be present in Taiya Inlet during the early spring and late fall. 
Observations have been occasional to sporadic and do not occur on a 
daily basis. The species has not been observed during winter months and 
has not been observed near the waterfront (K. Gross, personal 
communication reported in MOS 2016). The mean group size of Dall's 
porpoise in Southeast Alaska is estimated to be 3.7 individuals 
(Dahlheim et al. 2009). Therefore, it is estimated that a group of four 
Dall's porpoises will be present in the project area every other day in 
March and April, for a total of 122 potential exposures.
Steller Sea Lion
    Several long-term Steller sea lion haulouts are located in Lynn 
Canal, however none occur in Taiya Inlet. The nearest long-term Steller 
sea lion haulout is located at Gran Point, south of Haines and 24 mi 
(38 km) south of the project area. Other year-round haulouts in Lynn 
Canal are present at Met Point, Benjamin Island, and Little Island, 
closer to Juneau (Fritz et al. 2015). Observations from local charter 
boat captains and watershed stewards indicate Steller sea lions can be 
abundant in the action area, particularly in April and May during the 
eulachon run, but are rarely observed in the project area during the 
winter (K. Gross, Never Monday Charters, personal communication; R. 
Ford, Taiya Inlet Watershed Council, personal communication reported in 
MOS 2016). This is consistent with the National Marine Mammal 
Laboratory database (Fritz et al. 2015), which has identified the 
largest number of Lynn Canal sea lions during the fall and winter 
months at Benjamin Island in the lower reaches of the canal. During 
surveys conducted in 2002 and 2003, Womble et al. (2005) observed a 
maximum of approximately 400 Steller sea lions in the water at the 
mouth of the Taiya River feeding on eulachon in 2003, but observed very 
few in the same area in 2002. Steller sea lions have also been observed 
in Lutak Inlet, a foraging site closer to both Taiya Point and Gran 
Point haulouts.
    During the spring eulachon run, a seasonal haulout site is located 
on Taiya Point at the southern tip of Taiya Inlet, approximately 11 mi 
(18 km) from the project site. Twenty-five to 40 sea lions are 
estimated to use this haulout for about three weeks during spring run, 
during which they frequently are observed in the inlet (K. Gross, 
personal communication reported in MOS 2016). However, most animals 
leave the inlet shortly after the eulachon run and are rarely observed 
in the summer. Based on survey data and local observations in the 
project area, it is estimated that two animals may be present each day 
in February (56 exposures), 16 animals may be present on each day in 
March (half of the mean found on Taiya Rocks during the eulachon run, 
496 exposures), and 40 animals may be present each day in April (1,200 
exposures) for a total of 1,752 potential exposures.
Harbor Seal
    No long-term haulout sites have been documented for harbor seals in 
Taiya Inlet; however, seasonal haulouts are present within six miles of 
the project area at Seal Cove and at the mouth of the Taiya River. 
Based on reports from local observers, a few resident harbor seals are 
expected to occur within Taiya Inlet during the winter months, but 
during the April and May eulachon run numbers can range from 20 to over 
100 (K. Gross and R. Ford, personal communication reported in MOS 
2016). Before and after the spawning run, much lower numbers of harbor 
seals are present.
    Based on survey data and local observations in the project area it 
is assumed that 20 seals (the lower estimate in the range) occur within 
the project area each day in February through March (560 takes in 
February and 620 takes in March) and 100 seals (the higher estimate in 
the range) during

[[Page 4785]]

April (3,000 takes) for a total of 4,180 potential exposures.

Level A Harassment Calculations

    WP&YR intends to avoid Level A harassment take by shutting down 
installation activities at approach of any marine mammal to the 
representative Level A harassment (PTS onset) ensonification zone up to 
a practical shutdown monitoring distance. As small/cryptic marine 
mammal species may enter the Level A harassment zone before shutdown 
mitigation procedures can be implemented, and some animals may occur 
between the maximum Level A harassment ensonification zone and the 
maximum shutdown safety zone, we conservatively estimate that 20 
percent of the Level B harassment takes calculated above for humpback 
whales, harbor porpoises, Dall's porpoises, and harbor seals, have the 
potential to be takes by Level A harassment (Table 6). Minke whale 
occurrence in Taiya Inlet is rare. Because vessel-based PSOs are able 
to monitor the entire Level A harassment zone (whales entering the 
inlet), WP&YR did not request, and NMFS is not proposing, to authorize 
Level A harassment take of minke whales.

                Table 6--Estimated Take by Level A and Level B Harassment, by Species and Stock, Resulting From WP&YR Project Activities
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                              Take as
                Common name                             Stock                  Stock          Level A         Level B       Total take     percentage of
                                                                           abundance \1\                                                       stock
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humpback whale............................  Central North Pacific.......      \2\ 10,103              25             100             125            1.23
Minke Whale...............................  Alaska......................             N/A               0               2               2             N/A
Killer whale..............................  Alaska Resident.............           2,347               0             100             100             4.3
                                            Northern Resident...........             261                                                            38.3
                                            Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian                 587                                                            17.0
                                             Islands, Bering Sea
                                             Transient.
                                            West Coast Transient........             243                                                            41.2
Harbor porpoise...........................  Southeast Alaska............             975              40             161             201            20.6
Dall's porpoise...........................  Alaska......................          83,400              24              98             122            0.01
Steller sea lion..........................  Western U.S.................          54,267               0          \3\ 35              35            0.06
                                            Eastern U.S.................          41,638               0           1,717           1,717             4.1
Harbor seal...............................  Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage.           9,478             836           3,344           4,180            44.1
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Stock or DPS size is Nbest according to NMFS 2018 Draft Stock Assessment Reports.
\2\ For ESA section 7 consultation purposes, 6.1 percent are designated to the Mexico DPS and the remaining are designated to the Hawaii DPS; therefore,
  we assigned 2 Level B takes to the Mexico DPS.
\3\ Based on the percent of branded animals at Gran Point and in consultation with the Alaska Regional Office, we used a 2 percent distinction factor to
  determine the number of animals potentially from the western DPS.

    There are a number of reasons why the estimates of potential 
incidents of take are likely to be conservative. Given the lack of 
density information, we use conservative estimates of marine mammal 
presence to calculate takes for each species. Additionally, in the 
context of stationary activities such as pile driving, and in areas 
where resident animals may be present, this number represents the 
number of instances of take that may occur to a small number of 
individuals, with a notably smaller number of animals being exposed 
more than once per individual. While pile driving or drilling 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 is actually 
spent pile driving or drilling. The potential effectiveness of 
mitigation measures in reducing the number of takes or exposure time is 
also not quantified in the take estimation process. For these reasons, 
these take estimates may be conservative, especially if each take is 
considered a separate individual animal, and especially for pinnipeds.

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.

Mitigation for Marine Mammals and Their Habitat

    In addition to the measures described later in this section, WP&YR 
will employ the following standard mitigation measures:

[[Page 4786]]

     Conduct briefings between construction supervisors and 
crews and the marine mammal monitoring team prior to the start of all 
pile driving activity, and when new personnel join the work, to explain 
responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring 
protocol, and operational procedures;
     For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving 
(e.g., standard barges, etc.), if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, 
operations shall cease and vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum 
level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions. This 
type of work could include the following activities: (1) Movement of 
the barge to the pile location; or (2) positioning of the pile on the 
substrate via a crane (i.e., stabbing the pile);
     Work may only occur during daylight hours, when visual 
monitoring of marine mammals can be conducted;
     For those marine mammals for which Level B harassment has 
not been authorized, in-water pile installation/removal and drilling 
will shut down immediately if such species are observed within or on a 
path towards the monitoring zone (i.e., Level B harassment zone); and
     If take reaches the authorized limit for an authorized 
species, pile installation will be stopped as these species approach 
the Level B harassment zone to avoid additional take.
    The following measures will apply to WP&YR's mitigation 
requirements:
    Establishment of Shutdown Zone for Level A Harassment--For all pile 
driving/removal and drilling activities, WP&YR will establish a 
shutdown zone. The purpose of a shutdown zone is generally to define an 
area within which shutdown of activity will occur upon sighting of a 
marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering the defined 
area). Conservative shutdown zones of 150 m for low- and high- 
frequency cetaceans, 80 m for phocid pinnipeds, and 10 m for mid-
frequency cetaceans and otariid pinnipeds will be used during all 
drilling and vibratory pile driving/removal activities to prevent 
incidental Level A harassment exposure for these activities (Table 7). 
During impact pile driving, a 150 m zone will be established for all 
species except for low-frequency cetaceans for which a 2,000 m zone 
will be used. These shutdown zones will be used to prevent incidental 
Level A exposures from impact pile driving for mid-frequency cetaceans 
and otariid pinnipeds, and to reduce the potential for such take for 
other species. The placement of Protected Species Observers (PSOs) 
during all pile driving and drilling activities (described in detail in 
the Monitoring and Reporting Section) will ensure marine mammals in the 
shutdown zones are visible. The 150 m zone is the practical distance 
WP&YR anticipates phocid pinnipeds and high-frequency cetaceans can be 
effectively observed in the project area. The 2,000 m zone for low-
frequency cetaceans is determined by the width of Taiya Inlet at 
Skagway Harbor. Observers will be present on vessels in the Taiya Inlet 
and able to observe large whales traveling north into the inlet and 
project area.

                        Table 7--Monitoring and Shutdown Zones for Each Project Activity
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Monitoring
            Source                 zone (m)                             Shutdown zone (m)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Drilling and Vibratory                  13,000  Low- and high- frequency cetaceans: 150.
 Installation/Removal.                          Phocid pinnipeds: 80.
                                                Mid-frequency cetaceans and otariid pinnipeds: 10.
Impact Installation...........           3,700  Low-frequency cetaceans: 2,000.
                                                All other species: 150.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Establishment of Monitoring Zones for Level B Harassment--WP&YR 
will establish monitoring zones to correlate with Level B monitoring 
zones which are areas where SPLs are equal to or exceed the 160 dB rms 
threshold for impact driving and the 120 dB rms threshold during 
vibratory driving and drilling. Monitoring zones provide utility for 
observing by establishing monitoring protocols for areas adjacent to 
the shutdown zones. Monitoring zones enable observers to be aware of 
and communicate the presence of marine mammals in the project area 
outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for a potential cease of 
activity should the animal enter the shutdown zone. The monitoring 
zones are described in Table 7. The monitoring zone for drilling and 
vibratory pile driving/removal activities is 13,000 m, corresponding to 
the maximum distance before landfall. The monitoring zone for impact 
pile driving will be 3,700 m. Placement of PSOs on vessels in the Taiya 
Inlet allow PSOs to observe marine mammals traveling north into the 
inlet and Skagway Harbor. Should PSOs determine the monitoring zone 
cannot be effectively observed in its entirety, Level B harassment 
exposures will be recorded and extrapolated based upon the number of 
observed take and the percentage of the Level B zone that was not 
visible.
    Soft Start--The use of soft-start procedures are believed to 
provide additional protection to marine mammals by providing warning 
and/or giving marine mammals a chance to leave the area prior to the 
hammer operating at full capacity. For impact pile driving, contractors 
will be required to provide an initial set of strikes from the hammer 
at reduced energy, with each strike followed by a 30-second waiting 
period. This procedure will be conducted a total of three times before 
impact pile driving begins. Soft start will 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. Soft 
start is not required during vibratory pile driving and removal 
activities.
    Pre-Activity Monitoring--Prior to the start of daily in-water 
construction activity, or whenever a break in pile driving/removal or 
drilling of 30 minutes or longer occurs, PSOs will observe the shutdown 
and monitoring zones for a period of 30 minutes. The shutdown zone will 
be cleared when a marine mammal has not been observed within the zone 
for that 30-minute period. If a marine mammal is observed within the 
shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal has left 
the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. If the Level B 
harassment zone has been observed for 30 minutes and non-permitted 
species are not present within the zone, soft start procedures can 
commence and work can continue even if visibility becomes impaired 
within the Level B monitoring zone. When a marine mammal permitted for 
Level B take is present in the Level B harassment zone, activities may 
begin

[[Page 4787]]

and Level B take will be recorded. As stated above, if the entire Level 
B zone is not visible at the start of construction, piling or drilling 
activities can begin. If work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-
activity monitoring of both the Level B and shutdown zone will 
commence.
    Due to the depth of the water column and strong currents present at 
the project site, bubble curtains will not be implemented as they would 
not be effective in this environment.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's measures, NMFS has 
determined that the planned mitigation measures provide the means of 
effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or 
stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, 
mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Monitoring 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 
action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well 
as to 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); and
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.

Marine Mammal Visual Monitoring

    Monitoring shall be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs per the Marine 
Mammal Monitoring Plan dated January 18, 2019 available online at 
online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. 
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 shall include instruction on species identification 
(sufficient to distinguish the species in the project area), 
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).
    Monitoring will be conducted 30 minutes before, during, and 30 
minutes after pile driving/removal and drilling activities. In 
addition, observers shall record all incidents of marine mammal 
occurrence, regardless of distance from activity, and shall document 
any behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles being 
driven or removed. Pile driving/removal and drilling 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 30 minutes.
    A total of five PSOs will be based on land and vessels. During all 
pile driving/removal and drilling activities observers will be 
stationed at the Railroad Dock, Yakutania Point, and Dyea Point. These 
stations will allow full monitoring of the impact hammer monitoring 
zone and the Level A shutdown zones. The vibratory and drilling 
monitoring zone will be monitored by the three land-based PSOs and two 
PSOs stationed on boats anchored near the shoreline, with each team 
(vessel operator and observer) stationed approximately 2 km apart in 
the inlet south of the project site (Figure 2 in the WP&YR Marine 
Mammal Mitigation and Monitoring Plan).
    PSOs will scan the waters using binoculars, and/or spotting scopes, 
and will use a handheld GPS or range-finder device to verify the 
distance to each sighting from the project site. All PSOs will be 
trained in marine mammal identification and behaviors and are required 
to have no other project-related tasks while conducting monitoring. In 
addition, monitoring will be conducted by qualified observers, who will 
be placed at the best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for 
marine mammals and implement shutdown/delay procedures when applicable 
by calling for the shutdown to the hammer operator. WP&YR will adhere 
to the following observer qualifications:
    (i) Independent observers (i.e., not construction personnel) are 
required;
    (ii) At least one observer must have prior experience working as an 
observer;
    (iii) Other observers may substitute education (degree in 
biological science or related field) or training for experience;
    (iv) Where a team of three or more observers are required, one 
observer shall be designated as lead observer or monitoring 
coordinator. The lead observer must have prior experience working as an 
observer; and
    (v) WP&YR shall submit observer CVs for approval by NMFS.
    Additional standard observer qualifications include:
     Ability to conduct field observations and collect data 
according to assigned protocols Experience or training in the field 
identification of marine mammals, including the identification of 
behaviors;
     Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the 
construction operation to provide for personal safety during 
observations;
     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

[[Page 4788]]

     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.
    WP&YR will submit monthly marine mammal monitoring reports. A draft 
marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 
days after the completion of pile driving and removal and drilling 
activities. It will include an overall description of work completed, a 
narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and associated PSO data 
sheets. Specifically, the report must include:
     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 distance from 
pile driving activity;
     Distance from pile driving activities to marine mammals 
and distance from the marine mammals to the observation point;
     Locations of all marine mammal observations; and
     Other human activity in the area.
    If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft 
final report will constitute the final report. If comments are 
received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted 
within 30 days after receipt of comments.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA 
(if issued), such as an injury, serious injury or mortality, WP&YR will 
immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to 
the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The 
report will include the following information:
     Description of the incident;
     Environmental conditions (e.g., Beaufort sea state, 
visibility);
     Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 
hours preceding the incident;
     Species identification or description of the animal(s) 
involved;
     Fate of the animal(s); and
     Photographs or video footage of the animal(s) (if 
equipment is available).
    Activities may not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with WP&YR to 
determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further 
prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. WP&YR will not be able to 
resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or 
telephone.
    In the event that WP&YR discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the lead PSO determines that the cause of the injury or death is 
unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a 
moderate state of decomposition as described in the next paragraph), 
WP&YR will immediately report the incident to the Chief of the Permits 
and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the 
NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email to the Alaska Regional 
Stranding Coordinator. The report will include the same information 
identified in the paragraph above. Activities will be able to continue 
while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work 
with WP&YR to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that WP&YR discovers an injured or dead marine mammal 
and the lead PSO determines that the injury or death is not associated 
with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., 
previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), WP&YR will report the incident to 
the Chief of the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, and the NMFS Alaska Stranding Hotline and/or by email 
to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator, within 24 hours of the 
discovery. WP&YR will provide photographs, video footage (if 
available), or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to 
NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Acoustic Monitoring

    WP&YR will conduct acoustic monitoring for the purposes of SSV in 
accordance with the Acoustic Monitoring Plan, dated January 28, 2019 
available online at online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. WP&YR will collect acoustic data for at least one 42-inch 
permanent pile, using all three installation methods (impact pile 
driving, vibratory pile driving, and down-the-hole drilling) from at 
least two distances from the pile (one approximately 10 meters from the 
pile and at least one additional measurement in the far field). 
Equipment will record, and sound spectra in one-third octave bands will 
be reported, from 10 Hz to 20 kHz. The following data, at minimum, 
shall be collected during acoustic monitoring and reported:
     Hydrophone equipment and methods: recording device, 
sampling rate, distance from the pile where recordings were made; depth 
of recording device(s);
     Type of pile (42-inch), and segment of pile (1, 2, or 3), 
being driven and method of driving/removal and drilling during 
recordings; and
     Mean, median, and maximum (or 90th percentile), and range 
sound levels (dB re 1[micro]Pa): cumulative sound exposure level 
(SELCUM), peak sound pressure level (SPLPK), root 
mean square sound pressure level (SPLRMS), and single-strike 
sound exposure level (SELS-S) as appropriate for the sound 
source.
    For more details please see WP&YR's acoustic monitoring plan, 
available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities.

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' 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

[[Page 4789]]

growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or 
ambient noise levels).
    Pile driving/removal and drilling activities associated with the 
Railroad Dock installation project as outlined previously, have the 
potential to disturb or displace marine mammals in Taiya Inlet near 
Skagway. Specifically, the specified activities may result in take, in 
the form of Level A harassment and Level B harassment from underwater 
sounds generated from pile driving and removal and down-the-hole 
drilling. Potential takes could occur if individuals of these species 
are present in the ensonified zone when these activities are underway.
    The takes from Level A and Level B harassment will be due to 
potential behavioral disturbance, TTS, and PTS (for select species). No 
mortality is anticipated given the nature of the activity and measures 
designed to minimize the possibility of injury to marine mammals. Level 
A harassment is only anticipated for humpback whales, Dall's porpoise, 
harbor porpoise, and harbor seal. The potential for harassment is 
minimized through the construction method and the implementation of the 
planned mitigation measures (see Mitigation section).
    As described previously, minke whales are considered rare in the 
project area and we authorize only nominal and precautionary take of 
two individuals. Therefore, we do not expect meaningful impacts to 
minke whales and find that the total minke whale take from each of the 
specified activities will have a negligible impact on this species.
    For remaining species, we discuss the likely effects of the 
specified activities in greater detail. 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; Lerma 2014; ABR 2016). 
Most likely, individuals will move away from the sound source and be 
temporarily displaced from the areas of pile driving and drilling, 
although even this reaction has been observed primarily only in 
association with impact pile driving. The pile driving activities 
analyzed here are similar to, or less impactful than, numerous other 
construction activities conducted in southeast Alaska, which have taken 
place with no known long-term adverse consequences from behavioral 
harassment. Level B harassment will be reduced to the level of least 
practicable adverse impact through use of mitigation measures described 
herein and, if sound produced by project activities is sufficiently 
disturbing, animals are likely to avoid the area while the activity is 
occurring. While vibratory driving and drilling associated with the 
planned project may produce sound at distances of many kilometers from 
the project site, thus intruding on some habitat, the project site 
itself is located in a busy harbor and the majority of sound fields 
produced by the specified activities are close to the harbor. 
Therefore, we expect that animals annoyed by project sound would avoid 
the area and use more-preferred habitats.
    In addition to the expected effects resulting from authorized Level 
B harassment, we anticipate that humpback whales, harbor porpoises, 
Dall's porpoises, and harbor seals may sustain some limited Level A 
harassment in the form of auditory injury. However, animals in these 
locations that experience PTS would likely only receive slight PTS, 
i.e., minor degradation of hearing capabilities within regions of 
hearing that align most completely with the energy produced by pile 
driving, i.e., the low-frequency region below 2 kHz, not severe hearing 
impairment or impairment in the regions of greatest hearing 
sensitivity. If hearing impairment occurs, it is most likely that the 
affected animal would lose only a small number of decibels in its 
hearing sensitivity, which in most cases is not likely to meaningfully 
affect its ability to forage and communicate with conspecifics. As 
described above, we expect that marine mammals would be likely to move 
away from a sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, 
especially at levels that would be expected to result in PTS, given 
sufficient notice through use of soft start.
    The project also is not expected to have significant adverse 
effects on affected marine mammals' habitat. The project activities 
will not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant amount 
of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of 
disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals' foraging 
opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range; but, because 
of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area 
of the habitat that may be affected, the impacts to marine mammal 
habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative 
consequences.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors support 
our determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not 
expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on 
annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality is anticipated or authorized;
     The Level A harassment exposures are anticipated to result 
only in slight PTS, within the lower frequencies associated with pile 
driving;
     The anticipated incidents of Level B harassment are likely 
to consist of temporary modifications in behavior that are not 
anticipated to result in fitness impacts to individuals;
     The specified activity and ensonification area is very 
small relative to the overall habitat ranges of all species and does 
not include habitat areas of special significance (BIAs or ESA-
designated critical habitat); and
     The presumed efficacy of the mitigation measures in 
reducing the effects of the specified activity to the level of least 
practicable adverse impact.
    In addition, although affected humpback whales and Steller sea 
lions may be from a DPS that is listed under the ESA, it is unlikely 
that minor noise effects in a small, localized area of habitat would 
effect the stocks' ability to recover. In combination, we believe that 
these factors, as well as the available body of evidence from other 
similar activities, demonstrate that the potential effects of the 
specified activities will have only minor, short-term effects on 
individuals. The specified activities are not expected to impact rates 
of recruitment or survival and will therefore not result in population-
level impacts.
    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 monitoring and mitigation 
measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the 
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 sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (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

[[Page 4790]]

an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. 
Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the 
analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities.
    Table 6 demonstrates the number of animals that could be exposed to 
received noise levels that could cause Level A harassment and Level B 
harassment for the planned activities in the WP&YR project area. With 
the exception of the Northern Resident and West Coast Transient killer 
whale stocks and harbor seals, our analysis shows that less than 25 
percent of each affected stock could be taken by harassment. The 
numbers of animals anticipated to be taken for these stocks would be 
considered small relative to the relevant stock's abundances even if 
each estimated taking occurred to a new individual--an extremely 
unlikely scenario.
    Calculated takes do not assume multiple harassments of the same 
individual(s), resulting in larger estimates of take as a percentage of 
stock abundance than are likely given resident individuals. This is the 
case with the resident stocks of killer whale (Alaska and Northern 
Resident stocks and harbor seal (Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage stock).
    When assuming the total take authorized would occur to a single 
stock and that these numbers represent individuals taken, rather than 
instances of take, the total authorized take for killer whales as 
compared to each potentially affected stock ranges from 4.3 percent to 
41.2 percent of each stock abundance. In reality, it is highly unlikely 
that 100 individuals of any one killer whale stock will be harassed. 
Instead, as pods remain in the area over a period of days, it is 
assumed that take will occur on a smaller number of the same 
individuals from any stock, (20 individuals, or the estimated group 
size from one stock, or 40 individuals, if different pods from the same 
stock are taken in both March and April), which would result in smaller 
takes as a percentages of stocks (ranging from 0.9 percent to 8.2 
percent if takes are from 20 whales from the same stock, or 1.7 percent 
to 16.5 percent if takes are from 40 whales from the same stock).
    As reported, a small number of harbor seals, most of which reside 
in Taiya Inlet year-round, will be exposed to construction activities 
for three months. The total population estimate in the Lynn Canal/
Stephens Passage stock is 9,478 animals over 1.37 million acres (5,500 
km\2\) of area in their range, which results in an estimated density of 
36 animals within Taiya Inlet. The largest Level B harassment zone 
within the inlet occupies 17.9 km\2\, which represents less than 0.4 
percent of the total geographical area occupied by the stock. The great 
majority of these exposures will be to the same animals given their 
residency patterns.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity 
(including the planned mitigation and monitoring measures) and the 
anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS 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

    No relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal stocks 
or species are implicated by this action in the project area. The 
planned project will occur near but not overlap with the subsistence 
area used by the villages of Hoonah and Angoon where harbor seals and 
Steller sea lions are available for subsistence harvest (Wolfe et al. 
2013; N. Kovaces, Skagway Traditional Council, personal communication). 
Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected 
species or stocks will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence 
purposes.

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 action with respect to environmental consequences 
on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of 
activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (incidental 
harassments authorizations with no anticipated serious injury or 
mortality) 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 determined 
that the issuance of the IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded 
from further NEPA review.

Endangered Species Act

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS consults internally, in this case with the Alaska Regional Office, 
whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened 
species.
    On February 11, 2019 NMFS Alaska Region issued a Biological Opinion 
to NMFS Office of Protected Resources on the issuance of this IHA. The 
Biological Opinion determined that the proposed action was not likely 
to jeopardize the continued existence of the humpback whale Mexico DPS 
and the Steller sea lion western DPS or adversely affect designated 
critical habitat.

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an IHA to WP&YR for the incidental take of marine 
mammals due to in-water construction work associated with the Railroad 
Dock dolphin installation project in Skagway, Alaska from February 15, 
2019 through February 14, 2020, provided the previously mentioned 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated.

    Dated: February 13, 2019.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-02685 Filed 2-15-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P