Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Confined Rock Blasting Near Ketchikan, Alaska, 36891-36904 [2019-16155]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices Bluefish Monitoring Committee to recommend 2020–21 annual catch limits, trip limits, discards and other management measures for the bluefish fishery. Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526–5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: July 25, 2019. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–16138 Filed 7–29–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648–XG737 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Confined Rock Blasting Near Ketchikan, 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 the City of Ketchikan to incidentally harass, by Level B and Level A harassment only, marine mammals during underwater confined rock blasting activities associated with a rock pinnacle removal project in Ketchikan, Alaska. DATES: This Authorization is effective from September 16, 2019 to September 15, 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gray Redding, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. In case of problems accessing jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 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 definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. Summary of Request On December 10, 2018, NMFS received a request from the City of Ketchikan for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to underwater confined blasting and excavation in southeastern Alaska. The application was deemed adequate and complete on February 7, 2019. City of Ketchikan’s request is for take of a small number of nine marine mammal species by Level B harassment and three marine mammal species by Level A harassment. Neither the City of Ketchikan nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36891 Description of Specified Activity Overview The City of Ketchikan plans to conduct underwater confined blasting of a rock pinnacle in the Tongass Narrows, southeastern Alaska. Removal of the underwater pinnacle will expand the area of safe navigation depths for cruise ships that presently visit Berths I and II. Removing the pinnacle will provide a more reliable ingress and egress for ships over a much wider range of wind and water level conditions. The project is scheduled to occur from September 16, 2019 through April 30, 2020. The blasting portion of the activities is expected to occur between November 15, 2019 and March 15, 2020, but blasting is not restricted to this time period, in order to allow appropriate flexibility for the applicant to complete the project. The action has the potential to affect waters in the Tongass Narrows and nearby Revillagigedo Channel, approximately 3 miles to the south. There will be up to 50 days of blasting (currently anticipating between 25 and 50 total blasts) limited to at most, one blast per day. A blast consists of a detonation of a series of sequential charges, delayed from one another at an interval of 8 milliseconds (ms), with the total blast typically lasting less than 1 second (one second = 1000 milliseconds). Each delayed charge in the blast will contain a maximum of 75 total lbs (34 kg) of explosive. The timing of the blast must assure that the maximum pounds per delay does not exceed 75 lbs. The planned daily blast will consist of a grid of boreholes, each containing a delayed charge (total number may vary but typically it ranges between 30 to 60 holes), with the top section of the hole then filled in with stone (this process is referred to as ‘‘rock stemming’’). Following blasting, the material freed by blasting will be dredged. As discussed in the proposed Federal Register Notice, take is highly unlikely and is not authorized for dredging activities. A detailed description of the planned rock pinnacle removal project is provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019). Since that time, no changes have been made to the planned confined underwater blasting activities. Therefore, a detailed description is not provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for the description of the specific activity. Comments and Responses A notice of NMFS’s proposal to issue and IHA to the City of Ketchikan was E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36892 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES published in the Federal Register on March 27, 2019 (84 FR 11508). The notice described, in detail, the City of Ketchikan’s activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, and the anticipated effects on marine mammals. During the 30-day public comment period, NMFS received one comment from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission). Comment 1: The Commission recommended that NMFS estimate and ultimately authorize take by Level B harassment due to behavioral harassment during all activities involving explosives, including single detonation events, for this and all future IHAs. Additionally if NMFS elects not to authorize these takes, it should in the Federal Register Notices explain the basis for assuming no behavioral harassment occurs. Response: NMFS believes that the best scientific evidence available indicates that it is appropriate to use a behavioral onset threshold for multiple detonations and to consider detonations with microdelays between them as a single detonation. The blasts conducted by the City of Ketchikan are confined blasts with charge detonations separated by microdelays, constituting a single detonation event per day with blasts occurring for at most 50 days. Comment 2: The Commission recommends that NMFS refrain from implementing its proposed renewal process and instead use abbreviated Federal Register notices and reference existing documents to streamline the IHA process. If NMFS adopts the proposed renewal process, the Commission recommends that NMFS provide the Commission and the public a legal analysis supporting its conclusion that the process is consistent with section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. Response: The notice of the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508, March 27, 2019) 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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 Additional reference to this solicitation of public comment has recently been added at the beginning of the Federal Register notices that consider renewals, requesting input specifically on the possible renewal itself. 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 method for issuing renewals meets statutory requirements and maximizes efficiency. However, importantly, such renewals will be limited to circumstances 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 will consider only one renewal for a project at this time. In addition, notice of issuance or denial of a renewal IHA will be published in the Federal Register, as they are for all IHAs. The option for issuing renewal IHAs has been in NMFS’ incidental take regulations since 1996. We will provide any additional information to the Commission and consider posting a description of the renewal process on our website before any renewal is issued utilizing this process. Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 may be found in NMFS’s Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’s website (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species). Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in waters near Ketchikan, Alaska 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’s SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and other threats. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. NMFS’s stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’s U.S. Alaska SARs (e.g., Muto et al., 2018). All values presented in Table 1 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). E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36893 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices TABLE 1—MARINE MAMMALS THAT COULD OCCUR IN THE PLANNED ACTION AREA Common name Scientific name ESA/ MMPA status; Strategic (Y/N) 1 MMPA Stock Stock abundance Nbest, (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 PBR Annual M/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, 2016). 801 138 Family Balaenidae: Humpback whale ................ Minke whale ........................ Megaptera novaeangliae .......... Balaenoptera acutorostrata ...... Central North Pacific ................. Alaska ....................................... E, D,Y -, N 10,103 (0.3; 7,890; 2006) N.A .................................. 83 N.A. 25 N.A. Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Delphinidae: Killer whale ......................... Pacific white-sided dolphin Family Phocoenidae: Harbor porpoise .................. Dall’s porpoise .................... Orcinus orca ............................. West Coast Transient ............... Northern Resident ..................... Gulf of Alaska Transient ........... Lagenorhynchus obliquidens .... Phocoena phocoena ................. Phocoenoides dalli .................... Alaska Resident ........................ North Pacific ............................. -, N -, N -, N -, N -,-; N 2,347 (N.A.; 2,347; 2012) 243 (N.A, 243, 2009) ...... 261 (N.A; 261; 2011) ...... 587 (N.A; 587; 2012) ...... 26,880 (N.A.; N.A.; 1990) 24 2.4 1.96 5.87 N.A. 1 0 0 1 0 Southeast Alaska ...................... Alaska ....................................... -, Y -, N 975 (0.10; 896; 2012) ..... 83400 (0.097, N.A., 1993). 8.95 N.A. 34 38 Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions): Steller sea lion .................... Eumetopias jubatus .................. Eastern U.S .............................. -,-, N 41,638 (N.A.; 41,638; 2015). 2,498 108 Family Phocidae (earless seals): Harbor seal ......................... Phoca vitulina richardii .............. Clarence Strait .......................... -, N 31,634 (N.A.; 29,093; 2011). 1,222 41 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD 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’s SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial fisheries, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. A CV associated with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases. All species that could potentially occur in the planned action areas are included in Table 1. As described below, all 9 species (with 12 managed stocks) temporally and spatially cooccur with the activity to the degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have authorized it. In addition, the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris) may be found in waters near Ketchikan, Alaska. However, northern sea otters are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are not considered further in this document. A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected by the City of Ketchikan’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 (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019); since that time, we are not aware of any VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 changes in the status of these species and stocks; therefore, detailed descriptions are not provided here. Please refer to that Federal Register notice for these descriptions. Please also refer to NMFS’ website (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species) for generalized species accounts. Marine Mammal Hearing Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 divided into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018) described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 (decibels) dB threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with the exception for lower limits for lowfrequency cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. Marine mammal hearing groups and their associated hearing ranges are provided in Table 2. E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36894 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices TABLE 2—MARINE MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS [NMFS, 2018] Generalized hearing range * Hearing group Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales) ..................................................................................................................... Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales) ........................................... High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger & L. australis). Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals) ................................................................................................................... Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur seals) .............................................................................................. 7 Hz to 35 kHz. 150 Hz to 160 kHz. 275 Hz to 160 kHz. 50 Hz to 86 kHz. 60 Hz to 39 kHz. * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al. 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range (Hemila¨ et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 2013). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. Nine marine mammal species (seven cetacean and two pinniped (one otariid and one phocid) species) have the reasonable potential to co-occur with the planned blasting activities. Please refer to Table 1. Of the cetacean species that may be present, three are classified as lowfrequency cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), two are classified as midfrequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid and ziphiid species and the sperm whale), and two are classified as highfrequency cetaceans (i.e., harbor porpoise and Kogia spp.). jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat The effects of underwater noise from confined underwater blasting activities for the Ketchikan pinnacle removal project have the potential to result in temporary threshold shifts (TTS) (Level B harassment) and a small degree of permanent threshold shifts (PTS) (Level A harassment) of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action area. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019) included a discussion of the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals, therefore that information is not repeated here; please refer to the Federal Register notice (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019) for that information. The main impact to marine mammal habitat associated with the Ketchikan pinnacle removal project would be temporarily elevated sound levels and the associated direct effects on marine VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 mammals. The project would not result in permanent impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals, such as haulout sites, because the underwater pinnacle to be removed is not prime foraging habitat. The project may have potential minor impacts to food sources such as forage fish and smaller marine mammals (transient killer whale prey), and permanent but minor impacts to the seafloor due to dredging and blasting as part of the pinnacle removal project. These potential effects are discussed in detail in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019), therefore that information is not repeated here; please refer to that Federal Register notice for that information. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes authorized through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS’ consideration of ‘‘small numbers’’ and the negligible impact determination. After public comment and review of the proposed authorization, the following items have changed in the final authorization. (1) Estimated group sizes, which were the basis for take estimates in this project, were increased for some species, including Pacific white sided dolphin, killer whale, minke whale, and gray whale. Changes to group size were made to more conservatively account for the variability possible in group size, and these changes are outlined for each species in the ‘‘Marine Mammal Occurrence’’ section below. (2) The expected frequency of occurrence for minke whales was increased based on behavioral information suggested by the Commission. The details of this increase are discussed in the ‘‘Marine Mammal Occurrence’’ section below. (3) These changes in group size and occurrence resulting in changes to the estimated take for these species. These changes are discussed in the ‘‘Take PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Calculation and Estimation’’ section below. Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment). Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment (via TTS), as use of the explosive source (i.e., blasting) for a very short period each day has the potential to result in TTS for individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury and slight tissue damage (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for mysticetes, porpoise, and phocids because predicted auditory injury zones are larger than 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. The primary relevant mitigation measure is avoiding blasting when any marine mammal is observed in the PTS zone. While this measure should avoid all take by Level A harassment, NMFS is authorizing takes by Level A harassment to account for the possibility that marine mammals escape observation in the PTS zone. Additionally, while the zones for slight lung injury are large enough that a marine mammal could occur within the zone (42 meters), the mitigation and monitoring measures, such as avoiding blasting when marine mammals are observed in PTS zone, are expected to minimize the potential for such taking to the extent practicable. Therefore the potential for non-auditory physical E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices injury is considered discountable, and all takes by Level A harassment are expected to occur due to PTS. 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 incur some degree of 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 incur TTS (equated to Level B harassment) or PTS (equated to Level A harassment) of some degree. Thresholds have also been developed to identify the pressure levels above which animals may incur different types of tissue damage from exposure to pressure waves from explosive detonation. TTS is possible and Table 3 lists TTS onset thresholds. Level A harassment—NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the 36895 Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) (Technical Guidance, 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). The City of Ketchikan’s planned activity includes the use of an impulsive source, blasting. These thresholds are provided in Table 3 below. Table 3 also provides threshold for tissue damage and mortality. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-acoustic-technical-guidance. TABLE 3—EXPLOSIVE ACOUSTIC AND PRESSURE THRESHOLDS FOR MARINE MAMMALS Level B harassment jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Group Behavioral (multiple detonations) Level A harassment TTS PTS Serious injury Gastrointestinal tract Low-freq cetacean 163 dB SEL .......... 168 dB SEL or 213 dB SPLpk. 183 dB SEL or 219 dB SPLpk. Mid-freq cetacean 165 dB SEL .......... High-freq cetacean 135 dB SEL .......... Phocidae ............... 165 dB SEL .......... Otariidae ................ 183 dB SEL .......... 170 dB SEL of 224 dB SPLpk. 140 dB SEL or 196 dB SPLpk. 170 dB SEL or 212 dB SPLpk. 188 dB SEL or 226 dBpk. 185 dB SEL or dB SPLpk. 155 dB SEL or dB SPLpk. 185 dB SEL or dB SPLpk. 203 dB SEL or dB SPLpk. 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. Blasting—While the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) and associated User Spreadsheet include tools for predicting threshold shift isopleths for multiple detonations, the Marine Mammal Commission noted in response to a previous proposed IHA (83 FR 52394, October 17, 2018) that the User Spreadsheet contained some errors in methodology for single detonations. Following a method generated through consultation with the Marine Mammal Commission, NMFS computed VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 237 dB SPL Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 39.1M1⁄3 (1+[D/ 10.081])1⁄2 Pasec. where: M = mass of the animals in kg. D = depth of animal in m. 91.4M1⁄3 (1+[D/ 10.081])1⁄2 Pasec. where: M = mass of the animals in kg. D = depth of animal in m. 230 202 218 232 cumulative sound exposure impact zones from the blasting information provided by the City of Ketchikan. Peak source levels of the confined blasts were calculated based on Hempet et al. (2007), using a distance of 4 feet and a weight of 75 pounds for a single charge. The total charge weight is defined as the product of the single charge weight and the number of charges. In this case, the maximum number of charges is 60. Explosive energy was then computed from peak pressure of the single maximum charge, using the pressure and time relationship of a shock wave (Urick 1983). Due to time and spatial separation of each single charge by a distance of four feet, the accumulation of acoustic energy is added sequentially, assuming the transmission loss follows PO 00000 Mortality Lung Sfmt 4703 cylindrical spreading within the matrix of charges. The SEL from each charge at its source can then be calculated, followed by the received SEL from each charge. Since the charges will be deployed in a grid with a least 4 ft by 4 ft spacing, the received SELs from different charges to a given point will vary depending on the distance of the charges from the receiver. As stated in the ‘‘Detailed Description of Specific Activity,’’ the actual spacing between charges will be determined based on how the rock responds to the blasting. Modeling was carried out using 4 ft spacing as this closest potential spacing results in the most conservative (highest) source values and largest resulting impact zones. Without specific information regarding the layout of the E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36896 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices charges, the modeling assumes a grid of 7 by 8 charges with an additional four charges located in peripheral locations. Among the various total SELs calculated, the largest value, SELtotal (max) is selected to calculate the impact range. Using the pressure versus time relationship (Urick 1983), the frequency spectrum of the explosion can be computed by taking the Fourier transform of the pressure (Weston, 1960). Frequency specific transmission loss of acoustic energy due to absorption is computed using the absorption coefficient, a (dB/km), summarized by Franc ¸ois and Garrison (1982a, b). Seawater properties for computing sound speed and absorption coefficient were based on Ketchikan ocean temperatures recorded from November through March (National Centers for Environmental Information, 2018) and salinity data presented in Vanderhoof and Carls (2012). Transmission loss was calculated using the sonar equation: TL = SELtotal(m)¥SELthreshold where SELthreshold is the Level A harassment and Level B harassment (TTS) threshold. The distances, R, where such transmission loss is achieved were computed numerically by combining both geometric transmission loss, and transmission loss due to frequency-specific absorption. A spreading coefficient of 20 is assumed. While this spreading coefficient would normally indicate an assumption of spherical spreading, in this instance, the higher coefficient is actually used to account for acoustic energy loss from the sediment into the water column. The outputs from this model are summarized in Table 4 below. For the dual criteria of SELcum and SPLpk shown in Table 4, distances in bold are the larger of the two isopleths, and were used in further analysis. Because the blast is composed of multiple charges arranged in a grid, these distances are measured from any individual charge, meaning that measurement begins at the outermost charges. For additional information on these calculations please refer to the ‘‘Ketchikan Detonation Modeling Concept’’ document which can be found at the following address: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-take-authorizationsconstruction-activities. TABLE 4—MODEL RESULTS OF IMPACT ZONES FOR BLASTING IN METERS (M) Marine mammal hearing group Slight lung injury * Mortality * Low frequency cetacean .......................... Mid frequency cetacean High frequency cetacean .......................... Otariid ........................... Phocid .......................... GI Tract PTS: SELcum PTS: SPLpk TTS: SELcum TTS: SPLpk 6 14 12 31 24 24 ** 430 90 188 53 2350 430 375 106 18 12 16 42 28 37 24 24 24 1420 30 210 1328 ** 42 211 5000 150 1120 2650 84 420 * Estimates for Mortality and Slight lung injury are based on body size of each individual species, so multiple estimates exist for some marine mammal hearing groups. The value entered into the table is the most conservative (largest isopleth) calculated for that group. Marine Mammal Occurrence In this section we provide the information about the presence, density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take calculations. Expected marine mammal presence is determined by past observations and general abundance near the Ketchikan waterfront during the construction window. The take requests for this IHA were estimated using local marine mammal data sets (e.g., National Marine Mammal Laboratory databases; Dahlheim et al., 2009) and observations from local Ketchikan charter operators and residents. A recent IHA and associated application for nearby construction (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018) was also reviewed to identify marine mammal group size and potential frequency of occurrence within the project vicinity. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Harbor Seals Low numbers of harbor seals are a common observation around the Ketchikan waterfront, and likely utilize other, less developed nearshore habitats within and adjacent to the Level B harassment zone. Harbor seals can occur in the project area year-round with an estimated maximum group size of three VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), and up to three groups of three animals occurring daily in the Level B harassment (TTS) zone (1,120 meters). Additionally, harbor seals could occasionally be found in the Level A harassment (PTS) zone. Steller Sea Lions Known Steller sea lion haulouts are well outside of the pinnacle blasting Level B harassment zone. However, Steller sea lions are residents of the wider vicinity and could be present within the Level B harassment zone on any given day of construction. Steller sea lion observations in the project area typically include groups composed of up to 10 animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), with one group potentially present each day. Harbor Porpoise Based on observations of local boat charter captains and watershed stewards, harbor porpoise are infrequently encountered in the Tongass Narrows, and more frequently in the nearby larger inlets and Clarence Strait. Therefore, they could potentially transit through both the Level B harassment zone and Level A harassment zone during a blasting event. They could PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 occupy the Ketchikan waterfront and be exposed to the Level A harassment zone during transit between preferred habitats. Harbor porpoises observed in the project vicinity typically occur in groups of one to five animals with an estimated maximum group size of eight animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018). For our impact analysis, we are considering a group to consist of five animals, a value on the high end of the typical group size. The frequency of harbor porpoise occurrence in the project vicinity is estimated to be one group passing through the area per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), but, for our analysis, we conservatively consider a group of five animals could be present every five days (approximately once per week). Humpback Whales Based on observations of local boat charter captains and watershed stewards, humpback whales regularly utilize the surrounding waters and are occasionally observed near Ketchikan, most often on a seasonal basis. Most observations occur during the summer with sporadic occurrences during other periods. The typical humpback whale group size in the project vicinity is E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices between one and two animals observed at a frequency of up to three times per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), but conservatively, a group of two whales could be present every third day. Killer Whales Killer whales could occur within the action area year-round. Typical pod sizes observed within the project vicinity range from 1 to 10 animals and the frequency of killer whales passing through the action area is estimated to be once per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018). In the Federal Register Notice announcing the proposed IHA, NMFS assumed a group of five whales will be present every fifth day (approximately once per week). However, in order to more conservatively account for the reported range of group sizes, the expected group size was increased to 7 killer whales expected to be present each week, which is the still in the reported range of 1 to 10 animals. Note that groups could be larger, but we expect that the overall number of authorized takes is sufficient to account for this possibility given the conservative assumption that a pod would be present once per week. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Dall’s Porpoise Based on local observations and regional studies, Dall’s porpoise are infrequently encountered in small numbers in the waters surrounding Ketchikan. This body of evidence is supported by Jefferson et al.’s (2019) presentation of historical survey data showing very few sightings in the Ketchikan area and conclusion that Dall’s porpoise generally are rare in narrow waterways, like the Tongass Narrows. Tongass Narrows is not a preferred habitat, so if they are present, they would most likely be traveling between areas of preferred forage, which are not within the blasting work window. However, they could still potentially transit through the Level B or Level A harassment zone infrequently during blasting. Typical Dall’s porpoise group sizes in the project vicinity range from 10 to 15 animals observed roughly once per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018). In this project, NMFS assumes a group of 10 Dall’s porpoises could be present every 10th day, or approximately every other week. Minke Whale Based on observations of local marine mammal specialists, the possibility of minke whales occurring in the Tongass Narrows is rare. Minke whales are generally observed individually or in groups of up to three animals. This, VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 along with scientific survey data showing that this species has not been documented within the vicinity, indicates that there is little risk of exposure to blasting. However, the accessible habitat in the Revillagigedo Channel leaves the potential that minke whale could enter the action area. In the Federal Register Notice announcing the proposed IHA, NFMS assumed that a group of two whales may be present every tenth day, or approximately every other week. The Commission commented that minke whales tend be seen individually, not as members of groups. Additionally, the expected frequency of occurrence was conservatively increased from two whales every other week, to two whales each week, based on potentially increasing observations in Southeast Alaska. Therefore, in the final authorization is based on an expected occurrence of two individual whales being present every fifth day, or approximately every week. Gray Whale No gray whales were observed during surveys of the inland waters of southeast Alaska conducted between 1991 and 2007 (Dahlheim et al., 2009). It is possible that a migrating whale may venture up Nichols Passage and enter the underwater Level B harassment zone. In the Federal Register Notice announcing the proposed IHA, NMFS estimated that one whale may be present every tenth day, or approximately every two weeks. The Commission commented that gray whales tend to be observed in groups, of generally around two whales. Therefore, in the final authorization, NMFS estimates that a group of two gray whales will be present every tenth day, or approximately every two weeks. Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Dolphins are regularly seen within Clarence Strait but have been reported to prefer larger channel areas near open ocean. Their presence within the Tongass Narrows has not been reported. They are not expected to enter the Tongass Narrows toward their relatively small injury zone, so no take by Level A harassment is requested. Pacific white-sided dolphin group sizes generally range from between 20 and 164 animals. For the purposes of this assessment, within the proposed IHA, we assumed one group of 20 dolphins may be present within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about every other week. However, NMFS has conservatively increased the expected group size to 30 dolphins, PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36897 which is still within the reported group size range for the species. Take Calculation and Estimation Here we describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. Incidental take is estimated for each species by considering the likelihood of a marine mammal being present within the Level A or B harassment zone during a blasting event. Expected marine mammal presence is determined by past observations and general abundance near the Ketchikan waterfront during the construction window, as described above. The calculation for marine mammal exposures is estimated by the following two equations: Level B harassment estimate = N (number of animals) × number of days animals are expected within Level B harassment zones for blasting. Level A harassment estimate = N (number of animals) × number of days animals are expected to occur within the Level A harassment zone without being observed by PSOs. For many species, the equation may also include a term to factor in the frequency a group is expected to be seen, which is explained within the paragraphs for that species. Harbor Seals We conservatively estimate that three groups of three harbor seals could be present within the Level B harassment zone on each day of construction and two additional harbor seals could be present within the Level A harassment zone on each day of construction. Because take estimates are based on anecdotal occurrences, including these additional individual harbor seals that could occur in the Level A harassment zone is another conservative assumption. Potential airborne disturbance would be accounted for by the Level B harassment zone, which covers a wider distance. Using these estimates the following number of harbor seals are estimated to be present through the construction period. Level B harassment: Three groups of animals × three animals per group × 50 blasting days = 450 Level A harassment: Two animals × 50 days of blasting = 100 Steller Sea Lions We conservatively estimate that a group of 10 sea lions could be present within the Level B harassment zone on any given day of blasting. No exposure within the blasting Level A harassment E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36898 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices zone is expected based on the small size of this zone and behavior of the species in context of the planned mitigation. The Level A harassment zones can be effectively monitored during the marine mammal monitoring program and prevent take by Level A harassment. Using these estimates the following number of Steller sea lions are estimated to be present in the Level B harassment zone: Level B harassment: 10 animals daily over 50 blasting days = 500 No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because the small Level A harassment zone can be effectively observed. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Harbor Porpoise We conservatively estimate and assume that a group of five harbor porpoise could be sighted in the Level B harassment zone every 5th day, or approximately once per week. Additionally, while the City of Ketchikan does not anticipate take by Level A harassment to occur, the cryptic nature of harbor porpoises and large Level A harassment isopleth mean the species could be in the Level A harassment zone without prior observation. Therefore, one additional group of 5 animals could be present in the Level A harassment zone every second week or 10th day, a conservative assumption because this group is in addition to those anticipated in the Level B harassment zone. Level B harassment: Five animals × 50 days of work divided by 5 (frequency of occurrence) = 50 Level A harassment: Five animals × 50 days of work divided by 10 (frequency of occurrence) = 25 Humpback Whale Based on occurrence information in the area, we conservatively estimate that a group of two humpback whales will be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every third day. The City is requesting authorization for 33 takes by Level B harassment of humpback whales. Of this number, we estimate 31 humpback whales will belong to the unlisted Hawaii DPS while three will belong to the ESA listed Mexico DPS based on the estimated occurrence of these DPSs (Wade et al., 2016). It should be noted that these estimates sum to 34, because take estimates were rounded up to avoid fractional takes of individuals in the DPSs. Level B: Two animals × 50 days of work divided by 3 (frequency of occurrence) = 33 No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because these VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 large whales can be effectively monitored and work can be shutdown when they are present. Killer Whale Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence), including the change in group size which has occurred since proposed IHA, we conservatively estimate that a group of seven whales may be sighted within the Level B harassment zone once every fifth day, or about once per week. Using this number, the following number of killer whales are estimated to be present within the Level B harassment zone: Level B: Seven animals × 50 days of work divided by 5 (frequency of occurrence) = 70. This number of expected takes has been increased from 50 killer whales in the proposed IHA to 70 in the final authorization. No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because the relatively small Level A harassment zone can be effectively monitored to prevent take by Level A harassment. Dall’s Porpoise Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we conservatively estimate and assume that a group of 10 Dall’s porpoise could be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about every other week. Additionally, while the City of Ketchikan does not anticipate take by Level A harassment to occur, the large Level A isopleth mean the species could be in the Level A harassment zone without prior observation. Therefore, one additional group of 10 animals could be present in the Level A harassment zone every month, which is a conservative assumption because this group is in addition to those anticipated in the Level B harassment zone. Using this assumption, the following number of Dall’s porpoise are estimated to be present in the Level B harassment zone: Level B harassment: 10 animals × 50 days of work divided by 10 (frequency of occurrence) = 50 Level A harassment: 10 animals × 50 days of work divided by 20 (frequency of occurrence) = 25; because this is a fraction of group, this number is rounded up to 30 to represent 3 full groups of Dall’s porpoise Minke Whale Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we conservatively estimate that two minke PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 whales may be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every fifth day, or about once every week. The frequency of occurrence has been increased from every tenth day, as stated in the proposed IHA, to every fifth day here. Level B harassment: Two individual animals × 50 days work divided by 5 (frequency of occurrence) = 20. The expected rate of occurrence has been increased, resulting in a final authorization of 20 minke whales, compared to 10 in the proposed IHA. No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because the City of Ketchikan can effectively monitor for these whales and shutdown if are present in the Level A harassment zone. Gray Whale Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we conservatively estimate that a group of two whales may be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about every 2 weeks. This group size has been increased from one individual gray whale as shown in the proposed IHA. Level B harassment: two animal × 50 days work divided by 10 (frequency of occurrence) = 10. The final authorized take of gray whales has increased from 5 to 10 individuals due to the change in group size. No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because the City of Ketchikan can effectively monitor for these whales and shutdown if are present in the Level A harassment zone. Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Based on the assumption that Pacific white-sided dolphins are not expected to enter Tongass Narrows, despite their regular occurrence in the Clarence Strait, we estimate that one group of 30 dolphins may be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about every other week. As explained above in ‘‘Marine Mammal Occurrence,’’ the group size has been increased from 20 to 30 dolphins in the final authorization. Level B harassment: 30 animals × 50 days of work divided by 10 (frequency of occurrence) = 150. The final authorized take of gray whales has increased from 100, in the proposed IHA, to 150 individuals due to the change in group size. No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized because the relatively small Level A harassment zone can be effectively monitored in E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36899 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices order to avoid take by Level A harassment. TABLE 5—AUTHORIZED TAKE ESTIMATES AS A PERCENTAGE OF STOCK ABUNDANCE Species Stock (NEST) Humpback Whale ............................................ Hawaii DPS (11,398) a ................................... Mexico DPS (3,264) a ..................................... Alaska (N/A) ................................................... Eastern North Pacific (26,960) ....................... Alaska Resident (2,347) ................................. Northern Resident (261) ................................ West Coast Transient (243) ........................... Gulf of Alaska Transient (587) ....................... North Pacific (26,880) .................................... Alaska (83,400) .............................................. Southeast Alaska (975) b ............................... Clarence Strait (31,634) ................................. Eastern U.S (41,638) ..................................... Minke Whale ................................................... Gray Whale ..................................................... Killer Whale ..................................................... Pacific White-Sided Dolphin ........................... Dall’s Porpoise ................................................ Harbor Porpoise .............................................. Harbor Seal ..................................................... Steller Sea Lion .............................................. Level A Percent of stock Level B 0 a 31 0 0 0 ........................ 2 20 10 70 ........................ 0 30 25 100 0 150 50 50 450 500 0.34 N/A 0.04 2.98 26.82 28.81 c 11.93 0.56 0.10 7.69 1.74 1.20 a Total estimated stock size for Central North Pacific humpback whales is 10,103. Under the MMPA humpback whales are considered a single stock (Central North Pacific); however, we have divided them here to account for DPSs listed under the ESA. Based on calculations in Wade et al. (2016), 93.9 percent of the humpback whales in Southeast Alaska are expected to be from the Hawaii DPS and 6.1 percent are expected to be from the Mexico DPS. b In the SAR for harbor porpoise (NMFS 2017), 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) c These percentages assume all 50 takes come from each individual stock, thus the percentage are likely inflated as multiple stocks are realistically impacted. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 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. Between the proposed IHA and this Federal Register notice announcing the final IHA, NMFS has made changes to required mitigation measures. NMFS increased the post-blast monitoring from 30 minutes to 1 hour to help ensure that all effects from the blast can be effectively monitored. NMFS also added timing restrictions related to sunrise and sunset to ensure that blasting was conducted during daylight and required monitoring could be completed. NMFS also increased to time between a marine mammal observation in the shutdown zone and when the shutdown zone can be considered cleared to 30 minutes, from 15 minutes, to help ensure that take by Level A harassment is minimized. Shutdown Zone for In-Water Heavy Machinery Work For in-water heavy machinery work (using, e.g., standard barges, tug boats, barge-mounted excavators, or equipment used to place or remove material), a minimum 10 meter PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 shutdown zone shall be implemented. If a marine mammal comes within 10 meters of such operations, operations shall cease (safely) and vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions. This type of work could include (but is not limited to) the following activities: (1) Movement of blasting barge; (2) drilling of boreholes; (3) dredging of rubble; and (4) transport of dredge material. An operation that requires completion due to safety reasons (e.g. material actively being handled by excavator/clamshell), that singular operation will be allowed to be completed. The monitoring of this 10 m shutdown zone can be conducted by construction personal as they perform their other duties. Additional Shutdown Zones and Monitoring Zones For blasting, the Level B harassment zone will be monitored for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to the planned blast, and continue for 1 hour (60 minutes) after the blast. If a marine mammal with authorized take remaining is sighted within this monitoring zone, blasting can occur and take will be tallied against the authorized number of takes by Level B harassment. Data will be recorded on the location, behavior, and disposition of the mammal as long as the mammal is within this monitoring zone. The City of Ketchikan will establish a shutdown zone for a marine mammal species that is greater than its corresponding Level A harassment zone, E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36900 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices as measured from any charge in the blasting grid. If any cetaceans or pinnipeds are observed within the shutdown zone, the blasting contractor would be notified and no blast would be allowed to occur until the animals are observed voluntarily leaving the shutdown zone or 30 minutes have passed without re-sighting the animal in the shutdown zone, or up until 1 hour before sunset. When weather conditions prevent accurate sighting of marine mammals, blasting activities will not occur until conditions in the shutdown zone return to acceptable levels and the entire Level A zone can be monitored and cleared. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES TABLE 6—BLASTING SHUTDOWN AND MONITORING ZONES planned to occur at least 30 minutes after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset. Non-blasting activities, including but not limited to dredging and borehole drilling can occur outside of daylight hours, but the 10-meter general shutdown zone must be maintained. Non-Authorized Take Prohibited If a marine mammal is observed within the monitoring zone and that species is either not authorized for take or its authorized takes are met, blasting must not occur. Blasting must be delayed until the animal has been confirmed to have left the area or an observation time period of 15 minutes has elapsed without seeing the marine mammal in the monitoring zone. Blasting BMPs The City of Ketchikan will use Marine mammal Shutdown Monitoring industry BMPs to reduce the potential hearing group zone (m) zone (m) adverse impacts on protected species from in-water noise and overpressure. Low frequency cetacean ............... *1,000 2,500 These include the use of multiple small Mid frequency ceboreholes, confinement of the blast tacean ............... 100 500 (rock stemming), use of planned High frequency cesequential delays, and all measures tacean ............... 1,500 5,000 Otariid ................... *100 200 designed to help direct blast energy into Phocid ................... 250 1,500 the rock rather than the water column. Additional BMPs to minimize impact on Note: These distances are measured from marine mammals and other species the outermost points of the grid of charges include adherence to a winter in-water that make up a blast. * The City of Ketchikan expressed an opin- work window, accurate drilling, shot ion that the PTS distances for Otariids and LF duration, and limiting the blasts to a cetaceans presented in Table 4 seemed maximum of one per day. The project uncharacteristically small when compared to the other thresholds resulting from the model. will adhere to all Federal and state The PTS zones were therefore doubled to 84 blasting regulations, which includes the m for Otariids and 860 m for LF cetaceans for development and adherence to blasting purposes of mitigation and monitoring, result- plans, monitoring, and reporting. ing in the Shutdown Zones presented here. Based on our evaluation of the If blasting is delayed due to marine applicant’s mitigation measures, as well mammal presence, PSO’s will continue as other measures considered by NMFS, monitoring for marine mammals during NMFS has determined that the the delay. If blasting is delayed for a mitigation measures provide the means reason other than marine mammal effecting the least practicable impact on presence, and this delay will be greater the affected species or stocks and their than 30 minutes, marine mammal habitat, paying particular attention to monitoring does not need to occur rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of during the delay. However, if similar significance. monitoring is halted, a new period of Monitoring and Reporting the 30 minute pre-blast monitoring must In order to issue an IHA for an occur before the rescheduled blast. activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Timing and Daylight Restrictions MMPA states that NMFS must set forth, In-water blasting work is expected to ‘‘requirements pertaining to the occur from November 15, 2019, to monitoring and reporting of such March 15, 2020, but will be limited to taking.’’ The MMPA implementing September 16, 2019, to April 30, 2020. regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) Pinnacle blasting will be conducted indicate that requests for authorizations during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset) must include the suggested means of to help ensure that marine mammal accomplishing the necessary monitoring observers have acceptable conditions to and reporting that will result in survey the shutdown and monitoring increased knowledge of the species and zones. To ensure that blasting does of the level of taking or impacts on occur between daylight hours, and populations of marine mammals that are required pre- and post-blast monitoring expected to be present in the proposed can be conducted, blasting must be action area. Effective reporting is critical VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density); • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas); • Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors; • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks; • Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of marine mammal habitat); and • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Since the proposed IHA, there have been some changes to the monitoring and reporting measures. NMFS has added a requirement to conduct acoustic and pressure monitoring for a ‘‘production’’ blast in addition to the test blast, to ensure blasting isopleths in this IHA are correct. NMFS has also further specified what measurements and information the results of this blast monitoring should include to ensure the results are informative. Additionally, NMFS has added a requirement to notify the Alaska Regional Office and Alaska Stranding Network prior to, and following blasting in order to conform with previous blasting authorizations. Visual Monitoring Monitoring by NMFS-approved protected species observers (PSOs) will begin 30 minutes prior to a planned blast and extend through 30 minutes after the blast. This will ensure that all marine mammals in the monitoring zone are documented and that no E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices marine mammals are present within the shutdown zone. No PSOs will be required during other activities associated with pinnacle removal including, but not limited to, bore-hole drilling and dredging. Hauled out marine mammals within the shutdown and monitoring zones will be tallied and monitored closely. PSOs will be stationed at the best vantage points possible for monitoring the monitoring zone (see Figure 3 and 4 of the IHA application); however, should the entire zone not be visible, take will be extrapolated daily, based on anticipated marine mammal occurrence and documented observations within the portion of the monitoring zone observed. During blasting, there will be two land-based PSOs and one PSO on the barge used for blasting operations, with no duties other than monitoring. Establishing a monitoring station on the barge will provide the observer with an unobstructed view of the injury zones during blasting and direct communication with the operator. Land based PSOs will be positioned at the best practical vantage points based on blasting activities and the locations of equipment. The land-based observers will be positioned with a clear view of the remaining of the injury zone and will monitor the shutdown zones and monitoring zones with binoculars and a spotting scope. The land-based observers will communicate via radio to the lead monitor positioned on the barge. Specific locations of the observers will be based on blasting activities and the locations of equipment. Shore-based observers will be stationed along the outer margins of the largest shutdown zone. The monitoring position of the observers will be identified with the following characteristics: 1. Unobstructed view of blasting area; 2. Unobstructed view of all water within the shutdown zone; 3. Clear view of operator or construction foreman in the event of radio failure (lead biologist); and 4. Safe distance from activities in the construction area. Monitoring of blasting activities must be conducted by qualified PSOs (see below), who must have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. The applicant must adhere to the following conditions when selecting observers: • Independent PSOs must be used (i.e., not construction personnel); • At least one PSO must have prior experience working as a marine mammal observer during construction activities; VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 • Other PSOs may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience; • Where a team of three or more PSOs are required, a lead observer or monitoring coordinator must be designated. The lead observer must have prior experience working as a marine mammal observer during construction; and • The applicant must submit PSO curriculum vitae (CVs) for approval by NMFS Permits and Conservation Division. The applicant must ensure that observers have the following additional qualifications: • 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 blasting 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, times, and reason for implementation of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); and marine mammal behavior; and • 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. Blast Monitoring The City of Ketchikan will perform a minimum of one test blast to confirm underwater overpressure values. The City of Ketchikan will conduct underwater monitoring of both this test blast and at least one full scale ‘‘production’’ blast. During blast monitoring, overpressure will be measured during all blasting monitoring with pressure transducers and hydrophones at pre-determined locations. This work will be performed by an experienced contractor with process documents, results, and the blast reports all being approved by a blasting consultant. For monitoring of these blasts, the City of Ketchikan will be required to record the following information: • Hydrophone equipment and methods: Recording device, sampling rate, distance of recording devices from PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36901 the blast where recordings were made; depth of recording devices; • Number of charges and the weight of each charge detonated during the blast; • Spectra and/or waveform of blasts of blasts including power spectral density reported as dB re 1 mPa2/Hz; and • Mean, median, and maximum sound levels (dB re: 1mPa) of SPLrms, SELcum, single-shot SEL, and SPLpeak. Reporting At least 24 hours (+/¥ 4 hours) prior to blasting, the City of Ketchikan will notify the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS Alaska Regional Office, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator that blasting is planned to occur, as well as notify these parties within 24 hours (+/¥ 4 hours) after blasting that blasting actually occurred. A draft marine mammal monitoring report would be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the completion of blasting 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 construction activity; • Distance from construction 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. Additionally, the City of Ketchikan will submit the report and results of their test blast to NMFS prior to beginning production blasting. This report will include the information outlined in Test Blast Monitoring. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES 36902 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices prohibited by the IHA (if issued), such as a serious injury or mortality, The City of Ketchikan would immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report would 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 would not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS would work with the City of Ketchikan to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The City of Ketchikan would not be able to resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that the City of Ketchikan 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), the City of Ketchikan would immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301–427–8401), and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator (877– 925–7773). The report would include the same information identified in the paragraph above. Activities would be able to continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with the City of Ketchikan to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that the City of Ketchikan 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), the City of Ketchikan would report the incident to the 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. The City of Ketchikan would provide photographs, video footage (if available), or other VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS’s implementing regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise levels). To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all species listed in Table 5, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the planned blasting to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, in anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to inform the analysis. NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would occur as a result of the City of Ketchikan’s planned blasting. In the absence of mitigation including shutdown zones, these impacts are possible, but at very short distances from the blasts (Table 4). NMFS feels that the mitigation measures stated in ‘‘Mitigation,’’ include adequate shutdown zones, marine mammal PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 monitoring, and blasting BMPs sufficient to prevent serious injury or mortality. Thus, no serious injury or morality authorized. As discussed in the Potential Effects section, non-auditory physical effects are not expected to occur. The authorized number of takes by both Level A harassment and Level B harassment is given in Table 5. Take by Level A harassment is only authorized for harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and Dall’s porpoises. As stated in ‘‘Mitigation’’ the City of Ketchikan will establish shutdown zones, greater than Level A harassment zones for blasting, and a blanket 10 m shutdown zone will be implemented for all other in-water use of heavy machinery. The authorization of take by Level A harassment is meant to account for the slight possibility that these species escape observation by the PSOs within the Level A harassment zone. Any take by Level A harassment is expected to arise from a small degree of PTS, because the isopleths related to PTS are consistently larger than those associated with slight lung and GI tract injury (Table 4). Blasting is only planned to occur on a maximum of 50 days, with just one blast per day, from November 15, 2019, to March 15, 2020. Because only one blast is authorized per day, and this activity would only generate noise for approximately one second, no behavioral response that could rise to the level of take is expected to occur. Therefore, all takes by Level B harassment are expected to arise from TTS, but we expect only a small degree of TTS, which is fully recoverable and not considered injury. Although the removal of the rock pinnacle would result in the permanent alteration of habitat available for marine mammals and their prey, the affected area would be discountable. Overall, the area impacted by the project is very small compared to the available habitat around Ketchikan. The pinnacle is adjacent to an active marine commercial and industrial area, and is regularly disturbed by human activities. In addition, for all species except humpbacks, there are no known biologically important areas (BIA) near the project zone that would be impacted by the blasting activities. For humpback whales, Southeast Alaska is a seasonally important BIA from spring through late fall (Ferguson et al., 2015), however, Tongass Narrows is not an important portion of this habitat due to development and human presence. Additionally, the work window is not expected to overlap with periods of peak foraging, and the action area E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES represents a small portion of available habitat. While impacts from blasting to fish can be severe, blasting will occur for a relatively short period of 50 days, meaning the duration of impact should also be short. Any impacts on prey that would occur during that period would have at most short-terms effects on foraging of individual marine mammals, and likely no effect on the populations of marine mammals as a whole. Therefore, indirect effects on marine mammal prey during the construction are not expected to be substantial, and these insubstantial effects would therefore be unlikely to cause substantial effects on marine mammals at the individual or population level. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 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 serious injury or mortality is anticipated or authorized; • Blasting would not occur during fish runs, avoiding impacts during peak foraging periods; • Only a very small portion of marine mammal habitat would be temporarily impacted; • The City of Ketchikan would implement mitigation measures including shut down zones for all blasting and other in-water activity to minimize the potential for take by Level A harassment and the severity if it does occur; and • TTS that will occur is expected to be of a small degree and is recoverable. 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 planned 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 an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. Table 5, in the Take Calculation and Estimation section, presents the number of animals that could be exposed to received noise levels that may result in take by Level A harassment or Level B harassment for the planned blasting by the City of Ketchikan. Our analysis shows that at most, approximately 29 percent of the best population estimates of each affected stock could be taken, but for most species and stocks, the percentage is below 2 percent. There was one stock, minke whale, where the lack of an accepted stock abundance value prevented us from calculating an expected percentage of the population that would be affected. The most relevant estimate of partial stock abundance is 1,233 minke whales for a portion of the Gulf of Alaska (Zerbini et al., 2006). Given 20 authorized takes by Level B harassment for the stock, comparison to the best estimate of stock abundance shows less than 2 percent of the stock is expected to be impacted. Therefore, the numbers of animals authorized to be taken for all species, including minke whale, would be considered small relative to the relevant stocks or populations even if each estimated taking occurred to a new individual—an unlikely scenario for pinnipeds, but a possibility for other marine mammals based on their described transit through Tongass Narrows. For pinnipeds, especially harbor seals and Steller sea lions, occurring in the vicinity of the project site, there will almost certainly be some overlap in individuals present day-today, and these takes are likely to occur only within some small portion of the overall regional stock. Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity (including the 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 In order to issue an IHA, NMFS must find that the specified activity will not have an ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ on the subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal species or stocks by Alaskan Natives. NMFS has defined ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level insufficient for a harvest to meet PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 36903 subsistence needs by: (i) Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met. In August of 2018, the City of Ketchikan and its representatives attempted to contact the Alaska Harbor Seal Commission and contacted the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission and the Ketchikan Indian Commission to inform them about the project and gather comment. Neither of the organizations that were successfully contacted expressed concern about the project. In 2012, the community of Ketchikan had an estimated subsistence take of 22 harbor seals and 0 Steller sea lions (Wolf et al., 2013). Hunting usually occurs in October and November (Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) 2009), but there are also records of relatively high harvest in May (Wolfe et al., 2013). All project activities will take place within the industrial area of Tongass Narrows immediately adjacent to Ketchikan where subsistence activities do not generally occur. The project will not have an adverse impact on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence use at locations farther away, where these activities are expected to take place. Some minor, short-term harassment of the harbor seals could occur, but this is not likely to have any measureable effect on subsistence harvest activities in the region. Additionally, blasting associated with the project is expected to occur from November 15 to March 15. This means that blasting, and the associated harassment of marine mammals will only overlap with a small portion of the expected period of subsistence harvest. Based on the spatial separation and partial temporal separation of blasting activities and subsistence harvest, no changes to availability of subsistence resources are expected to result from the City of Ketchikan’s planned activities. Based on the description of the specified activity, the measures described to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence purposes, and the mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS has determined that there will not be an unmitigable adverse impact on subsistence uses from City of Ketchikan’s planned activities. E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 36904 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 146 / Tuesday, July 30, 2019 / Notices National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (incidental harassment 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. jspears on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS Office of Protected Resources consults internally, in this case with the NMFS Alaska Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. There is one marine mammal species (Mexico DPS humpback whale) with confirmed occurrence in the project area that is listed as endangered under the ESA. The NMFS Alaska Regional Office Protected Resources Division issued a Biological Opinion on July 16, 2019 under section 7 of the ESA, on the issuance of an IHA to the City of Ketchikan under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA by the NMFS Permits and Conservation Division. The Biological Opinion concluded that the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Mexico DPS humpback whale, and is not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat because none exists. Authorization NMFS has issued an IHA to the City of Ketchikan for the potential VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 Jul 29, 2019 Jkt 247001 harassment of small numbers of nine marine mammal species incidental to the rock pinnacle removal project in Tongass Narrows, near Ketchikan, Alaska, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring and reporting are incorporated. Dated: July 25, 2019. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2019–16155 Filed 7–29–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P accommodation to individuals with disabilities where appropriate. Anyone who needs an interpreter or other accommodation should notify Sandy Scott at sscott@cns.gov or 202–606–6724 by 5:00 p.m. (ET) on August 5, 2019. CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: Sandy Scott, Corporation for National and Community Service, 250 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20525. Phone: 202–606–6724. Fax: 202–606–3460. TTY: 800–833–3722. Email: sscott@ cns.gov. Helen Serassio, Deputy General Counsel. CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE [FR Doc. 2019–16310 Filed 7–26–19; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 6050–28–P Sunshine Act Notice The Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service gives notice of the following meeting: DATE AND TIME: Monday, August 12, 2019, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (ET). PLACE: Corporation for National and Community Service, 250 E Street SW, Suite 4026, Washington, DC 20525. Please go to the first floor lobby for escort. Call-In Information: This meeting is available to the public by conference call to toll-free number 877–917–3613, using access code 3899107. Any interested member of the public may call this number and listen to the meeting. Callers may be charged for mobile phone calls, and CNCS will not refund any incurred charges. There is no charge for calls made by landline to the toll-free number. Call replays are generally available one hour after a call ends. A replay will be available through August 26, 2019 at 800–925–2994. STATUS: Open. MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED: I. Chair’s Opening Comments II. CEO Report III. Public Comments IV. Final Comments and Adjournment Members of the public who would like to comment on the business of the Board may do so in writing or in person. Individuals may submit written comments to ssoper@cns.gov with the subject line: ‘‘Comments for August 12, 2019 CNCS Board Meeting’’ by 5:00 p.m. (ET) on August 5, 2019. Individuals attending the meeting in person who would like to comment will be asked to sign in when they arrive. Comments are requested to be limited to two minutes. Reasonable Accommodation: The Corporation for National and Community Service provides reasonable PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army Army Education Advisory Subcommittee Meeting Notice Department of the Army, DoD. Notice of open subcommittee meeting. AGENCY: ACTION: The Department of the Army is publishing this notice to announce the following Federal advisory subcommittee meeting of the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Subcommittee (DAHAS), a subcommittee of the Army Education Advisory Committee. This meeting is open to the public. DATES: The Department of the Army Historical Advisory Subcommittee will meet from 8:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on August 15, 2019 and 8:40 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on August 16, 2019. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Fort Eustis Club, 2123 Pershing Avenue, Newport News, VA 23604. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Thomas W. Crecca, the Alternate Designated Federal Officer for the subcommittee, in writing at U.S. Army Center of Military History, ATTN: ATMH–FPF, 102 4th Ave., Bldg. 35, Fort McNair, Washington, DC 20319– 5060 by email at thomas.w.crecca.civ@ mail.mil or by telephone at (202) 685– 2627. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The subcommittee meeting is being held under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended), the Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976 (5 U.S.C. 552b, as amended), and 41 CFR 102–3.150. Purpose of the Meeting: The purpose of the meeting is to review the Army historical program and provide advice SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 146 (Tuesday, July 30, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 36891-36904]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-16155]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XG737


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Confined Rock Blasting Near 
Ketchikan, 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 
the City of Ketchikan to incidentally harass, by Level B and Level A 
harassment only, marine mammals during underwater confined rock 
blasting activities associated with a rock pinnacle removal project in 
Ketchikan, Alaska.

DATES: This Authorization is effective from September 16, 2019 to 
September 15, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gray Redding, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the application 
and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in 
this document, may be obtained online at: 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 definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above 
are included in the relevant sections below.

Summary of Request

    On December 10, 2018, NMFS received a request from the City of 
Ketchikan for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to underwater 
confined blasting and excavation in southeastern Alaska. The 
application was deemed adequate and complete on February 7, 2019. City 
of Ketchikan's request is for take of a small number of nine marine 
mammal species by Level B harassment and three marine mammal species by 
Level A harassment. Neither the City of Ketchikan nor NMFS expects 
serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, 
therefore, an IHA is appropriate.

Description of Specified Activity

Overview

    The City of Ketchikan plans to conduct underwater confined blasting 
of a rock pinnacle in the Tongass Narrows, southeastern Alaska. Removal 
of the underwater pinnacle will expand the area of safe navigation 
depths for cruise ships that presently visit Berths I and II. Removing 
the pinnacle will provide a more reliable ingress and egress for ships 
over a much wider range of wind and water level conditions. The project 
is scheduled to occur from September 16, 2019 through April 30, 2020. 
The blasting portion of the activities is expected to occur between 
November 15, 2019 and March 15, 2020, but blasting is not restricted to 
this time period, in order to allow appropriate flexibility for the 
applicant to complete the project. The action has the potential to 
affect waters in the Tongass Narrows and nearby Revillagigedo Channel, 
approximately 3 miles to the south.
    There will be up to 50 days of blasting (currently anticipating 
between 25 and 50 total blasts) limited to at most, one blast per day. 
A blast consists of a detonation of a series of sequential charges, 
delayed from one another at an interval of 8 milliseconds (ms), with 
the total blast typically lasting less than 1 second (one second = 1000 
milliseconds). Each delayed charge in the blast will contain a maximum 
of 75 total lbs (34 kg) of explosive. The timing of the blast must 
assure that the maximum pounds per delay does not exceed 75 lbs. The 
planned daily blast will consist of a grid of boreholes, each 
containing a delayed charge (total number may vary but typically it 
ranges between 30 to 60 holes), with the top section of the hole then 
filled in with stone (this process is referred to as ``rock 
stemming'').
    Following blasting, the material freed by blasting will be dredged. 
As discussed in the proposed Federal Register Notice, take is highly 
unlikely and is not authorized for dredging activities.
    A detailed description of the planned rock pinnacle removal project 
is provided in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 
11508; March 27, 2019). Since that time, no changes have been made to 
the planned confined underwater blasting activities. Therefore, a 
detailed description is not provided here. Please refer to that Federal 
Register notice for the description of the specific activity.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of NMFS's proposal to issue and IHA to the City of 
Ketchikan was

[[Page 36892]]

published in the Federal Register on March 27, 2019 (84 FR 11508). The 
notice described, in detail, the City of Ketchikan's activity, the 
marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, and the 
anticipated effects on marine mammals. During the 30-day public comment 
period, NMFS received one comment from the Marine Mammal Commission 
(Commission).
    Comment 1: The Commission recommended that NMFS estimate and 
ultimately authorize take by Level B harassment due to behavioral 
harassment during all activities involving explosives, including single 
detonation events, for this and all future IHAs. Additionally if NMFS 
elects not to authorize these takes, it should in the Federal Register 
Notices explain the basis for assuming no behavioral harassment occurs.
    Response: NMFS believes that the best scientific evidence available 
indicates that it is appropriate to use a behavioral onset threshold 
for multiple detonations and to consider detonations with microdelays 
between them as a single detonation. The blasts conducted by the City 
of Ketchikan are confined blasts with charge detonations separated by 
microdelays, constituting a single detonation event per day with blasts 
occurring for at most 50 days.
    Comment 2: The Commission recommends that NMFS refrain from 
implementing its proposed renewal process and instead use abbreviated 
Federal Register notices and reference existing documents to streamline 
the IHA process. If NMFS adopts the proposed renewal process, the 
Commission recommends that NMFS provide the Commission and the public a 
legal analysis supporting its conclusion that the process is consistent 
with section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA.
    Response: The notice of the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508, March 27, 
2019) 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 the Federal Register notices that consider renewals, requesting 
input specifically on the possible renewal itself. 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 method for 
issuing renewals meets statutory requirements and maximizes efficiency. 
However, importantly, such renewals will be limited to circumstances 
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 will consider only one renewal for a project at 
this time. In addition, notice of issuance or denial of a renewal IHA 
will be published in the Federal Register, as they are for all IHAs. 
The option for issuing renewal IHAs has been in NMFS' incidental take 
regulations since 1996. We will provide any additional information to 
the Commission and consider posting a description of the renewal 
process on our website before any renewal is issued utilizing this 
process.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information 
regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and 
behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. 
Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be 
found in NMFS's Stock Assessment Reports (SAR; https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these species 
(e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS's 
website (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species).
    Table 1 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
waters near Ketchikan, Alaska 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's SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR 
and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are 
included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and 
other threats.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or 
the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. 
NMFS's stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that 
comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend 
beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in 
NMFS's U.S. Alaska SARs (e.g., Muto et al., 2018). All values presented 
in Table 1 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).

[[Page 36893]]



                                           Table 1--Marine Mammals That Could Occur in the Planned Action Area
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                            Stock abundance Nbest,
                                                                                         ESA/MMPA status;   (CV, Nmin, most recent             Annual M/
             Common name                  Scientific name             MMPA Stock          Strategic (Y/N)    abundance survey) \2\     PBR       SI \3\
                                                                                                \1\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          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..  E, D,Y              10,103 (0.3; 7,890;            83         25
                                                                                                             2006).
    Minke whale.....................  Balaenoptera             Alaska.................  -, N                N.A...................       N.A.       N.A.
                                       acutorostrata.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Delphinidae:
    Killer whale....................  Orcinus orca...........  Alaska Resident........  -, N                2,347 (N.A.; 2,347;            24          1
                                                                                                             2012).
                                      West Coast Transient...                           -, N                243 (N.A, 243, 2009)..        2.4          0
                                      Northern Resident......                           -, N                261 (N.A; 261; 2011)..       1.96          0
                                      Gulf of Alaska                                    -, N                587 (N.A; 587; 2012)..       5.87          1
                                       Transient.
    Pacific white-sided dolphin.....  Lagenorhynchus           North Pacific..........  -,-; N              26,880 (N.A.; N.A.;          N.A.          0
                                       obliquidens.                                                          1990).
Family Phocoenidae:
    Harbor porpoise.................  Phocoena phocoena......  Southeast Alaska.......  -, Y                975 (0.10; 896; 2012).       8.95         34
    Dall's porpoise.................  Phocoenoides dalli.....  Alaska.................  -, N                83400 (0.097, N.A.,          N.A.         38
                                                                                                             1993).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Otariidae (eared seals and
 sea lions):
    Steller sea lion................  Eumetopias jubatus.....  Eastern U.S............  -,-, N              41,638 (N.A.; 41,638;       2,498        108
                                                                                                             2015).
Family Phocidae (earless seals):
    Harbor seal.....................  Phoca vitulina           Clarence Strait........  -, N                31,634 (N.A.; 29,093;       1,222         41
                                       richardii.                                                            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's SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g.,
  commercial fisheries, ship strike). Annual M/SI often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. A CV
  associated with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases.

    All species that could potentially occur in the planned action 
areas are included in Table 1. As described below, all 9 species (with 
12 managed stocks) temporally and spatially co-occur with the activity 
to the degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have 
authorized it. In addition, the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris) may 
be found in waters near Ketchikan, Alaska. However, northern sea otters 
are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are not 
considered further in this document.
    A detailed description of the of the species likely to be affected 
by the City of Ketchikan'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 (84 FR 11508; March 27, 2019); 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 
that Federal Register notice for these descriptions. Please also refer 
to NMFS' website (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species) for 
generalized species accounts.

Marine Mammal Hearing

    Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals 
underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious 
effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to 
sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine 
mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine 
mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et 
al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect 
this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided 
into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated 
hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, 
audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, 
anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements 
of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes 
(i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018) described 
generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. 
Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 
(decibels) dB threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with 
the exception for lower limits for low-frequency cetaceans where the 
lower bound was deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower 
bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. Marine mammal hearing 
groups and their associated hearing ranges are provided in Table 2.

[[Page 36894]]



                  Table 2--Marine Mammal Hearing Groups
                              [NMFS, 2018]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Hearing group                 Generalized hearing range *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen  7 Hz to 35 kHz.
 whales).
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans          150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked
 whales, bottlenose whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true   275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins,
 cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus
 cruciger & L. australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater)    50 Hz to 86 kHz.
 (true seals).
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater)   60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 (sea lions and fur seals).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a
  composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual
  species' hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized
  hearing range chosen based on ~65 dB threshold from normalized
  composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF
  cetaceans (Southall et al. 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation).

    The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et 
al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have 
consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing 
compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range 
(Hemil[auml] et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 
2013).
    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. 
Nine marine mammal species (seven cetacean and two pinniped (one 
otariid and one phocid) species) have the reasonable potential to co-
occur with the planned blasting activities. Please refer to Table 1. Of 
the cetacean species that may be present, three are classified as low-
frequency cetaceans (i.e., all mysticete species), two are classified 
as mid-frequency cetaceans (i.e., all delphinid and ziphiid species and 
the sperm whale), and two are classified as high-frequency cetaceans 
(i.e., harbor porpoise and Kogia spp.).

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

    The effects of underwater noise from confined underwater blasting 
activities for the Ketchikan pinnacle removal project have the 
potential to result in temporary threshold shifts (TTS) (Level B 
harassment) and a small degree of permanent threshold shifts (PTS) 
(Level A harassment) of marine mammals in the vicinity of the action 
area. The Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 11508; 
March 27, 2019) included a discussion of the effects of anthropogenic 
noise on marine mammals, therefore that information is not repeated 
here; please refer to the Federal Register notice (84 FR 11508; March 
27, 2019) for that information.
    The main impact to marine mammal habitat associated with the 
Ketchikan pinnacle removal project would be temporarily elevated sound 
levels and the associated direct effects on marine mammals. The project 
would not result in permanent impacts to habitats used directly by 
marine mammals, such as haulout sites, because the underwater pinnacle 
to be removed is not prime foraging habitat. The project may have 
potential minor impacts to food sources such as forage fish and smaller 
marine mammals (transient killer whale prey), and permanent but minor 
impacts to the seafloor due to dredging and blasting as part of the 
pinnacle removal project. These potential effects are discussed in 
detail in the Federal Register notice for the proposed IHA (84 FR 
11508; March 27, 2019), therefore that information is not repeated 
here; please refer to that Federal Register notice for that 
information.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
authorized through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS' consideration 
of ``small numbers'' and the negligible impact determination.
    After public comment and review of the proposed authorization, the 
following items have changed in the final authorization.
    (1) Estimated group sizes, which were the basis for take estimates 
in this project, were increased for some species, including Pacific 
white sided dolphin, killer whale, minke whale, and gray whale. Changes 
to group size were made to more conservatively account for the 
variability possible in group size, and these changes are outlined for 
each species in the ``Marine Mammal Occurrence'' section below.
    (2) The expected frequency of occurrence for minke whales was 
increased based on behavioral information suggested by the Commission. 
The details of this increase are discussed in the ``Marine Mammal 
Occurrence'' section below.
    (3) These changes in group size and occurrence resulting in changes 
to the estimated take for these species. These changes are discussed in 
the ``Take Calculation and Estimation'' section below.
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).
    Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment (via 
TTS), as use of the explosive source (i.e., blasting) for a very short 
period each day has the potential to result in TTS for individual 
marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury and 
slight tissue damage (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for 
mysticetes, porpoise, and phocids because predicted auditory injury 
zones are larger than 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. The primary relevant 
mitigation measure is avoiding blasting when any marine mammal is 
observed in the PTS zone. While this measure should avoid all take by 
Level A harassment, NMFS is authorizing takes by Level A harassment to 
account for the possibility that marine mammals escape observation in 
the PTS zone. Additionally, while the zones for slight lung injury are 
large enough that a marine mammal could occur within the zone (42 
meters), the mitigation and monitoring measures, such as avoiding 
blasting when marine mammals are observed in PTS zone, are expected to 
minimize the potential for such taking to the extent practicable. 
Therefore the potential for non-auditory physical

[[Page 36895]]

injury is considered discountable, and all takes by Level A harassment 
are expected to occur due to PTS.
    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 incur some degree of 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 incur TTS 
(equated to Level B harassment) or PTS (equated to Level A harassment) 
of some degree. Thresholds have also been developed to identify the 
pressure levels above which animals may incur different types of tissue 
damage from exposure to pressure waves from explosive detonation. TTS 
is possible and Table 3 lists TTS onset thresholds.
    Level A harassment--NMFS' Technical Guidance for Assessing the 
Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) 
(Technical Guidance, 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). The City 
of Ketchikan's planned activity includes the use of an impulsive 
source, blasting.
    These thresholds are provided in Table 3 below. Table 3 also 
provides threshold for tissue damage and mortality. The references, 
analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are 
described in NMFS 2016 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at: 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-acoustic-technical-guidance.

                                         Table 3--Explosive Acoustic and Pressure Thresholds for Marine Mammals
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           Level B harassment            Level A harassment               Serious injury
                                -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Group                   Behavioral                                                                                            Mortality
                                      (multiple              TTS                 PTS          Gastro- intestinal         Lung
                                    detonations)                                                    tract
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-freq cetacean..............  163 dB SEL........  168 dB SEL or 213   183 dB SEL or 219   237 dB SPL.........  39.1M\1/3\ (1+[D/   91.4M\1/3\ (1+[D/
                                                      dB SPLpk.           dB SPLpk.                                10.081])\1/2\ Pa-   10.081])\1/2\ Pa-
                                                                                                                   sec.                sec.
                                                                                                                  where:............  where:
                                                                                                                  M = mass of the     M = mass of the
                                                                                                                   animals in kg.      animals in kg.
                                                                                                                  D = depth of        D = depth of
                                                                                                                   animal in m.        animal in m.
Mid-freq cetacean..............  165 dB SEL........  170 dB SEL of 224   185 dB SEL or 230
                                                      dB SPLpk.           dB SPLpk.
High-freq cetacean.............  135 dB SEL........  140 dB SEL or 196   155 dB SEL or 202
                                                      dB SPLpk.           dB SPLpk.
Phocidae.......................  165 dB SEL........  170 dB SEL or 212   185 dB SEL or 218
                                                      dB SPLpk.           dB SPLpk.
Otariidae......................  183 dB SEL........  188 dB SEL or 226   203 dB SEL or 232
                                                      dBpk.               dB SPLpk.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.
    Blasting--While the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) and associated 
User Spreadsheet include tools for predicting threshold shift isopleths 
for multiple detonations, the Marine Mammal Commission noted in 
response to a previous proposed IHA (83 FR 52394, October 17, 2018) 
that the User Spreadsheet contained some errors in methodology for 
single detonations. Following a method generated through consultation 
with the Marine Mammal Commission, NMFS computed cumulative sound 
exposure impact zones from the blasting information provided by the 
City of Ketchikan. Peak source levels of the confined blasts were 
calculated based on Hempet et al. (2007), using a distance of 4 feet 
and a weight of 75 pounds for a single charge. The total charge weight 
is defined as the product of the single charge weight and the number of 
charges. In this case, the maximum number of charges is 60. Explosive 
energy was then computed from peak pressure of the single maximum 
charge, using the pressure and time relationship of a shock wave (Urick 
1983). Due to time and spatial separation of each single charge by a 
distance of four feet, the accumulation of acoustic energy is added 
sequentially, assuming the transmission loss follows cylindrical 
spreading within the matrix of charges. The SEL from each charge at its 
source can then be calculated, followed by the received SEL from each 
charge. Since the charges will be deployed in a grid with a least 4 ft 
by 4 ft spacing, the received SELs from different charges to a given 
point will vary depending on the distance of the charges from the 
receiver. As stated in the ``Detailed Description of Specific 
Activity,'' the actual spacing between charges will be determined based 
on how the rock responds to the blasting. Modeling was carried out 
using 4 ft spacing as this closest potential spacing results in the 
most conservative (highest) source values and largest resulting impact 
zones. Without specific information regarding the layout of the

[[Page 36896]]

charges, the modeling assumes a grid of 7 by 8 charges with an 
additional four charges located in peripheral locations. Among the 
various total SELs calculated, the largest value, SELtotal (max) is 
selected to calculate the impact range. Using the pressure versus time 
relationship (Urick 1983), the frequency spectrum of the explosion can 
be computed by taking the Fourier transform of the pressure (Weston, 
1960). Frequency specific transmission loss of acoustic energy due to 
absorption is computed using the absorption coefficient, [alpha] (dB/
km), summarized by Fran[ccedil]ois and Garrison (1982a, b). Seawater 
properties for computing sound speed and absorption coefficient were 
based on Ketchikan ocean temperatures recorded from November through 
March (National Centers for Environmental Information, 2018) and 
salinity data presented in Vanderhoof and Carls (2012). Transmission 
loss was calculated using the sonar equation:

TL = SELtotal(m)-SELthreshold

where SELthreshold is the Level A harassment and Level B 
harassment (TTS) threshold. The distances, R, where such transmission 
loss is achieved were computed numerically by combining both geometric 
transmission loss, and transmission loss due to frequency-specific 
absorption. A spreading coefficient of 20 is assumed. While this 
spreading coefficient would normally indicate an assumption of 
spherical spreading, in this instance, the higher coefficient is 
actually used to account for acoustic energy loss from the sediment 
into the water column. The outputs from this model are summarized in 
Table 4 below. For the dual criteria of SELcum and SPLpk shown in Table 
4, distances in bold are the larger of the two isopleths, and were used 
in further analysis. Because the blast is composed of multiple charges 
arranged in a grid, these distances are measured from any individual 
charge, meaning that measurement begins at the outermost charges. For 
additional information on these calculations please refer to the 
``Ketchikan Detonation Modeling Concept'' document which can be found 
at the following address: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities.

                                            Table 4--Model Results of Impact Zones for Blasting in Meters (m)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Slight lung
       Marine mammal hearing group          Mortality *      injury *        GI Tract       PTS: SELcum     PTS: SPLpk      TTS: SELcum     TTS: SPLpk
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low frequency cetacean..................               6              12              24          ** 430             188            2350             375
Mid frequency cetacean..................              14              31              24              90              53             430             106
High frequency cetacean.................              18              42              24            1420            1328            5000            2650
Otariid.................................              12              28              24              30           ** 42             150              84
Phocid..................................              16              37              24             210             211            1120             420
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Estimates for Mortality and Slight lung injury are based on body size of each individual species, so multiple estimates exist for some marine mammal
  hearing groups. The value entered into the table is the most conservative (largest isopleth) calculated for that group.

Marine Mammal Occurrence
    In this section we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations. Expected marine mammal presence is determined by past 
observations and general abundance near the Ketchikan waterfront during 
the construction window. The take requests for this IHA were estimated 
using local marine mammal data sets (e.g., National Marine Mammal 
Laboratory databases; Dahlheim et al., 2009) and observations from 
local Ketchikan charter operators and residents. A recent IHA and 
associated application for nearby construction (83 FR 37473, August 1, 
2018) was also reviewed to identify marine mammal group size and 
potential frequency of occurrence within the project vicinity.
Harbor Seals
    Low numbers of harbor seals are a common observation around the 
Ketchikan waterfront, and likely utilize other, less developed 
nearshore habitats within and adjacent to the Level B harassment zone. 
Harbor seals can occur in the project area year-round with an estimated 
maximum group size of three animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, 
Solstice 2018), and up to three groups of three animals occurring daily 
in the Level B harassment (TTS) zone (1,120 meters). Additionally, 
harbor seals could occasionally be found in the Level A harassment 
(PTS) zone.
Steller Sea Lions
    Known Steller sea lion haulouts are well outside of the pinnacle 
blasting Level B harassment zone. However, Steller sea lions are 
residents of the wider vicinity and could be present within the Level B 
harassment zone on any given day of construction. Steller sea lion 
observations in the project area typically include groups composed of 
up to 10 animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), with one 
group potentially present each day.
Harbor Porpoise
    Based on observations of local boat charter captains and watershed 
stewards, harbor porpoise are infrequently encountered in the Tongass 
Narrows, and more frequently in the nearby larger inlets and Clarence 
Strait. Therefore, they could potentially transit through both the 
Level B harassment zone and Level A harassment zone during a blasting 
event. They could occupy the Ketchikan waterfront and be exposed to the 
Level A harassment zone during transit between preferred habitats. 
Harbor porpoises observed in the project vicinity typically occur in 
groups of one to five animals with an estimated maximum group size of 
eight animals (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018). For our 
impact analysis, we are considering a group to consist of five animals, 
a value on the high end of the typical group size. The frequency of 
harbor porpoise occurrence in the project vicinity is estimated to be 
one group passing through the area per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 
2018, Solstice 2018), but, for our analysis, we conservatively consider 
a group of five animals could be present every five days (approximately 
once per week).
Humpback Whales
    Based on observations of local boat charter captains and watershed 
stewards, humpback whales regularly utilize the surrounding waters and 
are occasionally observed near Ketchikan, most often on a seasonal 
basis. Most observations occur during the summer with sporadic 
occurrences during other periods. The typical humpback whale group size 
in the project vicinity is

[[Page 36897]]

between one and two animals observed at a frequency of up to three 
times per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018), but 
conservatively, a group of two whales could be present every third day.
Killer Whales
    Killer whales could occur within the action area year-round. 
Typical pod sizes observed within the project vicinity range from 1 to 
10 animals and the frequency of killer whales passing through the 
action area is estimated to be once per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 
2018, Solstice 2018). In the Federal Register Notice announcing the 
proposed IHA, NMFS assumed a group of five whales will be present every 
fifth day (approximately once per week). However, in order to more 
conservatively account for the reported range of group sizes, the 
expected group size was increased to 7 killer whales expected to be 
present each week, which is the still in the reported range of 1 to 10 
animals. Note that groups could be larger, but we expect that the 
overall number of authorized takes is sufficient to account for this 
possibility given the conservative assumption that a pod would be 
present once per week.
Dall's Porpoise
    Based on local observations and regional studies, Dall's porpoise 
are infrequently encountered in small numbers in the waters surrounding 
Ketchikan. This body of evidence is supported by Jefferson et al.'s 
(2019) presentation of historical survey data showing very few 
sightings in the Ketchikan area and conclusion that Dall's porpoise 
generally are rare in narrow waterways, like the Tongass Narrows. 
Tongass Narrows is not a preferred habitat, so if they are present, 
they would most likely be traveling between areas of preferred forage, 
which are not within the blasting work window. However, they could 
still potentially transit through the Level B or Level A harassment 
zone infrequently during blasting. Typical Dall's porpoise group sizes 
in the project vicinity range from 10 to 15 animals observed roughly 
once per month (83 FR 37473, August 1, 2018, Solstice 2018). In this 
project, NMFS assumes a group of 10 Dall's porpoises could be present 
every 10th day, or approximately every other week.
Minke Whale
    Based on observations of local marine mammal specialists, the 
possibility of minke whales occurring in the Tongass Narrows is rare. 
Minke whales are generally observed individually or in groups of up to 
three animals. This, along with scientific survey data showing that 
this species has not been documented within the vicinity, indicates 
that there is little risk of exposure to blasting. However, the 
accessible habitat in the Revillagigedo Channel leaves the potential 
that minke whale could enter the action area. In the Federal Register 
Notice announcing the proposed IHA, NFMS assumed that a group of two 
whales may be present every tenth day, or approximately every other 
week. The Commission commented that minke whales tend be seen 
individually, not as members of groups. Additionally, the expected 
frequency of occurrence was conservatively increased from two whales 
every other week, to two whales each week, based on potentially 
increasing observations in Southeast Alaska. Therefore, in the final 
authorization is based on an expected occurrence of two individual 
whales being present every fifth day, or approximately every week.
Gray Whale
    No gray whales were observed during surveys of the inland waters of 
southeast Alaska conducted between 1991 and 2007 (Dahlheim et al., 
2009). It is possible that a migrating whale may venture up Nichols 
Passage and enter the underwater Level B harassment zone. In the 
Federal Register Notice announcing the proposed IHA, NMFS estimated 
that one whale may be present every tenth day, or approximately every 
two weeks. The Commission commented that gray whales tend to be 
observed in groups, of generally around two whales. Therefore, in the 
final authorization, NMFS estimates that a group of two gray whales 
will be present every tenth day, or approximately every two weeks.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
    Dolphins are regularly seen within Clarence Strait but have been 
reported to prefer larger channel areas near open ocean. Their presence 
within the Tongass Narrows has not been reported. They are not expected 
to enter the Tongass Narrows toward their relatively small injury zone, 
so no take by Level A harassment is requested. Pacific white-sided 
dolphin group sizes generally range from between 20 and 164 animals. 
For the purposes of this assessment, within the proposed IHA, we 
assumed one group of 20 dolphins may be present within the Level B 
harassment zone every tenth day, or about every other week. However, 
NMFS has conservatively increased the expected group size to 30 
dolphins, which is still within the reported group size range for the 
species.

Take Calculation and Estimation

    Here we describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate. Incidental take is 
estimated for each species by considering the likelihood of a marine 
mammal being present within the Level A or B harassment zone during a 
blasting event. Expected marine mammal presence is determined by past 
observations and general abundance near the Ketchikan waterfront during 
the construction window, as described above. The calculation for marine 
mammal exposures is estimated by the following two equations:

Level B harassment estimate = N (number of animals) x number of days 
animals are expected within Level B harassment zones for blasting.
Level A harassment estimate = N (number of animals) x number of days 
animals are expected to occur within the Level A harassment zone 
without being observed by PSOs.

For many species, the equation may also include a term to factor in the 
frequency a group is expected to be seen, which is explained within the 
paragraphs for that species.
Harbor Seals
    We conservatively estimate that three groups of three harbor seals 
could be present within the Level B harassment zone on each day of 
construction and two additional harbor seals could be present within 
the Level A harassment zone on each day of construction. Because take 
estimates are based on anecdotal occurrences, including these 
additional individual harbor seals that could occur in the Level A 
harassment zone is another conservative assumption. Potential airborne 
disturbance would be accounted for by the Level B harassment zone, 
which covers a wider distance. Using these estimates the following 
number of harbor seals are estimated to be present through the 
construction period.

Level B harassment: Three groups of animals x three animals per group x 
50 blasting days = 450
Level A harassment: Two animals x 50 days of blasting = 100
Steller Sea Lions
    We conservatively estimate that a group of 10 sea lions could be 
present within the Level B harassment zone on any given day of 
blasting. No exposure within the blasting Level A harassment

[[Page 36898]]

zone is expected based on the small size of this zone and behavior of 
the species in context of the planned mitigation. The Level A 
harassment zones can be effectively monitored during the marine mammal 
monitoring program and prevent take by Level A harassment. Using these 
estimates the following number of Steller sea lions are estimated to be 
present in the Level B harassment zone:

Level B harassment: 10 animals daily over 50 blasting days = 500

    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because the small Level A harassment zone can be effectively observed.
Harbor Porpoise
    We conservatively estimate and assume that a group of five harbor 
porpoise could be sighted in the Level B harassment zone every 5th day, 
or approximately once per week. Additionally, while the City of 
Ketchikan does not anticipate take by Level A harassment to occur, the 
cryptic nature of harbor porpoises and large Level A harassment 
isopleth mean the species could be in the Level A harassment zone 
without prior observation. Therefore, one additional group of 5 animals 
could be present in the Level A harassment zone every second week or 
10th day, a conservative assumption because this group is in addition 
to those anticipated in the Level B harassment zone.

Level B harassment: Five animals x 50 days of work divided by 5 
(frequency of occurrence) = 50
Level A harassment: Five animals x 50 days of work divided by 10 
(frequency of occurrence) = 25
Humpback Whale
    Based on occurrence information in the area, we conservatively 
estimate that a group of two humpback whales will be sighted within the 
Level B harassment zone every third day. The City is requesting 
authorization for 33 takes by Level B harassment of humpback whales. Of 
this number, we estimate 31 humpback whales will belong to the unlisted 
Hawaii DPS while three will belong to the ESA listed Mexico DPS based 
on the estimated occurrence of these DPSs (Wade et al., 2016). It 
should be noted that these estimates sum to 34, because take estimates 
were rounded up to avoid fractional takes of individuals in the DPSs.

Level B: Two animals x 50 days of work divided by 3 (frequency of 
occurrence) = 33

    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because these large whales can be effectively monitored and work can be 
shutdown when they are present.
Killer Whale
    Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence), 
including the change in group size which has occurred since proposed 
IHA, we conservatively estimate that a group of seven whales may be 
sighted within the Level B harassment zone once every fifth day, or 
about once per week. Using this number, the following number of killer 
whales are estimated to be present within the Level B harassment zone:

Level B: Seven animals x 50 days of work divided by 5 (frequency of 
occurrence) = 70.

This number of expected takes has been increased from 50 killer whales 
in the proposed IHA to 70 in the final authorization.
    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because the relatively small Level A harassment zone can be effectively 
monitored to prevent take by Level A harassment.
Dall's Porpoise
    Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we 
conservatively estimate and assume that a group of 10 Dall's porpoise 
could be sighted within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or 
about every other week. Additionally, while the City of Ketchikan does 
not anticipate take by Level A harassment to occur, the large Level A 
isopleth mean the species could be in the Level A harassment zone 
without prior observation. Therefore, one additional group of 10 
animals could be present in the Level A harassment zone every month, 
which is a conservative assumption because this group is in addition to 
those anticipated in the Level B harassment zone.
    Using this assumption, the following number of Dall's porpoise are 
estimated to be present in the Level B harassment zone:

Level B harassment: 10 animals x 50 days of work divided by 10 
(frequency of occurrence) = 50
Level A harassment: 10 animals x 50 days of work divided by 20 
(frequency of occurrence) = 25; because this is a fraction of group, 
this number is rounded up to 30 to represent 3 full groups of Dall's 
porpoise
Minke Whale
    Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we 
conservatively estimate that two minke whales may be sighted within the 
Level B harassment zone every fifth day, or about once every week. The 
frequency of occurrence has been increased from every tenth day, as 
stated in the proposed IHA, to every fifth day here.

Level B harassment: Two individual animals x 50 days work divided by 5 
(frequency of occurrence) = 20.

    The expected rate of occurrence has been increased, resulting in a 
final authorization of 20 minke whales, compared to 10 in the proposed 
IHA.
    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because the City of Ketchikan can effectively monitor for these whales 
and shutdown if are present in the Level A harassment zone.
Gray Whale
    Based on information presented above (Marine Mammal Occurrence) we 
conservatively estimate that a group of two whales may be sighted 
within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about every 2 
weeks. This group size has been increased from one individual gray 
whale as shown in the proposed IHA.
Level B harassment: two animal x 50 days work divided by 10 (frequency 
of occurrence) = 10.

    The final authorized take of gray whales has increased from 5 to 10 
individuals due to the change in group size.
    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because the City of Ketchikan can effectively monitor for these whales 
and shutdown if are present in the Level A harassment zone.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
    Based on the assumption that Pacific white-sided dolphins are not 
expected to enter Tongass Narrows, despite their regular occurrence in 
the Clarence Strait, we estimate that one group of 30 dolphins may be 
sighted within the Level B harassment zone every tenth day, or about 
every other week. As explained above in ``Marine Mammal Occurrence,'' 
the group size has been increased from 20 to 30 dolphins in the final 
authorization.

Level B harassment: 30 animals x 50 days of work divided by 10 
(frequency of occurrence) = 150.

    The final authorized take of gray whales has increased from 100, in 
the proposed IHA, to 150 individuals due to the change in group size.
    No take by Level A harassment was requested or is authorized 
because the relatively small Level A harassment zone can be effectively 
monitored in

[[Page 36899]]

order to avoid take by Level A harassment.

                      Table 5--Authorized Take Estimates as a Percentage of Stock Abundance
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                    Percent of
                Species                       Stock (NEST)            Level A         Level B          stock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humpback Whale........................  Hawaii DPS (11,398) \a\.               0          \a\ 31            0.34
                                        Mexico DPS (3,264) \a\..                               2
Minke Whale...........................  Alaska (N/A)............               0              20             N/A
Gray Whale............................  Eastern North Pacific                  0              10            0.04
                                         (26,960).
Killer Whale..........................  Alaska Resident (2,347).               0              70            2.98
                                        Northern Resident (261).  ..............  ..............           26.82
                                        West Coast Transient                                               28.81
                                         (243).
                                        Gulf of Alaska Transient                                       \c\ 11.93
                                         (587).
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin...........  North Pacific (26,880)..               0             150            0.56
Dall's Porpoise.......................  Alaska (83,400).........              30              50            0.10
Harbor Porpoise.......................  Southeast Alaska (975)                25              50            7.69
                                         \b\.
Harbor Seal...........................  Clarence Strait (31,634)             100             450            1.74
Steller Sea Lion......................  Eastern U.S (41,638)....               0             500            1.20
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Total estimated stock size for Central North Pacific humpback whales is 10,103. Under the MMPA humpback
  whales are considered a single stock (Central North Pacific); however, we have divided them here to account
  for DPSs listed under the ESA. Based on calculations in Wade et al. (2016), 93.9 percent of the humpback
  whales in Southeast Alaska are expected to be from the Hawaii DPS and 6.1 percent are expected to be from the
  Mexico DPS.
\b\ In the SAR for harbor porpoise (NMFS 2017), 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)
\c\ These percentages assume all 50 takes come from each individual stock, thus the percentage are likely
  inflated as multiple stocks are realistically impacted.

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.
    Between the proposed IHA and this Federal Register notice 
announcing the final IHA, NMFS has made changes to required mitigation 
measures. NMFS increased the post-blast monitoring from 30 minutes to 1 
hour to help ensure that all effects from the blast can be effectively 
monitored. NMFS also added timing restrictions related to sunrise and 
sunset to ensure that blasting was conducted during daylight and 
required monitoring could be completed. NMFS also increased to time 
between a marine mammal observation in the shutdown zone and when the 
shutdown zone can be considered cleared to 30 minutes, from 15 minutes, 
to help ensure that take by Level A harassment is minimized.

Shutdown Zone for In-Water Heavy Machinery Work

    For in-water heavy machinery work (using, e.g., standard barges, 
tug boats, barge-mounted excavators, or equipment used to place or 
remove material), a minimum 10 meter shutdown zone shall be 
implemented. If a marine mammal comes within 10 meters of such 
operations, operations shall cease (safely) and vessels shall reduce 
speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe 
working conditions. This type of work could include (but is not limited 
to) the following activities: (1) Movement of blasting barge; (2) 
drilling of boreholes; (3) dredging of rubble; and (4) transport of 
dredge material. An operation that requires completion due to safety 
reasons (e.g. material actively being handled by excavator/clamshell), 
that singular operation will be allowed to be completed. The monitoring 
of this 10 m shutdown zone can be conducted by construction personal as 
they perform their other duties.

Additional Shutdown Zones and Monitoring Zones

    For blasting, the Level B harassment zone will be monitored for a 
minimum of 30 minutes prior to the planned blast, and continue for 1 
hour (60 minutes) after the blast. If a marine mammal with authorized 
take remaining is sighted within this monitoring zone, blasting can 
occur and take will be tallied against the authorized number of takes 
by Level B harassment. Data will be recorded on the location, behavior, 
and disposition of the mammal as long as the mammal is within this 
monitoring zone.
    The City of Ketchikan will establish a shutdown zone for a marine 
mammal species that is greater than its corresponding Level A 
harassment zone,

[[Page 36900]]

as measured from any charge in the blasting grid. If any cetaceans or 
pinnipeds are observed within the shutdown zone, the blasting 
contractor would be notified and no blast would be allowed to occur 
until the animals are observed voluntarily leaving the shutdown zone or 
30 minutes have passed without re-sighting the animal in the shutdown 
zone, or up until 1 hour before sunset. When weather conditions prevent 
accurate sighting of marine mammals, blasting activities will not occur 
until conditions in the shutdown zone return to acceptable levels and 
the entire Level A zone can be monitored and cleared.

             Table 6--Blasting Shutdown and Monitoring Zones
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Shutdown   Monitoring
           Marine mammal hearing group             zone (m)    zone (m)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low frequency cetacean..........................     *1,000        2,500
Mid frequency cetacean..........................        100          500
High frequency cetacean.........................      1,500        5,000
Otariid.........................................       *100          200
Phocid..........................................        250        1,500
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: These distances are measured from the outermost points of the grid
  of charges that make up a blast.
* The City of Ketchikan expressed an opinion that the PTS distances for
  Otariids and LF cetaceans presented in Table 4 seemed
  uncharacteristically small when compared to the other thresholds
  resulting from the model. The PTS zones were therefore doubled to 84 m
  for Otariids and 860 m for LF cetaceans for purposes of mitigation and
  monitoring, resulting in the Shutdown Zones presented here.

    If blasting is delayed due to marine mammal presence, PSO's will 
continue monitoring for marine mammals during the delay. If blasting is 
delayed for a reason other than marine mammal presence, and this delay 
will be greater than 30 minutes, marine mammal monitoring does not need 
to occur during the delay. However, if monitoring is halted, a new 
period of the 30 minute pre-blast monitoring must occur before the 
rescheduled blast.

Timing and Daylight Restrictions

    In-water blasting work is expected to occur from November 15, 2019, 
to March 15, 2020, but will be limited to September 16, 2019, to April 
30, 2020. Pinnacle blasting will be conducted during daylight hours 
(sunrise to sunset) to help ensure that marine mammal observers have 
acceptable conditions to survey the shutdown and monitoring zones. To 
ensure that blasting does occur between daylight hours, and required 
pre- and post-blast monitoring can be conducted, blasting must be 
planned to occur at least 30 minutes after sunrise and 1 hour before 
sunset. Non-blasting activities, including but not limited to dredging 
and borehole drilling can occur outside of daylight hours, but the 10-
meter general shutdown zone must be maintained.

Non-Authorized Take Prohibited

    If a marine mammal is observed within the monitoring zone and that 
species is either not authorized for take or its authorized takes are 
met, blasting must not occur. Blasting must be delayed until the animal 
has been confirmed to have left the area or an observation time period 
of 15 minutes has elapsed without seeing the marine mammal in the 
monitoring zone.

Blasting BMPs

    The City of Ketchikan will use industry BMPs to reduce the 
potential adverse impacts on protected species from in-water noise and 
overpressure. These include the use of multiple small boreholes, 
confinement of the blast (rock stemming), use of planned sequential 
delays, and all measures designed to help direct blast energy into the 
rock rather than the water column. Additional BMPs to minimize impact 
on marine mammals and other species include adherence to a winter in-
water work window, accurate drilling, shot duration, and limiting the 
blasts to a maximum of one per day. The project will adhere to all 
Federal and state blasting regulations, which includes the development 
and adherence to blasting plans, monitoring, and reporting.
    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's mitigation measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has determined that the 
mitigation measures provide the means effecting the least practicable 
impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth, ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for 
authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on 
populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the 
proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to 
compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the 
required monitoring.
    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
density);
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas);
     Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors;
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks;
     Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat); and
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.
    Since the proposed IHA, there have been some changes to the 
monitoring and reporting measures. NMFS has added a requirement to 
conduct acoustic and pressure monitoring for a ``production'' blast in 
addition to the test blast, to ensure blasting isopleths in this IHA 
are correct. NMFS has also further specified what measurements and 
information the results of this blast monitoring should include to 
ensure the results are informative. Additionally, NMFS has added a 
requirement to notify the Alaska Regional Office and Alaska Stranding 
Network prior to, and following blasting in order to conform with 
previous blasting authorizations.

Visual Monitoring

    Monitoring by NMFS-approved protected species observers (PSOs) will 
begin 30 minutes prior to a planned blast and extend through 30 minutes 
after the blast. This will ensure that all marine mammals in the 
monitoring zone are documented and that no

[[Page 36901]]

marine mammals are present within the shutdown zone. No PSOs will be 
required during other activities associated with pinnacle removal 
including, but not limited to, bore-hole drilling and dredging. Hauled 
out marine mammals within the shutdown and monitoring zones will be 
tallied and monitored closely. PSOs will be stationed at the best 
vantage points possible for monitoring the monitoring zone (see Figure 
3 and 4 of the IHA application); however, should the entire zone not be 
visible, take will be extrapolated daily, based on anticipated marine 
mammal occurrence and documented observations within the portion of the 
monitoring zone observed.
    During blasting, there will be two land-based PSOs and one PSO on 
the barge used for blasting operations, with no duties other than 
monitoring. Establishing a monitoring station on the barge will provide 
the observer with an unobstructed view of the injury zones during 
blasting and direct communication with the operator.
    Land based PSOs will be positioned at the best practical vantage 
points based on blasting activities and the locations of equipment. The 
land-based observers will be positioned with a clear view of the 
remaining of the injury zone and will monitor the shutdown zones and 
monitoring zones with binoculars and a spotting scope. The land-based 
observers will communicate via radio to the lead monitor positioned on 
the barge. Specific locations of the observers will be based on 
blasting activities and the locations of equipment. Shore-based 
observers will be stationed along the outer margins of the largest 
shutdown zone.
    The monitoring position of the observers will be identified with 
the following characteristics:
    1. Unobstructed view of blasting area;
    2. Unobstructed view of all water within the shutdown zone;
    3. Clear view of operator or construction foreman in the event of 
radio failure (lead biologist); and
    4. Safe distance from activities in the construction area.
    Monitoring of blasting activities must be conducted by qualified 
PSOs (see below), who must have no other assigned tasks during 
monitoring periods. The applicant must adhere to the following 
conditions when selecting observers:
     Independent PSOs must be used (i.e., not construction 
personnel);
     At least one PSO must have prior experience working as a 
marine mammal observer during construction activities;
     Other PSOs may substitute education (degree in biological 
science or related field) or training for experience;
     Where a team of three or more PSOs are required, a lead 
observer or monitoring coordinator must be designated. The lead 
observer must have prior experience working as a marine mammal observer 
during construction; and
     The applicant must submit PSO curriculum vitae (CVs) for 
approval by NMFS Permits and Conservation Division.
    The applicant must ensure that observers have the following 
additional qualifications:
     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 
blasting 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, times, and reason for implementation 
of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); 
and marine mammal behavior; and
     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.

Blast Monitoring

    The City of Ketchikan will perform a minimum of one test blast to 
confirm underwater overpressure values. The City of Ketchikan will 
conduct underwater monitoring of both this test blast and at least one 
full scale ``production'' blast. During blast monitoring, overpressure 
will be measured during all blasting monitoring with pressure 
transducers and hydrophones at pre-determined locations. This work will 
be performed by an experienced contractor with process documents, 
results, and the blast reports all being approved by a blasting 
consultant. For monitoring of these blasts, the City of Ketchikan will 
be required to record the following information:
     Hydrophone equipment and methods: Recording device, 
sampling rate, distance of recording devices from the blast where 
recordings were made; depth of recording devices;
     Number of charges and the weight of each charge detonated 
during the blast;
     Spectra and/or waveform of blasts of blasts including 
power spectral density reported as dB re 1 [micro]Pa2/Hz; and
     Mean, median, and maximum sound levels (dB re: 1[micro]Pa) 
of SPLrms, SELcum, single-shot SEL, and SPLpeak.

Reporting

    At least 24 hours (+/- 4 hours) prior to blasting, the City of 
Ketchikan will notify the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS Alaska 
Regional Office, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator that 
blasting is planned to occur, as well as notify these parties within 24 
hours (+/- 4 hours) after blasting that blasting actually occurred.
    A draft marine mammal monitoring report would be submitted to NMFS 
within 90 days after the completion of blasting 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 
construction activity;
     Distance from construction 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.
    Additionally, the City of Ketchikan will submit the report and 
results of their test blast to NMFS prior to beginning production 
blasting. This report will include the information outlined in Test 
Blast Monitoring.
    In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly 
causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner

[[Page 36902]]

prohibited by the IHA (if issued), such as a serious injury or 
mortality, The City of Ketchikan would immediately cease the specified 
activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, and the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator. The 
report would 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 would not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS would work with the City of 
Ketchikan to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of 
further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. The City of 
Ketchikan would not be able to resume their activities until notified 
by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that the City of Ketchikan 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), the City of Ketchikan would immediately report the incident 
to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS (301-427-8401), and the 
Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator (877-925-7773). The report would 
include the same information identified in the paragraph above. 
Activities would be able to continue while NMFS reviews the 
circumstances of the incident. NMFS would work with the City of 
Ketchikan to determine whether modifications in the activities are 
appropriate.
    In the event that the City of Ketchikan 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), the City of Ketchikan would report 
the incident to the 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. The City of 
Ketchikan would provide photographs, video footage (if available), or 
other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS and the 
Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough 
information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to 
considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be 
``taken'' through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the 
likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context 
of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, 
migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness 
of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of 
estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population 
status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS's implementing 
regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other 
past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this 
analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as 
reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and 
growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or 
ambient noise levels).
    To avoid repetition, our analysis applies to all species listed in 
Table 5, given that NMFS expects the anticipated effects of the planned 
blasting to be similar in nature. Where there are meaningful 
differences between species or stocks, or groups of species, in 
anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take 
on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts 
on habitat, NMFS has identified species-specific factors to inform the 
analysis.
    NMFS does not anticipate that serious injury or mortality would 
occur as a result of the City of Ketchikan's planned blasting. In the 
absence of mitigation including shutdown zones, these impacts are 
possible, but at very short distances from the blasts (Table 4). NMFS 
feels that the mitigation measures stated in ``Mitigation,'' include 
adequate shutdown zones, marine mammal monitoring, and blasting BMPs 
sufficient to prevent serious injury or mortality. Thus, no serious 
injury or morality authorized. As discussed in the Potential Effects 
section, non-auditory physical effects are not expected to occur.
    The authorized number of takes by both Level A harassment and Level 
B harassment is given in Table 5. Take by Level A harassment is only 
authorized for harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and Dall's porpoises. As 
stated in ``Mitigation'' the City of Ketchikan will establish shutdown 
zones, greater than Level A harassment zones for blasting, and a 
blanket 10 m shutdown zone will be implemented for all other in-water 
use of heavy machinery. The authorization of take by Level A harassment 
is meant to account for the slight possibility that these species 
escape observation by the PSOs within the Level A harassment zone. Any 
take by Level A harassment is expected to arise from a small degree of 
PTS, because the isopleths related to PTS are consistently larger than 
those associated with slight lung and GI tract injury (Table 4).
    Blasting is only planned to occur on a maximum of 50 days, with 
just one blast per day, from November 15, 2019, to March 15, 2020. 
Because only one blast is authorized per day, and this activity would 
only generate noise for approximately one second, no behavioral 
response that could rise to the level of take is expected to occur. 
Therefore, all takes by Level B harassment are expected to arise from 
TTS, but we expect only a small degree of TTS, which is fully 
recoverable and not considered injury.
    Although the removal of the rock pinnacle would result in the 
permanent alteration of habitat available for marine mammals and their 
prey, the affected area would be discountable. Overall, the area 
impacted by the project is very small compared to the available habitat 
around Ketchikan. The pinnacle is adjacent to an active marine 
commercial and industrial area, and is regularly disturbed by human 
activities. In addition, for all species except humpbacks, there are no 
known biologically important areas (BIA) near the project zone that 
would be impacted by the blasting activities. For humpback whales, 
Southeast Alaska is a seasonally important BIA from spring through late 
fall (Ferguson et al., 2015), however, Tongass Narrows is not an 
important portion of this habitat due to development and human 
presence. Additionally, the work window is not expected to overlap with 
periods of peak foraging, and the action area

[[Page 36903]]

represents a small portion of available habitat. While impacts from 
blasting to fish can be severe, blasting will occur for a relatively 
short period of 50 days, meaning the duration of impact should also be 
short. Any impacts on prey that would occur during that period would 
have at most short-terms effects on foraging of individual marine 
mammals, and likely no effect on the populations of marine mammals as a 
whole. Therefore, indirect effects on marine mammal prey during the 
construction are not expected to be substantial, and these 
insubstantial effects would therefore be unlikely to cause substantial 
effects on marine mammals at the individual or population level.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
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 serious injury or mortality is anticipated or 
authorized;
     Blasting would not occur during fish runs, avoiding 
impacts during peak foraging periods;
     Only a very small portion of marine mammal habitat would 
be temporarily impacted;
     The City of Ketchikan would implement mitigation measures 
including shut down zones for all blasting and other in-water activity 
to minimize the potential for take by Level A harassment and the 
severity if it does occur; and
     TTS that will occur is expected to be of a small degree 
and is recoverable.
    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 planned 
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 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 5, in the Take Calculation and Estimation section, presents 
the number of animals that could be exposed to received noise levels 
that may result in take by Level A harassment or Level B harassment for 
the planned blasting by the City of Ketchikan. Our analysis shows that 
at most, approximately 29 percent of the best population estimates of 
each affected stock could be taken, but for most species and stocks, 
the percentage is below 2 percent. There was one stock, minke whale, 
where the lack of an accepted stock abundance value prevented us from 
calculating an expected percentage of the population that would be 
affected. The most relevant estimate of partial stock abundance is 
1,233 minke whales for a portion of the Gulf of Alaska (Zerbini et al., 
2006). Given 20 authorized takes by Level B harassment for the stock, 
comparison to the best estimate of stock abundance shows less than 2 
percent of the stock is expected to be impacted. Therefore, the numbers 
of animals authorized to be taken for all species, including minke 
whale, would be considered small relative to the relevant stocks or 
populations even if each estimated taking occurred to a new 
individual--an unlikely scenario for pinnipeds, but a possibility for 
other marine mammals based on their described transit through Tongass 
Narrows. For pinnipeds, especially harbor seals and Steller sea lions, 
occurring in the vicinity of the project site, there will almost 
certainly be some overlap in individuals present day-to-day, and these 
takes are likely to occur only within some small portion of the overall 
regional stock.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the planned activity 
(including the 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

    In order to issue an IHA, NMFS must find that the specified 
activity will not have an ``unmitigable adverse impact'' on the 
subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal species or stocks by 
Alaskan Natives. NMFS has defined ``unmitigable adverse impact'' in 50 
CFR 216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) 
That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level 
insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing 
the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly 
displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers 
between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That 
cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the 
availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.
    In August of 2018, the City of Ketchikan and its representatives 
attempted to contact the Alaska Harbor Seal Commission and contacted 
the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission and the Ketchikan 
Indian Commission to inform them about the project and gather comment. 
Neither of the organizations that were successfully contacted expressed 
concern about the project.
    In 2012, the community of Ketchikan had an estimated subsistence 
take of 22 harbor seals and 0 Steller sea lions (Wolf et al., 2013). 
Hunting usually occurs in October and November (Alaska Department of 
Fish and Game (ADF&G) 2009), but there are also records of relatively 
high harvest in May (Wolfe et al., 2013). All project activities will 
take place within the industrial area of Tongass Narrows immediately 
adjacent to Ketchikan where subsistence activities do not generally 
occur. The project will not have an adverse impact on the availability 
of marine mammals for subsistence use at locations farther away, where 
these activities are expected to take place. Some minor, short-term 
harassment of the harbor seals could occur, but this is not likely to 
have any measureable effect on subsistence harvest activities in the 
region. Additionally, blasting associated with the project is expected 
to occur from November 15 to March 15. This means that blasting, and 
the associated harassment of marine mammals will only overlap with a 
small portion of the expected period of subsistence harvest. Based on 
the spatial separation and partial temporal separation of blasting 
activities and subsistence harvest, no changes to availability of 
subsistence resources are expected to result from the City of 
Ketchikan's planned activities.
    Based on the description of the specified activity, the measures 
described to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine 
mammals for subsistence purposes, and the mitigation and monitoring 
measures, NMFS has determined that there will not be an unmitigable 
adverse impact on subsistence uses from City of Ketchikan's planned 
activities.

[[Page 36904]]

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an 
incidental harassment authorization) with respect to potential impacts 
on the human environment.
    This action is consistent with categories of activities identified 
in Categorical Exclusion B4 (incidental harassment 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 (ESA)

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS Office of Protected Resources consults internally, in this case 
with the NMFS Alaska Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize 
take for endangered or threatened species.
    There is one marine mammal species (Mexico DPS humpback whale) with 
confirmed occurrence in the project area that is listed as endangered 
under the ESA. The NMFS Alaska Regional Office Protected Resources 
Division issued a Biological Opinion on July 16, 2019 under section 7 
of the ESA, on the issuance of an IHA to the City of Ketchikan under 
section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA by the NMFS Permits and Conservation 
Division. The Biological Opinion concluded that the proposed action is 
not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Mexico DPS humpback 
whale, and is not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat because none exists.

Authorization

    NMFS has issued an IHA to the City of Ketchikan for the potential 
harassment of small numbers of nine marine mammal species incidental to 
the rock pinnacle removal project in Tongass Narrows, near Ketchikan, 
Alaska, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring and 
reporting are incorporated.

    Dated: July 25, 2019.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-16155 Filed 7-29-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P