Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Washington, 48206-48225 [2020-17409]

Download as PDF 48206 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices fishery and not otherwise permitted under a FMP. For example, EFP trials to fish for swordfish with deep-set buoy gear led to a Council recommendation to NMFS to authorize the gear. However, it remains unclear whether deep-set buoy gear will be an economically feasible substitute for DGN, which is used to harvest both swordfish and other marketable highly migratory species. The specific purpose of this EFP is to allow exploratory longline fishing to gauge impacts, determine whether this type of fishing is economically viable, and assess the type and extent of interactions with protected species and non-target finfish. The proposed action is needed because fishing with longline gear is currently prohibited in the West Coast EEZ under 50 CFR 660.712(a)(1) .This prohibition pre-dates gear and operational modifications in U.S. longline fisheries that have proven effective elsewhere for reducing protected species interactions, injuries, and mortalities (50 CFR 665.812 and 665.815). Without testing potentially viable alternatives to fishing with DGN, the U.S. West Coast swordfish fishery is unlikely to operate at optimum yield into the foreseeable future. Gear Configurations and Operations Longline gear is an umbrella term referring to two distinct gear configurations. These configurations include deep-set and shallow-set. DSLL is typically fished at depths of ∼984 to 1,312 feet (∼300 to 400 meters (m) or deeper) and more commonly used to target tunas. SSLL is typically fished at less than 328 feet (<100 m depth) and more commonly used to target swordfish. The proposed action area for this EFP is the United States EEZ off California and Oregon. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Alternatives The range of alternatives includes a No Action alternative and reasonable action alternatives that meet the purpose and need. These action alternatives may differ in the limits set on sea turtles observed hooked, entangled, or killed during fishing under the EFP. Additionally, the action alternatives may differ in limits set on fishing activity (e.g., number of vessels, sets, or hooks, and time-area constraints). Terms and Conditions In addition to the loggerhead and leatherback sea turtle limits, the action alternatives will include terms and conditions to facilitate data collection and mitigate potential impacts of the EFP activities on the environment. The VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 list of measures below includes a menu of terms and conditions that could apply to the action alternatives in the EIS. 1. 100 percent observer coverage. 2. EFP fishing trips limited to Federal waters only, and cannot co-occur on trips that include fishing under alternative authorizations. 3. Vessel monitoring systems installed and operating for all EFP activities. 4. No transfer of fish to or from vessels operating under the EFP while at sea. 5. No fishing within 50 nautical miles of the mainland shore and islands. 6. No fishing within the Leatherback Critical Habitat area (77 FR 4170, January 26, 2012). 7. No fishing within the Southern California Bight. 8. Restrictions on setting gear within the boundaries of the Pacific leatherback conservation area from August 15 through November 15. 9. Restrictions on EFP fishing in waters north of the Oregon/California border. 10. Gear and bait requirements (e.g., 50 CFR 665.812 and 665.813). 11. Limits on bycatch (e.g., striped marlin). 12. Requirement for setting SSLL at night. 13. Seabird avoidance, protection, and handling measures (50 CFR 660.712(c) and 50 CFR 660.21). 14. Prior to making fishing sets, EFP operators will be required to consult the dynamic ocean modeling tool, EcoCast. 15. Operators must participate in a NMFS-hosted workshop focused on compliance with terms and conditions of the EFP, including training on the use of EcoCast. 16. Operators must possess on board a valid Pacific HMS permit (50 CFR 666.707(a)). Public Scoping Process The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to assist NMFS in developing the EIS. NMFS requests that the comments be specific. In particular, we request information regarding: Important issues; possible alternatives that meet the purpose and need; direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts; and potential terms and conditions that may minimize adverse effects, including time or area restrictions or both to reduce environmental impacts. In addition to written public comments received during this scoping period and the comments received during the proposed webinar, NMFS will consider public comments and recommendations of the Council’s advisory bodies related to the PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Council’s recommendations to NMFS to approve the EFP between 2015 and 2019. In addition to those opportunities for public comment and the opportunities being provided with this notice, NMFS will also make a draft EIS for the proposed action available for public comment. Dated: August 4, 2020. Jennifer M. Wallace, Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–17332 Filed 8–7–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA267] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Washington National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal. AGENCY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Washington over two years. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue two incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS is also requesting comments on possible onetime, one-year renewals that could be issued under certain circumstances and if all requirements are met, as described in Request for Public Comments at the end of this notice. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than September 9, 2020. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, and submitted via email to ITP.Davis@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ incidental-take-authorizationsconstruction-activities without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leah Davis, 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the 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 the takings are set forth. The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. 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 IHA) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs 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 preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request. Summary of Request On January 14, 2020, NMFS received a request from the Navy for an IHA to take marine mammals incidental to the Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Washington over two years. The Navy submitted a revised application on March 23, 2020, which was deemed adequate and complete on June 10, 2020. The Navy’s request is for take of a small number of five species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment and Level A harassment. Neither the Navy nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, IHAs are appropriate. The IHAs, if issued, will be effective from July 16, 2021 to January 15, 2022 for Year 1 activities, and July 16, 2022 to January 15, 2023 for Year 2 activities. PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48207 Description of Proposed Activity Overview The Navy is proposing to construct and operate a pier for berthing of Transit Protection Program (TPP) blocking vessels, which provide security escort to Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines between Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. These vessels are currently berthed on a spaceavailable basis at various locations at Kitsap Bangor. Kitsap Bangor is located on Hood Canal approximately 20 miles (mi) (32 kilometers (km)) west of Seattle, Washington. Construction activities include vibratory and impact pile driving and vibratory pile removal, over approximately 80 days in year 1 and 10 days in year 2. Dates and Duration The Navy anticipates that construction for the TPP project will occur over two years. The proposed IHAs would be effective from July 16, 2021 to January 15, 2022 for Year 1 activities, and July 16, 2022 to January 15, 2023 for Year 2 activities. The Navy expects that pile driving will require a maximum of 90 in-water pile-driving days over the two-year period. They anticipate completing the majority of the proposed construction during Year 1 on approximately 80 in-water workdays. Year 2 activities will include fender pile and guide pile installation only on approximately 10 in-water workdays. Pile driving and removal are expected to occur up to five hours per day during daylight hours. Each year, pile driving will occur during the in-water work window (IWWW) at Kitsap Bangor from July 16 to January 15. This IWWW is typically imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the NMFS in an effort to avoid in-water construction when Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed juvenile salmonids are most likely to be present. Specific Geographic Region Naval Base Kitsap Bangor is located north of the community of Silverdale in Kitsap County on the Hood Canal. Hood Canal is a long, narrow, fjord-like basin of western Puget Sound, characterized by relatively steep sides and irregular seafloor topography. In the entrance to Hood Canal, water depths in the center of the waterway near Admiralty Inlet vary between 300 and 420 feet (ft) (91 and 128 m). As the canal extends southwestward toward the Olympic Mountain Range and Thorndyke Bay, water depth decreases to approximately 160 ft (49 m). The proposed location for the TPP Pier is at the tip of the Keyport/ E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices Bangor Spit, north of the Keyport/ Bangor Dock (Figure 1). The Bangor waterfront on Naval Base Kitsap occupies approximately 5 mi (8 km) of the shoreline within northern Hood Canal (1.7 percent of the entire Hood Canal coastline). Depths in the center of the waterway off the Bangor waterfront are generally 200 to 400 ft (61 to 122 m). Human-generated sound is a significant contributor to the ambient acoustic environment at Kitsap Bangor. Normal port activities include vessel traffic from large ships, support vessels and security boats, and loading and maintenance operations, which all generate underwater sound (Urick, 1983). Other sources of humangenerated underwater sound not specific to naval installations include sounds from echo sounders on commercial and recreational vessels, industrial ship noise, and noise from recreational boat engines. Detailed Description of Specific Activity including a pedestrian walkway. The main pier section will also be concrete and approximately 299 ft (91.1 m) long and 69 ft (21 m) wide. The contractor will need to construct a 140-ft (42.6 m) by 20-ft (6.1 m) temporary work trestle (falsework piles and timber decking). The permanent trestle piles in the intertidal area will be driven from the deck of the temporary work trestle; the temporary trestle will subsequently be removed using a vibratory hammer. Pier and trestle construction will require one derrick barge with a crane and one support/material barge. The Navy plans to install a fender system along the west face of the pier with two berthing camels where the blocking vessels will tie up to the pier. Each camel will be 65 ft (19.8 m) long by 12 ft (3.7 m) wide and constructed of grated material. The camels will serve as both a standoff for the blocking vessels and a platform for boarding the blocking vessels. The camels will be accessed via brows down from the main pier deck. The brow platforms and brows will also be constructed of grated material. NMFS does not expect camel or brow platform installation to result in the take of marine mammals, and we do not discuss their installation further in this notice. The fender piles will be installed on the outer side of the pier to protect it from accidental damage by vessels. Where geotechnical conditions do not allow piles to be driven to the required depth using vibratory methods, an The Navy plans to construct a pier for berthing TPP blocking vessels. The TPP pier will consist of an L-shaped, pilesupported trestle from shore connecting to a pile-supported main pier section. The Navy will also install two dolphins, one south and one north of the pier which will be used solely for mooring support. Additionally, the contractor will construct a temporary work trestle (falsework piles and timber decking) for use during construction. The proposed TPP pier will consist of an L-shaped pile-supported trestle from shore connecting to a pile-supported main pier section. The trestle will be concrete and approximately 114 ft (34.7 m) long and 39 ft (11.9 m) wide, VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 EN10AU20.003</GPH> jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 48208 48209 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices impact hammer may be used to drive some of the 36-in (91.4 cm) support piles for part or all of their length. The 24-in (61.0 cm) fender piles and 30-in (76.2 cm) camel guide piles will not be impact driven. The Navy plans to construct two dolphins, one south of the pier, and one north of the pier for mooring support. The dolphins will support mooring hardware for the bow and stern lines of the blocking vessels. The structural system for the mooring dolphins will consist of a 12 ft by 12 ft (3.7 m by 3.7 m) cast-in-place concrete pile cap and four 36-inch battered steel pipe piles. The Navy plans to construct a shoreline abutment under the pier trestle. The shoreline abutment will be constructed from sheet piles and will be constructed landward of mean higher high water (MHHW). Therefore, we do not expect the shoreline abutment to result in take of marine mammals, and it is not discussed further in this notice. The trestle, pier, and dolphins will require in-water installation of a total of 120 permanent steel piles that are 24, 30, or 36 inches in diameter, and 40 temporary steel falsework piles that are 36 inches in diameter. An additional four 36-inch trestle support piles and 20 36-inch falsework piles will be located above MHHW, however, we do not expect installation of piles above MHHW to result in take of marine mammals, and these piles are not discussed further. The Navy will primarily install piles using a vibratory hammer, but may use an impact hammer to install steel support piles. Steel support piles will be advanced to the extent practicable with a vibratory driver. For load-bearing structures, an impact hammer is typically required to strike a pile a number of times to ensure it has met the load-bearing specifications, a process referred to as ‘‘proofing.’’ Piles will only be impact driven when required for proofing or when a pile cannot be advanced with a vibratory driver due to hard substrate conditions. The Navy does not plan to conduct pile driving with multiple hammers concurrently. TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF PILES TO BE INSTALLED OR REMOVED IN YEAR 1 ACROSS ALL STRUCTURES Number of in-water piles Pile type Driving method 36-inch Steel Pipe Piles ............................................................. 36-inch Steel Falsework Piles .................................................... Vibratory and Impact (proofing) .................................................. Vibratory ..................................................................................... a These 100 a 40 piles will be installed and later removed. TABLE 2—SUMMARY OF PILES TO BE INSTALLED IN YEAR 2 Driving method 24-inch Steel Fender Piles ......................................................... 30-inch Steel Guide Piles ........................................................... Vibratory ..................................................................................... Vibratory ..................................................................................... Navy will also conduct several construction activities in upland areas, including installation of diesel fuel tanks, installation of a paved parking area, construction of a vessel maintenance facility, among other activities. Given their location, we do not expect any of these upland construction activities to result in the take of marine mammals, and they are not discussed further in this notice. Please refer to the Navy’s application for additional detail on these project components. Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Number of in-water piles Pile type 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 affected species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be found in NMFS’s Stock Assessment Reports (SARs; 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 3 lists all species or stocks for which take is expected and proposed to be authorized for this action, 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 (2020). 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 PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 10 10 population (as described in NMFS’s SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and other threats. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. NMFS’s stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’s U.S. Pacific and Alaska SARs (e.g., Carretta et al., 2020). All values presented in Table 3 are the most recent available at the time of publication and are available in the 2019 SARs (Carretta et al., 2020, Muto et al., 2020). E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48210 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices TABLE 3—SPECIES PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZED TAKE Common name Scientific name Stock ESA/ MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) a Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) b Annual M/SI c PBR Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Delphinidae: Killer Whale ........................... Orcinus orca ................................ West Coast Transient. -, -, N 243 d (N/A, 243, 2009) ................. 2.4 0 Family Phocoenidae (porpoises): Harbor porpoise .................... Phocoena phocoena .................... Washington Inland Waters. -, -, N 11,233 (0.37, 8,308, 2015) .......... 66 ≥7.2 Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions): California Sea Lion ............... Steller sea lion ...................... Family Phocidae (earless seals): Harbor seal ........................... Zalophus californianus ................. Eumetopias jubatus monteriensis United States ......... Eastern U.S. ........... -, -, N -, -, N 257,606 (N/A, 233,515, 2014) ..... 43,201 e (see SAR, 43,201, 2017) 14,011 2,592 >321 113 Phoca vitulina .............................. Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal. -, -, N 1,088 (0.15, UNK, 1999) f ............ UNK 0.2 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES a–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. b–NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports-region. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. c–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 mortality/serious injury (M/SI) often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. d–Based on counts of individual animals identified from photo-identification catalogues. Surveys for abundance estimates of these stocks are conducted infrequently. e–Best estimate of pup and non-pup counts, which have not been corrected to account for animals at sea during abundance surveys. f–The abundance estimate for this stock is greater than eight years old and is therefore not considered current. PBR is considered undetermined for this stock, as there is no current minimum abundance estimate for use in calculation. We nevertheless present the most recent abundance estimates, as these represent the best available information for use in this document. As indicated above, all five species (with five managed stocks) in Table 3 temporally and spatially co-occur with the activity to the degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have proposed authorizing it. While humpback whale, gray whale, Southern Resident killer whale, Dall’s porpoise, and bottlenose dolphin have been sighted in the area, the temporal and spatial occurrence of these species is such that take is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed further beyond the explanation provided here. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have been detected yearround in small numbers in Puget Sound. In Hood Canal, after an absence of sightings for over 15 years, an individual was seen over a 1-week period in early 2012, with additional 1day sightings in 2015, 2016, and 2017 (Orca Network, 2019). However, these sightings are exceptions to the normal occurrence of the species in Washington inland waters. Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) have been infrequently documented in Hood Canal waters over the past decade. There were five sightings in 2017 and one in 2018 (Orca Network, 2017, 2019). These sightings are an exception to the normal seasonal occurrence of gray whales in Puget Sound feeding areas. The Southern Resident killer whale stock is VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 resident to the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia; however, it has not been seen in Hood Canal in over 15 years. Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) was documented once in Hood Canal in 2009 and more recently once in 2018 (Orca Network, 2019); however, Dall’s porpoises are unlikely to be present in Hood Canal. Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) were documented in Hood Canal twice in 2018 (Orca Network, 2019); however, bottlenose dolphins are unlikely to be present in Hood Canal. Killer Whale Killer whales in the project area are expected to be from the West Coast Transient stock, which occurs from California through southeastern Alaska with a preference for coastal waters of southern Alaska and British Columbia (Krahn et al., 2002). Transient killer whales in the Pacific Northwest spend most of their time along the outer coast of British Columbia and Washington, but visit inland waters in search of harbor seals, sea lions, and other prey. Transients may occur in inland waters in any month (Orca Network, 2015). However, Morton (1990) found bimodal peaks in spring (March) and fall (September to November) for transients on the northeastern coast of British Columbia, and Baird and Dill (1995) PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 found some transient groups frequenting the vicinity of harbor seal haulouts around southern Vancouver Island during August and September, which is the peak period for pupping through post-weaning of harbor seal pups. Not all transient groups were seasonal in these studies, and their movements appeared to be unpredictable. From 2004–2010, transient killer whales occurred in Washington inland waters most frequently in August–September with a strong second peak in April–May (Houghton et al., 2015). The number of West Coast Transient killer whales in Washington inland waters at any one time was previously considered likely to be fewer than 20 individuals (Wiles, 2004). Recent research suggests that the transient killer whales use of inland waters increased from 2004 through 2010, with the trend likely due to increasing prey abundance (Houghton et al., 2015). Many of the West Coast Transients in Washington inland waters have been catalogued by photo identification. Transient killer whales were observed for lengthy periods in Hood Canal in 2003 (59 days) and 2005 (172 days) between the months of January and July (London, 2006), but were not observed again until March 2016 (Orca Network, 2016). Transient killer whales were observed in Hood Canal on two days in E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES March 2016, one day in April 2016, eight consecutive days in May 2016, one day in 2017, 11 consecutive days in April 2018, and one day on two additional occasions in 2018. Some of the sightings in 2016 and 2018 were in Dabob Bay (Orca Network, 2017, 2019). Killer whales were historically documented in Hood Canal by sound recordings in 1958 (Ford, 1991), a photograph from 1973, sound recordings in 1995 (Unger, 1997), and anecdotal accounts of historical use. Long-term use of Hood Canal is likely anomalous. The more typical use of Hood Canal appears to be short-term occupancy for foraging in a small area, followed by departure from Hood Canal. Harbor Porpoise Harbor porpoise in Puget Sound are expected to be from the Washington Inland Waters stock. In Washington inland waters, harbor porpoise are known to occur in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Island area yearround (Calambokidis & Baird, 1994; Osmek et al., 1996; Carretta et al., 2012). Harbor porpoises were historically one of the most commonly observed marine mammals in Puget Sound (Scheffer & Slipp, 1948); however, there was a significant decline in sightings beginning in the 1940s (Everitt et al., 1979; Calambokidis et al., 1992). Only a few sightings were reported between the 1970s and 1980s (Calambokidis et al., 1992; Osmek et al., 1996; Suryan & Harvey, 1998), and no harbor porpoise sightings were recorded during multiple ship and aerial surveys conducted in Puget Sound (including Hood Canal) in 1991 and 1994 (Calambokidis et al., 1992; Osmek et al., 1996). Incidental sightings of marine mammals during aerial bird surveys conducted as part of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP) detected few harbor porpoises in Puget Sound between 1992 and 1999 (Nysewander et al., 2005). However, these sightings may have been negatively biased due to the low elevation of the plane that may have caused an avoidance behavior. Since 1999, PSAMP data, stranding data, and aerial surveys conducted from 2013 to 2015 documented increasing numbers of harbor porpoise in Puget Sound (Nysewander, 2005; WDFW, 2008; Jeffries, 2013; Jefferson et al., 2016; Smultea et al., 2017). Sightings in Hood Canal, north of the Hood Canal Bridge, have increased in recent years (Calambokidis, 2010). During line-transect vessel surveys conducted in the Hood Canal in 2011 for the Test Pile Program near Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and Dabob Bay (HDR, 2012), an average of six harbor VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 porpoises were sighted per day in the deeper waters. Steller Sea Lion Steller sea lions in the project area are expected to be from the Eastern U.S. stock. The Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions is found along the coasts of southeast Alaska to northern California where they occur at rookeries and numerous haulout locations along the coastline (Jeffries et al., 2000; Scordino, 2006; NMFS, 2013). Along the northern Washington coast, up to 25 pups are born annually (Jeffries, 2013). Male Steller sea lions often disperse widely outside of the breeding season from breeding rookeries in northern California (St. George Reef) and southern Oregon (Rogue Reef) (Scordino, 2006; Wright et al., 2010). Based on mark recapture sighting studies, males migrate back into these Oregon and California locations from winter feeding areas in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska (Scordino, 2006). In Washington, Steller sea lions use haulout sites primarily along the outer coast from the Columbia River to Cape Flattery, as well as along the Vancouver Island side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Jeffries et al., 2000). A major winter haulout is located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Race Rocks, British Columbia, Canada (Canadian side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca) (Edgell and Demarchi, 2012). Numbers vary seasonally in Washington with peak numbers present during the fall and winter months and a decline in the summer months that corresponds to the breeding season at coastal rookeries (approximately late May to early June) (Jeffries et al., 2000). In Puget Sound, Jeffries (2012) identified five winter haulout sites used by adult and subadult (immature or pre-breeding animals) Steller sea lions, ranging from immediately south of Port Townsend (near Admiralty Inlet) to Olympia in southern Puget Sound (see Figure 4–1 of the Navy’s application). Numbers of animals observed at these sites ranged from a few to less than 100 (Jeffries, 2012). In addition, Steller sea lions opportunistically haul out on various navigational buoys in Admiralty Inlet south through southern Puget Sound near Olympia (Jeffries, 2012). Typically, one or two animals occur at a time on these buoys. Steller sea lions have been seasonally documented in shore-based surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Hood Canal since 2008 with up to 15 individuals observed hauled out on submarines at Delta Pier (Navy, 2016, 2019). Navy surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48211 indicate Steller sea lions begin arriving in September and depart by the end of May (Navy, 2016, 2019). Survey methods and frequency are detailed Appendix A of the Navy’s application. California Sea Lion Jeffries et al. (2000) and Jeffries (2012) identified dedicated, regular haulouts used by adult and subadult California sea lions in Washington inland waters. Main haulouts occur at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, and Naval Station Everett, as well as in Rich Passage near Manchester, Seattle (Shilshole Bay), south Puget Sound (Commencement Bay, Budd Inlet), and numerous navigation buoys south of Whidbey Island to Olympia in south Puget Sound (Jeffries et al., 2000; Jeffries, 2012) (Figure 4–1 of the Navy’s application). Race Rocks, British Columbia, Canada (Canadian side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca) has been identified as a major winter haulout for California sea lions (Edgell and Demarchi, 2012). California sea lions are typically present most of the year except for mid-June through July in Washington inland waters, with peak abundance numbers between October and May (NMFS, 1997; Jeffries et al., 2000). California sea lions are expected to forage within the area, following local prey availability. During summer months and associated breeding periods, the inland waters are not considered a high-use area by California sea lions, as they are returning to rookeries in California waters. However, California sea lions have been documented during shorebased surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Hood Canal since 2008 in all survey months, with as many as 320 individuals observed at one time (October 2018) hauled out on submarines at Delta Pier and on port security barrier (PSB) floats (Navy, 2016, 2019; Appendix A of the Navy’s application). Relatively few individuals (<17 sighted per survey) were present during these surveys from June through August. Harbor Seal Harbor seals are a coastal species, rarely found more than 12 mi (19.3 km) from shore. They frequently occupy bays, estuaries, and inlets. Individual seals have been observed several miles upstream in coastal rivers (Baird, 2001). Ideal harbor seal habitat includes haulout sites, areas providing shelter during breeding periods, and areas with sufficient food (Bj<rge, 2002). Haulout areas can include intertidal and subtidal rock outcrops, sandbars, sandy beaches, peat banks in salt marshes, and man- E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48212 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices made structures such as log booms, docks, and recreational floats (Wilson, 1978; Prescott, 1982; Schneider & Payne, 1983, Gilbert & Guldager, 1998; Jeffries et al., 2000; Lambourn et al., 2010). Harbor seals do not make extensive pelagic migrations, though some long distance movement of tagged animals in Alaska (108 mi (174 km)) and along the U.S. west coast (up to 342 mi (550 km)) have been recorded (Brown & Mate, 1983; Womble & Gende, 2013). Harbor seals have also displayed strong fidelity to haulout sites. Harbor seals are the most common, widely distributed marine mammal found in Washington marine waters and are frequently observed in the nearshore marine environment. They occur yearround and breed in Washington. Numerous harbor seal haulouts occur in Washington inland waters. Haulouts include intertidal and subtidal rock outcrops, beaches, reefs, sandbars, log booms, and floats. Numbers of individuals at haulouts range from a few to between 100 and 500 individuals (Jeffries et al., 2000). Harbor seals are expected to occur year-round at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. In Hood Canal, where Kitsap Bangor is located, known haulouts occur on the west side of Hood Canal at the mouth of the Dosewallips River and on the western and northern shorelines in Dabob Bay located approximately 8 mi (13 km) away from the Navy’s installation. Vessel-based surveys conducted from 2007 to 2010 at Kitsap Bangor, observed harbor seals in every month of surveys (Agness & Tannenbaum, 2009; Tannenbaum et al., 2009, 2011). Harbor seals were routinely seen during marine mammal monitoring for two construction projects, the Test Pile Project and EHW–2 construction projects (HDR, 2012; Hart Crowser, 2013, 2014, 2015). Small numbers of harbor seals have been documented hauling out on the PSB floats, wavescreens at Carderock Pier, buoys, barges, marine vessels, and logs (Agness and Tannenbaum, 2009; Tannenbaum et al., 2009, 2011; Navy, 2016) and on man-made floating structures near Keyport Bangor Dock and Delta Pier. Opportunistic surveys by a Naval Facilities Engineering Command biologist in August and September 2016 recorded as many as 28 harbor seals hauled out under Marginal Wharf or swimming in adjacent waters. On two occasions, four to six individuals were observed hauled out near Delta Pier. The Navy identified a few observations of harbor seal births or neonates. In 2014, the Navy’s knowledge of harbor seal births increased due to increased pinniped surveys on the waterfront and increased contact with waterfront personnel who have had lengthy careers at Bangor (Navy, 2016). Known harbor seal births include one on the Carderock wave screen in August 2011 and at least one on a small 10 by 10 ft (3 by 3 m) floating dock at EHW–2 in fall 2013, as reported by EHW–2 construction crews, and afterbirth observed on a float at Magnetic Silencing Facility with an unknown date. In addition, Navy biologists learned that harbor seal pupping has occurred on a section of the Service Pier since approximately 2001, according to the Port Operations vessel crews. Harbor seal mother and pup sets were observed in 2014 hauled out on the Carderock wavescreen and swimming in nearby waters, and swimming near Delta Pier (Navy, 2016). 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 decibel (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 4. TABLE 4—MARINE MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS [NMFS, 2018] Hearing group Generalized hearing range * 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. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al. 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 (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. Five marine mammal species (two cetacean and two pinniped (two otariid and one phocid) PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 species) have the reasonable potential to co-occur with the proposed construction (Table 4). Of the cetacean species that may be present, one is classified as a mid-frequency cetacean (i.e., killer whale), and one is classified as a highfrequency cetacean (i.e., harbor porpoise). E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The Estimated Take section later in this document includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination section considers the content of this section, the Estimated Take section, and the Proposed Mitigation section, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or stocks. Acoustic effects on marine mammals during the specified activity can occur from vibratory and impact pile driving. The effects of underwater noise from the Navy’s proposed activities have the potential to result in Level A and Level B harassment of marine mammals in the action area. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Description of Sound Sources The marine soundscape is comprised of both ambient and anthropogenic sounds. Ambient sound is defined as the all-encompassing sound in a given place and is usually a composite of sound from many sources both near and far. The sound level of an area is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., waves, wind, precipitation, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic sound (e.g., vessels, dredging, aircraft, construction). The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at any given location and time—which comprise ‘‘ambient’’ or ‘‘background’’ sound—depends not only on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and shipping activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 by 10–20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al. 1995). The result is that, depending on the source type and its intensity, sound from the specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. In-water construction activities associated with the project would include impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving, and vibratory pile removal. The sounds produced by these activities fall into one of two general sound types: Impulsive and non-impulsive. Impulsive sounds (e.g., explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, impact pile driving) are typically transient, brief (less than 1 second), broadband, and consist of high peak sound pressure with rapid rise time and rapid decay (ANSI 1986; NIOSH 1998; ANSI 2005; NMFS 2018a). Non-impulsive sounds (e.g., aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory pile driving, and active sonar systems) can be broadband, narrowband or tonal, brief or prolonged (continuous or intermittent), and typically do not have the high peak sound pressure with raid rise/decay time that impulsive sounds do (ANSI 1995; NIOSH 1998; NMFS 2018a). The distinction between these two sound types is important because they have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to hearing (e.g., Ward 1997 in Southall et al. 2007). Two types of pile hammers would be used on this project: Impact and vibratory. Impact hammers operate by repeatedly dropping a heavy piston onto a pile to drive the pile into the substrate. Sound generated by impact hammers is characterized by rapid rise times and high peak levels, a potentially injurious combination (Hastings and Popper 2005). Vibratory hammers install piles by vibrating them and allowing the weight of the hammer to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers produce significantly less sound than impact hammers. Peak sound pressure levels (SPLs) may be 180 dB or greater, but are generally 10 to 20 dB lower than SPLs generated during impact pile driving of the same-sized pile (Oestman et al. 2009). Rise time is slower, reducing the probability and severity of injury, and sound energy is distributed over a greater amount of time (Nedwell and Edwards 2002; Carlson et al. 2005). The likely or possible impacts of the Navy’s proposed activity on marine mammals could involve both nonacoustic and acoustic stressors. Potential non-acoustic stressors could result from the physical presence of the equipment and personnel; however, any PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48213 impacts to marine mammals are expected to primarily be acoustic in nature. Acoustic stressors include effects of heavy equipment operation during pile installation and removal. Acoustic Impacts The introduction of anthropogenic noise into the aquatic environment from pile driving and removal is the primary means by which marine mammals may be harassed from the Navy’s specified activity. In general, animals exposed to natural or anthropogenic sound may experience physical and psychological effects, ranging in magnitude from none to severe (Southall et al. 2007). In general, exposure to pile driving and removal noise has the potential to result in auditory threshold shifts and behavioral reactions (e.g., avoidance, temporary cessation of foraging and vocalizing, changes in dive behavior). Exposure to anthropogenic noise can also lead to non-observable physiological responses such an increase in stress hormones. Additional noise in a marine mammal’s habitat can mask acoustic cues used by marine mammals to carry out daily functions such as communication and predator and prey detection. The effects of pile driving and removal noise on marine mammals are dependent on several factors, including, but not limited to, sound type (e.g., impulsive vs. nonimpulsive), the species, age and sex class (e.g., adult male vs. mom with calf), duration of exposure, the distance between the pile and the animal, received levels, behavior at time of exposure, and previous history with exposure (Wartzok et al. 2004; Southall et al. 2007). Here we discuss physical auditory effects (threshold shifts) followed by behavioral effects and potential impacts on habitat. NMFS defines a noise-induced threshold shift (TS) as a change, usually an increase, in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 2018). The amount of threshold shift is customarily expressed in dB. A TS can be permanent or temporary. As described in NMFS (2018), there are numerous factors to consider when examining the consequence of TS, including, but not limited to, the signal temporal pattern (e.g., impulsive or non-impulsive), likelihood an individual would be exposed for a long enough duration or to a high enough level to induce a TS, the magnitude of the TS, time to recovery (seconds to minutes or hours to days), the frequency range of the exposure (i.e., spectral content), the E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 48214 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices hearing and vocalization frequency range of the exposed species relative to the signal’s frequency spectrum (i.e., how an animal uses sound within the frequency band of the signal; e.g., Kastelein et al. 2014), and the overlap between the animal and the source (e.g., spatial, temporal, and spectral). Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)— NMFS defines PTS as a permanent, irreversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 2018). Available data from humans and other terrestrial mammals indicate that a 40 dB threshold shift approximates PTS onset (see Ward et al. 1958, 1959; Ward 1960; Kryter et al. 1966; Miller 1974; Ahroon et al. 1996; Henderson et al. 2008). PTS levels for marine mammals are estimates, as with the exception of a single study unintentionally inducing PTS in a harbor seal (Kastak et al. 2008), there are no empirical data measuring PTS in marine mammals largely due to the fact that, for various ethical reasons, experiments involving anthropogenic noise exposure at levels inducing PTS are not typically pursued or authorized (NMFS 2018). Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)— TTS is a temporary, reversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS 2018). Based on data from cetacean TTS measurements (see Southall et al. 2007), a TTS of 6 dB is considered the minimum threshold shift clearly larger than any day-to-day or session-to-session variation in a subject’s normal hearing ability (Schlundt et al. 2000; Finneran et al. 2000, 2002). As described in Finneran (2015), marine mammal studies have shown the amount of TTS increases with cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum) in an accelerating fashion: At low exposures with lower SELcum, the amount of TTS is typically small and the growth curves have shallow slopes. At exposures with higher SELcum, the growth curves become steeper and approach linear relationships with the noise SEL. Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious (similar to those discussed in auditory masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 frequency range that takes place during a time when the animal is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts. We note that reduced hearing sensitivity as a simple function of aging has been observed in marine mammals, as well as humans and other taxa (Southall et al. 2007), so we can infer that strategies exist for coping with this condition to some degree, though likely not without cost. Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) and five species of pinnipeds exposed to a limited number of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (Finneran 2015). TTS was not observed in trained spotted (Phoca largha) and ringed (Pusa hispida) seals exposed to impulsive noise at levels matching previous predictions of TTS onset (Reichmuth et al. 2016). In general, harbor seals and harbor porpoises have a lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species (Finneran 2015). Additionally, the existing marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within these species. No data are available on noiseinduced hearing loss for mysticetes. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007), Finneran and Jenkins (2012), Finneran (2015), and Table 5 in NMFS (2018). Installing piles requires a combination of impact pile driving and vibratory pile driving. For this project, these activities would not occur at the same time and there would be pauses in activities producing the sound during each day. Given these pauses and that many marine mammals are likely moving through the ensonified area and not remaining for extended periods of time, the potential for TS declines. Behavioral Harassment—Exposure to noise from pile driving and removal also has the potential to behaviorally disturb marine mammals. Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 underwater sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau & Bejder 2007; Weilgart 2007; NRC 2005). Disturbance may result in changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping); avoidance of areas where sound sources are located. Pinnipeds may increase their haul out time, possibly to avoid in-water disturbance (Thorson and Reyff 2006). Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors (e.g., Richardson et al. 1995; Wartzok et al. 2003; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart 2007; Archer et al,. 2010). Behavioral reactions can vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, depending on previous experience with a sound source, context, and numerous other factors (Ellison et al. 2012), and can vary depending on characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). In general, pinnipeds seem more tolerant of, or at least habituate more quickly to, potentially disturbing underwater sound than do cetaceans, and generally seem to be less responsive to exposure to industrial sound than most cetaceans. Please see Appendices B–C of Southall et al. (2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to sound. Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to differences in E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al. 2001; Nowacek et al. 2004; Madsen et al. 2006; Yazvenko et al. 2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history stage of the animal. Stress responses—An animal’s perception of a threat may be sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle 1950; Moberg 2000). In many cases, an animal’s first and sometimes most economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an animal’s fitness. Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-pituitaryadrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that are affected by stress—including immune competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior—are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated with stress (Romano et al., 2004). The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and ‘‘distress’’ is the cost of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves sufficient to restore normal function. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals (e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be classified as ‘‘distress.’’ In addition, any animal experiencing TTS would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003), however distress is an unlikely result of this project based on observations of marine mammals during previous, similar projects in the area. Masking—Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering with, an animal’s ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al. 1995). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., pile driving, shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to mask biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-tonoise ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and to an animal’s hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation conditions. Masking of natural sounds can result when human activities produce high levels of background sound at frequencies important to marine mammals. Conversely, if the background level of underwater sound is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48215 far away as would be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked. Airborne Acoustic Effects—Pinnipeds that occur near the project site could be exposed to airborne sounds associated with pile driving and removal that have the potential to cause behavioral harassment, depending on their distance from pile driving activities. Cetaceans are not expected to be exposed to airborne sounds that would result in harassment as defined under the MMPA. Airborne noise would primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise levels exceeding the acoustic thresholds. We recognize that pinnipeds in the water could be exposed to airborne sound that may result in behavioral harassment when looking with their heads above water. Most likely, airborne sound would cause behavioral responses similar to those discussed above in relation to underwater sound. For instance, anthropogenic sound could cause hauled-out pinnipeds to exhibit changes in their normal behavior, such as reduction in vocalizations, or cause them to temporarily abandon the area and move further from the source. However, these animals would previously have been ‘taken’ because of exposure to underwater sound above the behavioral harassment thresholds, which are, in all cases, larger than those associated with airborne sound. Thus, the behavioral harassment of these animals is already accounted for in these estimates of potential take. Therefore, authorization of incidental take resulting from airborne sound for pinnipeds is not warranted, and airborne sound is not discussed further here. Marine Mammal Habitat Effects The Navy’s construction activities could have localized, temporary impacts on marine mammal habitat by increasing in-water sound pressure levels and slightly decreasing water quality. Construction activities are of short duration and would likely have temporary impacts on marine mammal habitat through increases in underwater sound. Increased noise levels may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion above) and adversely affect marine mammal prey in the vicinity of the project area (see discussion below). During impact and vibratory pile driving, elevated levels of underwater noise would ensonify Hood Canal where both fish and mammals may occur and could affect foraging success. Additionally, marine mammals may E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48216 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices avoid the area during construction, however, displacement due to noise is expected to be temporary and is not expected to result in long-term effects to the individuals or populations. A temporary and localized increase in turbidity near the seafloor would occur in the immediate area surrounding the area where piles are installed (and removed in the case of the temporary piles). The sediments on the sea floor will be disturbed during pile driving; however, suspension will be brief and localized and is unlikely to measurably affect marine mammals or their prey in the area. In general, turbidity associated with pile installation is localized to about a 25–foot (7.6–meter) radius around the pile (Everitt et al. 1980). Cetaceans are not expected to be close enough to the pile driving areas to experience effects of turbidity, and any pinnipeds could avoid localized areas of turbidity. Therefore, we expect the impact from increased turbidity levels to be discountable to marine mammals and do not discuss it further. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Foraging Habitat The proposed activities would not result in permanent impacts to habitats used directly by marine mammals except for the actual footprint of the project. The total seafloor area affected by pile installation and removal is a very small area compared to the vast foraging area available to marine mammals in Hood Canal. Avoidance by potential prey (i.e., fish) of the immediate area due to the temporary loss of this foraging habitat is also possible. The duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is unknown, but we anticipate a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the disturbed area would still leave large areas of fish and marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity in Hood Canal. Effects on Potential Prey Sound may affect marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, behavior, or distribution of prey species (e.g., fish). Marine mammal prey varies by species, season, and location. Here, we describe studies regarding the effects of noise on known marine mammal prey. Fish utilize the soundscape and components of sound in their environment to perform important functions such as foraging, predator avoidance, mating, and spawning (e.g., Zelick et al., 1999; Fay, 2009). Depending on their hearing anatomy VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 and peripheral sensory structures, which vary among species, fishes hear sounds using pressure and particle motion sensitivity capabilities and detect the motion of surrounding water (Fay et al., 2008). The potential effects of noise on fishes depends on the overlapping frequency range, distance from the sound source, water depth of exposure, and species-specific hearing sensitivity, anatomy, and physiology. Key impacts to fishes may include behavioral responses, hearing damage, barotrauma (pressure-related injuries), and mortality. Fish react to sounds which are especially strong and/or intermittent low-frequency sounds, and behavioral responses such as flight or avoidance are the most likely effects. Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local distribution. The reaction of fish to noise depends on the physiological state of the fish, past exposures, motivation (e.g., feeding, spawning, migration), and other environmental factors. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies have documented effects of pile driving on fish, although several are based on studies in support of large, multiyear bridge construction projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings, 2009). Several studies have demonstrated that impulse sounds might affect the distribution and behavior of some fishes, potentially impacting foraging opportunities or increasing energetic costs (e.g., Fewtrell and McCauley, 2012; Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992; Santulli et al., 1999; Paxton et al., 2017). However, some studies have shown no or slight reaction to impulse sounds (e.g., Pena et al., 2013; Wardle et al., 2001; Jorgenson and Gyselman, 2009; Cott et al., 2012). SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish and fish mortality. However, in most fish species, hair cells in the ear continuously regenerate and loss of auditory function likely is restored when damaged cells are replaced with new cells. Halvorsen et al. (2012a) showed that a TTS of 4–6 dB was recoverable within 24 hours for one species. Impacts would be most severe when the individual fish is close to the source and when the duration of exposure is long. Injury caused by barotrauma can range from slight to severe and can cause death, and is most likely for fish with swim bladders. Barotrauma injuries have been documented during controlled exposure PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 to impact pile driving (Halvorsen et al., 2012b; Casper et al., 2013). The most likely impact to fish from pile driving activities at the project areas would be temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The duration of fish avoidance of an area after pile driving stops is unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated. The area impacted by the project is relatively small compared to the available habitat in the remainder of Hood Canal. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the disturbed area would still leave significantly large areas of fish and marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity. Additionally, as noted previously, the Navy will adhere to the IWWW for pile extraction and installation (July 16 to January 15) to reduce potential effects to salmonids, including juvenile ESA-listed salmonids. As described in the preceding, the potential for the Navy’s construction to affect the availability of prey to marine mammals or to meaningfully impact the quality of physical or acoustic habitat is considered to be insignificant. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS’s consideration of ‘‘small numbers’’ and the negligible impact determination. Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment). Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use of the acoustic sources (i.e., vibratory and impact pile driving) has the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for phocids, because predicted auditory injury zones are larger than for mid-frequency cetaceans and otariids, and Navy expects that protected species observers (PSOs) will not be able to effectively observe the entire Level A harassment zone due to E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices the numerous docks in the area. Auditory injury is unlikely to occur for mid-frequency cetaceans, highfrequency cetaceans, and otariids. The proposed mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the severity of the taking to the extent practicable. As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the factors considered here in more detail and present the proposed take estimate. Acoustic Thresholds NMFS recommends the use of acoustic thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A harassment). Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources—Though significantly driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2012). Based on what the available science indicates and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 120 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for continuous (e.g., vibratory pile- 48217 driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. Navy’s proposed activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory pile driving) and impulsive (impact pile driving) sources, and therefore the 120 and 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) thresholds are applicable. Level A harassment for non-explosive sources—NMFS’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (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). Navy’s proposed activity includes the use of impulsive (impact pile driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving) sources. These thresholds are provided in the table below. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/ national/marine-mammal-protection/ marine-mammal-acoustic-technicalguidance. TABLE 5—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT PTS onset acoustic thresholds * (received level) Hearing group Impulsive Non-impulsive Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans ...................................... Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans ...................................... Cell 1: Lpk,flat: 219 dB; LE,LF,24h: 183 dB ......................... Cell 3: Lpk,flat: 230 dB; LE,MF,24h: 185 dB ........................ High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ..................................... Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) .................................................... (Underwater) .................................................................... Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) .................................................... (Underwater) .................................................................... Cell 5: Lpk,flat: 202 dB; LE,HF,24h: 155 dB ........................ Cell 7: Lpk,flat: 218 dB; LE,PW,24h: 185 dB ....................... Cell 2: LE,LF,24h: 199 dB. Cell 4: LE,MF,24h: 198 dB. Cell 6: LE,HF,24h: 173 dB. Cell 8: LE,PW,24h: 201 dB. Cell 10: LE,OW,24h: 219 dB. Cell 9: Lpk,flat: 232 dB; LE,OW,24h: 203 dB ....................... jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES * Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for calculating PTS onset. If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered. Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 μPa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has a reference value of 1μPa2s. In this Table, thresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ‘‘flat’’ is being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be exceeded. Ensonified Area Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the acoustic VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 thresholds, which include source levels and transmission loss coefficient. The sound field in the project area is the existing background noise plus additional construction noise from the proposed project. Marine mammals are PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 expected to be affected via sound generated by the primary components of the project (i.e., impact pile driving and vibratory pile driving and removal). The largest calculated Level B harassment zone is 11.7 km (7.3 mi) from the E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48218 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices each pile size and activity are presented in Table 6. The Navy will implement bubble curtains (e.g. pneumatic barrier typically comprised of hosing or PVC piping that disrupts underwater noise propagation; see Proposed Mitigation section below) during impact pile driving, with the possible exception of short periods when the device is turned off to test the effectiveness of the noise attenuation device. We have reduced the source level for these activities by 8 dB in consideration of site-specific measurements of source level reduction with use of bubble curtains (Navy, 2015). These reductions ranged from 8 source, with an area of 49.1 km2 (18.9 mi2). The source levels were derived from the Navy’s document titled ‘‘Proxy Source Sound Levels and Potential Bubble Curtain Attenuation for Acoustic Modeling of Nearshore Marine Pile Driving at Navy Installations in Puget Sound’’ (Navy 2015a). In that document, the Navy reviewed relevant data available for various types and sizes of piles typically used for pile driving and recommend proxy source values for Navy installations in Puget Sound. This document is included as Appendix B in the Navy’s application. Source levels for dB to 10 dB. In their analysis, the Navy averaged different metrics for the same pile size. NMFS independently calculated the average source level reduction, averaging reductions of the same metric (ex: SPLrms) reported for both 36-in and 48-in piles. As such, NMFS calculated an SEL reduction of 8.5 dB, an SPLrms reduction of 8 dB, and an SPLpk reduction of 10 dB. Therefore, given that the site-specific 8 dB reduction proposed by the Navy is the same or lower than the result of NMFS’s site-specific calculation, NMFS preliminarily accepted Navy’s proposal to use an 8 dB reduction during impact pile driving. TABLE 6—PROJECT SOUND SOURCE LEVELS (NAVY, 2015) Source level @10m Pile type and size Installation method dB RMS 36-inch 24-inch 30-inch 36-inch Steel Steel Steel Steel ................................................... ................................................... ................................................... ................................................... Impact ............................................................. Vibratory ......................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... dB Peak dB SEL a 194 a 211 a 181 161 ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ 166 166 a Unattenuated. Transmission loss (TL) is the decrease in acoustic intensity as an acoustic pressure wave propagates out from a source. TL parameters vary with frequency, temperature, sea conditions, current, source and receiver depth, water depth, water chemistry, and bottom composition and topography. The general formula for underwater TL is: TL = B * Log10 (R1/R2), value of 15 is used as the transmission loss coefficient in the above formula. Site-specific transmission loss data for the TPP pier site are not available, therefore the default coefficient of 15 is used to determine the distances to the Level A and Level B harassment thresholds. When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods where TL = transmission loss in dB B = transmission loss coefficient R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven pile, and R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial measurement Absent site-specific acoustical monitoring with differing measured transmission loss, a practical spreading used for these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of overestimate of Level A harassment take. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as pile driving, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the distance at which, if a marine mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the activity, it would incur PTS. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet, and the resulting isopleths are reported below. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES TABLE 7—USER SPREADSHEET INPUT PARAMETERS USED FOR CALCULATING LEVEL A HARASSMENT ISOPLETHS Pile size and installation method Spreadsheet tab used 36-inch SteelImpact. 24-inch SteelVibratory. 30-inch SteelVibratory. 36-inch SteelVibratory. E.1) Impact pile driving. A.1) Vibratory pile driving. Weighting factor adjustment (kHz) Source level 2 2.5 Duration to drive a single pile (minutes) Number of piles within 24-h period 173 dB SELa. 161 dB RMS. 166 dB RMS 166 dB RMS 4 30 b5 60 Number of strikes per pile 400 a This Propagation (xLogR) 15 Distance from source level measurement (meters) 10 source level includes an 8dB reduction from the use of a bubble curtain. Navy expects to install only 4 piles per day using a vibratory hammer; however, for purposes of calculating the Level A harassment zones, they have conservatively assumed that they may install 5 piles per day. b The VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48219 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices TABLE 8—CALCULATED DISTANCES TO LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT ISOPLETHS Distance to level A harassment isopleth (m) Pile type and size 36-inch 24-inch 30-inch 36-inch Steel Steel Steel Steel ................... ................... ................... ................... Installation method Impact ........ Vibratory ..... LF cetacean 294 (1m pk) ... 20 ................... 43 ................... 43 ................... 11 2 4 4 HF cetacean Phocid 351 (14m pk) 30 ................... 64 ................... 64 ................... 158 (1m pk) ... 12 ................... 26 ................... 26 ................... Transient killer whales occasionally occur throughout Puget Sound but are rare in Hood Canal. In Puget Sound, they are typically observed in small groups with an average group size of six individuals (Houghton, 2012). Based on this Puget Sound average, the Navy estimated that two groups of six whales may occur within the Level B harassment zone during construction each year, and has requested 12 Level B harassment takes of killer whale for Year 1 and Year 2. NMFS concurs with this estimate, and proposes to authorize 12 Level B harassment takes of killer whale in each year. Given the estimated number of construction days in Year 2 (10 days), NMFS expects that 12 Level B harassment takes is a conservative estimate for Year 2, but is appropriate given that it accounts for the occurrence of just two groups. The largest Level A harassment zone for mid-frequency cetaceans extends 11 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch steel piles (Table 8). Given the small size of the Level A harassment zones, we would not expect Level A harassment take of killer whales to occur. Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 355 m shutdown zone for all cetaceans during that activity (Table 10). These shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of killer whale. Therefore, NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of killer whale in Year 1 or Year 2. Puget Sound indicated density in Puget Sound was 0.91 individuals/sq km) (95 percent CI = 0.72–1.10, all seasons pooled) and density in Hood Canal was 0.44/sq km (95 percent CI = 0.29–0.75, all seasons pooled) (Smultea et al., 2017). Mean group size of harbor porpoises in Puget Sound in the 2013– 2015 surveys was 1.7 in Hood Canal. In consideration of the harbor porpoise take estimate, the Navy conservatively assumed that vibratory installation of 36-inch piles would occur on every in-water work day, given that that activity resulted in the largest Level B harassment zone. The Navy estimated Level B harassment takes of harbor porpoise by multiplying the 0.44 animals/km2 by 49.1 km2 (estimated Level B harassment zone during vibratory driving of 36-inch piles) by the number of in-water workdays during each year. Therefore, during Year 1, the Navy estimated 1,728 Level B harassment takes (0.44 animals/km2 × 49.1km2 × 80 days). During Year 2, the Navy estimated 216 Level B harassment takes (0.44 animals/km2 × 49.1 km2 × 10 days). NMFS concurs with this approach, and proposes to authorize 1,728 Level B harassment takes of harbor porpoise in Year 1, and 216 Level B harassment takes of harbor porpoise in Year 2. The largest Level A harassment zone for high-frequency cetaceans extends 351 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch steel piles (Table 8). The Navy is planning to implement a 355 m shutdown zone for all cetaceans during that activity (Table 10), which incorporates the entire Level A harassment zone, and the 14 m peak PTS isopleth (Table 8). Therefore, the shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of harbor porpoise, and NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of harbor porpoise. Harbor Porpoise Steller Sea Lion Harbor porpoises may be present in all major regions of Puget Sound throughout the year. Aerial surveys conducted throughout 2013 to 2015 in Steller sea lions are routinely seen hauled out from mid-September through May on submarines at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, with a maximum haulout count Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation In this section we provide the information about the presence, density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take calculations. We describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. Killer Whale jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES MF cetacean VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Distance to level B harassment isopleth (m) Otariid 12 1 2 2 541 5,400 11,700 11,700 of 15 individuals in November 2018. Because the daily average number of Steller sea lions hauled out at Kitsap Bangor has increased since 2013 compared to prior years, the Navy relied on monitoring data from July 2012 through February 2019 to determine the average of the maximum count of hauled out Steller sea lions for each month in the IWWW (Navy, 2016, 2019). While pinnipeds may haul out longer than the period required for pile driving, therefore not being exposed to underwater sound, the Navy conservatively assumed that any Steller sea lion that hauls out at Kitsap Bangor may enter the Level B harassment zone each day during pile driving. For each in-water work month, the Navy averaged the maximum number of hauled out Steller sea lions observed in a single survey at Kitsap Bangor during that month for each year (2008 to 2019; see Appendix A of the Navy’s application). The Navy then averaged these monthly averages across the entire in-water work period, resulting in a maximum average of four Steller sea lions hauled out per day. The Navy assumed that each of these animals may enter the Level B harassment zone on each in-water work day. Therefore, the Navy requested 320 Level B harassment takes of Steller sea lion in Year 1 (4 Steller sea lions × 80 in-water work days), and 40 Level B harassment takes of Steller sea lions during Year 2 (4 Steller sea lions × 10 in-water work days). NMFS concurs with this approach and proposes to authorize 320 Level B harassment takes of Steller sea lion during Year 1, and 40 Level B harassment takes of Steller sea lion during Year 2. The largest Level A harassment zone for otariids extends 11 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36inch steel piles (Table 8). Given the small size of the Level A harassment zones, we would not expect Level A harassment take of Steller sea lion to occur. Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 15m shutdown zone during that activity (Table 10). The Navy’s shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48220 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices harassment take of Steller sea lion. Therefore, NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of Steller sea lion. California sea lion From August through June, California sea lions routinely haul out on the PSB floats and submarines at Kitsap Bangor. For each in-water work month, the Navy averaged the maximum number of hauled out California sea lions observed in a single survey at Kitsap Bangor during that month for each year (2008 to 2019; see Appendix A of the Navy’s application). The Navy then averaged these monthly averages across the entire in-water work period, resulting in a maximum average of 54 California sea lions hauled out per day. The daily average number of California sea lions hauled out at Kitsap Bangor has increased since 2013 compared to prior years. Therefore, the Navy relied on monitoring data from July 2012 through February 2019 to determine the average of the maximum count (Navy, 2016, 2019). While pinnipeds may haul out longer than the period required for pile driving, therefore not being exposed to underwater sound, the Navy conservatively assumed that any California sea lion hauled out at Kitsap Bangor may swim into the Level B harassment zone on each pile driving day. Therefore, the Navy requested 4,320 Level B harassment takes of California sea lion in Year 1 (54 California sea lions × 80 in-water work days), and 540 Level B harassment takes of California sea lions during Year 2 (54 California sea lions × 10 in-water work days). NMFS concurs with this approach and proposes to authorize 4,320 Level B harassment takes of California sea lion during Year 1, and 540 Level B harassment takes of California sea lion during Year 2. The largest Level A harassment zone for otariids extends 11 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36inch steel piles (Table 8). Given the small size of the Level A harassment zones, we would not expect Level A harassment take of California sea lion to occur. Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 15 m shutdown zone during that activity (Table 10). The Navy’s shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of California sea lion. Therefore, NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of California sea lion. Harbor Seal The harbor seal is the only species of marine mammal that is consistently abundant and considered resident in Hood Canal (Jeffries et al., 2003). The closest major haulouts to Kitsap Bangor that are regularly used by harbor seals are the mouth of the Dosewallips River located approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away. No harbor seal haulouts were seen on the shoreline opposite Kitsap Bangor (the east-side of the Toandos Peninsula) during 2015 and 2016 beach seine surveys. A small haulout occurs at Kitsap Bangor under Marginal Wharf and small numbers of harbor seals are known to routinely haul out around the Carderock pier (see Figure 1–2 of the Navy’s application). Boat-based surveys and monitoring indicate that harbor seals regularly swim in the waters at Kitsap Bangor. Hauled out adults, mother/pup pairs, and neonates have been documented occasionally but quantitative data are limited. Incidental surveys in August and September 2016 recorded as many as 28 harbor seals hauled out under Marginal Wharf or swimming in adjacent waters. Assuming a few other individuals may be present elsewhere on the Kitsap Bangor waterfront, the Navy estimates that 35 harbor seals may be present during summer and early fall months. Based on haulout survey data from Naval Station Everett (Navy, 2016), the number of harbor seals present at Kitsap Bangor is likely to be lower in late fall and winter months. The Navy conservatively assumed that each of the estimated 35 harbor seals may occur within the Level B harassment zone on each pile driving day. Therefore, the Navy requested 2,800 Level B harassment takes of harbor seal in Year 1 (35 harbor seals × 80 in-water work days), and 350 Level B harassment takes of harbor seal during Year 2 (35 harbor seals × 10 in-water work days). NMFS concurs with this approach and proposes to authorize 2,800 Level B harassment takes of harbor seal during Year 1, and 350 Level B harassment takes of harbor seal during Year 2. The largest Level A harassment zone for phocids during Year 1 extends 158 m during impact installation of 36-inch steel piles (Table 8). The Navy is planning to implement a 160 m shutdown zone during that activity (Table 10), which incorporates the entire Level A harassment zone, and the 1 m peak PTS isopleth (Table 8). However, the Navy estimates that some harbor seals may enter, and remain inside the Level A harassment zone undetected by PSOs for a period long enough to be taken by Level A harassment during Year 1. NMFS concurs, and proposes to authorize 20 Level A harassment takes of harbor seal in Year 1 (1 harbor seal for every 4 inwater work days). During Year 2, the largest Level A harassment zone for phocids extends 26 m from the source during vibratory pile driving of 30 and 36-inch steel piles, as no impact pile driving is planned for Year 2. The Navy expects to be able to effectively monitor this zone and implement a 30 m shutdown zone. Therefore, the Navy does not expect Level A harassment take to occur during Year 2. NMFS concurs that the Navy’s shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 2, and does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 2. TABLE 9—ESTIMATED TAKE BY LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT, BY SPECIES AND STOCK jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Year 1 Species Stock Stock Abundance Killer whale ........... West Coast Transient. Washington Inland Waters. Eastern U.S. ......... United States ....... 243 ................. Harbor porpoise .... Steller sea lion ...... California sea lion VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 Level A harassment take Year 2 Level B harassment take Level B harassment take (percent of stock) Total take (percent of stock) 12 12 (4.9) .......... 12 12 (4.9) 11,233 ............ 1,728 1,728 (15.4) ... 216 216 (1.9) 43,201 ............ 257,606 .......... 320 4,320 320 (0.7) ........ 4,320 (1.7) ..... 40 540 40 (0.1) 540 (0.2) PO 00000 Frm 00072 0 Total take (percent of stock) Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 48221 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices TABLE 9—ESTIMATED TAKE BY LEVEL A AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT, BY SPECIES AND STOCK—Continued Year 1 Species Stock Stock Abundance Harbor seal ........... Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal. Unknown ........ Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an IHA under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to the activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the 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 the 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 Level A harassment take Year 2 Level B harassment take 20 2,800 Total take (percent of stock) Level B harassment take (percent of stock) 2,820 (Unknown). 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. In addition to the measures described later in this section, the Navy will employ the following mitigation measures: • For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving, if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, operations shall cease and vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions; • Conduct briefings between construction supervisors and crews and the marine mammal monitoring team prior to the start of all pile driving activity and when new personnel join the work, to explain responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring protocol, and operational procedures; • For those marine mammals for which Level B harassment take has not been requested, in-water pile installation/removal will shut down immediately if such species are observed within or entering the Level B harassment zone; and 350 Total take (percent of stock) 350 (Unknown) • If take reaches the authorized limit for an authorized species, pile installation/removal will shut down immediately if these species approach the Level B harassment zone to avoid additional take. The following mitigation measures apply to the Navy’s in-water construction activities. • Establishment of Shutdown Zones—The Navy will establish shutdown zones for all pile driving and removal activities. The purpose of a shutdown zone is generally to define an area within which shutdown of the activity would occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering the defined area). Shutdown zones will vary based on the activity type and marine mammal hearing group (Table 10). In addition to the shutdown zones listed in Table 10, the Navy has proposed to shut down pile driving if a cetacean is observed within the Level B harassment zone. • PSOs—The placement of PSOs during all pile driving and removal activities (described in detail in the Proposed Monitoring and Reporting section) will ensure that the entire shutdown zone is visible during pile driving and removal (except where structures may interfere with visibility of harbor seals). Should environmental conditions deteriorate such that marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone would not be visible (e.g., fog, heavy rain), pile driving and removal must be delayed until the PSO is confident marine mammals within the shutdown zone could be detected. TABLE 10—SHUTDOWN ZONES DURING PILE INSTALLATION AND REMOVAL jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Cetaceans (m) All Vibratory Pile Driving .............................................................................................................. All Impact Pile Driving ................................................................................................................. • Monitoring for Level A and Level B Harassment—The Navy will monitor the Level B harassment zones (areas VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 where SPLs are equal to or exceed the 160 dB rms threshold for impact driving and the 120 dB rms threshold during PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 65 355 Phocids (m) 30 160 Otariids (m) 10 15 vibratory pile driving) to the extent practicable and the Level A harassment zones. Monitoring zones provide utility E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 48222 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices for observing by establishing monitoring protocols for areas adjacent to the shutdown zones. Monitoring zones enable observers to be aware of and communicate the presence of marine mammals in the project area outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for a potential cessation of activity should the animal enter the shutdown zone. Placement of PSOs on the pier, shoreline, and a vessel (see Proposed Monitoring and Reporting) around the TPP site will allow PSOs to observe marine mammals within the Level B harassment zones. • Pre-activity Monitoring—Prior to the start of daily in-water construction activity, or whenever a break in pile driving/removal of 30 minutes or longer occurs, PSOs will observe the shutdown and monitoring zones for a period of 30 minutes. The shutdown zone will be considered cleared when a marine mammal has not been observed within the zone for that 30-minute period. If a marine mammal is observed within the shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal has left the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. When a marine mammal for which Level B harassment take is authorized is present in the Level B harassment zone, activities may begin and Level B harassment take will be recorded. If the entire Level B harassment zone is not visible at the start of construction, pile driving activities can begin. If work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-activity monitoring of the shutdown zones will commence. • Soft Start—Soft-start procedures are believed to provide additional protection to marine mammals by providing warning and/or giving marine mammals a chance to leave the area prior to the hammer operating at full capacity. For impact pile driving, contractors will be required to provide an initial set of three strikes from the hammer at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period. This procedure will be conducted three times before impact pile driving begins. Soft start will be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of 30 minutes or longer. • Pile driving energy attenuator—The Navy will use a marine pile-driving energy attenuator (i.e., air bubble curtain system) during impact pile driving. The use of sound attenuation will reduce SPLs and the size of the zones of influence for Level A harassment and Level B harassment. Bubble curtains will meet the following requirements: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 Æ The bubble curtain must distribute air bubbles around 100 percent of the piling perimeter for the full depth of the water column. Æ The lowest bubble ring shall be in contact with the mudline for the full circumference of the ring, and the weights attached to the bottom ring shall ensure 100 percent mudline contact. No parts of the ring or other objects shall prevent full mudline contact. Æ The bubble curtain shall be operated such that there is proper (equal) balancing of air flow to all bubblers. Based on our evaluation of the Navy’s proposed measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Proposed Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an IHA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density). • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas). PO 00000 Frm 00074 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 • Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors. • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks. • Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of marine mammal habitat). • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Visual Monitoring Marine mammal monitoring must be conducted in accordance with the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan. Marine mammal monitoring during pile driving and removal must be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs in a manner consistent with the following: • Independent PSOs (i.e., not construction personnel) who have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods must be used; • 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; • Other PSOs may substitute education (degree in biological science or related field) or training for experience; and • The Navy must submit PSO curriculum vitae for approval by NMFS prior to the onset of pile driving. PSOs must 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 construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations. • Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); and marine mammal behavior. • Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary. At least two PSOs will monitor for marine mammals during all pile driving and removal activities. PSO locations will provide a view of the entire shutdown zone for all activities, other than areas where structures may potentially block limited portions of the zone, and as much of the Level B harassment zones as possible. PSO locations are as follows: i. During vibratory pile driving, two PSOs will be stationed on the pier or shore. ii. During impact pile driving, two PSOs will be stationed on the pier, and one additional PSO will observe from a vessel positioned approximately 200 m from shore. Monitoring will be conducted 30 minutes before, during, and 30 minutes after pile driving/removal activities. In addition, observers shall record all incidents of marine mammal occurrence, regardless of distance from activity, and shall document any behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles being driven or removed. Pile driving activities include the time to install or remove a single pile or series of piles, as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile driving equipment is no more than 30 minutes. Reporting A draft marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the completion of pile driving and removal activities. The report will include an overall description of work completed, a narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and associated PSO data sheets. Specifically, the report must include: • Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal monitoring. • Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including how many and what type of piles were driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact or vibratory). • Weather parameters and water conditions during each monitoring period (e.g., wind speed, percent cover, visibility, sea state). • The number of marine mammals observed, by species, relative to the pile location and if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting. • Age and sex class, if possible, of all marine mammals observed. • PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring. • Distances and bearings of each marine mammal observed to the pile being driven or removed for each VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 sighting (if pile driving or removal was occurring at time of sighting). • Description of any marine mammal behavior patterns during observation, including direction of travel and estimated time spent within the Level A and Level B harassment zones while the source was active. • Number of individuals of each species (differentiated by month as appropriate) detected within the monitoring zone, and estimates of number of marine mammals taken, by species (a correction factor may be applied to total take numbers, as appropriate). • Detailed information about any implementation of any mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that ensued, and resulting behavior of the animal, if any. • Description of attempts to distinguish between the number of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take, such as ability to track groups or individuals. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days after receipt of comments. In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the IHA-holder shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) (301–427–8401), NMFS and to the West Coast Region Stranding Hotline (866– 767–6114) as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was clearly caused by the specified activity, the IHA-holder must immediately cease the specified activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the IHA. The IHA-holder must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information: i. Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable); ii. Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved; iii. Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead); iv. Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive; v. If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and vi. General circumstances under which the animal was discovered. PO 00000 Frm 00075 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48223 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, this introductory discussion of our analyses applies to all of the species listed in Table 9, given that many of the anticipated effects of this project on different marine mammal stocks are expected to be relatively similar in nature. Where there are meaningful differences between species or stocks in anticipated individual responses to activities, impact of expected take on the population due to differences in population status, or impacts on habitat, they are described independently in the analysis below. The analysis below applies to both the Year 1 and Year 2 proposed IHAs, except where noted otherwise. Pile driving and removal activities associated with the project, as outlined previously, have the potential to disturb or displace marine mammals. Specifically, the specified activities may result in take, in the form of Level A harassment and Level B harassment from underwater sounds generated by pile driving and removal. Potential takes E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 48224 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices could occur if marine mammals are present in zones ensonified above the thresholds for Level A or Level B harassment, identified above, while activities are underway. The nature of the pile driving project precludes the likelihood of serious injury or mortality. The mitigation is expected to ensure that no Level A harassment occurs to any species except harbor seal, which may be taken by Level A harassment during Year 1 activities. The nature of the estimated takes anticipated to occur are similar among all species and similar in Year 1 and Year 2, other than the potential Level A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 1, described further below. For all species and stocks, take will occur within a limited portion of Hood Canal, and for the Hood Canal stock of harbor seals, the project site is approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away from the nearest major haulout at the mouth of the Dosewallips River. For all species other than harbor seal, take would be limited to Level B harassment only due to potential behavioral disturbance and TTS. Effects on individuals that are taken by Level B harassment, on the basis of reports in the literature as well as monitoring from other similar activities, will likely be limited to reactions such as increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, or decreased foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and Reyff 2006; HDR, Inc. 2012; Lerma 2014; ABR 2016). Level B harassment will be reduced to the level of least practicable adverse impact through use of mitigation measures described herein, and, if sound produced by project activities is sufficiently disturbing, animals are likely to simply avoid the area while the activity is occurring. While vibratory driving associated with the proposed project may produce sound at distances of many kilometers from the project site, the project site itself is located on a busy waterfront with high amounts of vessel traffic. Therefore, we expect that animals disturbed by project sound would simply avoid the area and use morepreferred habitats, particularly as pile driving is expected to occur for a maximum of five hours per day. Further, the instances of take proposed for authorization for killer whale West Coast Transient stock, harbor porpoise Washington Inland Waters stock, Steller sea lion Eastern U.S. stock, and California sea lion United States stock is small when compared to stock abundance. In addition to the expected effects resulting from proposed Level B harassment, we anticipate that harbor VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 seals may sustain some Level A harassment in the form of auditory injury in Year 1 only. However, animals that experience PTS would likely only receive slight PTS, i.e., minor degradation of hearing capabilities within regions of hearing that align most completely with the frequency range of the energy produced by pile driving (i.e., the low-frequency region below 2kHz), not severe hearing impairment or impairment in the reigns of greatest hearing sensitivity. If hearing impairment does occur, it is most likely that the affected animal would lose a few dBs in its hearing sensitivity, which in most cases, is not likely to meaningfully affect its ability to forage and communicate with conspecifics. As described above, we expect that marine mammals would be likely to move away from a sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, especially at levels that would be expected to result in PTS, given sufficient notice through use of soft start. As noted above in the Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities, the Navy has identified a few observations of harbor seal births at Kitsap Bangor. However, Kitsap Bangor is not a significant rookery area; observation of these births are very rare, and only a few have been reported. The closest major haulouts to Kitsap Bangor that are regularly used by harbor seals are at the mouth of the Dosewallips River, located approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away. Given the rarity of harbor seal births at Kitsap Bangor and the maximum of five hours of pile driving anticipated in a day, we do not expect harbor seals to give birth in the TPP project area while the project is underway. The project is also not expected to have significant adverse effects on affected marine mammals’ habitats. The project activities will not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant amount of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals’ foraging opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range; but, because of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area of the habitat that may be affected, the impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative consequences. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: PO 00000 Frm 00076 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 • No mortality or serious injury is anticipated or authorized. • For all species except harbor seal, no Level A harassment is anticipated or proposed for authorization. • The Level A harassment exposures are anticipated to result only in slight PTS, within the lower frequencies associated with pile driving for harbor seals only; • The intensity of anticipated takes by Level B harassment is relatively low for all stocks. • Pile driving is only expected to occur for a maximum of five hours in a day. • We do not expect significant or long-term negative effects to marine mammal habitat. Year 1 IHA—Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the Navy’s construction activities will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Year 2 IHA—Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the Navy’s construction activities 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. When the predicted number of individuals to be taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock abundance, the take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. For the Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal stock of harbor seal, no E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 154 / Monday, August 10, 2020 / Notices valid abundance estimate is available. The most recent abundance estimate for harbor seals in Washington inland waters is from 1999, which estimated 1,088 harbor seals in the Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal stock. It is generally believed that harbor seal populations have increased significantly since (e.g., Mapes, 2013). The estimated instances of take of the Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal stock of harbor seals in Year 1 (Table 9) appear high when compared to the latest stock abundance from 1999. However, when other qualitative factors are used to inform an assessment of the likely number of individual harbor seals taken, the resulting numbers are considered small in Year 1 and Year 2. We anticipate that estimated takes of harbor seals are likely to occur only within some portion of the relevant population, rather than to animals from the stock as a whole. For example, takes anticipated to occur at Kitsap Bangor would be expected to accrue to the same individual seals that routinely occur on haulouts at these locations, rather than occurring to new seals on each construction day. In summary, harbor seals taken as a result of the specified activities are expected to comprise only a limited portion of individuals comprising the overall relevant stock abundance. Therefore, we find that small numbers of harbor seals will be taken relative to the population size of the Hood Canal stock of harbor seal in Year 1 and Year 2. For all other species and stocks, our analysis shows that, in Year 1 and Year 2, take of all species or stocks is below one third of the estimated stock abundance. The number of animals authorized to be taken for the killer whale West Coast Transient stock, harbor porpoise Washington Inland Waters stock, Steller sea lion Eastern U.S. stock, and California sea lion United States stock, would be considered small relative to the relevant stock’s abundances even if each estimated taking occurred to a new individual, which is an unlikely scenario. Year 1 IHA—Based on the analysis contained herein of the activity (including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species or stocks in Year 1 of the project. Year 2 IHA—Based on the analysis contained herein of the activity (including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:31 Aug 07, 2020 Jkt 250001 anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species or stocks in Year 2 of the project. Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination There are no relevant subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal stocks or species implicated by this action. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes. Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. No incidental take of ESA-listed species is proposed for authorization or expected to result from this activity. Therefore, NMFS has determined that formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to Navy for conducting the Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Washington over two years, beginning July 2021 and July 2022, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. Drafts of the proposed IHAs can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. Request for Public Comments We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorizations, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHAs for the proposed Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project. We also request at this time comment on the potential Renewal of these proposed IHAs as described in the paragraph below. Please include with your comments any supporting PO 00000 Frm 00077 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 48225 data or literature citations to help inform decisions on the request for these IHAs or subsequent Renewal IHAs. On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15 days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical or nearly identical activities, as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notice, is planned or (2) the activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notice would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a Renewal would allow for completion of the activities beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section of this notice, provided all of the following conditions are met: • A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from expiration of the initial IHA). • The request for renewal must include the following: (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take). (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized. • Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid. Dated: August 5, 2020. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–17409 Filed 8–7–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\10AUN1.SGM 10AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 154 (Monday, August 10, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 48206-48225]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-17409]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA267]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Transit Protection Program Pier 
and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Washington

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

ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request 
for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal.

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SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the U.S. Navy (Navy) for 
authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the Transit 
Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base 
Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Washington over two years. Pursuant to the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its 
proposal to issue two incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) to 
incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS 
is also requesting comments on possible one-time, one-year renewals 
that could be issued under certain circumstances and if all 
requirements are met, as described in Request for Public Comments at 
the end of this notice. NMFS will consider public comments prior to 
making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA 
authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final 
notice of our decision.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than 
September 9, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief,

[[Page 48207]]

Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, and submitted via email to 
[email protected].
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. Comments, including all attachments, must 
not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. All comments received are a part of 
the public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities without change. All 
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily 
submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit 
confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected 
information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leah Davis, 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 the 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 the takings are set forth. The definitions 
of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the 
relevant sections below.

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 IHA) 
with respect to potential impacts on the human environment.
    This action is consistent with categories of activities identified 
in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs 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 
preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review.
    We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice 
prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the 
IHA request.

Summary of Request

    On January 14, 2020, NMFS received a request from the Navy for an 
IHA to take marine mammals incidental to the Transit Protection Program 
Pier and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in 
Silverdale, Washington over two years. The Navy submitted a revised 
application on March 23, 2020, which was deemed adequate and complete 
on June 10, 2020. The Navy's request is for take of a small number of 
five species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment and Level A 
harassment. Neither the Navy nor NMFS expects serious injury or 
mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, IHAs are 
appropriate.
    The IHAs, if issued, will be effective from July 16, 2021 to 
January 15, 2022 for Year 1 activities, and July 16, 2022 to January 
15, 2023 for Year 2 activities.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    The Navy is proposing to construct and operate a pier for berthing 
of Transit Protection Program (TPP) blocking vessels, which provide 
security escort to Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines between Naval 
Base Kitsap Bangor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. These vessels are 
currently berthed on a space-available basis at various locations at 
Kitsap Bangor. Kitsap Bangor is located on Hood Canal approximately 20 
miles (mi) (32 kilometers (km)) west of Seattle, Washington. 
Construction activities include vibratory and impact pile driving and 
vibratory pile removal, over approximately 80 days in year 1 and 10 
days in year 2.

Dates and Duration

    The Navy anticipates that construction for the TPP project will 
occur over two years. The proposed IHAs would be effective from July 
16, 2021 to January 15, 2022 for Year 1 activities, and July 16, 2022 
to January 15, 2023 for Year 2 activities. The Navy expects that pile 
driving will require a maximum of 90 in-water pile-driving days over 
the two-year period. They anticipate completing the majority of the 
proposed construction during Year 1 on approximately 80 in-water 
workdays. Year 2 activities will include fender pile and guide pile 
installation only on approximately 10 in-water workdays. Pile driving 
and removal are expected to occur up to five hours per day during 
daylight hours. Each year, pile driving will occur during the in-water 
work window (IWWW) at Kitsap Bangor from July 16 to January 15. This 
IWWW is typically imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the NMFS in an effort to avoid 
in-water construction when Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed juvenile 
salmonids are most likely to be present.

Specific Geographic Region

    Naval Base Kitsap Bangor is located north of the community of 
Silverdale in Kitsap County on the Hood Canal. Hood Canal is a long, 
narrow, fjord-like basin of western Puget Sound, characterized by 
relatively steep sides and irregular seafloor topography. In the 
entrance to Hood Canal, water depths in the center of the waterway near 
Admiralty Inlet vary between 300 and 420 feet (ft) (91 and 128 m). As 
the canal extends southwestward toward the Olympic Mountain Range and 
Thorndyke Bay, water depth decreases to approximately 160 ft (49 m). 
The proposed location for the TPP Pier is at the tip of the Keyport/

[[Page 48208]]

Bangor Spit, north of the Keyport/Bangor Dock (Figure 1). The Bangor 
waterfront on Naval Base Kitsap occupies approximately 5 mi (8 km) of 
the shoreline within northern Hood Canal (1.7 percent of the entire 
Hood Canal coastline). Depths in the center of the waterway off the 
Bangor waterfront are generally 200 to 400 ft (61 to 122 m).
    Human-generated sound is a significant contributor to the ambient 
acoustic environment at Kitsap Bangor. Normal port activities include 
vessel traffic from large ships, support vessels and security boats, 
and loading and maintenance operations, which all generate underwater 
sound (Urick, 1983). Other sources of human-generated underwater sound 
not specific to naval installations include sounds from echo sounders 
on commercial and recreational vessels, industrial ship noise, and 
noise from recreational boat engines.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN10AU20.003

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    The Navy plans to construct a pier for berthing TPP blocking 
vessels. The TPP pier will consist of an L-shaped, pile-supported 
trestle from shore connecting to a pile-supported main pier section. 
The Navy will also install two dolphins, one south and one north of the 
pier which will be used solely for mooring support. Additionally, the 
contractor will construct a temporary work trestle (falsework piles and 
timber decking) for use during construction.
    The proposed TPP pier will consist of an L-shaped pile-supported 
trestle from shore connecting to a pile-supported main pier section. 
The trestle will be concrete and approximately 114 ft (34.7 m) long and 
39 ft (11.9 m) wide, including a pedestrian walkway. The main pier 
section will also be concrete and approximately 299 ft (91.1 m) long 
and 69 ft (21 m) wide.
    The contractor will need to construct a 140-ft (42.6 m) by 20-ft 
(6.1 m) temporary work trestle (falsework piles and timber decking). 
The permanent trestle piles in the intertidal area will be driven from 
the deck of the temporary work trestle; the temporary trestle will 
subsequently be removed using a vibratory hammer.
    Pier and trestle construction will require one derrick barge with a 
crane and one support/material barge.
    The Navy plans to install a fender system along the west face of 
the pier with two berthing camels where the blocking vessels will tie 
up to the pier. Each camel will be 65 ft (19.8 m) long by 12 ft (3.7 m) 
wide and constructed of grated material. The camels will serve as both 
a standoff for the blocking vessels and a platform for boarding the 
blocking vessels. The camels will be accessed via brows down from the 
main pier deck. The brow platforms and brows will also be constructed 
of grated material. NMFS does not expect camel or brow platform 
installation to result in the take of marine mammals, and we do not 
discuss their installation further in this notice.
    The fender piles will be installed on the outer side of the pier to 
protect it from accidental damage by vessels. Where geotechnical 
conditions do not allow piles to be driven to the required depth using 
vibratory methods, an

[[Page 48209]]

impact hammer may be used to drive some of the 36-in (91.4 cm) support 
piles for part or all of their length. The 24-in (61.0 cm) fender piles 
and 30-in (76.2 cm) camel guide piles will not be impact driven.
    The Navy plans to construct two dolphins, one south of the pier, 
and one north of the pier for mooring support. The dolphins will 
support mooring hardware for the bow and stern lines of the blocking 
vessels. The structural system for the mooring dolphins will consist of 
a 12 ft by 12 ft (3.7 m by 3.7 m) cast-in-place concrete pile cap and 
four 36-inch battered steel pipe piles. The Navy plans to construct a 
shoreline abutment under the pier trestle. The shoreline abutment will 
be constructed from sheet piles and will be constructed landward of 
mean higher high water (MHHW). Therefore, we do not expect the 
shoreline abutment to result in take of marine mammals, and it is not 
discussed further in this notice.
    The trestle, pier, and dolphins will require in-water installation 
of a total of 120 permanent steel piles that are 24, 30, or 36 inches 
in diameter, and 40 temporary steel falsework piles that are 36 inches 
in diameter.
    An additional four 36-inch trestle support piles and 20 36-inch 
falsework piles will be located above MHHW, however, we do not expect 
installation of piles above MHHW to result in take of marine mammals, 
and these piles are not discussed further.
    The Navy will primarily install piles using a vibratory hammer, but 
may use an impact hammer to install steel support piles. Steel support 
piles will be advanced to the extent practicable with a vibratory 
driver. For load-bearing structures, an impact hammer is typically 
required to strike a pile a number of times to ensure it has met the 
load-bearing specifications, a process referred to as ``proofing.'' 
Piles will only be impact driven when required for proofing or when a 
pile cannot be advanced with a vibratory driver due to hard substrate 
conditions. The Navy does not plan to conduct pile driving with 
multiple hammers concurrently.

  Table 1--Summary of Piles To Be Installed or Removed in Year 1 Across
                             All Structures
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Number of  in-
             Pile type                 Driving method       water piles
------------------------------------------------------------------------
36-inch Steel Pipe Piles..........  Vibratory and Impact             100
                                     (proofing).
36-inch Steel Falsework Piles.....  Vibratory...........          \a\ 40
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ These piles will be installed and later removed.


           Table 2--Summary of Piles To Be Installed in Year 2
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Number of  in-
             Pile type                 Driving method       water piles
------------------------------------------------------------------------
24-inch Steel Fender Piles........  Vibratory...........              10
30-inch Steel Guide Piles.........  Vibratory...........              10
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Navy will also conduct several construction activities in upland 
areas, including installation of diesel fuel tanks, installation of a 
paved parking area, construction of a vessel maintenance facility, 
among other activities. Given their location, we do not expect any of 
these upland construction activities to result in the take of marine 
mammals, and they are not discussed further in this notice. Please 
refer to the Navy's application for additional detail on these project 
components.
    Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are 
described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed 
Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting).

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    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 (SARs; 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 3 lists all species or stocks for which take is expected and 
proposed to be authorized for this action, 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 (2020). PBR is defined by 
the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural 
mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while 
allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable 
population (as described in NMFS's SARs). While no mortality is 
anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and 
mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross 
indicators of the status of the species and other threats.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or 
the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. 
NMFS's stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that 
comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend 
beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in 
NMFS's U.S. Pacific and Alaska SARs (e.g., Carretta et al., 2020). All 
values presented in Table 3 are the most recent available at the time 
of publication and are available in the 2019 SARs (Carretta et al., 
2020, Muto et al., 2020).

[[Page 48210]]



                                                      Table 3--Species Proposed for Authorized Take
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                        ESA/ MMPA  status;   Stock abundance  (CV,
             Common name                  Scientific name               Stock             strategic  (Y/N)     Nmin, most recent       PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                                \a\          abundance survey) \b\               SI \c\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Delphinidae:
    Killer Whale....................  Orcinus orca...........  West Coast Transient...  -, -, N             243 \d\ (N/A, 243,            2.4          0
                                                                                                             2009).
Family Phocoenidae (porpoises):
    Harbor porpoise.................  Phocoena phocoena......  Washington Inland        -, -, N             11,233 (0.37, 8,308,           66      >=7.2
                                                                Waters.                                      2015).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Otariidae (eared seals and
 sea lions):
    California Sea Lion.............  Zalophus californianus.  United States..........  -, -, N             257,606 (N/A, 233,515,     14,011       >321
                                                                                                             2014).
    Steller sea lion................  Eumetopias jubatus       Eastern U.S............  -, -, N             43,201 \e\ (see SAR,        2,592        113
                                       monteriensis.                                                         43,201, 2017).
Family Phocidae (earless seals):
    Harbor seal.....................  Phoca vitulina.........  Washington Inland        -, -, N             1,088 (0.15, UNK,             UNK        0.2
                                                                Waters, Hood Canal.                          1999) \f\.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\-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.
\b\-NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports-region. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance.
\c\-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 mortality/serious injury (M/SI) often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a
  minimum value or range.
\d\-Based on counts of individual animals identified from photo-identification catalogues. Surveys for abundance estimates of these stocks are conducted
  infrequently.
\e\-Best estimate of pup and non-pup counts, which have not been corrected to account for animals at sea during abundance surveys.
\f\-The abundance estimate for this stock is greater than eight years old and is therefore not considered current. PBR is considered undetermined for
  this stock, as there is no current minimum abundance estimate for use in calculation. We nevertheless present the most recent abundance estimates, as
  these represent the best available information for use in this document.

    As indicated above, all five species (with five managed stocks) in 
Table 3 temporally and spatially co-occur with the activity to the 
degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have proposed 
authorizing it. While humpback whale, gray whale, Southern Resident 
killer whale, Dall's porpoise, and bottlenose dolphin have been sighted 
in the area, the temporal and spatial occurrence of these species is 
such that take is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed 
further beyond the explanation provided here. Humpback whales 
(Megaptera novaeangliae) have been detected year-round in small numbers 
in Puget Sound. In Hood Canal, after an absence of sightings for over 
15 years, an individual was seen over a 1-week period in early 2012, 
with additional 1-day sightings in 2015, 2016, and 2017 (Orca Network, 
2019). However, these sightings are exceptions to the normal occurrence 
of the species in Washington inland waters. Gray whales (Eschrichtius 
robustus) have been infrequently documented in Hood Canal waters over 
the past decade. There were five sightings in 2017 and one in 2018 
(Orca Network, 2017, 2019). These sightings are an exception to the 
normal seasonal occurrence of gray whales in Puget Sound feeding areas. 
The Southern Resident killer whale stock is resident to the inland 
waters of Washington state and British Columbia; however, it has not 
been seen in Hood Canal in over 15 years. Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides 
dalli) was documented once in Hood Canal in 2009 and more recently once 
in 2018 (Orca Network, 2019); however, Dall's porpoises are unlikely to 
be present in Hood Canal. Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) were 
documented in Hood Canal twice in 2018 (Orca Network, 2019); however, 
bottlenose dolphins are unlikely to be present in Hood Canal.

Killer Whale

    Killer whales in the project area are expected to be from the West 
Coast Transient stock, which occurs from California through 
southeastern Alaska with a preference for coastal waters of southern 
Alaska and British Columbia (Krahn et al., 2002). Transient killer 
whales in the Pacific Northwest spend most of their time along the 
outer coast of British Columbia and Washington, but visit inland waters 
in search of harbor seals, sea lions, and other prey.
    Transients may occur in inland waters in any month (Orca Network, 
2015). However, Morton (1990) found bimodal peaks in spring (March) and 
fall (September to November) for transients on the northeastern coast 
of British Columbia, and Baird and Dill (1995) found some transient 
groups frequenting the vicinity of harbor seal haulouts around southern 
Vancouver Island during August and September, which is the peak period 
for pupping through post-weaning of harbor seal pups. Not all transient 
groups were seasonal in these studies, and their movements appeared to 
be unpredictable. From 2004-2010, transient killer whales occurred in 
Washington inland waters most frequently in August-September with a 
strong second peak in April-May (Houghton et al., 2015).
    The number of West Coast Transient killer whales in Washington 
inland waters at any one time was previously considered likely to be 
fewer than 20 individuals (Wiles, 2004). Recent research suggests that 
the transient killer whales use of inland waters increased from 2004 
through 2010, with the trend likely due to increasing prey abundance 
(Houghton et al., 2015). Many of the West Coast Transients in 
Washington inland waters have been catalogued by photo identification.
    Transient killer whales were observed for lengthy periods in Hood 
Canal in 2003 (59 days) and 2005 (172 days) between the months of 
January and July (London, 2006), but were not observed again until 
March 2016 (Orca Network, 2016). Transient killer whales were observed 
in Hood Canal on two days in

[[Page 48211]]

March 2016, one day in April 2016, eight consecutive days in May 2016, 
one day in 2017, 11 consecutive days in April 2018, and one day on two 
additional occasions in 2018. Some of the sightings in 2016 and 2018 
were in Dabob Bay (Orca Network, 2017, 2019). Killer whales were 
historically documented in Hood Canal by sound recordings in 1958 
(Ford, 1991), a photograph from 1973, sound recordings in 1995 (Unger, 
1997), and anecdotal accounts of historical use. Long-term use of Hood 
Canal is likely anomalous. The more typical use of Hood Canal appears 
to be short-term occupancy for foraging in a small area, followed by 
departure from Hood Canal.

Harbor Porpoise

    Harbor porpoise in Puget Sound are expected to be from the 
Washington Inland Waters stock. In Washington inland waters, harbor 
porpoise are known to occur in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San 
Juan Island area year-round (Calambokidis & Baird, 1994; Osmek et al., 
1996; Carretta et al., 2012). Harbor porpoises were historically one of 
the most commonly observed marine mammals in Puget Sound (Scheffer & 
Slipp, 1948); however, there was a significant decline in sightings 
beginning in the 1940s (Everitt et al., 1979; Calambokidis et al., 
1992). Only a few sightings were reported between the 1970s and 1980s 
(Calambokidis et al., 1992; Osmek et al., 1996; Suryan & Harvey, 1998), 
and no harbor porpoise sightings were recorded during multiple ship and 
aerial surveys conducted in Puget Sound (including Hood Canal) in 1991 
and 1994 (Calambokidis et al., 1992; Osmek et al., 1996). Incidental 
sightings of marine mammals during aerial bird surveys conducted as 
part of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP) detected few 
harbor porpoises in Puget Sound between 1992 and 1999 (Nysewander et 
al., 2005). However, these sightings may have been negatively biased 
due to the low elevation of the plane that may have caused an avoidance 
behavior. Since 1999, PSAMP data, stranding data, and aerial surveys 
conducted from 2013 to 2015 documented increasing numbers of harbor 
porpoise in Puget Sound (Nysewander, 2005; WDFW, 2008; Jeffries, 2013; 
Jefferson et al., 2016; Smultea et al., 2017).
    Sightings in Hood Canal, north of the Hood Canal Bridge, have 
increased in recent years (Calambokidis, 2010). During line-transect 
vessel surveys conducted in the Hood Canal in 2011 for the Test Pile 
Program near Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and Dabob Bay (HDR, 2012), an 
average of six harbor porpoises were sighted per day in the deeper 
waters.

Steller Sea Lion

    Steller sea lions in the project area are expected to be from the 
Eastern U.S. stock. The Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions is 
found along the coasts of southeast Alaska to northern California where 
they occur at rookeries and numerous haulout locations along the 
coastline (Jeffries et al., 2000; Scordino, 2006; NMFS, 2013). Along 
the northern Washington coast, up to 25 pups are born annually 
(Jeffries, 2013). Male Steller sea lions often disperse widely outside 
of the breeding season from breeding rookeries in northern California 
(St. George Reef) and southern Oregon (Rogue Reef) (Scordino, 2006; 
Wright et al., 2010). Based on mark recapture sighting studies, males 
migrate back into these Oregon and California locations from winter 
feeding areas in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska (Scordino, 
2006).
    In Washington, Steller sea lions use haulout sites primarily along 
the outer coast from the Columbia River to Cape Flattery, as well as 
along the Vancouver Island side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Jeffries 
et al., 2000). A major winter haulout is located in the Strait of Juan 
de Fuca at Race Rocks, British Columbia, Canada (Canadian side of the 
Strait of Juan de Fuca) (Edgell and Demarchi, 2012). Numbers vary 
seasonally in Washington with peak numbers present during the fall and 
winter months and a decline in the summer months that corresponds to 
the breeding season at coastal rookeries (approximately late May to 
early June) (Jeffries et al., 2000). In Puget Sound, Jeffries (2012) 
identified five winter haulout sites used by adult and subadult 
(immature or pre-breeding animals) Steller sea lions, ranging from 
immediately south of Port Townsend (near Admiralty Inlet) to Olympia in 
southern Puget Sound (see Figure 4-1 of the Navy's application). 
Numbers of animals observed at these sites ranged from a few to less 
than 100 (Jeffries, 2012). In addition, Steller sea lions 
opportunistically haul out on various navigational buoys in Admiralty 
Inlet south through southern Puget Sound near Olympia (Jeffries, 2012). 
Typically, one or two animals occur at a time on these buoys.
    Steller sea lions have been seasonally documented in shore-based 
surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Hood Canal since 2008 with up to 
15 individuals observed hauled out on submarines at Delta Pier (Navy, 
2016, 2019). Navy surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor indicate Steller 
sea lions begin arriving in September and depart by the end of May 
(Navy, 2016, 2019). Survey methods and frequency are detailed Appendix 
A of the Navy's application.

California Sea Lion

    Jeffries et al. (2000) and Jeffries (2012) identified dedicated, 
regular haulouts used by adult and subadult California sea lions in 
Washington inland waters. Main haulouts occur at Naval Base Kitsap 
Bangor, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, and Naval Station Everett, as well 
as in Rich Passage near Manchester, Seattle (Shilshole Bay), south 
Puget Sound (Commencement Bay, Budd Inlet), and numerous navigation 
buoys south of Whidbey Island to Olympia in south Puget Sound (Jeffries 
et al., 2000; Jeffries, 2012) (Figure 4-1 of the Navy's application). 
Race Rocks, British Columbia, Canada (Canadian side of the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca) has been identified as a major winter haulout for 
California sea lions (Edgell and Demarchi, 2012). California sea lions 
are typically present most of the year except for mid-June through July 
in Washington inland waters, with peak abundance numbers between 
October and May (NMFS, 1997; Jeffries et al., 2000). California sea 
lions are expected to forage within the area, following local prey 
availability. During summer months and associated breeding periods, the 
inland waters are not considered a high-use area by California sea 
lions, as they are returning to rookeries in California waters. 
However, California sea lions have been documented during shore-based 
surveys at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Hood Canal since 2008 in all 
survey months, with as many as 320 individuals observed at one time 
(October 2018) hauled out on submarines at Delta Pier and on port 
security barrier (PSB) floats (Navy, 2016, 2019; Appendix A of the 
Navy's application). Relatively few individuals (<17 sighted per 
survey) were present during these surveys from June through August.

Harbor Seal

    Harbor seals are a coastal species, rarely found more than 12 mi 
(19.3 km) from shore. They frequently occupy bays, estuaries, and 
inlets. Individual seals have been observed several miles upstream in 
coastal rivers (Baird, 2001). Ideal harbor seal habitat includes 
haulout sites, areas providing shelter during breeding periods, and 
areas with sufficient food (Bj[oslash]rge, 2002). Haulout areas can 
include intertidal and subtidal rock outcrops, sandbars, sandy beaches, 
peat banks in salt marshes, and man-

[[Page 48212]]

made structures such as log booms, docks, and recreational floats 
(Wilson, 1978; Prescott, 1982; Schneider & Payne, 1983, Gilbert & 
Guldager, 1998; Jeffries et al., 2000; Lambourn et al., 2010). Harbor 
seals do not make extensive pelagic migrations, though some long 
distance movement of tagged animals in Alaska (108 mi (174 km)) and 
along the U.S. west coast (up to 342 mi (550 km)) have been recorded 
(Brown & Mate, 1983; Womble & Gende, 2013). Harbor seals have also 
displayed strong fidelity to haulout sites.
    Harbor seals are the most common, widely distributed marine mammal 
found in Washington marine waters and are frequently observed in the 
nearshore marine environment. They occur year-round and breed in 
Washington. Numerous harbor seal haulouts occur in Washington inland 
waters. Haulouts include intertidal and subtidal rock outcrops, 
beaches, reefs, sandbars, log booms, and floats. Numbers of individuals 
at haulouts range from a few to between 100 and 500 individuals 
(Jeffries et al., 2000).
    Harbor seals are expected to occur year-round at Naval Base Kitsap 
Bangor. In Hood Canal, where Kitsap Bangor is located, known haulouts 
occur on the west side of Hood Canal at the mouth of the Dosewallips 
River and on the western and northern shorelines in Dabob Bay located 
approximately 8 mi (13 km) away from the Navy's installation. Vessel-
based surveys conducted from 2007 to 2010 at Kitsap Bangor, observed 
harbor seals in every month of surveys (Agness & Tannenbaum, 2009; 
Tannenbaum et al., 2009, 2011). Harbor seals were routinely seen during 
marine mammal monitoring for two construction projects, the Test Pile 
Project and EHW-2 construction projects (HDR, 2012; Hart Crowser, 2013, 
2014, 2015). Small numbers of harbor seals have been documented hauling 
out on the PSB floats, wavescreens at Carderock Pier, buoys, barges, 
marine vessels, and logs (Agness and Tannenbaum, 2009; Tannenbaum et 
al., 2009, 2011; Navy, 2016) and on man-made floating structures near 
Keyport Bangor Dock and Delta Pier. Opportunistic surveys by a Naval 
Facilities Engineering Command biologist in August and September 2016 
recorded as many as 28 harbor seals hauled out under Marginal Wharf or 
swimming in adjacent waters. On two occasions, four to six individuals 
were observed hauled out near Delta Pier.
    The Navy identified a few observations of harbor seal births or 
neonates. In 2014, the Navy's knowledge of harbor seal births increased 
due to increased pinniped surveys on the waterfront and increased 
contact with waterfront personnel who have had lengthy careers at 
Bangor (Navy, 2016). Known harbor seal births include one on the 
Carderock wave screen in August 2011 and at least one on a small 10 by 
10 ft (3 by 3 m) floating dock at EHW-2 in fall 2013, as reported by 
EHW-2 construction crews, and afterbirth observed on a float at 
Magnetic Silencing Facility with an unknown date. In addition, Navy 
biologists learned that harbor seal pupping has occurred on a section 
of the Service Pier since approximately 2001, according to the Port 
Operations vessel crews. Harbor seal mother and pup sets were observed 
in 2014 hauled out on the Carderock wavescreen and swimming in nearby 
waters, and swimming near Delta Pier (Navy, 2016).

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 
decibel (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 4.

                                      Table 4--Marine Mammal Hearing Groups
                                                  [NMFS, 2018]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Hearing group                                     Generalized hearing range *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales)...............  7 Hz to 35 kHz.
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales,      150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 beaked whales, bottlenose whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river  275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger & L.
 australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals)............  50 Hz to 86 kHz.
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur       60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 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. 
Five marine mammal species (two cetacean and two pinniped (two otariid 
and one phocid) species) have the reasonable potential to co-occur with 
the proposed construction (Table 4). Of the cetacean species that may 
be present, one is classified as a mid-frequency cetacean (i.e., killer 
whale), and one is classified as a high-frequency cetacean (i.e., 
harbor porpoise).

[[Page 48213]]

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

    This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that 
components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and 
their habitat. The Estimated Take section later in this document 
includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are 
expected to be taken by this activity. The Negligible Impact Analysis 
and Determination section considers the content of this section, the 
Estimated Take section, and the Proposed Mitigation section, to draw 
conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the 
reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those 
impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or 
stocks.
    Acoustic effects on marine mammals during the specified activity 
can occur from vibratory and impact pile driving. The effects of 
underwater noise from the Navy's proposed activities have the potential 
to result in Level A and Level B harassment of marine mammals in the 
action area.

Description of Sound Sources

    The marine soundscape is comprised of both ambient and 
anthropogenic sounds. Ambient sound is defined as the all-encompassing 
sound in a given place and is usually a composite of sound from many 
sources both near and far. The sound level of an area is defined by the 
total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. 
These sources may include physical (e.g., waves, wind, precipitation, 
earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced 
by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic sound 
(e.g., vessels, dredging, aircraft, construction).
    The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at 
any given location and time--which comprise ``ambient'' or 
``background'' sound--depends not only on the source levels (as 
determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and 
shipping activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate 
through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the 
spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea 
floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a 
large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected 
to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. 
Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10-20 dB 
from day to day (Richardson et al. 1995). The result is that, depending 
on the source type and its intensity, sound from the specified activity 
may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a 
distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals.
    In-water construction activities associated with the project would 
include impact pile driving, vibratory pile driving, and vibratory pile 
removal. The sounds produced by these activities fall into one of two 
general sound types: Impulsive and non-impulsive. Impulsive sounds 
(e.g., explosions, gunshots, sonic booms, impact pile driving) are 
typically transient, brief (less than 1 second), broadband, and consist 
of high peak sound pressure with rapid rise time and rapid decay (ANSI 
1986; NIOSH 1998; ANSI 2005; NMFS 2018a). Non-impulsive sounds (e.g., 
aircraft, machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory 
pile driving, and active sonar systems) can be broadband, narrowband or 
tonal, brief or prolonged (continuous or intermittent), and typically 
do not have the high peak sound pressure with raid rise/decay time that 
impulsive sounds do (ANSI 1995; NIOSH 1998; NMFS 2018a). The 
distinction between these two sound types is important because they 
have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with 
regard to hearing (e.g., Ward 1997 in Southall et al. 2007).
    Two types of pile hammers would be used on this project: Impact and 
vibratory. Impact hammers operate by repeatedly dropping a heavy piston 
onto a pile to drive the pile into the substrate. Sound generated by 
impact hammers is characterized by rapid rise times and high peak 
levels, a potentially injurious combination (Hastings and Popper 2005). 
Vibratory hammers install piles by vibrating them and allowing the 
weight of the hammer to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers 
produce significantly less sound than impact hammers. Peak sound 
pressure levels (SPLs) may be 180 dB or greater, but are generally 10 
to 20 dB lower than SPLs generated during impact pile driving of the 
same-sized pile (Oestman et al. 2009). Rise time is slower, reducing 
the probability and severity of injury, and sound energy is distributed 
over a greater amount of time (Nedwell and Edwards 2002; Carlson et al. 
2005).
    The likely or possible impacts of the Navy's proposed activity on 
marine mammals could involve both non-acoustic and acoustic stressors. 
Potential non-acoustic stressors could result from the physical 
presence of the equipment and personnel; however, any impacts to marine 
mammals are expected to primarily be acoustic in nature. Acoustic 
stressors include effects of heavy equipment operation during pile 
installation and removal.

Acoustic Impacts

    The introduction of anthropogenic noise into the aquatic 
environment from pile driving and removal is the primary means by which 
marine mammals may be harassed from the Navy's specified activity. In 
general, animals exposed to natural or anthropogenic sound may 
experience physical and psychological effects, ranging in magnitude 
from none to severe (Southall et al. 2007). In general, exposure to 
pile driving and removal noise has the potential to result in auditory 
threshold shifts and behavioral reactions (e.g., avoidance, temporary 
cessation of foraging and vocalizing, changes in dive behavior). 
Exposure to anthropogenic noise can also lead to non-observable 
physiological responses such an increase in stress hormones. Additional 
noise in a marine mammal's habitat can mask acoustic cues used by 
marine mammals to carry out daily functions such as communication and 
predator and prey detection. The effects of pile driving and removal 
noise on marine mammals are dependent on several factors, including, 
but not limited to, sound type (e.g., impulsive vs. non-impulsive), the 
species, age and sex class (e.g., adult male vs. mom with calf), 
duration of exposure, the distance between the pile and the animal, 
received levels, behavior at time of exposure, and previous history 
with exposure (Wartzok et al. 2004; Southall et al. 2007). Here we 
discuss physical auditory effects (threshold shifts) followed by 
behavioral effects and potential impacts on habitat.
    NMFS defines a noise-induced threshold shift (TS) as a change, 
usually an increase, in the threshold of audibility at a specified 
frequency or portion of an individual's hearing range above a 
previously established reference level (NMFS 2018). The amount of 
threshold shift is customarily expressed in dB. A TS can be permanent 
or temporary. As described in NMFS (2018), there are numerous factors 
to consider when examining the consequence of TS, including, but not 
limited to, the signal temporal pattern (e.g., impulsive or non-
impulsive), likelihood an individual would be exposed for a long enough 
duration or to a high enough level to induce a TS, the magnitude of the 
TS, time to recovery (seconds to minutes or hours to days), the 
frequency range of the exposure (i.e., spectral content), the

[[Page 48214]]

hearing and vocalization frequency range of the exposed species 
relative to the signal's frequency spectrum (i.e., how an animal uses 
sound within the frequency band of the signal; e.g., Kastelein et al. 
2014), and the overlap between the animal and the source (e.g., 
spatial, temporal, and spectral).
    Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)--NMFS defines PTS as a permanent, 
irreversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified 
frequency or portion of an individual's hearing range above a 
previously established reference level (NMFS 2018). Available data from 
humans and other terrestrial mammals indicate that a 40 dB threshold 
shift approximates PTS onset (see Ward et al. 1958, 1959; Ward 1960; 
Kryter et al. 1966; Miller 1974; Ahroon et al. 1996; Henderson et al. 
2008). PTS levels for marine mammals are estimates, as with the 
exception of a single study unintentionally inducing PTS in a harbor 
seal (Kastak et al. 2008), there are no empirical data measuring PTS in 
marine mammals largely due to the fact that, for various ethical 
reasons, experiments involving anthropogenic noise exposure at levels 
inducing PTS are not typically pursued or authorized (NMFS 2018).
    Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)--TTS is a temporary, reversible 
increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or 
portion of an individual's hearing range above a previously established 
reference level (NMFS 2018). Based on data from cetacean TTS 
measurements (see Southall et al. 2007), a TTS of 6 dB is considered 
the minimum threshold shift clearly larger than any day-to-day or 
session-to-session variation in a subject's normal hearing ability 
(Schlundt et al. 2000; Finneran et al. 2000, 2002). As described in 
Finneran (2015), marine mammal studies have shown the amount of TTS 
increases with cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum) in an 
accelerating fashion: At low exposures with lower SELcum, the amount of 
TTS is typically small and the growth curves have shallow slopes. At 
exposures with higher SELcum, the growth curves become steeper and 
approach linear relationships with the noise SEL.
    Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration 
(i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in 
which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging 
from discountable to serious (similar to those discussed in auditory 
masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily 
compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-
critical frequency range that takes place during a time when the animal 
is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient noise is lower and 
there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger 
amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when 
communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could 
have more serious impacts. We note that reduced hearing sensitivity as 
a simple function of aging has been observed in marine mammals, as well 
as humans and other taxa (Southall et al. 2007), so we can infer that 
strategies exist for coping with this condition to some degree, though 
likely not without cost.
    Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans 
(bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor 
porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) 
and five species of pinnipeds exposed to a limited number of sound 
sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory 
settings (Finneran 2015). TTS was not observed in trained spotted 
(Phoca largha) and ringed (Pusa hispida) seals exposed to impulsive 
noise at levels matching previous predictions of TTS onset (Reichmuth 
et al. 2016). In general, harbor seals and harbor porpoises have a 
lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species 
(Finneran 2015). Additionally, the existing marine mammal TTS data come 
from a limited number of individuals within these species. No data are 
available on noise-induced hearing loss for mysticetes. For summaries 
of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset 
thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007), Finneran and Jenkins 
(2012), Finneran (2015), and Table 5 in NMFS (2018). Installing piles 
requires a combination of impact pile driving and vibratory pile 
driving. For this project, these activities would not occur at the same 
time and there would be pauses in activities producing the sound during 
each day. Given these pauses and that many marine mammals are likely 
moving through the ensonified area and not remaining for extended 
periods of time, the potential for TS declines.
    Behavioral Harassment--Exposure to noise from pile driving and 
removal also has the potential to behaviorally disturb marine mammals. 
Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater sound; 
therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given sound 
in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving the 
signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater sound by 
changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the 
change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the 
stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces marine 
mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged 
period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant 
(e.g., Lusseau & Bejder 2007; Weilgart 2007; NRC 2005).
    Disturbance may result in changing durations of surfacing and 
dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; 
reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain 
behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle 
response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw 
clapping); avoidance of areas where sound sources are located. 
Pinnipeds may increase their haul out time, possibly to avoid in-water 
disturbance (Thorson and Reyff 2006). Behavioral responses to sound are 
highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on 
numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of 
maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory 
sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors 
(e.g., Richardson et al. 1995; Wartzok et al. 2003; Southall et al., 
2007; Weilgart 2007; Archer et al,. 2010). Behavioral reactions can 
vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, 
depending on previous experience with a sound source, context, and 
numerous other factors (Ellison et al. 2012), and can vary depending on 
characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is 
moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). In 
general, pinnipeds seem more tolerant of, or at least habituate more 
quickly to, potentially disturbing underwater sound than do cetaceans, 
and generally seem to be less responsive to exposure to industrial 
sound than most cetaceans. Please see Appendices B-C of Southall et al. 
(2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral 
responses to sound.
    Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with 
anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed 
displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary 
indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive 
behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, 
duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as 
differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to 
differences in

[[Page 48215]]

response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al. 2001; Nowacek et 
al. 2004; Madsen et al. 2006; Yazvenko et al. 2007). A determination of 
whether foraging disruptions incur fitness consequences would require 
information on or estimates of the energetic requirements of the 
affected individuals and the relationship between prey availability, 
foraging effort and success, and the life history stage of the animal.
    Stress responses--An animal's perception of a threat may be 
sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination 
of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, 
neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle 1950; Moberg 
2000). In many cases, an animal's first and sometimes most economical 
(in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the 
potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress 
typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and 
gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short 
duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an 
animal's fitness.
    Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-
pituitary-adrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that 
are affected by stress--including immune competence, reproduction, 
metabolism, and behavior--are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-
induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been 
implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune 
competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 
2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated 
with stress (Romano et al., 2004).
    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and ``distress'' is the cost of 
the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores 
that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such 
circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious 
fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient 
energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, 
energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of 
distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves 
sufficient to restore normal function.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through 
controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals 
(e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; 
Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to 
exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects 
on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano 
et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., 
Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that 
noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was 
associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These 
and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine 
mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to 
acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be 
classified as ``distress.'' In addition, any animal experiencing TTS 
would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003), however 
distress is an unlikely result of this project based on observations of 
marine mammals during previous, similar projects in the area.
    Masking--Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering 
with, an animal's ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between 
acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific 
communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator 
avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al. 1995). Masking occurs when 
the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound 
at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may 
occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, 
precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., pile driving, shipping, sonar, 
seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to mask 
biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both 
the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-to-noise 
ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and 
to an animal's hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, 
critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, 
age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation 
conditions. Masking of natural sounds can result when human activities 
produce high levels of background sound at frequencies important to 
marine mammals. Conversely, if the background level of underwater sound 
is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an 
anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as far away as would 
be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked.
    Airborne Acoustic Effects--Pinnipeds that occur near the project 
site could be exposed to airborne sounds associated with pile driving 
and removal that have the potential to cause behavioral harassment, 
depending on their distance from pile driving activities. Cetaceans are 
not expected to be exposed to airborne sounds that would result in 
harassment as defined under the MMPA.
    Airborne noise would primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are 
swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise 
levels exceeding the acoustic thresholds. We recognize that pinnipeds 
in the water could be exposed to airborne sound that may result in 
behavioral harassment when looking with their heads above water. Most 
likely, airborne sound would cause behavioral responses similar to 
those discussed above in relation to underwater sound. For instance, 
anthropogenic sound could cause hauled-out pinnipeds to exhibit changes 
in their normal behavior, such as reduction in vocalizations, or cause 
them to temporarily abandon the area and move further from the source. 
However, these animals would previously have been `taken' because of 
exposure to underwater sound above the behavioral harassment 
thresholds, which are, in all cases, larger than those associated with 
airborne sound. Thus, the behavioral harassment of these animals is 
already accounted for in these estimates of potential take. Therefore, 
authorization of incidental take resulting from airborne sound for 
pinnipeds is not warranted, and airborne sound is not discussed further 
here.

Marine Mammal Habitat Effects

    The Navy's construction activities could have localized, temporary 
impacts on marine mammal habitat by increasing in-water sound pressure 
levels and slightly decreasing water quality. Construction activities 
are of short duration and would likely have temporary impacts on marine 
mammal habitat through increases in underwater sound. Increased noise 
levels may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion above) and 
adversely affect marine mammal prey in the vicinity of the project area 
(see discussion below). During impact and vibratory pile driving, 
elevated levels of underwater noise would ensonify Hood Canal where 
both fish and mammals may occur and could affect foraging success. 
Additionally, marine mammals may

[[Page 48216]]

avoid the area during construction, however, displacement due to noise 
is expected to be temporary and is not expected to result in long-term 
effects to the individuals or populations.
    A temporary and localized increase in turbidity near the seafloor 
would occur in the immediate area surrounding the area where piles are 
installed (and removed in the case of the temporary piles). The 
sediments on the sea floor will be disturbed during pile driving; 
however, suspension will be brief and localized and is unlikely to 
measurably affect marine mammals or their prey in the area. In general, 
turbidity associated with pile installation is localized to about a 25-
foot (7.6-meter) radius around the pile (Everitt et al. 1980). 
Cetaceans are not expected to be close enough to the pile driving areas 
to experience effects of turbidity, and any pinnipeds could avoid 
localized areas of turbidity. Therefore, we expect the impact from 
increased turbidity levels to be discountable to marine mammals and do 
not discuss it further.

In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Foraging Habitat

    The proposed activities would not result in permanent impacts to 
habitats used directly by marine mammals except for the actual 
footprint of the project. The total seafloor area affected by pile 
installation and removal is a very small area compared to the vast 
foraging area available to marine mammals in Hood Canal.
    Avoidance by potential prey (i.e., fish) of the immediate area due 
to the temporary loss of this foraging habitat is also possible. The 
duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is 
unknown, but we anticipate a rapid return to normal recruitment, 
distribution and behavior. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the 
disturbed area would still leave large areas of fish and marine mammal 
foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity in Hood Canal.

Effects on Potential Prey

    Sound may affect marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, 
behavior, or distribution of prey species (e.g., fish). Marine mammal 
prey varies by species, season, and location. Here, we describe studies 
regarding the effects of noise on known marine mammal prey.
    Fish utilize the soundscape and components of sound in their 
environment to perform important functions such as foraging, predator 
avoidance, mating, and spawning (e.g., Zelick et al., 1999; Fay, 2009). 
Depending on their hearing anatomy and peripheral sensory structures, 
which vary among species, fishes hear sounds using pressure and 
particle motion sensitivity capabilities and detect the motion of 
surrounding water (Fay et al., 2008). The potential effects of noise on 
fishes depends on the overlapping frequency range, distance from the 
sound source, water depth of exposure, and species-specific hearing 
sensitivity, anatomy, and physiology. Key impacts to fishes may include 
behavioral responses, hearing damage, barotrauma (pressure-related 
injuries), and mortality.
    Fish react to sounds which are especially strong and/or 
intermittent low-frequency sounds, and behavioral responses such as 
flight or avoidance are the most likely effects. Short duration, sharp 
sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local 
distribution. The reaction of fish to noise depends on the 
physiological state of the fish, past exposures, motivation (e.g., 
feeding, spawning, migration), and other environmental factors. 
Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish 
may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies 
have documented effects of pile driving on fish, although several are 
based on studies in support of large, multiyear bridge construction 
projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings, 
2009). Several studies have demonstrated that impulse sounds might 
affect the distribution and behavior of some fishes, potentially 
impacting foraging opportunities or increasing energetic costs (e.g., 
Fewtrell and McCauley, 2012; Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 
1992; Santulli et al., 1999; Paxton et al., 2017). However, some 
studies have shown no or slight reaction to impulse sounds (e.g., Pena 
et al., 2013; Wardle et al., 2001; Jorgenson and Gyselman, 2009; Cott 
et al., 2012).
    SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish 
and fish mortality. However, in most fish species, hair cells in the 
ear continuously regenerate and loss of auditory function likely is 
restored when damaged cells are replaced with new cells. Halvorsen et 
al. (2012a) showed that a TTS of 4-6 dB was recoverable within 24 hours 
for one species. Impacts would be most severe when the individual fish 
is close to the source and when the duration of exposure is long. 
Injury caused by barotrauma can range from slight to severe and can 
cause death, and is most likely for fish with swim bladders. Barotrauma 
injuries have been documented during controlled exposure to impact pile 
driving (Halvorsen et al., 2012b; Casper et al., 2013).
    The most likely impact to fish from pile driving activities at the 
project areas would be temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The 
duration of fish avoidance of an area after pile driving stops is 
unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and 
behavior is anticipated.
    The area impacted by the project is relatively small compared to 
the available habitat in the remainder of Hood Canal. Any behavioral 
avoidance by fish of the disturbed area would still leave significantly 
large areas of fish and marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby 
vicinity. Additionally, as noted previously, the Navy will adhere to 
the IWWW for pile extraction and installation (July 16 to January 15) 
to reduce potential effects to salmonids, including juvenile ESA-listed 
salmonids. As described in the preceding, the potential for the Navy's 
construction to affect the availability of prey to marine mammals or to 
meaningfully impact the quality of physical or acoustic habitat is 
considered to be insignificant.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both 
NMFS's consideration of ``small numbers'' and the negligible impact 
determination.
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).
    Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use 
of the acoustic sources (i.e., vibratory and impact pile driving) has 
the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for 
individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory 
injury (Level A harassment) to result, primarily for phocids, because 
predicted auditory injury zones are larger than for mid-frequency 
cetaceans and otariids, and Navy expects that protected species 
observers (PSOs) will not be able to effectively observe the entire 
Level A harassment zone due to

[[Page 48217]]

the numerous docks in the area. Auditory injury is unlikely to occur 
for mid-frequency cetaceans, high-frequency cetaceans, and otariids. 
The proposed mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to 
minimize the severity of the taking to the extent practicable.
    As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to 
be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is 
estimated.
    Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic 
thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available science 
indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some 
degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water 
that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or 
occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) 
and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic 
factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial 
prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively 
inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous 
monitoring results or average group size). Below, we describe the 
factors considered here in more detail and present the proposed take 
estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    NMFS recommends the use of acoustic thresholds that identify the 
received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals 
would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to 
Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A 
harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources--Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, 
Ellison et al., 2012). Based on what the available science indicates 
and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is 
both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a 
generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the 
onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are 
likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B 
harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above 
received levels of 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for continuous (e.g., 
vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) 
for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent 
(e.g., scientific sonar) sources.
    Navy's proposed activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory 
pile driving) and impulsive (impact pile driving) sources, and 
therefore the 120 and 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) thresholds are 
applicable.
    Level A harassment for non-explosive sources--NMFS' Technical 
Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine 
Mammal Hearing (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). Navy's proposed activity includes the use 
of impulsive (impact pile driving) and non-impulsive (vibratory pile 
driving) sources.
    These thresholds are provided in the table below. The references, 
analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are 
described in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at 
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-acoustic-technical-guidance.

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

Ensonified Area

    Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the 
activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the 
acoustic thresholds, which include source levels and transmission loss 
coefficient.
    The sound field in the project area is the existing background 
noise plus additional construction noise from the proposed project. 
Marine mammals are expected to be affected via sound generated by the 
primary components of the project (i.e., impact pile driving and 
vibratory pile driving and removal). The largest calculated Level B 
harassment zone is 11.7 km (7.3 mi) from the

[[Page 48218]]

source, with an area of 49.1 km\2\ (18.9 mi\2\).
    The source levels were derived from the Navy's document titled 
``Proxy Source Sound Levels and Potential Bubble Curtain Attenuation 
for Acoustic Modeling of Nearshore Marine Pile Driving at Navy 
Installations in Puget Sound'' (Navy 2015a). In that document, the Navy 
reviewed relevant data available for various types and sizes of piles 
typically used for pile driving and recommend proxy source values for 
Navy installations in Puget Sound. This document is included as 
Appendix B in the Navy's application. Source levels for each pile size 
and activity are presented in Table 6.
    The Navy will implement bubble curtains (e.g. pneumatic barrier 
typically comprised of hosing or PVC piping that disrupts underwater 
noise propagation; see Proposed Mitigation section below) during impact 
pile driving, with the possible exception of short periods when the 
device is turned off to test the effectiveness of the noise attenuation 
device. We have reduced the source level for these activities by 8 dB 
in consideration of site-specific measurements of source level 
reduction with use of bubble curtains (Navy, 2015). These reductions 
ranged from 8 dB to 10 dB. In their analysis, the Navy averaged 
different metrics for the same pile size. NMFS independently calculated 
the average source level reduction, averaging reductions of the same 
metric (ex: SPLrms) reported for both 36-in and 48-in piles. As such, 
NMFS calculated an SEL reduction of 8.5 dB, an SPLrms reduction of 8 
dB, and an SPLpk reduction of 10 dB. Therefore, given that the site-
specific 8 dB reduction proposed by the Navy is the same or lower than 
the result of NMFS's site-specific calculation, NMFS preliminarily 
accepted Navy's proposal to use an 8 dB reduction during impact pile 
driving.

                                Table 6--Project Sound Source Levels (Navy, 2015)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 Source level @10m
          Pile type and size               Installation method   -----------------------------------------------
                                                                      dB RMS          dB Peak         dB SEL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
36-inch Steel.........................  Impact..................           a 194           a 211           a 181
24-inch Steel.........................  Vibratory...............             161
30-inch Steel.........................  ........................  ..............  ..............             166
36-inch Steel.........................  ........................  ..............  ..............             166
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a Unattenuated.

    Transmission loss (TL) is the decrease in acoustic intensity as an 
acoustic pressure wave propagates out from a source. TL parameters vary 
with frequency, temperature, sea conditions, current, source and 
receiver depth, water depth, water chemistry, and bottom composition 
and topography. The general formula for underwater TL is:

TL = B * Log10 (R1/R2),

where

TL = transmission loss in dB
B = transmission loss coefficient
R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven 
pile, and
R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial 
measurement
    Absent site-specific acoustical monitoring with differing measured 
transmission loss, a practical spreading value of 15 is used as the 
transmission loss coefficient in the above formula. Site-specific 
transmission loss data for the TPP pier site are not available, 
therefore the default coefficient of 15 is used to determine the 
distances to the Level A and Level B harassment thresholds.
    When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in 
recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more 
technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in 
the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools 
to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with 
marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that 
because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for 
these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going 
to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of 
overestimate of Level A harassment take. However, these tools offer the 
best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D 
modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways 
to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address 
the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as pile 
driving, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the distance at which, if a 
marine mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the 
activity, it would incur PTS. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet, and 
the resulting isopleths are reported below.

                                                  Table 7--User Spreadsheet Input Parameters Used for Calculating Level A Harassment Isopleths
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Weighting                                                                                                 Distance from
                                                                          factor                                     Number of      Duration to      Number of      Propagation    source level
    Pile size and installation method        Spreadsheet tab used       adjustment           Source level          piles within   drive a single    strikes per       (xLogR)       measurement
                                                                           (kHz)                                    24-h period   pile (minutes)       pile                          (meters)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
36-inch Steel-Impact....................  E.1) Impact pile driving..               2  173 dB SELa...............               4              30             400              15              10
24-inch Steel-Vibratory.................  A.1) Vibratory pile                    2.5  161 dB RMS................             b 5              60
                                           driving.
30-inch Steel-Vibratory.................                                              166 dB RMS
36-inch Steel-Vibratory.................                                              166 dB RMS
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a This source level includes an 8dB reduction from the use of a bubble curtain.
b The Navy expects to install only 4 piles per day using a vibratory hammer; however, for purposes of calculating the Level A harassment zones, they have conservatively assumed that they may
  install 5 piles per day.


[[Page 48219]]


                                                            Table 8--Calculated Distances to Level A and Level B Harassment Isopleths
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                  Distance to level A harassment isopleth (m)                                       Distance to
                                                              -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------     level B
         Pile type and size             Installation method                                                                                                                         harassment
                                                                       LF cetacean           MF cetacean           HF cetacean                   Phocid               Otariid      isopleth (m)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
36-inch Steel.......................  Impact.................  294 (1m pk)...............              11  351 (14m pk)..............  158 (1m pk)..............              12             541
24-inch Steel.......................  Vibratory..............  20........................               2  30........................  12.......................               1           5,400
30-inch Steel.......................                           43........................               4  64........................  26.......................               2          11,700
36-inch Steel.......................                           43........................               4  64........................  26.......................               2          11,700
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation

    In this section we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations. We describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate.
Killer Whale
    Transient killer whales occasionally occur throughout Puget Sound 
but are rare in Hood Canal. In Puget Sound, they are typically observed 
in small groups with an average group size of six individuals 
(Houghton, 2012). Based on this Puget Sound average, the Navy estimated 
that two groups of six whales may occur within the Level B harassment 
zone during construction each year, and has requested 12 Level B 
harassment takes of killer whale for Year 1 and Year 2. NMFS concurs 
with this estimate, and proposes to authorize 12 Level B harassment 
takes of killer whale in each year. Given the estimated number of 
construction days in Year 2 (10 days), NMFS expects that 12 Level B 
harassment takes is a conservative estimate for Year 2, but is 
appropriate given that it accounts for the occurrence of just two 
groups.
    The largest Level A harassment zone for mid-frequency cetaceans 
extends 11 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch 
steel piles (Table 8). Given the small size of the Level A harassment 
zones, we would not expect Level A harassment take of killer whales to 
occur. Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 355 m shutdown 
zone for all cetaceans during that activity (Table 10). These shutdown 
zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment 
take of killer whale. Therefore, NMFS does not propose to authorize 
Level A harassment take of killer whale in Year 1 or Year 2.
Harbor Porpoise
    Harbor porpoises may be present in all major regions of Puget Sound 
throughout the year. Aerial surveys conducted throughout 2013 to 2015 
in Puget Sound indicated density in Puget Sound was 0.91 individuals/sq 
km) (95 percent CI = 0.72-1.10, all seasons pooled) and density in Hood 
Canal was 0.44/sq km (95 percent CI = 0.29-0.75, all seasons pooled) 
(Smultea et al., 2017). Mean group size of harbor porpoises in Puget 
Sound in the 2013-2015 surveys was 1.7 in Hood Canal.
    In consideration of the harbor porpoise take estimate, the Navy 
conservatively assumed that vibratory installation of 36-inch piles 
would occur on every in-water work day, given that that activity 
resulted in the largest Level B harassment zone. The Navy estimated 
Level B harassment takes of harbor porpoise by multiplying the 0.44 
animals/km\2\ by 49.1 km\2\ (estimated Level B harassment zone during 
vibratory driving of 36-inch piles) by the number of in-water workdays 
during each year. Therefore, during Year 1, the Navy estimated 1,728 
Level B harassment takes (0.44 animals/km\2\ x 49.1km\2\ x 80 days). 
During Year 2, the Navy estimated 216 Level B harassment takes (0.44 
animals/km\2\ x 49.1 km\2\ x 10 days). NMFS concurs with this approach, 
and proposes to authorize 1,728 Level B harassment takes of harbor 
porpoise in Year 1, and 216 Level B harassment takes of harbor porpoise 
in Year 2.
    The largest Level A harassment zone for high-frequency cetaceans 
extends 351 m from the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch 
steel piles (Table 8). The Navy is planning to implement a 355 m 
shutdown zone for all cetaceans during that activity (Table 10), which 
incorporates the entire Level A harassment zone, and the 14 m peak PTS 
isopleth (Table 8). Therefore, the shutdown zones are expected to 
eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of harbor porpoise, 
and NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A harassment take of 
harbor porpoise.
Steller Sea Lion
    Steller sea lions are routinely seen hauled out from mid-September 
through May on submarines at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, with a maximum 
haulout count of 15 individuals in November 2018. Because the daily 
average number of Steller sea lions hauled out at Kitsap Bangor has 
increased since 2013 compared to prior years, the Navy relied on 
monitoring data from July 2012 through February 2019 to determine the 
average of the maximum count of hauled out Steller sea lions for each 
month in the IWWW (Navy, 2016, 2019). While pinnipeds may haul out 
longer than the period required for pile driving, therefore not being 
exposed to underwater sound, the Navy conservatively assumed that any 
Steller sea lion that hauls out at Kitsap Bangor may enter the Level B 
harassment zone each day during pile driving.
    For each in-water work month, the Navy averaged the maximum number 
of hauled out Steller sea lions observed in a single survey at Kitsap 
Bangor during that month for each year (2008 to 2019; see Appendix A of 
the Navy's application). The Navy then averaged these monthly averages 
across the entire in-water work period, resulting in a maximum average 
of four Steller sea lions hauled out per day. The Navy assumed that 
each of these animals may enter the Level B harassment zone on each in-
water work day. Therefore, the Navy requested 320 Level B harassment 
takes of Steller sea lion in Year 1 (4 Steller sea lions x 80 in-water 
work days), and 40 Level B harassment takes of Steller sea lions during 
Year 2 (4 Steller sea lions x 10 in-water work days). NMFS concurs with 
this approach and proposes to authorize 320 Level B harassment takes of 
Steller sea lion during Year 1, and 40 Level B harassment takes of 
Steller sea lion during Year 2.
    The largest Level A harassment zone for otariids extends 11 m from 
the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch steel piles (Table 8). 
Given the small size of the Level A harassment zones, we would not 
expect Level A harassment take of Steller sea lion to occur. 
Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 15m shutdown zone 
during that activity (Table 10). The Navy's shutdown zones are expected 
to eliminate the potential for Level A

[[Page 48220]]

harassment take of Steller sea lion. Therefore, NMFS does not propose 
to authorize Level A harassment take of Steller sea lion.
California sea lion
    From August through June, California sea lions routinely haul out 
on the PSB floats and submarines at Kitsap Bangor. For each in-water 
work month, the Navy averaged the maximum number of hauled out 
California sea lions observed in a single survey at Kitsap Bangor 
during that month for each year (2008 to 2019; see Appendix A of the 
Navy's application). The Navy then averaged these monthly averages 
across the entire in-water work period, resulting in a maximum average 
of 54 California sea lions hauled out per day. The daily average number 
of California sea lions hauled out at Kitsap Bangor has increased since 
2013 compared to prior years. Therefore, the Navy relied on monitoring 
data from July 2012 through February 2019 to determine the average of 
the maximum count (Navy, 2016, 2019).
    While pinnipeds may haul out longer than the period required for 
pile driving, therefore not being exposed to underwater sound, the Navy 
conservatively assumed that any California sea lion hauled out at 
Kitsap Bangor may swim into the Level B harassment zone on each pile 
driving day. Therefore, the Navy requested 4,320 Level B harassment 
takes of California sea lion in Year 1 (54 California sea lions x 80 
in-water work days), and 540 Level B harassment takes of California sea 
lions during Year 2 (54 California sea lions x 10 in-water work days). 
NMFS concurs with this approach and proposes to authorize 4,320 Level B 
harassment takes of California sea lion during Year 1, and 540 Level B 
harassment takes of California sea lion during Year 2.
    The largest Level A harassment zone for otariids extends 11 m from 
the source during impact pile driving of 36-inch steel piles (Table 8). 
Given the small size of the Level A harassment zones, we would not 
expect Level A harassment take of California sea lion to occur. 
Additionally, the Navy is planning to implement a 15 m shutdown zone 
during that activity (Table 10). The Navy's shutdown zones are expected 
to eliminate the potential for Level A harassment take of California 
sea lion. Therefore, NMFS does not propose to authorize Level A 
harassment take of California sea lion.
Harbor Seal
    The harbor seal is the only species of marine mammal that is 
consistently abundant and considered resident in Hood Canal (Jeffries 
et al., 2003). The closest major haulouts to Kitsap Bangor that are 
regularly used by harbor seals are the mouth of the Dosewallips River 
located approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away. No harbor seal haulouts 
were seen on the shoreline opposite Kitsap Bangor (the east-side of the 
Toandos Peninsula) during 2015 and 2016 beach seine surveys. A small 
haulout occurs at Kitsap Bangor under Marginal Wharf and small numbers 
of harbor seals are known to routinely haul out around the Carderock 
pier (see Figure 1-2 of the Navy's application). Boat-based surveys and 
monitoring indicate that harbor seals regularly swim in the waters at 
Kitsap Bangor. Hauled out adults, mother/pup pairs, and neonates have 
been documented occasionally but quantitative data are limited. 
Incidental surveys in August and September 2016 recorded as many as 28 
harbor seals hauled out under Marginal Wharf or swimming in adjacent 
waters. Assuming a few other individuals may be present elsewhere on 
the Kitsap Bangor waterfront, the Navy estimates that 35 harbor seals 
may be present during summer and early fall months. Based on haulout 
survey data from Naval Station Everett (Navy, 2016), the number of 
harbor seals present at Kitsap Bangor is likely to be lower in late 
fall and winter months.
    The Navy conservatively assumed that each of the estimated 35 
harbor seals may occur within the Level B harassment zone on each pile 
driving day. Therefore, the Navy requested 2,800 Level B harassment 
takes of harbor seal in Year 1 (35 harbor seals x 80 in-water work 
days), and 350 Level B harassment takes of harbor seal during Year 2 
(35 harbor seals x 10 in-water work days). NMFS concurs with this 
approach and proposes to authorize 2,800 Level B harassment takes of 
harbor seal during Year 1, and 350 Level B harassment takes of harbor 
seal during Year 2.
    The largest Level A harassment zone for phocids during Year 1 
extends 158 m during impact installation of 36-inch steel piles (Table 
8). The Navy is planning to implement a 160 m shutdown zone during that 
activity (Table 10), which incorporates the entire Level A harassment 
zone, and the 1 m peak PTS isopleth (Table 8). However, the Navy 
estimates that some harbor seals may enter, and remain inside the Level 
A harassment zone undetected by PSOs for a period long enough to be 
taken by Level A harassment during Year 1. NMFS concurs, and proposes 
to authorize 20 Level A harassment takes of harbor seal in Year 1 (1 
harbor seal for every 4 in-water work days).
    During Year 2, the largest Level A harassment zone for phocids 
extends 26 m from the source during vibratory pile driving of 30 and 
36-inch steel piles, as no impact pile driving is planned for Year 2. 
The Navy expects to be able to effectively monitor this zone and 
implement a 30 m shutdown zone. Therefore, the Navy does not expect 
Level A harassment take to occur during Year 2. NMFS concurs that the 
Navy's shutdown zones are expected to eliminate the potential for Level 
A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 2, and does not propose to 
authorize Level A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 2.

                                                         Table 9--Estimated Take by Level A and Level B Harassment, by Species and Stock
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                     Year 1                                              Year 2
                                                                                          ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                                           Level B
               Species                         Stock                 Stock Abundance           Level A         Level B       Total take (percent of      harassment      Total take (percent of
                                                                                             harassment      harassment              stock)             take (percent            stock)
                                                                                                take            take                                      of stock)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Killer whale........................  West Coast Transient...  243.......................               0              12  12 (4.9)..................              12  12 (4.9)
Harbor porpoise.....................  Washington Inland        11,233....................                           1,728  1,728 (15.4)..............             216  216 (1.9)
                                       Waters.
Steller sea lion....................  Eastern U.S............  43,201....................                             320  320 (0.7).................              40  40 (0.1)
California sea lion.................  United States..........  257,606...................                           4,320  4,320 (1.7)...............             540  540 (0.2)

[[Page 48221]]

 
Harbor seal.........................  Washington Inland        Unknown...................              20           2,800  2,820 (Unknown)...........             350  350 (Unknown)
                                       Waters, Hood Canal.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, 
NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to the 
activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on 
the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of the 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 the 
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.
    In addition to the measures described later in this section, the 
Navy will employ the following mitigation measures:
     For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving, 
if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, operations shall cease and 
vessels shall reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain 
steerage and safe working conditions;
     Conduct briefings between construction supervisors and 
crews and the marine mammal monitoring team prior to the start of all 
pile driving activity and when new personnel join the work, to explain 
responsibilities, communication procedures, marine mammal monitoring 
protocol, and operational procedures;
     For those marine mammals for which Level B harassment take 
has not been requested, in-water pile installation/removal will shut 
down immediately if such species are observed within or entering the 
Level B harassment zone; and
     If take reaches the authorized limit for an authorized 
species, pile installation/removal will shut down immediately if these 
species approach the Level B harassment zone to avoid additional take.
    The following mitigation measures apply to the Navy's in-water 
construction activities.
     Establishment of Shutdown Zones--The Navy will establish 
shutdown zones for all pile driving and removal activities. The purpose 
of a shutdown zone is generally to define an area within which shutdown 
of the activity would occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in 
anticipation of an animal entering the defined area). Shutdown zones 
will vary based on the activity type and marine mammal hearing group 
(Table 10). In addition to the shutdown zones listed in Table 10, the 
Navy has proposed to shut down pile driving if a cetacean is observed 
within the Level B harassment zone.
     PSOs--The placement of PSOs during all pile driving and 
removal activities (described in detail in the Proposed Monitoring and 
Reporting section) will ensure that the entire shutdown zone is visible 
during pile driving and removal (except where structures may interfere 
with visibility of harbor seals). Should environmental conditions 
deteriorate such that marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone 
would not be visible (e.g., fog, heavy rain), pile driving and removal 
must be delayed until the PSO is confident marine mammals within the 
shutdown zone could be detected.

                          Table 10--Shutdown Zones During Pile Installation and Removal
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Cetaceans (m)    Phocids (m)    Otariids (m)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All Vibratory Pile Driving......................................              65              30              10
All Impact Pile Driving.........................................             355             160              15
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Monitoring for Level A and Level B Harassment--The Navy 
will monitor the Level B harassment zones (areas where SPLs are equal 
to or exceed the 160 dB rms threshold for impact driving and the 120 dB 
rms threshold during vibratory pile driving) to the extent practicable 
and the Level A harassment zones. Monitoring zones provide utility

[[Page 48222]]

for observing by establishing monitoring protocols for areas adjacent 
to the shutdown zones. Monitoring zones enable observers to be aware of 
and communicate the presence of marine mammals in the project area 
outside the shutdown zone and thus prepare for a potential cessation of 
activity should the animal enter the shutdown zone. Placement of PSOs 
on the pier, shoreline, and a vessel (see Proposed Monitoring and 
Reporting) around the TPP site will allow PSOs to observe marine 
mammals within the Level B harassment zones.
     Pre-activity Monitoring--Prior to the start of daily in-
water construction activity, or whenever a break in pile driving/
removal of 30 minutes or longer occurs, PSOs will observe the shutdown 
and monitoring zones for a period of 30 minutes. The shutdown zone will 
be considered cleared when a marine mammal has not been observed within 
the zone for that 30-minute period. If a marine mammal is observed 
within the shutdown zone, a soft-start cannot proceed until the animal 
has left the zone or has not been observed for 15 minutes. When a 
marine mammal for which Level B harassment take is authorized is 
present in the Level B harassment zone, activities may begin and Level 
B harassment take will be recorded. If the entire Level B harassment 
zone is not visible at the start of construction, pile driving 
activities can begin. If work ceases for more than 30 minutes, the pre-
activity monitoring of the shutdown zones will commence.
     Soft Start--Soft-start procedures are believed to provide 
additional protection to marine mammals by providing warning and/or 
giving marine mammals a chance to leave the area prior to the hammer 
operating at full capacity. For impact pile driving, contractors will 
be required to provide an initial set of three strikes from the hammer 
at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period. This 
procedure will be conducted three times before impact pile driving 
begins. Soft start will be implemented at the start of each day's 
impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile 
driving for a period of 30 minutes or longer.
     Pile driving energy attenuator--The Navy will use a marine 
pile-driving energy attenuator (i.e., air bubble curtain system) during 
impact pile driving. The use of sound attenuation will reduce SPLs and 
the size of the zones of influence for Level A harassment and Level B 
harassment. Bubble curtains will meet the following requirements:
    [cir] The bubble curtain must distribute air bubbles around 100 
percent of the piling perimeter for the full depth of the water column.
    [cir] The lowest bubble ring shall be in contact with the mudline 
for the full circumference of the ring, and the weights attached to the 
bottom ring shall ensure 100 percent mudline contact. No parts of the 
ring or other objects shall prevent full mudline contact.
    [cir] The bubble curtain shall be operated such that there is 
proper (equal) balancing of air flow to all bubblers.
    Based on our evaluation of the Navy's proposed measures, NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide 
the means effecting the least practicable impact on the affected 
species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth requirements pertaining to the 
monitoring and reporting of such taking. The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for 
authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on 
populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the 
proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to 
compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the 
required monitoring.
    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
density).
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas).
     Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors.
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks.
     Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat).
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.

Visual Monitoring

    Marine mammal monitoring must be conducted in accordance with the 
Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan. Marine mammal monitoring during pile 
driving and removal must be conducted by NMFS-approved PSOs in a manner 
consistent with the following:
     Independent PSOs (i.e., not construction personnel) who 
have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods must be used;
     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;
     Other PSOs may substitute education (degree in biological 
science or related field) or training for experience; and
     The Navy must submit PSO curriculum vitae for approval by 
NMFS prior to the onset of pile driving.
    PSOs must 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 
construction operation to provide for personal safety during 
observations.
     Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of 
observations including but not limited to the number and species of 
marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction 
activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation 
of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); 
and marine mammal behavior.
     Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with 
project

[[Page 48223]]

personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed 
in the area as necessary.
    At least two PSOs will monitor for marine mammals during all pile 
driving and removal activities. PSO locations will provide a view of 
the entire shutdown zone for all activities, other than areas where 
structures may potentially block limited portions of the zone, and as 
much of the Level B harassment zones as possible. PSO locations are as 
follows:
    i. During vibratory pile driving, two PSOs will be stationed on the 
pier or shore.
    ii. During impact pile driving, two PSOs will be stationed on the 
pier, and one additional PSO will observe from a vessel positioned 
approximately 200 m from shore.
    Monitoring will be conducted 30 minutes before, during, and 30 
minutes after pile driving/removal activities. In addition, observers 
shall record all incidents of marine mammal occurrence, regardless of 
distance from activity, and shall document any behavioral reactions in 
concert with distance from piles being driven or removed. Pile driving 
activities include the time to install or remove a single pile or 
series of piles, as long as the time elapsed between uses of the pile 
driving equipment is no more than 30 minutes.

Reporting

    A draft marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS 
within 90 days after the completion of pile driving and removal 
activities. The report will include an overall description of work 
completed, a narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and 
associated PSO data sheets. Specifically, the report must include:
     Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal 
monitoring.
     Construction activities occurring during each daily 
observation period, including how many and what type of piles were 
driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact or vibratory).
     Weather parameters and water conditions during each 
monitoring period (e.g., wind speed, percent cover, visibility, sea 
state).
     The number of marine mammals observed, by species, 
relative to the pile location and if pile driving or removal was 
occurring at time of sighting.
     Age and sex class, if possible, of all marine mammals 
observed.
     PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring.
     Distances and bearings of each marine mammal observed to 
the pile being driven or removed for each sighting (if pile driving or 
removal was occurring at time of sighting).
     Description of any marine mammal behavior patterns during 
observation, including direction of travel and estimated time spent 
within the Level A and Level B harassment zones while the source was 
active.
     Number of individuals of each species (differentiated by 
month as appropriate) detected within the monitoring zone, and 
estimates of number of marine mammals taken, by species (a correction 
factor may be applied to total take numbers, as appropriate).
     Detailed information about any implementation of any 
mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of 
specific actions that ensued, and resulting behavior of the animal, if 
any.
     Description of attempts to distinguish between the number 
of individual animals taken and the number of incidences of take, such 
as ability to track groups or individuals.
    If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft 
report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a 
final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days 
after receipt of comments.
    In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities 
discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the IHA-holder shall report 
the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) (301-427-8401), 
NMFS and to the West Coast Region Stranding Hotline (866-767-6114) as 
soon as feasible. If the death or injury was clearly caused by the 
specified activity, the IHA-holder must immediately cease the specified 
activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the 
incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are 
appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the IHA. The IHA-
holder must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS.
    The report must include the following information:
    i. Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first 
discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);
    ii. Species identification (if known) or description of the 
animal(s) involved;
    iii. Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the 
animal is dead);
    iv. Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;
    v. If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and
    vi. General circumstances under which the animal was discovered.

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, this introductory discussion of our analyses 
applies to all of the species listed in Table 9, given that many of the 
anticipated effects of this project on different marine mammal stocks 
are expected to be relatively similar in nature. Where there are 
meaningful differences between species or stocks in anticipated 
individual responses to activities, impact of expected take on the 
population due to differences in population status, or impacts on 
habitat, they are described independently in the analysis below. The 
analysis below applies to both the Year 1 and Year 2 proposed IHAs, 
except where noted otherwise.
    Pile driving and removal activities associated with the project, as 
outlined previously, have the potential to disturb or displace marine 
mammals. Specifically, the specified activities may result in take, in 
the form of Level A harassment and Level B harassment from underwater 
sounds generated by pile driving and removal. Potential takes

[[Page 48224]]

could occur if marine mammals are present in zones ensonified above the 
thresholds for Level A or Level B harassment, identified above, while 
activities are underway.
    The nature of the pile driving project precludes the likelihood of 
serious injury or mortality. The mitigation is expected to ensure that 
no Level A harassment occurs to any species except harbor seal, which 
may be taken by Level A harassment during Year 1 activities. The nature 
of the estimated takes anticipated to occur are similar among all 
species and similar in Year 1 and Year 2, other than the potential 
Level A harassment take of harbor seal in Year 1, described further 
below.
    For all species and stocks, take will occur within a limited 
portion of Hood Canal, and for the Hood Canal stock of harbor seals, 
the project site is approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away from the 
nearest major haulout at the mouth of the Dosewallips River. For all 
species other than harbor seal, take would be limited to Level B 
harassment only due to potential behavioral disturbance and TTS. 
Effects on individuals that are taken by Level B harassment, on the 
basis of reports in the literature as well as monitoring from other 
similar activities, will likely be limited to reactions such as 
increased swimming speeds, increased surfacing time, or decreased 
foraging (if such activity were occurring) (e.g., Thorson and Reyff 
2006; HDR, Inc. 2012; Lerma 2014; ABR 2016). Level B harassment will be 
reduced to the level of least practicable adverse impact through use of 
mitigation measures described herein, and, if sound produced by project 
activities is sufficiently disturbing, animals are likely to simply 
avoid the area while the activity is occurring. While vibratory driving 
associated with the proposed project may produce sound at distances of 
many kilometers from the project site, the project site itself is 
located on a busy waterfront with high amounts of vessel traffic. 
Therefore, we expect that animals disturbed by project sound would 
simply avoid the area and use more-preferred habitats, particularly as 
pile driving is expected to occur for a maximum of five hours per day. 
Further, the instances of take proposed for authorization for killer 
whale West Coast Transient stock, harbor porpoise Washington Inland 
Waters stock, Steller sea lion Eastern U.S. stock, and California sea 
lion United States stock is small when compared to stock abundance.
    In addition to the expected effects resulting from proposed Level B 
harassment, we anticipate that harbor seals may sustain some Level A 
harassment in the form of auditory injury in Year 1 only. However, 
animals that experience PTS would likely only receive slight PTS, i.e., 
minor degradation of hearing capabilities within regions of hearing 
that align most completely with the frequency range of the energy 
produced by pile driving (i.e., the low-frequency region below 2kHz), 
not severe hearing impairment or impairment in the reigns of greatest 
hearing sensitivity. If hearing impairment does occur, it is most 
likely that the affected animal would lose a few dBs in its hearing 
sensitivity, which in most cases, is not likely to meaningfully affect 
its ability to forage and communicate with conspecifics. As described 
above, we expect that marine mammals would be likely to move away from 
a sound source that represents an aversive stimulus, especially at 
levels that would be expected to result in PTS, given sufficient notice 
through use of soft start.
    As noted above in the Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of 
Specified Activities, the Navy has identified a few observations of 
harbor seal births at Kitsap Bangor. However, Kitsap Bangor is not a 
significant rookery area; observation of these births are very rare, 
and only a few have been reported. The closest major haulouts to Kitsap 
Bangor that are regularly used by harbor seals are at the mouth of the 
Dosewallips River, located approximately 13.2 km (8.2 mi) away. Given 
the rarity of harbor seal births at Kitsap Bangor and the maximum of 
five hours of pile driving anticipated in a day, we do not expect 
harbor seals to give birth in the TPP project area while the project is 
underway.
    The project is also not expected to have significant adverse 
effects on affected marine mammals' habitats. The project activities 
will not modify existing marine mammal habitat for a significant amount 
of time. The activities may cause some fish to leave the area of 
disturbance, thus temporarily impacting marine mammals' foraging 
opportunities in a limited portion of the foraging range; but, because 
of the short duration of the activities and the relatively small area 
of the habitat that may be affected, the impacts to marine mammal 
habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term negative 
consequences.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from 
this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality or serious injury is anticipated or 
authorized.
     For all species except harbor seal, no Level A harassment 
is anticipated or proposed for authorization.
     The Level A harassment exposures are anticipated to result 
only in slight PTS, within the lower frequencies associated with pile 
driving for harbor seals only;
     The intensity of anticipated takes by Level B harassment 
is relatively low for all stocks.
     Pile driving is only expected to occur for a maximum of 
five hours in a day.
     We do not expect significant or long-term negative effects 
to marine mammal habitat.
    Year 1 IHA--Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely 
effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, 
and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed 
monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the 
total marine mammal take from the Navy's construction activities will 
have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or 
stocks.
    Year 2 IHA--Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely 
effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, 
and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed 
monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the 
total marine mammal take from the Navy's construction activities 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. When the predicted number of 
individuals to be taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock 
abundance, the take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, 
other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as 
the temporal or spatial scale of the activities.
    For the Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal stock of harbor seal, 
no

[[Page 48225]]

valid abundance estimate is available. The most recent abundance 
estimate for harbor seals in Washington inland waters is from 1999, 
which estimated 1,088 harbor seals in the Washington Inland Waters, 
Hood Canal stock. It is generally believed that harbor seal populations 
have increased significantly since (e.g., Mapes, 2013). The estimated 
instances of take of the Washington Inland Waters, Hood Canal stock of 
harbor seals in Year 1 (Table 9) appear high when compared to the 
latest stock abundance from 1999. However, when other qualitative 
factors are used to inform an assessment of the likely number of 
individual harbor seals taken, the resulting numbers are considered 
small in Year 1 and Year 2.
    We anticipate that estimated takes of harbor seals are likely to 
occur only within some portion of the relevant population, rather than 
to animals from the stock as a whole. For example, takes anticipated to 
occur at Kitsap Bangor would be expected to accrue to the same 
individual seals that routinely occur on haulouts at these locations, 
rather than occurring to new seals on each construction day. In 
summary, harbor seals taken as a result of the specified activities are 
expected to comprise only a limited portion of individuals comprising 
the overall relevant stock abundance. Therefore, we find that small 
numbers of harbor seals will be taken relative to the population size 
of the Hood Canal stock of harbor seal in Year 1 and Year 2.
    For all other species and stocks, our analysis shows that, in Year 
1 and Year 2, take of all species or stocks is below one third of the 
estimated stock abundance. The number of animals authorized to be taken 
for the killer whale West Coast Transient stock, harbor porpoise 
Washington Inland Waters stock, Steller sea lion Eastern U.S. stock, 
and California sea lion United States stock, would be considered small 
relative to the relevant stock's abundances even if each estimated 
taking occurred to a new individual, which is an unlikely scenario.
    Year 1 IHA--Based on the analysis contained herein of the activity 
(including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated 
take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of 
marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the 
affected species or stocks in Year 1 of the project.
    Year 2 IHA--Based on the analysis contained herein of the activity 
(including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated 
take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of 
marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the 
affected species or stocks in Year 2 of the project.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

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

Endangered Species Act

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

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to Navy for conducting the Transit Protection Program Pier 
and Support Facilities Project at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in 
Silverdale, Washington over two years, beginning July 2021 and July 
2022, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and 
reporting requirements are incorporated. Drafts of the proposed IHAs 
can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorizations, 
and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHAs for the proposed 
Transit Protection Program Pier and Support Facilities Project. We also 
request at this time comment on the potential Renewal of these proposed 
IHAs as described in the paragraph below. Please include with your 
comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform 
decisions on the request for these IHAs or subsequent Renewal IHAs.
    On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year 
Renewal IHA following notice to the public providing an additional 15 
days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical or 
nearly identical activities, as described in the Description of 
Proposed Activity section of this notice, is planned or (2) the 
activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section 
of this notice would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a 
Renewal would allow for completion of the activities beyond that 
described in the Dates and Duration section of this notice, provided 
all of the following conditions are met:
     A request for renewal is received no later than 60 days 
prior to the needed Renewal IHA effective date (recognizing that the 
Renewal IHA expiration date cannot extend beyond one year from 
expiration of the initial IHA).
     The request for renewal must include the following:
    (1) An explanation that the activities to be conducted under the 
requested Renewal IHA are identical to the activities analyzed under 
the initial IHA, are a subset of the activities, or include changes so 
minor (e.g., reduction in pile size) that the changes do not affect the 
previous analyses, mitigation and monitoring requirements, or take 
estimates (with the exception of reducing the type or amount of take).
    (2) A preliminary monitoring report showing the results of the 
required monitoring to date and an explanation showing that the 
monitoring results do not indicate impacts of a scale or nature not 
previously analyzed or authorized.
     Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the 
affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS 
determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, 
the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and 
appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid.

    Dated: August 5, 2020.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-17409 Filed 8-7-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P