Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental To Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Port of Kalama Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River, 66957-66962 [2020-23320]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Sheleen Dumas, Department PRA Clearance Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Commerce Department. [FR Doc. 2020–23228 Filed 10–20–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA567] North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of web conference. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and Subsistence Taskforce will be held November 9, 2020 through November 10, 2020. DATES: The meeting will be held on Monday, November 9, 2020, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Alaska Time, and from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be a web conference. Join online through the link at https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/ Details/1683. Council address: North Pacific Fishery Management Council, 1007 W 3rd Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501–2252; telephone: (907) 271–2809. Instructions for attending the meeting are given under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION, below. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kate Haapala Council staff; phone; (907) 271– 2809 and email: kate.haapala@ noaa.gov. For technical support please contact our administrative staff; email: npfmc.admin@noaa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Agenda Monday, November 9, 2020 Through Tuesday, November 10, 2020 The agenda will include (a) introduction and updates from Taskforce members; (b) review updates and discussion on search engine; (c) narrative sources of data; (d) review definition of subsistence for Taskforce; (e) review Norton Sound Red King Crab case study; (f) discussion on protocol development; and (g) other business. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 66957 comments on both the proposed IHA and the potential for renewing the initial authorization if certain requirements were satisfied. The Renewal requirements have been satisfied, and NMFS is now providing Connection Information an additional 15-day comment period to You can attend the meeting online allow for any additional comments on using a computer, tablet, or smart the proposed Renewal not previously phone; or by phone only. Connection provided during the initial 30-day information will be posted online at: comment period. https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/ DATES: Comments and information must Details/1683. be received no later than November 5, 2020. Public Comment ADDRESSES: Comments should be Public comment letters will be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, accepted and should be submitted Permits and Conservation Division, electronically to https:// Office of Protected Resources, National meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/ Marine Fisheries Service. Written 1683 by 5 p.m. Alaska time on Sunday, comments should be submitted via November 8, 2020. An opportunity for email to ITP.Fowler@noaa.gov. oral public testimony will also be Instructions: NMFS is not responsible provided during the meeting. for comments sent by any other method, Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment Dated: October 16, 2020. period. Comments, including all Tracey L. Thompson, attachments, must not exceed a 25Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable megabyte file size. Attachments to Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. comments will be accepted in Microsoft [FR Doc. 2020–23324 Filed 10–20–20; 8:45 am] Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file BILLING CODE 3510–22–P formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted online at https:// DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-underNational Oceanic and Atmospheric marine-mammal-protection-act without Administration change. All personal identifying [RTID 0648–XA561] information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental may be publicly accessible. Do not To Specified Activities; Taking Marine submit confidential business Mammals Incidental to Port of Kalama information or otherwise sensitive or Expansion Project on the Lower protected information. Columbia River FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Amy Fowler, Office of Protected Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Electronic copies of the original Commerce. application, Renewal request, and ACTION: Notice; request for comments on supporting documents (including NMFS proposed renewal incidental harassment Federal Register notices of the original proposed and final authorizations, and authorization. the previous IHA), as well as a list of the SUMMARY: NMFS received a request from references cited in this document, may the Port of Kalama (POK) for the be obtained online at: https:// Renewal of their currently active www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental harassment authorization incidental-take-authorizations-under(IHA) to take marine mammals marine-mammal-protection-act. In case incidental to construction activities of problems accessing these documents, associated with an expansion project at please call the contact listed above. the POK on the Lower Columbia River, SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Washington. These activities are identical to those covered in the current Background authorization. The project has been The Marine Mammal Protection Act delayed and none of the work covered (MMPA) prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine in the initial IHA has been conducted. mammals, with certain exceptions. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the Protection Act, prior to issuing the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct currently active IHA, NMFS requested the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated The agenda is subject to change, and the latest version will be posted at https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/ Details/1683 prior to the meeting, along with meeting materials. PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES 66958 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices 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 is provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other ‘‘means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact’’ on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to here as ‘‘mitigation measures’’). Monitoring and reporting of such takings are also required. The meaning of key terms such as ‘‘take,’’ ‘‘harassment,’’ and ‘‘negligible impact’’ can be found in section 3 of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1362) and the agency’s regulations at 50 CFR 216.103. NMFS’ regulations implementing the MMPA at 50 CFR 216.107(e) indicate that IHAs may be renewed for additional periods of time not to exceed one year for each reauthorization. In the notice of proposed IHA for the initial authorization, NMFS described the circumstances under which we would consider issuing a Renewal for this activity, and requested public comment on a potential Renewal under those circumstances. Specifically, on a caseby-case basis, NMFS may issue a onetime 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, or nearly identical, activities as described in the Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts section of this notice is planned or (2) the activities as described in the Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts 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 the notice of proposed IHA for the initial IHA, provided all of the following conditions are met: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 • 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. An additional public comment period of 15 days (for a total of 45 days), with direct notice by email, phone, or postal service to commenters on the initial IHA, is provided to allow for any additional comments on the proposed Renewal. A description of the Renewal process may be found on our website at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentalharassment-authorization-renewals. Any comments received on the potential Renewal, along with relevant comments on the initial IHA, have been considered in the development of this proposed IHA Renewal, and a summary of agency responses to applicable comments is included in this notice. NMFS will consider any additional public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested Renewal, and agency responses will be summarized in the final notice of our decision. National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an incidental harassment authorization) PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 Renewal 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 Renewal request. History of Request On September 28, 2015, we received a request from the POK for authorization of the taking, by Level B harassment only, of marine mammals incidental to the construction associated with the Port of Kalama Expansion Project, which involved construction of the Kalama Marine Manufacturing and Export Facility including a new marine terminal for the export of methanol, and installation of engineered log jams, restoration of riparian wetlands, and the removal of existing wood piles in a side channel as mitigation activities. The specified activity is expected to result in the take of three species of marine mammals (harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)). A final version of the application, which we deemed adequate and complete, was submitted on December 10, 2015. We published a notice of a proposed IHA and request for comments on March 21, 2016 (81 FR 15064). After the public comment period and before we issued the final IHA, POK requested that we issue the IHA for 2017 instead of the 2016 work season. We subsequently published the final notice of our issuance of the IHA on December 12, 2016 (81 FR 89436), effective from September 1, 2017– August 31, 2018. In-water work associated with the project was expected to be completed within the one-year timeframe of the IHA. On June 21, 2018, POK informed NMFS that work relevant to the specified activity considered in the MMPA analysis for the 2017–2018 IHA was postponed and would not be completed. POK requested that the IHA E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices be issued to be effective for the period from 2018–2019. In support of that request, POK submitted an application addendum affirming that no change in the proposed activities is anticipated and that no new information regarding the abundance of marine mammals is available that would change the previous analysis and findings. A notice for the proposed incidental take authorization was published on July 25, 2018 (83 FR 35220), and a corrected notice was published on August 14, 2018 (83 FR 40257). On November 13, 2018, NMFS published final notice of our issuance of an IHA authorizing take of marine mammals incidental to the Port of Kalama Expansion Project (83 FR 56304). The effective dates of that IHA were October 18, 2018 through October 18, 2019. On August 21, 2019, POK informed NMFS that the project had been delayed by one year. None of the work identified in the IHA (i.e., pile driving and removal) had occurred and no take of any marine mammals had occurred since the effective date of the initial IHA. POK submitted a formal request for an identical IHA, but with modified effective dates, in order to conduct the construction work that was analyzed and authorized through the previously issued IHA. On October 17, 2019, NMFS issued an IHA to POK to take marine mammals incidental to construction activities at the Port of Kalama (84 FR 57013; October 24, 2019), effective from October 19, 2019 through October 18, 2020 (hereafter referred to as the initial IHA). On August 27, 2020, NMFS received an application for the Renewal of that initial IHA. As described in the request for the Renewal IHA, the activities for which incidental take is requested are identical to those covered in the initial authorization. In order to consider an IHA Renewal, NMFS requires the applicant provide a preliminary monitoring report which confirms that the applicant has implemented the required mitigation and monitoring, and which also shows that no impacts of a scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized have occurred as a result of the activities conducted. As no construction activities have been conducted, POK has no monitoring results to report. NMFS has preliminarily determined that POK’s proposed activities (including mitigation, monitoring, and reporting), estimated incidental take, and anticipated impacts on the affected stocks are the same as those analyzed and authorized through the initial IHA. However, NMFS is requesting comments or additional information VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 that may further inform our proposal to issue an IHA Renewal to POK. This IHA Renewal would be valid from the date of issuance to October 18, 2021. Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts POK’s planned activities include construction of a marine terminal and dock/pier for the export of methanol, and associated compensatory mitigation activities for the purposes of offsetting habitat effects from the action. Specifically, the location, timing, and nature of the activities, including the types of equipment planned for use, are identical to those described in the original IHA. Similarly, the anticipated impacts are identical to those described in the initial IHA. NMFS anticipates the take of three species of marine mammals (Pacific harbor seals, California sea lions, and Steller sea lions) by Level A and Level B harassment incidental to underwater noise resulting from construction associated with the proposed activities. The following documents are referenced in this notice and include important supporting information: • Initial reissued IHA (84 FR 57013; October 24, 2019); • Initial final IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018); • Initial proposed IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018); • 2017 final IHA (81 FR 89436; December 12, 2016); • 2017 proposed IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016); and • 2017 and 2018 IHA applications, references cited, and previous public comments received (available at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities). Detailed Description of the Activity POK is proposing to construct a marine terminal and dock/pier for the export of methanol, and associated compensatory mitigation activities for the purposes of offsetting habitat effects from the action. The marine terminal will be approximately 45,000 square feet in size, supported by 320 concrete piles (24-inch precast octagonal piles to be driven by impact hammer) and 16 steel piles (12 x 12-inch and 4 x 18-inch anticipated to be driven by vibratory hammer, and impact hammering will only be done to drive/proof if necessary). The compensatory mitigation includes installation of 8 engineered log jams (ELJs), which will be anchored by untreated wooden piles driven by impact hammer at low tides (not in water). The compensatory PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66959 mitigation also includes removal of approximately 320 untreated wooden piles from an abandoned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dike in a nearby backwater area. The piles will be removed either by direct pull or vibratory extraction. Finally, the compensatory mitigation includes wetland restoration and enhancement by removal of invasive species and replacement with native wetland species. A detailed description of the construction activities for which take is proposed here may be found in the Federal Register notice of proposed IHA for the 2017 authorization (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). As stated above, location, timing (e.g., seasonality), and nature of the pile driving operations, including the type and size of piles and the methods of pile driving, are identical to those analyzed in the initial IHA. The proposed IHA Renewal would be effective from the date of issuance to October 18, 2021 (i.e., one year after the expiration of the initial IHA). Description of Marine Mammals A description of the marine mammals in the area of the activities for which authorization of take is proposed here, including information on abundance, status, distribution, and hearing, may be found in the Federal Register notices for the proposed IHA for the initial authorization (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 2017 IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and other scientific literature. The 2019 Stock Assessment Report notes the estimated abundance of the Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions has decreased slightly. However, NMFS has preliminarily determined that neither this nor any other new information affects which species or stocks have the potential to be affected or the pertinent information in the Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities contained in the supporting documents for the initial IHA. Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat A description of the potential effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat for the activities for which take is proposed here may be found in the Federal Register notices for the proposed initial IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 2017 IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock Assessment Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1 66960 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices and other scientific literature, and determined that neither this nor any other new information affects our initial analysis of impacts on marine mammals and their habitat. Estimated Take A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate take for the specified activity are found in the Federal Register notices for the proposed initial IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 2017 IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). Specifically, the source levels, days of operation, and marine mammal occurrence data applicable to this authorization remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA. Similarly, the stocks taken, methods of take, and types of take remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA, as do the number of takes, which are indicated below in Table 1. The estimated abundance of Steller sea lions has decreased from that described in the initial IHA (Muto et al., 2020), therefore the percent of stock proposed to be taken has increased. TABLE 1—ESTIMATED TAKE PROPOSED FOR AUTHORIZATION AND PROPORTION OF POPULATION POTENTIALLY AFFECTED Estimated take by Level B harassment Harbor seal ........................................................ California sea lion .............................................. Steller sea lion ................................................... 1,530 372 372 Description of Proposed Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures included as requirements in this authorization are identical to those included in the Federal Register notice announcing the issuance of the initial IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018), and the discussion of the least practicable adverse impact included in that document remains accurate. The following measures are proposed for this renewal: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Proposed Mitigation Requirements In summary, mitigation includes implementation of shut down procedures if any marine mammal approaches or enters the Level A harassment zone for pile driving (26 meters (m) (85 feet (ft)) for vibratory pile driving of steel piles; 63 m (207 ft) for impact driving of concrete piles; and 252 m (828 ft) for impact driving of steel piles). For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving (e.g., standard barges, barge-mounted cranes, excavators, etc.), if a marine mammal comes within 10 m, operations must cease and vessels must reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions. One trained observer must monitor to implement shutdowns and collect information at each active pile driving location (whether vibratory or impact driving of steel or concrete piles). Pile driving activities may only be conducted during daylight hours. If the shutdown zone is obscured by fog or poor lighting conditions, pile driving will not be initiated until the entire shutdown zone is visible. Work that has been initiated appropriately in conditions of good visibility may continue during poor visibility. The shutdown zone will be monitored for 30 VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 Estimated take by Level A harassment 10 0 0 Oregon/Washington Coast ................................ U.S .................................................................... Eastern U.S ....................................................... minutes prior to initiating the start of pile driving, during the activity, and for 30 minutes after activities have ceased. If pinnipeds are present within the shutdown zone prior to pile driving, the start will be delayed until the animals leave the shutdown zone of their own volition, or until 15 minutes elapse without re-sighting the animal(s). Soft start procedures must be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer. If steel piles require impact installation or proofing, a bubble curtain must be used for sound attenuation. If water velocity is 1.6 ft per second (1.1 miles per hour (mph)) or less for the entire installation period, the pile being driven must be surrounded by a confined or unconfined bubble curtain that will distribute small air bubbles around 100 percent of the pile perimeter for the full depth of the water column. If water velocity is greater than 1.6 feet per second (1.1 mph) at any point during installation, the pile being driven must be surrounded by a confined bubble curtain (e.g., a bubble ring surrounded by a fabric or non-metallic sleeve) that will distribute air bubbles around 100 percent of the pile perimeter for the full depth of the water column. Proposed Monitoring Requirements At least three NMFS-approved observers must be on duty during impact driving at all times. As discussed above, one observer must monitor and implement shutdowns and collect information at each pile driving location at all times. In addition, two shorebased observers are required (one upstream of the project and another downstream of the project), whose primary responsibility shall be to record pinnipeds in the Level B harassment PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4703 Abundance of stock Stock Sfmt 4703 24,732 153,337 43,201 Percentage of stock potentially affected 6.2 0.2 0.86 zone and to alert the barge-based observer to the presence of pinnipeds, thus creating a redundant alert system for prevention of injurious interaction as well as increasing the probability of detecting pinnipeds in the disturbance zone. At least three observers must be on duty during vibratory pile driving activity for the first two days, and thereafter on every third day to allow for estimation of Level B harassment takes. Similar to requirements for impact driving, the first observer must be positioned on a work platform or barge where the entirety of the shutdown zone can be monitored. Shore based observers must be positioned to observe the disturbance zone from the bank of the river. Observers must immediately inform other observers and construction personnel of all marine mammal sightings. Proposed Reporting Requirements POK must provide NMFS with a draft monitoring report within 90 calendar days of the expiration of the IHA, or within conclusion of the construction work, whichever comes first. This report must detail the monitoring protocol, summarize the data recorded during monitoring, and estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed. If comments are received from NMFS on the draft report within 30 days, a final report shall be submitted to NMFS within 30 days thereafter. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days after receipt of the draft report, the draft report will be considered final. In the unanticipated event that the construction activities clearly cause the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this Authorization, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality (Level A take), POK shall immediately E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices cease all operations and immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources and the NMFS West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following information: 1. Time, date, and location (latitude and longitude) of the incident; 2. Description of the incident; 3. Status of all sound sources used in the 24 hours preceding the incident; 4. Environmental conditions (wind speed, wind direction, sea state, cloud cover, visibility, water depth); 5. Description of the marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident; 6. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved; 7. The fate of the animal(s); and 8. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s), if equipment is available. Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with POK to determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. POK may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone. In the event that POK discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (less than a moderate state of decomposition), POK will immediately report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, and the NMFS West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with POK to determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate. In the event that POK discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the marine mammal observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), POK shall report the incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, and the NMFS West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. POK shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other documentation of the stranded animal(s) to NMFS Office of Protected Resources and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. POK may continue its operations under such a case. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 Public Comments As noted previously, NMFS published a notice of a proposed IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and solicited public comments on both our proposal to issue the initial IHA for POK’s construction activities and on the potential for a Renewal IHA, should certain requirements be met. All public comments were addressed in the notice announcing the issuance of the initial IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018). Below, we describe how we have addressed, with updated information where appropriate, any comments received that specifically pertain to the Renewal of the initial IHA. Comment: The Commission expressed continuing concern with NMFS’s notice that one-year IHA Renewals could be issued in certain circumstances without additional public notice and comment requirements. The Commission also suggested that NMFS should discuss the possibility of Renewals through a more general route, such as abbreviated Federal Register notices. The Commission further recommended that if NMFS did not pursue Renewals solely using abbreviated notices, that the agency provide a legal analysis supporting our conclusion that this process is consistent with the requirements of section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA. Response: In prior responses to comments about IHA Renewals (e.g., 84 FR 52464; October 02, 2019 and 85 FR 53342; August 28, 2020), NMFS has explained how the Renewal process, as implemented, is consistent with the statutory requirements contained in section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, provides additional efficiencies beyond the use of abbreviated notices, and, further, promotes NMFS’ goals of improving conservation of marine mammals and increasing efficiency in the MMPA compliance process. Therefore, we intend to continue implementing the Renewal process. Preliminary Determinations The construction activities proposed by POK are identical to those analyzed in the initial IHA, as are the planned number of days of activity, the method of taking, and the effects of the action. The potential effects of POK’s activities are limited to Level A and Level B harassment in the form of auditory injury and behavioral disturbance. In analyzing the effects of the activities in the initial IHA, NMSF determined that POK’s activities would have a negligible impact on the affected species or stocks and that the authorized take numbers of PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 66961 each species or stock were small relative to the relevant stocks (e.g., less than 7 percent of all stocks). The mitigation measures and monitoring and reporting requirements as described above are identical to the initial IHA. NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new information suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from those reached for the initial IHA. This includes consideration of the estimated abundance of the Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions decreasing slightly. Based on the information and analysis contained here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has determined the following: (1) The required mitigation measures will effect the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks; (3) the authorized takes represent small numbers of marine mammals relative to the affected stock abundances; (4) POK’s activities will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this action, and; (5) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are included. 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 marine mammal species is expected to result from this activity, and none would be authorized. Therefore, NMFS has determined that consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this action. Proposed Renewal IHA and Request for Public Comment As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue a Renewal IHA to POK for conducting in-water construction activities associated with the POK Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River, Washington, from the date of issuance through October 18, 2021, provided the previously described mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1 66962 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 204 / Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Notices are incorporated. A draft of the proposed and final initial IHA can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/incidentaltake-authorizations-constructionactivities. We request comment on our analyses, the proposed Renewal IHA, and any other aspect of this notice. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on the request for MMPA authorization. Dated: October 15, 2020. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–23320 Filed 10–20–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA546] Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meeting. AGENCY: The Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Pacific Council) Groundfish Management Team (GMT) will hold an online meeting to discuss items on the Pacific Council’s November 2020 meeting agenda. The meeting is open to the public. DATES: The webinar will be held Friday, November 6, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, or until business for the day has been completed. SUMMARY: This meeting will be held online. Specific meeting information, including directions on how to join the meeting and system requirements will be provided in the meeting announcement on the Pacific Council’s website (see www.pcouncil.org). You may send an email to Mr. Kris Kleinschmidt (kris.kleinschmidt@ noaa.gov) or contact him at (503) 820– 2412 for technical assistance. Council address: Pacific Fishery Management Council, 7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101, Portland, OR 97220–1384. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Todd Phillips, Staff Officer; telephone: 503–820–2426; email: todd.phillips@ noaa.gov. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:58 Oct 20, 2020 Jkt 253001 The primary purpose of the GMT webinar is to prepare for the Pacific Council’s November 2020 meeting. The GMT will discuss items related to groundfish and Pacific halibut management and administrative Pacific Council agenda items. A detailed agenda for the webinar will be available on the Pacific Council’s website prior to the meeting. The GMT may also address other assignments relating to groundfish management. No management actions will be decided by the GMT. Although non-emergency issues not contained in the meeting agenda may be discussed, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this document and any issues arising after publication of this document that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the intent to take final action to address the emergency. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Special Accommodations Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Mr. Kris Kleinschmidt (kris.kleinschmidt@ noaa.gov; (503) 820–2412) at least 10 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: October 16, 2020. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–23323 Filed 10–20–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA535] South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of a public meeting. AGENCY: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a meeting via webinar. DATES: The Council meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, November 9, 2020. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held via webinar. Webinar registration is SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 required. Details are included in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. Kim Iverson, Public Information Officer, SAFMC; phone: (843) 302–8440 or toll free: (866) SAFMC–10; fax: (843) 769– 4520; email: kim.iverson@safmc.net. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Meeting information, including the webinar link, agenda, and briefing book materials will be posted on the Council’s website at: https://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/ council-meetings/. Agenda items include: 1. Review of Amendment 46 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan (FMP) addressing recreational reporting; 2. Review of Regulatory Amendment 31 to the Snapper Grouper FMP addressing recreational accountability measures; 3. Receive a progress report from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Joint Workgroup for Section 102 of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Act; and 4. Receive the final report from the MyFishCount recreational reporting project. Written comments may be directed to John Carmichael, Executive Director, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (see Council address) or electronically via the Council’s website at https://safmc.net/safmc-meetings/ council-meetings/. Comments will automatically be posted to the website and available for Council consideration. Written comments received prior to 9 a.m. on Monday, November 9, 2020 will be part of the administrative record. Public comment will also be allowed as part of the meeting agenda. Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Special Accommodations The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for auxiliary aids should be directed to the Council office (see ADDRESSES) 5 days prior to the meeting. Note: The times and sequence specified in this agenda are subject to change. E:\FR\FM\21OCN1.SGM 21OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 204 (Wednesday, October 21, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66957-66962]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-23320]


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

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA561]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental To Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Port of Kalama Expansion Project on 
the Lower Columbia River

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

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

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

SUMMARY: NMFS received a request from the Port of Kalama (POK) for the 
Renewal of their currently active incidental harassment authorization 
(IHA) to take marine mammals incidental to construction activities 
associated with an expansion project at the POK on the Lower Columbia 
River, Washington. These activities are identical to those covered in 
the current authorization. The project has been delayed and none of the 
work covered in the initial IHA has been conducted. Pursuant to the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act, prior to issuing the currently active 
IHA, NMFS requested comments on both the proposed IHA and the potential 
for renewing the initial authorization if certain requirements were 
satisfied. The Renewal requirements have been satisfied, and NMFS is 
now providing an additional 15-day comment period to allow for any 
additional comments on the proposed Renewal not previously provided 
during the initial 30-day comment period.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than November 
5, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service. Written comments should be 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. Attachments to comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All 
comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be 
posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act 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: Amy Fowler, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the original 
application, Renewal request, and supporting documents (including NMFS 
Federal Register notices of the original proposed and final 
authorizations, and the previous IHA), as well as a list of the 
references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act. In case of problems accessing these 
documents, please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Marine Mammal Protection Act (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

[[Page 66958]]

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 is provided to the 
public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses 
(where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods 
of taking and other ``means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact'' on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance, and on the availability of such species or stocks for 
taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to here as ``mitigation 
measures''). Monitoring and reporting of such takings are also 
required. The meaning of key terms such as ``take,'' ``harassment,'' 
and ``negligible impact'' can be found in section 3 of the MMPA (16 
U.S.C. 1362) and the agency's regulations at 50 CFR 216.103.
    NMFS' regulations implementing the MMPA at 50 CFR 216.107(e) 
indicate that IHAs may be renewed for additional periods of time not to 
exceed one year for each reauthorization. In the notice of proposed IHA 
for the initial authorization, NMFS described the circumstances under 
which we would consider issuing a Renewal for this activity, and 
requested public comment on a potential Renewal under those 
circumstances. Specifically, 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, or nearly identical, activities as 
described in the Description of the Specified Activities and 
Anticipated Impacts section of this notice is planned or (2) the 
activities as described in the Description of the Specified Activities 
and Anticipated Impacts 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 the notice of proposed IHA for the initial IHA, 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.
    An additional public comment period of 15 days (for a total of 45 
days), with direct notice by email, phone, or postal service to 
commenters on the initial IHA, is provided to allow for any additional 
comments on the proposed Renewal. A description of the Renewal process 
may be found on our website at: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-harassment-authorization-renewals. Any 
comments received on the potential Renewal, along with relevant 
comments on the initial IHA, have been considered in the development of 
this proposed IHA Renewal, and a summary of agency responses to 
applicable comments is included in this notice. NMFS will consider any 
additional public comments prior to making any final decision on the 
issuance of the requested Renewal, and agency responses will be 
summarized in the final notice of our decision.

National Environmental Policy Act

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

History of Request

    On September 28, 2015, we received a request from the POK for 
authorization of the taking, by Level B harassment only, of marine 
mammals incidental to the construction associated with the Port of 
Kalama Expansion Project, which involved construction of the Kalama 
Marine Manufacturing and Export Facility including a new marine 
terminal for the export of methanol, and installation of engineered log 
jams, restoration of riparian wetlands, and the removal of existing 
wood piles in a side channel as mitigation activities. The specified 
activity is expected to result in the take of three species of marine 
mammals (harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), California sea lions (Zalophus 
californianus), and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)). A final 
version of the application, which we deemed adequate and complete, was 
submitted on December 10, 2015. We published a notice of a proposed IHA 
and request for comments on March 21, 2016 (81 FR 15064). After the 
public comment period and before we issued the final IHA, POK requested 
that we issue the IHA for 2017 instead of the 2016 work season. We 
subsequently published the final notice of our issuance of the IHA on 
December 12, 2016 (81 FR 89436), effective from September 1, 2017-
August 31, 2018. In-water work associated with the project was expected 
to be completed within the one-year timeframe of the IHA.
    On June 21, 2018, POK informed NMFS that work relevant to the 
specified activity considered in the MMPA analysis for the 2017-2018 
IHA was postponed and would not be completed. POK requested that the 
IHA

[[Page 66959]]

be issued to be effective for the period from 2018-2019. In support of 
that request, POK submitted an application addendum affirming that no 
change in the proposed activities is anticipated and that no new 
information regarding the abundance of marine mammals is available that 
would change the previous analysis and findings. A notice for the 
proposed incidental take authorization was published on July 25, 2018 
(83 FR 35220), and a corrected notice was published on August 14, 2018 
(83 FR 40257). On November 13, 2018, NMFS published final notice of our 
issuance of an IHA authorizing take of marine mammals incidental to the 
Port of Kalama Expansion Project (83 FR 56304). The effective dates of 
that IHA were October 18, 2018 through October 18, 2019.
    On August 21, 2019, POK informed NMFS that the project had been 
delayed by one year. None of the work identified in the IHA (i.e., pile 
driving and removal) had occurred and no take of any marine mammals had 
occurred since the effective date of the initial IHA. POK submitted a 
formal request for an identical IHA, but with modified effective dates, 
in order to conduct the construction work that was analyzed and 
authorized through the previously issued IHA. On October 17, 2019, NMFS 
issued an IHA to POK to take marine mammals incidental to construction 
activities at the Port of Kalama (84 FR 57013; October 24, 2019), 
effective from October 19, 2019 through October 18, 2020 (hereafter 
referred to as the initial IHA).
    On August 27, 2020, NMFS received an application for the Renewal of 
that initial IHA. As described in the request for the Renewal IHA, the 
activities for which incidental take is requested are identical to 
those covered in the initial authorization. In order to consider an IHA 
Renewal, NMFS requires the applicant provide a preliminary monitoring 
report which confirms that the applicant has implemented the required 
mitigation and monitoring, and which also shows that no impacts of a 
scale or nature not previously analyzed or authorized have occurred as 
a result of the activities conducted. As no construction activities 
have been conducted, POK has no monitoring results to report. NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that POK's proposed activities (including 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting), estimated incidental take, and 
anticipated impacts on the affected stocks are the same as those 
analyzed and authorized through the initial IHA. However, NMFS is 
requesting comments or additional information that may further inform 
our proposal to issue an IHA Renewal to POK. This IHA Renewal would be 
valid from the date of issuance to October 18, 2021.

Description of the Specified Activities and Anticipated Impacts

    POK's planned activities include construction of a marine terminal 
and dock/pier for the export of methanol, and associated compensatory 
mitigation activities for the purposes of offsetting habitat effects 
from the action. Specifically, the location, timing, and nature of the 
activities, including the types of equipment planned for use, are 
identical to those described in the original IHA.
    Similarly, the anticipated impacts are identical to those described 
in the initial IHA. NMFS anticipates the take of three species of 
marine mammals (Pacific harbor seals, California sea lions, and Steller 
sea lions) by Level A and Level B harassment incidental to underwater 
noise resulting from construction associated with the proposed 
activities.
    The following documents are referenced in this notice and include 
important supporting information:
     Initial reissued IHA (84 FR 57013; October 24, 2019);
     Initial final IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018);
     Initial proposed IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018);
     2017 final IHA (81 FR 89436; December 12, 2016);
     2017 proposed IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016); and
     2017 and 2018 IHA applications, references cited, and 
previous public comments received (available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities).

Detailed Description of the Activity

    POK is proposing to construct a marine terminal and dock/pier for 
the export of methanol, and associated compensatory mitigation 
activities for the purposes of offsetting habitat effects from the 
action. The marine terminal will be approximately 45,000 square feet in 
size, supported by 320 concrete piles (24-inch precast octagonal piles 
to be driven by impact hammer) and 16 steel piles (12 x 12-inch and 4 x 
18-inch anticipated to be driven by vibratory hammer, and impact 
hammering will only be done to drive/proof if necessary). The 
compensatory mitigation includes installation of 8 engineered log jams 
(ELJs), which will be anchored by untreated wooden piles driven by 
impact hammer at low tides (not in water). The compensatory mitigation 
also includes removal of approximately 320 untreated wooden piles from 
an abandoned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dike in a nearby 
backwater area. The piles will be removed either by direct pull or 
vibratory extraction. Finally, the compensatory mitigation includes 
wetland restoration and enhancement by removal of invasive species and 
replacement with native wetland species.
    A detailed description of the construction activities for which 
take is proposed here may be found in the Federal Register notice of 
proposed IHA for the 2017 authorization (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). 
As stated above, location, timing (e.g., seasonality), and nature of 
the pile driving operations, including the type and size of piles and 
the methods of pile driving, are identical to those analyzed in the 
initial IHA. The proposed IHA Renewal would be effective from the date 
of issuance to October 18, 2021 (i.e., one year after the expiration of 
the initial IHA).

Description of Marine Mammals

    A description of the marine mammals in the area of the activities 
for which authorization of take is proposed here, including information 
on abundance, status, distribution, and hearing, may be found in the 
Federal Register notices for the proposed IHA for the initial 
authorization (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 2017 IHA (81 FR 15064; 
March 21, 2016). NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock Assessment 
Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events, and other 
scientific literature. The 2019 Stock Assessment Report notes the 
estimated abundance of the Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions has 
decreased slightly. However, NMFS has preliminarily determined that 
neither this nor any other new information affects which species or 
stocks have the potential to be affected or the pertinent information 
in the Description of the Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified 
Activities contained in the supporting documents for the initial IHA.

Potential Effects on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat

    A description of the potential effects of the specified activity on 
marine mammals and their habitat for the activities for which take is 
proposed here may be found in the Federal Register notices for the 
proposed initial IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 2017 IHA (81 FR 
15064; March 21, 2016). NMFS has reviewed recent draft Stock Assessment 
Reports, information on relevant Unusual Mortality Events,

[[Page 66960]]

and other scientific literature, and determined that neither this nor 
any other new information affects our initial analysis of impacts on 
marine mammals and their habitat.

Estimated Take

    A detailed description of the methods and inputs used to estimate 
take for the specified activity are found in the Federal Register 
notices for the proposed initial IHA (83 FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and 
2017 IHA (81 FR 15064; March 21, 2016). Specifically, the source 
levels, days of operation, and marine mammal occurrence data applicable 
to this authorization remain unchanged from the previously issued IHA. 
Similarly, the stocks taken, methods of take, and types of take remain 
unchanged from the previously issued IHA, as do the number of takes, 
which are indicated below in Table 1. The estimated abundance of 
Steller sea lions has decreased from that described in the initial IHA 
(Muto et al., 2020), therefore the percent of stock proposed to be 
taken has increased.

      Table 1--Estimated Take Proposed for Authorization and Proportion of Population Potentially Affected
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                   Percentage of
                                Estimated take  Estimated take                     Abundance of        stock
                                  by Level B      by Level A          Stock            stock        potentially
                                  harassment      harassment                                         affected
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal...................           1,530              10  Oregon/                   24,732             6.2
                                                                 Washington
                                                                 Coast.
California sea lion...........             372               0  U.S.............         153,337             0.2
Steller sea lion..............             372               0  Eastern U.S.....          43,201            0.86
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Description of Proposed Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures

    The proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures 
included as requirements in this authorization are identical to those 
included in the Federal Register notice announcing the issuance of the 
initial IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018), and the discussion of the 
least practicable adverse impact included in that document remains 
accurate. The following measures are proposed for this renewal:
Proposed Mitigation Requirements
    In summary, mitigation includes implementation of shut down 
procedures if any marine mammal approaches or enters the Level A 
harassment zone for pile driving (26 meters (m) (85 feet (ft)) for 
vibratory pile driving of steel piles; 63 m (207 ft) for impact driving 
of concrete piles; and 252 m (828 ft) for impact driving of steel 
piles). For in-water heavy machinery work other than pile driving 
(e.g., standard barges, barge-mounted cranes, excavators, etc.), if a 
marine mammal comes within 10 m, operations must cease and vessels must 
reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and 
safe working conditions. One trained observer must monitor to implement 
shutdowns and collect information at each active pile driving location 
(whether vibratory or impact driving of steel or concrete piles).
    Pile driving activities may only be conducted during daylight 
hours. If the shutdown zone is obscured by fog or poor lighting 
conditions, pile driving will not be initiated until the entire 
shutdown zone is visible. Work that has been initiated appropriately in 
conditions of good visibility may continue during poor visibility. The 
shutdown zone will be monitored for 30 minutes prior to initiating the 
start of pile driving, during the activity, and for 30 minutes after 
activities have ceased. If pinnipeds are present within the shutdown 
zone prior to pile driving, the start will be delayed until the animals 
leave the shutdown zone of their own volition, or until 15 minutes 
elapse without re-sighting the animal(s).
    Soft start procedures must be implemented at the start of each 
day's impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact 
driving for a period of thirty minutes or longer. If steel piles 
require impact installation or proofing, a bubble curtain must be used 
for sound attenuation. If water velocity is 1.6 ft per second (1.1 
miles per hour (mph)) or less for the entire installation period, the 
pile being driven must be surrounded by a confined or unconfined bubble 
curtain that will distribute small air bubbles around 100 percent of 
the pile perimeter for the full depth of the water column. If water 
velocity is greater than 1.6 feet per second (1.1 mph) at any point 
during installation, the pile being driven must be surrounded by a 
confined bubble curtain (e.g., a bubble ring surrounded by a fabric or 
non-metallic sleeve) that will distribute air bubbles around 100 
percent of the pile perimeter for the full depth of the water column.
Proposed Monitoring Requirements
    At least three NMFS-approved observers must be on duty during 
impact driving at all times. As discussed above, one observer must 
monitor and implement shutdowns and collect information at each pile 
driving location at all times. In addition, two shore-based observers 
are required (one upstream of the project and another downstream of the 
project), whose primary responsibility shall be to record pinnipeds in 
the Level B harassment zone and to alert the barge-based observer to 
the presence of pinnipeds, thus creating a redundant alert system for 
prevention of injurious interaction as well as increasing the 
probability of detecting pinnipeds in the disturbance zone.
    At least three observers must be on duty during vibratory pile 
driving activity for the first two days, and thereafter on every third 
day to allow for estimation of Level B harassment takes. Similar to 
requirements for impact driving, the first observer must be positioned 
on a work platform or barge where the entirety of the shutdown zone can 
be monitored. Shore based observers must be positioned to observe the 
disturbance zone from the bank of the river. Observers must immediately 
inform other observers and construction personnel of all marine mammal 
sightings.
Proposed Reporting Requirements
    POK must provide NMFS with a draft monitoring report within 90 
calendar days of the expiration of the IHA, or within conclusion of the 
construction work, whichever comes first. This report must detail the 
monitoring protocol, summarize the data recorded during monitoring, and 
estimate the number of marine mammals that may have been harassed. If 
comments are received from NMFS on the draft report within 30 days, a 
final report shall be submitted to NMFS within 30 days thereafter. If 
no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days after receipt of the 
draft report, the draft report will be considered final.
    In the unanticipated event that the construction activities clearly 
cause the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this 
Authorization, such as an injury, serious injury, or mortality (Level A 
take), POK shall immediately

[[Page 66961]]

cease all operations and immediately report the incident to the NMFS 
Office of Protected Resources and the NMFS West Coast Regional 
Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the following 
information:
    1. Time, date, and location (latitude and longitude) of the 
incident;
    2. Description of the incident;
    3. Status of all sound sources used in the 24 hours preceding the 
incident;
    4. Environmental conditions (wind speed, wind direction, sea state, 
cloud cover, visibility, water depth);
    5. Description of the marine mammal observations in the 24 hours 
preceding the incident;
    6. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;
    7. The fate of the animal(s); and
    8. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s), if equipment is 
available.
    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the 
circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with POK to 
determine what is necessary to minimize the likelihood of further 
prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. POK may not resume their 
activities until notified by NMFS via letter, email, or telephone.
    In the event that POK discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the marine mammal observer determines that the cause of injury or 
death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (less than a 
moderate state of decomposition), POK will immediately report the 
incident to the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, and the NMFS West 
Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. The report must include the same 
information identified above. Activities may continue while NMFS 
reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with POK to 
determine whether modifications in the activities are appropriate.
    In the event that POK discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, 
and the marine mammal observer determines that the injury or death is 
not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA 
(previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced 
decomposition, or scavenger damage), POK shall report the incident to 
the NMFS Office of Protected Resources, and the NMFS West Coast 
Regional Stranding Coordinator within 24 hours of the discovery. POK 
shall provide photographs or video footage (if available) or other 
documentation of the stranded animal(s) to NMFS Office of Protected 
Resources and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator. POK may 
continue its operations under such a case.

Public Comments

    As noted previously, NMFS published a notice of a proposed IHA (83 
FR 40257; August 14, 2018) and solicited public comments on both our 
proposal to issue the initial IHA for POK's construction activities and 
on the potential for a Renewal IHA, should certain requirements be met.
    All public comments were addressed in the notice announcing the 
issuance of the initial IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018). Below, we 
describe how we have addressed, with updated information where 
appropriate, any comments received that specifically pertain to the 
Renewal of the initial IHA.
    Comment: The Commission expressed continuing concern with NMFS's 
notice that one-year IHA Renewals could be issued in certain 
circumstances without additional public notice and comment 
requirements. The Commission also suggested that NMFS should discuss 
the possibility of Renewals through a more general route, such as 
abbreviated Federal Register notices. The Commission further 
recommended that if NMFS did not pursue Renewals solely using 
abbreviated notices, that the agency provide a legal analysis 
supporting our conclusion that this process is consistent with the 
requirements of section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA.
    Response: In prior responses to comments about IHA Renewals (e.g., 
84 FR 52464; October 02, 2019 and 85 FR 53342; August 28, 2020), NMFS 
has explained how the Renewal process, as implemented, is consistent 
with the statutory requirements contained in section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA, provides additional efficiencies beyond the use of 
abbreviated notices, and, further, promotes NMFS' goals of improving 
conservation of marine mammals and increasing efficiency in the MMPA 
compliance process. Therefore, we intend to continue implementing the 
Renewal process.

Preliminary Determinations

    The construction activities proposed by POK are identical to those 
analyzed in the initial IHA, as are the planned number of days of 
activity, the method of taking, and the effects of the action. The 
potential effects of POK's activities are limited to Level A and Level 
B harassment in the form of auditory injury and behavioral disturbance. 
In analyzing the effects of the activities in the initial IHA, NMSF 
determined that POK's activities would have a negligible impact on the 
affected species or stocks and that the authorized take numbers of each 
species or stock were small relative to the relevant stocks (e.g., less 
than 7 percent of all stocks). The mitigation measures and monitoring 
and reporting requirements as described above are identical to the 
initial IHA.
    NMFS has preliminarily concluded that there is no new information 
suggesting that our analysis or findings should change from those 
reached for the initial IHA. This includes consideration of the 
estimated abundance of the Eastern U.S. stock of Steller sea lions 
decreasing slightly. Based on the information and analysis contained 
here and in the referenced documents, NMFS has determined the 
following: (1) The required mitigation measures will effect the least 
practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their 
habitat; (2) the authorized takes will have a negligible impact on the 
affected marine mammal species or stocks; (3) the authorized takes 
represent small numbers of marine mammals relative to the affected 
stock abundances; (4) POK's activities will not have an unmitigable 
adverse impact on taking for subsistence purposes as no relevant 
subsistence uses of marine mammals are implicated by this action, and; 
(5) appropriate monitoring and reporting requirements are included.

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 
marine mammal species is expected to result from this activity, and 
none would be authorized. Therefore, NMFS has determined that 
consultation under section 7 of the ESA is not required for this 
action.

Proposed Renewal IHA and Request for Public Comment

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue a Renewal IHA to POK for conducting in-water construction 
activities associated with the POK Expansion Project on the Lower 
Columbia River, Washington, from the date of issuance through October 
18, 2021, provided the previously described mitigation, monitoring, and 
reporting requirements

[[Page 66962]]

are incorporated. A draft of the proposed and final initial IHA can be 
found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. We 
request comment on our analyses, the proposed Renewal IHA, and any 
other aspect of this notice. Please include with your comments any 
supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final 
decision on the request for MMPA authorization.

    Dated: October 15, 2020.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-23320 Filed 10-20-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P