Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Port of Kalama Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River, 76527-76532 [2020-26344]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices Partial Rescission Pursuant to 19 CFR 351.213(d)(1), Commerce will rescind an administrative review, in whole or in part, if a party who requested the review withdraws the request within 90 days of the date of publication of notice of initiation of the requested review. CPZ/ SKF, GGB, SGBC, and Xinglun Bearings timely withdrew their requests for an administrative review. No other party requested a review of these four companies. Accordingly, we are rescinding this review, in part, with respect to these companies, pursuant to 19 CFR 351.213(d)(1). The instant review will continue with respect to the following companies: BRTEC Wheel Hub Bearing Co., Ltd.; C&U Group Shanghai Bearing Co., Ltd.; Hebei Xintai Bearing Forging Co., Ltd.; Shanghai Tainai Bearing Co., Ltd.; Xinchang Newsun Xintianlong Precision Bearing Manufacturing Co., Ltd.; and Zhejiang Jingli Bearing Technology Co., Ltd. Assessment Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assess antidumping duties on all appropriate entries. For the companies for which this review is rescinded, antidumping duties shall be assessed at rates equal to the cash deposit of estimated antidumping duties required at the time of entry, or withdrawal from warehouse, for consumption, in accordance with 19 CFR 351.212(c)(1)(i). Commerce intends to issue appropriate assessment instructions to CBP 15 days after publication of this notice in the Federal Register. TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Notification to Importers This notice serves as a reminder to importers of their responsibility under 19 CFR 351.402(f)(2) to file a certificate regarding the reimbursement of antidumping duties prior to liquidation of the relevant entries during this review period. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in the presumption that reimbursement of antidumping duties occurred and the subsequent assessment of doubled antidumping duties. Request for Administrative Review,’’ dated September 4, 2020; GGB’s Letter, ‘‘Withdrawal of Request for the Administrative Review of the Antidumping Duty Order on Tapered Roller Bearings from the People’s Republic of China, A– 570–601 (POR: 6/1/19–5/31/20),’’ dated August 18, 2020; Ningbo Xinglun’s Letter, ‘‘Tapered Roller Bearing from the People’s Republic of China: Withdrawal of Request for Administrative Review,’’ dated September 9, 2020; and SGBC’s Letter, ‘‘Tapered Roller Bearing from the People’s Republic of China: Withdrawal of Request for Administrative Review,’’ dated September 4, 2020. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 Notification Regarding Administrative Protective Orders This notice also serves as a reminder to parties subject to administrative protective order (APO) of their responsibility concerning the return or destruction of proprietary information disclosed under APO in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305, which continues to govern business proprietary information in this segment of the proceeding. Timely written notification of the return/destruction of APO materials or conversion to judicial protective order is hereby requested. Failure to comply with the regulations and terms of an APO is a violation which is subject to sanction. This notice is issued and published in accordance with sections 751 and 777(i)(1) of the Act, and 19 CFR 351.213(d)(4). Dated: November 24, 2020. James Maeder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations. [FR Doc. 2020–26334 Filed 11–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–DS–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA623] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Port of Kalama Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; issuance of Renewal incidental harassment authorization. AGENCY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, notification is hereby given that NMFS has issued a Renewal incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to the Port of Kalama (POK) to incidentally harass marine mammals incidental to construction activities associated with an expansion project at the POK on the Lower Columbia River, Washington. DATES: This Renewal IHA is valid from November 23, 2020 through October 18, 2021. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy Fowler, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427–8401. Electronic copies of the original SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76527 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-undermarine-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 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- E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 76528 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices by-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: • 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); and (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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 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, 2017August 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 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 PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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 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. 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); E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices • 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 planning 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, 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 authorized 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 IHA Renewal is effective from the date of issuance (November 23, 2020) 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 take is authorized 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 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 76529 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 authorized 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, 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—AUTHORIZED TAKE AND PROPORTION OF POPULATION POTENTIALLY AFFECTED TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Authorized take by level B harassment Authorized take by level A harassment Harbor seal ........................................ California sea lion .............................. Steller sea lion ................................... 1,530 372 372 Description of Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures accurate. The following measures are included in this Renewal: The 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 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 VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 PO 00000 Frm 00016 10 0 0 Fmt 4703 Abundance of stock Stock Oregon/Washington Coast .............. U.S. .................................................. Eastern U.S. .................................... Sfmt 4703 24,732 153,337 43,201 Percentage of stock potentially affected 6.2 0.2 0.86 252 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 E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 76530 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices information at each active pile driving location (whether vibratory or impact driving of steel or concrete piles). Pile driving activities must only be conducted during daylight hours. If the shutdown zone is obscured by fog or poor lighting conditions, pile driving must 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 must 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 must 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 ft 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 nonmetallic sleeve) that will distribute air bubbles around 100 percent of the pile perimeter for the full depth of the water column. TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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 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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 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. 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. If comments are received from NMFS on the draft report within 30 days, a final report must 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. The monitoring report must include the following elements: • 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); • 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 detected within the monitoring zone(s), and estimates of the 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 mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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; and • An extrapolation of the estimated takes by Level B harassment based on the number of observed exposures within the Level B harassment zone, the portion of the Level B harassment zone that was not visible during monitoring, and amount of time monitors were not present during vibratory installation or removal. POK must also submit all PSO datasheets and/or raw sighting data (in a separate file from the final report). 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 must immediately 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 must 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 must 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 E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES 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 must 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 must 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 A notice of NMFS’ proposal to issue a Renewal IHA to POK was published in the Federal Register on October 21, 2020 (85 FR 66957). That notice either described, or referenced descriptions of, POK’s activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the activity, the anticipated effects on marine mammals and their habitat, proposed amount and manner of take, and proposed mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures. NMFS received a comment letter from the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission). The comments and our responses are summarized below. Comment 1: The Commission reiterated a comment made on the initial 2018 IHA regarding the estimation of the Level A harassment zones and recommended NMFS revise the Level A harassment zones for harbor seals during impact driving of concrete piles and vibratory driving of steel piles based on eight piles driven per day, because harbor seals may be present in the project area for longer periods than California or Steller sea lions and therefore accumulate more sound energy. Response: NMFS addressed this comment in the Federal Register notice announcing the issuance of the initial 2018 IHA (83 FR 56304; November 13, 2018). NMFS agrees that it is possible that harbor seals may be present in the general project area for longer periods than California or Steller sea lions. However, NMFS feels that it is unreasonable to assume that seals would remain within the area for a full VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 eight hours, as they may be transiting between two sites (one approximately one mile upstream and one approximately 3.5 miles downstream) where they are known to forage and/or haul out. In addition, it is not reasonable to assume that pile driving activities would occur for eight consecutive hours daily, and is more likely that these activities would occur for an hour to two hours at a time, and would be broken up by time needed to set up new piles. However, NMFS has determined it is reasonable to assume that seals would be present for double the amount of time as sea lions (assuming a two-hour duration versus a one-hour duration due to the fact that they may be transiting the area twice if they move from one site to the other and return again) results in a Level A harassment threshold distance of 63 m for impact driving of concrete piles and 26 m for vibratory driving of steel piles. As noted in the notice for the proposed initial IHA, Level A harassment takes proposed for authorization did not rely on calculated takes, and were qualitatively proposed for authorization out of an abundance of caution in the event that some seals may be undetected before entering the Level A harassment zone. Therefore, the amount of Level A harassment takes authorized did not change as a result of reconsidering the Level A harassment zone and only resulted in a revision of the Level A harassment monitoring area. The required shutdown distances to avoid Level A harassment take are 63 m and 26 m, which correspond to a twohour duration for impact driving of concrete piles and vibratory driving of steel piles, respectively. Comment 2: The Commission also reiterated their recommendation that NMFS investigate the appropriate timeframes over which sound exposure levels should be accumulated when estimating the extents of the Level A harassment zones. In the absence of relevant recovery time data for marine mammals, the Commission believes that animat modeling that considers various operational and animal scenarios should be used to inform the appropriate accumulation time and could be incorporated into NMFS’s acoustic guidance user spreadsheet that currently estimates the Level A harassment zones. The Commission recommended NMFS prioritize this issue in the near future and consider incorporating animat modeling into the user spreadsheet. Response: NMFS appreciates the Commission’s recommendations. As noted by the Commission, NMFS has formed an internal committee to address this issue and has consulted with PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76531 external acousticians and modelers. NMFS continues to work on improving the user spreadsheet and looks forward to sharing our progress in the future. Comment 3: The Commission noted that the draft IHA Renewal did not specify what specific information POK would be required to include in its monitoring report and recommended NMFS revise the authorization such that the reporting requirements are consistent with recently issued IHAs. Response: NMFS agrees with the Commission’s recommendations and has revised the authorization to specify the information that must be included in POK’s monitoring report (see Description of Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures section of this notice). Comment 4: The Commission recommended NMFS reinforce the need for POK to keep a running tally of the total takes by Level B harassment based on observed and extrapolated takes to ensure that POK does not exceed the authorized number of takes. Response: The IHA indicates the number of takes authorized for each species. We agree that POK must ensure they do not exceed authorized takes, and further note that they are required to report ‘‘an extrapolation of the estimated takes by Level B harassment based on the number of observed exposures within the Level B harassment zone, the portion of the Level B harassment zone that was not visible during monitoring, and amount of time monitors were not present during vibratory installation or removal.’’ Comment 5: The Commission recommended NMFS refrain from issuing a Renewal for any authorization unless it is consistent with the procedural requirements specified in section 101(a)(5)(D)(iii) 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. National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1 76532 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 230 / Monday, November 30, 2020 / Notices 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 determined that the issuance of the IHA Renewal qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. TKELLEY on DSKBCP9HB2PROD with NOTICES Determinations The construction activities planned 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 seven percent of all stocks). The mitigation measures and monitoring and reporting requirements as described above are identical to the initial IHA. NMFS has 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, VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:03 Nov 27, 2020 Jkt 253001 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. Renewal NMFS has issued a Renewal IHA to POK for the take of marine mammals incidental to conducting in-water construction activities associated with the POK Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River, Washington, from November 23, 2020 through October 18, 2021. Dated: November 24, 2020. Donna S. Wieting, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26344 Filed 11–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XA686] New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of public meeting. AGENCY: The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Herring Committee via webinar to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 This webinar will be held on Friday, December 11, 2020 at 9 a.m. Webinar registration URL information: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/ register/7246047020300504335. ADDRESSES: Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465–0492. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DATES: Agenda The Committee will meet to review and discuss 2021 work priorities for the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan including: (1) A framework action that considers spawning closures on Georges Bank (GB); (2) development of a formal rebuilding plan for Atlantic herring; (3) review and potentially adjust accountability measures (AMs) in the herring plan; and (4) coordinate with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) on various herring management issues (i.e. river herring and shad (RH/S)). Other business will be discussed, as necessary. Although non-emergency issues not contained on the agenda may come before this Council for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Council action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the MagnusonStevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council’s intent to take final action to address the emergency. The public also should be aware that the meeting will be recorded. Consistent with 16 U.S.C. 1852, a copy of the recording is available upon request. Special Accommodations This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465–0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date. Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: November 24, 2020. Diane M. DeJames-Daly, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2020–26348 Filed 11–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\30NON1.SGM 30NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 230 (Monday, November 30, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76527-76532]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26344]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA623]


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; issuance of Renewal incidental harassment 
authorization.

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

SUMMARY: In accordance with the regulations implementing the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as amended, notification is hereby given 
that NMFS has issued a Renewal incidental harassment authorization 
(IHA) to the Port of Kalama (POK) to incidentally harass marine mammals 
incidental to construction activities associated with an expansion 
project at the POK on the Lower Columbia River, Washington.

DATES: This Renewal IHA is valid from November 23, 2020 through October 
18, 2021.

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 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-

[[Page 76528]]

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); 
and
    (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.

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 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 
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.
    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);

[[Page 76529]]

     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 planning 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, 
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 authorized 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 IHA Renewal is effective from the date of issuance 
(November 23, 2020) 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 take is authorized 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 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 
authorized 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, 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--Authorized Take and Proportion of Population Potentially Affected
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                          Percentage  of
                                                   Authorized      Authorized                                              Abundance  of       stock
                                                 take by  level  take by  level                   Stock                        stock        potentially
                                                  B  harassment   A  harassment                                                              affected
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Harbor seal....................................           1,530              10  Oregon/Washington Coast................          24,732             6.2
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 Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting Measures

    The 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 included in this Renewal:
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

[[Page 76530]]

information at each active pile driving location (whether vibratory or 
impact driving of steel or concrete piles).
    Pile driving activities must only be conducted during daylight 
hours. If the shutdown zone is obscured by fog or poor lighting 
conditions, pile driving must 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 must 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 must 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 ft 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.
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.
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. If comments are received from 
NMFS on the draft report within 30 days, a final report must 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. The monitoring report must 
include the following elements:
     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);
     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 detected within the 
monitoring zone(s), and estimates of the 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 
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; and
     An extrapolation of the estimated takes by Level B 
harassment based on the number of observed exposures within the Level B 
harassment zone, the portion of the Level B harassment zone that was 
not visible during monitoring, and amount of time monitors were not 
present during vibratory installation or removal.
    POK must also submit all PSO datasheets and/or raw sighting data 
(in a separate file from the final report).
    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 must immediately 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 must 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 must 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

[[Page 76531]]

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 must 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 
must 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

    A notice of NMFS' proposal to issue a Renewal IHA to POK was 
published in the Federal Register on October 21, 2020 (85 FR 66957). 
That notice either described, or referenced descriptions of, POK's 
activity, the marine mammal species that may be affected by the 
activity, the anticipated effects on marine mammals and their habitat, 
proposed amount and manner of take, and proposed mitigation, monitoring 
and reporting measures. NMFS received a comment letter from the Marine 
Mammal Commission (Commission). The comments and our responses are 
summarized below.
    Comment 1: The Commission reiterated a comment made on the initial 
2018 IHA regarding the estimation of the Level A harassment zones and 
recommended NMFS revise the Level A harassment zones for harbor seals 
during impact driving of concrete piles and vibratory driving of steel 
piles based on eight piles driven per day, because harbor seals may be 
present in the project area for longer periods than California or 
Steller sea lions and therefore accumulate more sound energy.
    Response: NMFS addressed this comment in the Federal Register 
notice announcing the issuance of the initial 2018 IHA (83 FR 56304; 
November 13, 2018). NMFS agrees that it is possible that harbor seals 
may be present in the general project area for longer periods than 
California or Steller sea lions. However, NMFS feels that it is 
unreasonable to assume that seals would remain within the area for a 
full eight hours, as they may be transiting between two sites (one 
approximately one mile upstream and one approximately 3.5 miles 
downstream) where they are known to forage and/or haul out. In 
addition, it is not reasonable to assume that pile driving activities 
would occur for eight consecutive hours daily, and is more likely that 
these activities would occur for an hour to two hours at a time, and 
would be broken up by time needed to set up new piles. However, NMFS 
has determined it is reasonable to assume that seals would be present 
for double the amount of time as sea lions (assuming a two-hour 
duration versus a one-hour duration due to the fact that they may be 
transiting the area twice if they move from one site to the other and 
return again) results in a Level A harassment threshold distance of 63 
m for impact driving of concrete piles and 26 m for vibratory driving 
of steel piles.
    As noted in the notice for the proposed initial IHA, Level A 
harassment takes proposed for authorization did not rely on calculated 
takes, and were qualitatively proposed for authorization out of an 
abundance of caution in the event that some seals may be undetected 
before entering the Level A harassment zone. Therefore, the amount of 
Level A harassment takes authorized did not change as a result of 
reconsidering the Level A harassment zone and only resulted in a 
revision of the Level A harassment monitoring area. The required 
shutdown distances to avoid Level A harassment take are 63 m and 26 m, 
which correspond to a two-hour duration for impact driving of concrete 
piles and vibratory driving of steel piles, respectively.
    Comment 2: The Commission also reiterated their recommendation that 
NMFS investigate the appropriate timeframes over which sound exposure 
levels should be accumulated when estimating the extents of the Level A 
harassment zones. In the absence of relevant recovery time data for 
marine mammals, the Commission believes that animat modeling that 
considers various operational and animal scenarios should be used to 
inform the appropriate accumulation time and could be incorporated into 
NMFS's acoustic guidance user spreadsheet that currently estimates the 
Level A harassment zones. The Commission recommended NMFS prioritize 
this issue in the near future and consider incorporating animat 
modeling into the user spreadsheet.
    Response: NMFS appreciates the Commission's recommendations. As 
noted by the Commission, NMFS has formed an internal committee to 
address this issue and has consulted with external acousticians and 
modelers. NMFS continues to work on improving the user spreadsheet and 
looks forward to sharing our progress in the future.
    Comment 3: The Commission noted that the draft IHA Renewal did not 
specify what specific information POK would be required to include in 
its monitoring report and recommended NMFS revise the authorization 
such that the reporting requirements are consistent with recently 
issued IHAs.
    Response: NMFS agrees with the Commission's recommendations and has 
revised the authorization to specify the information that must be 
included in POK's monitoring report (see Description of Mitigation, 
Monitoring and Reporting Measures section of this notice).
    Comment 4: The Commission recommended NMFS reinforce the need for 
POK to keep a running tally of the total takes by Level B harassment 
based on observed and extrapolated takes to ensure that POK does not 
exceed the authorized number of takes.
    Response: The IHA indicates the number of takes authorized for each 
species. We agree that POK must ensure they do not exceed authorized 
takes, and further note that they are required to report ``an 
extrapolation of the estimated takes by Level B harassment based on the 
number of observed exposures within the Level B harassment zone, the 
portion of the Level B harassment zone that was not visible during 
monitoring, and amount of time monitors were not present during 
vibratory installation or removal.''
    Comment 5: The Commission recommended NMFS refrain from issuing a 
Renewal for any authorization unless it is consistent with the 
procedural requirements specified in section 101(a)(5)(D)(iii) 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.

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and

[[Page 76532]]

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 determined 
that the issuance of the IHA Renewal qualifies to be categorically 
excluded from further NEPA review.

Determinations

    The construction activities planned 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 seven percent of all stocks). The mitigation measures and 
monitoring and reporting requirements as described above are identical 
to the initial IHA.
    NMFS has 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.

Renewal

    NMFS has issued a Renewal IHA to POK for the take of marine mammals 
incidental to conducting in-water construction activities associated 
with the POK Expansion Project on the Lower Columbia River, Washington, 
from November 23, 2020 through October 18, 2021.

    Dated: November 24, 2020.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-26344 Filed 11-27-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P