Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the NOAA Port Facility Project in Ketchikan, Alaska, 68223-68243 [2021-26122]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices After reviewing the decision record developed to date, the NOAA Administrator has determined that it is not necessary to stay the closure of the decision record in this appeal. Consistent with the schedule contained in the CZMA and its implementing regulations, the decision record for Appellant’s federal consistency appeal of the New York Department of State’s objection closed on December 1, 2021. No further information or briefs will be considered in deciding this appeal. Public Availability of Appeal Documents NOAA has provided access to publicly available materials and related documents comprising the appeal record on the following website: www.regulations.gov, under docket number NOAA–HQ–2021–0059. (Authority Citation: 15 CFR 930.130(a)(1)) Adam Dilts, Chief, Oceans and Coasts Section, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of the General Counsel. [FR Doc. 2021–26010 Filed 11–30–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–JE–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [RTID 0648–XB571] Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the NOAA Port Facility Project in Ketchikan, Alaska National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal. AGENCY: NMFS has received a request from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to the NOAA Port Facility Project in Ketchikan, Alaska. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals during the specified activities. NMFS is also requesting comments on a possible one-year renewal that could be issued under certain circumstances and if all requirements are met, as described in lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 Request for Public Comments at the end of this document. NMFS will consider public comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will be summarized in the final notification of our decision. DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January 3, 2022. ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service and should be sent to ITP.Meadows@noaa.gov. Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic 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-undermarine-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: Dwayne Meadows, Ph.D., Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427– 8401. Electronic copies of the application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries. noaa.gov/permit/incidental-takeauthorizations-under-marine-mammalprotection-act. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The MMPA prohibits the ‘‘take’’ of marine mammals, with certain exceptions. Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) to allow, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and either regulations are PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68223 issued or, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed IHA may be provided to the public for review. Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other ‘‘means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact’’ on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as ‘‘mitigation’’); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of the takings are set forth. The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above are included in the relevant sections below. National Environmental Policy Act To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216–6A, NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an IHA) with respect to potential impacts on the human environment. This action is consistent with categories of activities identified in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or mortality) of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216–6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notification prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final decision on the IHA request. Summary of Request On October 26, 2021, NMFS received an application from NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations requesting an IHA to take small numbers of 9 species (Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli), Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), Pacific white- E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68224 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), killer whale (Orcinus orca), gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)) of marine mammals incidental to vibratory and impact pile driving and down-the-hole (DTH) system use associated with the project. The application was deemed adequate and complete on November 16, 2021. NOAA’s request is for take of a small number of these species by Level A or Level B harassment. Neither NOAA nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate. Description of Proposed Activity Overview lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 The purpose of the project is to remove an obsolete dock facility and construct a new facility including a 240 feet (ft) x 50 ft floating pier connected to land by a transfer bridge. A small boat dock would be connected to the large ship pier and a small boat launch ramp will be constructed adjacent to the other structures. The pile driving/removal and DTH can result in take of marine mammals from sound in the water which results in behavioral harassment or auditory injury. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 Dates and Duration This construction work will occur from 1 February 2022 through 31 January 2023 and will take no more than 47 days of in-water pile and DTH work. Specific Geographic Region The project is located in the city of Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island and the east shore of the Tongass Narrows waterway (Figure 1). The natural topography of the local area largely consists of moderately steep slopes trending toward the Tongass Narrows waterway. In this region, the Tongass Narrows is part of Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage where it splits into two channels by Pennock Island. The project area is in an industrial waterfront. The shoreline and underwater portions of the area are highly modified by existing dock structures and past dredging. Offshore marine sediments are reported to be minimal, with sediment cover depths progressively increasing away from the shoreline. Marine sediment depths overlying bedrock reportedly range from four to five feet and consist of coarse sand, rock fragments, and shells. Ongoing vessel activities throughout Tongass Narrows waterway, land-based industrial and commercial activities, and regular aircraft operations result in elevated in-air and underwater sound conditions in the area. Sound levels likely vary seasonally, with elevated levels during summer when the tourism and fishing industries are at their peaks. The shoreline and PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 underwater portions of the area are highly modified by existing dock structures and past dredging. Detailed Description of Specific Activity The project consists of an almost complete recapitalization of the existing facility. This includes the removal and appropriate disposal of unused or obsolete structures and infrastructure, in both a 77,000-square-feet (ft2) upland area and within 102,000 ft2 of the inwater area. Descriptions of additional upland activities may be found in the application but such actions will not affect marine mammals and are not described in detail here. All existing in-water structures, including pier, access trestle, and mooring dolphins present above and below the water surface, are inadequate and would be removed except for a concrete/steel mooring platform and breasting dolphin with fender. The inwater structures would be replaced by adequately sized and structurally sound elements necessary for berthing, preparing, and maintaining vessel operations. An estimated 134 remnant timber piles would be removed by direct pull or by vibratory methods. If piles incur breakage or splintering during the removal process, the pile would be cut at or about 2 feet (0.67 meters (m)) from the bottom. In addition, 66 remnant steel piles must be removed. This will occur by use of a pile clipper or hydraulic saw. E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices 68225 An approximately 240-ft long and 50ft wide (73 by 15 m) floating pier would replace the existing pier and its supporting piles. The floating pier would be secured and stabilized by 10 24-inch diameter steel pipe piles, and accessed via a single, 144-ft long and 17ft wide (44 by 5 m) steel, truss-framed transfer bridge. The transfer bridge would be supported by a bridge support float adjacent to the pier and hinged to the shoreline cast in place concrete abutment. The 24-ft by 22-ft (7.3 by 6.7 m) bridge support float would be secured by four additional 24-inch diameter steel piles. A small boat dock, approximately 90 ft long by 14 ft wide (27 by 4 m), would be installed and connected to the floating pier by an aluminum gangway and would require an additional four 24-inch steel piles. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 Thus the new structures would require a total of 18 24-inch steel piles. Installation of the new steel piles is anticipated to be undertaken using a barge mounted DTH system to create holes in the rock (sockets) in which the piles would be placed. Piles would be embedded into socket holes created by the DTH in bedrock to a minimum depth of 20 ft. The last foot of each pile would be ‘‘proofed’’ using an impact pile driver that is anticipated will require approximately 5 to 10 blows per pile. Replacement mooring dolphins and fenders for mooring would be installed. Ship utilities would be extended dockside attached to the transfer bridge. A small boat launch ramp would be built on the northern portion of the site and would be supported on a raised, PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 rip-rap protected mound with a footprint of approximately 200 ft by 70 ft wide (61 by 21 m). Table 1 provides a summary of the pile driving activities. Because the steel piles being removed could be removed using either a pile clipper or hydraulic saw, we use the loudest, most precautionary source level for those piles which are pile clippers. In-water work would be performed using equipment based on a floating barge or from the shore, as needed. Pile work would normally only occur during civil daylight hours unless work needs to continue on a pile until it is safe to leave overnight. In summary, the project period includes 47 days of pile or DTH activities for which this IHA is requested. E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 EN01DE21.004</GPH> lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Figure 1-- Map of Proposed Project Area. 68226 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF PILE DRIVING ACTIVITIES AND USER SPREADSHEET INPUTS Number of piles Method Pile type DTH Impact ..................................................... 24-inch Steel .................................................. 18 Vibratory .......................................................... Small Pile Clipper ........................................... Large Pile Clipper ........................................... 14-inch Timber ............................................... 14-inch Steel .................................................. 20- or 24-inch Steel ....................................... Totals ....................................................... ......................................................................... Minutes/strikes per pile Piles per day 130 28 42 25,000 48 2 10 10 1.5 1.5 10 10 10 218 ........................ ........................ All User spreadsheet calculations use Transmission Loss = 15 and standard weighting factor adjustments. Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting). Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be found in NMFS’s Stock Assessment Reports (SARs; https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these species (e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS’s website (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species). Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in the project area and summarizes information related to the population or stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. For taxonomy, we follow Committee on Taxonomy (2021). PBR is defined by the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population (as described in NMFS’s SARs). While no mortality is anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross indicators of the status of the species and other threats. Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. NMFS’s stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in NMFS’s U.S. Alaska or Pacific SARs including the 2021 draft SARs. TABLE 2—SPECIES THAT SPATIALLY CO-OCCUR WITH THE ACTIVITY TO THE DEGREE THAT TAKE IS REASONABLY LIKELY TO OCCUR Common name Scientific name Stock I ESA/ MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 I Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 Annual M/SI 3 PBR I I Order Cetartiodactyla—Cetacea—Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales) Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals): Humpback whale ................ Minke Whale ....................... Megaptera novaeangliae .......... Balaenoptera acutorostrata ...... Central North Pacific ................. Alaska ....................................... -,-; Y -,-; N 10,103 (0.3, 7,890, 2006) N/A (see SAR, N/A, see SAR). Family Eschrichtiidae (gray whale): Gray Whale ......................... Eschrichtius robustus ................ Eastern North Pacific ................ -,-; N 26,960 (0.05, 25,849, 2016). 83 uND 26 0 801 131 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises) Family Delphinidae: Pacific white-sided dolphin Killer Whale ........................ Lagenorhynchus obliquidens .... Orcinus orca ............................. North Pacific ............................. Northern Resident ..................... Alaska Resident ........................ West Coast Transient ............... -,-; -,-; -,-; -,-; N N N N 26,880 (N/A, N/A, 1990) 302 (N/A, 302, 2018) ...... 2,347 (N/A, 2347, 2012) 349 (N/A, 349, 2018) ...... uND 2.2 24 3.5 0 0.2 1 0.4 Family Phocoenidae (porpoises): Harbor porpoise .................. Phocoena phocoena ................. Southeast Alaska ...................... -,-; N See SAR 34 Dall’s porpoise .................... Phocoenoides dalli .................... Entire Alaska Stock .................. -,-; N see SAR (see SAR, see SAR, 2012). 83,400 (0.097, ................ N/A, 1991) ...................... uND 38 2592 112 Order Carnivora—Superfamily Pinnipedia Family Otariidae (sea lions and fur seals): Steller sea lion .................... VerDate Sep<11>2014 Eumetopias jubatus .................. 19:42 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Eastern Stock ........................... Frm 00014 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 -,-; N 43,201 a (see SAR, 43,201, 2017). E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68227 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices TABLE 2—SPECIES THAT SPATIALLY CO-OCCUR WITH THE ACTIVITY TO THE DEGREE THAT TAKE IS REASONABLY LIKELY TO OCCUR—Continued ESA/ MMPA status; strategic (Y/N) 1 Common name Scientific name Stock Family Phocidae (earless seals): Harbor seal ......................... Phoca vitulina ........................... Clarence Strait .......................... -; N Stock abundance (CV, Nmin, most recent abundance survey) 2 27,659 (see SAR, 24,854, 2015). PBR 746 Annual M/SI 3 40 1 Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock. 2 NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessmentreports. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance. 3 These values, found in NMFS’s SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g., commercial fisheries, ship strike). Annual Mortality/ Serious Injury (M/SI) often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a minimum value or range. A CV associated with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Humpback whales, minke whales, gray whales, Pacific white-sided dolphin, killer whale, harbor porpoise, Dall’s porpoise, harbor seal, and Steller sea lions spatially co-occur with the activity to the degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have proposed authorizing take of these species. Fin whale could potentially occur in the area, however there are no known sightings nearby so the species is very rare, is readily observed, and the applicant would shut down pile driving if they enter the project area. Thus take is not expected to occur, and they are not discussed further. Humpback Whale The humpback whale is found worldwide in all oceans. Prior to 2016, humpback whales were listed under the ESA as an endangered species worldwide. Following a 2015 global status review (Bettridge et al., 2015), NMFS established 14 DPSs with different listing statuses (81 FR 62259; September 8, 2016) pursuant to the ESA. Humpback whales found in the project area are predominantly members of the Hawaii DPS, which is not listed under the ESA. However, based on a comprehensive photo-identification study, members of the Mexico DPS, which is listed as threatened, are known to occur in Southeast Alaska. Members of different DPSs are known to intermix on feeding grounds; therefore, all waters off the coast of Alaska should be considered to have ESA-listed humpback whales. Approximately 2 percent of all humpback whales in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia are members of the Mexico DPS, while all others are members of the Hawaii DPS (Wade et al., 2021). The DPSs of humpback whales that were identified through the ESA listing process do not equate to the existing MMPA stocks. The stock delineations of humpback whales under the MMPA are VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 currently under review. Until this review is complete, NMFS considers humpback whales in Southeast Alaska to be part of the Central North Pacific stock, with a status of endangered under the ESA and designations of strategic and depleted under the MMPA (Muto et al., 2021). Humpback whales experienced large population declines due to commercial whaling operations in the early 20th century. Barlow (2003) estimated the population of humpback whales at approximately 1,200 animals in 1966. The population in the North Pacific grew to between 6,000 and 8,000 by the mid-1990s. Current threats to humpback whales include vessel strikes, spills, climate change, and commercial fishing operations (Muto et al., 2021). Humpback whales are found throughout Southeast Alaska in a variety of marine environments, including open-ocean, near-shore waters, and areas with strong tidal currents (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Most humpback whales are migratory and spend winters in the breeding grounds off either Hawaii or Mexico. Humpback whales generally arrive in Southeast Alaska in March and return to their wintering grounds in November. Some humpback whales depart late or arrive early to feeding grounds, and therefore the species occurs in Southeast Alaska year-round (Straley, 1990, Straley et al., 2018). Across the region, there have been no recent estimates of humpback whale density. No systematic studies have documented humpback whale abundance near Ketchikan. Anecdotal information suggests that this species is present in low numbers year-round in Tongass Narrows, with the highest abundance during summer and fall. Anecdotal reports suggest that humpback whales are seen only once or twice per month, while more recently it has been suggested that the occurrence PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 is more regular, such as once per week on average, and more seasonal. Humpbacks observed in Tongass Narrows are generally alone or in groups of one to three individuals. In August 2017, a group of 6 individuals was observed passing through Tongass Narrows several times per day, for several days in a row. The City of Ketchikan (COK) Rock Pinnacle project, which was located approximately 4 kilometers (km) southeast of the proposed project site, reported one humpback whale sighting of one individual during the project (December 2019 through January 2020). During the Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock Construction, located approximately 5 km northwest of the proposed project site, 28 sightings of humpbacks were made on eighteen days of in water work that occurred between February and September 2020, with at least one humpback being recorded every month. A total of 42 individuals were recorded and group sizes ranged from 1 to 6 (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Humpback whales were sighted on 17 days out of 88 days of monitoring in Tongass Narrows in 2020 and 2021 (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). There were no sightings in January or February, but humpback whales were observed each month from October to December 2020 and May to June 2021. During November 2020, a single known individual (by fluke pattern) was observed repeatedly, accounting for 14 of the 26 sighting events that month (DOT&PF, 2020). During monitoring, humpback whales were observed on average once a week. Southeast Alaska is considered an important area for feeding humpback whales between March and May (Ellison et al., 2012), though not currently designated as critical habitat (86 FR 21082; April 21, 2021). In Alaska, humpback whales filter feed on tiny crustaceans, plankton, and small fish E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68228 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 such as walleye pollock, Pacific sand lance, herring, eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), and capelin (Witteveen et al., 2012). Minke Whale Minke whales are found throughout the northern hemisphere in polar, temperate, and tropical waters. The population status of minke whales is considered stable throughout most of their range. Historically, commercial whaling reduced the population size of this species, but given their small size, they were never a primary target of whaling and did not experience the severe population declines as did larger cetaceans. Minke whales are found in all Alaska waters. Minke whales in Southeast Alaska are part of the Alaska stock (Muto et al., 2021). Research in Southeast Alaska have consistently identified individuals throughout inland waters in low numbers (Dahlheim et al., 2009). All sightings were of single minke whales, except for a single sighting of multiple minke whales. Surveys took place in spring, summer, and fall, and minke whales were present in low numbers in all seasons and years. No information appears to be available on the winter occurrence of minke whales in Southeast Alaska. There are no known occurrences of minke whales within the project area. Since their ranges extend into the project area and they have been observed in southeast Alaska, including in Clarence Strait (Dahlheim et al., 2009), it is possible the species could occur near the project area. No minke whales were reported during the COK Rock Pinnacle Blasting Project (Sitkiewicz, 2020). During marine mammal monitoring of Tongass Narrows in 2020 and 2021, there were no minke whales observed on 88 days of observations across 7 months (October 2020—February 2021; May— June 2021) (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). In Alaska, the minke whale diet consists primarily of euphausiids and walleye pollock. Minke whales are generally found in shallow, coastal waters within 200 m of shore (Zerbini et al., 2006) and are almost always solitary or in small groups of 2 to 3. In Alaska, seasonal movements are associated with feeding areas that are generally located at the edge of the pack ice (NMFS, 2014). Gray Whale Gray whales are distributed throughout the North Pacific Ocean and are found primarily in shallow coastal VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 waters (Muto et al., 2021). Gray whales in the Eastern North Pacific stock range from the southern Gulf of California, Mexico to the arctic waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Gray whales are generally solitary creatures and travel together alone or in small groups. Gray whales are rare in the action area and unlikely to occur in Tongass Narrows. They were not observed during the Dahlheim et al. (2009) surveys of Alaska’s inland waters with surveys conducted in the spring, summer and fall months. No gray whales were reported during the COK Rock Pinnacle Blasting Project (Sitkiewicz, 2020) or Ward Cove (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). However a gray whale could migrate through or near the project during November especially. There is an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) involving gray whales on the Pacific Coast (https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-life-distress/2019-2021-graywhale-unusual-mortality-event-alongwest-coast-and). Almost half of the strandings in the United States have been in Alaska. A definitive cause has not been found for the UME but many of the animals show signs of emaciation. Killer Whale Killer whales have been observed in all the world’s oceans, but the highest densities occur in colder and more productive waters found at high latitudes (NMFS, 2016b). Killer whales occur along the entire Alaska coast, in British Columbia and Washington inland waterways, and along the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California (NMFS, 2016b). Based on data regarding association patterns, acoustics, movements, and genetic differences, eight killer whale stocks are now recognized within the Pacific U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. This proposed IHA considers only the Eastern North Pacific Alaska Resident stock (Alaska Resident stock), Eastern North Pacific Northern Resident stock (Northern Resident stock), and West Coast Transient stock, because all other stocks occur outside the geographic area under consideration (Muto et al., 2021). There are three distinct ecotypes, or forms, of killer whales recognized: Resident, Transient, and Offshore. The three ecotypes differ morphologically, ecologically, behaviorally, and genetically. Surveys between 1991 and 2007 encountered resident killer whales during all seasons throughout Southeast Alaska. Both residents and transients were common in a variety of habitats and all major waterways, including protected bays and inlets. There does PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 not appear to be strong seasonal variation in abundance or distribution of killer whales, but there was substantial variability between years (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Spatial distribution has been shown to vary among the different ecotypes, with resident and, to a lesser extent, transient killer whales more commonly observed along the continental shelf, and offshore killer whales more commonly observed in pelagic waters (Rice et al., 2021). No systematic studies of killer whales have been conducted in or around Tongass Narrows. Killer whales have been observed in Tongass Narrows yearround and are most common during the summer Chinook salmon run (MayJuly). During the Chinook salmon run, Ketchikan residents have reported pods of up to 20–30 whales (84 FR 36891; July 30, 2019). Typical pod sizes observed within the project vicinity range from 1 to 10 animals and the frequency of killer whales passing through the action area is estimated to be once per month (Frietag, 2017). Anecdotal reports suggest that large pods of killer whales (as many as 80 individuals, but generally between 25 and 40 individuals) are not uncommon in May, June, and July when the king salmon are running. During the rest of the year, killer whales occur irregularly in pods of 6 to 12 or more individuals. Transient killer whales are often found in long-term stable social units (pods) of 1 to 16 whales. Average pod sizes in Southeast Alaska were 6.0 in spring, 5.0 in summer, and 3.9 in fall. Pod sizes of transient whales are generally smaller than those of resident social groups. Resident killer whales occur in larger pods, ranging from 7 to 70 whales that are seen in association with one another more than 50 percent of the time (Dahlheim et al., 2009; NMFS, 2016a). In Southeast Alaska, resident killer whale mean pod size was approximately 21.5 in spring, 32.3 in summer, and 19.3 in fall (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Although killer whales may occur in large numbers, they generally form large pods and would incur fewer work stoppages than their numbers suggest since stoppages would correlate more with the number of pods than the number of individuals. Killer whales tend to transit through Tongass Narrows, and do not linger in the project area. Marine mammal observations in Tongass Narrows during 2020 and 2021 support an estimate of approximately one group of killer whales a month in the Project area. During 7 months of monitoring (October 2020 February 2021; May June 2021), there were five E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 killer whale sightings in 4 months (November, February, May, June) totaling 22 animals and sightings occurred on 5 out of 88 days of monitoring (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Pod sizes ranged from two to eight animals. During the COK’s monitoring for the Rock Pinnacle Removal project in December 2019 and January 2020, no killer whales were observed. Over eight months of monitoring at the Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock in 2020, killer whales were only observed on two days in March (Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska, 2020). These observations included a sighting of one pod of two killer whales and a second pod of five individuals travelling through the project area. Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Pacific white-sided dolphins are a pelagic species inhabiting temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean and along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska (Muto et al., 2021). Despite their distribution mostly in deep, offshore waters, they may also be found over the continental shelf and near shore waters, including inland waters of Southeast Alaska (Ferrero and Walker, 1996). They are managed as two distinct stocks: The California/Oregon/ Washington stock, and the North Pacific stock (north of 45 N, including Alaska). Only the North Pacific stock is found within the project area. The Pacific white-sided dolphin is distributed throughout the temperate North Pacific Ocean, north of Baja California to Alaska’s southern coastline and Aleutian Islands. The North Pacific Stock ranges from Canada into Alaska (Muto et al., 2021). Pacific white-sided dolphins prey on squid and small schooling fish such as capelin, sardines, and herring (Morton, 2006). They are known to work in groups to herd schools of fish and can dive underwater for up to 6 minutes to feed (Morton, 2006). Group sizes have been reported to range from 40 to over 1,000 animals, but groups of between 10 and 100 individuals (Stacey and Baird, 1991; NMFS no date) occur most commonly. Seasonal movements of Pacific white-sided dolphins are not well understood, but there is evidence of both north-south seasonal movement (Leatherwood et al., 1984) and inshoreoffshore seasonal movement (Stacey and Baird, 1991). Scientific studies and data are lacking relative to the presence or abundance of Pacific white-sided dolphins in or near Tongass Narrows. Although they generally prefer deeper and moreoffshore waters, anecdotal reports suggest that Pacific white-sided VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 dolphins have previously been observed in Tongass Narrows, although they have not been observed entering Tongass Narrows or nearby inter-island waterways in 15–20 years. Pacific white-sided dolphins are rare in the inside passageways of Southeast Alaska. Most observations occur off the outer coast or in inland waterways near entrances to the open ocean. According to Muto et al. (2018), aerial surveys in 1997 sighted one group of 164 Pacific white-sided dolphins in Dixon entrance to the south of Tongass Narrows. Surveys in April and May from 1991 to 1993 identified Pacific white-sided dolphins in Revillagigedo Channel, Behm Canal, and Clarence Strait (Dahlheim and Towell 1994). These areas are contiguous with the open ocean waters of Dixon Entrance. This observational data, combined with anecdotal information, indicates there is a rare, however, slight potential for Pacific white-sided dolphins to occur in the project area. During marine mammal monitoring of Tongass Narrows in 2020 and 2021, no Pacific white-sided dolphins were observed on 88 days of observations across 7 months (October 2020– February 2021; May–June 2021), which supports the anecdotal evidence that sightings of this species are rare (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). There were also no sightings of Pacific white-sided dolphins during the COK Rock Pinnacle Blasting Project during monitoring surveys conducted in December 2019 and January 2020 (Sitkiewicz, 2020) or during monitoring surveys conducted between February and September 2020 as part of the Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock (Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Harbor Porpoise In the eastern North Pacific Ocean, the harbor porpoise ranges from Point Barrow, along the Alaska coast, and down the west coast of North America to Point Conception, California. The Southeast Alaska stock ranges from Cape Suckling to the Canadian border (Muto et al., 2021). Harbor porpoises frequent primarily coastal waters in Southeast Alaska (Dahlheim et al., 2009) and occur most frequently in waters less than 100 m (328 ft) deep (Dahlheim et al., 2015). They are not attracted to areas with elevated levels of vessel activity and noise such as Tongass Narrows. Studies of harbor porpoises reported no evidence of seasonal changes in distribution for the inland waters of Southeast Alaska (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Their small overall size, lack of a visible blow, low dorsal fins and overall low profile, and short surfacing PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68229 time make them difficult to spot (Dahlheim et al., 2015). Ketchikan area densities are expected to be low. This is supported by anecdotal estimates. Anecdotal reports (see IHA Application) specific to Tongass Narrows indicate that harbor porpoises are rarely observed in the action area. Harbor porpoises are expected to be present in the action area only a few times per year. Dall’s Porpoise Dall’s porpoises are found throughout the North Pacific, from southern Japan to southern California north to the Bering Sea. All Dall’s porpoises in Alaska are members of the Alaska stock. This species can be found in offshore, inshore, and nearshore habitat. Jefferson et al. (2019) presents historical survey data showing few sightings in the Ketchikan area. The mean group size in Southeast Alaska is estimated at approximately three individuals (Dahlheim et al., 2009, Jefferson et al., 2019), although Freitag (2017, as cited in 83 FR 37473) suggested group sizes near Ketchikan range from 10 to 15 individuals. Anecdotal reports suggest that Dall’s porpoises are found northwest of Ketchikan near the Guard Islands, where waters are deeper, as well as in deeper waters to the southeast of Tongass Narrows. This species has a tendency to bow-ride with vessels and may occur in the action area incidentally a few times per year. Harbor Seal Harbor seals inhabit coastal and estuarine waters off Alaska. They haul out on rocks, reefs, beaches, and drifting glacial ice. They are opportunistic feeders and often adjust their distribution to take advantage of locally and seasonally abundant prey (Womble et al., 2009, Allen and Angliss, 2015). Harbor seals occurring in the project area belong to the Clarence Strait stock. Distribution of the Clarence Strait stock ranges from the east coast of Prince of Wales Island from Cape Chacon north through Clarence Strait to Point Baker and along the east coast of Mitkof and Kupreanof Islands north to Bay Point, including Ernest Sound, Behm Canal, and Pearse Canal (Muto et al., 2021). In the project area, they tend to be more abundant during spring, summer and fall months when salmon are present in Ward Creek. Anecdotal evidence indicates that harbor seals typically occur in groups of 1–3 animals in Ward Cove with a few sightings per day (Spokely, 2019). They were not observed in Tongass Narrows during a combined 63.5 hours of marine mammal E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68230 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 monitoring that took place in 2001 and 2016 (OSSA, 2001, Turnagain, 2016). There are no known harbor seal haulouts within the project area. According to the list of harbor seal haulout locations, the closest listed haulouts are located off the tip of Gravina Island, approximately eight km (five miles (mi)) northwest of Ward Cove (AFSC, 2018), but not in the ensonified area from this project. Steller Sea Lion Steller sea lions were listed as threatened range-wide under the ESA on November 26, 1990 (55 FR 49204). Steller sea lions were subsequently partitioned into the western and eastern Distinct Population Segments (DPSs; western and eastern stocks) in 1997 (62 FR 24345; May 5, 1997). The eastern DPS remained classified as threatened until it was delisted in November 2013. The current minimum abundance estimate for the eastern DPS of Steller sea lions is 43,201 individuals (Muto et al., 2021). The western DPS (those individuals west of 144° W longitude or Cape Suckling, Alaska) was upgraded to endangered status following separation of the DPSs, and it remains endangered today. There is regular movement of both DPSs across this 144° W longitude boundary (Jemison et al., 2013), however, due to the distance from this DPS boundary, it is likely that only eastern DPS Steller sea lions are present in the project area. Therefore, animals potentially affected by the project are assumed to be part of the eastern DPS. Sea lions from the western DPS, which is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are not likely to be affected by the proposed activity and are not discussed further. There are several mapped and regularly monitored long-term Steller sea lion haulouts surrounding Ketchikan, such as West Rocks (36 mi/ 58 km) or Nose Point (37 mi/60 km), but none are known to occur within Tongass Narrows (Fritz et al., 2015). The nearest known Steller sea lion haulout is located approximately 20 mi (58 km) west/northwest of Ketchikan on Grindall Island. None of these haul-outs would be affected by the proposed activity. Summer counts of adult and juvenile sea lions at this haulout since 2000 have averaged approximately 191 individuals, with a range from 6 in 2009 to 378 in 2008. Only two winter surveys of this haulout have occurred. In March 1993, a total of 239 individuals were recorded, and in December 1994, a total of 211 individuals were recorded. No sea lion pups have been observed at this haulout during surveys. Although this is a limited sample, it suggests that VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 abundance may be consistent yearround at the Grindall Island haulout. No systematic studies of sea lion abundance or distribution have occurred in Tongass Narrows. Anecdotal reports suggest that Steller sea lions may be found in Tongass Narrows year-round, with an increase in abundance from March to early May during the herring spawning season, and another increase in late summer associated with salmon runs. Overall sea lion presence in Tongass Narrows tends to be lower in summer than in winter (FHWA, 2017). During summer, Steller sea lions may aggregate outside the project area, at rookery and haulout sites. Monitoring during construction of the Ketchikan Ferry Terminal in summer (July 16 through August 17, 2016) did not record any Steller sea lions (ADOT&PF 2015); however, monitoring during construction of the Ward Cove Dock, located approximately 6 km northwest of the Project site, recorded 181 individual sea lions between February and September 2020 (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Most sightings occurred in February (45 sightings of 88 sea lions) and March (34 sightings of 45 sea lions); the fewest number of sightings were observed in May (1 sighting of 1 sea lion) (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Sea lions are known to transit through Tongass Narrows while pursuing prey. Steller sea lions are known to follow fishing vessels, and may congregate in small numbers at seafood processing facilities and hatcheries or at the mouths of rivers and creeks containing hatcheries, where large numbers of salmon congregate in late summer. Three seafood processing facilities are located east of the proposed berth location on Revillagigedo Island, and two salmon hatcheries operated by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) are located east of the project area. Steller sea lions may aggregate near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek, where a hatchery upstream supports a summer salmon run. The Creek mouth is more than 4 km (2.5 mi) from both ferry berth sites, and is positioned behind the cruise ship terminal and within the small boat harbor. In addition to these locations, anecdotal information from a local kayaking company suggests that there are Steller sea lions present at Gravina Point, near the southwest entrance to Tongass Narrows. A total of 181 Steller sea lions were sighted on forty-four separate days during all months of Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock construction (February through September, 2020) (Power PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Systems and Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Most sightings occurred in February and March and the fewest sightings were in May. Sightings were of single individuals, pairs, and herds of up to 10 individuals. They were identified as travelling, foraging, swimming, chuffing, milling, looking, sinking, spyhopping, and playing. Marine mammal monitoring occurred near the proposed project site during 2020 and 2021 for previous construction components of the Tongass Narrows Project. Monitoring occurred from October 2020 to February 2021 and resumed in May 2021, and is still underway. Steller sea lions were observed in the Tongass Narrows Project area on 49 of 88 days between October 2020 and June 2021 (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). They were observed in every month that observations took place (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Sightings of Steller sea lions were most frequent in January and February and least common in May and June (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Sightings were primarily of single animals, but animals were also present in pairs and groups up to five sea lions (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). This is consistent with Freitag (2017 as cited in 83 FR 22009), though groups of up to 80 individuals have been observed (HDR, Inc., 2003). On average over the course of a year, Steller sea lions occur in Tongass Narrows approximately three or four times per week (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Marine Mammal Hearing Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes (i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018) E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the approximately 65 decibel (dB) threshold from the normalized composite audiograms, with the exception for lower limits for lowfrequency cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be biologically implausible and the lower bound from 68231 Southall et al. (2007) retained. Marine mammal hearing groups and their associated hearing ranges are provided in Table 3. TABLE 3—MARINE MAMMAL HEARING GROUPS [NMFS, 2018] Generalized hearing range * Hearing group Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen whales) ..................................................................................................................... Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked whales, bottlenose whales) ........................................... High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins, cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus cruciger & L. australis). Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater) (true seals) ................................................................................................................... Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater) (sea lions and fur seals) .............................................................................................. 7 Hz to 35 kHz. 150 Hz to 160 kHz. 275 Hz to 160 kHz. 50 Hz to 86 kHz. 60 Hz to 39 kHz. * Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual species’ hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized hearing range chosen based on ∼65 dB threshold from normalized composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation). lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range (Hemila¨ et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 2013). For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. Humpback, minke and gray whales are in the lowfrequency hearing group, killer whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins are in the mid-frequency hearing group, harbor and Dall’s porpoises are in the high frequency hearing group, harbor seals are in the phocid group and Steller sea lions are otariids. Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their Habitat This section includes a summary and discussion of the ways that components of the specified activity may impact marine mammals and their habitat. The Estimated Take section later in this document includes a quantitative analysis of the number of individuals that are expected to be taken by this activity. The Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination section considers the content of this section, the Estimated Take section, and the Proposed Mitigation section, to draw conclusions regarding the likely impacts of these activities on the reproductive success or survivorship of individuals and how those impacts on individuals are likely to impact marine mammal species or stocks. Acoustic effects on marine mammals during the specified activity can occur from impact pile driving and vibratory driving and removal and DTH. The VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 effects of underwater noise from NOAA’s proposed activities have the potential to result in Level A or Level B harassment of marine mammals in the action area. Description of Sound Sources The marine soundscape is comprised of both ambient and anthropogenic sounds. Ambient sound is defined as the all-encompassing sound in a given place and is usually a composite of sound from many sources both near and far (ANSI 1995). The sound level of an area is defined by the total acoustical energy being generated by known and unknown sources. These sources may include physical (e.g., waves, wind, precipitation, earthquakes, ice, atmospheric sound), biological (e.g., sounds produced by marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates), and anthropogenic sound (e.g., vessels, dredging, aircraft, construction). The sum of the various natural and anthropogenic sound sources at any given location and time—which comprise ‘‘ambient’’ or ‘‘background’’ sound—depends not only on the source levels (as determined by current weather conditions and levels of biological and shipping activity) but also on the ability of sound to propagate through the environment. In turn, sound propagation is dependent on the spatially and temporally varying properties of the water column and sea floor, and is frequency-dependent. As a result of the dependence on a large number of varying factors, ambient sound levels can be expected to vary widely over both coarse and fine spatial and temporal scales. Sound levels at a given frequency and location can vary by 10–20 dB from day to day (Richardson et al., 1995). The result is that, depending on the source type and PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 its intensity, sound from the specified activity may be a negligible addition to the local environment or could form a distinctive signal that may affect marine mammals. In-water construction activities associated with the project would include impact and vibratory pile driving and removal and DTH. The sounds produced by these activities fall into one of two general sound types: Impulsive and non-impulsive. Impulsive sounds (e.g., explosions, sonic booms, impact pile driving) are typically transient, brief (less than 1 second), broadband, and consist of high peak sound pressure with rapid rise time and rapid decay (ANSI, 1986; NIOSH, 1998; NMFS, 2018). Nonimpulsive sounds (e.g., machinery operations such as drilling or dredging, vibratory pile driving, underwater chainsaws, and active sonar systems) can be broadband, narrowband or tonal, brief or prolonged (continuous or intermittent), and typically do not have the high peak sound pressure with raid rise/decay time that impulsive sounds do (ANSI 1995; NIOSH 1998; NMFS 2018). The distinction between these two sound types is important because they have differing potential to cause physical effects, particularly with regard to hearing (e.g., Ward 1997 in Southall et al., 2007). Three types of hammers would be used on this project: Impact, vibratory, and DTH. Impact hammers operate by repeatedly dropping and/or pushing a heavy piston onto a pile to drive the pile into the substrate. Sound generated by impact hammers is characterized by rapid rise times and high peak levels, a potentially injurious combination (Hastings and Popper, 2005). Vibratory hammers install piles by vibrating them and allowing the weight of the hammer E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68232 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers produce significantly less sound than impact hammers. Peak Sound pressure Levels (SPLs) may be 180 dB or greater, but are generally 10 to 20 dB lower than SPLs generated during impact pile driving of the same-sized pile (Oestman et al., 2009). Rise time is slower, reducing the probability and severity of injury, and sound energy is distributed over a greater amount of time (Nedwell and Edwards, 2002; Carlson et al., 2005). A DTH hammer is essentially a drill bit that drills through the bedrock using a rotating function like a normal drill, in concert with a hammering mechanism operated by a pneumatic (or sometimes hydraulic) component integrated into to the DTH hammer to increase speed of progress through the substrate (i.e., it is similar to a ‘‘hammer drill’’ hand tool). Rock socketing involves using DTH equipment to create a hole in the bedrock inside of which the pile is placed to give it lateral and longitudinal strength. The sounds produced by the DTH method contain both a continuous non-impulsive component from the drilling action and an impulsive component from the hammering effect. Therefore, we treat DTH systems as both impulsive and non-impulsive sound source types simultaneously. The likely or possible impacts of NOAA’s proposed activity on marine mammals could involve both nonacoustic and acoustic stressors. Potential non-acoustic stressors could result from the physical presence of the equipment, vessels, and personnel; however, any impacts to marine mammals are expected to primarily be acoustic in nature. Acoustic stressors include effects of heavy equipment operation during pile installation and removal. Acoustic Impacts The introduction of anthropogenic noise into the aquatic environment from pile driving equipment is the primary means by which marine mammals may be harassed from the NOAA’s specified activity. In general, animals exposed to natural or anthropogenic sound may experience physical and psychological effects, ranging in magnitude from none to severe (Southall et al., 2007). Generally, exposure to DTH or pile driving and removal and other construction noise has the potential to result in auditory threshold shifts and behavioral reactions (e.g., avoidance, temporary cessation of foraging and vocalizing, changes in dive behavior). Exposure to anthropogenic noise can also lead to non-observable VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 physiological responses such an increase in stress hormones. Additional noise in a marine mammal’s habitat can mask acoustic cues used by marine mammals to carry out daily functions such as communication and predator and prey detection. The effects of pile driving and demolition noise on marine mammals are dependent on several factors, including, but not limited to, sound type (e.g., impulsive vs. nonimpulsive), the species, age and sex class (e.g., adult male vs. mom with calf), duration of exposure, the distance between the pile and the animal, received levels, behavior at time of exposure, and previous history with exposure (Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 2007). Here we discuss physical auditory effects (threshold shifts) followed by behavioral effects and potential impacts on habitat. NMFS defines a noise-induced threshold shift (TS) as a change, usually an increase, in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS, 2018). The amount of threshold shift is customarily expressed in dB. A TS can be permanent or temporary. As described in NMFS (2018), there are numerous factors to consider when examining the consequence of TS, including, but not limited to, the signal temporal pattern (e.g., impulsive or non-impulsive), likelihood an individual would be exposed for a long enough duration or to a high enough level to induce a TS, the magnitude of the TS, time to recovery (seconds to minutes or hours to days), the frequency range of the exposure (i.e., spectral content), the hearing and vocalization frequency range of the exposed species relative to the signal’s frequency spectrum (i.e., how animal uses sound within the frequency band of the signal; e.g., Kastelein et al., 2014), and the overlap between the animal and the source (e.g., spatial, temporal, and spectral). Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)— NMFS defines PTS as a permanent, irreversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS, 2018). Available data from humans and other terrestrial mammals indicate that a 40 dB threshold shift approximates PTS onset (see Ward et al., 1958, 1959; Ward, 1960; Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974; Ahroon et al., 1996; Henderson et al., 2008). PTS levels for marine mammals are estimates, with the exception of a single study unintentionally inducing PTS in a harbor seal (Kastak et al., 2008), there PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 are no empirical data measuring PTS in marine mammals, largely due to the fact that, for various ethical reasons, experiments involving anthropogenic noise exposure at levels inducing PTS are not typically pursued or authorized (NMFS, 2018). Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)—A temporary, reversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of an individual’s hearing range above a previously established reference level (NMFS, 2018). Based on data from cetacean TTS measurements (see Southall et al., 2007), a TTS of 6 dB is considered the minimum threshold shift clearly larger than any day-to-day or session-tosession variation in a subject’s normal hearing ability (Schlundt et al., 2000; Finneran et al., 2000, 2002). As described in Finneran (2016), marine mammal studies have shown the amount of TTS increases with cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum) in an accelerating fashion: At low exposures with lower SELcum, the amount of TTS is typically small and the growth curves have shallow slopes. At exposures with higher SELcum, the growth curves become steeper and approach linear relationships with the noise SEL. Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration (i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging from discountable to serious (similar to those discussed in auditory masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-critical frequency range that takes place during a time when the animal is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient noise is lower and there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could have more serious impacts. We note that reduced hearing sensitivity as a simple function of aging has been observed in marine mammals, as well as humans and other taxa (Southall et al., 2007), so we can infer that strategies exist for coping with this condition to some degree, though likely not without cost. Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) and five species of pinnipeds exposed to a limited number E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in laboratory settings (Finneran, 2015). TTS was not observed in trained spotted (Phoca largha) and ringed (Pusa hispida) seals exposed to impulsive noise at levels matching previous predictions of TTS onset (Reichmuth et al., 2016). In general, harbor seals and harbor porpoises have a lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species (Finneran, 2015). The potential for TTS from impact pile driving exists. After exposure to playbacks of impact pile driving sounds (rate 2,760 strikes/hour) in captivity, mean TTS increased from 0 dB after 15 minute exposure to 5 dB after 360 minute exposure; recovery occurred within 60 minutes (Kastelein et al., 2016). Additionally, the existing marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within these species. No data are available on noise-induced hearing loss for mysticetes. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Southall et al. (2007), Finneran and Jenkins (2012), Finneran (2015), and Table 5 in NMFS (2018). Installing piles for this project requires impact pile driving and DTH. There would likely be pauses in activities producing the sound during each day. Given these pauses and that many marine mammals are likely moving through the action area and not remaining for extended periods of time, the potential for TS declines. Behavioral Harassment—Exposure to noise from DTH and pile driving and removal also has the potential to behaviorally disturb marine mammals. Available studies show wide variation in response to underwater sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically how any given sound in a particular instance might affect marine mammals perceiving the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to an underwater sound by changing its behavior or moving a small distance, the impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if a sound source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007; NRC, 2005). Disturbance may result in changing durations of surfacing and dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain behavioral activities (such as socializing or VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 feeding); visible startle response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw clapping); avoidance of areas where sound sources are located. Pinnipeds may increase their haul-out time, possibly to avoid in-water disturbance (Thorson and Reyff, 2006). Behavioral responses to sound are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors (e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 2007; Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral reactions can vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, depending on previous experience with a sound source, context, and numerous other factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can vary depending on characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). In general, pinnipeds seem more tolerant of, or at least habituate more quickly to, potentially disturbing underwater sound than do cetaceans, and generally seem to be less responsive to exposure to industrial sound than most cetaceans. Please see Appendices B and C of Southall et al. (2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral responses to sound. Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 2001; Nowacek et al., 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history stage of the animal. In 2016, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) documented observations of marine mammals during construction activities (i.e., pile driving) at the Kodiak Ferry Dock (see 80 FR 60636, PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68233 October 7, 2015). In the marine mammal monitoring report for that project (ABR, 2016), 1,281 Steller sea lions were observed within the Level B disturbance zone during pile driving or drilling (i.e., documented as Level B harassment take). Of these, 19 individuals demonstrated an alert behavior, 7 were fleeing, and 19 swam away from the project site. All other animals (98 percent) were engaged in activities such as milling, foraging, or fighting and did not change their behavior. In addition, two sea lions approached within 20 m of active vibratory pile driving activities. Three harbor seals were observed within the disturbance zone during pile driving activities; none of them displayed disturbance behaviors. Fifteen killer whales and three harbor porpoise were also observed within the Level B harassment zone during pile driving. The killer whales were travelling or milling while all harbor porpoises were travelling. No signs of disturbance were noted for either of these species. Given the similarities in species, activities and habitat, we expect similar behavioral responses of marine mammals to the NOAA’s specified activity. That is, disturbance, if any, is likely to be temporary and localized (e.g., small area movements). Stress responses—An animal’s perception of a threat may be sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle, 1950; Moberg, 2000). In many cases, an animal’s first and sometimes most economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an animal’s fitness. Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-pituitaryadrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that are affected by stress—including immune competence, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior—are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated with stress (Romano et al., 2004). E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 68234 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does not normally place an animal at risk) and ‘‘distress’’ is the cost of the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves sufficient to restore normal function. Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals (e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be classified as ‘‘distress.’’ In addition, any animal experiencing TTS would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003), however distress is an unlikely result of this project based on observations of marine mammals during previous, similar projects in the area. Masking—Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering with, an animal’s ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995). Masking occurs when the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., pile driving, shipping, sonar, seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 noise source to mask biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-tonoise ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and to an animal’s hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation conditions. Masking of natural sounds can result when human activities produce high levels of background sound at frequencies important to marine mammals. Conversely, if the background level of underwater sound is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as far away as would be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked. The Ketchikan area contains active commercial shipping, ferry operations, commercial fishing as well as numerous recreational and other commercial vessel and background sound levels in the area are already elevated. Airborne Acoustic Effects—Pinnipeds that occur near the project site could be exposed to airborne sounds associated with DTH and pile driving and removal that have the potential to cause behavioral harassment, depending on their distance from pile driving activities. Cetaceans are not expected to be exposed to airborne sounds that would result in harassment as defined under the MMPA. Airborne noise would primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise levels elevated above the acoustic criteria. We recognize that pinnipeds in the water could be exposed to airborne sound that may result in behavioral harassment when looking with their heads above water. Most likely, airborne sound would cause behavioral responses similar to those discussed above in relation to underwater sound. For instance, anthropogenic sound could cause hauled-out pinnipeds to exhibit changes in their normal behavior, such as reduction in vocalizations, or cause them to temporarily abandon the area and move further from the source. However, these animals would likely previously have been ‘‘taken’’ because of exposure to underwater sound above the behavioral harassment thresholds, which are generally larger than those associated with airborne sound. There are no haulouts near the project site. Thus, the behavioral harassment of these animals is already accounted for PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 in these estimates of potential take. Therefore, we do not believe that authorization of incidental take resulting from airborne sound for pinnipeds is warranted, and airborne sound is not discussed further here. Marine Mammal Habitat Effects NOAA’s construction activities could have localized, temporary impacts on marine mammal habitat and their prey by increasing in-water sound pressure levels and slightly decreasing water quality. Increased noise levels may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion above) and adversely affect marine mammal prey in the vicinity of the project area (see discussion below). During DTH, impact and vibratory pile driving or removal, elevated levels of underwater noise would ensonify the project area where both fishes and mammals occur and could affect foraging success. Additionally, marine mammals may avoid the area during construction, however, displacement due to noise is expected to be temporary and is not expected to result in longterm effects to the individuals or populations. Construction activities are of short duration and would likely have temporary impacts on marine mammal habitat through increases in underwater and airborne sound. A temporary and localized increase in turbidity near the seafloor would occur in the immediate area surrounding the area where piles are installed or removed. In general, turbidity associated with pile installation is localized to about a 25-ft (7.6-m) radius around the pile (Everitt et al., 1980). The sediments of the project site will settle out rapidly when disturbed. Cetaceans are not expected to be close enough to the pile driving areas to experience effects of turbidity, and any pinnipeds could avoid localized areas of turbidity. Local strong currents are anticipated to disburse any additional suspended sediments produced by project activities at moderate to rapid rates depending on tidal stage. Therefore, we expect the impact from increased turbidity levels to be discountable to marine mammals and do not discuss it further. In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Foraging Habitat The area likely impacted by the project is relatively small compared to the available habitat in Southeast Alaska and does not include any Biologically Important Areas or other habitat of known importance. The area is highly influenced by anthropogenic activities. The total seafloor area affected by pile installation and removal is a small area compared to the vast foraging area E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices available to marine mammals in the area. At best, the impact area provides marginal foraging habitat for marine mammals and fishes. Furthermore, pile driving and removal at the project site would not obstruct movements or migration of marine mammals. Avoidance by potential prey (i.e., fish) of the immediate area due to the temporary loss of this foraging habitat is also possible. The duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the disturbed area would still leave significantly large areas of fish and marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity. In-water Construction Effects on Potential Prey—Sound may affect marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, behavior, or distribution of prey species (e.g., crustaceans, cephalopods, fish, zooplankton). Marine mammal prey varies by species, season, and location. Here, we describe studies regarding the effects of noise on known marine mammal prey. Fish utilize the soundscape and components of sound in their environment to perform important functions such as foraging, predator avoidance, mating, and spawning (e.g., Zelick and Mann, 1999; Fay, 2009). Depending on their hearing anatomy and peripheral sensory structures, which vary among species, fishes hear sounds using pressure and particle motion sensitivity capabilities and detect the motion of surrounding water (Fay et al., 2008). The potential effects of noise on fishes depends on the overlapping frequency range, distance from the sound source, water depth of exposure, and species-specific hearing sensitivity, anatomy, and physiology. Key impacts to fishes may include behavioral responses, hearing damage, barotrauma (pressure-related injuries), and mortality. Fish react to sounds which are especially strong and/or intermittent low-frequency sounds, and behavioral responses such as flight or avoidance are the most likely effects. Short duration, sharp sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local distribution. The reaction of fish to noise depends on the physiological state of the fish, past exposures, motivation (e.g., feeding, spawning, migration), and other environmental factors. Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies have documented effects of pile driving on fish; several are based on studies in support of large, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 multiyear bridge construction projects (e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings, 2009). Several studies have demonstrated that impulse sounds might affect the distribution and behavior of some fishes, potentially impacting foraging opportunities or increasing energetic costs (e.g., Fewtrell and McCauley, 2012; Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992; Santulli et al., 1999; Paxton et al., 2017). However, some studies have shown no or slight reaction to impulse sounds (e.g., Pena et al., 2013; Wardle et al., 2001; Jorgenson and Gyselman, 2009; Popper et al., 2015). SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish and fish mortality. However, in most fish species, hair cells in the ear continuously regenerate and loss of auditory function likely is restored when damaged cells are replaced with new cells. Halvorsen et al. (2012a) showed that a TTS of 4–6 dB was recoverable within 24 hours for one species. Impacts would be most severe when the individual fish is close to the source and when the duration of exposure is long. Injury caused by barotrauma can range from slight to severe and can cause death, and is most likely for fish with swim bladders. Barotrauma injuries have been documented during controlled exposure to impact pile driving (Halvorsen et al., 2012b; Casper et al., 2013). The most likely impact to fishes from DTH and pile driving and removal and construction activities at the project area would be temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated. Construction activities, in the form of increased turbidity, have the potential to adversely affect forage fish in the project area. Forage fish form a significant prey base for many marine mammal species that occur in the project area. Increased turbidity is expected to occur in the immediate vicinity (on the order of 10 ft (3 m) or less) of construction activities. However, suspended sediments and particulates are expected to dissipate quickly within a single tidal cycle. Given the limited area affected and high tidal dilution rates any effects on forage fish are expected to be minor or negligible. Finally, exposure to turbid waters from construction activities is not expected to be different from the current exposure; fish and marine mammals in Tongass Narrows are routinely exposed to substantial levels of suspended PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68235 sediment from natural and anthropogenic sources. In summary, given the short daily duration of sound associated with individual pile driving events and the relatively small areas being affected, pile driving activities associated with the proposed action are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat, or populations of fish species. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the disturbed area would still leave significantly large areas of fish and marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity. Thus, we conclude that impacts of the specified activity are not likely to have more than short-term adverse effects on any prey habitat or populations of prey species. Further, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to result in significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals, or to contribute to adverse impacts on their populations. Estimated Take This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS’ consideration of ‘‘small numbers’’ and the negligible impact determination. Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ‘‘harassment’’ as any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment). Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use of the acoustic sources (i.e., vibratory or impact pile driving and DTH) have the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns for individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result for porpoises and harbor seals because predicted auditory injury zones are larger. The proposed mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the severity of the taking to the extent practicable. As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is estimated. Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic thresholds E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68236 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices above which marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous monitoring results or average group size). Due to the lack of marine mammal density, NMFS relied on local occurrence data and group size to estimate take for some species. Below, we describe the factors considered here in more detail and present the proposed take estimate. Acoustic Thresholds NMFS recommends the use of acoustic thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A harassment). Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources—Though significantly driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2012). Based on what the available science indicates and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above received levels of 120 dB re 1 microPascal (mPa) (root mean square (rms)) for continuous (e.g., vibratory pile-driving) and above 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., impact pile driving) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources. NOAA’s proposed activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory hammer and DTH) and impulsive (DTH and impact pile-driving) sources, and therefore the 120 and 160 dB re 1 mPa (rms) thresholds are applicable. Level A harassment for non-explosive sources—NMFS’’ Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) (Technical Guidance, 2018) identifies dual criteria to assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or nonimpulsive). NOAA’s activity includes the use of impulsive (impact piledriving and DTH) and non-impulsive (vibratory hammer and DTH) sources. These thresholds are provided in Table 4. The references, analysis, and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/ marine-mammal-protection/marinemammal-acoustic-technical-guidance. TABLE 4—THRESHOLDS IDENTIFYING THE ONSET OF PERMANENT THRESHOLD SHIFT PTS onset acoustic thresholds * (received level) Hearing group Impulsive Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans ...................................... Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans ...................................... High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans ..................................... Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater) ............................. Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater) ............................. Cell Cell Cell Cell Cell 1: 3: 5: 7: 9: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: Lpk,flat: 219 230 202 218 232 dB; dB; dB; dB; dB; Non-impulsive LE,LF,24h: 183 dB ......................... LE,MF,24h: 185 dB ........................ LE,HF,24h: 155 dB ........................ LE,PW,24h: 185 dB ....................... LE,OW,24h: 203 dB ....................... Cell Cell Cell Cell Cell 2: LE,LF,24h: 199 dB. 4: LE,MF,24h: 198 dB. 6: LE,HF,24h: 173 dB. 8: LE,PW,24h: 201 dB. 10: LE,OW,24h: 219 dB. * Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for calculating PTS onset. If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered. Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1μPa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has a reference value of 1μPa2s. In this Table, thresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ‘‘flat’’ is being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be exceeded. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Ensonified Area Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the acoustic thresholds, which include source levels and transmission loss coefficient. The sound field in the project area is the existing background noise plus VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 additional construction noise from the proposed project. Marine mammals are expected to be affected via sound generated by the primary components of the project (i.e., impact and vibratory pile driving, and DTH). In order to calculate distances to the Level A harassment and Level B harassment sound thresholds for the methods and piles being used in this PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 project, NMFS used acoustic monitoring data from other locations to develop source levels for the various pile types, sizes and methods (Table 5). Because the steel piles being removed could be removed using either a pile clipper or hydraulic saw, we use the loudest, most precautionary source level for those piles. E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68237 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices TABLE 5—PROJECT SOUND SOURCE LEVELS Method Estimated noise levels (dB) Source 24-inch DTH-impulsive .......................................... 24-inch DTH-non-impulsive ................................... 24-inch Steel Impact ............................................. 154 SELss ............................................................ 166 dB RMS ......................................................... 211.2 Pk, 183.2 SEL, 197 RMS ........................... 14-inch Timber Vibratory ....................................... 14-inch Steel Small Pile Clipper ........................... 20- or 24-inch Steel Large Pile Clipper ................ 157 RMS .............................................................. 154 RMS .............................................................. 161 RMS .............................................................. Reyff & Heyvaert (2019). Denes et al. (2016). Caltrans (2015) Table I.2.1 90th percentile. Caltrans (2015) Table I.2.2. NAVFAC SW (2020). NAVFAC SW (2020). Note: SEL = single strike sound exposure level; RMS = root mean square. Level B Harassment Zones Transmission loss (TL) is the decrease in acoustic intensity as an acoustic pressure wave propagates out from a source. TL parameters vary with frequency, temperature, sea conditions, current, source and receiver depth, water depth, water chemistry, and bottom composition and topography. The general formula for underwater TL is: TL = B * Log10 (R1/R2), Where TL = transmission loss in dB B = transmission loss coefficient; for practical spreading equals 15 R1 = the distance of the modeled SPL from the driven pile, and R2 = the distance from the driven pile of the initial measurement The recommended TL coefficient for most nearshore environments is the practical spreading value of 15. This value results in an expected propagation environment that would lie between spherical and cylindrical spreading loss conditions, which is the most appropriate assumption for NOAA’s proposed activity in the absence of specific modelling. NOAA determined underwater noise would fall below the behavioral effects threshold of 160 dB RMS for impact driving at 2,530 m and the 120 dB rms threshold for the other methods at between 1,848 and 11,659 m (Table 6). It should be noted that based on the bathymetry and geography of the project area, sound will not reach the full distance of the harassment isopleths in all directions. Level A Harassment Zones When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of overestimate of take by Level A harassment. However, these tools offer the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop ways to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively address the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as pile driving or removal and DTH using any of the methods discussed above, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which, if a marine mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the activity, it would not incur PTS. We used the User Spreadsheet to determine the Level A harassment isopleths. Inputs used in the User Spreadsheet or models are reported in Table 1 and the resulting isopleths are reported in Table 6 for each of the construction methods and scenarios. TABLE 6—LEVEL A AND LEVEL B ISOPLETHS (METERS) FOR EACH METHOD Method Pile type DTH ....................... Impact ................... Vibratory ................ Small Pile Clipper Large Pile Clipper 24-inch steel ......... 24-inch steel ......... 14-inch Timber ..... 14-inch Steel ........ 20- or 24-inch Steel. Lowfrequency 130 151 2 1 1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation In this section we provide the information about the presence or group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take calculations. No density data are available for species in the project area. Here we describe how the information provided above is brought together to produce a quantitative take estimate. The estimates below are similar to and informed by prior VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 Midfrequency Highfrequency 5 5 0 0 1 155 179 3 1 2 projects in the Ketchikan area as discussed above. A summary of proposed take is in Table 9. Humpback Whale Humpback whales are expected to occur in the project area no more than twice per five-day work week. Typical group size for humpback whales in the project area is two animals. The project involves 47 days (10 work weeks) of inwater work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 2 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Phocids Otariids 70 81 1 1 1 Level B 5 6 0 0 0 11,659 2,530 2,929 1,848 5,412 whales × 2/week × 10 weeks = 40 takes. All of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by Protected Species Observers (PSO) because of the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of humpback whales. Given the data in Wade et al. (2021) discussed above on the relative frequencies of Hawaii and Mexico DPS humpback whales in the project area the 40 takes is expected to comprise 39 E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68238 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices Hawaii DPS animals and 1 Mexico DPS animal. Minke Whale As discussed above minke whales have not been seen in the project area but could occur there. They are often solitary. Therefore we conservatively propose to authorize a single take of minke whales. This one estimated take is expected to be by Level B harassment as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of minke whales. Gray Whale Gray whales are expected to occur in the project area no more than once per month. Typical group size for gray whales in the project area is two animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at two whales × two full months = four takes. All of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of gray whales. Killer Whale Killer whales are expected to occur in the project area no more than once per month. Typical group size for killer whales in the project area is conservatively estimated at 10 animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 10 whales × 2 full months = 20 takes. All of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of killer whales and the smaller size of the shutdown zones. Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Pacific white-sided dolphins are expected to occur in the project area no more than once per week. Typical group size for Pacific white-sided dolphins in the project area is 20 animals. The project involves 10 work weeks of inwater work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 20 dolphins × 10 weeks = 200 takes. All of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of the large group size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of Pacific whitesided dolphins and the smaller size of the shutdown zones. Harbor Porpoise Harbor porpoises are expected to occur in the project area no more than three times per month. Typical group size for harbor porpoises in the project area is 5 animals. The project involves 47 days (2 months) of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 5 porpoises × 6/ month = 30 takes. Twenty of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is not the full size of the large Level A harassment zone, and because harbor porpoises are small and cryptic and could sometimes remain undetected within the estimated harassment zones for a duration sufficient to experience PTS, we propose to authorize 10 takes by Level A harassment. Dall’s Porpoise Dall’s porpoises are expected to occur in the project area no more than three times. Typical group size for Dall’s porpoises in the project area is 20 animals. The project involves two months of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 20 porpoises × 3 = 60 takes. Forty of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is not the full size of the large Level A harassment zone, and because Dall’s porpoises are small and cryptic and could sometimes remain undetected within the estimated harassment zones for a duration sufficient to experience PTS, we propose to authorize 20 takes by Level A harassment. Harbor Seal Harbor seals are expected to occur in the project area once per day. The typical number of harbor seals per day in the project area is up to 12 animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 12 seals × 47 days = 564 takes. Seventy-five percent or 423 of these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is not the full size of the large Level A harassment zone, and because harbor seals are small and cryptic and could sometimes remain undetected within the estimated harassment zones for a duration sufficient to experience PTS, we propose to authorize 141 takes by Level A harassment. Steller Sea Lion Steller sea lions are expected to occur in the project area once per day. The typical number of Steller sea lions per day in the project area is up to 10 animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 10 sea lions × 47 days = 470 takes. Because the shutdown zone is small and Steller sea lions are not cryptic we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs and no Level A harassment take is proposed. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 TABLE 7—PROPOSED AUTHORIZED AMOUNT OF TAKING, BY LEVEL A HARASSMENT AND LEVEL B HARASSMENT, BY SPECIES AND STOCK AND PERCENT OF TAKE BY STOCK Level B harassment Common name Stock Humpback whale * .......................................... Minke whale .................................................... Gray whale ...................................................... Killer whale ...................................................... Central North Pacific ...................................... Alaska ............................................................. Eastern North Pacific ..................................... Northern Resident; Alaska Resident; West Coast Transient. North Pacific ................................................... Alaska ............................................................. Southeast Alaska ........................................... Clarence Strait ............................................... Eastern DPS .................................................. Pacific White-sided dolphin ............................. Dall’s porpoise ................................................ Harbor porpoise .............................................. Harbor seal ..................................................... Steller sea lion ................................................ 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM Percent of stock 40 1 4 20 0 0 0 0 0.4 <0.1 <0.1 <6.7 200 40 20 423 470 0 20 10 141 0 0.7 <0.1 0.3 2.1 1.1 * 1 take from the ESA listed Mexico DPS. VerDate Sep<11>2014 Level A harassment 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Proposed Mitigation In order to issue an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to the activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of the species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS regulations require applicants for IHAs to include information about the availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and manner of conducting the activity or other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 216.104(a)(11)). In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we carefully consider two primary factors: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented (probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as planned), the likelihood of effective implementation (probability implemented as planned); and (2) The practicability of the measures for applicant implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity. Because of the need for an ESA Section 7 consultation for effects of the project on ESA listed humpback whales, there are a number of mitigation measures that go beyond, or are in addition to, typical mitigation measures we would otherwise require for this sort of project. The proposed measures are however typical for actions in the Ketchikan area. Additional or revised measures may be required once the consultation is finalized. The following mitigation measures are proposed in the IHA: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 • Avoid direct physical interaction with marine mammals during construction activity. If a marine mammal comes within 10 m of such activity, operations must cease and vessels must reduce speed to the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working conditions; • Conduct training between construction supervisors and crews and the marine mammal monitoring team and relevant NOAA staff prior to the start of all pile driving and DTH activity and when new personnel join the work, so that responsibilities, communication procedures, monitoring protocols, and operational procedures are clearly understood; • Pile driving activity must be halted upon observation of either a species for which incidental take is not authorized or a species for which incidental take has been authorized but the authorized number of takes has been met, entering or within the harassment zone. If an ESA listed marine mammal is determined by the PSO to have been disturbed, harassed, harmed, injured, or killed (e.g., a listed marine mammal is observed entering a shutdown zone before operations can be shut down, or is injured or killed as a direct or indirect result of this action), the PSO will report the incident to within one business day to akr.section7@noaa.gov; • NOAA will establish and implement the shutdown zones indicated in Table 8. The purpose of a shutdown zone is generally to define an area within which shutdown of the activity would occur upon sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering the defined area). Shutdown zones typically vary based on the activity type and marine mammal hearing group. To simplify implementation of shutdown zones NOAA has proposed to implement a single shutdown zone size for impact pile driving and DTH activities, with the shutdown zone being the largest of the Level A harassment isopleths for any of the hearing groups for those activities (180 m). For comparison purposes, Table 8 shows both the minimum shutdown zones we would normally require and the shutdown zones NOAA proposes to implement. NMFS proposes to include the latter in the requested IHA; • Employ PSOs and establish monitoring locations as described in the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan and Section 5 of the IHA. The Holder must monitor the project area to the maximum extent possible based on the required number of PSOs, required monitoring locations, and environmental conditions. For all pile PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68239 driving and removal at least three PSOs must be used; • The placement of the PSOs during all pile driving and removal and DTH activities will ensure that the entire shutdown zone is visible during pile installation. Should environmental conditions deteriorate such that marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone will not be visible (e.g., fog, heavy rain), pile driving and removal must be delayed until the PSO is confident marine mammals within the shutdown zone could be detected; • Monitoring must take place from 30 minutes prior to initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion of pile driving activity. Pre-start clearance monitoring must be conducted during periods of visibility sufficient for the lead PSO to determine the shutdown zones clear of marine mammals. Pile driving may commence following 30 minutes of observation when the determination is made; • If pile driving is delayed or halted due to the presence of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until either the animal has voluntarily exited and been visually confirmed beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed without re-detection of the animal (30 minutes for humpback whales); • For humpback whales, if the boundaries of the harassment zone have not been monitored continuously during a work stoppage, the entire harassment zone will be surveyed again to ensure that no humpback whales have entered the harassment zone that were not previously accounted for; • In-water activities will take place only: Between civil dawn and civil dusk when PSOs can effectively monitor for the presence of marine mammals; during conditions with a Beaufort Sea State of 4 or less; when the entire shutdown zone and adjacent waters are visible (e.g., monitoring effectiveness is not reduced due to rain, fog, snow, etc.). Pile driving activities may continue for up to 30 minutes after sunset during evening civil twilight, as necessary to secure a pile for safety prior to demobilization for the evening. PSO(s) will continue to observe shutdown and monitoring zones during this time. The length of the post-activity monitoring period may be reduced if darkness precludes visibility of the shutdown and monitoring zones; • Vessel operators will maintain a watch for marine mammals at all times while underway; stay at least 91 m (100 yards (yd)) away from listed marine mammals, except they will remain at least 460 m (500 yd) from endangered E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 68240 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices North Pacific right whales (in the unlikely event that the species were to occur in the area); travel at less than 5 knots (9 km/hr) when within 274 m (300 yd) of a whale; avoid changes in direction and speed when within 274 m (300 yd) of whales, unless doing so is necessary for maritime safety; not position vessel(s) in the path of whales, and will not cut in front of whales in a way or at a distance that causes the whales to change their direction of travel or behavior (including breathing/ surfacing pattern); check the waters immediately adjacent to the vessel(s) to ensure that no whales will be injured when the propellers are engaged; reduce vessel speed to 10 knots or less when weather conditions reduce visibility to 1.6 km (1 mi) or less; adhere to the Alaska Humpback Whale Approach Regulations when transiting to and from the project site (see 50 CFR 216.18, 223.214, and 224.103(b)); not allow lines to remain in the water, and no trash or other debris will be thrown overboard, thereby reducing the potential for marine mammal entanglement; follow established transit routes and will travel <10 knots while in the harassment zones; the speed limit within Tongass Narrows is 7 knots for vessels over 23 ft in length. If a whale’s course and speed are such that it will likely cross in front of a vessel that is underway, or approach within 91 m (100 yards (yd)) of the vessel, and if maritime conditions safely allow, the engine will be put in neutral and the whale will be allowed to pass beyond the vessel, except that vessels will remain 460 m (500 yd) from North Pacific right whales; and • NOAA must use soft start techniques when impact pile driving. Soft start requires contractors to provide an initial set of three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting period, then two subsequent reducedenergy strike sets. A soft start must be implemented at the start of each day’s impact pile driving and at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of 30 minutes or longer. TABLE 8—MINIMUM REQUIRED SHUTDOWN ZONES (METERS) BY HEARING GROUP AND VOLUNTARY PLANNED SHUTDOWN ZONES FOR EACH METHOD Method Pile type DTH ....................... Impact ................... Vibratory ................ Small Pile Clipper Large Pile Clipper 24-inch steel ......... 24-inch steel ......... 14-inch Timber ..... 14-inch Steel ........ 20- or 24-inch Steel. Low frequency Mid-frequency 130 160 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 High frequency Phocids 160 180 10 10 10 Otariids 70 90 10 10 10 All 10 10 10 10 10 180 180 10 10 10 Note: First five columns are what NMFS would consider appropriate in this circumstance, and the last column is what applicant has proposed and what NMFS proposes to include in the IHA. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Based on our evaluation of the applicant’s proposed measures, as well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance. Proposed Monitoring and Reporting In order to issue an IHA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area. Effective reporting is critical both to compliance as well as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required monitoring. Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 should contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following: • Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, density); • Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment (e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas); • Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors; • How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) populations, species, or stocks; • Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey species, acoustic habitat, or other important PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 physical components of marine mammal habitat); and • Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness. Visual Monitoring Monitoring must be conducted by qualified, NMFS-approved PSOs, in accordance with the following: • PSOs must be independent (i.e., not construction personnel) and have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. At least one PSO must have prior experience performing the duties of a PSO during construction activity pursuant to a NMFS-issued IHA. Other PSOs may substitute other relevant experience, education (degree in biological science or related field), or training. PSOs must be approved by NMFS prior to beginning any activity subject to this IHA; and • PSOs must record all observations of marine mammals as described in the Section 5 of the IHA and the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan, regardless of distance from the pile being driven. PSOs shall document any behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles being driven or removed; PSOs must have the following additional qualifications: E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 • Ability to conduct field observations and collect data according to assigned protocols; • Experience or training in the field identification of marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors; • Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the construction operation to provide for personal safety during observations; • Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); and marine mammal behavior; and • Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals observed in the area as necessary; NOAA must establish the following monitoring locations. For all pile driving and DTH activities, a minimum of one PSO must be assigned to the active pile driving or DTH location to monitor the shutdown zones and as much of the Level B harassment zones as possible. For all pile driving and DTH activities, two additional PSOs are required. The additional PSOs will start at the project site and travel along Tongass Narrows, counting all humpback whales present, until they have reached the edge of the respective harassment zone. At this point, the PSOs will identify suitable observation points from which to observe the width of Tongass Narrows for the duration of pile driving activities. For the largest DTH zones these are expected to be on South Tongass Highway near Mountain Point and North Tongass Highway just northwest of the intersection with Carlanna Creek. See application Figure 11–1 for map of PSO locations. If visibility deteriorates so that the entire width of Tongass Narrows at the harassment zone boundary is not visible, additional PSOs may be positioned so that the entire width is visible, or work will be halted until the entire width is visible to ensure that any humpback whales entering or within the harassment zone are detected by PSOs. Reporting A draft marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS within 90 days after the completion of pile driving and removal activities, or 60 days prior to a requested date of issuance of any future IHAs for projects at the same location, whichever comes VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 first. The report will include an overall description of work completed, a narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and associated PSO data sheets. Specifically, the report must include: • Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal monitoring; • Construction activities occurring during each daily observation period, including the number and type of piles driven or removed and by what method (i.e., impact, vibratory or DTH) and the total equipment duration for vibratory removal or DTH for each pile or hole or total number of strikes for each pile (impact driving); • PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring; • Environmental conditions during monitoring periods (at beginning and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions change significantly), including Beaufort sea state and any other relevant weather conditions including cloud cover, fog, sun glare, and overall visibility to the horizon, and estimated observable distance; • Upon observation of a marine mammal, the following information: Name of PSO who sighted the animal(s) and PSO location and activity at time of sighting; Time of sighting; Identification of the animal(s) (e.g., genus/species, lowest possible taxonomic level, or unidentified), PSO confidence in identification, and the composition of the group if there is a mix of species; Distance and bearing of each marine mammal observed relative to the pile being driven for each sighting (if pile driving was occurring at time of sighting); Estimated number of animals (min/max/best estimate); Estimated number of animals by cohort (adults, juveniles, neonates, group composition, etc.); Animal’s closest point of approach and estimated time spent within the harassment zone; Description of any marine mammal behavioral observations (e.g., observed behaviors such as feeding or traveling), including an assessment of behavioral responses thought to have resulted from the activity (e.g., no response or changes in behavioral state such as ceasing feeding, changing direction, flushing, or breaching); • Number of marine mammals detected within the harassment zones, by species; • Detailed information about any implementation of any mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of specific actions that ensued, and resulting changes in behavior of the animal(s), if any; and • If visibility degrades to where the PSO(s) cannot view the entire impact or vibratory harassment zones, take of PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 68241 humpback whales will be extrapolated based on the estimated percentage of the monitoring zone that remains visible and the number of marine mammals observed. If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft final report will constitute the final report. If comments are received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted within 30 days after receipt of comments. Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the IHA-holder must immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) (PR.ITP.MonitoringReports@noaa.gov), NMFS and to the Alaska Regional Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was clearly caused by the specified activity, NOAA must immediately cease the specified activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the IHA. The IHA-holder must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The report must include the following information: • Time, date, and location (latitude/ longitude) of the first discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable); • Species identification (if known) or description of the animal(s) involved; • Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if the animal is dead); • Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive; • If available, photographs or video footage of the animal(s); and • General circumstances under which the animal was discovered. Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., populationlevel effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough information on which to base an impact E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 68242 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be ‘‘taken’’ through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS’s implementing regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise levels). Pile driving and removal and DTH activities have the potential to disturb or displace marine mammals. Specifically, the project activities may result in take, in the form of Level A and Level B harassment from underwater sounds generated from pile driving and removal and DTH. Potential takes could occur if individuals are present in the ensonified zone when these activities are underway. The takes from Level A and Level B harassment would be due to potential behavioral disturbance, TTS, and PTS. No serious injury or mortality is anticipated given the nature of the activity and measures designed to minimize the possibility of injury to marine mammals. The potential for harassment is minimized through the construction method and the implementation of the planned mitigation measures (see Proposed Mitigation section). The Level A harassment zones identified in Table 6 are based upon an animal exposed to impact pile driving multiple piles per day. Considering the short duration to impact drive or vibe each pile and breaks between pile installations (to reset equipment and move pile into place), this means an animal would have to remain within the area estimated to be ensonified above the Level A harassment threshold for multiple hours. This is highly unlikely given marine mammal movement throughout the area. If an animal was exposed to accumulated sound energy, the resulting PTS would likely be small (e.g., PTS onset) at lower frequencies where pile driving energy is concentrated, and unlikely to result in VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 impacts to individual fitness, reproduction, or survival. The nature of the pile driving project precludes the likelihood of serious injury or mortality. For all species and stocks, take would occur within a limited, confined area (adjacent to the project site) of the stock’s range. Level A and Level B harassment will be reduced to the level of least practicable adverse impact through use of mitigation measures described herein. Further the amount of take proposed to be authorized is extremely small when compared to stock abundance. Behavioral responses of marine mammals to pile driving at the project site, if any, are expected to be mild and temporary. Marine mammals within the Level B harassment zone may not show any visual cues they are disturbed by activities (as noted during modification to the Kodiak Ferry Dock) or could become alert, avoid the area, leave the area, or display other mild responses that are not observable such as changes in vocalization patterns. Given the short duration of noise-generating activities per day, any harassment would be temporary. There are no other areas or times of known biological importance for any of the affected species. In addition, it is unlikely that minor noise effects in a small, localized area of habitat would have any effect on the stocks’’ ability to recover. In combination, we believe that these factors, as well as the available body of evidence from other similar activities, demonstrate that the potential effects of the specified activities will have only minor, short-term effects on individuals. The specified activities are not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival and will therefore not result in population-level impacts. In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival: • No mortality is anticipated or authorized; • Authorized Level A harassment would be very small amounts and of low degree; • No important habitat areas have been identified within the project area; • For all species, Tongass Narrows is a very small and peripheral part of their range; • NOAA would implement mitigation measures such as soft-starts, and shut downs; and • Monitoring reports from similar work in Tongass Narrows have documented little to no effect on PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 individuals of the same species impacted by the specified activities. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine mammal species or stocks. Small Numbers As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not define small numbers and so, in practice, where estimated numbers are available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small numbers of marine mammals. When the predicted number of individuals to be taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock abundance, the take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, other qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the temporal or spatial scale of the activities. The amount of take NMFS proposes to authorize is below one third of the estimated stock abundance for all species (in fact, take of individuals is less than 10 percent of the abundance of the affected stocks, see Table 7). This is likely a conservative estimate because we assume all takes are of different individual animals, which is likely not the case. Some individuals may return multiple times in a day, but PSOs would count them as separate takes if they cannot be individually identified. The Alaska stock of Dall’s porpoise has no official NMFS abundance estimate for this area as the most recent estimate is greater than eight years old. Nevertheless, the most recent estimate was 83,400 animals and it is highly unlikely this number has drastically declined. Therefore, the 60 authorized takes of this stock clearly represent small numbers of this stock. Likewise, the Southeast Alaska stock of harbor porpoise has no official NMFS abundance estimate as the most recent estimate is greater than eight years old. Nevertheless, the most recent estimate was 11,146 animals (Muto et al., 2021) and it is highly unlikely this number has drastically declined. Therefore, the 30 authorized takes of this stock clearly E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 228 / Wednesday, December 1, 2021 / Notices lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 represent small numbers of this stock. There is no current or historical estimate of the Alaska minke whale stock, but there are known to be over 1,000 minke whales in the Gulf of Alaska (Muto et al., 2018) so the 1 authorized take clearly represents small numbers of this stock. Based on the analysis contained herein of the proposed activity (including the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species or stocks. Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination In order to issue an IHA, NMFS must find that the specified activity will not have an ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ on the subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal species or stocks by Alaskan Natives. NMFS has defined ‘‘unmitigable adverse impact’’ in 50 CFR 216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met. Alaska Native hunters in the Ketchikan vicinity do not traditionally harvest cetaceans (Muto et al., 2021). Harbor seals are the most commonly targeted marine mammal that is hunted by Alaska Native subsistence hunters within the Ketchikan area. In 2012 an estimated 595 harbor seals were taken for subsistence uses, with 22 of those occurring in Ketchikan (Wolfe et al., 2013). This is the most recent data available. The harbor seal harvest per capita in both communities was low, at 0.02 for Ketchikan. ADF&G subsistence data for Southeast Alaska shows that from 1992 through 2008, plus 2012, from zero to 19 Steller sea lions were taken by Alaska Native hunters per year with typical harvest years ranging from zero to five animals (Wolfe et al., 2013). In 2012, it is estimated 9 sea lions were taken in all of Southeast Alaska and only from Hoonah and Sitka. There are no known haulout locations in the project area. Both the harbor seal and the Steller sea lion may be temporarily displaced from the action area. However, neither the local population VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:08 Nov 30, 2021 Jkt 256001 nor any individual pinnipeds are likely to be adversely impacted by the proposed action beyond noise-induced harassment or slight injury. The proposed project is anticipated to have no long-term impact on Steller sea lion or harbor seal populations, or their habitat no long term impacts on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses is anticipated. Based on the description of the specified activity, the measures described to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence purposes, and the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that there will not be an unmitigable adverse impact on subsistence uses from NOAA’s proposed activities. Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally, in this case with the Alaska Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened species. NMFS is proposing to authorize take of Mexico DPS of humpback whales which are listed under the ESA. The NMFS Office of Protected Resources has requested initiation of Section 7 consultation with the Alaska Region for the issuance of this IHA. NMFS will conclude the ESA consultation prior to reaching a determination regarding the proposed issuance of the authorization. Proposed Authorization As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to issue an IHA to the NOAA to conduct the NOAA Port Facility Project in Ketchikan, Alaska from 1 February 2022 through 31 January 2023, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA can be found at https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/ incidental-take-authorizations-undermarine-mammal-protection-act. Request for Public Comments We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for the proposed NOAA Ketchikan Port project. We also request at this time PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 68243 comment on the potential renewal of this proposed IHA as described in the paragraph below. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform decisions on the request for this IHA or a subsequent Renewal IHA. On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year Renewal IHA following to the public providing an additional 15 days for public comments when (1) up to another year of identical, or nearly identical, activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notification is planned or (2) the activities as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this notification would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a Renewal IHA would allow for completion of the activities beyond that described in the Dates and Duration section of this notification, 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 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; and • Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid. Dated: November 26, 2021. Kimberly Damon-Randall, Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. [FR Doc. 2021–26122 Filed 11–30–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\01DEN1.SGM 01DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 228 (Wednesday, December 1, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68223-68243]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-26122]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XB571]


Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the NOAA Port Facility Project in 
Ketchikan, Alaska

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

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

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SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for authorization to take marine 
mammals incidental to the NOAA Port Facility Project in Ketchikan, 
Alaska. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is 
requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment 
authorization (IHA) to incidentally take marine mammals during the 
specified activities. NMFS is also requesting comments on a possible 
one-year renewal that could be issued under certain circumstances and 
if all requirements are met, as described in Request for Public 
Comments at the end of this document. NMFS will consider public 
comments prior to making any final decision on the issuance of the 
requested MMPA authorizations and agency responses will be summarized 
in the final notification of our decision.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than January 
3, 2022.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, 
Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service and should be sent 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 received electronically, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments 
to electronic 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: Dwayne Meadows, Ph.D., Office of 
Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. Electronic copies of the 
application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the 
references cited in this document, may be obtained online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/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 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 IHA may be provided to the public for review.
    Authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS finds 
that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for taking for subsistence uses 
(where relevant). Further, NMFS must prescribe the permissible methods 
of taking and other ``means of effecting the least practicable adverse 
impact'' on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, paying 
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar 
significance, and on the availability of the species or stocks for 
taking for certain subsistence uses (referred to in shorthand as 
``mitigation''); and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, 
monitoring and reporting of the takings are set forth.
    The definitions of all applicable MMPA statutory terms cited above 
are included in the relevant sections below.

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action (i.e., the issuance of an IHA) 
with respect to potential impacts on the human environment.
    This action is consistent with categories of activities identified 
in Categorical Exclusion B4 (IHAs with no anticipated serious injury or 
mortality) of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216-
6A, which do not individually or cumulatively have the potential for 
significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for 
which we have not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would 
preclude this categorical exclusion. Accordingly, NMFS has 
preliminarily determined that the issuance of the proposed IHA 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review.
    We will review all comments submitted in response to this 
notification prior to concluding our NEPA process or making a final 
decision on the IHA request.

Summary of Request

    On October 26, 2021, NMFS received an application from NOAA's 
Office of Marine and Aviation Operations requesting an IHA to take 
small numbers of 9 species (Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli), 
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), Pacific white-

[[Page 68224]]

sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), killer whale (Orcinus 
orca), gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), minke whale (Balaenoptera 
acutorostrata), harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), harbor porpoise (Phocoena 
phocoena) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)) of marine 
mammals incidental to vibratory and impact pile driving and down-the-
hole (DTH) system use associated with the project. The application was 
deemed adequate and complete on November 16, 2021. NOAA's request is 
for take of a small number of these species by Level A or Level B 
harassment. Neither NOAA nor NMFS expects serious injury or mortality 
to result from this activity and, therefore, an IHA is appropriate.

Description of Proposed Activity

Overview

    The purpose of the project is to remove an obsolete dock facility 
and construct a new facility including a 240 feet (ft) x 50 ft floating 
pier connected to land by a transfer bridge. A small boat dock would be 
connected to the large ship pier and a small boat launch ramp will be 
constructed adjacent to the other structures.
    The pile driving/removal and DTH can result in take of marine 
mammals from sound in the water which results in behavioral harassment 
or auditory injury.

Dates and Duration

    This construction work will occur from 1 February 2022 through 31 
January 2023 and will take no more than 47 days of in-water pile and 
DTH work.

Specific Geographic Region

    The project is located in the city of Ketchikan on Revillagigedo 
Island and the east shore of the Tongass Narrows waterway (Figure 1). 
The natural topography of the local area largely consists of moderately 
steep slopes trending toward the Tongass Narrows waterway. In this 
region, the Tongass Narrows is part of Southeast Alaska's Inside 
Passage where it splits into two channels by Pennock Island. The 
project area is in an industrial waterfront. The shoreline and 
underwater portions of the area are highly modified by existing dock 
structures and past dredging. Offshore marine sediments are reported to 
be minimal, with sediment cover depths progressively increasing away 
from the shoreline. Marine sediment depths overlying bedrock reportedly 
range from four to five feet and consist of coarse sand, rock 
fragments, and shells. Ongoing vessel activities throughout Tongass 
Narrows waterway, land-based industrial and commercial activities, and 
regular aircraft operations result in elevated in-air and underwater 
sound conditions in the area. Sound levels likely vary seasonally, with 
elevated levels during summer when the tourism and fishing industries 
are at their peaks. The shoreline and underwater portions of the area 
are highly modified by existing dock structures and past dredging.

Detailed Description of Specific Activity

    The project consists of an almost complete recapitalization of the 
existing facility. This includes the removal and appropriate disposal 
of unused or obsolete structures and infrastructure, in both a 77,000-
square-feet (ft\2\) upland area and within 102,000 ft\2\ of the in-
water area. Descriptions of additional upland activities may be found 
in the application but such actions will not affect marine mammals and 
are not described in detail here.
    All existing in-water structures, including pier, access trestle, 
and mooring dolphins present above and below the water surface, are 
inadequate and would be removed except for a concrete/steel mooring 
platform and breasting dolphin with fender. The in-water structures 
would be replaced by adequately sized and structurally sound elements 
necessary for berthing, preparing, and maintaining vessel operations.
    An estimated 134 remnant timber piles would be removed by direct 
pull or by vibratory methods. If piles incur breakage or splintering 
during the removal process, the pile would be cut at or about 2 feet 
(0.67 meters (m)) from the bottom. In addition, 66 remnant steel piles 
must be removed. This will occur by use of a pile clipper or hydraulic 
saw.

[[Page 68225]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN01DE21.004

    An approximately 240-ft long and 50-ft wide (73 by 15 m) floating 
pier would replace the existing pier and its supporting piles. The 
floating pier would be secured and stabilized by 10 24-inch diameter 
steel pipe piles, and accessed via a single, 144-ft long and 17-ft wide 
(44 by 5 m) steel, truss-framed transfer bridge. The transfer bridge 
would be supported by a bridge support float adjacent to the pier and 
hinged to the shoreline cast in place concrete abutment. The 24-ft by 
22-ft (7.3 by 6.7 m) bridge support float would be secured by four 
additional 24-inch diameter steel piles. A small boat dock, 
approximately 90 ft long by 14 ft wide (27 by 4 m), would be installed 
and connected to the floating pier by an aluminum gangway and would 
require an additional four 24-inch steel piles. Thus the new structures 
would require a total of 18 24-inch steel piles. Installation of the 
new steel piles is anticipated to be undertaken using a barge mounted 
DTH system to create holes in the rock (sockets) in which the piles 
would be placed. Piles would be embedded into socket holes created by 
the DTH in bedrock to a minimum depth of 20 ft. The last foot of each 
pile would be ``proofed'' using an impact pile driver that is 
anticipated will require approximately 5 to 10 blows per pile.
    Replacement mooring dolphins and fenders for mooring would be 
installed. Ship utilities would be extended dockside attached to the 
transfer bridge. A small boat launch ramp would be built on the 
northern portion of the site and would be supported on a raised, rip-
rap protected mound with a footprint of approximately 200 ft by 70 ft 
wide (61 by 21 m).
    Table 1 provides a summary of the pile driving activities. Because 
the steel piles being removed could be removed using either a pile 
clipper or hydraulic saw, we use the loudest, most precautionary source 
level for those piles which are pile clippers. In-water work would be 
performed using equipment based on a floating barge or from the shore, 
as needed. Pile work would normally only occur during civil daylight 
hours unless work needs to continue on a pile until it is safe to leave 
overnight. In summary, the project period includes 47 days of pile or 
DTH activities for which this IHA is requested.

[[Page 68226]]



                     Table 1--Summary of Pile Driving Activities and User Spreadsheet Inputs
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                     Minutes/
                Method                          Pile type            Number of      strikes per    Piles per day
                                                                       piles           pile
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DTH Impact............................  24-inch Steel...........              18          25,000             1.5
                                                                                              48             1.5
Vibratory.............................  14-inch Timber..........             130               2              10
Small Pile Clipper....................  14-inch Steel...........              28              10              10
Large Pile Clipper....................  20- or 24-inch Steel....              42              10              10
                                       -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Totals............................  ........................             218  ..............  ..............
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All User spreadsheet calculations use Transmission Loss = 15 and standard weighting factor adjustments.

    Proposed mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are 
described in detail later in this document (please see Proposed 
Mitigation and Proposed Monitoring and Reporting).

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    Sections 3 and 4 of the application summarize available information 
regarding status and trends, distribution and habitat preferences, and 
behavior and life history, of the potentially affected species. 
Additional information regarding population trends and threats may be 
found in NMFS's Stock Assessment Reports (SARs; https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessments) and more general information about these species 
(e.g., physical and behavioral descriptions) may be found on NMFS's 
website (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/find-species).
    Table 2 lists all species with expected potential for occurrence in 
the project area and summarizes information related to the population 
or stock, including regulatory status under the MMPA and Endangered 
Species Act (ESA) and potential biological removal (PBR), where known. 
For taxonomy, we follow Committee on Taxonomy (2021). PBR is defined by 
the MMPA as the maximum number of animals, not including natural 
mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while 
allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable 
population (as described in NMFS's SARs). While no mortality is 
anticipated or authorized here, PBR and annual serious injury and 
mortality from anthropogenic sources are included here as gross 
indicators of the status of the species and other threats.
    Marine mammal abundance estimates presented in this document 
represent the total number of individuals that make up a given stock or 
the total number estimated within a particular study or survey area. 
NMFS's stock abundance estimates for most species represent the total 
estimate of individuals within the geographic area, if known, that 
comprises that stock. For some species, this geographic area may extend 
beyond U.S. waters. All managed stocks in this region are assessed in 
NMFS's U.S. Alaska or Pacific SARs including the 2021 draft SARs.

                    Table 2--Species That Spatially Co-Occur With the Activity to the Degree That Take Is Reasonably Likely To Occur
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                         ESA/ MMPA status;   Stock abundance (CV,
             Common name                  Scientific name               Stock             strategic (Y/N)      Nmin, most recent       PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                                \1\          abundance survey) \2\               SI \3\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Balaenopteridae (rorquals):
    Humpback whale..................  Megaptera novaeangliae.  Central North Pacific..  -,-; Y              10,103 (0.3, 7,890,            83         26
                                                                                                             2006).
    Minke Whale.....................  Balaenoptera             Alaska.................  -,-; N              N/A (see SAR, N/A, see        uND          0
                                       acutorostrata.                                                        SAR).
Family Eschrichtiidae (gray whale):
    Gray Whale......................  Eschrichtius robustus..  Eastern North Pacific..  -,-; N              26,960 (0.05, 25,849,         801        131
                                                                                                             2016).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                            Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Delphinidae:
    Pacific white-sided dolphin.....  Lagenorhynchus           North Pacific..........  -,-; N              26,880 (N/A, N/A,             uND          0
                                       obliquidens.                                                          1990).
    Killer Whale....................  Orcinus orca...........  Northern Resident......  -,-; N              302 (N/A, 302, 2018)..        2.2        0.2
                                                               Alaska Resident........  -,-; N              2,347 (N/A, 2347,              24          1
                                                                                                             2012).
                                                               West Coast Transient...  -,-; N              349 (N/A, 349, 2018)..        3.5        0.4
Family Phocoenidae (porpoises):
    Harbor porpoise.................  Phocoena phocoena......  Southeast Alaska.......  -,-; N              see SAR (see SAR, see     See SAR         34
                                                                                                             SAR, 2012).
    Dall's porpoise.................  Phocoenoides dalli.....  Entire Alaska Stock....  -,-; N              83,400 (0.097,........        uND         38
                                                                                                            N/A, 1991)............
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Family Otariidae (sea lions and fur
 seals):
    Steller sea lion................  Eumetopias jubatus.....  Eastern Stock..........  -,-; N              43,201 a (see SAR,           2592        112
                                                                                                             43,201, 2017).

[[Page 68227]]

 
Family Phocidae (earless seals):
    Harbor seal.....................  Phoca vitulina.........  Clarence Strait........  -; N                27,659 (see SAR,              746         40
                                                                                                             24,854, 2015).
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Endangered Species Act (ESA) status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed
  under the ESA or designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality
  exceeds PBR or which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed
  under the ESA is automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock.
\2\ NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of stock abundance.
\3\ These values, found in NMFS's SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g.,
  commercial fisheries, ship strike). Annual Mortality/ Serious Injury (M/SI) often cannot be determined precisely and is in some cases presented as a
  minimum value or range. A CV associated with estimated mortality due to commercial fisheries is presented in some cases.

    Humpback whales, minke whales, gray whales, Pacific white-sided 
dolphin, killer whale, harbor porpoise, Dall's porpoise, harbor seal, 
and Steller sea lions spatially co-occur with the activity to the 
degree that take is reasonably likely to occur, and we have proposed 
authorizing take of these species. Fin whale could potentially occur in 
the area, however there are no known sightings nearby so the species is 
very rare, is readily observed, and the applicant would shut down pile 
driving if they enter the project area. Thus take is not expected to 
occur, and they are not discussed further.

Humpback Whale

    The humpback whale is found worldwide in all oceans. Prior to 2016, 
humpback whales were listed under the ESA as an endangered species 
worldwide. Following a 2015 global status review (Bettridge et al., 
2015), NMFS established 14 DPSs with different listing statuses (81 FR 
62259; September 8, 2016) pursuant to the ESA. Humpback whales found in 
the project area are predominantly members of the Hawaii DPS, which is 
not listed under the ESA. However, based on a comprehensive photo-
identification study, members of the Mexico DPS, which is listed as 
threatened, are known to occur in Southeast Alaska. Members of 
different DPSs are known to intermix on feeding grounds; therefore, all 
waters off the coast of Alaska should be considered to have ESA-listed 
humpback whales. Approximately 2 percent of all humpback whales in 
Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia are members of the 
Mexico DPS, while all others are members of the Hawaii DPS (Wade et 
al., 2021).
    The DPSs of humpback whales that were identified through the ESA 
listing process do not equate to the existing MMPA stocks. The stock 
delineations of humpback whales under the MMPA are currently under 
review. Until this review is complete, NMFS considers humpback whales 
in Southeast Alaska to be part of the Central North Pacific stock, with 
a status of endangered under the ESA and designations of strategic and 
depleted under the MMPA (Muto et al., 2021).
    Humpback whales experienced large population declines due to 
commercial whaling operations in the early 20th century. Barlow (2003) 
estimated the population of humpback whales at approximately 1,200 
animals in 1966. The population in the North Pacific grew to between 
6,000 and 8,000 by the mid-1990s. Current threats to humpback whales 
include vessel strikes, spills, climate change, and commercial fishing 
operations (Muto et al., 2021).
    Humpback whales are found throughout Southeast Alaska in a variety 
of marine environments, including open-ocean, near-shore waters, and 
areas with strong tidal currents (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Most humpback 
whales are migratory and spend winters in the breeding grounds off 
either Hawaii or Mexico. Humpback whales generally arrive in Southeast 
Alaska in March and return to their wintering grounds in November. Some 
humpback whales depart late or arrive early to feeding grounds, and 
therefore the species occurs in Southeast Alaska year-round (Straley, 
1990, Straley et al., 2018). Across the region, there have been no 
recent estimates of humpback whale density.
    No systematic studies have documented humpback whale abundance near 
Ketchikan. Anecdotal information suggests that this species is present 
in low numbers year-round in Tongass Narrows, with the highest 
abundance during summer and fall. Anecdotal reports suggest that 
humpback whales are seen only once or twice per month, while more 
recently it has been suggested that the occurrence is more regular, 
such as once per week on average, and more seasonal. Humpbacks observed 
in Tongass Narrows are generally alone or in groups of one to three 
individuals. In August 2017, a group of 6 individuals was observed 
passing through Tongass Narrows several times per day, for several days 
in a row.
    The City of Ketchikan (COK) Rock Pinnacle project, which was 
located approximately 4 kilometers (km) southeast of the proposed 
project site, reported one humpback whale sighting of one individual 
during the project (December 2019 through January 2020). During the 
Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock Construction, located approximately 5 km 
northwest of the proposed project site, 28 sightings of humpbacks were 
made on eighteen days of in water work that occurred between February 
and September 2020, with at least one humpback being recorded every 
month. A total of 42 individuals were recorded and group sizes ranged 
from 1 to 6 (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Humpback whales 
were sighted on 17 days out of 88 days of monitoring in Tongass Narrows 
in 2020 and 2021 (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). There were 
no sightings in January or February, but humpback whales were observed 
each month from October to December 2020 and May to June 2021. During 
November 2020, a single known individual (by fluke pattern) was 
observed repeatedly, accounting for 14 of the 26 sighting events that 
month (DOT&PF, 2020). During monitoring, humpback whales were observed 
on average once a week.
    Southeast Alaska is considered an important area for feeding 
humpback whales between March and May (Ellison et al., 2012), though 
not currently designated as critical habitat (86 FR 21082; April 21, 
2021). In Alaska, humpback whales filter feed on tiny crustaceans, 
plankton, and small fish

[[Page 68228]]

such as walleye pollock, Pacific sand lance, herring, eulachon 
(Thaleichthys pacificus), and capelin (Witteveen et al., 2012).

Minke Whale

    Minke whales are found throughout the northern hemisphere in polar, 
temperate, and tropical waters. The population status of minke whales 
is considered stable throughout most of their range. Historically, 
commercial whaling reduced the population size of this species, but 
given their small size, they were never a primary target of whaling and 
did not experience the severe population declines as did larger 
cetaceans.
    Minke whales are found in all Alaska waters. Minke whales in 
Southeast Alaska are part of the Alaska stock (Muto et al., 2021). 
Research in Southeast Alaska have consistently identified individuals 
throughout inland waters in low numbers (Dahlheim et al., 2009). All 
sightings were of single minke whales, except for a single sighting of 
multiple minke whales. Surveys took place in spring, summer, and fall, 
and minke whales were present in low numbers in all seasons and years. 
No information appears to be available on the winter occurrence of 
minke whales in Southeast Alaska.
    There are no known occurrences of minke whales within the project 
area. Since their ranges extend into the project area and they have 
been observed in southeast Alaska, including in Clarence Strait 
(Dahlheim et al., 2009), it is possible the species could occur near 
the project area. No minke whales were reported during the COK Rock 
Pinnacle Blasting Project (Sitkiewicz, 2020). During marine mammal 
monitoring of Tongass Narrows in 2020 and 2021, there were no minke 
whales observed on 88 days of observations across 7 months (October 
2020--February 2021; May--June 2021) (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 
2021d).
    In Alaska, the minke whale diet consists primarily of euphausiids 
and walleye pollock. Minke whales are generally found in shallow, 
coastal waters within 200 m of shore (Zerbini et al., 2006) and are 
almost always solitary or in small groups of 2 to 3. In Alaska, 
seasonal movements are associated with feeding areas that are generally 
located at the edge of the pack ice (NMFS, 2014).

Gray Whale

    Gray whales are distributed throughout the North Pacific Ocean and 
are found primarily in shallow coastal waters (Muto et al., 2021). Gray 
whales in the Eastern North Pacific stock range from the southern Gulf 
of California, Mexico to the arctic waters of the Bering and Chukchi 
Seas. Gray whales are generally solitary creatures and travel together 
alone or in small groups.
    Gray whales are rare in the action area and unlikely to occur in 
Tongass Narrows. They were not observed during the Dahlheim et al. 
(2009) surveys of Alaska's inland waters with surveys conducted in the 
spring, summer and fall months. No gray whales were reported during the 
COK Rock Pinnacle Blasting Project (Sitkiewicz, 2020) or Ward Cove 
(Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). However a gray whale could 
migrate through or near the project during November especially.
    There is an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) involving gray 
whales on the Pacific Coast (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/2019-2021-gray-whale-unusual-mortality-event-along-west-coast-and). Almost half of the strandings in the United 
States have been in Alaska. A definitive cause has not been found for 
the UME but many of the animals show signs of emaciation.

Killer Whale

    Killer whales have been observed in all the world's oceans, but the 
highest densities occur in colder and more productive waters found at 
high latitudes (NMFS, 2016b). Killer whales occur along the entire 
Alaska coast, in British Columbia and Washington inland waterways, and 
along the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California (NMFS, 
2016b).
    Based on data regarding association patterns, acoustics, movements, 
and genetic differences, eight killer whale stocks are now recognized 
within the Pacific U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. This proposed IHA 
considers only the Eastern North Pacific Alaska Resident stock (Alaska 
Resident stock), Eastern North Pacific Northern Resident stock 
(Northern Resident stock), and West Coast Transient stock, because all 
other stocks occur outside the geographic area under consideration 
(Muto et al., 2021).
    There are three distinct ecotypes, or forms, of killer whales 
recognized: Resident, Transient, and Offshore. The three ecotypes 
differ morphologically, ecologically, behaviorally, and genetically. 
Surveys between 1991 and 2007 encountered resident killer whales during 
all seasons throughout Southeast Alaska. Both residents and transients 
were common in a variety of habitats and all major waterways, including 
protected bays and inlets. There does not appear to be strong seasonal 
variation in abundance or distribution of killer whales, but there was 
substantial variability between years (Dahlheim et al., 2009). Spatial 
distribution has been shown to vary among the different ecotypes, with 
resident and, to a lesser extent, transient killer whales more commonly 
observed along the continental shelf, and offshore killer whales more 
commonly observed in pelagic waters (Rice et al., 2021).
    No systematic studies of killer whales have been conducted in or 
around Tongass Narrows. Killer whales have been observed in Tongass 
Narrows year-round and are most common during the summer Chinook salmon 
run (May-July). During the Chinook salmon run, Ketchikan residents have 
reported pods of up to 20-30 whales (84 FR 36891; July 30, 2019). 
Typical pod sizes observed within the project vicinity range from 1 to 
10 animals and the frequency of killer whales passing through the 
action area is estimated to be once per month (Frietag, 2017). 
Anecdotal reports suggest that large pods of killer whales (as many as 
80 individuals, but generally between 25 and 40 individuals) are not 
uncommon in May, June, and July when the king salmon are running. 
During the rest of the year, killer whales occur irregularly in pods of 
6 to 12 or more individuals.
    Transient killer whales are often found in long-term stable social 
units (pods) of 1 to 16 whales. Average pod sizes in Southeast Alaska 
were 6.0 in spring, 5.0 in summer, and 3.9 in fall. Pod sizes of 
transient whales are generally smaller than those of resident social 
groups. Resident killer whales occur in larger pods, ranging from 7 to 
70 whales that are seen in association with one another more than 50 
percent of the time (Dahlheim et al., 2009; NMFS, 2016a). In Southeast 
Alaska, resident killer whale mean pod size was approximately 21.5 in 
spring, 32.3 in summer, and 19.3 in fall (Dahlheim et al., 2009).
    Although killer whales may occur in large numbers, they generally 
form large pods and would incur fewer work stoppages than their numbers 
suggest since stoppages would correlate more with the number of pods 
than the number of individuals. Killer whales tend to transit through 
Tongass Narrows, and do not linger in the project area.
    Marine mammal observations in Tongass Narrows during 2020 and 2021 
support an estimate of approximately one group of killer whales a month 
in the Project area. During 7 months of monitoring (October 2020 
February 2021; May June 2021), there were five

[[Page 68229]]

killer whale sightings in 4 months (November, February, May, June) 
totaling 22 animals and sightings occurred on 5 out of 88 days of 
monitoring (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Pod sizes ranged 
from two to eight animals. During the COK's monitoring for the Rock 
Pinnacle Removal project in December 2019 and January 2020, no killer 
whales were observed. Over eight months of monitoring at the Ward Cove 
Cruise Ship Dock in 2020, killer whales were only observed on two days 
in March (Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska, 2020). These 
observations included a sighting of one pod of two killer whales and a 
second pod of five individuals travelling through the project area.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin

    Pacific white-sided dolphins are a pelagic species inhabiting 
temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean and along the coasts of 
California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska (Muto et al., 2021). Despite 
their distribution mostly in deep, offshore waters, they may also be 
found over the continental shelf and near shore waters, including 
inland waters of Southeast Alaska (Ferrero and Walker, 1996). They are 
managed as two distinct stocks: The California/Oregon/Washington stock, 
and the North Pacific stock (north of 45 N, including Alaska). Only the 
North Pacific stock is found within the project area. The Pacific 
white-sided dolphin is distributed throughout the temperate North 
Pacific Ocean, north of Baja California to Alaska's southern coastline 
and Aleutian Islands. The North Pacific Stock ranges from Canada into 
Alaska (Muto et al., 2021).
    Pacific white-sided dolphins prey on squid and small schooling fish 
such as capelin, sardines, and herring (Morton, 2006). They are known 
to work in groups to herd schools of fish and can dive underwater for 
up to 6 minutes to feed (Morton, 2006). Group sizes have been reported 
to range from 40 to over 1,000 animals, but groups of between 10 and 
100 individuals (Stacey and Baird, 1991; NMFS no date) occur most 
commonly. Seasonal movements of Pacific white-sided dolphins are not 
well understood, but there is evidence of both north-south seasonal 
movement (Leatherwood et al., 1984) and inshore-offshore seasonal 
movement (Stacey and Baird, 1991).
    Scientific studies and data are lacking relative to the presence or 
abundance of Pacific white-sided dolphins in or near Tongass Narrows. 
Although they generally prefer deeper and more-offshore waters, 
anecdotal reports suggest that Pacific white-sided dolphins have 
previously been observed in Tongass Narrows, although they have not 
been observed entering Tongass Narrows or nearby inter-island waterways 
in 15-20 years.
    Pacific white-sided dolphins are rare in the inside passageways of 
Southeast Alaska. Most observations occur off the outer coast or in 
inland waterways near entrances to the open ocean. According to Muto et 
al. (2018), aerial surveys in 1997 sighted one group of 164 Pacific 
white-sided dolphins in Dixon entrance to the south of Tongass Narrows. 
Surveys in April and May from 1991 to 1993 identified Pacific white-
sided dolphins in Revillagigedo Channel, Behm Canal, and Clarence 
Strait (Dahlheim and Towell 1994). These areas are contiguous with the 
open ocean waters of Dixon Entrance. This observational data, combined 
with anecdotal information, indicates there is a rare, however, slight 
potential for Pacific white-sided dolphins to occur in the project 
area.
    During marine mammal monitoring of Tongass Narrows in 2020 and 
2021, no Pacific white-sided dolphins were observed on 88 days of 
observations across 7 months (October 2020-February 2021; May-June 
2021), which supports the anecdotal evidence that sightings of this 
species are rare (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). There were 
also no sightings of Pacific white-sided dolphins during the COK Rock 
Pinnacle Blasting Project during monitoring surveys conducted in 
December 2019 and January 2020 (Sitkiewicz, 2020) or during monitoring 
surveys conducted between February and September 2020 as part of the 
Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock (Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska, 
2020).

Harbor Porpoise

    In the eastern North Pacific Ocean, the harbor porpoise ranges from 
Point Barrow, along the Alaska coast, and down the west coast of North 
America to Point Conception, California. The Southeast Alaska stock 
ranges from Cape Suckling to the Canadian border (Muto et al., 2021). 
Harbor porpoises frequent primarily coastal waters in Southeast Alaska 
(Dahlheim et al., 2009) and occur most frequently in waters less than 
100 m (328 ft) deep (Dahlheim et al., 2015). They are not attracted to 
areas with elevated levels of vessel activity and noise such as Tongass 
Narrows.
    Studies of harbor porpoises reported no evidence of seasonal 
changes in distribution for the inland waters of Southeast Alaska 
(Dahlheim et al., 2009). Their small overall size, lack of a visible 
blow, low dorsal fins and overall low profile, and short surfacing time 
make them difficult to spot (Dahlheim et al., 2015). Ketchikan area 
densities are expected to be low. This is supported by anecdotal 
estimates. Anecdotal reports (see IHA Application) specific to Tongass 
Narrows indicate that harbor porpoises are rarely observed in the 
action area. Harbor porpoises are expected to be present in the action 
area only a few times per year.

Dall's Porpoise

    Dall's porpoises are found throughout the North Pacific, from 
southern Japan to southern California north to the Bering Sea. All 
Dall's porpoises in Alaska are members of the Alaska stock. This 
species can be found in offshore, inshore, and nearshore habitat.
    Jefferson et al. (2019) presents historical survey data showing few 
sightings in the Ketchikan area. The mean group size in Southeast 
Alaska is estimated at approximately three individuals (Dahlheim et 
al., 2009, Jefferson et al., 2019), although Freitag (2017, as cited in 
83 FR 37473) suggested group sizes near Ketchikan range from 10 to 15 
individuals. Anecdotal reports suggest that Dall's porpoises are found 
northwest of Ketchikan near the Guard Islands, where waters are deeper, 
as well as in deeper waters to the southeast of Tongass Narrows. This 
species has a tendency to bow-ride with vessels and may occur in the 
action area incidentally a few times per year.

Harbor Seal

    Harbor seals inhabit coastal and estuarine waters off Alaska. They 
haul out on rocks, reefs, beaches, and drifting glacial ice. They are 
opportunistic feeders and often adjust their distribution to take 
advantage of locally and seasonally abundant prey (Womble et al., 2009, 
Allen and Angliss, 2015).
    Harbor seals occurring in the project area belong to the Clarence 
Strait stock. Distribution of the Clarence Strait stock ranges from the 
east coast of Prince of Wales Island from Cape Chacon north through 
Clarence Strait to Point Baker and along the east coast of Mitkof and 
Kupreanof Islands north to Bay Point, including Ernest Sound, Behm 
Canal, and Pearse Canal (Muto et al., 2021). In the project area, they 
tend to be more abundant during spring, summer and fall months when 
salmon are present in Ward Creek. Anecdotal evidence indicates that 
harbor seals typically occur in groups of 1-3 animals in Ward Cove with 
a few sightings per day (Spokely, 2019). They were not observed in 
Tongass Narrows during a combined 63.5 hours of marine mammal

[[Page 68230]]

monitoring that took place in 2001 and 2016 (OSSA, 2001, Turnagain, 
2016). There are no known harbor seal haulouts within the project area. 
According to the list of harbor seal haulout locations, the closest 
listed haulouts are located off the tip of Gravina Island, 
approximately eight km (five miles (mi)) northwest of Ward Cove (AFSC, 
2018), but not in the ensonified area from this project.

Steller Sea Lion

    Steller sea lions were listed as threatened range-wide under the 
ESA on November 26, 1990 (55 FR 49204). Steller sea lions were 
subsequently partitioned into the western and eastern Distinct 
Population Segments (DPSs; western and eastern stocks) in 1997 (62 FR 
24345; May 5, 1997). The eastern DPS remained classified as threatened 
until it was delisted in November 2013. The current minimum abundance 
estimate for the eastern DPS of Steller sea lions is 43,201 individuals 
(Muto et al., 2021). The western DPS (those individuals west of 
144[deg] W longitude or Cape Suckling, Alaska) was upgraded to 
endangered status following separation of the DPSs, and it remains 
endangered today. There is regular movement of both DPSs across this 
144[deg] W longitude boundary (Jemison et al., 2013), however, due to 
the distance from this DPS boundary, it is likely that only eastern DPS 
Steller sea lions are present in the project area. Therefore, animals 
potentially affected by the project are assumed to be part of the 
eastern DPS. Sea lions from the western DPS, which is listed as 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are not likely to be 
affected by the proposed activity and are not discussed further.
    There are several mapped and regularly monitored long-term Steller 
sea lion haulouts surrounding Ketchikan, such as West Rocks (36 mi/58 
km) or Nose Point (37 mi/60 km), but none are known to occur within 
Tongass Narrows (Fritz et al., 2015). The nearest known Steller sea 
lion haulout is located approximately 20 mi (58 km) west/northwest of 
Ketchikan on Grindall Island. None of these haul-outs would be affected 
by the proposed activity. Summer counts of adult and juvenile sea lions 
at this haulout since 2000 have averaged approximately 191 individuals, 
with a range from 6 in 2009 to 378 in 2008. Only two winter surveys of 
this haulout have occurred. In March 1993, a total of 239 individuals 
were recorded, and in December 1994, a total of 211 individuals were 
recorded. No sea lion pups have been observed at this haulout during 
surveys. Although this is a limited sample, it suggests that abundance 
may be consistent year-round at the Grindall Island haulout.
    No systematic studies of sea lion abundance or distribution have 
occurred in Tongass Narrows. Anecdotal reports suggest that Steller sea 
lions may be found in Tongass Narrows year-round, with an increase in 
abundance from March to early May during the herring spawning season, 
and another increase in late summer associated with salmon runs. 
Overall sea lion presence in Tongass Narrows tends to be lower in 
summer than in winter (FHWA, 2017). During summer, Steller sea lions 
may aggregate outside the project area, at rookery and haulout sites. 
Monitoring during construction of the Ketchikan Ferry Terminal in 
summer (July 16 through August 17, 2016) did not record any Steller sea 
lions (ADOT&PF 2015); however, monitoring during construction of the 
Ward Cove Dock, located approximately 6 km northwest of the Project 
site, recorded 181 individual sea lions between February and September 
2020 (Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Most sightings 
occurred in February (45 sightings of 88 sea lions) and March (34 
sightings of 45 sea lions); the fewest number of sightings were 
observed in May (1 sighting of 1 sea lion) (Power Systems & Supplies of 
Alaska, 2020).
    Sea lions are known to transit through Tongass Narrows while 
pursuing prey. Steller sea lions are known to follow fishing vessels, 
and may congregate in small numbers at seafood processing facilities 
and hatcheries or at the mouths of rivers and creeks containing 
hatcheries, where large numbers of salmon congregate in late summer. 
Three seafood processing facilities are located east of the proposed 
berth location on Revillagigedo Island, and two salmon hatcheries 
operated by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) are located 
east of the project area. Steller sea lions may aggregate near the 
mouth of Ketchikan Creek, where a hatchery upstream supports a summer 
salmon run. The Creek mouth is more than 4 km (2.5 mi) from both ferry 
berth sites, and is positioned behind the cruise ship terminal and 
within the small boat harbor. In addition to these locations, anecdotal 
information from a local kayaking company suggests that there are 
Steller sea lions present at Gravina Point, near the southwest entrance 
to Tongass Narrows.
    A total of 181 Steller sea lions were sighted on forty-four 
separate days during all months of Ward Cove Cruise Ship Dock 
construction (February through September, 2020) (Power Systems and 
Supplies of Alaska, 2020). Most sightings occurred in February and 
March and the fewest sightings were in May. Sightings were of single 
individuals, pairs, and herds of up to 10 individuals. They were 
identified as travelling, foraging, swimming, chuffing, milling, 
looking, sinking, spyhopping, and playing.
    Marine mammal monitoring occurred near the proposed project site 
during 2020 and 2021 for previous construction components of the 
Tongass Narrows Project. Monitoring occurred from October 2020 to 
February 2021 and resumed in May 2021, and is still underway. Steller 
sea lions were observed in the Tongass Narrows Project area on 49 of 88 
days between October 2020 and June 2021 (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 
2021c, 2021d). They were observed in every month that observations took 
place (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Sightings of Steller 
sea lions were most frequent in January and February and least common 
in May and June (DOT&PF 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d). Sightings 
were primarily of single animals, but animals were also present in 
pairs and groups up to five sea lions (DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 
2021c, 2021d). This is consistent with Freitag (2017 as cited in 83 FR 
22009), though groups of up to 80 individuals have been observed (HDR, 
Inc., 2003). On average over the course of a year, Steller sea lions 
occur in Tongass Narrows approximately three or four times per week 
(DOT&PF, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, 2021d).

Marine Mammal Hearing

    Hearing is the most important sensory modality for marine mammals 
underwater, and exposure to anthropogenic sound can have deleterious 
effects. To appropriately assess the potential effects of exposure to 
sound, it is necessary to understand the frequency ranges marine 
mammals are able to hear. Current data indicate that not all marine 
mammal species have equal hearing capabilities (e.g., Richardson et 
al., 1995; Wartzok and Ketten, 1999; Au and Hastings, 2008). To reflect 
this, Southall et al. (2007) recommended that marine mammals be divided 
into functional hearing groups based on directly measured or estimated 
hearing ranges on the basis of available behavioral response data, 
audiograms derived using auditory evoked potential techniques, 
anatomical modeling, and other data. Note that no direct measurements 
of hearing ability have been successfully completed for mysticetes 
(i.e., low-frequency cetaceans). Subsequently, NMFS (2018)

[[Page 68231]]

described generalized hearing ranges for these marine mammal hearing 
groups. Generalized hearing ranges were chosen based on the 
approximately 65 decibel (dB) threshold from the normalized composite 
audiograms, with the exception for lower limits for low-frequency 
cetaceans where the lower bound was deemed to be biologically 
implausible and the lower bound from Southall et al. (2007) retained. 
Marine mammal hearing groups and their associated hearing ranges are 
provided in Table 3.

                  Table 3--Marine Mammal Hearing Groups
                              [NMFS, 2018]
------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Hearing group                 Generalized hearing range *
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Low-frequency (LF) cetaceans (baleen   7 Hz to 35 kHz.
 whales).
Mid-frequency (MF) cetaceans           150 Hz to 160 kHz.
 (dolphins, toothed whales, beaked
 whales, bottlenose whales).
High-frequency (HF) cetaceans (true    275 Hz to 160 kHz.
 porpoises, Kogia, river dolphins,
 cephalorhynchid, Lagenorhynchus
 cruciger & L. australis).
Phocid pinnipeds (PW) (underwater)     50 Hz to 86 kHz.
 (true seals).
Otariid pinnipeds (OW) (underwater)    60 Hz to 39 kHz.
 (sea lions and fur seals).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Represents the generalized hearing range for the entire group as a
  composite (i.e., all species within the group), where individual
  species' hearing ranges are typically not as broad. Generalized
  hearing range chosen based on ~65 dB threshold from normalized
  composite audiogram, with the exception for lower limits for LF
  cetaceans (Southall et al., 2007) and PW pinniped (approximation).

    The pinniped functional hearing group was modified from Southall et 
al. (2007) on the basis of data indicating that phocid species have 
consistently demonstrated an extended frequency range of hearing 
compared to otariids, especially in the higher frequency range 
(Hemil[auml] et al., 2006; Kastelein et al., 2009; Reichmuth and Holt, 
2013).
    For more detail concerning these groups and associated frequency 
ranges, please see NMFS (2018) for a review of available information. 
Humpback, minke and gray whales are in the low-frequency hearing group, 
killer whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins are in the mid-frequency 
hearing group, harbor and Dall's porpoises are in the high frequency 
hearing group, harbor seals are in the phocid group and Steller sea 
lions are otariids.

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 
Habitat

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

Description of Sound Sources

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

[[Page 68232]]

to push them into the sediment. Vibratory hammers produce significantly 
less sound than impact hammers. Peak Sound pressure Levels (SPLs) may 
be 180 dB or greater, but are generally 10 to 20 dB lower than SPLs 
generated during impact pile driving of the same-sized pile (Oestman et 
al., 2009). Rise time is slower, reducing the probability and severity 
of injury, and sound energy is distributed over a greater amount of 
time (Nedwell and Edwards, 2002; Carlson et al., 2005).
    A DTH hammer is essentially a drill bit that drills through the 
bedrock using a rotating function like a normal drill, in concert with 
a hammering mechanism operated by a pneumatic (or sometimes hydraulic) 
component integrated into to the DTH hammer to increase speed of 
progress through the substrate (i.e., it is similar to a ``hammer 
drill'' hand tool). Rock socketing involves using DTH equipment to 
create a hole in the bedrock inside of which the pile is placed to give 
it lateral and longitudinal strength. The sounds produced by the DTH 
method contain both a continuous non-impulsive component from the 
drilling action and an impulsive component from the hammering effect. 
Therefore, we treat DTH systems as both impulsive and non-impulsive 
sound source types simultaneously.
    The likely or possible impacts of NOAA's proposed activity on 
marine mammals could involve both non-acoustic and acoustic stressors. 
Potential non-acoustic stressors could result from the physical 
presence of the equipment, vessels, and personnel; however, any impacts 
to marine mammals are expected to primarily be acoustic in nature. 
Acoustic stressors include effects of heavy equipment operation during 
pile installation and removal.

Acoustic Impacts

    The introduction of anthropogenic noise into the aquatic 
environment from pile driving equipment is the primary means by which 
marine mammals may be harassed from the NOAA's specified activity. In 
general, animals exposed to natural or anthropogenic sound may 
experience physical and psychological effects, ranging in magnitude 
from none to severe (Southall et al., 2007). Generally, exposure to DTH 
or pile driving and removal and other construction noise has the 
potential to result in auditory threshold shifts and behavioral 
reactions (e.g., avoidance, temporary cessation of foraging and 
vocalizing, changes in dive behavior). Exposure to anthropogenic noise 
can also lead to non-observable physiological responses such an 
increase in stress hormones. Additional noise in a marine mammal's 
habitat can mask acoustic cues used by marine mammals to carry out 
daily functions such as communication and predator and prey detection. 
The effects of pile driving and demolition noise on marine mammals are 
dependent on several factors, including, but not limited to, sound type 
(e.g., impulsive vs. non-impulsive), the species, age and sex class 
(e.g., adult male vs. mom with calf), duration of exposure, the 
distance between the pile and the animal, received levels, behavior at 
time of exposure, and previous history with exposure (Wartzok et al., 
2004; Southall et al., 2007). Here we discuss physical auditory effects 
(threshold shifts) followed by behavioral effects and potential impacts 
on habitat.
    NMFS defines a noise-induced threshold shift (TS) as a change, 
usually an increase, in the threshold of audibility at a specified 
frequency or portion of an individual's hearing range above a 
previously established reference level (NMFS, 2018). The amount of 
threshold shift is customarily expressed in dB. A TS can be permanent 
or temporary. As described in NMFS (2018), there are numerous factors 
to consider when examining the consequence of TS, including, but not 
limited to, the signal temporal pattern (e.g., impulsive or non-
impulsive), likelihood an individual would be exposed for a long enough 
duration or to a high enough level to induce a TS, the magnitude of the 
TS, time to recovery (seconds to minutes or hours to days), the 
frequency range of the exposure (i.e., spectral content), the hearing 
and vocalization frequency range of the exposed species relative to the 
signal's frequency spectrum (i.e., how animal uses sound within the 
frequency band of the signal; e.g., Kastelein et al., 2014), and the 
overlap between the animal and the source (e.g., spatial, temporal, and 
spectral).
    Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)--NMFS defines PTS as a permanent, 
irreversible increase in the threshold of audibility at a specified 
frequency or portion of an individual's hearing range above a 
previously established reference level (NMFS, 2018). Available data 
from humans and other terrestrial mammals indicate that a 40 dB 
threshold shift approximates PTS onset (see Ward et al., 1958, 1959; 
Ward, 1960; Kryter et al., 1966; Miller, 1974; Ahroon et al., 1996; 
Henderson et al., 2008). PTS levels for marine mammals are estimates, 
with the exception of a single study unintentionally inducing PTS in a 
harbor seal (Kastak et al., 2008), there are no empirical data 
measuring PTS in marine mammals, largely due to the fact that, for 
various ethical reasons, experiments involving anthropogenic noise 
exposure at levels inducing PTS are not typically pursued or authorized 
(NMFS, 2018).
    Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)--A temporary, reversible increase 
in the threshold of audibility at a specified frequency or portion of 
an individual's hearing range above a previously established reference 
level (NMFS, 2018). Based on data from cetacean TTS measurements (see 
Southall et al., 2007), a TTS of 6 dB is considered the minimum 
threshold shift clearly larger than any day-to-day or session-to-
session variation in a subject's normal hearing ability (Schlundt et 
al., 2000; Finneran et al., 2000, 2002). As described in Finneran 
(2016), marine mammal studies have shown the amount of TTS increases 
with cumulative sound exposure level (SELcum) in an 
accelerating fashion: At low exposures with lower SELcum, 
the amount of TTS is typically small and the growth curves have shallow 
slopes. At exposures with higher SELcum, the growth curves 
become steeper and approach linear relationships with the noise SEL.
    Depending on the degree (elevation of threshold in dB), duration 
(i.e., recovery time), and frequency range of TTS, and the context in 
which it is experienced, TTS can have effects on marine mammals ranging 
from discountable to serious (similar to those discussed in auditory 
masking, below). For example, a marine mammal may be able to readily 
compensate for a brief, relatively small amount of TTS in a non-
critical frequency range that takes place during a time when the animal 
is traveling through the open ocean, where ambient noise is lower and 
there are not as many competing sounds present. Alternatively, a larger 
amount and longer duration of TTS sustained during time when 
communication is critical for successful mother/calf interactions could 
have more serious impacts. We note that reduced hearing sensitivity as 
a simple function of aging has been observed in marine mammals, as well 
as humans and other taxa (Southall et al., 2007), so we can infer that 
strategies exist for coping with this condition to some degree, though 
likely not without cost.
    Currently, TTS data only exist for four species of cetaceans 
(bottlenose dolphin, beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), harbor 
porpoise, and Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocoena asiaeorientalis)) 
and five species of pinnipeds exposed to a limited number

[[Page 68233]]

of sound sources (i.e., mostly tones and octave-band noise) in 
laboratory settings (Finneran, 2015). TTS was not observed in trained 
spotted (Phoca largha) and ringed (Pusa hispida) seals exposed to 
impulsive noise at levels matching previous predictions of TTS onset 
(Reichmuth et al., 2016). In general, harbor seals and harbor porpoises 
have a lower TTS onset than other measured pinniped or cetacean species 
(Finneran, 2015). The potential for TTS from impact pile driving 
exists. After exposure to playbacks of impact pile driving sounds (rate 
2,760 strikes/hour) in captivity, mean TTS increased from 0 dB after 15 
minute exposure to 5 dB after 360 minute exposure; recovery occurred 
within 60 minutes (Kastelein et al., 2016). Additionally, the existing 
marine mammal TTS data come from a limited number of individuals within 
these species. No data are available on noise-induced hearing loss for 
mysticetes. For summaries of data on TTS in marine mammals or for 
further discussion of TTS onset thresholds, please see Southall et al. 
(2007), Finneran and Jenkins (2012), Finneran (2015), and Table 5 in 
NMFS (2018).
    Installing piles for this project requires impact pile driving and 
DTH. There would likely be pauses in activities producing the sound 
during each day. Given these pauses and that many marine mammals are 
likely moving through the action area and not remaining for extended 
periods of time, the potential for TS declines.
    Behavioral Harassment--Exposure to noise from DTH and pile driving 
and removal also has the potential to behaviorally disturb marine 
mammals. Available studies show wide variation in response to 
underwater sound; therefore, it is difficult to predict specifically 
how any given sound in a particular instance might affect marine 
mammals perceiving the signal. If a marine mammal does react briefly to 
an underwater sound by changing its behavior or moving a small 
distance, the impacts of the change are unlikely to be significant to 
the individual, let alone the stock or population. However, if a sound 
source displaces marine mammals from an important feeding or breeding 
area for a prolonged period, impacts on individuals and populations 
could be significant (e.g., Lusseau and Bejder, 2007; Weilgart, 2007; 
NRC, 2005).
    Disturbance may result in changing durations of surfacing and 
dives, number of blows per surfacing, or moving direction and/or speed; 
reduced/increased vocal activities; changing/cessation of certain 
behavioral activities (such as socializing or feeding); visible startle 
response or aggressive behavior (such as tail/fluke slapping or jaw 
clapping); avoidance of areas where sound sources are located. 
Pinnipeds may increase their haul-out time, possibly to avoid in-water 
disturbance (Thorson and Reyff, 2006). Behavioral responses to sound 
are highly variable and context-specific and any reactions depend on 
numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors (e.g., species, state of 
maturity, experience, current activity, reproductive state, auditory 
sensitivity, time of day), as well as the interplay between factors 
(e.g., Richardson et al., 1995; Wartzok et al., 2004; Southall et al., 
2007; Weilgart, 2007; Archer et al., 2010). Behavioral reactions can 
vary not only among individuals but also within an individual, 
depending on previous experience with a sound source, context, and 
numerous other factors (Ellison et al., 2012), and can vary depending 
on characteristics associated with the sound source (e.g., whether it 
is moving or stationary, number of sources, distance from the source). 
In general, pinnipeds seem more tolerant of, or at least habituate more 
quickly to, potentially disturbing underwater sound than do cetaceans, 
and generally seem to be less responsive to exposure to industrial 
sound than most cetaceans. Please see Appendices B and C of Southall et 
al. (2007) for a review of studies involving marine mammal behavioral 
responses to sound.
    Disruption of feeding behavior can be difficult to correlate with 
anthropogenic sound exposure, so it is usually inferred by observed 
displacement from known foraging areas, the appearance of secondary 
indicators (e.g., bubble nets or sediment plumes), or changes in dive 
behavior. As for other types of behavioral response, the frequency, 
duration, and temporal pattern of signal presentation, as well as 
differences in species sensitivity, are likely contributing factors to 
differences in response in any given circumstance (e.g., Croll et al., 
2001; Nowacek et al., 2004; Madsen et al., 2006; Yazvenko et al., 
2007). A determination of whether foraging disruptions incur fitness 
consequences would require information on or estimates of the energetic 
requirements of the affected individuals and the relationship between 
prey availability, foraging effort and success, and the life history 
stage of the animal.
    In 2016, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public 
Facilities (ADOT&PF) documented observations of marine mammals during 
construction activities (i.e., pile driving) at the Kodiak Ferry Dock 
(see 80 FR 60636, October 7, 2015). In the marine mammal monitoring 
report for that project (ABR, 2016), 1,281 Steller sea lions were 
observed within the Level B disturbance zone during pile driving or 
drilling (i.e., documented as Level B harassment take). Of these, 19 
individuals demonstrated an alert behavior, 7 were fleeing, and 19 swam 
away from the project site. All other animals (98 percent) were engaged 
in activities such as milling, foraging, or fighting and did not change 
their behavior. In addition, two sea lions approached within 20 m of 
active vibratory pile driving activities. Three harbor seals were 
observed within the disturbance zone during pile driving activities; 
none of them displayed disturbance behaviors. Fifteen killer whales and 
three harbor porpoise were also observed within the Level B harassment 
zone during pile driving. The killer whales were travelling or milling 
while all harbor porpoises were travelling. No signs of disturbance 
were noted for either of these species. Given the similarities in 
species, activities and habitat, we expect similar behavioral responses 
of marine mammals to the NOAA's specified activity. That is, 
disturbance, if any, is likely to be temporary and localized (e.g., 
small area movements).
    Stress responses--An animal's perception of a threat may be 
sufficient to trigger stress responses consisting of some combination 
of behavioral responses, autonomic nervous system responses, 
neuroendocrine responses, or immune responses (e.g., Seyle, 1950; 
Moberg, 2000). In many cases, an animal's first and sometimes most 
economical (in terms of energetic costs) response is behavioral 
avoidance of the potential stressor. Autonomic nervous system responses 
to stress typically involve changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and 
gastrointestinal activity. These responses have a relatively short 
duration and may or may not have a significant long-term effect on an 
animal's fitness.
    Neuroendocrine stress responses often involve the hypothalamus-
pituitary-adrenal system. Virtually all neuroendocrine functions that 
are affected by stress--including immune competence, reproduction, 
metabolism, and behavior--are regulated by pituitary hormones. Stress-
induced changes in the secretion of pituitary hormones have been 
implicated in failed reproduction, altered metabolism, reduced immune 
competence, and behavioral disturbance (e.g., Moberg 1987; Blecha 
2000). Increases in the circulation of glucocorticoids are also equated 
with stress (Romano et al., 2004).

[[Page 68234]]

    The primary distinction between stress (which is adaptive and does 
not normally place an animal at risk) and ``distress'' is the cost of 
the response. During a stress response, an animal uses glycogen stores 
that can be quickly replenished once the stress is alleviated. In such 
circumstances, the cost of the stress response would not pose serious 
fitness consequences. However, when an animal does not have sufficient 
energy reserves to satisfy the energetic costs of a stress response, 
energy resources must be diverted from other functions. This state of 
distress will last until the animal replenishes its energetic reserves 
sufficient to restore normal function.
    Relationships between these physiological mechanisms, animal 
behavior, and the costs of stress responses are well-studied through 
controlled experiments and for both laboratory and free-ranging animals 
(e.g., Holberton et al., 1996; Hood et al., 1998; Jessop et al., 2003; 
Krausman et al., 2004; Lankford et al., 2005). Stress responses due to 
exposure to anthropogenic sounds or other stressors and their effects 
on marine mammals have also been reviewed (Fair and Becker 2000; Romano 
et al., 2002b) and, more rarely, studied in wild populations (e.g., 
Romano et al., 2002a). For example, Rolland et al. (2012) found that 
noise reduction from reduced ship traffic in the Bay of Fundy was 
associated with decreased stress in North Atlantic right whales. These 
and other studies lead to a reasonable expectation that some marine 
mammals will experience physiological stress responses upon exposure to 
acoustic stressors and that it is possible that some of these would be 
classified as ``distress.'' In addition, any animal experiencing TTS 
would likely also experience stress responses (NRC, 2003), however 
distress is an unlikely result of this project based on observations of 
marine mammals during previous, similar projects in the area.
    Masking--Sound can disrupt behavior through masking, or interfering 
with, an animal's ability to detect, recognize, or discriminate between 
acoustic signals of interest (e.g., those used for intraspecific 
communication and social interactions, prey detection, predator 
avoidance, navigation) (Richardson et al., 1995). Masking occurs when 
the receipt of a sound is interfered with by another coincident sound 
at similar frequencies and at similar or higher intensity, and may 
occur whether the sound is natural (e.g., snapping shrimp, wind, waves, 
precipitation) or anthropogenic (e.g., pile driving, shipping, sonar, 
seismic exploration) in origin. The ability of a noise source to mask 
biologically important sounds depends on the characteristics of both 
the noise source and the signal of interest (e.g., signal-to-noise 
ratio, temporal variability, direction), in relation to each other and 
to an animal's hearing abilities (e.g., sensitivity, frequency range, 
critical ratios, frequency discrimination, directional discrimination, 
age or TTS hearing loss), and existing ambient noise and propagation 
conditions. Masking of natural sounds can result when human activities 
produce high levels of background sound at frequencies important to 
marine mammals. Conversely, if the background level of underwater sound 
is high (e.g., on a day with strong wind and high waves), an 
anthropogenic sound source would not be detectable as far away as would 
be possible under quieter conditions and would itself be masked. The 
Ketchikan area contains active commercial shipping, ferry operations, 
commercial fishing as well as numerous recreational and other 
commercial vessel and background sound levels in the area are already 
elevated.
    Airborne Acoustic Effects--Pinnipeds that occur near the project 
site could be exposed to airborne sounds associated with DTH and pile 
driving and removal that have the potential to cause behavioral 
harassment, depending on their distance from pile driving activities. 
Cetaceans are not expected to be exposed to airborne sounds that would 
result in harassment as defined under the MMPA.
    Airborne noise would primarily be an issue for pinnipeds that are 
swimming or hauled out near the project site within the range of noise 
levels elevated above the acoustic criteria. We recognize that 
pinnipeds in the water could be exposed to airborne sound that may 
result in behavioral harassment when looking with their heads above 
water. Most likely, airborne sound would cause behavioral responses 
similar to those discussed above in relation to underwater sound. For 
instance, anthropogenic sound could cause hauled-out pinnipeds to 
exhibit changes in their normal behavior, such as reduction in 
vocalizations, or cause them to temporarily abandon the area and move 
further from the source. However, these animals would likely previously 
have been ``taken'' because of exposure to underwater sound above the 
behavioral harassment thresholds, which are generally larger than those 
associated with airborne sound. There are no haulouts near the project 
site. Thus, the behavioral harassment of these animals is already 
accounted for in these estimates of potential take. Therefore, we do 
not believe that authorization of incidental take resulting from 
airborne sound for pinnipeds is warranted, and airborne sound is not 
discussed further here.

Marine Mammal Habitat Effects

    NOAA's construction activities could have localized, temporary 
impacts on marine mammal habitat and their prey by increasing in-water 
sound pressure levels and slightly decreasing water quality. Increased 
noise levels may affect acoustic habitat (see masking discussion above) 
and adversely affect marine mammal prey in the vicinity of the project 
area (see discussion below). During DTH, impact and vibratory pile 
driving or removal, elevated levels of underwater noise would ensonify 
the project area where both fishes and mammals occur and could affect 
foraging success. Additionally, marine mammals may avoid the area 
during construction, however, displacement due to noise is expected to 
be temporary and is not expected to result in long-term effects to the 
individuals or populations. Construction activities are of short 
duration and would likely have temporary impacts on marine mammal 
habitat through increases in underwater and airborne sound.
    A temporary and localized increase in turbidity near the seafloor 
would occur in the immediate area surrounding the area where piles are 
installed or removed. In general, turbidity associated with pile 
installation is localized to about a 25-ft (7.6-m) radius around the 
pile (Everitt et al., 1980). The sediments of the project site will 
settle out rapidly when disturbed. Cetaceans are not expected to be 
close enough to the pile driving areas to experience effects of 
turbidity, and any pinnipeds could avoid localized areas of turbidity. 
Local strong currents are anticipated to disburse any additional 
suspended sediments produced by project activities at moderate to rapid 
rates depending on tidal stage. Therefore, we expect the impact from 
increased turbidity levels to be discountable to marine mammals and do 
not discuss it further.

In-Water Construction Effects on Potential Foraging Habitat

    The area likely impacted by the project is relatively small 
compared to the available habitat in Southeast Alaska and does not 
include any Biologically Important Areas or other habitat of known 
importance. The area is highly influenced by anthropogenic activities. 
The total seafloor area affected by pile installation and removal is a 
small area compared to the vast foraging area

[[Page 68235]]

available to marine mammals in the area. At best, the impact area 
provides marginal foraging habitat for marine mammals and fishes. 
Furthermore, pile driving and removal at the project site would not 
obstruct movements or migration of marine mammals.
    Avoidance by potential prey (i.e., fish) of the immediate area due 
to the temporary loss of this foraging habitat is also possible. The 
duration of fish avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is 
unknown, but a rapid return to normal recruitment, distribution and 
behavior is anticipated. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the 
disturbed area would still leave significantly large areas of fish and 
marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity.
    In-water Construction Effects on Potential Prey--Sound may affect 
marine mammals through impacts on the abundance, behavior, or 
distribution of prey species (e.g., crustaceans, cephalopods, fish, 
zooplankton). Marine mammal prey varies by species, season, and 
location. Here, we describe studies regarding the effects of noise on 
known marine mammal prey.
    Fish utilize the soundscape and components of sound in their 
environment to perform important functions such as foraging, predator 
avoidance, mating, and spawning (e.g., Zelick and Mann, 1999; Fay, 
2009). Depending on their hearing anatomy and peripheral sensory 
structures, which vary among species, fishes hear sounds using pressure 
and particle motion sensitivity capabilities and detect the motion of 
surrounding water (Fay et al., 2008). The potential effects of noise on 
fishes depends on the overlapping frequency range, distance from the 
sound source, water depth of exposure, and species-specific hearing 
sensitivity, anatomy, and physiology. Key impacts to fishes may include 
behavioral responses, hearing damage, barotrauma (pressure-related 
injuries), and mortality.
    Fish react to sounds which are especially strong and/or 
intermittent low-frequency sounds, and behavioral responses such as 
flight or avoidance are the most likely effects. Short duration, sharp 
sounds can cause overt or subtle changes in fish behavior and local 
distribution. The reaction of fish to noise depends on the 
physiological state of the fish, past exposures, motivation (e.g., 
feeding, spawning, migration), and other environmental factors. 
Hastings and Popper (2005) identified several studies that suggest fish 
may relocate to avoid certain areas of sound energy. Additional studies 
have documented effects of pile driving on fish; several are based on 
studies in support of large, multiyear bridge construction projects 
(e.g., Scholik and Yan, 2001, 2002; Popper and Hastings, 2009). Several 
studies have demonstrated that impulse sounds might affect the 
distribution and behavior of some fishes, potentially impacting 
foraging opportunities or increasing energetic costs (e.g., Fewtrell 
and McCauley, 2012; Pearson et al., 1992; Skalski et al., 1992; 
Santulli et al., 1999; Paxton et al., 2017). However, some studies have 
shown no or slight reaction to impulse sounds (e.g., Pena et al., 2013; 
Wardle et al., 2001; Jorgenson and Gyselman, 2009; Popper et al., 
2015).
    SPLs of sufficient strength have been known to cause injury to fish 
and fish mortality. However, in most fish species, hair cells in the 
ear continuously regenerate and loss of auditory function likely is 
restored when damaged cells are replaced with new cells. Halvorsen et 
al. (2012a) showed that a TTS of 4-6 dB was recoverable within 24 hours 
for one species. Impacts would be most severe when the individual fish 
is close to the source and when the duration of exposure is long. 
Injury caused by barotrauma can range from slight to severe and can 
cause death, and is most likely for fish with swim bladders. Barotrauma 
injuries have been documented during controlled exposure to impact pile 
driving (Halvorsen et al., 2012b; Casper et al., 2013).
    The most likely impact to fishes from DTH and pile driving and 
removal and construction activities at the project area would be 
temporary behavioral avoidance of the area. The duration of fish 
avoidance of this area after pile driving stops is unknown, but a rapid 
return to normal recruitment, distribution and behavior is anticipated.
    Construction activities, in the form of increased turbidity, have 
the potential to adversely affect forage fish in the project area. 
Forage fish form a significant prey base for many marine mammal species 
that occur in the project area. Increased turbidity is expected to 
occur in the immediate vicinity (on the order of 10 ft (3 m) or less) 
of construction activities. However, suspended sediments and 
particulates are expected to dissipate quickly within a single tidal 
cycle. Given the limited area affected and high tidal dilution rates 
any effects on forage fish are expected to be minor or negligible. 
Finally, exposure to turbid waters from construction activities is not 
expected to be different from the current exposure; fish and marine 
mammals in Tongass Narrows are routinely exposed to substantial levels 
of suspended sediment from natural and anthropogenic sources.
    In summary, given the short daily duration of sound associated with 
individual pile driving events and the relatively small areas being 
affected, pile driving activities associated with the proposed action 
are not likely to have a permanent, adverse effect on any fish habitat, 
or populations of fish species. Any behavioral avoidance by fish of the 
disturbed area would still leave significantly large areas of fish and 
marine mammal foraging habitat in the nearby vicinity. Thus, we 
conclude that impacts of the specified activity are not likely to have 
more than short-term adverse effects on any prey habitat or populations 
of prey species. Further, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not 
expected to result in significant or long-term consequences for 
individual marine mammals, or to contribute to adverse impacts on their 
populations.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
proposed for authorization through this IHA, which will inform both 
NMFS' consideration of ``small numbers'' and the negligible impact 
determination.
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).
    Authorized takes would primarily be by Level B harassment, as use 
of the acoustic sources (i.e., vibratory or impact pile driving and 
DTH) have the potential to result in disruption of behavioral patterns 
for individual marine mammals. There is also some potential for 
auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result for porpoises and harbor 
seals because predicted auditory injury zones are larger. The proposed 
mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to minimize the 
severity of the taking to the extent practicable.
    As described previously, no mortality is anticipated or proposed to 
be authorized for this activity. Below we describe how the take is 
estimated.
    Generally speaking, we estimate take by considering: (1) Acoustic 
thresholds

[[Page 68236]]

above which marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur some 
degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of water 
that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the density or 
occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; and, (4) 
and the number of days of activities. We note that while these basic 
factors can contribute to a basic calculation to provide an initial 
prediction of takes, additional information that can qualitatively 
inform take estimates is also sometimes available (e.g., previous 
monitoring results or average group size). Due to the lack of marine 
mammal density, NMFS relied on local occurrence data and group size to 
estimate take for some species. Below, we describe the factors 
considered here in more detail and present the proposed take estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    NMFS recommends the use of acoustic thresholds that identify the 
received level of underwater sound above which exposed marine mammals 
would be reasonably expected to be behaviorally harassed (equated to 
Level B harassment) or to incur PTS of some degree (equated to Level A 
harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources--Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et al., 2007, 
Ellison et al., 2012). Based on what the available science indicates 
and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor that is 
both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses a 
generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate the 
onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals are 
likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B 
harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above 
received levels of 120 dB re 1 microPascal ([mu]Pa) (root mean square 
(rms)) for continuous (e.g., vibratory pile-driving) and above 160 dB 
re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., impact pile 
driving) or intermittent (e.g., scientific sonar) sources.
    NOAA's proposed activity includes the use of continuous (vibratory 
hammer and DTH) and impulsive (DTH and impact pile-driving) sources, 
and therefore the 120 and 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) thresholds are 
applicable.
    Level A harassment for non-explosive sources--NMFS'' Technical 
Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine 
Mammal Hearing (Version 2.0) (Technical Guidance, 2018) identifies dual 
criteria to assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five 
different marine mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a 
result of exposure to noise from two different types of sources 
(impulsive or non-impulsive). NOAA's activity includes the use of 
impulsive (impact pile-driving and DTH) and non-impulsive (vibratory 
hammer and DTH) sources.
    These thresholds are provided in Table 4. The references, analysis, 
and methodology used in the development of the thresholds are described 
in NMFS 2018 Technical Guidance, which may be accessed at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/marine-mammal-acoustic-technical-guidance.

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

Ensonified Area

    Here, we describe operational and environmental parameters of the 
activity that will feed into identifying the area ensonified above the 
acoustic thresholds, which include source levels and transmission loss 
coefficient.
    The sound field in the project area is the existing background 
noise plus additional construction noise from the proposed project. 
Marine mammals are expected to be affected via sound generated by the 
primary components of the project (i.e., impact and vibratory pile 
driving, and DTH).
    In order to calculate distances to the Level A harassment and Level 
B harassment sound thresholds for the methods and piles being used in 
this project, NMFS used acoustic monitoring data from other locations 
to develop source levels for the various pile types, sizes and methods 
(Table 5). Because the steel piles being removed could be removed using 
either a pile clipper or hydraulic saw, we use the loudest, most 
precautionary source level for those piles.

[[Page 68237]]



                                      Table 5--Project Sound Source Levels
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Estimated noise
              Method                    levels (dB)                               Source
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24-inch DTH-impulsive............  154 SELss...........  Reyff & Heyvaert (2019).
24-inch DTH-non-impulsive........  166 dB RMS..........  Denes et al. (2016).
24-inch Steel Impact.............  211.2 Pk, 183.2 SEL,  Caltrans (2015) Table I.2.1 90th percentile.
                                    197 RMS.
14-inch Timber Vibratory.........  157 RMS.............  Caltrans (2015) Table I.2.2.
14-inch Steel Small Pile Clipper.  154 RMS.............  NAVFAC SW (2020).
20- or 24-inch Steel Large Pile    161 RMS.............  NAVFAC SW (2020).
 Clipper.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: SEL = single strike sound exposure level; RMS = root mean square.

Level B Harassment Zones

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

TL = B * Log10 (R1/R2),

Where

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

    The recommended TL coefficient for most nearshore environments is 
the practical spreading value of 15. This value results in an expected 
propagation environment that would lie between spherical and 
cylindrical spreading loss conditions, which is the most appropriate 
assumption for NOAA's proposed activity in the absence of specific 
modelling.
    NOAA determined underwater noise would fall below the behavioral 
effects threshold of 160 dB RMS for impact driving at 2,530 m and the 
120 dB rms threshold for the other methods at between 1,848 and 11,659 
m (Table 6). It should be noted that based on the bathymetry and 
geography of the project area, sound will not reach the full distance 
of the harassment isopleths in all directions.

Level A Harassment Zones

    When the NMFS Technical Guidance (2016) was published, in 
recognition of the fact that ensonified area/volume could be more 
technically challenging to predict because of the duration component in 
the new thresholds, we developed a User Spreadsheet that includes tools 
to help predict a simple isopleth that can be used in conjunction with 
marine mammal density or occurrence to help predict takes. We note that 
because of some of the assumptions included in the methods used for 
these tools, we anticipate that isopleths produced are typically going 
to be overestimates of some degree, which may result in some degree of 
overestimate of take by Level A harassment. However, these tools offer 
the best way to predict appropriate isopleths when more sophisticated 
3D modeling methods are not available, and NMFS continues to develop 
ways to quantitatively refine these tools, and will qualitatively 
address the output where appropriate. For stationary sources such as 
pile driving or removal and DTH using any of the methods discussed 
above, NMFS User Spreadsheet predicts the closest distance at which, if 
a marine mammal remained at that distance the whole duration of the 
activity, it would not incur PTS. We used the User Spreadsheet to 
determine the Level A harassment isopleths. Inputs used in the User 
Spreadsheet or models are reported in Table 1 and the resulting 
isopleths are reported in Table 6 for each of the construction methods 
and scenarios.

                                             Table 6--Level A and Level B Isopleths (Meters) for Each Method
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               High-
              Method                      Pile type       Low- frequency  Mid- frequency     frequency        Phocids        Otariids         Level B
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DTH...............................  24-inch steel.......             130               5             155              70               5          11,659
Impact............................  24-inch steel.......             151               5             179              81               6           2,530
Vibratory.........................  14-inch Timber......               2               0               3               1               0           2,929
Small Pile Clipper................  14-inch Steel.......               1               0               1               1               0           1,848
Large Pile Clipper................  20- or 24-inch Steel               1               1               2               1               0           5,412
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Marine Mammal Occurrence and Take Calculation and Estimation

    In this section we provide the information about the presence or 
group dynamics of marine mammals that will inform the take 
calculations. No density data are available for species in the project 
area. Here we describe how the information provided above is brought 
together to produce a quantitative take estimate. The estimates below 
are similar to and informed by prior projects in the Ketchikan area as 
discussed above. A summary of proposed take is in Table 9.
Humpback Whale
    Humpback whales are expected to occur in the project area no more 
than twice per five-day work week. Typical group size for humpback 
whales in the project area is two animals. The project involves 47 days 
(10 work weeks) of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we 
estimate total take at 2 whales x 2/week x 10 weeks = 40 takes. All of 
these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe 
the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by Protected 
Species Observers (PSO) because of the large size, short dive duration, 
and obvious behaviors of humpback whales.
    Given the data in Wade et al. (2021) discussed above on the 
relative frequencies of Hawaii and Mexico DPS humpback whales in the 
project area the 40 takes is expected to comprise 39

[[Page 68238]]

Hawaii DPS animals and 1 Mexico DPS animal.
Minke Whale
    As discussed above minke whales have not been seen in the project 
area but could occur there. They are often solitary. Therefore we 
conservatively propose to authorize a single take of minke whales. This 
one estimated take is expected to be by Level B harassment as we 
believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs 
because of the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors 
of minke whales.
Gray Whale
    Gray whales are expected to occur in the project area no more than 
once per month. Typical group size for gray whales in the project area 
is two animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where 
take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at two whales x two 
full months = four takes. All of these takes are expected to be Level B 
harassment takes as we believe the Level A shutdown zones can be fully 
implemented by PSOs because of the large size, short dive duration, and 
obvious behaviors of gray whales.
Killer Whale
    Killer whales are expected to occur in the project area no more 
than once per month. Typical group size for killer whales in the 
project area is conservatively estimated at 10 animals. The project 
involves 47 days of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we 
estimate total take at 10 whales x 2 full months = 20 takes. All of 
these takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe 
the Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of 
the large size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of killer 
whales and the smaller size of the shutdown zones.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
    Pacific white-sided dolphins are expected to occur in the project 
area no more than once per week. Typical group size for Pacific white-
sided dolphins in the project area is 20 animals. The project involves 
10 work weeks of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we 
estimate total take at 20 dolphins x 10 weeks = 200 takes. All of these 
takes are expected to be Level B harassment takes as we believe the 
Level A shutdown zones can be fully implemented by PSOs because of the 
large group size, short dive duration, and obvious behaviors of Pacific 
white-sided dolphins and the smaller size of the shutdown zones.
Harbor Porpoise
    Harbor porpoises are expected to occur in the project area no more 
than three times per month. Typical group size for harbor porpoises in 
the project area is 5 animals. The project involves 47 days (2 months) 
of in-water work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total 
take at 5 porpoises x 6/month = 30 takes. Twenty of these takes are 
expected to be Level B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is 
not the full size of the large Level A harassment zone, and because 
harbor porpoises are small and cryptic and could sometimes remain 
undetected within the estimated harassment zones for a duration 
sufficient to experience PTS, we propose to authorize 10 takes by Level 
A harassment.
Dall's Porpoise
    Dall's porpoises are expected to occur in the project area no more 
than three times. Typical group size for Dall's porpoises in the 
project area is 20 animals. The project involves two months of in-water 
work where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 20 
porpoises x 3 = 60 takes. Forty of these takes are expected to be Level 
B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is not the full size of 
the large Level A harassment zone, and because Dall's porpoises are 
small and cryptic and could sometimes remain undetected within the 
estimated harassment zones for a duration sufficient to experience PTS, 
we propose to authorize 20 takes by Level A harassment.
Harbor Seal
    Harbor seals are expected to occur in the project area once per 
day. The typical number of harbor seals per day in the project area is 
up to 12 animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work where 
take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 12 seals x 47 
days = 564 takes. Seventy-five percent or 423 of these takes are 
expected to be Level B harassment takes. Because the shutdown zone is 
not the full size of the large Level A harassment zone, and because 
harbor seals are small and cryptic and could sometimes remain 
undetected within the estimated harassment zones for a duration 
sufficient to experience PTS, we propose to authorize 141 takes by 
Level A harassment.
Steller Sea Lion
    Steller sea lions are expected to occur in the project area once 
per day. The typical number of Steller sea lions per day in the project 
area is up to 10 animals. The project involves 47 days of in-water work 
where take could occur. Therefore, we estimate total take at 10 sea 
lions x 47 days = 470 takes. Because the shutdown zone is small and 
Steller sea lions are not cryptic we believe the Level A shutdown zones 
can be fully implemented by PSOs and no Level A harassment take is 
proposed.

   Table 7--Proposed Authorized Amount of Taking, by Level A Harassment and Level B Harassment, by Species and
                                       Stock and Percent of Take by Stock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      Level B         Level A       Percent of
              Common name                         Stock             harassment      harassment         stock
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humpback whale *......................  Central North Pacific...              40               0             0.4
Minke whale...........................  Alaska..................               1               0            <0.1
Gray whale............................  Eastern North Pacific...               4               0            <0.1
Killer whale..........................  Northern Resident;                    20               0            <6.7
                                         Alaska Resident; West
                                         Coast Transient.
Pacific White-sided dolphin...........  North Pacific...........             200               0             0.7
Dall's porpoise.......................  Alaska..................              40              20            <0.1
Harbor porpoise.......................  Southeast Alaska........              20              10             0.3
Harbor seal...........................  Clarence Strait.........             423             141             2.1
Steller sea lion......................  Eastern DPS.............             470               0             1.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* 1 take from the ESA listed Mexico DPS.


[[Page 68239]]

Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, 
NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to the 
activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on 
the species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to 
rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of the species or stock for taking for certain 
subsistence uses (latter not applicable for this action). NMFS 
regulations require applicants for IHAs to include information about 
the availability and feasibility (economic and technological) of 
equipment, methods, and manner of conducting the activity or other 
means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact upon the 
affected species or stocks and their habitat (50 CFR 216.104(a)(11)).
    In evaluating how mitigation may or may not be appropriate to 
ensure the least practicable adverse impact on species or stocks and 
their habitat, as well as subsistence uses where applicable, we 
carefully consider two primary factors:
    (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful 
implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce impacts to 
marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their habitat. 
This considers the nature of the potential adverse impact being 
mitigated (likelihood, scope, range). It further considers the 
likelihood that the measure will be effective if implemented 
(probability of accomplishing the mitigating result if implemented as 
planned), the likelihood of effective implementation (probability 
implemented as planned); and
    (2) The practicability of the measures for applicant 
implementation, which may consider such things as cost, impact on 
operations, and, in the case of a military readiness activity, 
personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact on the 
effectiveness of the military readiness activity.
    Because of the need for an ESA Section 7 consultation for effects 
of the project on ESA listed humpback whales, there are a number of 
mitigation measures that go beyond, or are in addition to, typical 
mitigation measures we would otherwise require for this sort of 
project. The proposed measures are however typical for actions in the 
Ketchikan area. Additional or revised measures may be required once the 
consultation is finalized. The following mitigation measures are 
proposed in the IHA:
     Avoid direct physical interaction with marine mammals 
during construction activity. If a marine mammal comes within 10 m of 
such activity, operations must cease and vessels must reduce speed to 
the minimum level required to maintain steerage and safe working 
conditions;
     Conduct training between construction supervisors and 
crews and the marine mammal monitoring team and relevant NOAA staff 
prior to the start of all pile driving and DTH activity and when new 
personnel join the work, so that responsibilities, communication 
procedures, monitoring protocols, and operational procedures are 
clearly understood;
     Pile driving activity must be halted upon observation of 
either a species for which incidental take is not authorized or a 
species for which incidental take has been authorized but the 
authorized number of takes has been met, entering or within the 
harassment zone. If an ESA listed marine mammal is determined by the 
PSO to have been disturbed, harassed, harmed, injured, or killed (e.g., 
a listed marine mammal is observed entering a shutdown zone before 
operations can be shut down, or is injured or killed as a direct or 
indirect result of this action), the PSO will report the incident to 
within one business day to [email protected];
     NOAA will establish and implement the shutdown zones 
indicated in Table 8. The purpose of a shutdown zone is generally to 
define an area within which shutdown of the activity would occur upon 
sighting of a marine mammal (or in anticipation of an animal entering 
the defined area). Shutdown zones typically vary based on the activity 
type and marine mammal hearing group. To simplify implementation of 
shutdown zones NOAA has proposed to implement a single shutdown zone 
size for impact pile driving and DTH activities, with the shutdown zone 
being the largest of the Level A harassment isopleths for any of the 
hearing groups for those activities (180 m). For comparison purposes, 
Table 8 shows both the minimum shutdown zones we would normally require 
and the shutdown zones NOAA proposes to implement. NMFS proposes to 
include the latter in the requested IHA;
     Employ PSOs and establish monitoring locations as 
described in the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan and Section 5 of the 
IHA. The Holder must monitor the project area to the maximum extent 
possible based on the required number of PSOs, required monitoring 
locations, and environmental conditions. For all pile driving and 
removal at least three PSOs must be used;
     The placement of the PSOs during all pile driving and 
removal and DTH activities will ensure that the entire shutdown zone is 
visible during pile installation. Should environmental conditions 
deteriorate such that marine mammals within the entire shutdown zone 
will not be visible (e.g., fog, heavy rain), pile driving and removal 
must be delayed until the PSO is confident marine mammals within the 
shutdown zone could be detected;
     Monitoring must take place from 30 minutes prior to 
initiation of pile driving activity through 30 minutes post-completion 
of pile driving activity. Pre-start clearance monitoring must be 
conducted during periods of visibility sufficient for the lead PSO to 
determine the shutdown zones clear of marine mammals. Pile driving may 
commence following 30 minutes of observation when the determination is 
made;
     If pile driving is delayed or halted due to the presence 
of a marine mammal, the activity may not commence or resume until 
either the animal has voluntarily exited and been visually confirmed 
beyond the shutdown zone or 15 minutes have passed without re-detection 
of the animal (30 minutes for humpback whales);
     For humpback whales, if the boundaries of the harassment 
zone have not been monitored continuously during a work stoppage, the 
entire harassment zone will be surveyed again to ensure that no 
humpback whales have entered the harassment zone that were not 
previously accounted for;
     In-water activities will take place only: Between civil 
dawn and civil dusk when PSOs can effectively monitor for the presence 
of marine mammals; during conditions with a Beaufort Sea State of 4 or 
less; when the entire shutdown zone and adjacent waters are visible 
(e.g., monitoring effectiveness is not reduced due to rain, fog, snow, 
etc.). Pile driving activities may continue for up to 30 minutes after 
sunset during evening civil twilight, as necessary to secure a pile for 
safety prior to demobilization for the evening. PSO(s) will continue to 
observe shutdown and monitoring zones during this time. The length of 
the post-activity monitoring period may be reduced if darkness 
precludes visibility of the shutdown and monitoring zones;
     Vessel operators will maintain a watch for marine mammals 
at all times while underway; stay at least 91 m (100 yards (yd)) away 
from listed marine mammals, except they will remain at least 460 m (500 
yd) from endangered

[[Page 68240]]

North Pacific right whales (in the unlikely event that the species were 
to occur in the area); travel at less than 5 knots (9 km/hr) when 
within 274 m (300 yd) of a whale; avoid changes in direction and speed 
when within 274 m (300 yd) of whales, unless doing so is necessary for 
maritime safety; not position vessel(s) in the path of whales, and will 
not cut in front of whales in a way or at a distance that causes the 
whales to change their direction of travel or behavior (including 
breathing/surfacing pattern); check the waters immediately adjacent to 
the vessel(s) to ensure that no whales will be injured when the 
propellers are engaged; reduce vessel speed to 10 knots or less when 
weather conditions reduce visibility to 1.6 km (1 mi) or less; adhere 
to the Alaska Humpback Whale Approach Regulations when transiting to 
and from the project site (see 50 CFR 216.18, 223.214, and 224.103(b)); 
not allow lines to remain in the water, and no trash or other debris 
will be thrown overboard, thereby reducing the potential for marine 
mammal entanglement; follow established transit routes and will travel 
<10 knots while in the harassment zones; the speed limit within Tongass 
Narrows is 7 knots for vessels over 23 ft in length. If a whale's 
course and speed are such that it will likely cross in front of a 
vessel that is underway, or approach within 91 m (100 yards (yd)) of 
the vessel, and if maritime conditions safely allow, the engine will be 
put in neutral and the whale will be allowed to pass beyond the vessel, 
except that vessels will remain 460 m (500 yd) from North Pacific right 
whales; and
     NOAA must use soft start techniques when impact pile 
driving. Soft start requires contractors to provide an initial set of 
three strikes at reduced energy, followed by a 30-second waiting 
period, then two subsequent reduced-energy strike sets. A soft start 
must be implemented at the start of each day's impact pile driving and 
at any time following cessation of impact pile driving for a period of 
30 minutes or longer.

                 Table 8--Minimum Required Shutdown Zones (Meters) by Hearing Group and Voluntary Planned Shutdown Zones for Each Method
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Method                      Pile type        Low frequency   Mid-frequency  High frequency      Phocids        Otariids           All
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DTH...............................  24-inch steel.......             130              10             160              70              10             180
Impact............................  24-inch steel.......             160              10             180              90              10             180
Vibratory.........................  14-inch Timber......              10              10              10              10              10              10
Small Pile Clipper................  14-inch Steel.......              10              10              10              10              10              10
Large Pile Clipper................  20- or 24-inch Steel              10              10              10              10              10              10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: First five columns are what NMFS would consider appropriate in this circumstance, and the last column is what applicant has proposed and what NMFS
  proposes to include in the IHA.

    Based on our evaluation of the applicant's proposed measures, as 
well as other measures considered by NMFS, NMFS has preliminarily 
determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means 
effecting the least practicable impact on the affected species or 
stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, 
mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

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

Visual Monitoring

    Monitoring must be conducted by qualified, NMFS-approved PSOs, in 
accordance with the following:
     PSOs must be independent (i.e., not construction 
personnel) and have no other assigned tasks during monitoring periods. 
At least one PSO must have prior experience performing the duties of a 
PSO during construction activity pursuant to a NMFS-issued IHA. Other 
PSOs may substitute other relevant experience, education (degree in 
biological science or related field), or training. PSOs must be 
approved by NMFS prior to beginning any activity subject to this IHA; 
and
     PSOs must record all observations of marine mammals as 
described in the Section 5 of the IHA and the Marine Mammal Monitoring 
Plan, regardless of distance from the pile being driven. PSOs shall 
document any behavioral reactions in concert with distance from piles 
being driven or removed;
    PSOs must have the following additional qualifications:

[[Page 68241]]

     Ability to conduct field observations and collect data 
according to assigned protocols;
     Experience or training in the field identification of 
marine mammals, including the identification of behaviors;
     Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the 
construction operation to provide for personal safety during 
observations;
     Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of 
observations including but not limited to the number and species of 
marine mammals observed; dates and times when in-water construction 
activities were conducted; dates, times, and reason for implementation 
of mitigation (or why mitigation was not implemented when required); 
and marine mammal behavior; and
     Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with 
project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals 
observed in the area as necessary;
    NOAA must establish the following monitoring locations. For all 
pile driving and DTH activities, a minimum of one PSO must be assigned 
to the active pile driving or DTH location to monitor the shutdown 
zones and as much of the Level B harassment zones as possible. For all 
pile driving and DTH activities, two additional PSOs are required. The 
additional PSOs will start at the project site and travel along Tongass 
Narrows, counting all humpback whales present, until they have reached 
the edge of the respective harassment zone. At this point, the PSOs 
will identify suitable observation points from which to observe the 
width of Tongass Narrows for the duration of pile driving activities. 
For the largest DTH zones these are expected to be on South Tongass 
Highway near Mountain Point and North Tongass Highway just northwest of 
the intersection with Carlanna Creek. See application Figure 11-1 for 
map of PSO locations. If visibility deteriorates so that the entire 
width of Tongass Narrows at the harassment zone boundary is not 
visible, additional PSOs may be positioned so that the entire width is 
visible, or work will be halted until the entire width is visible to 
ensure that any humpback whales entering or within the harassment zone 
are detected by PSOs.

Reporting

    A draft marine mammal monitoring report will be submitted to NMFS 
within 90 days after the completion of pile driving and removal 
activities, or 60 days prior to a requested date of issuance of any 
future IHAs for projects at the same location, whichever comes first. 
The report will include an overall description of work completed, a 
narrative regarding marine mammal sightings, and associated PSO data 
sheets. Specifically, the report must include:
     Dates and times (begin and end) of all marine mammal 
monitoring;
     Construction activities occurring during each daily 
observation period, including the number and type of piles driven or 
removed and by what method (i.e., impact, vibratory or DTH) and the 
total equipment duration for vibratory removal or DTH for each pile or 
hole or total number of strikes for each pile (impact driving);
     PSO locations during marine mammal monitoring;
     Environmental conditions during monitoring periods (at 
beginning and end of PSO shift and whenever conditions change 
significantly), including Beaufort sea state and any other relevant 
weather conditions including cloud cover, fog, sun glare, and overall 
visibility to the horizon, and estimated observable distance;
     Upon observation of a marine mammal, the following 
information: Name of PSO who sighted the animal(s) and PSO location and 
activity at time of sighting; Time of sighting; Identification of the 
animal(s) (e.g., genus/species, lowest possible taxonomic level, or 
unidentified), PSO confidence in identification, and the composition of 
the group if there is a mix of species; Distance and bearing of each 
marine mammal observed relative to the pile being driven for each 
sighting (if pile driving was occurring at time of sighting); Estimated 
number of animals (min/max/best estimate); Estimated number of animals 
by cohort (adults, juveniles, neonates, group composition, etc.); 
Animal's closest point of approach and estimated time spent within the 
harassment zone; Description of any marine mammal behavioral 
observations (e.g., observed behaviors such as feeding or traveling), 
including an assessment of behavioral responses thought to have 
resulted from the activity (e.g., no response or changes in behavioral 
state such as ceasing feeding, changing direction, flushing, or 
breaching);
     Number of marine mammals detected within the harassment 
zones, by species;
     Detailed information about any implementation of any 
mitigation triggered (e.g., shutdowns and delays), a description of 
specific actions that ensued, and resulting changes in behavior of the 
animal(s), if any; and
     If visibility degrades to where the PSO(s) cannot view the 
entire impact or vibratory harassment zones, take of humpback whales 
will be extrapolated based on the estimated percentage of the 
monitoring zone that remains visible and the number of marine mammals 
observed.
    If no comments are received from NMFS within 30 days, the draft 
final report will constitute the final report. If comments are 
received, a final report addressing NMFS comments must be submitted 
within 30 days after receipt of comments.

Reporting Injured or Dead Marine Mammals

    In the event that personnel involved in the construction activities 
discover an injured or dead marine mammal, the IHA-holder must 
immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to 
the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) 
([email protected]), NMFS and to the Alaska Regional 
Stranding Coordinator as soon as feasible. If the death or injury was 
clearly caused by the specified activity, NOAA must immediately cease 
the specified activities until NMFS is able to review the circumstances 
of the incident and determine what, if any, additional measures are 
appropriate to ensure compliance with the terms of the IHA. The IHA-
holder must not resume their activities until notified by NMFS. The 
report must include the following information:
     Time, date, and location (latitude/longitude) of the first 
discovery (and updated location information if known and applicable);
     Species identification (if known) or description of the 
animal(s) involved;
     Condition of the animal(s) (including carcass condition if 
the animal is dead);
     Observed behaviors of the animal(s), if alive;
     If available, photographs or video footage of the 
animal(s); and
     General circumstances under which the animal was 
discovered.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact as an impact resulting from the 
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not 
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (50 CFR 216.103). A 
negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough 
information on which to base an impact

[[Page 68242]]

determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of 
marine mammals that might be ``taken'' through harassment, NMFS 
considers other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses 
(e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., 
critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as effects 
on habitat, and the likely effectiveness of the mitigation. We also 
assess the number, intensity, and context of estimated takes by 
evaluating this information relative to population status. Consistent 
with the 1989 preamble for NMFS's implementing regulations (54 FR 
40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other past and ongoing 
anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this analysis via their 
impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as reflected in the 
regulatory status of the species, population size and growth rate where 
known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or ambient noise 
levels).
    Pile driving and removal and DTH activities have the potential to 
disturb or displace marine mammals. Specifically, the project 
activities may result in take, in the form of Level A and Level B 
harassment from underwater sounds generated from pile driving and 
removal and DTH. Potential takes could occur if individuals are present 
in the ensonified zone when these activities are underway.
    The takes from Level A and Level B harassment would be due to 
potential behavioral disturbance, TTS, and PTS. No serious injury or 
mortality is anticipated given the nature of the activity and measures 
designed to minimize the possibility of injury to marine mammals. The 
potential for harassment is minimized through the construction method 
and the implementation of the planned mitigation measures (see Proposed 
Mitigation section).
    The Level A harassment zones identified in Table 6 are based upon 
an animal exposed to impact pile driving multiple piles per day. 
Considering the short duration to impact drive or vibe each pile and 
breaks between pile installations (to reset equipment and move pile 
into place), this means an animal would have to remain within the area 
estimated to be ensonified above the Level A harassment threshold for 
multiple hours. This is highly unlikely given marine mammal movement 
throughout the area. If an animal was exposed to accumulated sound 
energy, the resulting PTS would likely be small (e.g., PTS onset) at 
lower frequencies where pile driving energy is concentrated, and 
unlikely to result in impacts to individual fitness, reproduction, or 
survival.
    The nature of the pile driving project precludes the likelihood of 
serious injury or mortality. For all species and stocks, take would 
occur within a limited, confined area (adjacent to the project site) of 
the stock's range. Level A and Level B harassment will be reduced to 
the level of least practicable adverse impact through use of mitigation 
measures described herein. Further the amount of take proposed to be 
authorized is extremely small when compared to stock abundance.
    Behavioral responses of marine mammals to pile driving at the 
project site, if any, are expected to be mild and temporary. Marine 
mammals within the Level B harassment zone may not show any visual cues 
they are disturbed by activities (as noted during modification to the 
Kodiak Ferry Dock) or could become alert, avoid the area, leave the 
area, or display other mild responses that are not observable such as 
changes in vocalization patterns. Given the short duration of noise-
generating activities per day, any harassment would be temporary. There 
are no other areas or times of known biological importance for any of 
the affected species.
    In addition, it is unlikely that minor noise effects in a small, 
localized area of habitat would have any effect on the stocks'' ability 
to recover. In combination, we believe that these factors, as well as 
the available body of evidence from other similar activities, 
demonstrate that the potential effects of the specified activities will 
have only minor, short-term effects on individuals. The specified 
activities are not expected to impact rates of recruitment or survival 
and will therefore not result in population-level impacts.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our preliminary determination that the impacts resulting from 
this activity are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock 
through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality is anticipated or authorized;
     Authorized Level A harassment would be very small amounts 
and of low degree;
     No important habitat areas have been identified within the 
project area;
     For all species, Tongass Narrows is a very small and 
peripheral part of their range;
     NOAA would implement mitigation measures such as soft-
starts, and shut downs; and
     Monitoring reports from similar work in Tongass Narrows 
have documented little to no effect on individuals of the same species 
impacted by the specified activities.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and 
mitigation measures, NMFS preliminarily finds that the total marine 
mammal take from the proposed activity will have a negligible impact on 
all affected marine mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As noted above, only small numbers of incidental take may be 
authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA for specified 
activities other than military readiness activities. The MMPA does not 
define small numbers and so, in practice, where estimated numbers are 
available, NMFS compares the number of individuals taken to the most 
appropriate estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in 
our determination of whether an authorization is limited to small 
numbers of marine mammals. When the predicted number of individuals to 
be taken is fewer than one third of the species or stock abundance, the 
take is considered to be of small numbers. Additionally, other 
qualitative factors may be considered in the analysis, such as the 
temporal or spatial scale of the activities.
    The amount of take NMFS proposes to authorize is below one third of 
the estimated stock abundance for all species (in fact, take of 
individuals is less than 10 percent of the abundance of the affected 
stocks, see Table 7). This is likely a conservative estimate because we 
assume all takes are of different individual animals, which is likely 
not the case. Some individuals may return multiple times in a day, but 
PSOs would count them as separate takes if they cannot be individually 
identified. The Alaska stock of Dall's porpoise has no official NMFS 
abundance estimate for this area as the most recent estimate is greater 
than eight years old. Nevertheless, the most recent estimate was 83,400 
animals and it is highly unlikely this number has drastically declined. 
Therefore, the 60 authorized takes of this stock clearly represent 
small numbers of this stock. Likewise, the Southeast Alaska stock of 
harbor porpoise has no official NMFS abundance estimate as the most 
recent estimate is greater than eight years old. Nevertheless, the most 
recent estimate was 11,146 animals (Muto et al., 2021) and it is highly 
unlikely this number has drastically declined. Therefore, the 30 
authorized takes of this stock clearly

[[Page 68243]]

represent small numbers of this stock. There is no current or 
historical estimate of the Alaska minke whale stock, but there are 
known to be over 1,000 minke whales in the Gulf of Alaska (Muto et al., 
2018) so the 1 authorized take clearly represents small numbers of this 
stock.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the proposed activity 
(including the proposed mitigation and monitoring measures) and the 
anticipated take of marine mammals, NMFS preliminarily finds that small 
numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the population size 
of the affected species or stocks.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

    In order to issue an IHA, NMFS must find that the specified 
activity will not have an ``unmitigable adverse impact'' on the 
subsistence uses of the affected marine mammal species or stocks by 
Alaskan Natives. NMFS has defined ``unmitigable adverse impact'' in 50 
CFR 216.103 as an impact resulting from the specified activity: (1) 
That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level 
insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) Causing 
the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) Directly 
displacing subsistence users; or (iii) Placing physical barriers 
between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) That 
cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the 
availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.
    Alaska Native hunters in the Ketchikan vicinity do not 
traditionally harvest cetaceans (Muto et al., 2021). Harbor seals are 
the most commonly targeted marine mammal that is hunted by Alaska 
Native subsistence hunters within the Ketchikan area. In 2012 an 
estimated 595 harbor seals were taken for subsistence uses, with 22 of 
those occurring in Ketchikan (Wolfe et al., 2013). This is the most 
recent data available. The harbor seal harvest per capita in both 
communities was low, at 0.02 for Ketchikan. ADF&G subsistence data for 
Southeast Alaska shows that from 1992 through 2008, plus 2012, from 
zero to 19 Steller sea lions were taken by Alaska Native hunters per 
year with typical harvest years ranging from zero to five animals 
(Wolfe et al., 2013). In 2012, it is estimated 9 sea lions were taken 
in all of Southeast Alaska and only from Hoonah and Sitka. There are no 
known haulout locations in the project area. Both the harbor seal and 
the Steller sea lion may be temporarily displaced from the action area. 
However, neither the local population nor any individual pinnipeds are 
likely to be adversely impacted by the proposed action beyond noise-
induced harassment or slight injury. The proposed project is 
anticipated to have no long-term impact on Steller sea lion or harbor 
seal populations, or their habitat no long term impacts on the 
availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses is anticipated.
    Based on the description of the specified activity, the measures 
described to minimize adverse effects on the availability of marine 
mammals for subsistence purposes, and the proposed mitigation and 
monitoring measures, NMFS has preliminarily determined that there will 
not be an unmitigable adverse impact on subsistence uses from NOAA's 
proposed activities.

Endangered Species Act

    Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that 
each Federal agency insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or 
carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any 
endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or 
adverse modification of designated critical habitat. To ensure ESA 
compliance for the issuance of IHAs, NMFS consults internally, in this 
case with the Alaska Regional Office, whenever we propose to authorize 
take for endangered or threatened species.
    NMFS is proposing to authorize take of Mexico DPS of humpback 
whales which are listed under the ESA. The NMFS Office of Protected 
Resources has requested initiation of Section 7 consultation with the 
Alaska Region for the issuance of this IHA. NMFS will conclude the ESA 
consultation prior to reaching a determination regarding the proposed 
issuance of the authorization.

Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, NMFS proposes to 
issue an IHA to the NOAA to conduct the NOAA Port Facility Project in 
Ketchikan, Alaska from 1 February 2022 through 31 January 2023, 
provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting 
requirements are incorporated. A draft of the proposed IHA can be found 
at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/permit/incidental-take-authorizations-under-marine-mammal-protection-act.

Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analyses, the proposed authorization, and 
any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for the proposed NOAA 
Ketchikan Port project. We also request at this time comment on the 
potential renewal of this proposed IHA as described in the paragraph 
below. Please include with your comments any supporting data or 
literature citations to help inform decisions on the request for this 
IHA or a subsequent Renewal IHA.
    On a case-by-case basis, NMFS may issue a one-time, one-year 
Renewal IHA following to the public providing an additional 15 days for 
public comments when (1) up to another year of identical, or nearly 
identical, activities as described in the Description of Proposed 
Activity section of this notification is planned or (2) the activities 
as described in the Description of Proposed Activity section of this 
notification would not be completed by the time the IHA expires and a 
Renewal IHA would allow for completion of the activities beyond that 
described in the Dates and Duration section of this notification, 
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 
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; and
     Upon review of the request for Renewal, the status of the 
affected species or stocks, and any other pertinent information, NMFS 
determines that there are no more than minor changes in the activities, 
the mitigation and monitoring measures will remain the same and 
appropriate, and the findings in the initial IHA remain valid.

    Dated: November 26, 2021.
Kimberly Damon-Randall,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
 [FR Doc. 2021-26122 Filed 11-30-21; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P