[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 6 (Tuesday, January 10, 2006)]
[Notices]
[Pages 1560-1563]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-198]


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NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION


Notice of Intent To Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement for the National Science Foundation To Address Potential 
Impacts on the Marine Environment Related to the United States 
Implementing Organization's Participation in the Integrated Ocean 
Drilling Program

AGENCY: National Science Foundation.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces its intent to 
prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate 
the potential environmental impacts associated with the NSF funding of 
the United States Implementing Organization's (USIO) participation in 
the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). This EIS is being 
prepared and considered in accordance with requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, regulations of the President's 
Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508), and 
NSF's National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Procedures (45 CFR 
640.1-640.5). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a part of 
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is being 
invited to be a cooperating agency in the preparation of the 
Programmatic EIS.
    Publication of this notice begins the official scoping process that 
will help identify alternatives and determine the scope of 
environmental issues to be addressed in the Programmatic EIS/OEIS. This 
notice requests public participation in the scoping process and 
provides information on how to participate.

Addresses and Dates

    The public scoping period starts with the publication of this 
Notice in the Federal Register and will continue until March 6, 2006. 
NSF will consider all comments received or postmarked by that date in 
defining the scope of this EIS. Comments received or postmarked after 
that date will be considered to the extent practicable. Public scoping 
meetings will provide the public with an opportunity to present 
comments,

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ask questions, and discuss concerns regarding the EIS with NSF 
officials. The locations, dates, and times for the public scoping 
meetings are as follows:
    1. Wednesday, February 15, 5-9 p.m., 100 Vaughn Hall, Discovery 
Way, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA;
    2. Friday, February 17, 2006, 5-9 p.m., Room C126, 1000 Discovery 
Drive, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and
    3. Thursday, February 23, 2006, 2:30-6:30 p.m., Silver Spring Metro 
Center Building 4, Science Center, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD.
    Written comments will be accepted at these meetings as well as 
during the scoping period, and can be mailed to NSF by March 6, 2006.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Written statements and questions 
regarding the scoping process should be mailed to Dr. James Allan, 
Program Director, Ocean Drilling Program, Division of Ocean Sciences, 
National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 725, 
Arlington, VA 22230; voice (703) 292-8581 or e-mail at jallan@nsf.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In 1975, the National Science Foundation 
(NSF) prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the 
International Phase of Ocean Drilling (IPOD) of the Deep Sea Drilling 
Project (DSDP). The 1975 EIS addressed scientific ocean drilling 
carried out globally in major and minor ocean basins.
    In 1985, the NSF prepared an EIS for the new Ocean Drilling Program 
(ODP) to address the more complicated aspects of proposed drilling 
techniques and of drilling in high latitudes and Antarctic seas that 
were not previously addressed in the DSDP/IPOD EIS. Drilling modes that 
were analyzed in the DSDP/IPOD EIS were reviewed in the 1985 EIS 
including the use of the research vessel (RV) JOIDES Resolution. 
Additionally, aspects of drilling in deep-ocean trenches, on active 
spreading centers, and in or near environmentally sensitive regions 
were considered in the 1985 environmental review. Drilling in both 
DSDP/IPOD and ODP was riserless, where drill cuttings were typically 
removed from the borehole by pumped seawater without return circulation 
to the drillship via an external pipe or riser.
    The ODP was formally completed September 30, 2003. In order to 
facilitate the seamless continuation of research during the transition 
from the ODP to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), the 
JOIDES Resolution was selected as the platform to continue to conduct 
riserless drilling activities during Phase 1 of the USIO participation 
in the IODP. Environmental Assessments (EAs) were prepared in 2004 and 
2005 to supplement the 1985 EIS and address the environmental and 
operating conditions that were specific to the IODP-USIO Phase 1 
expeditions that would be performed during 2004 and 2005.
    The IODP is an international research program that explores the 
history and structure of the earth as recorded in seafloor sediments, 
fluids, and rocks. IODP builds upon the earlier successes of the DSDP 
and the ODP, which revolutionized our view of Earth history and global 
processes through ocean basin exploration. IODP represents the latest 
generation of these highly successful scientific ocean-drilling 
initiatives and seeks to greatly expand the reach of these previous 
programs by forming a collaborative union between the United States, 
Japan, and the European Union, each of whom will be responsible for 
providing drilling platforms appropriate for achieving the scientific 
objectives outlines in the IODP Initial Science Plan. China has joined 
as an additional member. Based on international agreements, the United 
States is responsible for providing and operating a riserless drilling 
vessel, Japan will provide and operate a riser drilling vessel, and a 
European-led consortium will provide and operate Mission Specific 
Platforms capable of drilling in environments unsuitable for either the 
riserless or riser vessels.
    Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Incorporated (JOI) and its 
partners, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University 
(LDEO) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) through the Texas A&M Research 
Foundation (TAMRF), have been selected by NSF to be the IODP USIO for 
the riserless vessel and related activities. These three partners 
comprise the JOI Alliance. JOI is responsible to NSF for the overall 
program leadership, technical, operational, and financial management, 
and delivery of services. TAMU is responsible for providing a full 
array of science services, ranging from vessel and drilling operations 
to ship- and shore-based science laboratories, core repositories, and 
publication. LDEO is responsible for logging-related shipboard and 
shore-based science services and for leading an international logging 
consortium to participate in scientific ocean drilling operations. The 
objectives of the USIO are to provide leadership regarding the U.S. 
interests in IODP as the challenges and demands of a multiplatform 
drilling program present themselves. The USIO also seeks to ensure that 
services for the riserless vessel and other program aspects are 
provided in a cost-effective, holistic, and responsive manner to 
facilitate comprehensive, integrated, and flexible management that 
involves a broad array of stakeholders.
    Currently, the JOI Alliance is completing IODP Phase 1 operations 
using the RV JOIDES Resolution, which is the same vessel used for two 
decades during ODP (1985-2003). Concurrent with Phase 1 activities 
(2003-2006), the JOI Alliance is planning for Phase 2 operations, which 
require procuring and converting an appropriate ship into a Scientific 
Ocean Drilling Vessel (SODV). This Programmatic EIS will address the 
use of the SODV and the USIO's participation in IODP Phase 2 riserless 
drilling operations for at least the next 20 years.
    Depending upon the specific research objectives of each IODP USIO 
Phase 2 expedition, typical aspects of the proposed action that have 
the potential to affect the surrounding environment and will be subject 
to review in the proposed Programmatic EIS include:

Site Selection and Expedition Planning

     Review and evaluate research proposals (multi-phase, 
international process).
     Logistically prepare for expedition and schedule.

Vessel Deployment and Maximum Days at Sea per Expedition

     Transit from port call to expedition site; may require 
days or weeks of travel at a nominal speed of 10 knots (depending on 
sea conditions).
     Remain at sea for 60 days.

Number of Drill Sites and Boreholes

     One or more drill sites may be selected in a specific area 
for each expedition as needed to meet research objectives.
     One or more boreholes may be advanced at each drill site 
as needed to meet specific objectives.

Typical Extent of Operations

     Water Depth (m) 75-7,000.
     Seafloor Penetration (m) 1-2,500.

Drilling and Casing Deployment

     Depending upon the specific application, drill bits will 
be advanced into the seafloor to produce nominally-sized boreholdes 
37.5, 44.5, 50.8, or 61 cm (14\5/8\, 17\3/8\, 20, 24 in) in diameter 
(alternate sized boreholes may be drilled as needed).
     Depending on the specific application, boreholes may be 
lined

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with 27.3, 34, 40, and 50.8 cm (10\5/8\, 13\3/8\, 16, 20 in) casings 
(alternate size casting may be installed as needed).

Core Sampling

     Advanced Piston Corer (APC): used in soft ooze and 
sediments.
     Rotary Core Barrel (RCB): used in medium to hard 
crystalline sediments.
     Sonic Core Monitor (SCM).
     Extended Core Barrel (XCB): used in firm sediments.
     Advanced Diamond Core Barrel (ADCB): used in hard 
sedimentary or igneous formations.
     Motor Driven Core Barrel (MDCB): Used in interbedded 
materials and hard fractured rock.
     Pressure Core Sample (PCS): used in sediments while 
maintaining in situ pressure.
     Botton-Hole Assembly (BHA).
     Tricone Retractable Bit (TRB).
     Other coring and sampling capability as developed.

Deployment of Reentry Hardware and Observatories

     Drill-In-Casing (DIC) System: used to drill in a short 
casing string simultaneously with the bit to support an unstable 
sediment zone.
     Free Fall Funnel (FFF): used to reenter a hole.
     Hard Rock Base (HRB): Used to focus the direction of the 
drill bit into hard irregular seafloor surfaces.
     Hard Rock Reentry System (HRRS): used to install casing 
with reentry capability on a sloping or rough hard rock seafloor.
     Reentry Cone and Casing (RECC): used as a permanent 
seafloor installation (or legacy hole) able to support nested casing 
strings.
     Database query of sites with reentry cones.
     Underreamers, Bi-Center Reamers, and Mud Motors.
     Vibration Isolated Television Frame (VIT).
     Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kit (CORK) Borehole 
Observatory.
     Advanced CORK (ACORK) Borehole Observatory.

In Situ Sampling and Testing

     Temperature, pore pressure, gas and fluid compositions, 
permeability, microbial with instruments such as:
     Advanced Piston Corer Temperature (APCT), used to obtain 
formation temperatures to determine the heat flow gradient.
     Davis-Villinger Temperature Probe (DVTP), used to take 
heat-flow measurements in semi consolidated sediments that are too 
stiff for the APCT.
     Water Sampling Temperature Probe (WSTP).

Downhole Logging

     Natural gamma ray measurement.
     Compressional- and shear-wave sonic velocity (Vp and Vs).
     Caliper to measure borehole rugosity.
     Formation density, porosity, temperature, resistivity and 
resistivity images, magnetic susceptibility/reversals.
     Borehole camera.
     Borehole seismic tool for check shots or vertical seismic 
profiles (VSP).
     Fluid sampling.
     Measurement while Drilling (MWD), including Logging While 
Drilling (LWD, formation resistivity images and density/porosity).
     Geochemical logging (inference of formation chemical 
composition).

Geophysical Surveying

     Occasional use of geophysical techniques to characterize 
seafloor.
    The Programmatic EIS will address U.S. laws and regulations, as 
appropriate, including but not necessarily limited to NEPA; the Marine 
Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA); the Endangered Species Act of 
1973 (ESA); and Executive Order (EO) 12114 (1979), Environmental 
Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions. In addition, the assessment 
will address foreign regulations especially where research will be 
carried out entirely or partially within territorial waters or 
Exclusive Economic Zone waters surrounding a foreign nation or in 
international waters subject to the United Nations Law of the Sea or 
other international agreements.
    The Programmatic EIS will take a view of the planned USIO drilling 
program as a whole and thereby assemble and analyze the broadest range 
of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts associated with the entire 
program rather than assessing individual cruises separately. This 
approach will also address possible concerns that NSF is analyzing 
regarding each expedition's contribution to the cumulative impacts of 
the entire program. Further, the Programmatic EIS will provide a broad 
analytical baseline within which NSF, using tiered documents, will be 
able to analyze and decide upon various cruise-specific issues. This 
process will enable the NSF to streamline the preparation of subsequent 
environmental documents for the individual cruises, if needed, and 
enable NSF to identify any prudent conservation practices and 
mitigation measures that may be applied across the entire program. The 
application of the Programmatic EIS to future cruises will be 
determined during the development of the EIS and will be specified 
within the EIS.
    Major environmental issues that will be addressed in the 
Programmatic EIS include marine biological resources including 
Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), acoustic impacts to marine mammals, fish, 
sea turtles, invertebrates, and threatened and endangered species; 
releases of any substances from the ship during vessel transit, 
drilling, and research operations; cultural resources; human health and 
safety; socioeconomic and land use (i.e., commercial, private, and 
recreational uses of the marine environment); and water quality.
    At present, NSF has identified two alternatives for evaluation in 
the EIS: (1) The proposed action as described above; and (2) the no 
action alternative. NSF welcomes discussion on these and other possible 
alternatives that may be identified during the scoping process. NSF 
also welcomes discussion on mitigation measures to be considered, 
separate from features of the proposed action that could avoid or 
substantially reduce the environmental consequences of the proposed 
action.
    NSF is initiating this scoping process for the purpose of 
determining the extent of issues to be addressed, identifying the 
significant issues related to this action, and identifying possible 
alternatives to the proposed action. NSF will hold public scoping 
meetings as identified in the Dates and Addresses section of this 
notice. These meetings will also be advertised in area newspapers. NSF 
and NMFS representatives will be available at these meetings to receive 
comments from the public regarding issues of concern to the public. 
Federal, state, and local agencies and interested individuals are 
encouraged to take this opportunity to identify environmental concerns 
that should be addressed during the preparation of the Programmatic 
EIS. Agencies and the public are also invited and encouraged to provide 
written comments on scoping issues in addition to, or in lieu of, oral 
comments at the public meeting. To be most helpful, scoping comments 
should clearly describe issues or topics that the commenter believes 
the Programmatic EIS should address.
    We invite you to learn about NSF's funding of the USIO's role in 
the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program at an informational open house, 
and to assist NSF in defining the alternatives and the scoping 
environmental issues related to the drilling research program. All our

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public meeting locations are wheelchair-accessible. If you plan to 
attend a scoping meeting/open house, and need special assistance such 
as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodation, 
please notify NSF (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) at least 3 
business days in advance. Include your contact information as well as 
information about your specific needs.
    We request public comments or other relevant information on 
environmental issues related to the NSF drilling program. The public 
meetings are not the only opportunity you have to comment. In addition 
to or in place of attending a meeting, you can submit comments to Dr. 
James Allan by March 6, 2006 (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). We 
will consider all comments received during the comment period. We 
request that you include in your comments:
     Your name and address (especially if you would like to 
receive a copy of the Draft Programmatic EIS/OEIS upon completion);
     An explanation for each comment; and
     Include any background materials to support your comments, 
as you feel necessary.
    You may mail, e-mail, or hand deliver your comments to NSF (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). All comment submissions must be unbound, 
no larger than 8\1/2\ by 11 inches, and suitable for copying and 
elctronic scanning. Please note that regardless of the method used for 
submitting comments or material, all submissions will be publicly 
available and, therefore, any personal information you provide in your 
comments will be open for public review. In addition, if you wish to 
receive a copy of the Draft Programmatic EIS/OEIS, please indicate this 
in your comment. No decision will be made to implement any alternative 
until the NEPA prcoess is completed.

    Dated: January 5, 2006.
James Allan,
Program Director, Ocean Drilling Program, Division of Ocean Sciences, 
National Science Foundation.
[FR Doc. 06-198 Filed 1-9-06; 8:45 am]
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