[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 241 (Thursday, December 15, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 78016-78018]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-32185]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior

[FWS-R4-FHC-2011-N255;FVHC98130406900Y4-XXX-FF04G01000]


Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan 
and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Framework Agreement 
for Early Restoration Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater 
Horizon Oil Spill, the Federal and State natural resource trustee 
agencies (Trustees) have prepared a Draft Early Restoration Plan and 
Environmental Assessment (DERP/EA) describing and proposing a suite of 
early restoration projects intended to commence the process of 
restoring natural resources and services injured or lost as a result of 
the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred on or about April 20, 
2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. The purpose of this notice is to inform 
the public of the availability of the DERP/EA and to seek written 
comments on the proposed restoration alternative presented in the DERP/
EA.

DATES: Comments Due Date: We will consider public comments received on 
or before February 14, 2012.
    Public Meetings: A series of public meetings are scheduled to 
facilitate public review and comment on the DERP/EA. Both written and 
verbal public comments will be taken at the meetings. The meeting 
dates, times, and locations are listed below. Meeting facilities and 
their addresses will be published in local newspapers and will be 
posted on the web at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.

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             Date                        Time               Location
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Jan 11, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Florida
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 12, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Florida
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.

[[Page 78017]]

 
Jan 17, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Mississippi
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 18, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Mississippi
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 19, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Mississippi
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 23, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Alabama
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 24, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Alabama
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 26, 2012..................  6:00 pm Open House...  Texas
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Jan 31, 2012..................  5:30 pm Open House...  Louisiana
                                6:30 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Feb 1, 2012...................  5:30 pm Open House...  Louisiana
                                6:30 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Feb 2, 2012...................  5:30 pm Open House...  Louisiana
                                6:30 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
Feb 7, 2012...................  6:00 pm Open House...  Washington, D.C.
                                7:00 pm Meeting/
                                 presentation/comment.
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ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download the DERP/EA and the 
framework agreement at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov or 
http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon. Alternatively, you may request a 
CD of the DERP/EA (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). You may also 
review hard copies of the DERP/EA at any of the public repositories 
listed at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov. Submitting 
Comments: You may submit comments on the DERP/EA by one of following 
methods:
     Via the Web: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
     For electronic submission of comments containing 
attachments, email: Phase1DERPcomments@fws.gov.
     U.S. Mail: c/o U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 
200, Fairhope, AL 36533.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Spears at FW4DWHInfo@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    On or about April 20, 2010, the mobile offshore drilling unit 
Deepwater Horizon, which was being used to drill a well for BP 
Exploration and Production, Inc. (BP) in the Macondo prospect 
(Mississippi Canyon 252--MC252), experienced a significant explosion, 
fire and subsequent sinking in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in 
discharges of oil and other substances from the rig and from the 
wellhead on the seabed. An estimated 4.9 million barrels (210 million 
gallons) of oil were released from the well into the Gulf of Mexico 
over a period of approximately three months. In addition, approximately 
771,000 gallons of dispersants were applied to the waters of the spill 
area in an attempt to minimize impacts from spilled oil. Affected 
resources include ecologically, recreationally, and commercially 
important species and their habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and along 
the coastal areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and 
Texas.
    Federal and State trustees (listed below) are conducting the 
natural resource damage assessment for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill 
under the Oil Pollution Act 1990 (OPA; 33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.). 
Pursuant to OPA, federal and state agencies and Indian tribes may act 
as trustees on behalf of the public to assess natural resource injuries 
and losses and to determine the damages required to compensate the 
public for those injuries and losses. OPA further instructs the 
designated trustees to develop and implement a plan for the 
restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition of the 
equivalent of the injured natural resources under their trusteeship. 
The trustees have developed this DERP/EA under the Framework Agreement.
    The trustees are:
     U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), as represented by 
the National Park Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of 
Land Management;
     National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on 
behalf of the U.S Department of Commerce;
     State of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration 
Authority, Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, Department of Environmental 
Quality, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Department of Natural 
Resources;
     State of Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality;
     State of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural 
Resources and Geological Survey of Alabama;
     State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection 
and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and
     Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas General Land 
Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
    The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is a Trustee, but does not 
have affected lands in this Draft Phase I Early Restoration Project.

Background

    On April 20, 2011, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion toward 
early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to address injuries to 
natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This early 
restoration agreement, entitled ``Framework for Early Restoration 
Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill'' 
(Framework Agreement), represents a preliminary step toward the 
restoration of injured natural resources. The Framework Agreement is 
intended to expedite the start of restoration in the Gulf in advance of 
the completion of the injury assessment process. The Framework 
Agreement provides a mechanism through which the Trustees and BP can 
work together ``to commence implementation of early restoration 
projects that will provide meaningful benefits to accelerate 
restoration in the Gulf as quickly as practicable'' prior to the 
completion of the natural resource damage assessment process or full 
resolution of the Trustees' natural resource damages claim.
    The Trustees have actively solicited public input on restoration 
project ideas

[[Page 78018]]

through a variety of mechanisms, including public meetings, electronic 
communication, and creation of a Trustee-wide public Web site and 
database to share information and receive public project submissions. 
The Trustees are considering a broad array of potential early 
restoration projects. Their key objective in pursuing early restoration 
is to secure tangible recovery of natural resources and natural 
resource services for the public's benefit while the longer-term 
process of fully assessing injury and damages is still underway. As the 
first step in this accelerated process, the Trustees are first 
proposing eight projects as set forth in this Phase I Draft Early 
Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (DERP/EA) in accordance with 
OPA and NEPA. The projects proposed in this plan are not intended to, 
and do not fully, address all injuries caused by the spill or provide 
the extent of restoration needed to satisfy claims against BP.
    In keeping with the Framework Agreement, the DERP/EA includes an 
estimate of the gains anticipated to result from each project, referred 
to as ``Natural Resource Damage Offsets'' (NRD Offsets). These NRD 
Offsets were identified consistent with the terms of the Framework 
Agreement. If these projects are approved, at the end of the NRDA 
process, the Trustees would credit these NRD Offsets generated by these 
early restoration projects towards the total restoration credits 
required based on the completed injury assessment. Further 
comprehensive restoration will still be required to fully compensate 
the public for natural resource losses from the oil spill.

Overview of the Phase 1 DERP/EA

Draft Early Restoration Plan Alternatives, Including Proposed 
Alternative

    The DERP/EA describes two early restoration alternatives: No 
Action--Natural Recovery (required for consideration by OPA) and 
Proposed Action--Proposed Early Restoration Projects. Under the No 
Action alternative, the trustees would not implement early restoration 
projects as described in this DERP/EA. Rather, the trustees would rely, 
for the time being, solely on natural recovery processes to restore 
natural resources to their pre-spill conditions and would undertake no 
early actions to accelerate recovery or to help address interim 
resource losses.
    Under the Proposed Action, the Trustees are considering eight 
projects that meet the selection criteria as described in the DERP/EA.

Proposed Action--Proposed Early Restoration Projects

    The proposed projects are intended to provide services that will 
benefit injured marshes, coastal dune habitats, nearshore sediments, 
oysters, and human uses (on water recreation). Each of these projects 
provides benefits to natural resources and their services injured by 
the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The proposed projects are: (1) Lake 
Hermitage Marsh Creation, Louisiana; (2) Louisiana Oyster Cultch 
Project; (3) Mississippi Oyster Cultch Restoration; (4) Mississippi 
Artificial Reef Habitat; (5) Marsh Island (Portersville Bay, Alabama) 
Marsh Creation; (6) Alabama Dune Restoration Cooperative Project; (7) 
Florida Boat Ramp Enhancement Cooperative Project; (8) Florida Dune 
Restoration.

Next Step

    After the public comment period ends, we will analyze and address 
the comments. After close of the public comment period, the Trustees 
will consider all input received before a Phase I Early Restoration 
Plan is finalized. As described above, a series of public meetings are 
scheduled to facilitate the public review and comment process. Upon 
completion of the Phase I Early Restoration Plan, negotiations with BP 
will be completed and approved projects will proceed to implementation, 
pending compliance with all applicable state and federal laws.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment including your personal identifying 
information, may be publicly available at any time. While you can ask 
us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information 
from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Administrative Record

    The documents comprising the Administrative Record can be viewed 
electronically at the following location: http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon.

Author

    The primary author of this notice is Nanciann Regalado.

Authority

    The authority of this action is the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 
U.S.C. 2701 et seq.), the implementing Natural Resource Damage 
Assessment regulations found at 15 CFR Part 990, and the Framework 
Agreement for Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon 
Oil Spill.

Cynthia K. Dohner,
DOI Authorized Official.
[FR Doc. 2011-32185 Filed 12-14-11; 8:45 am]
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