[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 87 (Monday, May 6, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 26319-26323]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-10693]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[Docket No.: 130501428-3428-01]


Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; Proposal of Future Early Restoration 
Projects and Environmental Reviews

AGENCY: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The federal and state natural resource trustees for the 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Trustees) intend to propose the additional 
early restoration projects described below to continue the process of 
using early restoration funding to restore natural resources, 
ecological services, and human use services injured or lost as a result 
of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. All early restoration 
projects will be selected and implemented in accordance with the Oil 
Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), the Framework Agreement for Early 
Restoration Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon 
Oil Spill (Framework Agreement), and all applicable legal requirements, 
including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

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

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Production, Inc. (BP), in the Macondo prospect (Mississippi Canyon 252-
MC252), exploded, caught fire and subsequently sank in the Gulf of 
Mexico, resulting in an unprecedented volume of oil and other 
discharges from the rig and from the wellhead on the seabed. The 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the largest oil spill in U.S. history 
due to the millions of barrels of oil discharged over a period of 87 
days. In addition, well over one million gallons of dispersants were 
applied to the waters of the spill area in an attempt to disperse the 
spilled oil. An undetermined amount of natural gas was also released to 
the environment as a result of the spill. Affected natural resources 
include ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important 
species and their nearshore and offshore habitats in the Gulf of Mexico 
and along the coastal areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, 
Mississippi, and Texas.
    The state and federal natural resource trustees (Trustees) are 
conducting the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) 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 act 
as trustees on behalf of the public to assess natural resource injuries 
and losses and to determine the actions 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, 
including the loss of use and services from those resources from the 
time of injury until the time they are restored. Pursuant to the 
process articulated in the Framework Agreement, the Trustees have 
previously selected, and BP has agreed to fund, a total of ten early 
restoration projects, expected to cost a total of approximately $71 
million, through the Phase I and Phase II Early Restoration Plans.
    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;
     U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA);
     U.S. Department of Defense (DOD); \1\
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    \1\ Although a trustee under OPA by virtue of the proximity of 
its facilities to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, DOD is not a 
member of the Trustee Council and does not participate in Trustee 
decision-making.
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     U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA);
     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
     For the State of Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department, Texas General Land Office, and Texas Commission on 
Environmental Quality.

Background on Early Restoration

    On April 20, 2011, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion to fund 
early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to begin addressing 
injuries to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil 
spill. The Framework Agreement represents a preliminary step toward the 
restoration of injured natural resources and the lost use of, and 
services from, those 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 resolution of the 
Trustees' natural resource damages claim.
    The Trustees actively solicited public input on restoration project 
ideas 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' 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 underway. As the first 
step in this accelerated process, the Trustees released, after public 
review of a draft, a Phase I Early Restoration Plan/Environmental 
Assessment (Phase I ERP) in April 2012. In December 2012, after public 
review of a draft, the Trustees released a Phase II Early Restoration 
Plan/Environmental Review (Phase II ERP). Collectively, the Phase I and 
Phase II ERPs include a total of ten projects that were selected by the 
Trustees and, after negotiations in accordance with the terms of the 
Framework Agreement, agreed to by BP. Those restoration actions include 
nine separate projects that are ready for implementation, and one 
project that the Trustees have selected for completion for project 
design and final NEPA review. The Trustees have begun implementing many 
of the projects selected in the Phase I and Phase II ERPs.
    In continuation of the early restoration process, following lengthy 
negotiations with BP to secure funding under the Framework Agreement, 
the Trustees intend to propose the additional early restoration 
projects described herein to partially restore injured natural 
resources and lost natural resource services caused by the Deepwater 
Horizon oil spill. If selected, these projects collectively would 
represent close to $600 million in funding (in addition to the $71 
million previously committed) to support early restoration. The 
Trustees anticipate seeking formal public comment on these projects in 
accordance with the OPA regulations, 15 C.F.R. 990 et seq. The Trustees 
intend to evaluate proposed restoration alternatives in accordance with 
all applicable law and regulations, including, without limitation, OPA 
and its implementing regulations, the National Environmental Policy 
Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 
Sec. Sec.  5131 et seq., the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 
U.S.C. 470 et seq., the Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1451 et 
seq., the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 
U.S.C. 1801 et seq., and any applicable permitting requirements. The 
Trustees will also evaluate the proposed alternatives pursuant to the 
criteria included in the Framework Agreement.
    In addition to the early restoration projects identified below, the 
Trustees will continue to identify potential additional early 
restoration projects. Those projects will be subject to early 
restoration planning. Ultimately, all early restoration plans will be 
incorporated into a single, comprehensive OPA Restoration Plan/
Environmental Impact Statement, which will address natural resource 
damages

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resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
    The additional early restoration projects that the Trustees 
presently intend to propose are described below.

Alabama

     Gulf State Park Enhancements (Baldwin County, Alabama). 
This project would restore lost recreational use services and lost dune 
habitat services through the following five primary elements: 1) 
Construction of a coastal ecosystems interpretive center, 2) 
construction of an environmental research and education facility to 
benefit Alabama students, 3) trail construction and enhancement in the 
park, 4) dune restoration along the park's extensive undeveloped 
beachfront and 5) contribute to the construction of a lodge and meeting 
facility to facilitate the enhanced visitor experience. The estimated 
cost of this project is approximately $85.5 million.
     Oyster Reef Restoration in Mobile County (Mobile County, 
Alabama). This project would restore approximately 319 acres of oyster 
reef in the estuarine waters of the State of Alabama. The project would 
utilize oyster shell cultch to restore non[hyphen]producing oyster 
reefs in Mobile County, Alabama, an area impacted by the DWH spill. 
These restored reefs would be in proximity to other reefs that are 
currently managed by the state and will be within the historic 
footprint of oyster reefs in the area. The estimated cost of this 
project is approximately $3.2 million.
     Swift Tract Living Shoreline (Baldwin County, Alabama). 
This project would construct an oyster breakwater/living shoreline to 
stabilize and protect 1.6 miles of shoreline from erosion by dampening 
wave energy while also providing substrate for oyster colonization. The 
purpose is to reduce coastal marsh loss from shoreline erosion and 
reestablish substrate for shellfish colonization. The estimated cost of 
this project is approximately $5 million.

Florida

     Perdido Key Dune Restoration (Escambia County, Florida). 
The project would consist of planting 20 acres of appropriate dune 
vegetation (e.g., sea oats, panic grasses, cord grasses, sea purslane, 
and beach elder) approximately 40' seaward of the existing primary dune 
over a length of approximately 4 miles of frontage. The purpose would 
be to provide a buffer which would lead to enhanced dune habitats. The 
estimated cost of this project is approximately $600,000.
     Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline (Escambia County, Florida). 
By constructing breakwaters, this project would stabilize shorelines at 
Sanders Beach and Project Greenshores Site II areas within Pensacola 
Bay. The purpose would be to protect the embayment and create salt 
marsh habitat by reducing wave energy and providing substrate for 
oyster larvae, which would help restore benthic secondary productivity. 
Also included would be the creation of salt marsh habitat, which would 
help to restore important habitat for many species of fish and birds. 
The estimated cost of this project is approximately $11 million.
     Florida Bay Seagrass Recovery Project (Gulf, Franklin and 
Bay counties Florida). This project would provide for the restoration 
of seagrass beds by stabilizing propeller scars over approximately two 
acres in three Aquatic Preserves within Alligator Harbor, St. Joseph 
Bay and St. Andrew Bay. Also included would be boater outreach 
educational information and Shallow Seagrass Area signage. The 
estimated cost of this project is approximately $2.7 million.
     Florida Cat Point Living Shoreline Project (Franklin 
County, Florida): By constructing a breakwater, this project would 
stabilize shoreline in St. George Sound. The purpose would be to 
protect the embayment and create salt marsh habitat by reducing wave 
energy and providing substrate for oyster larvae, which would help 
restore benthic secondary productivity. Also included would be the 
creation of salt marsh habitat, which would help to restore important 
habitat for many species of fish and birds. The estimated cost of this 
project is approximately $800,000.
     Florida Oyster Reef Restoration (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay 
and Franklin Counties, Florida). This project would involve placing 
cultch material over approximately 210 acres for the settling of oyster 
larvae and oyster colonization in the Pensacola Bay system in Escambia 
and Santa Rosa Counties, the St. Andrew Bay system in Bay County, and 
in the Apalachicola Bay system in Franklin County. The estimated cost 
of this project is approximately $5.4 million.
     Florida Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery/Enhancement 
Center (Escambia County, Florida). This project would provide for the 
construction and operation of a saltwater sportfish hatchery. Lost 
recreational fishing opportunities would be restored by providing 
hatchery production and eventual release of sportfish species such as 
red snapper, red drum, and spotted seatrout. The estimated cost of this 
project is approximately $20 million.
     Scallop Enhancement for Increased Recreational Fishing 
Opportunity in the Florida Panhandle (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, 
Walton, Bay, Gulf, and Franklin counties, Florida). This project would 
enhance naturally occurring bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) 
populations in Florida's panhandle bays to support expanded 
recreational fishing opportunities. The estimated cost of this project 
is approximately $3 million.
     Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration 
(Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay counties, Florida). 
This project would provide for enhancement at different depths, both 
nearshore and offshore, of various permitted artificial reef areas off 
the western panhandle counties. The purpose is to restore lost 
recreational use through improved fishing and diving opportunities. The 
estimated cost of this project is approximately $11.4 million.
     Beach Enhancement Project at Gulf Island National Seashore 
(Escambia County, Florida). This project involves removing tens of 
thousands of cubic yards of asphalt fragments and road base material 
that has been scattered over hundreds of acres and approximately 11 
miles of the Fort Pickens and the Santa Rosa areas of Gulf Island 
National Seashore. The purpose is to help restore lost recreational 
opportunities to the Gulf. The estimated cost of this project is 
approximately $11 million.
     Big Lagoon State Park Boat Ramp Improvement (Escambia 
County, Florida). This project would include adding an additional lane 
to the boat ramp, expanding boat trailer parking, improving traffic 
circulation at the boat ramp and providing a new restroom facility. The 
purpose is to enhance visitors' access to coastal natural resources and 
help restore lost recreational opportunities. The estimated cost of 
this project is approximately $1.5 million.
     Bob Sikes Pier Restoration (Escambia County, Florida). 
This project would improve access to and add amenities of the existing 
Bob Sikes Fishing Pier and parking area. Historically, the Bob Sikes 
fishing pier has provided an opportunity for the general public to 
access the Gulf of Mexico for fishing and site-seeing. The estimated 
cost of this project is approximately $1 million.
     Ferry Boat Access to Ft. Pickens, Gulf Island National 
Seashore (Escambia County, Florida). This project would provide for the 
purchase of two ferry boats for use in a new ferry service. The purpose 
is to help restore lost

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recreational opportunities by improving visitor access to the Gulf 
Island National Seashore. The estimated cost of this project is 
approximately $4 million.
     Perdido Key Boardwalk Improvements (Escambia County, 
Florida). The project would replace the six boardwalks leading to the 
beach, thus restoring lost recreational use services by improving 
visitor access. The project includes two beach access areas with three 
boardwalks at each location. The estimated cost of this project is 
approximately $600,000.
     Shell Point Beach Nourishment (Wakulla County, Florida). 
The project would provide for beach nourishment to improve public 
recreational opportunities by placing approximately 15,000 cubic yards 
of dredged sand from an approved upland borrow area on about one mile 
of Shell Point Beach. The estimated cost of this project is 
approximately $880,000.

Louisiana

     Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration (Plaquemines Parish and 
Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana). Barrier island restoration would restore 
beach, dune, and back-barrier marsh habitat and will take place at the 
following locations: Caillou Lake Headlands (also known as Whiskey 
Island), Cheniere Ronquille, Shell Island (East and West Lobes), and 
North Breton Island. The restoration work at each island involves 
placement of appropriately-sized sediments to create beach, dune, and 
back-barrier marsh areas; installation of sand fencing to trap and 
retain wind-blown sediments and foster dune development; and 
revegetation of appropriate native species. Louisiana barrier islands 
provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish, shellfish, birds, 
and other wildlife; they also were among the first terrestrial habitats 
to be oiled during the Spill because of their position along the outer 
coast. The estimated cost is approximately $320 million.
     Louisiana Marine Fisheries Enhancement, Research and 
Science Center (Calcasieu Parish and Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana). 
This project would involve the development of two sites in Louisiana, 
one in Calcasieu Parish and one in Plaquemines Parish, into facilities 
that will assist with research and enhancement of marine fisheries. The 
estimated cost of this project is approximately $22 million.

Mississippi

     Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline (Hancock County, 
Mississippi). This project would construct an approximately six mile 
Living Shoreline to reduce shoreline erosion, re-establish oyster 
habitat, and enhance fisheries resources and marsh habitat. 
Approximately 46 acres of marsh would be constructed to protect and 
restore marsh and 46 acres of sub-tidal oyster reef would be created in 
Heron Bay to protect the shallow embayment and to increase oyster 
production in the area. The estimated cost of this project is 
approximately $50 million.
     Restoration Initiatives at the INFINITY Science Center 
(Hancock County, Mississippi). INFINITY is a state-of-the-art 
interactive science research, education, and interpretive center 
located in Hancock County. This project would provide for the 
construction of wetland walkways, viewing structures, piers and 
interpretive centers. Additional components would include indoor 
exhibits and a greenhouse/nursery for growing native wetland species. 
The purpose would be to replace lost recreational opportunities through 
enhanced visitors' access to coastal natural resources. The estimated 
cost of this project is approximately $10.4 million.
     Popp's Ferry Causeway Park (Harrison County, Mississippi). 
The project would provide for construction of an interpretive center 
with trails and boardwalks, and other recreational enhancements. This 
project would replace lost recreational opportunities by enhancing 
existing amenities for visitors to be able to fish, crab, walk and 
observe nature. The estimated cost of this project is approximately 
$4.7 million.
     Pascagoula Beach Front Promenade (Jackson County, 
Mississippi). The project would provide a two-mile, 10-foot wide 
lighted concrete pathway complete with benches, shower stations, fire 
pits, sculptures, fishing areas and a playground. The purpose would be 
to restore the loss of shoreline recreational opportunities by 
enhancing access to the Mississippi Sound and its natural resources. 
The estimated cost of this project is approximately $3.8 million.

Texas

     Texas Artificial Reef (mid/upper coast; Jefferson or 
Nueces County). This project would provide artificial reef structure 
along the Texas coast. Artificial reefs would be placed offshore if the 
necessary large-scale materials are available or nearshore using 
constructed stable and clean materials. The artificial reefs would be 
developed in existing permitted reef sites. Artificial reefs are used 
by fishermen and scuba divers as recreational areas due to the aquatic 
community that develops in reef habitat. The estimated cost of this 
project is approximately $1.8 million.
     Development of Nearshore Artificial Reefs in the Texas 
Waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Brazoria County, Texas). This project 
would provide for the enhancement of a nearshore reef site off 
Freeport, Texas. The estimated cost of this project is approximately $2 
million.
     Enhancement of the Matagorda Nearshore Artificial Reefs in 
the Texas Waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Matagorda County, Texas). This 
project would include the construction of a new nearshore artificial 
reef site off of Matagorda, Texas. The estimated cost of this project 
is approximately $3.5 million.
     Sea Rim State Park Amenities (Jefferson County, Texas). 
The project would provide for construction of facilities that provide 
enhanced recreation within Sea Rim State Park, including a fish 
cleaning station, restroom facility, and two wildlife viewing blinds. 
The purpose would be to allow for enhanced fishing experiences, 
observation, and interpretive opportunities. The estimated cost of this 
project is approximately $210,000.
     Galveston Island State Park Beach Re-development 
(Galveston County, Texas). This project would provide for the 
construction of multi-use campsites, tent campsites, an equestrian 
trail head, beach access via dune walk-over boardwalks and other 
recreational enhancements on the Gulf side of Galveston Island State 
Park. The purpose would be to restore the loss of recreational 
opportunities by enhancing access to the Gulf. The estimated cost of 
this project is approximately $10.7 million.

Next Steps

    In the coming months the Trustees will provide more information 
about the proposed projects and will at that time invite public review 
and comment in accordance with the OPA regulations, 15 CFR Sec. Sec.  
990 et seq.

Administrative Record

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

Authority

    The authority of this action is the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 
U.S.C. 2701 et seq.) and the implementing Natural Resource Damage 
Assessment regulations found at 15 CFR part 990.


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    Dated: May 1, 2013.
Lois J. Schiffer,
NOAA General Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2013-10693 Filed 5-3-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-12-P