[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 235 (Friday, December 6, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 73555-73557]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28792]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

[FWS-R4-FHC-2013-N258; FVHC98130406900-XXX-FF04G01000]


Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; Draft Programmatic and Phase III 
Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal and State natural 
resource trustee agencies (Trustees) have prepared a Draft Programmatic 
and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS). 
The Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS considers programmatic alternatives to 
restore natural resources, ecological services, and recreational use 
services injured or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil 
spill. The restoration alternatives are comprised of early restoration 
project types; the Trustees additionally propose forty-four specific 
early restoration projects that are consistent with the proposed early 
restoration program alternatives. The Trustees have developed 
restoration alternatives and projects to utilize funds for early 
restoration being provided under the Framework for Early Restoration 
Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 
(Framework Agreement) discussed below. Criteria and evaluation 
standards under the OPA natural resource damage assessment regulations 
and the Framework Agreement guided the Trustees' consideration of 
programmatic restoration alternatives. The Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS 
evaluates these restoration alternatives and projects under criteria 
set forth in the OPA natural resource damage assessment regulations and 
the Framework Agreement. The Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS also evaluates 
the environmental consequences of the restoration alternatives and 
projects under NEPA. The purpose of this notice is to inform the public 
of the availability of the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS and to seek public 
comments on the document.
    This Notice of Availability also serves as notice that the Trustees 
intend to use components of existing restoration projects, as further 
described in the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS, as required by 15 CFR 
990.56(b)(3). In those instances, the projects were previously 
developed with public review and comment and are subject to current 
public review and comment; are adequate to compensate the environment 
and public as part of the Trustees' ongoing early restoration efforts; 
address resources that have been identified by Trustees as being 
injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and are reasonably scalable 
for early restoration purposes.

DATES: 
    Comments Due Date: We will consider public comments received on or 
before February 4, 2014.
    Public Meetings: The Trustees have scheduled a series of public 
meetings to facilitate public review and comment on the Draft Phase III 
ERP/PEIS. Both written and verbal public comments will be taken at each 
public meeting. The Trustees will hold an open house for each meeting 
followed by a formal meeting. Each public meeting will include a 
presentation of the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS. The public meeting 
schedule is as follows:

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              Date                       Time              Location
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Mon., Dec. 16, 2013.............  6:00 PM Open House  Mobile, AL.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Tues., Dec. 17, 2013............  6:00 PM Open House  Long Beach, MS.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Tues., Jan. 14, 2014............  5:30 PM Open House  Belle Chasse, LA.
                                  6:00 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Wed., Jan. 15, 2014.............  5:30 PM Open House  Thibodaux, LA.
                                  6:00 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Thurs., Jan. 16, 2014...........  5:30 PM Open House  Lake Charles, LA.
                                  6:00 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Tues., Jan. 21, 2014............  6:00 PM Open House  Port Arthur, TX.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Wed., Jan. 22, 2014.............  6:00 PM Open House  Galveston, TX.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.

[[Page 73556]]

 
Thurs., Jan. 23, 2014...........  6:00 PM Open House  Corpus Christi,
                                  6:30 PM Public       TX.
                                   Meeting.
Tues., Jan. 28, 2014............  6:00 PM Open House  Pensacola, FL.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
Wed., Jan. 29, 2014.............  6:00 PM Open House  Panama City, FL.
                                  6:30 PM Public
                                   Meeting.
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ADDRESSES:
    Obtaining Documents: You may download the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS 
at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov or http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon.
    Alternatively, you may request a CD of the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). You may also view the document 
at any of the public facilities listed at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments on the Draft Phase III 
ERP/PEIS by one of following methods:
     Via the Web: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
     U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 49567, 
Atlanta, GA 30345.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nanciann Regalado at nanciann_regalado@fws.gov mailto:fw4coastalDERPcomments@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 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, discharging millions of barrels of 
oil over a period of eighty-seven 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 into the environment as a result of 
the spill.
    The State and Federal natural resource trustees (Trustees) 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 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 restoration to baseline (the resource quality and conditions 
that would exist if the spill had not occurred) is complete. Pursuant 
to the process articulated in the Framework Agreement for Early 
Restoration Addressing Injuries Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon 
Oil Spill (Framework Agreement), the Trustees have previously selected, 
and BP has agreed to fund, a total of 10 early restoration projects, 
expected to cost a total of approximately $71 million, through the 
Phase I Early Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (Phase I ERP) 
and Phase II Early Restoration Plan/Environmental Review (Phase II 
ERP). These plans are available at: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/restoration/early-restoration/
    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 currently 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 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. The 
Framework Agreement represents a preliminary step toward the 
restoration of injured natural resources. This 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. Early restoration is not 
intended to, and does not fully address all injuries caused by the 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Restoration beyond early restoration 
projects will be required to fully compensate the public for natural 
resource losses including recreational use losses from the Deepwater 
Horizon oil spill.
    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. 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 underway. The Trustees released, 
after

[[Page 73557]]

public review of a draft, a Phase I Early Restoration Plan/
Environmental Assessment (Phase I ERP/EA) in April 2012. Subsequently, 
the Trustees released, after public review of a draft, a Phase II Early 
Restoration Plan/Environmental Review (Phase II ERP/ER) in December 
2012.
    In addition to the 10 projects contained in the Phase I and Phase 
II Early Restoration Plans, the Trustees are proposing 44 additional 
early restoration projects in Phase III to address injuries from the 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Trustees are proposing these projects 
at this time while continuing to work with BP to develop additional 
restoration projects in accordance with the Framework Agreement. The 
Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS is not intended to, and does not fully address 
all injuries caused by the spill or provide the extent of restoration 
needed to make the public and the environment whole.

Overview of the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS

    The Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS is being released in accordance with 
the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), the Natural Resources Damage Assessment 
(NRDA) regulations found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 15 
CFR 990, the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.), and the Framework for Early Restoration Addressing Injuries 
Resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
    On June 4, 2013, the Trustees announced their intent to prepare an 
Early Restoration Plan, as well as a Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement (PEIS) under OPA and the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) to evaluate the environmental consequences of early restoration 
project types, as well as the early restoration projects the Trustees 
have proposed in the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS. In accordance with NEPA, 
the Trustees conducted scoping to identify the concerns of the affected 
public and Federal agencies, States, and Indian tribes; involve the 
public in the decision making process; facilitate efficient early 
restoration planning and environmental review; define the issues and 
alternatives that will be examined in detail; and save time by ensuring 
that draft documents adequately address relevant issues. A scoping 
process reduces paperwork and delay by ensuring that important issues 
are considered early in the decision making process. To gather public 
input, the Trustees hosted six public meetings. The Trustees also 
accepted written comment electronically and via U.S. mail during the 
scoping period.
    The Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS proposes early restoration 
programmatic alternatives and evaluates the potential environmental 
effects and cumulative effects of those alternatives. The Draft Phase 
III ERP/PEIS groups 12 project types into two categories: (1) 
Contribute to Restoring Habitats and Living Coastal and Marine 
Resources, and (2) Contribute to Providing and Enhancing Recreational 
Opportunities. These categories provide the basis for defining the list 
of four proposed alternatives included in the document:
     Alternative 1: No Action (No Additional Early 
Restoration);
     Alternative 2: Contribute to Restoring Habitats and Living 
Coastal and Marine Resources;
     Alternative 3: Contribute to Providing and Enhancing 
Recreational Opportunities; and
     Alternative 4 (Preferred Alternative): Contribute to 
Restoring Habitats, Living Coastal and Marine Resources, and 
Recreational Opportunities
    The Trustees are considering 44 projects in the Draft Phase III 
ERP/PEIS. The total estimated cost for proposed Phase III projects is 
approximately $625 million. Details regarding expenditures on projects 
are provided in the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS.
    The proposed restoration projects are intended to continue the 
process of using early restoration funding to restore natural 
resources, ecological services, and recreational use services injured 
or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Trustees 
considered hundreds of projects leading to the identification of a 
potential 28 future early restoration projects announced in the May 6, 
2013 Federal Register notice (78 FR 26319), and the document now 
proposes these 28 projects plus additional early restoration projects 
agreed upon by the Trustees and BP subsequent to the announcement. They 
considered both ecological and recreational use restoration projects to 
restore injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, addressing 
both the physical and biological environment, as well as the 
relationship people have with the environment.
    Early restoration actions are not intended to provide the full 
extent of restoration needed to make the public and the environment 
whole. The Trustees anticipate that additional early restoration 
projects will be proposed in the future as the early restoration 
process continues.

Next Steps

    As described above, public meetings are scheduled to facilitate the 
public review and comment process. After the public comment period 
ends, the Trustees will consider and address the comments received 
before issuing a Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration 
Plan and Final Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement (Final Phase III ERP/PEIS). After issuing a Final Phase III 
ERP/PEIS, the Trustees will file negotiated stipulations for approved 
projects with the court. Approved projects will then proceed to 
implementation, pending compliance with all applicable State and 
Federal laws.

Invitation to Comment

    The Trustees seek public review and comment on the Draft Phase III 
ERP/PEIS. 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.

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 990.

Cynthia K. Dohner,
DOI Authorized Official.
[FR Doc. 2013-28792 Filed 12-5-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P