[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 123 (Thursday, June 26, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 36328-36330]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14952]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

[FWS-R4-FHC-2014-N121; FVHC98130406900-XXX-FF04G01000]


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

AGENCY: Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), notice is hereby given that 
the Federal Deepwater Horizon natural resource trustee agencies and the 
State Deepwater Horizon natural resource trustee agencies for 
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (Participating Trustees) 
have prepared a Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan 
and Final Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement 
(Final Phase III ERP/PEIS, or Plan). This notice announces the 
availability of the Final Phase III ERP/PEIS. The Texas natural 
resource trustee agencies are not joining in the issuance of the Final 
Phase III ERP/PEIS at this time.
    The Final Phase III ERP/PEIS considers programmatic alternatives 
comprised of early restoration project types that would restore natural 
resources, ecological services, and recreational use services injured 
or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and related 
response actions. The Participating Trustees additionally propose to 
select 44 specific early restoration projects for implementation that 
are consistent with the proposed preferred early restoration program 
alternative. The Participating Trustees have developed restoration 
alternatives and projects to utilize funds for early restoration being 
provided under the

[[Page 36329]]

Framework for Early Restoration Addressing Injuries Resulting from the 
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (Framework Agreement) discussed below. The 
Final Phase III ERP/PEIS evaluates these programmatic restoration 
alternatives and projects under criteria set forth in the natural 
resource damage assessment regulations and the Framework Agreement. The 
Final 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 Final 
Phase III ERP/PEIS.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download the Final Phase III 
ERP/PEIS at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov or http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon. You may also view the Final Phase III 
ERP/PEIS at any of the public repositories listed at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nanciann Regalado, nanciann_regalado@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 87 days. In addition, well over a 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 
of natural resource services, 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, the Trustees have previously selected, and BP has agreed to 
fund, a total of 10 early restoration projects, expected to total 
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 Deepwater Horizon Trustees currently 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. 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
     Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas General Land 
Office, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which are not 
joining in the issuance of this Final Phase III ERP/PEIS at this time;
     The Department of Defense (DOD) is also a trustee of 
natural resources associated with DOD-managed land on the Gulf Coast, 
which is included in the ongoing NRDA; however DOD is not a signatory 
of the Framework Agreement nor a participant in this Phase III Early 
Restoration Plan.

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. 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 convening public 
meetings, distributing electronic communications, and use of the 
Trustee-wide public Web site and database to share information and 
receive public project submissions. The 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 under way. The 
Trustees released, after public review of a draft, a Phase I Early 
Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (Phase I ERP/EA) on April 20, 
2012 (77 FR 23741). 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 (78 FR 8184).
    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). On 
June 4, 2013 (78 FR 33431), the Trustees announced their intent to 
prepare 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 to propose a Phase III Early Restoration Plan to address injuries 
from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that would include the 28 early 
restoration projects announced in the May 6, 2013, Federal Register 
notice and an additional 16 projects. In accordance with NEPA, the 
Trustees conducted scoping to identify the concerns of the affected 
public, Federal agencies, States, and Indian tribes; involved the 
public in the decision making process; facilitated efficient

[[Page 36330]]

early restoration planning and environmental review; defined the issues 
and alternatives that would be examined in detail; and saved time by 
ensuring that draft documents adequately addressed 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 and accepted 
written comment electronically and via U.S. mail during the scoping 
period.
    Notice of availability of the Draft Programmatic and Phase III 
Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic 
Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS) was published 
in the Federal Register on December 6, 2013 (78 FR 73555). The Draft 
Phase III ERP/PEIS considered programmatic alternatives for early 
restoration and proposed 44 early restoration projects in Phase III of 
early restoration consistent with the project types included in the 
proposed programmatic alternative. The Trustees provided the public 
with 75 days to review and comment on the Draft Phase III ERP/PEIS 
(including a 15-day extension of the original announced 60-day comment 
period). The Trustees also held public meetings in Mobile, Alabama; 
Long Beach, Mississippi; Belle Chasse, Thibodaux, and Lake Charles, 
Louisiana; Port Arthur, Galveston, and Corpus Christi, Texas; and 
Pensacola, Florida to facilitate public participation. The 
Participating Trustees considered the public comments received, which 
informed the Participating Trustees' analyses of programmatic 
alternatives and specific early restoration projects in the Final Phase 
III ERP/PEIS. A summary of the public comments received and the 
Participating Trustees' responses to those comments are addressed in 
Chapter 13 of the Final Phase III ERP/PEIS.

Overview of the Phase III ERP/PEIS

    The Final Phase III ERP/PEIS is being released in accordance with 
the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), the Natural Resource Damage Assessment 
(NRDA) regulations found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 15 
CFR part 990, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    The Final Phase III ERP/PEIS proposes early restoration 
programmatic alternatives and evaluates the potential environmental 
effects and cumulative effects of those alternatives. The Final 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 alternatives considered 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 Participating Trustees propose to select 44 projects as 
described in the Final Phase III ERP/PEIS, totaling an estimated cost 
of approximately $627 million.
    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 
Participating Trustees 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.
    The projects proposed in Phase III are not intended to, and do not, 
fully address all injuries caused by the spill or provide the extent of 
restoration needed to make the public and the environment whole. The 
Participating Trustees anticipate that additional early restoration 
projects will be proposed in the future as the early restoration 
process continues.

Next Steps

    In accordance with NEPA, a Federal agency must prepare a concise 
public Record of Decision (ROD) at the time the agency makes a decision 
in cases involving an EIS (40 CFR 1505.2). The ROD for the Final Phase 
III ERP/PEIS would provide and explain the Trustees' decisions 
regarding the selection of a programmatic early restoration alternative 
and specific early restoration projects. The Trustees will issue the 
ROD no earlier than 30 days after the Environmental Protection Agency 
publishes a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability 
of the Final Phase III ERP/PEIS (40 CFR Sec.  1506.10).

Administrative Record

    An Administrative Record has been established and can be viewed 
electronically at http://www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon/adminrecord/index.cfm.

Authorities

    The authorities of this action are the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 
(33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.), the implementing Natural Resource Damage 
Assessment regulations found at 15 CFR 990, NEPA, and the Framework 
Agreement.

Cynthia K. Dohner,
DOI Authorized Official.
[FR Doc. 2014-14952 Filed 6-25-14; 8:45 am]
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