[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 197 (Friday, October 13, 2017)]
[Pages 47717-47727]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-22153]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF535

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; 
Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Gary Paxton Industrial Park 
Dock Modification Project.

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; issuance of incidental harassment authorization.


SUMMARY: NMFS has issued an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) 
to the City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) for the taking marine mammals 
incidental to modifying the Gary Paxton Industrial Park (GPIP) dock in 
Sawmill Cove, Alaska.

DATES: The IHA is valid from October 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of the applications and supporting 
documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, 
may be obtained online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jaclyn Daly, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.



    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request, the 
incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine 
mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than 
commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain 
findings are made and either regulations are issued or, if the taking 
is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed

[[Page 47718]]

authorization is provided to the public for review.
    An authorization for incidental takings shall be granted if NMFS 
finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or 
stock(s), will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where 
relevant), and if the permissible methods of taking and requirements 
pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings 
are set forth.
    NMFS has defined ``negligible impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 as an 
impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably 
expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the 
species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or 
    NMFS has defined ``unmitigable adverse impact'' in 50 CFR 216.103 
as an impact resulting from the specified activity:
    (1) That is likely to reduce the availability of the species to a 
level insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by: (i) 
Causing the marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas; (ii) 
directly displacing subsistence users; or (iii) placing physical 
barriers between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and
    (2) That cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to 
increase the availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs 
to be met.
    The MMPA states that the term ``take'' means to harass, hunt, 
capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine 
    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, the 
MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of pursuit, torment, or 
annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or 
marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); or (ii) has the 
potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild 
by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not 
limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (Level B harassment).

National Environmental Policy Act

    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 
42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6A, 
NMFS must review our proposed action with respect to environmental 
consequences on the human environment.
    Accordingly, NMFS has determined that the issuance of the IHA 
qualifies to be categorically excluded from further NEPA review. This 
action is consistent with categories of activities identified in CE B4 
of the Companion Manual for NOAA Administrative Order 216-6A, which do 
not individually or cumulatively have the potential for significant 
impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which we have 
not identified any extraordinary circumstances that would preclude this 
categorical exclusion.

Summary of Request

    On June 21, 2017, NMFS received a complete application from CBS 
requesting take of marine mammals incidental to the GPIP dock 
modification project in Sawmill Cove, Alaska. CBS is authorized to take 
six species of marine mammals, by Level B harassment, and three of 
those six species by Level A harassment. Pile driving and removal would 
occur for 16 days from October 1 through December 31, 2017 with the 
majority of work completed in October. No subsequent IHAs would be 
necessary to complete the project. No mortality or serious injury is 
expected or authorized.

Description of Specified Activity


    CBS is modifying an existing marine and commercial industrial site 
by removing existing aging docks and installing a new floating dock, 
small craft float, and transfer bridge. To do so, CBS must remove 
existing abandoned, creosote-treated piles and install new piles. Pile 
driving and pile removal associated with this work may result in 
auditory injury (Level A harassment) and behavioral harassment (Level B 
harassment) of select marine mammal species. All pile driving and 
removal would take place at the existing dock facility and occur for 16 
days. The purpose of the project is to provide deep water port access, 
meet modern safety standards, and promote marine commerce in the 

Dates and Duration

    The IHA is valid from October 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017; 
however, the majority of work will occur in October. Removing old 
timber piles with a vibratory hammer will occur for up to 5 hours per 
day for 6 days. Removing the temporary template piles will occur for up 
to 1 hour on 2 additional days. Vibratory pile driving will occur for 
up to 2 hours per day for 6 days to install the permanent piles while 
impact pile driving will occur for up to 10 minutes a day for proofing 
following vibratory pile driving. In total, pile activities will occur 
for a maximum of 16 days .

Specified Geographic Region

    Sawmill Cove is a small body of water located near Sitka, Alaska, 
at the mouth of Silver Bay,which opens to Sitka Sound and the Gulf of 
Alaska (see figures 1 and 2 in application). Bathymetry in Sawmill Cove 
shows a fairly even seafloor that gradually falls to a depth of 
approximately 50 feet (ft) (15 meters (m)). To the southeast, Silver 
Bay is approximately 0.5 miles (mi) (0.8 kilometers (km)) wide, 5.5 mi 
(8.9 km) long, and 150-250 ft (46-76 m) deep. The bay is uniform with 
few rock outcroppings or islands. To the southwest, the Eastern Channel 
opens to Sitka Sound, dropping off to depths of 400 ft (120 m) 
approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) southwest of the project site.
    Sawmill Cove is an active marine commercial and industrial area. 
The dock footprint is previously disturbed with abandoned dock 
structures associated with the former Alaska Pulp Mill. Silver Bay 
Seafoods processing plant is located adjacent to the project site. This 
plant processes herring and salmon (primarily pink salmon).

Detailed Description of Specific Activities

    The purpose of the project is to construct a multipurpose docking 
area that will serve a wide variety of vessels, provide deep water port 
access to the GPIP, meet modern standards for safety, and promote 
marine commerce in the region. The Federal Register notice soliciting 
comments on the proposed IHA contains a complete description of the 
specified activities and we provide a summary here.
    The work includes removing 280 abandoned creosote-treated piles 
located in shallow water, installing a large floating deep-water dock 
(a repurposed barge measuring 250 ft (76.2 m) x 74 ft (22.6 m) x 19 ft 
(5.8 m)), small craft float (12 ft (3.7 m) x 100 ft (30.5 m)), and v-
shaped float (see Figure 4 and 5 in CBS's application). To complete the 
new dock, CBS will construct two dolphin structures to support the 
floating dock. Each dolphin requires 6 temporary 30-in steel piles to 
act as a template for installing the permanent piles, 2 permanent 30-in 
steel batter piles (piles driven at an angle with the vertical to 
resist a lateral force) to act as the ``legs'' of the dolphin, and a 
single 48-in vertical steel piles which would constitute the center of 
the dolphin structure. CBS will use a vibratory and diesel impact 
hammer to install piles. The existing old timber piles associated with 
the old dock will

[[Page 47719]]

be removed by the vibratory hammer if they cannot be pulled out 
mechanically. The 12 temporary piles used for the template will also be 
removed following dock completion.

Comments and Responses

    A notice of NMFS' proposal to issue an IHA was published in the 
Federal Register on July 26, 2017 (82 FR 34632). During the 30-day 
public comment period, NMFS received comments from the Marine Mammal 
Commission (Commission) and the National Park Service (NPS). All 
comments specific to the CBS's application that address the statutory 
and regulatory requirements or findings NMFS must make to issue an IHA 
are addressed here.
    Comment 1: The Commission recommended distances to NMFS harassment 
isopleths from impact pile driving be recalculated using proxy single 
strike sound exposure levels (SELs) to estimate pile driving source 
levels and resulting distances to NMFS Level A harassment isopleths.
    NMFS Response: NMFS uses dual exposure criteria to estimate the 
impact distance from noise sources: Instantaneous peak sound pressure 
level (SPL) and 24-hour cumulative sound exposure level (SEL) that is 
specific to each of the five marine mammal hearing groups. Computation 
of cumulative SEL for impact pile driving can be easily obtained if a 
single strike SEL, the number of strikes required to install one pile, 
and the total number of piles to be installed in a given day are known. 
In their application, CBS used sound pressure levels (SPLs) measured 
during pile driving projects elsewhere in southeast Alaska as a proxy 
for estimated source levels during the GPIP project. These SPL source 
levels were considered using a 100 millisecond (ms) pulse duration 
which is the nominal time integration period that contains 90% of the 
pulse acoustic energy when measured at approximately 10 m from the 
pile. The use of root mean square (rms) SPL with 100 msec default pulse 
duration can either lead to under- or over-estimates of the impact zone 
(Guan et al., 2017). Although both processes are acceptable to NMFS to 
estimate threshold distances, NFMS recognizes a more straightforward 
way to determine cumulative SEL values is to use single-strike SELs, 
when known. Therefore, NMFS calculated estimated distances to impact 
pile driving harassment thresholds using median SEL values from two 
reports measuring pile driving noise in southeast Alaska. For 30-in 
piles, the source level NMFS used is 180.7 decibel (dB) SEL assuming 
that the measurements from Ketchikan most closely resembles those in 
Sawmill Cove (see Table 72 in Denes et al., 2016). For 48-in piles, 
Austin et al. (2016) reports a median value of 186.7 dB SEL for a 
diesel hammer without a sound attenuation device with measurements 
taken 11 meters from the pile. Using the SEL metric method resulted in 
decreased Level A harassment zones for impact pile driving from the 
proposed IHA notice. NMFS adjusted the Level A harassment zones (Table 
3) and mitigation zones (Table 5) accordingly.
    Comment 2: The Commission questioned select mitigation measures 
proposed by CBS in their application and NMFS' proposed IHA notice. 
Specifically, they inquired why NMFS included a soft-start be 
implemented for vibratory pile driving and why the shut-down zone for 
otariids was smaller than for mid-frequency cetaceans when the Level A 
harassment isopleth for mid-frequency cetaceans is slightly (4.4 m) 
larger. The Commission also requested more information on the pile 
softening material CBS proposed to use between the pile and impact 
hammer. The Commission stated it is incumbent on NMFS to evaluate the 
appropriateness and necessity of various mitigation measures.
    NMFS Response: The applicant voluntarily proposed a soft-start to 
vibratory pile driving and the shut-down zones. The shut-down zones 
fully encompass the very small (less than 50 m) Level A harassment 
zones for both otariids and mid-frequency cetaceans and would be 
effective at eliminating the potential for Level A harassment. NMFS 
notes the Commission did not specify a mitigation recommendation (e.g., 
reduce both shut-down zones, increase both shut-down zones, etc.) and 
did not address the change to harassment isopleth distances based on 
using SEL source levels. In the final IHA, NMFS has reduced the shut-
down zone for otariids and mid-frequency cetaceans to fully encompass 
the revised Level A harassment zone for both hearing groups. In 
addition, NMFS has increased the shut-down zone for low-frequency 
cetaceans to 380 m and 1,100 m for 30-in and 48-in piles, respectively, 
during impact pile driving to fully encompass the revised Level A 
harassment zones for this hearing group, avoiding all Level A take of 
humpback whales. NMFS also confirmed the softening material is a type 
of pile cushion. Finally, with respect to duties, section 101(a)(5)(D) 
of the MMPA requires NMFS to prescribe means of effecting the least 
practicable adverse impact on marine mammals. Here, the applicant has 
determined that the vibratory ramp-up mitigation measure is 
practicable. However, NMFS has not included the vibratory ramp-up 
measure in the requirements of the IHA.
    Comment 3: The Commission requested the following mitigation 
measure be included: Using delay and shut-down procedures, if a species 
for which authorization has not been granted or if a species for which 
authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, 
approaches or is observed within the Level A and/or B harassment zone.
    NMFS Response: NMFS has included this measure to provide clarity to 
the applicant that they are not authorized to take marine mammals 
beyond those identified in the IHA.
    Comment 4: The NPS provided information regarding the abundance of 
humpback whales present in the action area and their habitat use during 
the time when pile operations would occur (October-December). NPS 
expressed concern that many humpback whales are foraging intensely 
either in preparation for migrating or for over-wintering in Sitka 
Sound and that pile driving noise could adversely affect this behavior. 
The NPS recommended the work window be shifted outside of this time 
    NMFS Response: NMFS consulted with a local researcher who has been 
conducting marine mammal surveys in the action area since 2001 and 
provided the humpback whale abundance and behavior data informing CBS's 
application. NMFS understands that whales start entering Sitka Sound 
around September with November marking the beginning of high habitat 
use (pers. comm. J. Straley, August 25, 2017). Furthermore, whale 
abundance can vary year to year with high concentrations some years and 
low concentrations in other years. NMFS then consulted with CBS who 
identified that the majority of work will be conducted in the month of 
October, prior to peak humpback whale foraging periods. However, 
because equipment and weather delays cannot be scheduled, NMFS is not 
requiring the applicant be completed by the end of October. Despite the 
potentially high concentration of humpback whales in the action area, 
the duration of pile activity is relatively short and pile driving 
would not occur on consecutive days. Finally, NMFS has included a new 
measure requiring CBS shut-down impact pile driving work should a 
humpback whale enter within the Level A harassment zone, avoiding Level 
A take of this species.
    Comment 5: The NPS identified that California sea lions, sea otters 
and silver-haired bats are known to be

[[Page 47720]]

present in the action area and NMFS should consider these species.
    NMFS Response: Although not common in the action area, NMFS has 
included take authorization for California sea lions in the final IHA. 
Sea otters and silver-haired bats are not under NMFS' jurisdiction and 
the authorization to take marine mammals under NMFS' jurisdiction does 
not affect these species.
    Comment 6: NPS recommended a mitigation measure be included that 
requires pile driving to only proceed when the Protected Species 
Observers (PSOs) give a ``notice to proceed.''
    NMFS Response: The IHA is conditioned such that pile driving delay 
and shut-down procedures be implemented for a variety of reasons, 
including, but not limited to, a marine mammal is within a designated 
shut-down zone or an animal would be taken in a manner not authorized 
if pile driving proceeded. The delay and shut-down measures would be 
triggered by a notice from both the land-based and boat-based PSO. NMFS 
has also included a measure that pile driving shall not begin until the 
PSO gives the recommended ``notice to proceed''.
    Comment 7: NPS recommended that indirect and cumulative impacts 
under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) be considered, as 
the installation of the new dock would increase medium- and large-
vessel traffic in and out of Silver Bay.
    NMFS Response: NMFS determined that the issuance of this IHA 
qualified for a Categorical Exclusion (CE); a CE is one way to meet the 
requirements and objectives of NEPA and efficiently complete the 
environmental review process for proposed actions that normally do not 
require a resource-intensive analysis. The CE category associated with 
the issuance of ITAs is CE B4, which is ``Issuance of incidental 
harassment authorizations under section 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the 
MMPA for the incidental, but not intentional, take by harassment of 
marine mammals during specified activities and for which no serious 
injury or mortality is anticipated.'' The scope of a CE determination 
is limited to the decision NMFS is responsible for, which is to 
consider authorizing ``take'' of marine mammals incidental to a 
specified activity. NMFS is not authorizing, funding or directing any 
other aspect of the applicant's activity and issuing a given IHA does 
not give NMFS the authority to authorize the applicant's activity under 
other laws or regulations.
    With respect to increased vessel traffic, the project would not 
significantly increase vessel traffic. Historically Sawmill Cove was 
used by the Alaska Pulp Corporation and outbound pulp shipments were 
frequent during the corporation's operations from 1959 to 1993. There 
are no identified manufacturing or processing activities that would 
achieve historic levels of use at the GPIP dock. Further, an assessment 
determined that Sitka's inbound and outbound cargo needs are being met 
at this time through a combination of private and public docks, and, 
given a flat population projection through 2035, no major changes in 
cargo shipments are expected (Northern Economics 2009). CBS does not 
have leases in place for use of the new GPIP dock. However, in the near 
future, the dock will likely be used to berth vessels associated with 
the existing commercial fishing industry but a net increase in vessels 
is not expected. In addition, moorings are part of the project; 
therefore, vessels may remain within Sawmill Cover instead of 
transiting to Sitka to dock overnight.

Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of Specified Activities

    There are seven marine mammal species known to occur in the 
vicinity of the project area which may be subjected to take. These are 
the humpback whale, killer whale, Steller sea lion, harbor porpoise, 
harbor seal, California sea lion, and sea otter (Enhydra lutris 
nereis). The sea otter is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS); therefore, this species is also not 
considered further in this document. NMFS notes the California sea lion 
was not included in the proposed IHA Federal Register notice (82 FR 
34632; July 27, 2017) but has since been incorporated based on public 
    We have reviewed CBS's species descriptions, including life history 
information, for accuracy and completeness and refer the reader to 
Section 3 and 4 of CBS's application as well as the proposed incidental 
harassment authorization published in the Federal Register (82 FR 
34632; July 27, 2017) instead of reprinting the information here. 
Please also refer to NMFS' Web site (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals) for generalized species accounts which provide information 
regarding the biology and behavior of the marine resources that occur 
in the vicinity of the project area. We provided additional information 
for the potentially affected stocks, including details of stock-wide 
status, trends, and threats, in our Federal Register notice of proposed 
authorization (82 FR 34632).
    Table 1 lists marine mammal stocks that could occur in the vicinity 
of the dock project and summarizes key information regarding stock 
status and abundance. Please see NMFS' Stock Assessment Reports (SAR), 
available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars, for more detailed accounts of 
these stocks' status and abundance.

                                              Table 1--Marine Mammals Expected To Occur Within Sitka Sound
                                                                                              Stock abundance
                                                                         ESA/MMPA  status;  Nbest,  (CV, Nmin,
          Common name              Scientific name       MMPA stock       strategic  (Y/N)      most recent         Occurrence         PBR     Annual M/
                                                                                \1\          abundance survey)                                   SI \3\
                                          Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Mysticeti (baleen whales)
                                                                    Family Balaenidae
Humpback whale.................  Megaptera           Central North       E, D, Y            10,103 (0.3,        Frequent..........         83         21
                                  novaeangliae.       Pacific.                               7,890, 2006).
                            Order Cetartiodactyla--Cetacea--Superfamily Odontoceti (toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
                                                                   Family Delphinidae
Killer whale...................  Orcinus Orca......  Alaska Resident...  -, N               2,347 (N/A, 2,347,  Infrequent........       23.4          1
                                                                                             2012) \4\.
                                                     Northern Resident.  -, N               261 (N/A, 261,      ..................       1.96          0
                                                                                             2011) \4\.
                                                     Gulf of Alaska,     -, N               587 (N/A, 587,      ..................        5.9        0.6
                                                      Aleutian Islands,                      2012) \4\.
                                                      Bering Sea

[[Page 47721]]

                                                     West Coast          -, N               243 (N/A, 243,      ..................        2.4          1
                                                      Transient.                             2009) \4\.
                                                                   Family Phocoenidae
Harbor porpoise................  Phocoena phocoena.  Southeast Alaska..  -, Y               975 (0.10, 896,     Infrequent........    \5\ 8.9     \5\ 34
                                                                                             2012) \5\.
                                                         Order Carnivora--Superfamily Pinnipedia
                                                      Family Otariidae (eared seals and sea lions)
Steller sea lion...............  Eumetopias jubatus  Western U.S.......  E, D; Y            49,497 (N/A,        Common............        297        233
                                                                                             49,497, 2014).
                                                     Eastern U.S.......  -, D, Y            60,131-74,448 (N/   ..................      1,645       92.3
                                                                                             A, 36,551, 2013).
California sea lion \6\........  Zalophus            U.S. stock........  -, N               296,750 (N/A,       Infrequent........      9,200         62
                                  californianus.                                             153,337, 2008).
                                                             Family Phocidae (earless seals)
Harbor seal....................  Phoca vitulina      Sitka/Chatham       -, N               14,855 (-, 13,212,  Common............        555         77
                                  richardii.          Straight.                              2011).
\1\ ESA status: Endangered (E), Threatened (T)/MMPA status: Depleted (D). A dash (-) indicates that the species is not listed under the ESA or
  designated as depleted under the MMPA. Under the MMPA, a strategic stock is one for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds PBR or
  which is determined to be declining and likely to be listed under the ESA within the foreseeable future. Any species or stock listed under the ESA is
  automatically designated under the MMPA as depleted and as a strategic stock.
\2\ NMFS marine mammal stock assessment reports online at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/. CV is coefficient of variation; Nmin is the minimum estimate of
  stock abundance. In some cases, CV is not applicable (N/A).
\3\ These values, found in NMFS's SARs, represent annual levels of human-caused mortality plus serious injury from all sources combined (e.g.,
  commercial fisheries, ship strike).
\4\ N is based on counts of individual animals identified from photo-identification catalogs.
\5\ In the SAR for harbor porpoise (NMFS 2017), NMFS identified population estimates and PBR for porpoises within inland Southeast Alaska waters (these
  abundance estimates have not been corrected for g(0); therefore, they are likely conservative). The calculated PBR is considered unreliable for the
  entire stock because it is based on estimates from surveys of only a portion (the inside waters of Southeast Alaska) of the range of this stock as
  currently designated. The Annual M/SI is for the entire stock, including coastal waters.
\6\ The California sea lion was added to the final IHA based on anecdotal evidence provided in public comment.

Potential Effects of Specified Activities on Marine Mammals and Their 

    The Federal Register notice of proposed authorization (82 FR 
834632; July 26, 2017) provides a general background on sound relevant 
to the specified activity as well as a detailed description of marine 
mammal hearing and of the potential effects of these construction 
activities on marine mammals, and is not repeated here.
    The Federal Register notice of proposed authorization (82 FR 
834632; July 26, 2017) also provides a description of the potential 
effects of the construction activities on marine mammal habitat, and is 
not repeated here. In summary, pile driving and removal will occur at 
an existing dock facility and will not have a measurable adverse impact 
on marine mammal habitat.

Estimated Take

    This section provides an estimate of the number of incidental takes 
authorized through this IHA, which will inform both NMFS' consideration 
of whether the number of takes is ``small'' and the negligible impact 
    Harassment is the only type of take expected to result from these 
activities. Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent 
here, Section 3(18) of the MMPA defines ``harassment'' as: Any act of 
pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild (Level A harassment); 
or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal 
stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, 
including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering (Level B harassment).
    Authorized takes are primarily Level B harassment, as pile driving 
and removal has the potential to result in disruption of behavioral 
patterns and TTS for individual marine mammals. There is also some 
potential for auditory injury (Level A harassment) to result for high 
frequency species and harbor seals (phocids) due to larger predicted 
auditory injury zones. Auditory injury is unlikely to occur for all 
other hearing groups due to small zones or implementing shut-down 
mitigation. The mitigation and monitoring measures are expected to 
minimize the severity of such taking to the extent practicable. No 
mortality or serious injury is anticipated from the activity or 
authorized in the IHA. Below we describe how the take is estimated.
    Described in the most basic way, we estimate take by considering: 
(1) Acoustic thresholds above which NMFS believes the best available 
science indicates marine mammals will be behaviorally harassed or incur 
some degree of permanent hearing impairment; (2) the area or volume of 
water that will be ensonified above these levels in a day; (3) the 
density or occurrence of marine mammals within these ensonified areas; 
and, (4) and the number of days of activities. Below, we describe these 
components in more detail and present the take estimate.

Acoustic Thresholds

    Using the best available science, NMFS has developed acoustic 
thresholds that identify the received level of underwater sound above 
which exposed marine mammals would be reasonably expected to be 
behaviorally harassed (equated to Level B harassment) or to incur PTS 
of some degree (equated to Level A harassment).
    Level B Harassment for non-explosive sources--Though significantly 
driven by received level, the onset of behavioral disturbance from 
anthropogenic noise exposure is also informed to varying degrees by 
other factors related to the source (e.g., frequency, predictability, 
duty cycle), the environment (e.g., bathymetry), and the receiving 
animals (hearing, motivation, experience, demography, behavioral 
context) and can be difficult to predict (Southall et

[[Page 47722]]

al., 2007, Ellison et al., 2011). Based on what the available science 
indicates and the practical need to use a threshold based on a factor 
that is both predictable and measurable for most activities, NMFS uses 
a generalized acoustic threshold based on received level to estimate 
the onset of behavioral harassment. NMFS predicts that marine mammals 
are likely to be behaviorally harassed in a manner we consider Level B 
harassment when exposed to underwater anthropogenic noise above 
received levels of 120 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) for continuous (e.g. 
vibratory pile-driving, drilling) and above 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa (rms) 
for non-explosive impulsive (e.g., seismic airguns) or intermittent 
(e.g., scientific sonar) sources. CBS's activity includes the use of 
continuous (vibratory pile driving and removal) and impulsive (impact 
pile driving) sources, and therefore the 120 dB and 160 dB re 1 [mu]Pa 
(rms) are applicable.
    Level A harassment for non-explosive sources--NMFS' Technical 
Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine 
Mammal Hearing (Technical Guidance, 2016) identifies dual criteria to 
assess auditory injury (Level A harassment) to five different marine 
mammal groups (based on hearing sensitivity) as a result of exposure to 
noise from two different types of sources (impulsive or non-impulsive). 
CBS's activity includes the use of impulsive (impact pile driving) and 
non-impulsive (vibratory pile driving and removal) sources.
    These thresholds were developed by compiling and synthesizing the 
best available science and soliciting input multiple times from both 
the public and peer reviewers to inform the final product, and are 
provided in Table 2. The references, analysis, and methodology used in 
the development of the thresholds are described in NMFS 2016 Technical 
Guidance, which may be accessed at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm.

                     Table 2--Thresholds Identifying the Onset of Permanent Threshold Shift
                                                     PTS onset acoustic thresholds * (received level)
             Hearing group              ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Impulsive                         Non-impulsive
Low-Frequency (LF) Cetaceans...........  Cell 1: Lpk,flat: 219 dB;   Cell 2: LE,LF,24h: 199 dB.
                                          LE,LF,24h: 183 dB.
Mid-Frequency (MF) Cetaceans...........  Cell 3: Lpk,flat: 230 dB;   Cell 4: LE,MF,24h: 198 dB.
                                          LE,MF,24h: 185 dB.
High-Frequency (HF) Cetaceans..........  Cell 5: Lpk,flat: 202 dB;   Cell 6: LE,HF,24h: 173 dB.
                                          LE,HF,24h: 155 dB.
Phocid Pinnipeds (PW) (Underwater).....  Cell 7: Lpk,flat: 218 dB;   Cell 8: LE,PW,24h: 201 dB.
                                          LE,PW,24h: 185 dB.
Otariid Pinnipeds (OW) (Underwater)....  Cell 9: Lpk,flat: 232 dB;   Cell 10: LE,OW,24h: 219 dB.
                                          LE,OW,24h: 203 dB.
* Dual metric acoustic thresholds for impulsive sounds: Use whichever results in the largest isopleth for
  calculating PTS onset. If a non-impulsive sound has the potential of exceeding the peak sound pressure level
  thresholds associated with impulsive sounds, these thresholds should also be considered.
Note: Peak sound pressure (Lpk) has a reference value of 1 [mu]Pa, and cumulative sound exposure level (LE) has
  a reference value of 1[mu]Pa2s. In this Table, thresholds are abbreviated to reflect American National
  Standards Institute standards (ANSI 2013). However, peak sound pressure is defined by ANSI as incorporating
  frequency weighting, which is not the intent for this Technical Guidance. Hence, the subscript ``flat'' is
  being included to indicate peak sound pressure should be flat weighted or unweighted within the generalized
  hearing range. The subscript associated with cumulative sound exposure level thresholds indicates the
  designated marine mammal auditory weighting function (LF, MF, and HF cetaceans, and PW and OW pinnipeds) and
  that the recommended accumulation period is 24 hours. The cumulative sound exposure level thresholds could be
  exceeded in a multitude of ways (i.e., varying exposure levels and durations, duty cycle). When possible, it
  is valuable for action proponents to indicate the conditions under which these acoustic thresholds will be

    Distances to Level A and Level B thresholds were calculated based 
on various source levels for a given activity and pile type (e.g., 
impact hammering 48 in pile, vibratory removal of timber piles) and, 
for Level A harassment, accounted for the maximum duration of that 
activity per day using the spreadsheet tool developed by NMFS. Because 
we used a single strike SEL to calculate Level A harassment distances 
from impact pile driving instead of SPL as contained in the proposed 
IHA, we provide the calculation inputs here. For impact pile driving 
30-in piles, the following inputs were used in the guidance 
spreadsheet: 182.1 dB SEL source level, 400 strikes per pile, 1 pile 
per day, a practical spreading loss constant (15 log R), and 10 m for 
distance of single-strike SEL measurement. For impact pile driving 48-
in piles, we used a single-strike SEL value of 187.9 dB, 400 strikes 
per pile, 1 pile per day, a practical spreading loss constant (15 log 
R), and 11 m for distance of single-strike SEL measurement. The inputs 
and resulting isopleths for vibratory pile driving did not change from 
the proposed IHA stage. The Level B harassment distances also did not 
change. Table 3 contains all calculated distances to Level A and B 
harassment thresholds.

                                              Table 3--Distances to NMFS Level A and B Acoustic Thresholds
                                                                                           Distance (m) to Level A and Level B thresholds
                                                                                                      Level A \3\
                Activity                            Source level           -----------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                Low-         Mid-        High-                                 Level B
                                                                             frequency    frequency    frequency      Phocid      Otariid
                                                                             cetaceans    cetaceans    cetaceans
                                                                    Vibratory Hammer
12 and 16-inch wood removal (5 hours per  155 SPL.........................          8.0          0.7         11.8          4.8          0.3        2,154
30-inch steel temporary installation (3   166 SPL.........................         30.6          2.7         45.3         18.6          1.3   \4\ 11,659
 hours per day).

[[Page 47723]]

30-inch steel temporary removal (1 hour   166 SPL.........................         14.7          1.3         21.8          8.9          0.6   \4\ 11,659
 per day).
30-inch steel permanent installation (2   166 SPL.........................         23.4          2.1         34.5         14.2          1.0   \4\ 11,659
 hours per day).
48-inch steel permanent installation (2   168.2 SPL.......................         32.7          2.9         48.4         19.9          1.4   \4\ 16,343
 hours per day).
                                                                      Impact Hammer
30-inch steel permanent installation (10  180.7 SEL \1\/196 SPL \2\.......        380.9         13.5        453.7        203.8         14.8        2,512
 minutes per day).
48-inch steel permanent installation (10  186.7 SEL \1\/198.6 SPL \2\.....      1,052.4         37.4      1,253.5        563.2         41.0        3,744
 minutes per day).
\1\ Single strike sound exposure levels (SELs) are median measured source levels from the Port of Anchorage test pile project for 48-in piles (Austin et
  al. 2016) and Alaska Department of Transportation hydroacoustic studies for 30-in piles (Denes et al. 2016, Table 72).
\2\ SPL rms values were used to calculate distances to Level B harassment isopleths.
\3\ The values provided here represent the distances at which an animal may incur PTS if that animal remained at that distance for the entire duration
  of the activity. For example, a humpback whale (low frequency cetacean) would have to remain 8 meters from timber piles being removed for 5 hours for
  PTS to occur.
\4\ These represent calculated distances based on practical spreading model; however, land at the end of Silver Bay obstructs underwater sound
  transmission at approximately 9,500 m from the source.

Marine Mammal Occurrence

    In this section, we provide the information about the presence, 
density, or group structure of marine mammals that will inform the take 
    Data on marine mammals in the project area is limited. Land-based 
surveys conducted at Sitka's Whale Park occurred from September through 
May, annually, from 1994 to 2000 (Straley and Pendell, 2017). From 2000 
to 2016, Straley also collected marine mammal data from small vessels 
throughout the year. There are no density data available; therefore, 
probability of occurrence based on group sightings and typical group 
sizes were used in take calculations (Table 4).

 Table 4--Marine Mammal Data From Land-Based Surveys at Sitka's Whale Park From September Through May, Annually,
                                                 From 1994-2000
                                                           Average count per
             Species                  Months sighted       month (Oct, Nov,      Typical       Max group size
                                                                 Dec)           group size
Humpback whale...................  September-April.....  50, 116, 101........          2-4  unknown.
Killer whale.....................  October-March.......  12, 12, 4...........          4-8  8.
Harbor porpoise..................  September, March,     7, 0, 0.............            5  8.
Steller sea lion.................  September-April.....  10, 12, 107.........          1-2  100.
Harbor seal......................  September-April.....  1, 1, 0.............          1-2  2.
California sea lion \2\..........  n/a.................  n/a.................          1-2  2.
\1\ Only months when the project would occur are included here. For full counts, please see section 4 in CBS's
\2\ There are no documented sightings of California sea lions in research reports; however, anecdotal evidence
  suggests this species, while not common, is possible within the project area.

    Because density data are not available for Sitka Sound, we used 
group sighting data as an indicator of how often marine mammals may be 
present during the 16 days of pile driving/removing activity in 
consideration of the Level B harassment zones. We also considered 
typical group size to determine how many animals may be present on any 
given day. For all species, we used the following equation to estimate 
the number of animals, by species, potentially taken from exposure to 
pile driving and removing noise: Estimated Take = Number of animals x 
number of days animals are expected during pile activity by type (Table 
    The Sitka Whale Park surveys found humpback whale groups may 
include up to four individuals (Straley and Pendell 2017). Based on 
sighting frequency, this species is present more often during winter 
months when the project would occur and we conservatively estimate that 
a group of 4 humpback whales may occur within the Level B harassment 
zone on any of the 16 days of pile activities. Therefore, we have 
authorized 64 Level B takes of humpback whales. Due to the decreased 
Level A harassment isopleth from the proposed IHA stage, CBS will shut-
down impact pile driving if a humpback whale comes within the 
established shut-down zone; therefore, no Level A take for this species 
is anticipated or authorized (see Mitigation section).
    For killer whales, it is assumed eight killer whales could be 
present within the Level B harassment zone on any two days of pile 
activity; therefore, we have authorized 16 takes. No Level A take is

[[Page 47724]]

anticipated or authorized due to shut down mitigation measures (see 
Mitigation section).
    Harbor porpoise typically travel in groups of five and we 
anticipate a group could enter the Level A zone on two of the six days 
of impact pile driving and a group could be present within the Level B 
harassment zone on two days of the project. Therefore, we have 
authorized ten Level A takes (five animals x two days) and ten Level B 
takes (five animals x two days) of harbor porpoise.
    Steller sea lions are common in the area during the work with one 
to ten animals present on any given day of work. We assume that on any 
day of the 16 days of pile driving, 14 Steller sea lions could be 
within the Level B harassment zone on each day of pile driving. 
Therefore, over the course of 16 days of pile driving, we have 
authorized 224 sea lions may be taken (14 animals x 16 days); however, 
this is likely representative of the number of exposures, not 
individuals taken. No Level A takes of Steller sea lions are 
anticipated or authorized from impact pile driving due to the small 
harassment zone and mitigation shut down measures (see Mitigation 
    Harbor seals are found in the action area throughout the year but 
in low numbers. Group size is typically one to two animals. It is 
anticipated that two harbor seals could be present within the Level A 
zone every other day of the six days of impact pile driving. It is also 
assumed that a group of 2 harbor seals could be encountered in the 
Level B harassment zone during the 16 days of pile driving. Therefore, 
we have authorized 6 Level A takes (2 animals x 3 days) and 32 Level B 
takes (2 animals x 16 days) of harbor seals.
    For harbor seals and Steller sea lions, the number of animals 
potentially present likely reflects the same individuals occurring over 
multiple days; therefore the number of takes likely represents 
exposures versus individuals. For all cetacean species, it is likely 
the calculated takes do reflect the number of individuals exposed 
because they would be expected to be transiting through the action 
area, not lingering like pinnipeds.
    NMFS has also included 16 Level B takes of California sea lions in 
the IHA. No Level A takes are authorized because the shut-down zone 
established for Steller sea lions would apply and California sea lions 
are in the same hearing group as Steller sea lions meaning the distance 
to Level A harassment is the same. As described above, no research 
reports include sightings of California sea lions and they were not 
included in the notice of the proposed IHA. However, during the public 
comment period, the NPS identified that California sea lions, while not 
common, could potentially be in the project area while pile activities 
will occur. Therefore, NMFS has authorized 16 Level B takes which is 
one half the amount of harbor seal takes, another species which may 
occur in the project area but is less likely to occur than Steller sea 
lions. Similar to humpback and other pinnipeds, this amount of take 
represents exposures and not necessarily the number of individuals 
exposed given California sea lions may linger in the action area.

        Table 5--Authorized Take of Marine Mammals, by Stock, Incidental to Pile Removal and Pile Driving
                                                                                                      Percent of
                  Species                           Stock (Nbest)            Level A      Level B       stock
Humpback whale............................  Hawaii DPS (11,398)..........            0           60          0.5
                                            Mexico DPS (3,264)...........            0            4         0.12
Killer whale..............................  Alaska Resident (2,347)......            0           16     \1\ 0.67
                                            Northern Resident (261)......  ...........  ...........      \1\ 6.1
                                            Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian       ...........  ...........      \1\ 2.7
                                             Islands, Bering Sea (587).
                                            West Coast Transient (243)...  ...........  ...........      \1\ 6.6
Harbor porpoise...........................  Southeast Alaska (975).......           10           10          1.0
Steller sea lion..........................  Western U.S. (36,551)........            0            5         0.01
                                            Eastern U.S. (49,497)........            0          219          0.5
Harbor seal...............................  Sitka/Chatham Straight                   6           32          0.3
California sea lion.......................  U.S. Stock (296,750).........            0           16         0.01
\1\ Under the MMPA, humpback whales are considered a single stock; however, we have divided them here to account
  for DPSs listed under the ESA.
\2\ These percentages assume all 16 takes comes from any given stock.
\3\ Of the 224 exposed Steller sea lions, we expect approximately 2 percent to be from the endangered WDPS (~3
  takes) and the remainder to be from the EDPS based on recent observations of branded animals in the Sitka
  Alaska area (Jemison, 2017).

    In order to issue an IHA under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, 
NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such 
activity, ``and other means of effecting the least practicable impact 
on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention 
to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on 
the availability of such species or stock for taking'' for certain 
subsistence uses. NMFS regulations require applicants for incidental 
take authorizations to include information about the availability and 
feasibility (economic and technological) of equipment, methods, and 
manner of conducting such activity or other means of effecting the 
least practicable adverse impact upon the affected species or stocks 
and their habitat (50 CFR 216.104(a)(11)).
    In evaluating how mitigation can ensure the least practicable 
adverse impact on species or stocks and their habitat, as well as 
subsistence uses where applicable, we carefully consider two primary 
factors: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the 
successful implementation of the measure(s) is expected to reduce 
impacts to marine mammals, marine mammal species or stocks, and their 
habitat--which considers the nature of the potential adverse impact 
being mitigated (likelihood, scope, range), as well as the likelihood 
that the measure will be effective if implemented; and the likelihood 
of effective implementation, and; (2) the practicability of the 
measures for applicant implementation, which may consider such things 
as cost, impact on operations, and, in the case of a military readiness 
activity, personnel safety, practicality of implementation, and impact 
on the effectiveness of the military readiness activity.

[[Page 47725]]

    The following mitigation measures, designed to minimize noise 
exposure, are included in the IHA:
     CBS shall not begin pile driving or removal until a PSO 
has given a notice to proceed.
     CBS shall first attempt to direct pull old, abandoned 
piles that would minimize noise input into the marine environment; if 
those efforts prove to be ineffective, they may proceed with a 
vibratory hammer.
     CBS shall operate the vibratory hammer at a reduced energy 
setting (30 to 50 percent of its rated energy).
     CBS shall use a pile cushion during impact hammering.
     CBS shall use a ``soft start'' technique when impact pile 
driving. CBS shall provide an initial set of three strikes from the 
impact hammer at 40 percent energy, followed by a one minute waiting 
period, then two subsequent 3-strike sets. If any marine mammal is 
sighted within a shut-down zone during the 30 minute survey prior to 
pile driving, or during the soft start, CBS shall delay pile-driving 
until the animal is confirmed to have moved outside and on a path away 
from the area or if 15 minutes (for pinnipeds or small cetaceans) or 30 
minutes (for large cetaceans) have elapsed since the last sighting of 
the marine mammal within the shut-downzone. This soft-start shall be 
applied prior to beginning pile driving activities each day or when 
pile driving hammers have been idle for more than 30 minutes.
     CBS shall drive all piles with a vibratory hammer to the 
maximum extent possible (i.e., until a desired depth is achieved or to 
refusal) prior to using an impact hammer. CBS shall also use the 
minimum impact hammer energy needed to safely install the piles.
     CBS shall use delay and shut-down procedures, if a species 
for which authorization has not been granted or if a species for which 
authorization has been granted but the authorized takes are met, 
approaches or is observed within the Level A and/or B harassment zone.
     CBS shall implement the shut-down zones identified in 
Table 6 to minimize harassment.

                     Table 6--Pile Driving Shut Down Zones Designed To Minimize Level A Take
                                                             Shut-down zones in meters
                                                                       High-                          Otariid
             Source                Low-frequency   Mid-frequency     frequency        Phocid         pinnipeds
                                     cetaceans       cetaceans       cetaceans       pinnipeds     (steller and
                                     (humpback    (killer whale)      (harbor      (harbor seal)  california sea
                                      whales)                        porpoise)                         lion)
                                         Vibratory Pile Driving/Removal
All.............................                                       10 m
                                               Impact Pile Driving
30-inch steel (installation)....         \1\ 380          \1\ 25             200             150          \1\ 25
48-inch steel (installation)....       \1\ 1,100          \1\ 50             200             150          \1\ 50
\1\ Indicates a shut-down zone that encompasses the entire Level A zone; therefore, no Level A take of species
  within these hearing groups are authorized.

    Based on our evaluation of the included measures, NMFS has 
determined that the mitigation measures provide the means effecting the 
least practicable impact on the affected species or stocks and their 
habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and 
areas of similar significance.

Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA for an activity, Section 101(a)(5)(D) of 
the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth, ``requirements pertaining to 
the monitoring and reporting of such taking.'' The MMPA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 216.104(a)(13) indicate that requests for 
authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the 
necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased 
knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on 
populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the 
action area. Effective reporting is critical to both compliance as well 
as ensuring that the most value is obtained from the required 
    Monitoring and reporting requirements prescribed by NMFS should 
contribute to improved understanding of one or more of the following:
     Occurrence of marine mammal species or stocks in the area 
in which take is anticipated (e.g., presence, abundance, distribution, 
     Nature, scope, or context of likely marine mammal exposure 
to potential stressors/impacts (individual or cumulative, acute or 
chronic), through better understanding of: (1) Action or environment 
(e.g., source characterization, propagation, ambient noise); (2) 
affected species (e.g., life history, dive patterns); (3) co-occurrence 
of marine mammal species with the action; or (4) biological or 
behavioral context of exposure (e.g., age, calving or feeding areas).
     Individual marine mammal responses (behavioral or 
physiological) to acoustic stressors (acute, chronic, or cumulative), 
other stressors, or cumulative impacts from multiple stressors.
     How anticipated responses to stressors impact either: (1) 
Long-term fitness and survival of individual marine mammals; or (2) 
populations, species, or stocks.
     Effects on marine mammal habitat (e.g., marine mammal prey 
species, acoustic habitat, or other important physical components of 
marine mammal habitat).
     Mitigation and monitoring effectiveness.
    Monitoring Protocols--Monitoring shall be conducted before, during, 
and after pile driving and removal activities. Monitoring will initiate 
30 minutes prior to pile driving and removal through 30 minutes post-
completion of pile activities. Pile driving activities include the time 
to install or remove a single pile or series of piles, as long as the 
time elapsed between uses of the pile driving equipment is no more than 
one hour.
    One land-based protected species observer (PSO) shall be present 

[[Page 47726]]

all pile activity. A secondary boat-based PSO shall be on watch during 
all pile activity other than timber pile removal. The land-based PSO 
shall be located at the GPIP construction site and will be able to view 
the area across Silver Bay to the west and east of Sugarloaf Point and 
monitor the mouth of Silver Bay to determine whether marine mammals 
enter the action area from East Channel of Sitka Sound (the entrance 
monitoring zone). The PSO shall have no other primary duties than 
watching for and reporting on events related to marine mammals. The PSO 
shall scan the monitoring zone for the presence of listed species for 
30 minutes before any pile driving or removal activities take place. 
Each day prior to commencing in-water work the PSO shall conduct a 
radio check with the construction foreman or superintendent. The PSO 
shall brief the foreman or supervisor as to the shut-down procedures if 
any marine mammals are observed likely to enter or within a shut-down 
zone, and shall have the foreman brief the crew, requesting that the 
crew notify the PSO when a marine mammal is spotted. To reduce fatigue, 
the PSO shall work in shifts lasting no longer than 4 hours with at 
least a 1-hour break between shifts, and shall not perform duties as an 
PSO for more than 12 hours in a 24[hyphen]hr period. The PSO shall 
continue monitoring each day for 15 minutes after all in-water pile 
driving/removal is completed.
    No less than 30 minutes prior to any pile driving or removal (other 
than timber pile removal), the boat-based PSO shall begin monitoring 
the Level A and B harassment zones. A boat-based PSO is not required 
during timber pile removal due to limited harassment zones. This PSO 
shall transit to the head of Silver Bay to ensure that there are no 
marine mammals for which take is not authorized or to document species 
for which take is authorized. The boat-based PSO shall communicate with 
the construction foreman or superintendent once the area is determined 
to be clear and pile driving activities can begin. The boat-based PSO 
shall then transit back to the construction site and spend the rest of 
the pile driving time monitoring the area from the boat (see Figure 3 
in CBS's application).
    If any marine mammals are present within a shut-down zone, pile 
driving and removal activities shall not begin until the animal(s) has 
left the shut-down zone or no marine mammals have been observed in the 
shut-down zone for 15 minutes (for pinnipeds) or 30 minutes (for 
cetaceans). The boat-based PSO shall remain near the mouth of Sawmill 
Cove for the duration of pile driving to monitor for any animals 
approaching the area.
    The following measures also apply to visual monitoring:
    (1) Monitoring shall be conducted by independent (i.e., not 
construction personnel) qualified observers, who shall be placed at the 
best vantage point(s) practicable to monitor for marine mammals and 
implement shut-down/delay procedures when applicable by calling for the 
shut-down to the hammer operator. At least one observer must have prior 
experience working as an observer. Other observers may substitute 
education (undergraduate degree in biological science or related field) 
or training for experience. In addition, all PSOs must have:
    (a) Visual acuity in both eyes (correction is permissible) 
sufficient for discernment of moving targets at the water's surface 
with ability to estimate target size and distance; use of binoculars 
may be necessary to correctly identify the target;
    (b) Advanced education in biological science or related field 
(undergraduate degree or higher required);
    (c) Experience and ability to conduct field observations and 
collect data according to assigned protocols (this may include academic 
    (d) Experience or training in the field identification of marine 
mammals, including the identification of behaviors;
    (e) Sufficient training, orientation, or experience with the 
construction operation to provide for personal safety during 
    (f) Writing skills sufficient to prepare a report of observations 
including but not limited to the number and species of marine mammals 
observed; dates and times when in-water construction activities were 
conducted; dates and times when in-water construction activities were 
suspended to avoid potential incidental injury from construction sound 
of marine mammals observed within a defined shut-down zone; and marine 
mammal behavior; and
    (g) Ability to communicate orally, by radio or in person, with 
project personnel to provide real-time information on marine mammals 
observed in the area as necessary.
    In addition, CBS must submit to NMFS OPR the curriculum vitae (CV) 
of all observers prior to monitoring.


    The IHA requires CBS to submit a draft report to NMFS within ninety 
calendar days of the completion of marine mammal monitoring. A final 
report shall be prepared and submitted within thirty days following 
resolution of any comments on the draft report from NMFS. The report 
will contain, among other things, information on monitoring results, 
mitigation measure implementation, and number of animals, by species, 
taken. The CBS will also immediately report injured or dead marine 
mammals to NMFS and, if the specified activity clearly causes the take 
of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by the IHA (e.g., serious 
injury or mortality), CBS will immediately cease pile activities and 
report the incident to NMFS.

Negligible Impact Analysis and Determination

    NMFS has defined negligible impact as ``an impact resulting from 
the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is 
not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival'' (50 CFR 216.103). 
A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-
level effects). An estimate of the number of takes alone is not enough 
information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to 
considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be 
``taken'' through harassment, NMFS considers other factors, such as the 
likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context 
of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, 
migration), as well as effects on habitat, and the likely effectiveness 
of the mitigation. We also assess the number, intensity, and context of 
estimated takes by evaluating this information relative to population 
status. Consistent with the 1989 preamble for NMFS's implementing 
regulations (54 FR 40338; September 29, 1989), the impacts from other 
past and ongoing anthropogenic activities are incorporated into this 
analysis via their impacts on the environmental baseline (e.g., as 
reflected in the regulatory status of the species, population size and 
growth rate where known, ongoing sources of human-caused mortality, or 
ambient noise levels).
    Pile driving and removal would result in the harassment of marine 
mammals within the designated harassment zones due to increased noise 
levels during 16 days. Six days of work are dedicated to removing 280 
old piles, which would emit low levels of noise into the aquatic 
environment if removed via a vibratory hammer. Vibratory pile driving, 
which also has relatively low source levels,

[[Page 47727]]

would occur for only 2 hours per day and there would be at least one 
day in between pile driving activity when installing the permanent 
piles. Impact pile driving would result in the loudest sound levels; 
however, CBS would install only 6 piles with an impact hammer (4 30-in 
and 2 48-in piles) to proof the pile after driving it with a vibratory 
hammer. Proofing a pile is relatively short-term activity with 400 
strikes occurring over 10 minutes per pile. Considering this and the 
fact only one pile would be installed per day, if PTS occurs, it is 
likely slight PTS (e.g., PTS onset). Due to the brief duration of 
expected exposure, any Level B harassment would be temporary and any 
behavioral changes as a result are expected to be minor.
    In summary and as described above, the following factors primarily 
support our determination that the impacts resulting from this activity 
are not expected to adversely affect the species or stock through 
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival:
     No mortality is anticipated or authorized.
     The number of piles in the design has been reduced to the 
lowest amount practicable (other designs required more piles); 
therefore, the amount of pile activity is minimal at 16 days over the 
course of 3 months.
     The majority of pile driving is scheduled to occur in 
October prior to peak humpback whale habitat use.
     Shut-down zone mitigation designed to avoid Level A 
harassment of low frequency cetaceans and otariids will occur during 
impact pile driving.
     Extremely limited impact pile driving would occur (ten 
minutes per day for six non-consecutive days).
     The project and ensonified areas include a cove and dead-
end bay (Silver Bay) with no significant marine mammal habitat.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the 
specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into 
consideration the implementation of the monitoring and mitigation 
measures, NMFS finds that the total marine mammal take from the 
specified activity will have a negligible impact on all affected marine 
mammal species or stocks.

Small Numbers

    As noted above, only small numbers of marine mammals may be 
authorized to be incidentally taken under Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the 
MMPA for specified activities other than military readiness activities. 
The MMPA does not define small numbers and so, in practice, NMFS 
compares the number of individuals taken to the most appropriate 
estimation of abundance of the relevant species or stock in our 
determination of whether an authorization is limited to small numbers 
of marine mammals.
    NMFS has authorized a very small amount of Level A takes of marine 
mammals. Level B takes are more numerous and still only constitute 
between 0.01 and 6.6 percent of a given stock (Table 5). For pinnipeds, 
the number of takes likely represents repeated exposures of a smaller 
number of animals; therefore, the percent of stock taken is likely even 
smaller. Finally, the area where these takes may occur represents a 
negligible area with respect to each stock's range; therefore, it is 
unlikely a larger percentage of a stock's population would move through 
the action area.
    Based on the analysis contained herein of the specified activity 
(including the mitigation and monitoring measures) and the anticipated 
take of marine mammals, NMFS finds that small numbers of marine mammals 
will be taken relative to the population size of the affected species 
or stocks.

Unmitigable Adverse Impact Analysis and Determination

    Alaska Natives have traditionally harvested subsistence resources, 
including sea lions and harbor seals. In 2012 (the most recent year for 
which information is available), the community of Sitka had an 
estimated subsistence take of 49 harbor seals and 1 Steller sea lion 
(Wolf et al. 2013). CBS contacted the Alaska Harbor Seal Commission, 
the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission, and the Sitka 
Tribe of Alaska and these organizations expressed no concerns about the 
project. Therefore, NMFS has determined that the total taking of 
affected species or stocks will not have an unmitigable adverse impact 
on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for 
subsistence purposes.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA: 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires that each Federal agency insure that any 
action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat. To ensure ESA compliance for the issuance of IHAs, 
NMFS consults internally, in this case with the Alaska Regional Office, 
whenever we propose to authorize take for endangered or threatened 
    There are two marine mammal species under NMFS' jurisdiction that 
are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA with confirmed or 
possible occurrence in the action area: the wDPS of Steller sea lions 
and the humpback whale Mexico DPS. NMFS issued a Biological Opinion 
concluding that the issuance of the IHA is likely to adversely affect, 
but is not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of the 
threatened and endangered species under NMFS' jurisdiction and is not 
likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat. The Biological Opinion for this action is available on NMFS' 
Web site (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm).


    NMFS has issued an IHA to CBS authorizing the take of small numbers 
of six marine mammal species incidental to the GPIP dock modification 
project, Sawmill Cove, Alaska, containing the previously discussed 
mitigation, monitoring and reporting requirements.

    Dated: October 6, 2017.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
[FR Doc. 2017-22153 Filed 10-12-17; 8:45 am]