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Notice

Notice of Availability of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group Draft Restoration Plan #1/Environmental Assessment: Birds, Marine Mammals, Oysters, and Sea Turtles

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.

ACTION:

Notice of availability; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and a Consent Decree with BP Exploration & Production Inc. (BP),[1] the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Federal natural resource trustee agencies for the Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group (Regionwide TIG) have prepared a Draft Restoration Plan #1/Environmental Assessment: Birds, Marine Mammals, Oysters, and Sea Turtles (Draft RP/EA). The Draft RP/EA describes and proposes restoration project alternatives considered by the Regionwide TIG to partially restore natural resources and ecological services injured or lost as a result of the DWH oil spill. The Regionwide TIG evaluated these alternatives under criteria set forth in the OPA natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) regulations. In accordance with NEPA the environmental consequences of the restoration alternatives are evaluated in the integrated Environmental Assessment to which the Regionwide TIG Federal Trustees are cooperating agencies. The purpose of this notice is to inform the public of the availability of the Draft RP/EA and to seek public comments on the document.

DATES:

The Regionwide TIG will consider public comments received on or before May 6, 2021.

Virtual Public Meetings: Due to continuing Covid-19 limitations on gatherings of groups, the Regionwide TIG will hold two virtual open house and public meetings to facilitate public review and comment on the Draft RP/EA.

1. April 15, 2021, 2 p.m. CDT

2. April 15, 2021, 6 p.m. CDT

Members of the public can access the open house and webinars at:

https://regionwidetig.eventbrite.com/​. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the open house and webinar.

ADDRESSES:

Obtaining Documents: You may access the Draft RP/EA from the “News” section of the Regionwide TIG website at: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/​restoration-areas/​regionwide.

Submitting Comments: You may submit comments on the Draft RP/EA by one of the following methods:

  • Via the Web: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/​RWTIGRP1.
  • Via U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 29649, Atlanta, GA 30345. Please note that mailed comments must be postmarked on or before the comment deadline of 45 days following publication of this notice to be considered.
  • During the virtual public meetings: Comments may be provided during the webinar. Webinar information is provided below in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

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 made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—Jamie Schubert, NOAA Restoration Center, (310) 427-8711, regionwide.tig@noaa.gov.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) mobile drilling unit exploded, causing a massive release of oil from the BP Exploration and Production Inc. (BP) Macondo well. The explosion and oil spill led to loss of life and extensive natural resource injuries. Oil spread from the deep ocean to surface and nearshore environments across the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas to Florida. Extensive response actions were undertaken to reduce harm to people and the environment. However, Start Printed Page 15200many of these response actions had collateral impacts on the environment and on natural resource services.

The DWH Federal and State natural resource trustees (DWH Trustees) conducted the natural resource damage assessment for the DWH oil spill under 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 of restoration to baseline (the resource quality and conditions that would exist if the spill had not occurred) is complete.

The DWH 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. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • State of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), 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
  • State of Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas General Land Office, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The DWH Trustees reached and finalized a settlement of their natural resource damage claims with BP in an April 4, 2016, Consent Decree approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Pursuant to that Consent Decree, restoration projects in the Regionwide Restoration Area are selected and implemented by the Regionwide TIG. The Regionwide TIG is composed of the Federal and State Trustees listed above.

Background

On September 24, 2019, the Regionwide TIG posted a public notice at http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov requesting new or revised natural resource restoration project ideas for the Regionwide Restoration Area. The notice stated that the Regionwide TIG was seeking project ideas for the following Restoration Types: (1) Birds, (2) Marine Mammals, (3) Oysters; and (4) Sea Turtles. On July 1, 2020 the Regionwide TIG announced that it had initiated drafting of its first post settlement draft restoration plan including restoration projects for Birds, Marine Mammals, Oysters and Sea Turtles.

Overview of the Regionwide TIG Draft RP/EA

The Draft RP/EA is being released in accordance with OPA NRDA regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 15 CFR part 990, NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Consent Decree, and the Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. In the Draft RP/EA, the Regionwide TIG analyzes 15 alternatives and proposes eleven preferred alternatives for: Birds, Marine Mammals, Oysters, and Sea Turtles restoration types. The alternatives analyzed include the following:

Birds

  • Alternative 1: Reducing Marine Debris Impacts on Birds and Sea Turtles (joint project with Sea Turtles Restoration Type)—Preferred, $3,520,000.
  • Alternative 2: Conservation and Enhancement of Nesting and Foraging Habitat for Birds—Preferred, $22,500,000.

○ Component 1: Chandeleur Islands, LA, $8,000,000.

○ Component 2: Pilot Town/Little Dauphin Island, AL, $6,500,000.

○ Component 3: San Antonio Bay Bird Island, TX $2,500,00.

○ Component 4: Matagorda Bay Bird Island (Chester Island), TX, $2,500,000.

○ Component 5: Round Island, MS, $3,000,000.

  • Alternative 3: Bird Nesting and Foraging Area Stewardship—Preferred, $8,510,750.
  • Alternative 4: Stewardship and Habitat Creation through Beneficial Use—Non-preferred, $6,500,000.

○ Component 1: Walker Island, AL, $4,000,000.

○ Component 2: Matagorda Bay Bird Island (Chester Island), TX, $2,500,000.

Marine Mammals

  • Alternative 1: Voluntary Modifications to Commercial Shrimp Lazy Lines to Reduce Dolphin Entanglements—Preferred, $3,179,088.
  • Alternative 2: Reducing Impacts to Dolphins from Hook-and-Line Gear and Provisioning through Fishery Surveys, Social Science, and Collaboration—Preferred, $1,700,000.
  • Alternative 3: Enhance Marine Mammal Stranding Network Diagnostic Capabilities and Consistency across the Gulf of Mexico—Preferred, $2,300,000.
  • Alternative 4: Enhance Capacity, Diagnostic Capability, and Consistency of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network in the Gulf of Mexico—Non-preferred, $7,887,000.

Oysters

  • Alternative 1: Improving Resilience for Oysters by Linking Brood Reefs and Sink Reefs (Large-scale)—Preferred, $35,819,974 (component cost breakdown is not yet defined).

○ Component 1: East Galveston Bay, TX.

○ Component 2: Biloxi Marsh, LA.

○ Component 3: Heron Bay, MS.

○ Component 4: Mid-lower Mobile Bay, AL.

○ Component 5: Suwanee Sound, FL.

  • Alternative 2: Improving Resilience for Oysters by Linking Brood Reefs and Sink Reefs (Small-scale), Non-preferred, $22,300,000 (component cost breakdown is not yet defined).

○ Component 1: East Galveston Bay, TX.

○ Component 2: Biloxi Marsh, LA.

○ Component 3: Heron Bay, MS.

○ Component 4: Mid-lower Mobile Bay, AL.

○ Component 5: Suwanee Sound, FL.

Sea Turtles

  • Alternative 1: Pilot Implementation of Automatic Identification System in the GOM Inshore Shrimp Fishery to Inform Efforts to Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch—Preferred, $2,231,124.
  • Alternative 2: Restore and Enhance Sea Turtle Nest Productivity—Preferred, $7,655,000.
  • Alternative 3: Guiding Restoration Success for Nesting Females and Hatchlings in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—Non-preferred, $4,446,000.
  • Alternative 4: Reducing Sea Turtle Bycatch at Recreational Fishing Sites, Preferred, $3,649,360.
  • Alternative 5: Reducing Marine Debris Impacts on Birds and Sea Turtles (joint project with Birds Restoration Types)—Preferred, $3,520,000.
  • Alternative 6: Regionwide Enhancements to the Sea Turtle Start Printed Page 15201Stranding and Salvage Network and Enhanced Rehabilitation—Preferred, $5,050,000.

○ Component 1: Enhancing Response, Coordination, and Preparedness in the Gulf of Mexico, $2,050,000.

○ Component 2: Texas Rehabilitation Facility, $3,000,000.

The Regionwide TIG also analyzes a No Action alternative. One or more alternatives may be selected for implementation by the Regionwide TIG in the Final RP/EA or in future restoration plans.

The Regionwide TIG has examined the injuries assessed by the DWH Trustees and evaluated restoration alternatives to address the injuries. In the Draft RP/EA, the Regionwide TIG presents to the public its draft plan for providing partial compensation to the public for injured natural resources and ecological services in the Regionwide Restoration Area. The proposed alternatives are intended to continue the process of using DWH restoration funding to restore natural resources injured or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The total estimated cost of the projects proposed as preferred is approximately $99.6 million. Additional restoration planning for the Regionwide Restoration Area will continue.

Next Steps

The public is encouraged to review and comment on the Draft RP/EA. Virtual public meetings are scheduled to facilitate the public review and comment process. Each virtual meeting will include an informal open house period to accommodate general questions from the public in topic areas followed by a formal presentation of the Draft RP/EA. Following the presentation, public comment will be taken through the virtual meeting platform.

Presentation slides, project fact sheets, and a recording of the webinar will be posted on the Regionwide TIG website. The public may register for the virtual public meetings at the link below.

After the public comment period ends, the Regionwide TIG will consider and address the comments received before issuing a Final RP/EA. A summary of comments received and the Regionwide TIG's responses and any revisions to the document, as appropriate, will be included in the final document.

Additional Access to Materials

You may request a CD of the Draft RP/EA (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT above). Copies of the Draft RP/EA are also available for review during the public comment period at the following locations:

RepositoryAddressCityStateZip
Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory, Admin Building101 Bienville BlvdDauphin IslandAL36528
Thomas B. Norton Public Library221 W. 19th AveGulf ShoresAL36542
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division, Coastal Section Office31115 Five Rivers BlvdSpanish FortAL36527
Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve11300 U.S. Hwy. 98FairhopeAL36532
Mobile Public Library, West Regional Library5555 Grelot RdMobileAL36606
Franklin County Public Library160 Hickory DipEastpointFL32328
Okaloosa County Library185 Miracle Strip Pkwy. SEFt. WaltonFL32548
Panama City Beach Public Library125000 Hutchison BlvdPanama City BeachFL32407
Southwest Branch Library12248 Gulf Beach HwyPensacolaFL32507
Wakulla County Library4330 Crawfordville HwyCrawfordvilleFL32327
Walton County Library, Coastal Branch437 Greenway TrailSanta Rosa BeachFL32459
Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court, County Courthouse6865 Caroline StMiltonFL32570
Bay County Public Library898 W. 11th StPanama CityFL32401
Gulf County Public Library110 Library DrPort St. JoeFL32456
Jefferson R.J. Bailar Public Library375 S Water StMonticelloFL32344
Taylor County Public Library403 N. Washington StPerryFL32347
Dixie County Public Library16328 SE U.S. Hwy. 19Cross CityFL32628
Levy County Public Library7871 NE 90th StBronsonFL32621
Homosassa Public Library4100 S. Grandmarch AveHomosassaFL34446
Land O'Lakes Branch Library2818 Collier PkwyLand O' LakesFL34639
Pinellas Public Library1330 Cleveland StClearwaterFL33755
Temple Terrace Public Library202 Bullard PkwyTemple TerraceFL33617
South Manatee Branch Library6081 26th StWest BradentonFL34207
Jacaranda Public Library4143 Woodmere Park BlvdVeniceFL34293
Mid County Regional Library2050 Forrest Nelson BlvdPort CharlotteFL33952
Riverdale Branch Library2421 Buckingham RdFort MyersFL33905
St. Tammany Parish Library310 W. 21st AveCovingtonLA70433
Terrebonne Parish Library151 Library DrHoumaLA70360
New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana Division219 Loyola AveNew OrleansLA70112
East Baton Rouge Parish Library7711 Goodwood BlvdBaton RougeLA70806
Jefferson Parish Library, East Bank Regional Library4747 W. Napoleon AveMetairieLA70001
Jefferson Parish Library, West Bank Regional Library2751 Manhattan BlvdHarveyLA70058
Plaquemines Parish Library8442 Hwy. 23Belle ChaseLA70037
St. Bernard Parish Library2600 Palmisano BlvdChalmetteLA70043
St. Martin Parish Library201 Porter StMartinvilleLA70582
Alex P. Allain Library206 Iberia StFranklinLA70538
Vermillion Parish Library405 E. St. Victor StAbbevilleLA70510
Lafourche Parish Public Library (formerly Martha Sowell Utley Memorial Library)314 St. Mary StThibodauxLA70301
South Lafourche Public Library16241 E. Main StCut OffLA70345
Calcasieu Parish Public Library Central Branch301 W. Claude StLake CharlesLA70605
Iberia Parish Library445 E. Main StNew IberiaLA70560
Mark Shirley, Louisiana State University AgCenter1105 W. Port StAbbevilleLA70510
Sandy Ha Nguyen, Coastal Communities Consulting925 Behrman Hwy., Suite 15GretnaLA70056
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Biloxi Public Library, Local History and Genealogy Department580 Howard AveBiloxiMS39530
West Biloxi Public Library2047 Pass RdBiloxiMS39531
Waveland Public Library333 Coleman AveWavelandMS39576
Vancleave Public Library12604 Hwy. 57VancleaveMS39565
Hancock County Library System312 Hwy. 90Bay St. LouisMS39520
Gulfport Harrison County Library1708 25th AveGulfportMS39501
Pass Christian Public Library111 Hiern AvePass ChristianMS39571
Orange Grove Branch Library12135 Old Hwy. 49GulfportMS39503
Kathleen McIlwain Public Library2100 Library LnGautierMS39553
Pascagoula Public Library3214 Pascagoula StPascagoulaMS39567
Ina Thompson Moss Point Library (formerly Moss Point Library)4119 BellviewMoss PointMS39563
Ocean Springs Municipal Library525 Dewey AveOcean SpringsMS39564
Kiln Public Library17065 Hwy. 603KilnMS39556
Margaret Sherry Memorial Library2141 Popps Ferry RdBiloxiMS39532
East Central Public Library21801 Slider RdMoss PointMS39555
Jerry Lawrence Memorial Library (formerly D'Iberville Library)10391 AutoMall PkwyD'IbervilleMS39540
Mercy Housing & Human Development1135 Ford StGulfportMS39507
Center for Environmental and Economic Justice336 Rodenberg AveBiloxiMS39531
STEPS Coalition11975 Seaway Rd., Ste. A240GulfportMS39503
Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitors Center3500 Park RdOcean SpringsMS39564
Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United6421 Beatline RoadLong BeachMS39560
Jack K. Williams Library, Texas A&M University at Galveston200 Seawolf Pkwy., Bldg. 3010GalvestonTX77554
Port Arthur Public Library4615 9th AvePort ArthurTX77672
Mary and Jeff Bell Library Texas A&M6300 Ocean DrCorpus ChristiTX78412
Rosenberg Library2310 Sealy StGalvestonTX77550

Translation Opportunities

Vietnamese translation will be available upon request for the virtual public meetings. Anyone requiring assistance or access to translation should contact Jamie Schubert at regionwide.tig@noaa.gov by April 5, 2021. Vietnamese translated materials including the Executive Summary and project fact sheets are posted in the “News” section of the Regionwide TIG's website: http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/​restoration-areas/​regionwide.

Administrative Record

The documents comprising the Administrative Record for the Draft RP/EA can be viewed electronically at http://www.doi.gov/​deepwaterhorizon/​adminrecord.

Authority

The authority of this action is the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.) and its implementing Oil Pollution Act Natural Resource Damage Assessment regulations found at 15 CFR part 990 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

Start Signature

Dated: March 16, 2021.

Carrie Diane Robinson,

Director, Office of Habitat Conservation, National Marine Fisheries Service.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  Consent Decree among Defendant BP Exploration & Production Inc. (“BPXP”), the United States of America, and the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas entered in In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

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[FR Doc. 2021-05716 Filed 3-19-21; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-P