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Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project in Norfolk, Virginia

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project in Norfolk, Virginia

Donna S. Wieting
Department of Commerce
7 October 2020


[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 195 (Wednesday, October 7, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 63256-63257]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-22173]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[RTID 0648-XA521]


Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals 
Incidental to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project in 
Norfolk, Virginia

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

ACTION: Notice; receipt of application; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: NMFS has received a request from the Hampton Roads Connector 
Partners (HRCP) for authorization to take small numbers of marine 
mammals incidental to pile driving and removal activities at the 
Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Expansion Project (HRBT) in Norfolk, 
Virginia over the course of five years from the date of issuance. 
Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act 
(MMPA), NMFS is announcing receipt of the HRCP's request for the 
development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental 
taking of marine mammals. NMFS invites the public to provide 
information, suggestions, and comments on the HRCP's application and 
request.

DATES: Comments and information must be received no later than November 
6, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the applications should be addressed to Jolie 
Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should 
be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and 
electronic comments should be sent to ITP.Pauline@noaa.gov.
    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including 
all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments 
to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or 
Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/node/23111 without change. All personal 
identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Pauline, Office of Protected 
Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401. An electronic copy of HRCP's 
application may be obtained online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-mammal-protection/incidental-take-authorizations-construction-activities. In case of problems accessing these documents, 
please call the contact listed above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) 
direct the Secretary of Commerce (as delegated to NMFS) 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 
authorization is provided to the public for review.
    An incidental take authorization 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 
survival.
    The MMPA states that the term ``take'' means to harass, hunt, 
capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine 
mammal.
    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).

Summary of Request

    On November 19, 2019, NMFS received application from HRCP 
requesting authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to 
construction activities related to a major road transport 
infrastructure project along the existing I-64 highway in Virginia, 
consisting of roadway improvements, trestle bridges, and bored tunnels 
crossing Hampton Roads between Norfolk and Hampton, Virginia. After the 
HRCP responded to our questions, we determined the application was 
adequate and complete on September 29, 2020. The requested regulations 
would be valid for 5 years, from February 2021 through January 2026. 
HRCP plans to conduct necessary work, including pile installation and 
removal. Pile installation methods will include impact and vibratory 
driving, jetting, and drilling with a down-the-hole hammer. Pile 
removal techniques for temporary piles will include vibratory pile 
removal or cutting three feet below the mudline. The proposed action 
may incidentally expose marine mammals occurring in the vicinity to 
example elevated levels of underwater sound, thereby resulting in 
incidental take, by Level A and Level B harassment,. Therefore, the 
HRCP requests authorization to incidentally take marine mammals.

Specified Activities

    The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel project is a major road transport 
infrastructure project along the existing I-64 highway in Virginia, 
consisting of roadway improvements, trestle bridges, and bored tunnels 
crossing Hampton Roads between Norfolk and Hampton. The proposed 
project will address severe traffic congestion at the existing HRBT 
crossing by increasing capacity The proposed project will include 
widening I-64 to create an eight-lane facility with a consistent six-
lanes between the I-64/I-664 and I-64/I-564 Interchange, which could 
expand to eight-lanes during peak travel periods with the use of 
drivable shoulder lanes within the project limits. The proposed project 
will include the construction of

[[Page 63257]]

two new two-lane tunnels, expansion of the existing portal islands, and 
full replacement of the existing North and South bridge-trestles. An 
estimated 6,746 piles would be installed and 3,856 piles would be 
removed over 5 years. Pile installation and removal activities would 
take place for approximately 312 days per year based on a 6-day work 
week. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.), humpback whales (Megaptera 
novaeangliae), harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), harbor seals 
(Phoca vitulina), and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) have been 
observed in the area.

Information Solicited

    Interested persons may submit information, suggestions, and 
comments concerning the HRCP's request (see ADDRESSES). NMFS will 
consider all information, suggestions, and comments related to the 
request during the development of proposed regulations governing the 
incidental taking of marine mammals by the HRCP, if appropriate.

    Dated: October 2, 2020.
Donna S. Wieting,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-22173 Filed 10-6-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

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