Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
A copy of the application containing a list of the references used in this document may be obtained by writing to the above address, telephoning the contact listed here (see
The National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the R/V
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)), directs the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to authorize, upon request, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock, by United States citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographical region if certain findings are made and, if the taking is limited to harassment, a notice of a proposed authorization is provided to the public for review.
Authorization for the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking will have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s), and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). The authorization must set forth the permissible methods of taking, other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings. 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.”
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA established an expedited process by which citizens of the United States can apply for an authorization to incidentally take small numbers of marine mammals by harassment. Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA establishes a 45-day time limit for NMFS's review of an application followed by a 30-day public notice and comment period on any proposed authorizations for the incidental harassment of small numbers of marine mammals. Within 45 days of the close of the public comment period, NMFS must either issue or deny the authorization.
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].
On May 17, 2012, NMFS received an application from the L-DEO and PG&E requesting that NMFS issue an IHA for the take, by Level B harassment only, of small numbers of marine mammals incidental to conducting a marine seismic survey within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off the central coast of California during November to December, 2012. NMFS received a revised application on August 31, 2012. The updated IHA application reflects revisions to the proposed project that have resulted from discussions between NMFS and the applicant during the MMPA consultation process, as well as other Federal and State regulatory requirements and include the elimination of portions of the originally planned survey area (specifically Survey Box 3) and the splitting of the proposed project into two years, and the shortening of the 2012 work window to November and December. Additionally, PG&E has agreed to operationally and financially support the design and implementation of a comprehensive monitoring, stranding response, and adaptive management plan that will support real-time decision making to reduce impacts to the Morro Bay stock of harbor porpoises (
PG&E proposes to conduct a high energy seismic survey in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and known offshore fault zones near the power plant. The observations will be interpreted in the context of global synthesis of observations bearing on earthquake rupture geometries, earthquake displacements, fault interactions, and fault evolution. Estimating the limits of future earthquake ruptures is becoming increasingly important as seismic hazard maps are based on geologists' maps of active faults and, locally, the Hosgri Fault strikes adjacent to one of California's major nuclear power plants. In addition to the proposed operations of the seismic airgun array and hydrophone streamer, L-DEO and PG&E intend to operate a multibeam echosounder and a sub-bottom profiler continuously throughout the survey.
Acoustic stimuli (i.e., increased underwater sound) generated during the operation of the seismic airgun array may have the potential to cause a behavioral disturbance for marine mammals in the survey area. This is the principal means of marine mammal taking associated with these activities and L-DEO and PG&E have requested an authorization to take 25 species of marine mammals by Level B harassment. Take is not expected to result from the use of the multibeam echosounder or sub-bottom profiler, for reasons discussed in this notice; nor is take expected to result from collision with the source vessel because it is a single vessel moving at a relatively slow speed (4.6 knots [kts]; 8.5 kilometers per hour [km/hr]; 5.3 miles per hour [mph]) during seismic acquisition within the survey, for a relatively short period of time (approximately 50 days). It is likely that any marine mammal would be able to avoid the vessel.
PG&E proposes to conduct a high energy seismic survey in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and known offshore fault zones near the power plant (see Figure 1 of the IHA application). The project, as proposed by L-DEO and PG&E, consists of deploying seismic or sound sources and receivers at onshore and offshore locations to generate data that can be used to improve imaging of major geologic structures and fault zones in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The details of the proposed seismic studies are outlined in a Science Plan submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) by L-DEO, University of Nevada, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. NSF, as owner of the
These seismic studies would provide additional insights of any relationships or connection between the known faults as well as enhance knowledge of offshore faults in proximity to the central coast of California and the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The proposed deep penetrating (10 to 15 kilometers [km] or 6 to 9 miles [mi]), high energy seismic survey (energy greater than 2 kilo Joule) would complement a previously completed shallow (less than 1 km [0.6 mi]), low energy (less than 2 kilo Joule) three-dimensional (3D) seismic reflection survey.
The objectives of the proposed high energy 3D seismic survey are to:
• Record high resolution two-dimensional (2D) and 3D seismic reflection profiles of major geologic structures and fault zones in the vicinity of the central coast of California and Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
• Obtain high-resolution deep-imaging (greater than 1 km [0.6 mi]) of the Hosgri and Shoreline fault zones in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant to constrain fault geometry and slip rate (scheduled for the seismic survey activities in 2013).
• Obtain high-resolution, deep-imaging of the intersection of the Hosgri and Shoreline fault zones near Point Buchon.
• Obtain high-resolution, deep-imaging of the geometry and slip rate of the Los Osos fault, as well as the intersection of the Hosgri and Los Osos fault zones in Estero Bay.
• Augment the current regional seismic database for subsequent use and analysis through the provision of all data to the broader scientific and safety community.
The studies require the collection of data over a long period of time. However, the project timeframe is limited to fall and winter months to minimize environmental impacts to the greatest extent feasible. L-DEO and PG&E are proposing to conduct the studies 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. This schedule is designed to reduce overall air emissions, length of time for operation in the water thereby reducing impacts to marine wildlife, commercial fishing, and other area users. PG&E will work with environmental agencies to appropriately address the balancing of public health and safety and environmental concerns during the conduct of these studies.
The proposed survey involves both marine (offshore) and land (onshore) activities. The offshore components consist of operating a seismic survey vessel and support/monitoring vessels within the areas shown in Figure 1 of the IHA application and transiting between the four different survey box areas extending between the mouth of the Santa Maria River and Estero Bay. The seismic survey vessel would tow a series of sound-generating airguns and sound-recording hydrophones along pre-determined shore parallel and shore-perpendicular transects to conduct deep (10 to 15 km [6 to 9 mi]) seismic reflection profiling of major geologic structures and fault zones in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
The offshore part of the survey activities include the placement of a limited number of seafloor geophones (e.g., Fairfield Z700 nodal units) into nearshore waters.
The planned seismic survey (e.g., equipment testing, startup, line changes, repeat coverage of any areas, and equipment recovery) will consist of approximately 3,565.8 km (1,925.4 nmi) (1,417.6 km [765.4 nmi] for Survey Box 4 and 2,148.2 km [1,159.9 nmi] for Survey Box 2) of transect lines (including turns) in the survey area off the central coast of California (see Figure 2 of the IHA application). In addition to the operations of the airgun array, a Kongsberg EM 122 multibeam echosounder and Knudsen Chirp 3260 sub-bottom profiler will also be operated from the
The tracklines for the 3D seismic survey will encompass an area of
Survey Box 2 (Survey area from Estero Bay to offshore Santa Maria River Mouth):
• Area: 406.04 km
• Total survey line length is 2,148.2 km (1,159.9 nmi); and
• Strike line surveys along the Hosgri fault zone and Shoreline, Hosgri, and Los Osos fault intersections.
Survey Box 4 (Estero Bay):
• Area: 334.48 km
• Total survey line length is 1,417.6 km (765.4 nmi);
• Dip line survey across the Hosgri and Los Osos fault zones in Estero Bay.
Figure 2 of the IHA application depicts the proposed survey transit lines. These lines depict the survey lines as well as the turning legs. The full seismic array is firing during the straight portions of the track lines as well as the initial portions of the run-out (offshore) sections and later portions of the run-in (inshore) sections. During turns and most of the initial portion of the run-ins, there will only be one airgun firing (i.e., mitigation airgun). Assuming a daily survey rate of approximately 8.3 km/hour (km/hr) (4.5 knots [kts] for 24/7 operations), the Survey Box 2 is expected to take approximately 14 days and approximately 9.25 days for Survey Box 4. When considering mobilization, demobilization, refueling, equipment maintenance, weather, marine mammal activity, and other contingencies, the proposed survey is expected to be completed in 49.25 days.
The offshore equipment and vessels for the proposed 3D marine seismic survey are highly specialized and typically no seismic vessels are located in California. The proposed seismic survey vessel (R/V
Nearshore operations would be conducted using locally available vessels such as the M/V
During onshore operations, receiver line equipment would be deployed by foot-based crews supported by four-wheel drive vehicles or small vessel. Once the proposed project has been completed, the equipment would demobilize from the area by truck.
The proposed offshore seismic survey would be conducted with vessels specifically designed and built to conduct such surveys. PG&E has selected the
In water depths from 30 to 305 m (100 to greater than 1,000 ft), the
• Primary vessel—the
• Two Chase/Scout boats—22.9 to 41.2 m (75 to 135 ft) in length and will be around the
• Third support vessel-will be approximately 18.3 to 25.9 m (60 to 85 ft) in length and would act as a support boat for the
• A nearshore work vessel (e.g.,
• Monitoring aircraft—Partenavia P68-OBS “Observer,” a high-wing, twin-engine plane or equivalent aircraft is 9.5 m (31 ft) in length and has a wingspan of 12 m (39 ft) with a carrying capacity of six persons. The aircraft has two “bubble” observation windows, a glass nose for clear observation, and will be equipped with communication and safety equipment sufficient to support the proposed operations. The aircraft would be used to perform aerial surveys of marine mammals.
The vessel has a length of 71.5 m (235 ft); a beam of 17.0 m (56 ft); a maximum draft of 5.9 m (19 ft); and a gross tonnage of 3,834. The
The vessel also has an observation tower from which Protected Species Visual Observers (PSVO) will watch for marine mammals before and during the proposed airgun operations. When stationed on the observation platform, the PSVO's eye level will be approximately 21.5 m (71 ft) above sea level providing the PSVO an unobstructed view around the entire vessel. More details of the
The tow depth of the airgun array will be 9 m (29.5 ft) during the surveys. Because the actual source is a distributed sound source (18 airguns) rather than a single point source, the highest sound measurable at any location in the water will be less than the nominal source level. In addition, the effective source level for sound propagating in near-horizontal directions will be substantially lower than the nominal omni-directional source level applicable to downward propagation because of the directional nature of the sound from the airgun array (i.e., sound is directed downward). Figure 3 of the IHA application shows one linear airgun array or “string” with ten airguns. Figure 4 of the IHA application diagrams the airgun array and streamer deployment from the
Acoustic signals will be recorded using a system array of four hydrophone streamers, which would be towed behind the
Seven hydrophones will be present along each streamer for acoustic measurement. The hydrophones will consist of a mixture of Sonardyne Transceivers. Each streamer will contain three groups of paired hydrophones, with each group approximately 2,375 m (7,800 ft) apart. The hydrophones within each group will be approximately 300 m (984 ft) apart. One additional hydrophone will be located on the tail buoy attached to the end of the streamer cable. In addition, one Sonardyne Transducer will be attached to the airgun array. Compass birds will be used to keep the streamer cables and hydrophones at a depth of approximately 10 m (32.8 ft). One compass bird will be placed at the front end of each streamer as well as periodically along the streamer. Figure 4 of the IHA application depicts the configuration of both the streamer and airgun array used by the
This section includes a brief explanation of the sound measurements frequently used in the discussions of acoustic effects in this document. Sound pressure is the sound force per unit area, and is usually measured in micropascals (μPa), where 1 pascal (Pa) is the pressure resulting from a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square meter. Sound pressure level (SPL) is expressed as the ratio of a measured sound pressure and a reference level. The commonly used reference pressure level in underwater acoustics is 1 μPa, and the units for SPLs are dB re: 1 μPa. SPL (in decibels [dB]) = 20 log (pressure/reference pressure).
SPL is an instantaneous measurement and can be expressed as the peak, the peak-peak (p-p), or the root mean square (rms). Root mean square, which is the square root of the arithmetic average of the squared instantaneous pressure values, is typically used in discussions of the effects of sounds on vertebrates and all references to SPL in this document refer to the root mean square unless otherwise noted. SPL does not take the duration of a sound into account.
Airguns function by venting high-pressure air into the water which creates an air bubble. The pressure signature of an individual airgun consists of a sharp rise and then fall in pressure, followed by several positive and negative pressure excursions caused by the oscillation of the resulting air bubble. The oscillation of the air bubble transmits sounds downward through the seafloor and the amount of sound transmitted in the near horizontal directions is reduced. However, the airgun array also emits sounds that travel horizontally toward non-target areas.
The nominal source levels of the airgun arrays used by L-DEO and PG&E on the
Accordingly, L-DEO and PG&E have predicted the received sound levels in relation to distance and direction from the 18 airgun array and the single Bolt
To determine exclusion zones for the airgun array to be used off the central coast of California, the noise modeling for the proposed 3D seismic survey is based on the results of mathematical modeling conducted by Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. (2011). The model results are based upon the airgun specifications provided for the
The sound propagation from the airgun array was modeled in accordance with physical description of sound propagation and depends on waveguide characteristics, including water depth, water column sound velocity profile, and geoacoustic parameters of the ocean bottom. For the sound propagation model, Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. relied on variants of the U.S. Navy's range-dependent Acoustic Model. Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. modeled three 2D (range versus depth) propagation paths, each with range-dependent (i.e., range-varying) bathymetry and range-independent geoacoustic profiles. The resulting received sound levels at a receiver depth of 6 m (19.7 ft) and across range were then “smoothed” via least-squares regression. The monotonically-decreasing regression equations yielded the estimated safety radii.
The accuracy of the sound field predicted by the acoustic propagation model is limited by the quality and resolution of the available environmental data. Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. used environmental information provided by the client for the proposed survey area, specifically, bathymetry data, a series of measured water column sound speed profiles, and descriptive sediment and basement properties. Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. used two geoacoustic profiles for its three propagation paths: One for the upslope propagation path (sand overlaying sandstone) and one for the downslope and alongshore propagation paths (silt overlaying sandstone)
L-DEO and PG&E have used these calculated values to determine exclusion zones for the 18 airgun array and previously modeled measurements by L-DEO for the single airgun, to designate exclusion zones for purposes of mitigation, and to estimate take for marine mammals off the central coast of California. A detailed description of the modeling effort is provided in Appendix A of NSF's EA.
Using the model (airgun array and single airgun), Table 1 (below) shows the distances at which three rms sound levels are expected to be received from the 18 airgun array and a single airgun. To avoid the potential for injury or permanent physiological damage (Level A harassment), NMFS (1995, 2000) has concluded that cetaceans and pinnipeds should not be exposed to pulsed underwater noise at received levels exceeding 180 dB re: 1 µPa and 190 dB re: 1 µPa, respectively. L-DEO and PG&E used these levels to establish the exclusion zones. If marine mammals are detected within or about to enter the appropriate exclusion zone, the airguns will be powered-down (or shut-down, if necessary) immediately. NMFS also assumes that marine mammals exposed to levels exceeding 160 dB re: 1 µPa may experience Level B harassment.
Table 1 summarizes the predicted distances at which sound levels (160, 180, and 190 dB [rms]) are expected to be received from the 18 airgun array and a single airgun operating in upslope (inshore), downslope (offshore), and alongshore depths. For the proposed project, L-DEO and PG&E plan to use the upslope distance (inshore) for the 160 dB (6,210 m [20,374 ft]) and 180 dB (1,010 m [3,313.7 ft], and alongshore distance for the 190 dB (320 m [1,049.9 ft]), for the determination of the buffer and exclusion zones since this represents the largest and therefore most conservative distances determined by the Greeneridge Sciences, Inc. modeling.
Table 1. Modeled (array) or predicted (single airgun) distances to which sound levels ≥ 190, 180, and 160 dB re: 1 μPa (rms) could be received in upslope, downslope, and alongshore propagation paths during the proposed survey off the central coast of California, November to December, 2012.
Along with the airgun operations, two additional acoustical data acquisition systems will be operated from the
Each ping consists of eight (in water greater than 1,000 m) or four (less than 1,000 m) successive, fan-shaped transmissions, each ensonifying a sector that extends 1° fore-aft. Continuous-wave pulses increase from 2 to 15 milliseconds (ms) long in water depths up to 2,600 m (8,350.2 ft), and frequency modulated (FM) chirp pulses up to 100 ms long are used in water greater than 2,600 m. The successive transmissions span an overall cross-track angular extent of about 150°, with 2 ms gaps between the pulses for successive sectors (see Table 2 of the IHA application).
Both the multibeam echosounder and sub-bottom profiler are operated continuously during survey operations. Given the relatively shallow water depths of the survey area (20 to 300 m [66 to 984 ft]), the number of pings or transmissions would be reduced from 8 to 4, and the pulse durations would be reduced from 100 ms to 2 to 15 ms for the multibeam echosounder. Power levels of both instruments would be reduced from maximum levels to account for water depth. Actual operating parameters will be established at the time of the survey.
NMFS expects that acoustic stimuli resulting from the proposed operation of the single airgun or the 18 airgun array has the potential to harass marine mammals. NMFS does not expect that the movement of the
The G-882 is designed for operation from small vessels for shallow water surveys as well as for the large survey vessels for deep tow applications. Power may be supplied from a 24 to 30 VDC battery power or a 110/220 VAC power supply. The standard G-882 tow cable includes a Vectran strength member and can be built to up to 700 m (2,297 ft) (no telemetry required). The shipboard end of the tow cable is attached to a junction box or onboard cable. Output data are recorded on a computer with an RS-232 serial port.
Both the gravimeter and magnetometers are “passive” instruments and do not emit sounds, impulses, or signals, and are not expected to affect marine mammals.
To collect deep seismic data in water depths that are not accessible by the
Twelve Fairfield Z700 marine nodes would be placed on the seafloor along two nearshore survey routes as a pilot test prior to the full deployment of 600 nodes scheduled for 2013. The northern route (Crowbar Beach) traverses the Point Buchon MPA north of Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The southern route (either Green Peak or Deer Canyon) is located south of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The approximate locations of the proposed nodal routes are depicted in Figure 7 of the IHA application. Six nodes would be placed at 500 m (1,640.4 ft) intervals along each route for a total length of 3 km (1.9 mi). Maximum water depth ranges from 70 m (229.7 ft) (Crowbar) to 30 m (98.4 ft) (Deer Canyon). Marine nodes would be deployed using a vessel and (in some locations) divers and will be equipped with ultra-short baseline acoustic tracking system to position and facilitate recovery of each node. The tracking equipment will be used to provide underwater positioning of a remotely operated vehicle during deployment and recovery of the nodes.
The seafloor equipment will be in place for the duration of the data collection for the offshore 3D high energy seismic surveys plus deployment and recovery time. Node deployment will be closely coordinated with both offshore and onshore survey operations to ensure survey activities are completed before the projected batter life of 45 days is exceeded. PG&E anticipates using a locally-available vessel to deploy and retrieve the geophones. The vessel would be a maximum of 50 m in length. The
Onshore, a linear array of ZL and nodals will be deployed along a single route on the Morro Strand to record onshore sound transmitted from the offshore airgun surveys. Route location is shown in Figure 9 of the IHA application. Ninety nodes would be placed at 100 m (328 ft) intervals along the strand for a total route length of approximately 9 km (5.6 mi). The
More information on the vessels, equipment, and personnel requirements proposed for use in the offshore survey can be found in sections 1.4 and 1.5 of the IHA application.
The proposed project located offshore of central California would have a total duration of approximately 49.25 operational days occurring during the November through December, 2012 timeframe, which will include approximately 24 days of active seismic airgun operations. Mobilization will initiate on October 15, 2012, with active airgun surveys taking place from November 1 through December 31, 2012. Below is an estimated schedule for the proposed project based on the use of the
• Mobilization to project site—6 days;
• Initial equipment deployment—3 days (includes offshore geophone deployment);
• Pre-activity marine mammal surveys—5 days (concurrent with offshore deployment activities);
• Onshore geophone deployment—2 to 3 days (concurrent with offshore deployment activities);
• Equipment calibration and sound check (i.e., sound source verification)—5 days;
• Seismic survey—23.25 days (Survey Box 4 will be surveyed first followed by Survey Box 2, 24/7 operations in all areas);
• Survey Box 4 (survey area within Estero Bay)—9.25 days;
• Survey Box 2 (survey area from Estero Bay to offshore to the mouth of the Santa Maria River)—14 days;
• Streamer and airgun preventative maintenance—2 days;
• Additional shut-downs (marine mammal presence, crew changes, and unanticipated weather delays)—4 days;
• Demobilization—6 days.
Placement of the onshore receiver lines would be completed prior to the start of offshore survey activities and would remain in place until the offshore survey can be completed. Some minor deviation from this schedule is possible, depending on logistics and weather (i.e., the cruise may depart earlier or be extended due to poor weather; there could be additional days of seismic operations if collected data are deemed to be of substandard quality).
The latitude and longitude for the bounds of the two survey boxes are:
Thirty-six marine mammal species (29 cetaceans [whales, dolphins, and porpoises], 6 pinnipeds [seals and sea lions], and 1 fissiped) are known to or could occur off the central coast of California study area. Several of these species are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531
Table 2. The habitat, regional abundance, and conservation status of marine mammals that may occur in or near the proposed seismic survey area off the central coast of California. (See text and Table 4 in L-DEO and PG&E's application for further details.)
In the Pacific Ocean, harbor porpoises are found in coastal and inland waters from California to Alaska and across to Kamchatka and Japan (Gakin, 1984). Harbor porpoises appear to have more restricted movements along the western coast of the continental United States, than along the eastern coast, with some regional differences within California. Based on genetic differences that showed small-scale subdivision within the U.S. portion of its range, California coast stocks were re-evaluated and the stock boundaries were revised. The boundaries (i.e., range) for the Morro Bay stock of harbor porpoises are from Point Sur to Point Conception, California. The vast majority of harbor porpoise in California are within the 0 to 92 m (0 to 301.8 ft) depth, however, a smaller percentage can be found between the 100 to 200 m (328 to 656.2 ft) isobaths. A systematic ship survey of depth strata out to 90 m (295.3 ft) in northern California showed that harbor porpoise abundance declined significantly in waters deep than 60 m (196.9 ft) (Caretta
Refer to sections 3 and 4 of L-DEO and PG&E's application for detailed information regarding the abundance and distribution, population status, and life history and behavior of these other marine mammal species and their occurrence in the proposed project area. The application also presents how L-DEO and PG&E calculated the estimated densities for the marine mammals in the proposed survey area. NMFS has reviewed these data and determined them to be the best available scientific information for the purposes of the proposed IHA.
Acoustic stimuli generated by the operation of the airguns, which introduce sound into the marine environment, may have the potential to cause Level B harassment of marine mammals in the proposed survey area. The effects of sounds from airgun operations might include one or more of the following: tolerance, masking of natura