NMFS publishes proposed rule for Liberty
The National Marine Fisheries Service has published a proposed rule for authorization for take of marine mammals incidental to construction and operation of the Liberty Drilling and Production Island. The request for authorization, from Hilcorp Alaska, covers five years. NMFS is proposing regulations to govern that take and requesting comments on the proposed regulations.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a record of decision for the project in October, following issuance of a final environmental impact statement in late August.
NMFS said the company would construct ice roads annually, beginning in December 2020.
All island construction would begin and is expected to be completed in the first year of the proposed regulations, December 2020 through November 2021, the agency said.
Pipeline installation would occur from December 2021 through November 2022, with drilling and production beginning in the third year of the regulations.
Hilcorp petitioned NMFS for rulemaking in August of 2017 and more recently, the agency said, provided additional information, “including details on a previously undescribed component of the project,” the installation of foundation piles in the interior of the LDPI.
Island construction, requiring impact and vibratory pile driving, would be completed in 2021, with pile driving primarily occurring during the ice-covered season.
Major provisions of the rule include soft start during impact pile driving to allow marine mammals the opportunity to leave the area; implementation of shutdowns of construction activity under certain circumstances to minimize harassment; prohibition of impact pile driving during the fall Cross Island bowhead whale hunt and seasonal restrictions to minimize impacts to marine mammals and subsistence users; implementation of best management practices to avoid and minimize seal and habitat disturbance associated with ice road construction and use; use of marine mammal and acoustic monitors to detect marine mammals; coordination with subsistence users; and limitation on vessel speeds and transit areas where appropriate.
- KRISTEN NELSON