United states department of interior bureau of ocean energy management

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On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon MC252 drilling platform occurred releasing an estimated five (5) million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and adversely affecting large coastal areas of Louisiana including the TE-118 East Timbalier Restoration Project Area. The Oil Pollution Act authorizes the Natural Resource Trustees to evaluate the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on natural resources and develop restoration plans to offset these impacts. The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (Gulf Fund) was established by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in accordance with plea agreements between BP Exploration & Production, Inc., Transocean Deepwater, Inc. (January 03, 2013), and the United States of America following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) serves as the designated State agency for the Project, a Gulf Fund Project administered by the NFWF. This Project is one of several that the State of Louisiana has proposed for the Gulf Fund process specifically to address the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the natural resources within the Project Area. The engineering and design of the Project was authorized by NFWF in November 2013.

The purpose of this Biological Assessment (BA) is to address the effects of the TE-118 East Timbalier Island Barrier Island Restoration Project (hereinafter referred to as the Project) on species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), or their designated critical habitat. Based on conducting a regional evaluation for the surroundings of East Timbalier Island, the Project comprises not only restoration at East Timbalier Island, but also restoration at the West Belle Headland. Therefore, the project involves restoring approximately 516 acres of beach, dune, and intertidal marsh habitat on East Timbalier Island and approximately 819 acres of beach, dune, and intertidal marsh on the West Belle Headland, for a combined total of 1,335 acres. The project includes offshore borrow areas for beach and dune habitat referenced as South Pelto Lease Blocks 12, 13 and 14 and Ship Shoal Lease Blocks 12 and 13. The offshore borrow area for beach and dune fill sediment is located in Federal waters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management (BOEM). Preliminary design cut volume estimates of suitable sediments within the South Pelto Borrow and Ship Shoal Borrow Area is approximately 4.7 and 6.5 million cubic yards (MCY), respectively. Two pump-out areas, East Timbalier Pump-Out and West Belle Pump-Out, have been delineated with an associated sediment delivery corridor to hydraulically unload via hopper dredge or scow barges. The nearshore borrow areas for marsh habitat referenced as East Timbalier Island Marsh Borrow Area and West Belle Marsh Borrow Area includes a previously permitted sediment delivery pipeline conveyance corridor to connect the marsh borrow areas to East Timbalier Island and West Belle Headland. The corridors do not require any excavation for pipeline installation, as the weighted sediment discharge pipelines will be placed directly on the sea floor.

Early coordination and pre-consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was conducted during phone conversations and meetings, including a pre-application meeting on September 14, 2016 and a meeting with the BOEM on December 20, 2016. This BA, prepared for the CPRA, addresses the proposed action in compliance with Section 7 of the ESA. Section 7 assures that, through consultation (or conferencing for proposed species) with the USFWS and the NMFS, Federal actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened, endangered or proposed species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.

The following ESA-listed species potentially occur in the area: Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys impricate), Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) and designated critical habitat, Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) and its designated critical habitat, and Red Knot (Calidris canutus) (USFWS 2016, NMFS 2016).

1.1Purpose and Need

The specific objectives of the Project are “…restoration of dune, supratidal, and intertidal habitat on East Timbalier Island” (NFWF, undated). The Project’s overarching goals are to restore the geomorphic and ecologic form and function (GEFF) of East Timbalier Island and the West Belle Headland as a component of the Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline system. The barrier system separates the 1.7 million acres of the Terrebonne and Timbalier Bays from the GOM, regulating estuarine conditions within the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary including expansive diverse wetlands that transition from saltmarsh to freshwater marsh. Robust barrier islands are critical for this estuarine system to continue to function as productive nursery areas for numerous species of commercially- and recreationally-important fishes and invertebrates. Without such projects the barrier islands will continue to disintegrate and convert to shoals, compromising biological, physical and chemical estuarine gradients and accelerating estuarine wetland loss leading to environmental and commercial benefits.

Restoring the geomorphic form and function of the degraded barrier system involves introduction of sand to construct beach and dune habitat. In addition, it includes providing a marsh platform to capture sand that is overwashed during major storm events; serving as a “rollover” platform as the islands migrate landward. Restoration of ecologic form and function includes vegetating both the restored dunes and back-barrier marsh platforms with native plants, to provide wetland habitat for a diverse number of plant and animal species, and to help retain sediment.

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