Agency OK’s Mild Marine Life Disturbance for Port

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Developers of the Port Dolphin Deepwater Port liquid natural gas terminal have asked the National Marine Fisheries Service for permission to disturb 28 species of marine mammals during construction of the Florida facility.
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     Port Dolphin Energy LLC says it will take about five years to build the LNG terminal about 28 miles off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Port Dolphin will consist almost entirely of permanently moored buoys connected to a proposed pipeline that hooks up with existing infrastructure at Port Manatee in Tampa Bay.
     The NMFS proposes to authorize “level B” harassment of marine mammals during construction. The Marine Mammal Protection Act defines such harassment as activity that “has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns,” such as “migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding or sheltering.”
     The harassment is expected to occur due to construction noise and sounds associated with vessel movement and regasification activity.
     While 28 cetaceans and the Florida manatee are known to frequent the Gulf of Mexico, the NMFS maintains that only the bottlenose dolphin and the Atlantic spotted dolphin “are likely to” occur regularly in the project area. Six of the 28 species noted in the action are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
     Though the proposed activities may affect the listed species, they are not likely to adversely affect them, according to the agency. The NMFS says it “does not propose to authorize incidental take of any ESA-listed marine mammal species,” and that “no listed species will be impacted by the specified activities.”
     The NMFS made a preliminary determination that the port’s proposed activities are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences for the marine mammals or their food sources. As a precaution, the service will require acoustic monitoring of construction activity to determine when and how marine mammals are disturbed.
      The service also stipulated that the public’s recommendations on the proposal could affect the mitigation measures included in its final decision.
     Port Dolphin Deepwater Port is a project of Port Dolphin Energy LLC, a Delaware company owned by the Norwegian-based shipping company Höegh LNG AS. The facility, which will remain submerged about 70 feet underwater when not in use, is expected to last 25 years with a peak capacity of 800 million standard cubic feet per day.

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