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e-CFR data is current as of January 15, 2021

Title 15Subtitle BChapter IXSubchapter DPart 971Subpart F → §971.603

Title 15: Commerce and Foreign Trade
Subpart F—Environmental Effects

§971.603   At-sea monitoring.

(a) An applicant must submit with its application a monitoring plan designed to enable the Administrator to assess environmental impacts and to develop and evaluate possible methods of mitigating adverse environmental effects, to validate assessments made in the EIS, and to assure compliance with the environmental protection requirements of this part.

(b) The monitoring plan shall include a characterization of the proposed mining system in terms of collector contact, benthic discharge and surface discharge.

(c) The monitoring plan shall include determination of (1) the spatial and temporal characteristics of the mining ship discharges; (2) the spatial extent and severity of the benthic impact, including recovery rate and pattern of benthic recolonization; and (3) any secondary effects that result from the impact of the mining collector and benthic plume.

(d) The monitoring of benthic impact shall involve the study of two types of areas, each selected by the permittee in consultation with NOAA, which areas shall be representative of the environmental characteristics of the permittee's site:

(1) An impact reference area, located in a portion of a permit area tentatively scheduled to be mined early in a commercial recovery plan; and

(2) An interim preservational reference area, located in a portion of a permit area tentatively determined: to be non-mineable, not to be scheduled for mining during the commercial recovery plan, or to be scheduled for mining late in the plan.

Reference areas may be selected provisionally prior to application for a commercial recovery permit.

(e) The following specific environmental parameters must be proposed for examination in the applicant's monitoring plan:

(1) Discharges—

(i) Salinity, temperature, density.

(ii) Suspended particulates concentration and density.

(iii) Particulate and dissolved nutrients and metals.

(iv) Size, configuration, and velocities of discharge.

(2) Upper water column—

(i) Nutrients.

(ii) Endangered species (observations).

(iii) Salinity, temperature, density.

(iv) Currents and direct current shear.

(v) Vertical distribution of light.

(vi) Suspended particulate material advection and diffusion.

(vii) In-situ settling velocities of suspended particulates.

(viii) Zooplankton and trace metals uptake.

(ix) Fish larvae.

(x) Behavior of biota, including commercially and recreationally valuable fish.

(3) Lower water column and seafloor—

(i) Currents.

(ii) Suspended particulate material advection and diffusion.

(iii) In-situ settling velocities of suspended particulates.

(iv) Benthic scraping and blanketing, and their impacts and recovery.

(f) The monitoring plan shall include provision for monitoring those areas impacted by the permittee's mining activities, even if such areas fall outside its minesite, where the proposed activities have the potential to cause significant adverse environmental effect or irreparable harm in the outside area.

(g) After the Administrator's approval of the monitoring plan, this plan will become a permit TCR. The monitoring plan TCR will include, to the maximum extent practicable, identification of those activities or events that could cause suspension or modification due to environmental effects under §971.417, or permit revocation in the event that these effects cannot be adequately mitigated. The TCR also will authorize refinement of the monitoring plan prior to testing and commercial-scale recovery, and at other appropriate times, if refinement is necessary to reflect accurately proposed operations or to incorporate recent research or monitoring results.

(h) If test mining is proposed, the applicant shall include in the monitoring plan a monitoring plan for the test(s) as well as a strategy for using the result to monitor more effectively commercial-scale recovery. This monitoring shall address concerns expressed in the PEIS and in the permit EIS.

(i) The monitoring plan shall include a sampling strategy that assures: that it is based on sound statistical methods, that equipment and methods be scientifically accepted, that the personnel who are planning, collecting and analyzing data be scientifically well qualified, and that the resultant data be submitted to the Administrator in accordance with formats of the National Oceanographic Data Center and other formats as may be specified by the Administrator.

(j) Pursuant to section 114(1) of the Act, the Administrator intends to place observers onboard mining vessels, not only to ensure that permit TCRs are followed, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of monitoring strategies, both in terms of protecting the environment and in being cost-effective (See §971.1005), and if necessary, to develop potential mitigation measures. If modification of permit TCRs or regulations is required to protect the quality of the environment, the Administrator may modify TCRs pursuant to §971.414, or the regulations pursuant to §971.804.

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