Gulfstream Natural Gas System, L.L.C. (Gulfstream) constructed a 36-inch-diameter pipeline in 2001 to transport natural gas from plants in Mississippi and Alabama to markets in central and southern Florida. The route of the marine portion of the pipeline originates from the shoreline of Mississippi and Alabama in Mississippi Sound and transverses the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in Tampa Bay. Activities such as the installation of the pipe on the seafloor, the subsequent lowering of the pipe beneath the seafloor, and the mooring of construction vessels used in these processes were anticipated to disturb the seafloor and associated resources. Compensatory mitigation for project impacts to live hard-bottom was undertaken with the installation of habitat replacement sites consisting of either limestone boulder groupings or pre-fabricated reef modules. As part of the mitigation monitoring plan, Gulfstream has documented the success of the limestone’s placement and stability within the habitat replacement sites, monitored colonization by sessile epifauna, and censused the reef fish populations found utilizing the created habitat. The monitoring protocol includes diver collected still photography and Bohnsack point counts for fish. The created habitat provides a greater amount of habitat relief/complexity than natural hard/live bottom and is thriving in terms of both the recruitment of sessile epifauna and habitat use by a diverse demersal and commercially important fish community. Thus the limestone boulder and reef module areas created as part of the Gulfstream project appear to be a very successful means of habitat mitigation.

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