Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan for Commercial Wind Energy Developments Within Nine States, 41510-41513 [2011-17638]

Download as PDF 41510 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 135 / Thursday, July 14, 2011 / Notices Dated: July 7, 2011. Jennifer S. Spaeth, Director, Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy. Comments Invited [FR Doc. 2011–17712 Filed 7–13–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4140–01–P DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Transportation Security Administration [Docket No. TSA–2006–24191] Extension of Agency Information Collection Activity Under OMB Review; Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Program Transportation Security Administration, DHS. ACTION: 30-day notice. AGENCY: This notice announces that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has forwarded the Information Collection Request (ICR), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number 1652–0047, abstracted below to OMB for review and approval of an extension of the currently approved collection under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). The ICR describes the nature of the information collection and its expected burden. TSA published a Federal Register notice, with a 60-day period soliciting comments, of the following collection of information on April 26, 2011, 76 FR 23326. The collection involves the submission of required information necessary to conduct a security threat assessment on individuals applying for a TWIC and a voluntary customer satisfaction survey. DATES: Send your comments by August 15, 2011. A comment to OMB is most effective if OMB receives it within 30 days of publication. ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments on the proposed information collection to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB. Comments should be addressed to Desk Officer, Department of Homeland Security/TSA, and sent via electronic mail to oira_submission@omb.eop.gov or faxed to (202) 395–6974. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanna Johnson, TSA PRA Officer, Office of Information Technology (OIT), TSA–11, Transportation Security Administration, 601 South 12th Street, Arlington, VA 20598–6011; telephone (571) 227–3651; e-mail TSAPRA@dhs.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: wreier-aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Jul 13, 2011 Jkt 223001 In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The ICR documentation is available at http://www.reginfo.gov. Therefore, in preparation for OMB review and approval of the following information collection, TSA is soliciting comments to— (1) Evaluate whether the proposed information requirement is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) Evaluate the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden; (3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including using appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Information Collection Requirement Title: Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Program. Type of Request: Extension of a currently approved collection. OMB Control Number: 1652–0047. Forms(s): TWIC Disclosure and Certification form (OMB 1652–0047) . Affected Public: Individuals requiring unescorted access to facilities and vessels regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) and all mariners holding Coast Guardissued credentials or qualification documents. Abstract: The data collected will be used for processing TWIC enrollment and conducting the security threat assessment. At the enrollment center, applicants verify their biographic information and provide identity documentation, biometric information, and proof of immigration status (if required). This information allows TSA to complete a comprehensive security threat assessment. If TSA determines that the applicant is qualified to receive a TWIC, TSA notifies the applicant that their TWIC is ready for activation. Once activated, this credential will be used for identification verification and access control. TSA also conducts a survey to capture worker overall satisfaction with the enrollment process; this optional survey is provided during the activation period. PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 TSA acknowledges that an error in the 60-day notice was identified by a commenter which related to the length of the previous collection process. Additionally, the commenter questioned total burden hours estimated for 2011 and its associated cost, because it varied significantly from the previous filing in 2008. TSA will directly respond to the individual submitting this feedback. Number of Respondents: The annualized number of total respondents is 401,330. Estimated Annual Burden Hours: TSA provided incorrect hours in the 60-day filing and has corrected its estimates. The correct estimated annualized reporting burden is 919,110 hours, and the estimated annualized cost burden is $53,866,023. Joanna Johnson, TSA Paperwork Reduction Act Officer, Office of Information Technology. [FR Doc. 2011–17757 Filed 7–13–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–05–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R2–ES–2010–N283; 20124–1112– 0000–F2] Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan for Commercial Wind Energy Developments Within Nine States Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of public scoping meetings; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, as lead agency advise the public that we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposed application, including a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The potential ITP would include federally listed and candidate species within portions of nine states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas). The activities covered by a potential ITP would include regional-level construction, operation, and maintenance associated with multiple commercial wind energy facilities. The planning partners are currently considering, for inclusion in the HCP, certain species listed as federally threatened or endangered, or having the potential to become listed during the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\14JYN1.SGM 14JYN1 wreier-aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 135 / Thursday, July 14, 2011 / Notices life of the HCP, and having some likelihood of being taken by the applicant’s activities within the proposed permit area. The intended effect of this notice is to gather information from the public to develop and analyze the effects of the potential issuance of an ITP that would facilitate wind energy development within the planning area, while minimizing incidental take and mitigating the effects of any incidental take to the maximum extent practicable. We provide this notice to (1) Describe the proposed action; (2) advise other Federal and state agencies, potentially affected tribal interests, and the public of our intent to prepare an EIS; (3) announce the initiation of a 90-day public scoping period; and (4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and possible alternatives to be included in the EIS. DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments on or before October 12, 2011. For approximate public meeting dates, see ‘‘Public Meetings’’ in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. ADDRESSES: Send your comments or request for information by any one of the following methods: U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103–1306; Attention: Laila Lienesch; Facsimile: 505/248–6922 (Attention: Laila Lienesch); E–Mail: WindEnergyHCPComments@fws.gov; or Toll-Free Telephone Message Service: 800/815–8927. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laila Lienesch at 505/248–6494 or Laila_Lienesch@fws.gov, Amelia OrtonPalmer at 303/236–4211 or Amelia_Orton-Palmer@fws.gov, or Marty Tuegel at 505/248–6651 or Marty_Tuegel@fws.gov. Individuals who are hearing impaired or speech impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 800/877–8337 for TTY assistance. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq.; NEPA) of 1969, as amended, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), as lead agency, advise the public that we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposed application, including a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and seek public input prior to developing a draft EIS for the potential issuance of an ITP. VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Jul 13, 2011 Jkt 223001 Public Meetings To facilitate information transfer, we will hold nine public meetings in the following cities between August 2011 and September 2011: Pueblo, Colorado—August 9, 2011. Amarillo, Texas—August 10, 2011. Clovis, New Mexico—August 11, 2011. Pierre, South Dakota—August 23, 2011. Bismarck, North Dakota—August 24, 2011. Glendive, Montana—August 25, 2011. Kearney, Nebraska—August 30, 2011. Great Bend, Kansas—August 31, 2011. Woodward, Oklahoma—September 1, 2011. Austin, Texas—September 7, 2011. Corpus Christi, Texas—September 8, 2011. Specific times and locations of the public information meetings will be available on the Service’s Web site— http://www.fws.gov/southwest/—and noticed in local newspapers at least 14 days prior to the meeting dates. Reasonable Accommodations Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in the public meetings should contact the Service at the address above no later than 1 week before the public meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative formats upon request. Background Section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations prohibit take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. The definition of take under the Act includes the following activities: To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). Section 10 of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1539, establishes a program whereby persons seeking to pursue activities that are otherwise legal, but could give rise to liability for unlawful take of federally protected species, may receive an ITP, which provides incidental take authorization to the ITP holder. To obtain an ITP, an applicant must submit an HCP containing measures that would minimize incidental take, including avoidance, and mitigate for the effects of any incidental take to the maximum extent practicable; and ensure that the taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity (16 U.S.C. 1539(a)(1)(B) and 1539(a)(2)(A)). If we determine that an applicant has satisfied all permitting criteria and other statutory requirements, we intend to PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 41511 issue the ITP. At this time, the entity or entities that would serve as the applicant(s) for and be potentially permitted under an ITP have not been selected. However, the ITP is being sought by the Wind Energy Whooping Crane Action Group (WEWAG), a group of wind energy industry companies formed in 2009. Member companies include Acciona North America; Allete; Alternity; BP Renewables; Clipper Wind Energy; CPV Renewable Energy Company, LLC; EnXco; Duke Wind Energy; Horizon Wind Energy; Iberdrola Renewables; Infinity; MAP Royalty; NextEra Energy Resources; Renewable Energy Systems Americas; Terra-Gen; Trade Wind Energy; Element Power; Own Energy; and Wind Capital Group. Additional companies may become involved as the planning process proceeds. Hereafter, the term ‘‘applicant’’ is used to refer to the ultimate applicant(s) selected and the potential permittee(s). The proposed ITP would be granted for certain wind energy development, operation, and decommissioning or repowering–related activities undertaken within the permit area (described below). WEWAG has sought to work in partnership with the Service to promote species conservation, while complying with environmental stewardship goals and policy requirements that compel the development of clean and sustainable energy from wind resources. If successful, the HCP and subsequent ITP would allow take authorization for otherwise lawful activities, such as the development, construction, operation, and decommissioning or repowering, of commercial wind energy developments within the planning area. The HCP will contain a multifaceted approach, including but not limited to take avoidance, minimization of take (e.g., through proven and defined best management practices), and mitigation of the impacts of take through potential habitat preservation, restoration, and enhancement measures. The applicant must also ensure that adequate funding for implementation, including biological and compliance monitoring, is provided. WEWAG is currently considering, for inclusion in the HCP, certain species listed as federally threatened or endangered, or having the potential to become listed during the life of the HCP, and having some likelihood of being taken by the applicant’s activities within the proposed permit area. Those species include the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana), the endangered interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos), the endangered piping plover (Charadrius melodus), E:\FR\FM\14JYN1.SGM 14JYN1 41512 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 135 / Thursday, July 14, 2011 / Notices wreier-aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with NOTICES and the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a candidate species. The final list of covered species may include all these species, a subset of them, and/or additional species, based on the outcome of this planning process. The proposed planning area is a 200mile-wide corridor determined by defining the center line of the whooping crane migration path corridor (100 miles on either side of the center line). This line is based on the database of confirmed whooping crane observations from the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Program. This corridor extends from the Gulf Coast of Texas north to the Canadian border and encompasses such cities as Houston, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita, KS; Bismarck, ND; Grand Island, NE; and Aberdeen, SD. In addition, the planning area includes the majority of the historic range of the lesser prairie-chicken, which extends the permit area beyond the 200-milewide whooping crane migration corridor to include parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. Environmental Impact Statement The Service will be the lead Federal agency in the preparation of the EIS to satisfy the requirements of NEPA. With this notice of intent (NOI), we ask other Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies with jurisdiction and/or special expertise with respect to environmental issues to formally cooperate with us in the preparation of the EIS. Agencies that would like to request cooperating agency status on the EIS should follow the instructions for filing comments provided under the ADDRESSES section above. The EIS will consider the proposed action (the issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP, as supported by an HCP), no action (no HCP/no ITP), and a reasonable range of alternatives that accomplish the purpose and need of the proposal. A detailed description of the proposed action and alternatives will be included in the EIS. The alternatives to be considered for analysis in the EIS may include, but are not limited to, modified lists of covered species, differing land-coverage areas, activities which may be covered, and a variety of permit structures under consideration for the conservation program, described below in the Public Comment section. The EIS will also identify potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental/historical resources that may occur from issuance of the ITP; indirect impacts as a result of implementing a proposed HCP, VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Jul 13, 2011 Jkt 223001 including any of the alternatives; and cumulative impacts. Various strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of incidental take will also be considered. Environmental review of the EIS will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of NEPA, its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1500–1508), other applicable regulations, and our procedures for compliance with those regulations. We furnish this notice in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22 to obtain suggestions and information from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives they believe need to be addressed in the EIS. We invite comments from interested parties to ensure that the full range of issues related to the proposed permit application is identified. Public Comments We are requesting information from other interested government agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or other interested parties concerning the following areas of analysis: Vegetation, Wildlife and Aquatic Resources, Special Status Species, Surface Waters and Floodplains, Hydrology and Groundwater, Wetlands and Waters of the U.S., Archeology, Architectural History, Sites of Religious and Cultural Significance to Tribes, Noise and Vibration, Visual Resources and Aesthetics, Economics and Socioeconomics, Environmental Justice, Air Quality (including greenhouse gas emissions and climate change), Geology and Soil, Land Use, Transportation, Infrastructure and Utilities, Hazardous Materials and Solid Waste Management, and Human Health and Safety. In addition to the topics above, we are seeking comments on how a future ITP or ITPs may be structured. Currently there are four potential ITP structures being considered. The first involves a single habitat conservation plan that supports a single ITP held by a third party, referred to as a Programmatic HCP. This third-party ITP holder would enroll companies and their projects under the ITP. The third party would need to meet all general permit and ITP issuance criteria (50 CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b)); and would be responsible for the administration of the HCP, including enrollment, compliance monitoring, biological monitoring, coordination of the mitigation, annual reporting, adaptive management, any ITP amendments, and annual coordination meetings. Under this ITP administrative structure the HCP and ITP would undergo NEPA and section 7 PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 consultation once under the ESA prior to the ITP being issued. The ITP holder would administer the HCP without further Service involvement or reanalysis under NEPA or ESA. The second ITP structure, referred to as an Umbrella HCP, under consideration is a single habitat conservation plan that supports multiple ITP holders. A single HCP would be developed, and all NEPA and ESA compliance would be done on the HCP. Each company would apply for separate ITPs under the Umbrella HCP. At the time a company applied for an ITP, the Service would evaluate the NEPA and section 7 consultation under ESA to ensure that the impacts and effects of the company’s projects are consistent with the HCP’s NEPA and ESA compliance documents, and the general permit issuance criteria and ITPs (50 CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b)). The Service would also announce a Notice of Intent to issue the ITP in the Federal Register and take public comment on the application for 30-days (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)). Issuance of ITPs could take up to 90 days to process. Each company holding an ITP would be responsible for implementation of their minimization and mitigation measures, compliance monitoring and biological monitoring, annual reporting, adaptive management procedures, and participation in annual coordination meetings. The Service would be responsible for issuance of new ITPs, coordination of the mitigation, and conducting annual meetings with ITP holders. This ITP administrative structure would have continued Service involvement during the implementation of the HCP. The third ITP structure, referred to as the Primary Permit HCP, also involves a single HCP that supports an initial ITP held by a third party. Authorities in the initial ITP are then transferred to individual companies through the issuance of ITPs specific to their projects. A single HCP would be developed and all NEPA and ESA compliance would be completed on the HCP prior to issuance of the initial ITP. All compliance and issuance criteria would be reviewed prior to any transfer of authorities to an individual company. The Service would transfer the authorizations in the initial ITP, in whole or in part, based on a joint submission by the initial ITP holder and the proposed transferee, so long as the Service determines that the transferee is qualified to hold an ITP (50 CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b)) and provides adequate written assurance that it will provide sufficient funding and implement the relevant terms and E:\FR\FM\14JYN1.SGM 14JYN1 wreier-aviles on DSKGBLS3C1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 135 / Thursday, July 14, 2011 / Notices conditions of the ITP (50 CFR 13.25). The Service anticipates publishing a Notice of Intent to issue an ITP with transfer authorities in the Federal Register and take public comments on the application for 30 days. Issuance of each ITP may take up to 90 days to process. The holder of the initial ITP would be responsible for the coordination of all activities among the transferees. Each company holding an ITP would be responsible for implementation of their minimization and mitigation measures, compliance monitoring and biological monitoring, annual reporting, adaptive management procedures, participation in annual meetings, and coordination with the initial ITP holder. The Service would be responsible in processing the transfers and reviewing annual reports. This ITP administrative structure would have some continued Service involvement during the implementation of the HCP, but it would be less than under the Umbrella HCP and more than under the Programmatic HCP. The fourth ITP structure, referred to as the Co-Permitted HCP, also involves a single HCP that supports an ITP, but all parties are named as co-permittees on the ITP. A single HCP would be developed and all NEPA and ESA compliance would be completed on the HCP prior to issuance of the initial ITP. Current members of WEWAG (or those who join prior to permit application) would be named as permittee in the incidental take permit application. Assuming the Service found that the HCP met the ESA’s permit issuance criteria, the Service would issue a single or master incidental take permit naming each of the WEWAG members as a participating permittee (co-permittee). Similar to the programmatic approach, the incidental take permit would authorize each co-permittee’s projects located within the permit area. Prior to undertaking any new project, a copermittee would submit to the Service a prescribed form indicating how its project complies with the incidental take permit and that any required mitigation has been paid to the appropriate entity. The Service would have the authority to review each project and would stay engaged during the implementation of the HCP. Each company named as a co-permittee would be responsible for implementation of their minimization and mitigation measures, compliance monitoring and biological monitoring, annual reporting, adaptive management procedures, and participation in annual coordination meetings. Additional NEPA and ESA section 7 would not be VerDate Mar<15>2010 14:55 Jul 13, 2011 Jkt 223001 41513 necessary, as each permittee would be fully authorized under the permit. Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or opposition to, the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not provide information useful in determining the issues and the impacts to the human environment in the draft EIS. The public will also have a chance to review and comment on the draft EIS when it is available (a notice of availability will be published in the Federal Register). You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods described above under the ADDRESSES section at the beginning of this notice. Written comments will also be accepted at the public meetings, although these public meetings are primarily intended to provide additional information and provide a chance for the public to ask specific questions concerning the proposed HCP and EIS. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Public Availability of Comments Written comments we receive become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Section 03, Township 09 North, Range 1 West, N.M.P.M. Those certain parcels of land known as Parcels I, II, and III, situated in projected Section 3, Township 9 North, Range 1 West, N.M.P.M., within the Town of Atrisco Grant, in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, more particularly described by survey filed in the office of the County Clerk of Bernalillo County, New Mexico, on October 19, 2007, in Book 2007S, page 80, as Document No. 2007147071, performed by Brian K. McClintock, New Mexico Professional Surveyor Number 11597. Said parcels contain 99.5623 acres, more or less. Said parcels are more particularly described as follows, to-wit: PARCEL I: (QCD: Bk. A36, Pg. 2843, WD: A13, Pg. 2512) Tract Lettered ‘‘A’’ of the Plat of Division of LAND OF MRS. LULA M. BRIDGES, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, as the same is shown and designated on the plat thereof, filed in the office of the County Clerk of Bernalillo County, New Mexico on July 27, 1971 in Volume B5, Folio 192; TOGETHER WITH A Northerly portion of the LANDS OF GEORGE T. HILL, Town of Atrisco Grant, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, as the same is shown and designated on the plat thereof, filed in the office of the County Clerk of Bernalillo County, New Mexico on February 11, 1952 in Volume A1, Folio 099 TOGETHER WITH A certain tract of land situate within Projected Section 3, Township 9 North, Range 1 West of the N.M.P.M., Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Being adjacent to the Northerly line of said LANDS OF GEORGE T. HILL, all being more particularly described as follows: Joy E. Nicholopoulos, Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico . [FR Doc. 2011–17638 Filed 7–13–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs Proclaiming Certain Lands, Bowlin North Property, as an Addition to the Pueblo of Laguna Reservation, New Mexico Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of Reservation Proclamation. AGENCY: This notice informs the public that the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs proclaimed approximately 99.5623 acres, more or less, to be added to the Pueblo of Laguna Reservation, (Laguna), New Mexico. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Ben Burshia, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Division of Real Estate Services, Mail Stop 4639–MIB, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240, telephone (202) 208–7737. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This Notice is published in the exercise of authority delegated by the Secretary of the Interior to the Assistant Secretary— Indian Affairs by part 209 of the Departmental Manual. A proclamation was issued, in accordance with Section 7 of the Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 986; 25 U.S.C. 467), for the land described below. The land was proclaimed to be an addition to and part of the Laguna Reservation for the exclusive use of Indians on that reservation who are entitled to reside at the reservation by enrollment or tribal membership. New Mexico Principal Meridian Bernalillo County, New Mexico E:\FR\FM\14JYN1.SGM 14JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 135 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 41510-41513]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-17638]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2010-N283; 20124-1112-0000-F2]


Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation 
Plan for Commercial Wind Energy Developments Within Nine States

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of public scoping meetings; 
request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, as lead agency advise the 
public that we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement 
(EIS) on a proposed application, including a Habitat Conservation Plan 
(HCP), for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended. The potential ITP would include federally 
listed and candidate species within portions of nine states (North 
Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, 
Oklahoma, and Texas).
    The activities covered by a potential ITP would include regional-
level construction, operation, and maintenance associated with multiple 
commercial wind energy facilities. The planning partners are currently 
considering, for inclusion in the HCP, certain species listed as 
federally threatened or endangered, or having the potential to become 
listed during the

[[Page 41511]]

life of the HCP, and having some likelihood of being taken by the 
applicant's activities within the proposed permit area. The intended 
effect of this notice is to gather information from the public to 
develop and analyze the effects of the potential issuance of an ITP 
that would facilitate wind energy development within the planning area, 
while minimizing incidental take and mitigating the effects of any 
incidental take to the maximum extent practicable.
    We provide this notice to (1) Describe the proposed action; (2) 
advise other Federal and state agencies, potentially affected tribal 
interests, and the public of our intent to prepare an EIS; (3) announce 
the initiation of a 90-day public scoping period; and (4) obtain 
suggestions and information on the scope of issues and possible 
alternatives to be included in the EIS.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
on or before October 12, 2011. For approximate public meeting dates, 
see ``Public Meetings'' in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or request for information by any one of 
the following methods:
    U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, NM 87103-1306; Attention: Laila Lienesch;
    Facsimile: 505/248-6922 (Attention: Laila Lienesch);
    E-Mail: WindEnergyHCPComments@fws.gov; or
    Toll-Free Telephone Message Service: 800/815-8927.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laila Lienesch at 505/248-6494 or 
Laila_Lienesch@fws.gov, Amelia Orton-Palmer at 303/236-4211 or 
Amelia_Orton-Palmer@fws.gov, or Marty Tuegel at 505/248-6651 or 
Marty_Tuegel@fws.gov. Individuals who are hearing impaired or speech 
impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 800/877-8337 for TTY 
assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq.; NEPA) of 1969, as amended, we, the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service), as lead agency, advise the public that 
we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a 
proposed application, including a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), for 
an incidental take permit (ITP) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and seek public input 
prior to developing a draft EIS for the potential issuance of an ITP.

Public Meetings

    To facilitate information transfer, we will hold nine public 
meetings in the following cities between August 2011 and September 
2011:

Pueblo, Colorado--August 9, 2011.
Amarillo, Texas--August 10, 2011.
Clovis, New Mexico--August 11, 2011.
Pierre, South Dakota--August 23, 2011.
Bismarck, North Dakota--August 24, 2011.
Glendive, Montana--August 25, 2011.
Kearney, Nebraska--August 30, 2011.
Great Bend, Kansas--August 31, 2011.
Woodward, Oklahoma--September 1, 2011.
Austin, Texas--September 7, 2011.
Corpus Christi, Texas--September 8, 2011.

Specific times and locations of the public information meetings will be 
available on the Service's Web site--http://www.fws.gov/southwest/--and 
noticed in local newspapers at least 14 days prior to the meeting 
dates.

Reasonable Accommodations

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meetings should contact the Service at the 
address above no later than 1 week before the public meeting. 
Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.

Background

    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations prohibit take 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. The definition of 
take under the Act includes the following activities: To harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed 
animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). 
Section 10 of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1539, establishes a program whereby 
persons seeking to pursue activities that are otherwise legal, but 
could give rise to liability for unlawful take of federally protected 
species, may receive an ITP, which provides incidental take 
authorization to the ITP holder. To obtain an ITP, an applicant must 
submit an HCP containing measures that would minimize incidental take, 
including avoidance, and mitigate for the effects of any incidental 
take to the maximum extent practicable; and ensure that the taking is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity (16 
U.S.C. 1539(a)(1)(B) and 1539(a)(2)(A)). If we determine that an 
applicant has satisfied all permitting criteria and other statutory 
requirements, we intend to issue the ITP. At this time, the entity or 
entities that would serve as the applicant(s) for and be potentially 
permitted under an ITP have not been selected. However, the ITP is 
being sought by the Wind Energy Whooping Crane Action Group (WEWAG), a 
group of wind energy industry companies formed in 2009. Member 
companies include Acciona North America; Allete; Alternity; BP 
Renewables; Clipper Wind Energy; CPV Renewable Energy Company, LLC; 
EnXco; Duke Wind Energy; Horizon Wind Energy; Iberdrola Renewables; 
Infinity; MAP Royalty; NextEra Energy Resources; Renewable Energy 
Systems Americas; Terra-Gen; Trade Wind Energy; Element Power; Own 
Energy; and Wind Capital Group. Additional companies may become 
involved as the planning process proceeds. Hereafter, the term 
``applicant'' is used to refer to the ultimate applicant(s) selected 
and the potential permittee(s). The proposed ITP would be granted for 
certain wind energy development, operation, and decommissioning or 
repowering-related activities undertaken within the permit area 
(described below).
    WEWAG has sought to work in partnership with the Service to promote 
species conservation, while complying with environmental stewardship 
goals and policy requirements that compel the development of clean and 
sustainable energy from wind resources. If successful, the HCP and 
subsequent ITP would allow take authorization for otherwise lawful 
activities, such as the development, construction, operation, and 
decommissioning or repowering, of commercial wind energy developments 
within the planning area. The HCP will contain a multifaceted approach, 
including but not limited to take avoidance, minimization of take 
(e.g., through proven and defined best management practices), and 
mitigation of the impacts of take through potential habitat 
preservation, restoration, and enhancement measures. The applicant must 
also ensure that adequate funding for implementation, including 
biological and compliance monitoring, is provided.
    WEWAG is currently considering, for inclusion in the HCP, certain 
species listed as federally threatened or endangered, or having the 
potential to become listed during the life of the HCP, and having some 
likelihood of being taken by the applicant's activities within the 
proposed permit area. Those species include the endangered whooping 
crane (Grus americana), the endangered interior least tern (Sterna 
antillarum athalassos), the endangered piping plover (Charadrius 
melodus),

[[Page 41512]]

and the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a 
candidate species. The final list of covered species may include all 
these species, a subset of them, and/or additional species, based on 
the outcome of this planning process.
    The proposed planning area is a 200-mile-wide corridor determined 
by defining the center line of the whooping crane migration path 
corridor (100 miles on either side of the center line). This line is 
based on the database of confirmed whooping crane observations from the 
Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Program. This corridor extends from 
the Gulf Coast of Texas north to the Canadian border and encompasses 
such cities as Houston, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Wichita, KS; Bismarck, 
ND; Grand Island, NE; and Aberdeen, SD. In addition, the planning area 
includes the majority of the historic range of the lesser prairie-
chicken, which extends the permit area beyond the 200-mile-wide 
whooping crane migration corridor to include parts of Kansas, Colorado, 
Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.

Environmental Impact Statement

    The Service will be the lead Federal agency in the preparation of 
the EIS to satisfy the requirements of NEPA. With this notice of intent 
(NOI), we ask other Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies with 
jurisdiction and/or special expertise with respect to environmental 
issues to formally cooperate with us in the preparation of the EIS. 
Agencies that would like to request cooperating agency status on the 
EIS should follow the instructions for filing comments provided under 
the ADDRESSES section above.
    The EIS will consider the proposed action (the issuance of a 
section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP, as supported by an HCP), no action (no HCP/no 
ITP), and a reasonable range of alternatives that accomplish the 
purpose and need of the proposal. A detailed description of the 
proposed action and alternatives will be included in the EIS. The 
alternatives to be considered for analysis in the EIS may include, but 
are not limited to, modified lists of covered species, differing land-
coverage areas, activities which may be covered, and a variety of 
permit structures under consideration for the conservation program, 
described below in the Public Comment section. The EIS will also 
identify potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land 
use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other 
environmental/historical resources that may occur from issuance of the 
ITP; indirect impacts as a result of implementing a proposed HCP, 
including any of the alternatives; and cumulative impacts. Various 
strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of 
incidental take will also be considered.
    Environmental review of the EIS will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of NEPA, its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
1500-1508), other applicable regulations, and our procedures for 
compliance with those regulations. We furnish this notice in accordance 
with 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22 to obtain suggestions and information 
from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues and 
alternatives they believe need to be addressed in the EIS. We invite 
comments from interested parties to ensure that the full range of 
issues related to the proposed permit application is identified.

Public Comments

    We are requesting information from other interested government 
agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
or other interested parties concerning the following areas of analysis: 
Vegetation, Wildlife and Aquatic Resources, Special Status Species, 
Surface Waters and Floodplains, Hydrology and Groundwater, Wetlands and 
Waters of the U.S., Archeology, Architectural History, Sites of 
Religious and Cultural Significance to Tribes, Noise and Vibration, 
Visual Resources and Aesthetics, Economics and Socioeconomics, 
Environmental Justice, Air Quality (including greenhouse gas emissions 
and climate change), Geology and Soil, Land Use, Transportation, 
Infrastructure and Utilities, Hazardous Materials and Solid Waste 
Management, and Human Health and Safety.
    In addition to the topics above, we are seeking comments on how a 
future ITP or ITPs may be structured. Currently there are four 
potential ITP structures being considered. The first involves a single 
habitat conservation plan that supports a single ITP held by a third 
party, referred to as a Programmatic HCP. This third-party ITP holder 
would enroll companies and their projects under the ITP. The third 
party would need to meet all general permit and ITP issuance criteria 
(50 CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b)); and would be responsible for 
the administration of the HCP, including enrollment, compliance 
monitoring, biological monitoring, coordination of the mitigation, 
annual reporting, adaptive management, any ITP amendments, and annual 
coordination meetings. Under this ITP administrative structure the HCP 
and ITP would undergo NEPA and section 7 consultation once under the 
ESA prior to the ITP being issued. The ITP holder would administer the 
HCP without further Service involvement or reanalysis under NEPA or 
ESA.
    The second ITP structure, referred to as an Umbrella HCP, under 
consideration is a single habitat conservation plan that supports 
multiple ITP holders. A single HCP would be developed, and all NEPA and 
ESA compliance would be done on the HCP. Each company would apply for 
separate ITPs under the Umbrella HCP. At the time a company applied for 
an ITP, the Service would evaluate the NEPA and section 7 consultation 
under ESA to ensure that the impacts and effects of the company's 
projects are consistent with the HCP's NEPA and ESA compliance 
documents, and the general permit issuance criteria and ITPs (50 CFR 
13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b)). The Service would also announce a 
Notice of Intent to issue the ITP in the Federal Register and take 
public comment on the application for 30-days (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)). 
Issuance of ITPs could take up to 90 days to process. Each company 
holding an ITP would be responsible for implementation of their 
minimization and mitigation measures, compliance monitoring and 
biological monitoring, annual reporting, adaptive management 
procedures, and participation in annual coordination meetings. The 
Service would be responsible for issuance of new ITPs, coordination of 
the mitigation, and conducting annual meetings with ITP holders. This 
ITP administrative structure would have continued Service involvement 
during the implementation of the HCP.
    The third ITP structure, referred to as the Primary Permit HCP, 
also involves a single HCP that supports an initial ITP held by a third 
party. Authorities in the initial ITP are then transferred to 
individual companies through the issuance of ITPs specific to their 
projects. A single HCP would be developed and all NEPA and ESA 
compliance would be completed on the HCP prior to issuance of the 
initial ITP. All compliance and issuance criteria would be reviewed 
prior to any transfer of authorities to an individual company. The 
Service would transfer the authorizations in the initial ITP, in whole 
or in part, based on a joint submission by the initial ITP holder and 
the proposed transferee, so long as the Service determines that the 
transferee is qualified to hold an ITP (50 CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 
17.32(b)) and provides adequate written assurance that it will provide 
sufficient funding and implement the relevant terms and

[[Page 41513]]

conditions of the ITP (50 CFR 13.25). The Service anticipates 
publishing a Notice of Intent to issue an ITP with transfer authorities 
in the Federal Register and take public comments on the application for 
30 days. Issuance of each ITP may take up to 90 days to process. The 
holder of the initial ITP would be responsible for the coordination of 
all activities among the transferees. Each company holding an ITP would 
be responsible for implementation of their minimization and mitigation 
measures, compliance monitoring and biological monitoring, annual 
reporting, adaptive management procedures, participation in annual 
meetings, and coordination with the initial ITP holder. The Service 
would be responsible in processing the transfers and reviewing annual 
reports. This ITP administrative structure would have some continued 
Service involvement during the implementation of the HCP, but it would 
be less than under the Umbrella HCP and more than under the 
Programmatic HCP.
    The fourth ITP structure, referred to as the Co-Permitted HCP, also 
involves a single HCP that supports an ITP, but all parties are named 
as co-permittees on the ITP. A single HCP would be developed and all 
NEPA and ESA compliance would be completed on the HCP prior to issuance 
of the initial ITP. Current members of WEWAG (or those who join prior 
to permit application) would be named as permittee in the incidental 
take permit application. Assuming the Service found that the HCP met 
the ESA's permit issuance criteria, the Service would issue a single or 
master incidental take permit naming each of the WEWAG members as a 
participating permittee (co-permittee). Similar to the programmatic 
approach, the incidental take permit would authorize each co-
permittee's projects located within the permit area. Prior to 
undertaking any new project, a co-permittee would submit to the Service 
a prescribed form indicating how its project complies with the 
incidental take permit and that any required mitigation has been paid 
to the appropriate entity. The Service would have the authority to 
review each project and would stay engaged during the implementation of 
the HCP. Each company named as a co-permittee would be responsible for 
implementation of their minimization and mitigation measures, 
compliance monitoring and biological monitoring, annual reporting, 
adaptive management procedures, and participation in annual 
coordination meetings. Additional NEPA and ESA section 7 would not be 
necessary, as each permittee would be fully authorized under the 
permit.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or 
opposition to, the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not provide information 
useful in determining the issues and the impacts to the human 
environment in the draft EIS. The public will also have a chance to 
review and comment on the draft EIS when it is available (a notice of 
availability will be published in the Federal Register).
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
described above under the ADDRESSES section at the beginning of this 
notice. Written comments will also be accepted at the public meetings, 
although these public meetings are primarily intended to provide 
additional information and provide a chance for the public to ask 
specific questions concerning the proposed HCP and EIS.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico .
[FR Doc. 2011-17638 Filed 7-13-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P