Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Draft Habitat Conservation Plan, Draft Programmatic Agreement, and Draft Implementing Agreement; Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, Benton County, Indiana, 20690-20692 [2013-07595]

Download as PDF 20690 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 66 / Friday, April 5, 2013 / Notices project is located on Parcel #28–37–17– 00–00753.0–0000.00 and #28–37–17– 00–00769.0–0000.00, within Section 17, Township 28 South, Range 37 East, Brevard County, Florida. The applicant’s HCP describes the mitigation and minimization measures the applicant proposes to address the effects of the project to the Florida scrub-jay. Authority Our Preliminary Determination We have determined that the applicant’s proposal, including the proposed mitigation and minimization measures, would have minor or negligible effects on the species covered in the HCP. Therefore, we determined that the ITP is a low-effect project and qualifies for categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6 Appendix 1). A low-effect HCP is one involving (1) minor or negligible effects on federally listed or candidate species and their habitats, and (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources. [FR Doc. 2013–07929 Filed 4–4–13; 8:45 am] Next Steps We will evaluate the HCP and comments we receive to determine whether the ITP application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If we determine that the application meets these requirements, we will issue the ITP. We will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. We will use the results of this consultation, in combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP. If the requirements are met, we will issue the permit to the applicant. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Public Comments If you wish to comment on the permit application, HCP, and associated documents, you may submit comments by any one of the methods in ADDRESSES. Public Availability of Comments Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comments, you should be aware that your 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. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:14 Apr 04, 2013 Jkt 229001 We provide this notice under Section 10 of the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). Dated: March 27, 2013. Dawn Jennings, Acting Field Supervisor, Jacksonville Field Office, Southeast Region. BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R3–ES–2013–0032: FXES11120300000F2–134–FF03E00000] Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Draft Habitat Conservation Plan, Draft Programmatic Agreement, and Draft Implementing Agreement; Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, Benton County, Indiana Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received an application from Fowler Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge II Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge III Wind Farm LLC, and Fowler Ridge IV Wind Farm LLC, collectively referred to as Fowler Ridge (applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), for its Fowler Ridge Wind Farm (FRWF) (project). If approved, the ITP would be for a 22-year period and would authorize the incidental take of an endangered species, the Indiana bat. The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) that describes the actions and measures that the applicant would implement to avoid, minimize, and mitigate incidental take of the Indiana bat. The ITP application also includes a draft implementing agreement (IA). We also announce the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which has been prepared in response to the permit application in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and a draft Programmatic Agreement (PA) that has been prepared in response to the permit application in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). We request public comment on the application and associated documents. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00079 Public Meeting: Thursday, April 18, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m. local time (EST) at the Benton County Government Annex, 410 South Adeway, Suite A, Fowler, IN 47944. Comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before June 4, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. ADDRESSES: Document availability: • Internet: You may obtain copies of the documents on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS–R3–ES–2013–0032) or http://www.fws.gov/midwest/ endangered/permits/hcp/r3hcps.html. • U.S. Mail: You can obtain the documents by mail from the Indiana Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). • In-Person: To view hard copies of the documents in person, go to one of the Ecological Services Offices (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or to one of the following libraries during normal business hours: Benton County Public Library, 765–884 –1720, 102 N. Van Buren Avenue, Fowler, IN 47944; or Otterbein Public Library (www.otterbeinpubliclibrary.org), 765– 583–2107, 23 E. 1st Street, Otterbein, IN 47970. Public Meeting: See DATES. Comment submission: In your comment, please specify whether your comment addresses the draft HCP, draft EIS, draft PA, or draft IA, or any combination of the aforementioned documents, or other supporting documents. You may submit written comments by one of the following methods: • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R3–ES–2013–0032, which is the docket number for this notice. Then, on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notices link to locate this document and submit a comment. • By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R3–ES–2013– 0032; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any DATES: Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\05APN1.SGM 05APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 66 / Friday, April 5, 2013 / Notices personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Pruitt, Field Supervisor, Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 620 South Walker Street, Bloomington, IN 47403; telephone: 812–334–4261, extension 214; or Rick Amidon, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Ecological Services, Midwest Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd., West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437– 1458; telephone: 612–713–5164. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We have received an application from Fowler Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge II Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge III Wind Farm LLC, and Fowler Ridge IV Wind Farm LLC, collectively referred to as Fowler Ridge, for an incidental take permit (TE95012A) under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If approved, the ITP would be for a 22-year period and would authorize incidental take of the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). The applicant has prepared a draft HCP that covers the operation of Phases I–IV of the project. The project consists of a wind-powered electric generation facility located in an approximately 72,947-acre area (the project area including a one-half-mile buffer around the outside turbines) in Benton County, Indiana. The draft HCP describes the following: (1) Biological goals and objectives of the HCP; (2) covered activities; (3) permit duration; (4) project area; (5) alternatives to the taking that were considered; (5) public participation; (6) life history of the Indiana bat; (6) quantification of the take for which authorization is requested; (7) assessment of direct and indirect effects of the taking on the Indiana bat within the Midwest Recovery Unit (as delineated in the 2007 Indiana Bat Draft Recovery Plan, Service) and rangewide; (8) a conservation program consisting of avoidance and minimization measures, mitigation, monitoring, and adaptive management; (9) funding for the HCP; (10) procedures to deal with changed and unforeseen circumstances; and (11) methods for ITP amendments. In addition to the draft HCP, the applicant has prepared a draft IA to document the responsibilities of the parties. The Service invites comment on the IA as well as the applicants’ HCP. Pursuant to the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470, 470f), the Service has initiated Section 106 consultation with the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office regarding the construction of turbines under Phase VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:14 Apr 04, 2013 Jkt 229001 IV of the FRWF project and the implementation of mitigation projects in accordance with the terms of the HCP. Sites have not been selected for the Phase IV turbines or for the mitigation. Therefore, future efforts will be required to identify archaeological sites that may be adversely affected by the construction of Phase IV turbines and implementation of mitigation. Following siting of the Phase IV turbines and location of mitigation sites, archaeological surveys will be conducted, with plans and reports submitted to the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office for review. The draft PA between the Service, Fowler Ridge, and the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office describes the process for conducting the surveys, evaluating the results of the surveys, and determining if resources can be avoided or if additional surveys or mitigation are necessary before the Section 106 process is completed. The final PA will be signed prior to issuance of the EIS Record of Decision. The Section 106 process will be completed and a memorandum of agreement signed prior to construction or mitigation beginning. Public comments are solicited on the content of the draft PA. Under the NEPA (43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the ESA, the Service announces that we have gathered the information necessary to: 1. Determine the impacts and formulate alternatives for an EIS related to: a. Issuance of an ITP to the applicant for the take of the Indiana bat, and b. Implementation of the associated HCP; and 2. Evaluate the application for ITP issuance, including the HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed incidental take of the Indiana bat. Background The Fowler Ridge application is unusual in that 355 wind turbines are already in place and have been operational since 2009. At the time of their construction, no Indiana bats had been documented to have been killed by a commercial wind facility (the first Indiana bat fatality was found at FRWF during monitoring in 2009). The turbines were constructed in three phases with a total energy capacity of 600 megawatts (MW). The 301.3–MW Fowler Phase I was constructed in 2008 and consists of 40 Clipper Liberty wind turbine generators (WTG) with a capacity of 2.5 MW per turbine and 122 Vestas V82 WTGs with a capacity of 1.65 MW per turbine. The 199.5–MW Fowler Phase II was constructed in 2009 PO 00000 Frm 00080 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 20691 and began operating later that year. The site consists of 133 GE WTGs, each with a 1.5–MW capacity. The 99–MW Fowler Phase III was constructed in 2008 and began operating in 2009. The site consists of 60 Vestas V82 WTGs, each with a 1.65–MW capacity per turbine. Phase IV will consist of up to 94 GE 1.6–MW turbines for a total capacity of 150.4 MW. Currently, Phase IV is planned for construction in 2014. The need for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on finding two dead Indiana bats at the facility, the aforementioned 2009 fatality and another in 2010, and the potential that future operation of FRWF could result in additional take of Indiana bats. The HCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure that the incidental take caused by the operation of the project will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the Indiana bat in the action area or in the recovery unit, and provides mitigation to fully offset the impact of the taking. Further, the HCP provides a long-term monitoring and adaptive management strategy to ensure that the ITP terms are satisfied, and to account for changed and unforeseen circumstances. Purpose and Need for Action In accordance with NEPA, the Service has prepared an EIS to analyze the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the requested ITP were issued and the associated HCP were implemented. Proposed Action Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the ‘‘taking’’ of threatened and endangered species. However, provided certain criteria are met, the Service is authorized to issue permits under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA for take of federally listed species when, among other things, such a taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Under the ESA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered and threatened species, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Our implementing regulations define ‘‘harm’’ as an act which actually kills or injures wildlife, and such act may include significant habitat modification or degradation that results in death or injury to listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). Harass, as defined, means ‘‘an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by E:\FR\FM\05APN1.SGM 05APN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 20692 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 66 / Friday, April 5, 2013 / Notices annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering’’ (50 CFR 17.3). The HCP analyzes, and the ITP would cover, take from harassment, harm, and killing of bats due to the operation of the FRWF project. If issued, the ITP would authorize incidental take consistent with the applicant’s HCP and the ITP. To issue the ITP, the Service must find that the application, including its HCP, satisfies the criteria of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA and the Service’s implementing regulations at 50 CFR parts 13 and 17.22. If the ITP is issued, the applicant would receive assurances under the Service’s No Surprises policy, as codified at 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5). The applicant proposes to construct 94 turbines under Phase IV and operate a maximum of 449 wind turbines and associated facilities (described below) for a period of 22 years in Benton County, Indiana. The project will consist of wind turbines, associated access roads, an underground and aboveground electrical collector system, four substations (one for each phase of the project) containing six transformers that feed electricity into an existing 345kilovolt (kV) electrical tie-in line (roughly 200 poles carrying electricity approximately 50 km (31 mi) to the existing Dequine Substation in Tippecanoe County), seven permanent un-guyed 80-m tall meteorological towers, and an operations and maintenance building. Project facilities and infrastructure will be placed on private land via long-term easement agreements between the applicant and respective landowners. While approximately 6,400 acres are located within the Phase IV project area, a relatively small portion of that land, approximately 554 acres, will be disturbed, and only 78.2 acres will be permanently occupied by the Phase IV facilities. The FRWF project area is 93percent row crop agriculture. Phases I– III have been in operation since 2009 within this agricultural context. Beyond the area required for construction, Phase IV is not expected to change current land use. The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the operation of the FRWF and includes measures to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental take on the Indiana bat. The applicant will mitigate for take and associated impacts through protection of a Priority 1 hibernaculum and restoration and protection of maternity colony habitat at one or more documented maternity colonies. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:14 Apr 04, 2013 Jkt 229001 Maternity colony habitat mitigation, including any restored habitat, will occur on private land and be permanently protected by restrictive covenants approved by the Service. Chapter 5 of the HCP describes the Conservation Program, including details of avoidance and minimization measures, compensatory mitigation, and adaptive management that will limit and mitigate for the take of Indiana bats. The Service is soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the HCP to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the proposed incidental take of the covered species and to provide for adaptive management. In compliance with section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)), the Service is making the ITP application materials available for public review and comment as described above. We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties on the draft documents associated with the ITP application (HCP, HCP Appendices, and IA), and request that comments be as specific as possible. In particular, we request information and comments on the following topics: 1. Whether adaptive management and monitoring provisions in the Proposed Action alternative are sufficient; 2. Any threats to the Indiana bat that may influence its population over the life of the ITP that are not addressed in the draft HCP or draft EIS; 3. Any new information on whitenose syndrome effects on the Indiana bat; 4. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the proposed action on the Indiana bat. Alternatives in the Draft EIS The DEIS contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action alternative, in which all 449 turbines would be shut down (i.e., non-operational) from sunset to sunrise from August 1 through October 15, the primary fall migratory period of the Indiana bat, each year during the operational life (22 years) of the FRWF; (2) The 3.5 m/s Cut-In Speed (Feathered) Alternative, including implementation of the HCP and issuance of a 22-year ITP; (3) the 5.0 m/s Cut-In Speed (Feathered) Alternative, including implementation of the HCP and issuance of a 22-year ITP; and (4) the 6.5 m/s Cut-In Speed (Feathered) Alternative, including implementation of the HCP and issuance of a 22-year ITP. The DEIS considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the alternatives, including any measures under the Proposed Action alternative intended to minimize and mitigate such impacts. PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 The DEIS also identifies five additional alternatives that were considered but were eliminated from consideration (detailed in Section 3.1 of the DEIS). The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested parties on the content of the DEIS. In particular, information and comments regarding the following topics are requested: 1. The direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation of any alternative could have on the human environment; 2. Whether or not the significance of the impact on various aspects of the human environment has been adequately analyzed; and 3. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the proposed action on the human environment. Public Comments You may submit your comments and materials concerning the notice by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by one of the methods described in ADDRESSES. If you submit a comment via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http:// www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated with the notice, will be available for public inspection on http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2013–0032, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Indiana Ecological Services Field Office in Bloomington, Indiana (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), the NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6; 43 CFR part 46), and the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (36 CFR part 800). Dated: March 20, 2013. Lynn Lewis, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region. [FR Doc. 2013–07595 Filed 4–4–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P E:\FR\FM\05APN1.SGM 05APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 66 (Friday, April 5, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 20690-20692]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07595]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2013-0032: FXES11120300000F2-134-FF03E00000]


Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Draft Habitat Conservation 
Plan, Draft Programmatic Agreement, and Draft Implementing Agreement; 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, 
Benton County, Indiana

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from Fowler Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge 
II Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge III Wind Farm LLC, and Fowler Ridge IV 
Wind Farm LLC, collectively referred to as Fowler Ridge (applicant), 
for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (ESA), for its Fowler Ridge Wind Farm (FRWF) 
(project). If approved, the ITP would be for a 22-year period and would 
authorize the incidental take of an endangered species, the Indiana 
bat. The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) 
that describes the actions and measures that the applicant would 
implement to avoid, minimize, and mitigate incidental take of the 
Indiana bat. The ITP application also includes a draft implementing 
agreement (IA). We also announce the availability of a draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which has been prepared in 
response to the permit application in accordance with the requirements 
of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and a draft 
Programmatic Agreement (PA) that has been prepared in response to the 
permit application in accordance with the National Historic 
Preservation Act (NHPA). We request public comment on the application 
and associated documents.

DATES: Public Meeting: Thursday, April 18, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m. local 
time (EST) at the Benton County Government Annex, 410 South Adeway, 
Suite A, Fowler, IN 47944.
    Comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or 
before June 4, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be 
received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: Document availability:
     Internet: You may obtain copies of the documents on the 
Internet at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS-R3-ES-2013-
0032) or http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/permits/hcp/r3hcps.html.
     U.S. Mail: You can obtain the documents by mail from the 
Indiana Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).
     In-Person: To view hard copies of the documents in person, 
go to one of the Ecological Services Offices (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) listed 
under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or to one of the following 
libraries during normal business hours: Benton County Public Library, 
765-884 -1720, 102 N. Van Buren Avenue, Fowler, IN 47944; or Otterbein 
Public Library (www.otterbeinpubliclibrary.org), 765-583-2107, 23 E. 
1st Street, Otterbein, IN 47970.
    Public Meeting: See DATES.
    Comment submission: In your comment, please specify whether your 
comment addresses the draft HCP, draft EIS, draft PA, or draft IA, or 
any combination of the aforementioned documents, or other supporting 
documents. You may submit written comments by one of the following 
methods:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R3-ES-2013-
0032, which is the docket number for this notice. Then, on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Notices link to locate this document and submit a comment.
     By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2013-0032; Division of 
Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 
N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any

[[Page 20691]]

personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Pruitt, Field Supervisor, 
Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 620 South Walker Street, Bloomington, IN 47403; 
telephone: 812-334-4261, extension 214; or Rick Amidon, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, Ecological Services, Midwest Regional Office, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd., West, Suite 990, 
Bloomington, MN 55437-1458; telephone: 612-713-5164.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We have received an application from Fowler 
Ridge Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge II Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge III 
Wind Farm LLC, and Fowler Ridge IV Wind Farm LLC, collectively referred 
to as Fowler Ridge, for an incidental take permit (TE95012A) under the 
ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If approved, the ITP would be for a 22-
year period and would authorize incidental take of the endangered 
Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis).
    The applicant has prepared a draft HCP that covers the operation of 
Phases I-IV of the project. The project consists of a wind-powered 
electric generation facility located in an approximately 72,947-acre 
area (the project area including a one-half-mile buffer around the 
outside turbines) in Benton County, Indiana. The draft HCP describes 
the following: (1) Biological goals and objectives of the HCP; (2) 
covered activities; (3) permit duration; (4) project area; (5) 
alternatives to the taking that were considered; (5) public 
participation; (6) life history of the Indiana bat; (6) quantification 
of the take for which authorization is requested; (7) assessment of 
direct and indirect effects of the taking on the Indiana bat within the 
Midwest Recovery Unit (as delineated in the 2007 Indiana Bat Draft 
Recovery Plan, Service) and rangewide; (8) a conservation program 
consisting of avoidance and minimization measures, mitigation, 
monitoring, and adaptive management; (9) funding for the HCP; (10) 
procedures to deal with changed and unforeseen circumstances; and (11) 
methods for ITP amendments.
    In addition to the draft HCP, the applicant has prepared a draft IA 
to document the responsibilities of the parties. The Service invites 
comment on the IA as well as the applicants' HCP.
    Pursuant to the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470, 470f), the Service has 
initiated Section 106 consultation with the Indiana State Historic 
Preservation Office regarding the construction of turbines under Phase 
IV of the FRWF project and the implementation of mitigation projects in 
accordance with the terms of the HCP. Sites have not been selected for 
the Phase IV turbines or for the mitigation. Therefore, future efforts 
will be required to identify archaeological sites that may be adversely 
affected by the construction of Phase IV turbines and implementation of 
mitigation. Following siting of the Phase IV turbines and location of 
mitigation sites, archaeological surveys will be conducted, with plans 
and reports submitted to the Indiana State Historic Preservation Office 
for review. The draft PA between the Service, Fowler Ridge, and the 
Indiana State Historic Preservation Office describes the process for 
conducting the surveys, evaluating the results of the surveys, and 
determining if resources can be avoided or if additional surveys or 
mitigation are necessary before the Section 106 process is completed. 
The final PA will be signed prior to issuance of the EIS Record of 
Decision. The Section 106 process will be completed and a memorandum of 
agreement signed prior to construction or mitigation beginning. Public 
comments are solicited on the content of the draft PA.
    Under the NEPA (43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the ESA, the Service 
announces that we have gathered the information necessary to:
    1. Determine the impacts and formulate alternatives for an EIS 
related to:
    a. Issuance of an ITP to the applicant for the take of the Indiana 
bat, and
    b. Implementation of the associated HCP; and
    2. Evaluate the application for ITP issuance, including the HCP, 
which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the 
proposed incidental take of the Indiana bat.

Background

    The Fowler Ridge application is unusual in that 355 wind turbines 
are already in place and have been operational since 2009. At the time 
of their construction, no Indiana bats had been documented to have been 
killed by a commercial wind facility (the first Indiana bat fatality 
was found at FRWF during monitoring in 2009). The turbines were 
constructed in three phases with a total energy capacity of 600 
megawatts (MW). The 301.3-MW Fowler Phase I was constructed in 2008 and 
consists of 40 Clipper Liberty wind turbine generators (WTG) with a 
capacity of 2.5 MW per turbine and 122 Vestas V82 WTGs with a capacity 
of 1.65 MW per turbine. The 199.5-MW Fowler Phase II was constructed in 
2009 and began operating later that year. The site consists of 133 GE 
WTGs, each with a 1.5-MW capacity. The 99-MW Fowler Phase III was 
constructed in 2008 and began operating in 2009. The site consists of 
60 Vestas V82 WTGs, each with a 1.65-MW capacity per turbine. Phase IV 
will consist of up to 94 GE 1.6-MW turbines for a total capacity of 
150.4 MW. Currently, Phase IV is planned for construction in 2014. The 
need for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on 
finding two dead Indiana bats at the facility, the aforementioned 2009 
fatality and another in 2010, and the potential that future operation 
of FRWF could result in additional take of Indiana bats.
    The HCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure that the 
incidental take caused by the operation of the project will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the 
Indiana bat in the action area or in the recovery unit, and provides 
mitigation to fully offset the impact of the taking. Further, the HCP 
provides a long-term monitoring and adaptive management strategy to 
ensure that the ITP terms are satisfied, and to account for changed and 
unforeseen circumstances.

Purpose and Need for Action

    In accordance with NEPA, the Service has prepared an EIS to analyze 
the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the requested 
ITP were issued and the associated HCP were implemented.

Proposed Action

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the ``taking'' of threatened and 
endangered species. However, provided certain criteria are met, the 
Service is authorized to issue permits under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
ESA for take of federally listed species when, among other things, such 
a taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful 
activities. Under the ESA, the term ``take'' means to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered 
and threatened species, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. 
Our implementing regulations define ``harm'' as an act which actually 
kills or injures wildlife, and such act may include significant habitat 
modification or degradation that results in death or injury to listed 
species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). Harass, as 
defined, means ``an intentional or negligent act or omission which 
creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by

[[Page 20692]]

annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal 
behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3).
    The HCP analyzes, and the ITP would cover, take from harassment, 
harm, and killing of bats due to the operation of the FRWF project. If 
issued, the ITP would authorize incidental take consistent with the 
applicant's HCP and the ITP. To issue the ITP, the Service must find 
that the application, including its HCP, satisfies the criteria of 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA and the Service's implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR parts 13 and 17.22. If the ITP is issued, the 
applicant would receive assurances under the Service's No Surprises 
policy, as codified at 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5).
    The applicant proposes to construct 94 turbines under Phase IV and 
operate a maximum of 449 wind turbines and associated facilities 
(described below) for a period of 22 years in Benton County, Indiana. 
The project will consist of wind turbines, associated access roads, an 
underground and aboveground electrical collector system, four 
substations (one for each phase of the project) containing six 
transformers that feed electricity into an existing 345-kilovolt (kV) 
electrical tie-in line (roughly 200 poles carrying electricity 
approximately 50 km (31 mi) to the existing Dequine Substation in 
Tippecanoe County), seven permanent un-guyed 80-m tall meteorological 
towers, and an operations and maintenance building. Project facilities 
and infrastructure will be placed on private land via long-term 
easement agreements between the applicant and respective landowners.
    While approximately 6,400 acres are located within the Phase IV 
project area, a relatively small portion of that land, approximately 
554 acres, will be disturbed, and only 78.2 acres will be permanently 
occupied by the Phase IV facilities. The FRWF project area is 93-
percent row crop agriculture. Phases I-III have been in operation since 
2009 within this agricultural context. Beyond the area required for 
construction, Phase IV is not expected to change current land use.
    The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the 
operation of the FRWF and includes measures to avoid, minimize, 
mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental take on the Indiana 
bat. The applicant will mitigate for take and associated impacts 
through protection of a Priority 1 hibernaculum and restoration and 
protection of maternity colony habitat at one or more documented 
maternity colonies. Maternity colony habitat mitigation, including any 
restored habitat, will occur on private land and be permanently 
protected by restrictive covenants approved by the Service. Chapter 5 
of the HCP describes the Conservation Program, including details of 
avoidance and minimization measures, compensatory mitigation, and 
adaptive management that will limit and mitigate for the take of 
Indiana bats.
    The Service is soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the 
HCP to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the proposed incidental 
take of the covered species and to provide for adaptive management. In 
compliance with section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)), the 
Service is making the ITP application materials available for public 
review and comment as described above.
    We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties on 
the draft documents associated with the ITP application (HCP, HCP 
Appendices, and IA), and request that comments be as specific as 
possible. In particular, we request information and comments on the 
following topics:
    1. Whether adaptive management and monitoring provisions in the 
Proposed Action alternative are sufficient;
    2. Any threats to the Indiana bat that may influence its population 
over the life of the ITP that are not addressed in the draft HCP or 
draft EIS;
    3. Any new information on white-nose syndrome effects on the 
Indiana bat;
    4. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the Indiana bat.

Alternatives in the Draft EIS

    The DEIS contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action 
alternative, in which all 449 turbines would be shut down (i.e., non-
operational) from sunset to sunrise from August 1 through October 15, 
the primary fall migratory period of the Indiana bat, each year during 
the operational life (22 years) of the FRWF; (2) The 3.5 m/s Cut-In 
Speed (Feathered) Alternative, including implementation of the HCP and 
issuance of a 22-year ITP; (3) the 5.0 m/s Cut-In Speed (Feathered) 
Alternative, including implementation of the HCP and issuance of a 22-
year ITP; and (4) the 6.5 m/s Cut-In Speed (Feathered) Alternative, 
including implementation of the HCP and issuance of a 22-year ITP. The 
DEIS considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the 
alternatives, including any measures under the Proposed Action 
alternative intended to minimize and mitigate such impacts. The DEIS 
also identifies five additional alternatives that were considered but 
were eliminated from consideration (detailed in Section 3.1 of the 
DEIS).
    The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested 
parties on the content of the DEIS. In particular, information and 
comments regarding the following topics are requested:
    1. The direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation 
of any alternative could have on the human environment;
    2. Whether or not the significance of the impact on various aspects 
of the human environment has been adequately analyzed; and
    3. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the human environment.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the notice by 
one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send 
comments only by one of the methods described in ADDRESSES.
    If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire 
comment--including any personal identifying information--will be posted 
on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that 
includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top 
of your document that we withhold this information from public review. 
However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated 
with the notice, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2013-0032, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Indiana Ecological 
Services Field Office in Bloomington, Indiana (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), the NEPA 
(42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6; 43 CFR part 46), and the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations (36 CFR part 800).

    Dated: March 20, 2013.
Lynn Lewis,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-07595 Filed 4-4-13; 8:45 am]
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