Southern Edwards Plateau Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan; City of San Antonio and Bexar County; Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, 75830-75832 [2014-29525]

Download as PDF 75830 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 244 / Friday, December 19, 2014 / Notices public access denied and no alternative method to gain access w/out compromising national security. Reasons: Floodway; Secured Area Tennessee Wears Valley Quarters/ Ranger Station 3443 Wears Valley Road Sevierville TN 37862 Landholding Agency: Interior Property Number: 61201440014 Status: Unutilized Comments: Documented deficiencies structurally unsound; extensive deterioration; severe mold infestation; represents a clear threat to personal physical safety. Reasons: Extensive deterioration Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability and announcement of public hearings. Bexar County and the City of San Antonio (applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit (ITP, TE–48571B–0) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The requested permit would authorize incidental take of nine federally listed species in Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. The applicants have completed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan, referred to as the Southern Edwards Plateau (SEP dHCP), as part of the application package. The Service also announces the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS), which has been prepared to evaluate the permit application in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We are making the permit application package, including the SEP dHCP and dEIS, available for public review and comment. SUMMARY: Land Indiana Bryant Creek Access Site State Road 156 Patriot IN 47038 Landholding Agency: GSA Property Number: 54201440009 Status: Excess GSA Number: 1–D–IN–608 Directions: Disposal Agency: GSA; Landholding Agency: COE Comments: Entire property located within floodway which has not been corrected or contained. Reasons: Floodway mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES [FR Doc. 2014–29458 Filed 12–18–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 21:22 Dec 18, 2014 Jkt 235001 [FWS–R2–ES–2014–0053; 20124–1112– 0000–F2] AGENCY: 87 Air Force Plant 4 Ft. Worth TX Landholding Agency: Air Force Property Number: 18201440026 Status: Underutilized Comments: Public access denied and no alternative method to gain access w/out compromising national security. Reasons: Secured Area 127 Air Force Plant 4 Ft. Worth TX Landholding Agency: Air Force Property Number: 18201440027 Status: Unutilized Comments: Public access denied and no alternative method to gain access w/out compromising national security. Reasons: Secured Area Photovoltaic (PV) Building Site 45 Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Camp Lejeune NC Landholding Agency: Navy Property Number: 77201440024 Status: Unutilized Comments: Public access denied and no alternative method to gain access w/out compromising Nat’l Security. Reasons: Secured Area Fish and Wildlife Service Southern Edwards Plateau Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan; City of San Antonio and Bexar County; Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Texas North Carolina DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Submission of Comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before March 19, 2015. 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. Any comments that we receive after the closing date may not be considered in the final decision on these actions. Public Meetings: The Service will hold public meetings during the public comment period. The dates, times, and locations of these meetings will be noticed in local newspapers at least 2 weeks before each meeting and will also be posted on the Web sites http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ AustinTexas/ and http:// www.sephcp.com. DATES: Obtaining SEP dHCP and dEIS for Review: You may obtain copies of the dEIS and dHCP by going to the Service’s Web site at http:// ADDRESSES: PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ AustinTexas/, the SEP’s Web site at http://www.sephcp.com, or at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS–R2–ES–2014–0053). Alternatively, you may obtain compact disks with electronic copies of these documents by writing to Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; calling (512) 490–0057; or faxing (512) 490–0974. A limited number of printed copies of the SEP dHCP and dEIS are also available, by request, from the Field Supervisor. Copies of the SEP dHCP and dEIS are also available for public inspection and review at the following locations, by appointment only: • Department of the Interior, Natural Resources Library, 1849 C St. NW., Washington, DC 20240. • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue SW., Room 4012, Albuquerque, NM 87102. • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758. Obtaining Incidental Take Permit Application for Review Persons wishing to review the application may obtain a copy by writing to the Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4012, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Submitting Comments To submit written comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your comment is in reference to the SEP dHCP and dEIS: • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2014–0053. • U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2–ES–2014– 0053; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. • Public Meetings: We will also accept written or oral comments at the public meetings (see DATES). We request that you submit comments by only the methods described above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Availability of Comments section below for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Zerrener, Field Supervisor, U.S. E:\FR\FM\19DEN1.SGM 19DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 244 / Friday, December 19, 2014 / Notices Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; (512) 490–0057 (telephone). Bexar County and the City of San Antonio (applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit (ITP, TE– 48571B–0) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; Act). The requested permit, which would be in effect for a period of 30 years, if granted, would authorize incidental take of the following federally listed species: Golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga [=Dendroica] chrysoparia) (GCWA), black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) (BCVI), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Braken Cave meshweaver (Cicurina venii), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera), Rhadine exilis (no common name), Rhadine infernalis (no common name), and Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi) (collectively, covered species). Incidental take would be covered in Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, including current and future portions of the City’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), which currently extends outside of Bexar County into Comal, Medina, and Kendall Counties. However, the City is projected to expand into Bandera County in the future. Therefore, the permit area—i.e., where incidental take will be permitted—includes Bexar County and those portions of the City’s ETJ that do/ will expand into Medina, Kendall, and Bandera Counties over the life of the permit. While the ETJ currently extends into Comal County, incidental take will not be covered other than on preserves, since Comal County has its own habitat conservation plan (HCP). Covered activities include construction, use, and/or maintenance of land development projects; farm and ranch improvements; commercial or industrial projects; construction, maintenance, or improvement of public infrastructure; installation and/or maintenance of utility infrastructure; construction, use, maintenance and/or expansion of quarries, gravel mining, or other similar extraction projects; and any activities necessary to manage habitat for the covered species that could temporarily result in incidental take. The applicants have completed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan, referred to as the Southern Edwards Plateau (SEP dHCP), as part of the application package. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:37 Dec 18, 2014 Jkt 235001 The Service also announces the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS), which has been prepared to evaluate the permit application in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; NEPA). We are making the permit application package, including the dHCP and dEA, available for public review and comment. Background We initially prepared a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS, which was published in the Federal Register on April 27, 2011 (76 FR 23619). We also held public scoping meetings in connection with the applicants’ requested permit. A summary of comments provided during the 2011 scoping period, which included public meetings held June 6, 2011, in Bandera, Texas; June 7, 2011, Boerne, Texas; June 9, 2011, Blanco, Texas; June 13, 2011, Kerrville, Texas; and June 14, 2011, Helotes, Texas, are available on the Service’s Web site at http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ AustinTexas/ and on the applicants’ Web site at http://www.sephcp.com (Appendix F of the dEIS). Proposed Action The proposed action, involves the issuance of an ITP by the Service for the covered activities in the permit area, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The ITP would cover ‘‘take’’ of the covered species associated with public and private projects occurring within the permit area. The requested term of the ITP is 30 years. To meet the requirements of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP, the applicants developed and propose to implement the SEP dHCP, which describes the conservation measures the applicants have agreed to undertake to minimize and mitigate for the impacts of the proposed incidental take of the covered species to the maximum extent practicable, and ensure that incidental take will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of these species in the wild. Section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations prohibit ‘‘take’’ of fish and wildlife species listed as threatened or endangered under section 4 of the Act. However, section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act authorizes us to issue permits to take listed wildlife species where such take is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities and where the applicant meets certain statutory requirements. PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 75831 Alternatives Four alternatives to the proposed action we are considering as part of this process are: 1. No Action Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, Bexar County and the City of San Antonio would not seek, and the Service would not issue, an ITP. Under this alternative, compliance with the Act would continue to occur only on an individual basis through project-specific consultations with the Service. Local governments, business entities, private landowners, and others would independently determine whether or not ESA compliance is necessary for a particular project and, if needed, would work with the Service to obtain authorization for incidental take. Each independent consultation would require an analysis of the incidental take and impacts to listed species, the identification and implementation of appropriate and practicable mitigation measures, and the preparation of appropriate documentation to support the permitting action. Mitigation requirements would be individually negotiated with the Service on the basis of the level of impact to listed species and the conservation value of the mitigation options and opportunities available to the individual applicant. Possible forms of mitigation could include on-site preservation of habitat, acquisition of off-site preserve lands, or purchase of conservation credits from an independent conservation bank. With the exception of conservation bank credit purchases, it is likely that many preserve lands offered as mitigation for individual projects would be relatively small, isolated, and/or widely distributed across the region. 2. Ten-Percent Participation Alternative. The 10-Percent Participation Alternative would be a regional HCP that is sized to address only 10 percent of the anticipated future habitat losses for the covered species over the next 30 years within the permit area. Therefore, this alternative would request substantially less incidental take authorization for the covered species and would (at full implementation) result in proportionately less conservation within the plan area. With a smaller plan, the overall estimated costs for implementation would be less than one-half of the estimated cost to implement the proposed SEP dHCP. However, since there would be fewer participants paying fees to use the plan, a larger portion of the revenue needed for implementation of this alternative would require more public funding. E:\FR\FM\19DEN1.SGM 19DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 75832 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 244 / Friday, December 19, 2014 / Notices 3. Single-County Alternative. The Single-County Alternative would essentially be limited to the extent of the permittees’ jurisdictions. This would include both incidental take coverage and mitigation. It is assumed that the plan area for the Single-County Alternative would include Bexar County and the area within 10 miles outside of Bexar County (which would be generally sufficient to accommodate the City of San Antonio’s current extraterritorial jurisdiction and possible future expansions). As habitat for the covered species within Bexar County only occurs in the northwest half of the county, the plan area for this alternative is still roughly equivalent to the geographic area of a single central Texas county. Since all mitigation would occur in the vicinity of San Antonio, the price of land is substantially higher compared to more rural parts of the plan area. This alternative assumes that approximately 75 percent of the GCWA and BCVI preserve lands would be acquired in relatively ‘‘suburban’’ areas, and approximately 25 percent of the land would be acquired in relatively rural areas. This distribution of preserve lands would have a significant impact on the method of acquisition (fee simple vs. easement), the anticipated cost for acquisition, and the costs to manage suburban preserves compared to rural preserves. This alternative could cost nearly twice as much overall to implement over 30 years compared to the proposed alternative. 4. Increased Mitigation Alternative. The Increased Mitigation Alternative would implement recommendations passed by the SEP HCP’s Biological Advisory Team (BAT) pertaining to mitigation for the GCWA and the karst invertebrates (BCVI mitigation would be the same as the Proposed Alternative). These recommendations were also strongly favored by many members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The BAT passed a recommendation calling for impacts to GCWA habitat within Bexar County to be mitigated at a 3:1 ratio (i.e., 3 acres of habitat protected for each acre of direct habitat loss) and that at least 60 percent of that mitigation be placed within Bexar County or within 5 miles outside of Bexar County. The BAT also passed a recommendation that the karst preserve system be sized to achieve roughly twice the level of conservation specified by the Service’s downlisting criteria for the karst invertebrates. For the purpose of modeling this alternative, it is assumed that all of the incidental take of the GCWA requested by the Permittees would be mitigated at a 3:1 VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:37 Dec 18, 2014 Jkt 235001 ratio and that 60 percent of the GCWA preserve system would be acquired in relatively suburban parts of the Plan Area, with the remaining preserve lands acquired in rural areas. This recommendation is modeled as a requirement to acquire approximately 2,000 acres of recovery-quality karst preserves over 30 years, with at least two high-quality (100 acres each) and four medium-quality preserves (50 acres each) created in each of the five regions where the karst invertebrates occur. Similar to the Single-County Alternative, this Increased Mitigation Alternative requires the acquisition of a large portion of the preserve system in relatively high-cost suburban or (for the karst preserves) urban areas, which would disproportionately increase the expected preserve acquisition and management costs. This alternative would achieve a higher level of conservation for the GCWA and karst invertebrates, but at a financial cost that would be approximately 275 percent higher than the proposed SEP HCP. Public Availability of Comments Written comments we receive become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can request in your comment that we withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their entirety. Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32) and NEPA and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). Joy E. Nicholopoulos, Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico. [FR Doc. 2014–29525 Filed 12–18–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R5–ES–2014–0051; FXES111205000000–156–FF05E00000] Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Piping Plover, From the Town of Orleans, MA, and Availability of Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or ‘‘we’’), announce the availability of an application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) and a proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) from the Town of Orleans (Town) for public review and comment. We received the permit application from the Town for incidental take of the threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus) resulting from the Town’s authorization and management of over-sand vehicle (OSV) activities over the next 3 years. Our preliminary determination is that the proposed HCP qualifies as low-effect under our final Handbook for Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take Permitting Process. To make this determination, we used our Low-Effect HCP Screening Form/Environmental Action Statement (EAS), the preliminary version of which is also available for review. We provide this notice to (1) seek public comments on the proposed HCP and application; (2) seek public comments on our preliminary determination that the HCP qualifies as low-effect and is therefore eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and (3) advise other Federal and State agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to issue an ITP. DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments by January 20, 2015. ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted electronically by any one of the following methods: Electronically: www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–R5–ES– 2014–0051. U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R5–ES–2014– 0051; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, Virginia 22041–3803. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susi vonOettingen, by U.S. mail at U.S. Fish SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\19DEN1.SGM 19DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 244 (Friday, December 19, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 75830-75832]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-29525]


=======================================================================
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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2014-0053; 20124-1112-0000-F2]


Southern Edwards Plateau Environmental Impact Statement and 
Habitat Conservation Plan; City of San Antonio and Bexar County; 
Regional Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and announcement of public hearings.

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

SUMMARY: Bexar County and the City of San Antonio (applicants) have 
applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an 
incidental take permit (ITP, TE-48571B-0) under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The requested permit would authorize 
incidental take of nine federally listed species in Bexar County and 
the City of San Antonio. The applicants have completed a draft Habitat 
Conservation Plan, referred to as the Southern Edwards Plateau (SEP 
dHCP), as part of the application package. The Service also announces 
the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS), 
which has been prepared to evaluate the permit application in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA). We are making the permit application package, including the 
SEP dHCP and dEIS, available for public review and comment.

DATES: Submission of Comments: We will accept comments received or 
postmarked on or before March 19, 2015. 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. Any comments that we receive after the closing date may 
not be considered in the final decision on these actions.
    Public Meetings: The Service will hold public meetings during the 
public comment period. The dates, times, and locations of these 
meetings will be noticed in local newspapers at least 2 weeks before 
each meeting and will also be posted on the Web sites http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/ and http://www.sephcp.com.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining SEP dHCP and dEIS for Review: You may obtain 
copies of the dEIS and dHCP by going to the Service's Web site at 
http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/, the SEP's Web site at 
http://www.sephcp.com, or at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS-R2-ES-2014-0053). Alternatively, 
you may obtain compact disks with electronic copies of these documents 
by writing to Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 
Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; calling (512) 490-0057; or 
faxing (512) 490-0974. A limited number of printed copies of the SEP 
dHCP and dEIS are also available, by request, from the Field 
Supervisor. Copies of the SEP dHCP and dEIS are also available for 
public inspection and review at the following locations, by appointment 
only:

 Department of the Interior, Natural Resources Library, 1849 C 
St. NW., Washington, DC 20240.
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue SW., Room 
4012, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, 
Austin, TX 78758.

Obtaining Incidental Take Permit Application for Review

    Persons wishing to review the application may obtain a copy by 
writing to the Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. 
Box 1306, Room 4012, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

Submitting Comments

    To submit written comments, please use one of the following 
methods, and note that your comment is in reference to the SEP dHCP and 
dEIS:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at 
http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting 
comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2014-0053.
     U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-
2014-0053; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service; MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-
3803.
     Public Meetings: We will also accept written or oral 
comments at the public meetings (see DATES).
    We request that you submit comments by only the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Availability of 
Comments section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Zerrener, Field Supervisor, U.S.

[[Page 75831]]

Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 
78758; (512) 490-0057 (telephone).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Bexar County and the City of San Antonio 
(applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) for an incidental take permit (ITP, TE-48571B-0) under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; Act). The requested permit, which would be in 
effect for a period of 30 years, if granted, would authorize incidental 
take of the following federally listed species: Golden-cheeked warbler 
(Setophaga [=Dendroica] chrysoparia) (GCWA), black-capped vireo (Vireo 
atricapilla) (BCVI), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta 
microps), Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Braken Cave 
meshweaver (Cicurina venii), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver 
(Cicurina vespera), Rhadine exilis (no common name), Rhadine infernalis 
(no common name), and Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi) 
(collectively, covered species).
    Incidental take would be covered in Bexar County and the City of 
San Antonio, including current and future portions of the City's extra-
territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), which currently extends outside of 
Bexar County into Comal, Medina, and Kendall Counties. However, the 
City is projected to expand into Bandera County in the future. 
Therefore, the permit area--i.e., where incidental take will be 
permitted--includes Bexar County and those portions of the City's ETJ 
that do/will expand into Medina, Kendall, and Bandera Counties over the 
life of the permit. While the ETJ currently extends into Comal County, 
incidental take will not be covered other than on preserves, since 
Comal County has its own habitat conservation plan (HCP).
    Covered activities include construction, use, and/or maintenance of 
land development projects; farm and ranch improvements; commercial or 
industrial projects; construction, maintenance, or improvement of 
public infrastructure; installation and/or maintenance of utility 
infrastructure; construction, use, maintenance and/or expansion of 
quarries, gravel mining, or other similar extraction projects; and any 
activities necessary to manage habitat for the covered species that 
could temporarily result in incidental take. The applicants have 
completed a draft Habitat Conservation Plan, referred to as the 
Southern Edwards Plateau (SEP dHCP), as part of the application 
package.
    The Service also announces the availability of a draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS), which has been prepared to 
evaluate the permit application in accordance with the requirements of 
the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; NEPA). 
We are making the permit application package, including the dHCP and 
dEA, available for public review and comment.

Background

    We initially prepared a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS, 
which was published in the Federal Register on April 27, 2011 (76 FR 
23619). We also held public scoping meetings in connection with the 
applicants' requested permit. A summary of comments provided during the 
2011 scoping period, which included public meetings held June 6, 2011, 
in Bandera, Texas; June 7, 2011, Boerne, Texas; June 9, 2011, Blanco, 
Texas; June 13, 2011, Kerrville, Texas; and June 14, 2011, Helotes, 
Texas, are available on the Service's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/ and on the applicants' Web site at http://www.sephcp.com (Appendix F of the dEIS).

Proposed Action

    The proposed action, involves the issuance of an ITP by the Service 
for the covered activities in the permit area, pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The ITP would cover ``take'' of the covered 
species associated with public and private projects occurring within 
the permit area.
    The requested term of the ITP is 30 years. To meet the requirements 
of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP, the applicants developed and propose to 
implement the SEP dHCP, which describes the conservation measures the 
applicants have agreed to undertake to minimize and mitigate for the 
impacts of the proposed incidental take of the covered species to the 
maximum extent practicable, and ensure that incidental take will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of these 
species in the wild.
    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations prohibit 
``take'' of fish and wildlife species listed as threatened or 
endangered under section 4 of the Act. However, section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Act authorizes us to issue permits to take listed wildlife species 
where such take is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities and where the applicant meets certain statutory 
requirements.

Alternatives

    Four alternatives to the proposed action we are considering as part 
of this process are:
    1. No Action Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, Bexar 
County and the City of San Antonio would not seek, and the Service 
would not issue, an ITP. Under this alternative, compliance with the 
Act would continue to occur only on an individual basis through 
project-specific consultations with the Service. Local governments, 
business entities, private landowners, and others would independently 
determine whether or not ESA compliance is necessary for a particular 
project and, if needed, would work with the Service to obtain 
authorization for incidental take. Each independent consultation would 
require an analysis of the incidental take and impacts to listed 
species, the identification and implementation of appropriate and 
practicable mitigation measures, and the preparation of appropriate 
documentation to support the permitting action.
    Mitigation requirements would be individually negotiated with the 
Service on the basis of the level of impact to listed species and the 
conservation value of the mitigation options and opportunities 
available to the individual applicant. Possible forms of mitigation 
could include on-site preservation of habitat, acquisition of off-site 
preserve lands, or purchase of conservation credits from an independent 
conservation bank. With the exception of conservation bank credit 
purchases, it is likely that many preserve lands offered as mitigation 
for individual projects would be relatively small, isolated, and/or 
widely distributed across the region.
    2. Ten-Percent Participation Alternative. The 10-Percent 
Participation Alternative would be a regional HCP that is sized to 
address only 10 percent of the anticipated future habitat losses for 
the covered species over the next 30 years within the permit area. 
Therefore, this alternative would request substantially less incidental 
take authorization for the covered species and would (at full 
implementation) result in proportionately less conservation within the 
plan area. With a smaller plan, the overall estimated costs for 
implementation would be less than one-half of the estimated cost to 
implement the proposed SEP dHCP. However, since there would be fewer 
participants paying fees to use the plan, a larger portion of the 
revenue needed for implementation of this alternative would require 
more public funding.

[[Page 75832]]

    3. Single-County Alternative. The Single-County Alternative would 
essentially be limited to the extent of the permittees' jurisdictions. 
This would include both incidental take coverage and mitigation. It is 
assumed that the plan area for the Single-County Alternative would 
include Bexar County and the area within 10 miles outside of Bexar 
County (which would be generally sufficient to accommodate the City of 
San Antonio's current extra-territorial jurisdiction and possible 
future expansions). As habitat for the covered species within Bexar 
County only occurs in the northwest half of the county, the plan area 
for this alternative is still roughly equivalent to the geographic area 
of a single central Texas county.
    Since all mitigation would occur in the vicinity of San Antonio, 
the price of land is substantially higher compared to more rural parts 
of the plan area. This alternative assumes that approximately 75 
percent of the GCWA and BCVI preserve lands would be acquired in 
relatively ``suburban'' areas, and approximately 25 percent of the land 
would be acquired in relatively rural areas. This distribution of 
preserve lands would have a significant impact on the method of 
acquisition (fee simple vs. easement), the anticipated cost for 
acquisition, and the costs to manage suburban preserves compared to 
rural preserves. This alternative could cost nearly twice as much 
overall to implement over 30 years compared to the proposed 
alternative.
    4. Increased Mitigation Alternative. The Increased Mitigation 
Alternative would implement recommendations passed by the SEP HCP's 
Biological Advisory Team (BAT) pertaining to mitigation for the GCWA 
and the karst invertebrates (BCVI mitigation would be the same as the 
Proposed Alternative). These recommendations were also strongly favored 
by many members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).
    The BAT passed a recommendation calling for impacts to GCWA habitat 
within Bexar County to be mitigated at a 3:1 ratio (i.e., 3 acres of 
habitat protected for each acre of direct habitat loss) and that at 
least 60 percent of that mitigation be placed within Bexar County or 
within 5 miles outside of Bexar County. The BAT also passed a 
recommendation that the karst preserve system be sized to achieve 
roughly twice the level of conservation specified by the Service's 
downlisting criteria for the karst invertebrates. For the purpose of 
modeling this alternative, it is assumed that all of the incidental 
take of the GCWA requested by the Permittees would be mitigated at a 
3:1 ratio and that 60 percent of the GCWA preserve system would be 
acquired in relatively suburban parts of the Plan Area, with the 
remaining preserve lands acquired in rural areas. This recommendation 
is modeled as a requirement to acquire approximately 2,000 acres of 
recovery-quality karst preserves over 30 years, with at least two high-
quality (100 acres each) and four medium-quality preserves (50 acres 
each) created in each of the five regions where the karst invertebrates 
occur.
    Similar to the Single-County Alternative, this Increased Mitigation 
Alternative requires the acquisition of a large portion of the preserve 
system in relatively high-cost suburban or (for the karst preserves) 
urban areas, which would disproportionately increase the expected 
preserve acquisition and management costs. This alternative would 
achieve a higher level of conservation for the GCWA and karst 
invertebrates, but at a financial cost that would be approximately 275 
percent higher than the proposed SEP HCP.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, email address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can request in your comment that we withhold 
your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so. All submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their 
entirety.

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32) and NEPA and its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2014-29525 Filed 12-18-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P