Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Wright Solar Park Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, Merced County, California, 1660-1662 [2015-00390]

Download as PDF 1660 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 8 / Tuesday, January 13, 2015 / Notices geographical range, while preserving extant genetic diversity. 2. Ensure existing and future populations are protected from incompatible uses, such as road maintenance. 3. Reduce herbivory by slugs, snails, and gophers to the point that it does not affect the species at a population level. As Baker’s larkspur meets reclassification criteria, we will review its status and consider it for downlisting on the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Public Comments Solicited We solicit written comments on the draft recovery plan described in this notice. All comments received by the date specified above will be considered in development of a final recovery plan for Baker’s larkspur. You may submit written comments and information by mail or in person to the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office at the above address (see ADDRESSES). Public Availability of Comments 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 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. Authority We developed this recovery plan under the authority of section 4(f) of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f). We publish this notice under section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: January 7, 2015. Alexandra Pitts, Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region. [FR Doc. 2015–00392 Filed 1–12–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R8–ES–2014–N240; FF08E00000– FXES11120800000–145] Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Wright Solar Park MultiSpecies Habitat Conservation Plan, Merced County, California AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:10 Jan 12, 2015 Jkt 235001 Notice of availability and request for comment; permit application, draft environmental assessment, proposed habitat conservation plan. ACTION: This notice advises the public that we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in response to an application from Wright Solar Park, LLC (the applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The applicant has prepared the draft Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize and mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of an up-to-200-megawatt photovoltaic power generating facility and implementation of conservation actions associated with the Habitat Conservation Plan in Merced County, California. We also announce a 60-day public comment period on the permit application, including the draft EA and the proposed HCP. We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party. DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by March 16, 2015. ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation Planning Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W–2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Alternatively, you may send comments by facsimile to (916) 414–6713. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field Supervisor, at the address in ADDRESSES or at (916) 414–6600 (telephone). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice advises the public that we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in response to an application from Wright Solar Park, LLC (the applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to the Endangered SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application addresses the proposed incidental take (take) of three animal species proposed as ‘‘covered species’’ within a 5,181-acre permit area during a proposed permit term of 40 years. The applicant has prepared the draft Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize and mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of an up-to-200megawatt photovoltaic power generating facility and implementation of conservation actions associated with the Habitat Conservation Plan in Merced County, California. We also announce a 90-day public comment period on the permit application, including the draft EA and the proposed HCP. We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party. We publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321–4347 et seq.; NEPA), and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR parts 1500– 1508, as well as in compliance with section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531–1544 et seq.; Act). Availability of Documents You may obtain copies of the draft EA and the draft HCP from the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office Web site at http://www.fws.gov/ sacramento. Copies of these documents are also available for public inspection, by appointment, during regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Background Information Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531– 1544 et seq.) and Federal regulations (50 CFR part 17) prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. ‘‘Take’’ of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act as to ‘‘harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in such conduct’’ (16 U.S.C. 1532(19). The term ‘‘harm’’ is defined in the regulations as ‘‘an act which actually kills or injures wildlife. Such act may include significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering’’ (50 CFR 17.3). E:\FR\FM\13JAN1.SGM 13JAN1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 8 / Tuesday, January 13, 2015 / Notices However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits that allow the take of federally listed fish and wildlife species, provided that the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions for issuing such incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened species, provided the following criteria are met: (1) The taking will be incidental; (2) The applicants will minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking to the maximum extent practicable; (3) The applicants will develop a proposed HCP and ensure that adequate funding for the HCP will be provided; (4) The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and (5) The applicants will carry out any other measures that the Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the HCP. The draft HCP addresses, and the applicant seeks incidental take authorization for, three animal species (two federally endangered and one federally threatened). The proposed permit would provide take authorization for all species identified in the draft HCP as covered species. The following two federally listed as endangered species are proposed to be included as covered species in the proposed HCP: Blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila) San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) The following federally listed as threatened species is proposed to be included as a covered species in the proposed HCP: Central California distinct population segment of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) Implementation of activities proposed for coverage under the proposed ITP includes the following general categories: (1) Construction and operation activities within solar sites; (2) Management and maintenance activities within movement corridors; (3) Management activities within the areas designated for conservation (conservation sites), including monitoring and reporting actions; (4) Activities associated with implementation of the conservation program specified in the draft HCP; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:10 Jan 12, 2015 Jkt 235001 (5) Decommissioning; and (6) Implementation of the conservation program. Construction-related activities could include grading and compaction, trenching, paving of access roads, installation of solar arrays, meteorological stations, transmission lines, septic leech fields, fencing, and landscaping. Construction of solar facilities is anticipated to be completed over a 26-month period from the commencement of the initial development, and is anticipated to be complete by late 2016. Operationrelated activities could include solar panel maintenance, on-site parking, operation of solar modules, inspection, repair of equipment, and operation of lighting. Typical activities associated with decommissioning of the solar energy facility include removal of all solar electric systems, buildings, cabling, electrical components; breaking up of concrete pads and foundations; removal of access roads; additional grading; and replacement of soil disturbed from decommissioning. Preservation/enhancement and conservation plan management activities could include vegetation control (i.e., grazing and mowing), fence installation, and special status species monitoring (i.e., surveys such as trapping, use of remote cameras, and spotlighting). The proposed covered activities related to development, operations, maintenance and decommissioning of the solar sites would result in the permanent or temporary disturbance of up to 2,731 acres of existing land cover within the proposed 5,181-acre permit area. The proposed covered activities related to management of the conservation sites would also result in some disturbance of land cover, but overall these actions are expected to benefit the covered species. The solar site parcels encompass 2,731 acres, and conservation sites total 2,450 acres. The covered lands within the solar park area consist of low rolling hills, and are currently actively used as dry-farmed agricultural land. Surrounding land uses include open space, rangeland, active and inactive agricultural land, and some existing and potential urban development. The proposed HCP conservation strategy prescribes conditions for implementing each covered activity that avoid or minimize potential take of the covered species, and identifies mitigation for species impacts that cannot be avoided. PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 1661 National Environmental Policy Act Compliance Our proposed permit issuance decision triggers compliance with NEPA, which requires that environmental information be available to public officials and citizens before Federal decisions are made and before Federal actions are taken. We prepared the draft EA to inform the public of the proposed HCP; our proposed permit action; alternatives to that action; the environmental impacts of the alternatives, including the proposed action; and any irreversible commitments of resources; and to address comments received during early public scoping efforts. Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Assessment The Service is providing notice of the availability of our draft EA, which evaluates the impacts of the Proposed Action Alternative (including the HCP), and a No Action Alternative. No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, we would not issue an incidental take permit to the applicant; the applicant would not implement an HCP and would avoid the take of the proposed covered species. The No Action Alternative would not address the applicant’s underlying needs, would not contribute to meeting the State of California’s renewable energy goals, and would not assist with the offset of carbon emissions. The 5,181 acres identified as the permit area would likely remain as agricultural land and undisturbed open space, and the 2,731 acres identified as conservation sites would not be permanently conserved. As a result, there would be no conservation benefit to covered species as a result of the Proposed Action. Agricultural activities, such as disking and harvesting, would likely continue, resulting in continued reduced habitat quality as a result of frequent vegetation removal and soil disturbance within the solar park area. Proposed Action Alternative: Under the Proposed Action Alternative, we would issue an incidental take permit for the applicant’s proposed HCP, which includes the covered activities and the conservation measures described in Background Information, and described with more detail in the applicant’s proposed Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan. Public Comments We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, E:\FR\FM\13JAN1.SGM 13JAN1 1662 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 8 / Tuesday, January 13, 2015 / Notices Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this notice. We particularly seek comments on the following: (1) Biological information concerning the species; (2) Relevant data concerning the species; (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and population trends of the species; (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their possible impacts on the species; and (5) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and (6) Identification of any other environmental issues that should be considered with regard to the proposed transmission line and permit action. You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the EA, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Public Availability of Comments Before including your address, phone number, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—might 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. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Next Steps Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action subject to compliance with NEPA. We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and any public comments we receive to determine whether the application meets the requirements of NEPA regulations and section 10(a) of the Act. If we determine that those requirements are met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of desert tortoise. We will make our final permit decision no sooner than 30 days after the public comment period closes. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:10 Jan 12, 2015 Jkt 235001 Dated: January 7, 2015. Paul B. McKim, Acting Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California. 25 CFR 224 will allow IEED to determine the capacity of tribes to manage the development of energy resources on tribal lands. Information collection: [FR Doc. 2015–00390 Filed 1–12–15; 8:45 am] • Enables IEED to engage in a consultation process with tribes that is designed to foster optimal pre-planning of development proposals and speed up the review and approval process for TERA agreements; • Provides wide public notice and opportunity for review of TERA agreements by the public, industry, and government agencies; • Ensures that the public has an avenue for review of the performance of tribes in implementing a TERA; • Creates a process for preventing damage to sensitive resources as well as ensuring that the public has fully communicated with the tribe in the petition process; • Ensures that a tribe is fully aware of any attempt by the Department of the Interior to resume management authority over energy resources on tribal lands; and • Ensures that the tribal government fully endorses any relinquishment of a TERA. BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs [DR.5B814.IA001213] Renewal of Agency Information Collection for Tribal Energy Resource Agreements Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of request for comments. AGENCY: In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs is seeking comments on the renewal of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for the collection of information titled ‘‘Tribal Energy Resource Agreements’’ (TERAs) under the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development Office (IEED) authorized by OMB Control Number 1076–0167. This information collection expires March 31, 2015. DATES: Submit comments on or before March 16, 2015. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the information collection to Mr. Stephen Manydeeds, Chief, Division of Energy and Mineral Development, 13922 Denver West Parkway, Suite 200, Lakewood, CO 80401; facsimile: (303) 969–5273; email: Stephen.Manydeeds@ bia.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Stephen Manydeeds, telephone: (720) 407–0600. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: I. Abstract The Energy Policy Act of 2005, 25 U.S.C. 3503 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to approve individual Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs). The intent of these agreements is to promote tribal oversight and management of energy and mineral resource development on tribal lands and further the goal of Indian selfdetermination. A TERA offers a tribe an alternative for developing energy-related business agreements and awarding leases and granting rights-of-way for energy facilities without having to obtain further approval from the Secretary. This information collection conducted under TERA regulations at PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 II. Request for Comments The Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs requests your comments on this collection concerning: (a) The necessity of this information collection for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) The accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden (hours and cost) of the collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (c) Ways we could enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) Ways we could minimize the burden of the collection of the information on the respondents. Please note that an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and an individual need not respond to, a collection of information unless it has a valid OMB Control Number. It is our policy to make all comments available to the public for review at the location listed in the ADDRESSES section. 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 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. III. Data OMB Control Number: 1076–0167. Title: Tribal Energy Resource Agreements. E:\FR\FM\13JAN1.SGM 13JAN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 8 (Tuesday, January 13, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 1660-1662]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-00390]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2014-N240; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000-145]


Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Wright Solar Park 
Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, Merced County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comment; permit 
application, draft environmental assessment, proposed habitat 
conservation plan.

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

SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that we, the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service), have prepared a draft environmental 
assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (NEPA), in response to an application from Wright Solar Park, 
LLC (the applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The applicant has 
prepared the draft Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to 
describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize and 
mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, 
operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of an up-to-200-megawatt 
photovoltaic power generating facility and implementation of 
conservation actions associated with the Habitat Conservation Plan in 
Merced County, California. We also announce a 60-day public comment 
period on the permit application, including the draft EA and the 
proposed HCP. We request data, comments, new information, or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
March 16, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mike Thomas, Chief, 
Conservation Planning Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Alternatively, you may 
send comments by facsimile to (916) 414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the address in ADDRESSES or at (916) 414-6600 
(telephone). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, 
please call the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice advises the public that we, the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have prepared a draft 
environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in response to an application from 
Wright Solar Park, LLC (the applicant) for an incidental take permit 
(ITP) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
The application addresses the proposed incidental take (take) of three 
animal species proposed as ``covered species'' within a 5,181-acre 
permit area during a proposed permit term of 40 years. The applicant 
has prepared the draft Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan 
(HCP) to describe and implement a conservation plan that will minimize 
and mitigate environmental effects associated with the construction, 
operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of an up-to-200-megawatt 
photovoltaic power generating facility and implementation of 
conservation actions associated with the Habitat Conservation Plan in 
Merced County, California. We also announce a 90-day public comment 
period on the permit application, including the draft EA and the 
proposed HCP. We request data, comments, new information, or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party.
    We publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 et seq.; NEPA), and its 
implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 
CFR parts 1500-1508, as well as in compliance with section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.; Act).

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the draft EA and the draft HCP from the 
individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or from the Sacramento 
Fish and Wildlife Office Web site at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento. 
Copies of these documents are also available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) and Federal 
regulations (50 CFR part 17) prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. 
``Take'' of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act 
as to ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, 
or collect, or attempt to engage in such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1532(19). 
The term ``harm'' is defined in the regulations as ``an act which 
actually kills or injures wildlife. Such act may include significant 
habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3).

[[Page 1661]]

However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue permits 
that allow the take of federally listed fish and wildlife species, 
provided that the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the 
purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity.
    Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species 
are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act contains provisions for issuing such incidental take permits to 
non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened species, 
provided the following criteria are met:
    (1) The taking will be incidental;
    (2) The applicants will minimize and mitigate the impact of such 
taking to the maximum extent practicable;
    (3) The applicants will develop a proposed HCP and ensure that 
adequate funding for the HCP will be provided;
    (4) The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    (5) The applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes 
of the HCP.
    The draft HCP addresses, and the applicant seeks incidental take 
authorization for, three animal species (two federally endangered and 
one federally threatened). The proposed permit would provide take 
authorization for all species identified in the draft HCP as covered 
species.
    The following two federally listed as endangered species are 
proposed to be included as covered species in the proposed HCP:

Blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila)
San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica)

    The following federally listed as threatened species is proposed to 
be included as a covered species in the proposed HCP:

    Central California distinct population segment of the California 
tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense)

    Implementation of activities proposed for coverage under the 
proposed ITP includes the following general categories:
    (1) Construction and operation activities within solar sites;
    (2) Management and maintenance activities within movement 
corridors;
    (3) Management activities within the areas designated for 
conservation (conservation sites), including monitoring and reporting 
actions;
    (4) Activities associated with implementation of the conservation 
program specified in the draft HCP;
    (5) Decommissioning; and
    (6) Implementation of the conservation program.
    Construction-related activities could include grading and 
compaction, trenching, paving of access roads, installation of solar 
arrays, meteorological stations, transmission lines, septic leech 
fields, fencing, and landscaping. Construction of solar facilities is 
anticipated to be completed over a 26-month period from the 
commencement of the initial development, and is anticipated to be 
complete by late 2016. Operation-related activities could include solar 
panel maintenance, on-site parking, operation of solar modules, 
inspection, repair of equipment, and operation of lighting. Typical 
activities associated with decommissioning of the solar energy facility 
include removal of all solar electric systems, buildings, cabling, 
electrical components; breaking up of concrete pads and foundations; 
removal of access roads; additional grading; and replacement of soil 
disturbed from decommissioning. Preservation/enhancement and 
conservation plan management activities could include vegetation 
control (i.e., grazing and mowing), fence installation, and special 
status species monitoring (i.e., surveys such as trapping, use of 
remote cameras, and spotlighting).
    The proposed covered activities related to development, operations, 
maintenance and decommissioning of the solar sites would result in the 
permanent or temporary disturbance of up to 2,731 acres of existing 
land cover within the proposed 5,181-acre permit area. The proposed 
covered activities related to management of the conservation sites 
would also result in some disturbance of land cover, but overall these 
actions are expected to benefit the covered species. The solar site 
parcels encompass 2,731 acres, and conservation sites total 2,450 
acres. The covered lands within the solar park area consist of low 
rolling hills, and are currently actively used as dry-farmed 
agricultural land. Surrounding land uses include open space, rangeland, 
active and inactive agricultural land, and some existing and potential 
urban development. The proposed HCP conservation strategy prescribes 
conditions for implementing each covered activity that avoid or 
minimize potential take of the covered species, and identifies 
mitigation for species impacts that cannot be avoided.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Our proposed permit issuance decision triggers compliance with 
NEPA, which requires that environmental information be available to 
public officials and citizens before Federal decisions are made and 
before Federal actions are taken. We prepared the draft EA to inform 
the public of the proposed HCP; our proposed permit action; 
alternatives to that action; the environmental impacts of the 
alternatives, including the proposed action; and any irreversible 
commitments of resources; and to address comments received during early 
public scoping efforts.

Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Assessment

    The Service is providing notice of the availability of our draft 
EA, which evaluates the impacts of the Proposed Action Alternative 
(including the HCP), and a No Action Alternative.
    No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, we would 
not issue an incidental take permit to the applicant; the applicant 
would not implement an HCP and would avoid the take of the proposed 
covered species. The No Action Alternative would not address the 
applicant's underlying needs, would not contribute to meeting the State 
of California's renewable energy goals, and would not assist with the 
offset of carbon emissions. The 5,181 acres identified as the permit 
area would likely remain as agricultural land and undisturbed open 
space, and the 2,731 acres identified as conservation sites would not 
be permanently conserved. As a result, there would be no conservation 
benefit to covered species as a result of the Proposed Action. 
Agricultural activities, such as disking and harvesting, would likely 
continue, resulting in continued reduced habitat quality as a result of 
frequent vegetation removal and soil disturbance within the solar park 
area.
    Proposed Action Alternative: Under the Proposed Action Alternative, 
we would issue an incidental take permit for the applicant's proposed 
HCP, which includes the covered activities and the conservation 
measures described in Background Information, and described with more 
detail in the applicant's proposed Wright Solar Park Habitat 
Conservation Plan.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community,

[[Page 1662]]

Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this notice. We 
particularly seek comments on the following:
    (1) Biological information concerning the species;
    (2) Relevant data concerning the species;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species; and
    (5) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    (6) Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed transmission line and permit 
action.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in ADDRESSES. Comments and materials we receive, as well as 
supporting documentation we used in preparing the EA, will be available 
for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--might 
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.

Next Steps

    Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action 
subject to compliance with NEPA. We will evaluate the application, 
associated documents, and any public comments we receive to determine 
whether the application meets the requirements of NEPA regulations and 
section 10(a) of the Act. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of 
desert tortoise. We will make our final permit decision no sooner than 
30 days after the public comment period closes.

    Dated: January 7, 2015.
Paul B. McKim,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific 
Southwest Region, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2015-00390 Filed 1-12-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P