Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, 33537-33540 [2015-14408]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 113 / Friday, June 12, 2015 / Notices The Service proposes to approve the HCP and to issue an ITP with a term of 21 years to the applicant for incidental take of the covered species caused by covered activities associated with the construction and operation of the Project, if permit issuance criteria are met. National Environmental Policy Act Compliance The development of the draft HCP and the proposed issuance of an ITP under this plan is a Federal action that triggers the need for compliance with NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We have prepared a draft EIS to analyze the environmental impacts of three alternatives related to the issuance of the ITP and implementation of the conservation program under the proposed HCP. The three alternatives include the proposed action, a no-action alternative, and a larger wind energy generation project alternative. The proposed action alternative is construction and operation of the Project, implementation of the HCP, and issuance of the ITP. Under the no-action alternative, the proposed Project would not be constructed, the proposed HCP would not be implemented, and no ITP would be issued. The larger wind energy generation project alternative would include the construction and operation of a larger generation facility of up to 42 MW. This alternative would consist of up to 12 WTGs, each with a generating capacity of up to 3.3 MW, implementation of a HCP, and issuance of the ITP. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Public Comments You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We specifically request information, views, and opinions from the public on our proposed Federal action, including identification of any other aspects of the human environment not already identified in the draft EIS pursuant to NEPA regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1506.6. Further, we specifically solicit information regarding the adequacy of the Na Pua Makani Wind Energy Project pursuant to the requirements for ITPs at 50 CFR parts 13 and 17. Public Availability of Comments All comments and materials we receive become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comments, you should be aware that VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:05 Jun 11, 2015 Jkt 235001 your entire comment—including your personally identifiable information— may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable 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. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing the EIS, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at our Pacific Islands Field Office (see ADDRESSES). Next Steps We will evaluate the permit application, associated documents, and public comments in reaching a final decision on whether the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The HCP and EIS may change in response to public comments. We will prepare responses to public comments and publish a notice of availability of the final HCP and final EIS. We will also evaluate whether the proposed permit action would comply with section 7 of the ESA 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 an ITP. If the requirements are met, we will issue the ITP to the applicant. We will issue a record of decision and issue or deny the ITP no sooner than 30 days after publication of the notice of availability of the final EIS. Authority We provide this notice in accordance with the requirements of section 10(c) of the ESA and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32) and NEPA and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). Richard Hannan, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. [FR Doc. 2015–14194 Filed 6–11–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 33537 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R3–ES–2015–0033; FF03E00000– FXES11120300000–156] Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement; notice of scoping meeting and request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the public that we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives relating to the proposed issuance of Endangered Species Act (ESA) Incidental Take Permits (Permit(s) or ITP(s)) under the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). We also provide this notice to announce a public scoping period. The MSHCP is being prepared by the Service and their planning partners for wind energy development within an eight-state Plan Area. The activities covered under the MSHCP (‘‘Covered Activities’’) include the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of wind energy facilities within portions of the Plan Area where ESA incidental take coverage may be considered, as well as activities associated with the management of mitigation lands. The planning partners have requested incidental take coverage for eight species in the MSHCP (‘‘Covered Species’’), including six species that are federally listed, one species that is not federally listed but may become listed during the term of the MSHCP, and the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which is protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act; 50 CFR 22.11). As allowed under the Eagle Act, we anticipate extending Eagle Act take authorization for bald eagle through the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit(s) associated with the MSHCP, provided permittees are in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the ITP and Eagle Act. DATES: The public scoping period begins with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register and will continue through August 11, 2015. The Service will consider all comments on the scope of the EIS analysis that are received or postmarked by this date. Comments SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\12JNN1.SGM 12JNN1 33538 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 113 / Friday, June 12, 2015 / Notices received or postmarked after this date will be considered to the extent practicable. The Service will also conduct eight scoping meetings during the scoping period: • July 13, 2015—Elliott Recreation Center, 1000 E. 14th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 14, 2015—Warner Park Community Center, 1625 Northpost Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 15, 2015—Iowa State University Memorial Union, Campanile Room, 2229 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 16, 2015—Battle High School, Commons, 7575 East Street Charles Road, Columbia, Missouri, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 20, 2015—Letts Community Center, 1220 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, Michigan, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 21, 2015—Columbus Downtown High School, Commons, 364 South 4th Street, Columbus, Ohio, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 22, 2015—World Sports Park, Ballroom, 1313 South Post Road, Indianapolis, Indiana, 5 to 7 p.m. • July 23, 2015—Illinois Wesleyan University Memorial Center, Young Main Lounge, 104 E. University Avenue, Bloomington, Illinois, 5 to 7 p.m. The scoping meetings will provide the public an opportunity to ask questions, discuss issues with Service and State staff regarding the EIS, and provide written comments. In addition, the Service will host an online webinar on July 28, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. central time. Information on how to participate in the webinar is provided on the Internet at: http:// www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org. To request further information or submit written comments, please use one of the following methods: • U.S. Mail: Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437–1458. • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal, at http:// www.regulations.gov. In the search box enter Docket Number FWS–R3–ES– 2015–0033. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Amidon, Ecological Services, at the address shown above or at (612) 713– 5164 (telephone). If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES ADDRESSES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:05 Jun 11, 2015 Jkt 235001 implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations at 40 CFR 1506.6, and pursuant to Section 10(c) of the ESA and Section 668a of the Eagle Act. We intend to prepare a draft EIS to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives related to the potential issuance of ITPs under the MSHCP from Covered Activities. The permits would authorize the incidental take of species included in the MSHCP that could occur as a result of existing and future wind energy development and operations. The planning partners intend to request a 45-year permit term. The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public and other agencies to assist in developing the EIS by identifying important issues and alternatives related to the MSHCP and the Service’s proposed action (issuance of ITPs under the MSHCP). Background Section 9 of the ESA prohibits ‘‘take’’ of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered under section 4 (16 U.S.C. 1538, 1533, respectively). The ESA implementing regulations extend, under certain circumstances, the prohibition of take to threatened species (50 CFR 17.31). Under section 3 of the ESA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532(19)). The term ‘‘harm’’ is defined by regulation 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). The term ‘‘harass’’ is defined in the regulations as an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by 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). Under section 10(a) of the ESA, the Service may issue permits to authorize incidental take of listed fish and wildlife species. ‘‘Incidental take’’ is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA contains provisions for issuing ITPs to non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened species, provided the following criteria are met: • The taking will be incidental; • The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking; PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 • The applicant will develop a HCP and ensure that adequate funding for the plan will be provided; • The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and • The applicant will carry out any other measures that the Secretary may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the HCP. Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. Eagles are protected under the Eagle Act, which prohibits take and disturbance of individuals and nests. ‘‘Take’’ under the Eagle Act includes any actions that pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, and disturb eagles. ‘‘Disturb’’ is further defined in 50 CFR 22.3 as to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, (1) injury to an eagle, (2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior. 50 CFR 22.11 allows Eagle Act take authorization to be extended to permittees authorized to take eagles by an ITP issued pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. Take coverage for bald eagles provided through an ITP applies for the duration of the permit, or until the amount or level of take authorized has been met, provided the permittee complies with all terms and conditions provided in the ITP. Proposed Plan The MSHCP is being prepared by the Service and their planning partners for wind energy development within an eight-state Plan Area. The planning partners include the conservation agencies for seven of the eight states within the Plan Area, the American Wind Energy Association, a consortium of wind energy companies, and The Conservation Fund. The following summarizes information provided in the draft MSHCP. The MSHCP Plan Area encompasses all lands within the political boundary of Region 3 of the Service, which includes eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The geographic area where incidental take authorization would be allowed under the MSHCP (‘‘Covered Lands’’) are a subset of the Plan Area and specifically exclude lands that are within: (a) 20 miles of E:\FR\FM\12JNN1.SGM 12JNN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 113 / Friday, June 12, 2015 / Notices sensitive bat hibernacula identified by the Service and state wildlife agencies; (b) 3 miles of the shores of the Great Lakes; (c) 1 mile of the edges of rivers supporting bird and bat migration corridors and/or concentrations of wintering waterfowl; (d) floodplain areas along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers; (e) high bat concentration areas in Indiana and Missouri; and (f) bird migratory areas in Illinois and around large lakes in Minnesota. In 2012, the Service prepared a notice of intent to prepare the MSHCP (77 FR 52754). Public comment during that scoping process informed the geographic scope of Covered Lands included in the MSHCP. The MSHCP does not preclude the development of wind energy projects outside of Covered Lands; however, those projects would not be eligible for participation in the MSHCP. Mitigation measures under the MSHCP (e.g., habitat protection and restoration) may occur throughout the Plan Area, as appropriate for the conservation of Covered Species. Covered Activities under the MSHCP include actions necessary to construct, operate, maintain and repair, decommission and reclaim, and repower commercial multi-turbine wind energy projects with Covered Lands. Covered Activities also include management of compensatory mitigation lands and monitoring. The MSHCP anticipates 33,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy may be installed within the Covered Lands over the term of the permit(s). New wind energy development would vary by state. The actual implemented build-out of new wind development projects may be less than the maximum anticipated build-out, depending on the number and generation capacity of wind energy projects that are issued take authorizations under the MSHCP. The Plan Area also currently supports approximately 13,681 MW of installed wind energy. Existing commercial multi-turbine wind facilities would be able to ‘‘opt in’’ to the MSHCP if they meet all of the requirements of the MSHCP for existing facilities and implement the required avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. Repowering of existing commercial wind energy facilities would also be included. There would be no limit on the number of qualifying existing wind energy facilities that may opt-in to the MSHCP. The MSHCP would cover eight species that are subject to injury or mortality at wind turbine facilities, including six federally listed species and two unlisted species. The six VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:05 Jun 11, 2015 Jkt 235001 federally listed species covered under the MSHCP include: Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii), piping plover (Charadrius melodius) (Great Lakes population and northern Great Plains population which are two distinct population segments), and interior least tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos). The unlisted species included in the MSHCP are little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Species may be added or deleted as the MSHCP is developed based on further analysis, new information, agency consultation, and public comment. The proposed permit term under the MSHCP is 45 years. During the first 15 years, proposed and existing commercial multi-wind energy projects may apply for and receive take authorizations under the MSHCP. The duration of take authorizations issued to new projects would be 30 years from the time project operations commence or up to the 45 year term of the MSHCP. The duration of take authorizations issued to existing commercial multi-turbine wind energy projects would extend from the time of issuance until the project is decommissioned and reclaimed up to a period of 30 years. The MSHCP would be implemented as both a ‘‘template’’ HCP for wind energy project proponents and a ‘‘programmatic’’ HCP implemented through a ‘‘master permittee.’’ Under the template HCP, the Service would directly issue individual permits to applicants that agree to implement the MSHCP. Under the programmatic HCP, the Service would issue a permit to a master permittee, who would be responsible for issuing certificates of inclusion to wind energy companies that agree to implement the MSHCP at their facility. Issuance of certificates of inclusion by the master permittee would be completed in coordination with, and with concurrence from, the Service. The master permittee is anticipated to be comprised of a Board with representation from the wind energy industry and wind energy developmentrelated conservation interests. Environmental Impact Statement NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requires that Federal agencies conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to determine if the actions may significantly affect the human environment. Based on 40 CFR 1508.27 and 40 CFR 1508.2, we have determined that the proposed MSHCP may have significant effects on the human environment. Therefore, before PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 33539 deciding whether to issue Federal permits under the MSHCP, we will prepare an EIS to analyze the environmental impacts associated with those actions. The EIS will consider the impacts of the proposed action—the issuance of section 10(a)(1)(B) permits under the ESA on the human environment. The EIS will also include analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed action. Alternatives considered in the EIS may include, but are not limited to, variations in the permit term or permit structure; the No Surprises timeframe allowed under the ITPs; the level of take allowed; the level, location, or type of conservation, monitoring, or mitigation provided in the MSHCP; the scope of Covered Activities; the list of Covered Species; or a combination of these factors. Additionally, a No Action Alternative will be included. Under the No Action Alternative, the Service would not issue ITPs, and wind energy developers would be obligated to prepare an independent Section 10(a)(1)(B) application and/or eagle permit application; avoid incidental take of federally-listed species and bald eagle; or be subject to enforcement action by the Service. The EIS will identify and describe direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, socioeconomics, climate, and other environmental resources that could occur with the implementation of the proposed action and alternatives. The Service will also identify measures, consistent with NEPA and other relevant considerations of national policy, to avoid or minimize any significant effects of the proposed action on the quality of the human environment. Following completion of the environmental review, the Service will publish a notice of availability and a request for comment on a draft EIS, which will include a draft of the proposed MSHCP. Request for Information 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 on this notice. We will consider these comments in developing the draft EIS. We seek specific comments on: 1. Biological information and relevant data concerning Covered Species; 2. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and population trends of Covered Species; E:\FR\FM\12JNN1.SGM 12JNN1 33540 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 113 / Friday, June 12, 2015 / Notices 3. Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that implementation of the proposed Covered Activities could have on endangered, threatened, and other Covered Species, and their communities or habitats; 4. Other possible alternatives to the proposed action that the Service should consider; 5. Other current or planned activities in the subject area and their possible impacts on Covered Species; 6. The presence of archaeological 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 7. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be considered with regard to the proposed MSHCP and permit action. Public Availability of Comments You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed above in the ADDRESSES section. 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. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing the EIS, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Services Midwest Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). You may obtain copies of this notice on the Internet at: http:// www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org, or from the Midwest Regional Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES section). Scoping Meetings See DATES for the date/s and time/s of our public scoping meetings. The primary purpose of these meetings and public comment period is to provide the public with a general understanding of the background of the proposed action and to solicit suggestions and information on the scope of issues and alternatives we should consider when drafting the EIS. Written comments will be accepted at the meetings. Comments can also be submitted by methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the draft VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:05 Jun 11, 2015 Jkt 235001 EIS and proposed MSHCP are complete and made available for review, there will be additional opportunity for public comment on the content of those documents. Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in the public meetings should contact the Midwest Region using one of the methods listed above in ADDRESSES as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, please make contact no later than one week before the public meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative formats upon request. Authority We provide this notice under section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), section 668a of the Eagle Act (16 U.S.C. 668a–668d), and per NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 40 CFR 1506.5 and 1508.22). Dated: May 29, 2015. Lynn Lewis, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region. [FR Doc. 2015–14408 Filed 6–11–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R3–ES–2013–N194; FXHC11300300000–156–FF03E00000] Notice of Availability of the Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for Enbridge Line 6B Oil Discharges Near Marshall, MI Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for public comments. AGENCY: The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe; and the Match-E-BeNash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians have written a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (Draft Plan), which describes proposed alternatives for restoring injured natural resources and compensating for losses resulting from the discharges of oil from Enbridge’s Line 6B oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan, in July 2010. The Draft Plan was prepared in accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (NEPA). The purpose of this notice is to inform the public of the availability of the Draft Plan and to seek written comments. Written comments must be postmarked no later than July 27, 2015. ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may obtain copies of the documents by any of the following methods: • Online: http://www.fws.gov/ midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/ index.html. • Email: Lisa L. Williams, at lisa_ williams@fws.gov. Do not use any special characters or forms of encryption in your email. • In-person: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI 48848. • U.S. mail: Lisa L. Williams, Contaminants Specialist, at the Coolidge Road address above. Submitting Comments: You may submit comments to Lisa L. Williams at the Coolidge Road address above or via email at kzoorivernrda@fws.gov with ‘‘Enbridge NRDA Comment’’ in the subject line FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Technical Information: Lisa Williams, (517) 351–8324. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DOI, acting through FWS; the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe; and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Indians have written a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (Draft Plan), which describes proposed alternatives for restoring injured natural resources and compensating for losses resulting from the discharges of oil from Enbridge’s Line 6B oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan, which occurred July 25–26, 2010. The Draft Plan was prepared in accordance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). DOI and the two tribes prepared this Draft Plan in cooperation with our coTrustees: The Department of Commerce (DOC), acting through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the State of Michigan, acting through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and the Michigan Department of Attorney General (MDAG). The purpose of this notice is to inform the public of the availability of the Draft Plan and to seek written comments. This notice is provided pursuant to Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) regulations DATES: E:\FR\FM\12JNN1.SGM 12JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 113 (Friday, June 12, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 33537-33540]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-14408]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2015-0033; FF03E00000-FXES11120300000-156]


Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Midwest 
Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement; 
notice of scoping meeting and request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we intend to prepare an environmental impact statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives relating to the 
proposed issuance of Endangered Species Act (ESA) Incidental Take 
Permits (Permit(s) or ITP(s)) under the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-
Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). We also provide this notice 
to announce a public scoping period.
    The MSHCP is being prepared by the Service and their planning 
partners for wind energy development within an eight-state Plan Area. 
The activities covered under the MSHCP (``Covered Activities'') include 
the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of wind 
energy facilities within portions of the Plan Area where ESA incidental 
take coverage may be considered, as well as activities associated with 
the management of mitigation lands. The planning partners have 
requested incidental take coverage for eight species in the MSHCP 
(``Covered Species''), including six species that are federally listed, 
one species that is not federally listed but may become listed during 
the term of the MSHCP, and the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), 
which is protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act 
(Eagle Act; 50 CFR 22.11). As allowed under the Eagle Act, we 
anticipate extending Eagle Act take authorization for bald eagle 
through the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit(s) associated with the MSHCP, 
provided permittees are in full compliance with the terms and 
conditions of the ITP and Eagle Act.

DATES: The public scoping period begins with the publication of this 
notice in the Federal Register and will continue through August 11, 
2015. The Service will consider all comments on the scope of the EIS 
analysis that are received or postmarked by this date. Comments

[[Page 33538]]

received or postmarked after this date will be considered to the extent 
practicable. The Service will also conduct eight scoping meetings 
during the scoping period:
     July 13, 2015--Elliott Recreation Center, 1000 E. 14th 
Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 14, 2015--Warner Park Community Center, 1625 
Northpost Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 15, 2015--Iowa State University Memorial Union, 
Campanile Room, 2229 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 16, 2015--Battle High School, Commons, 7575 East 
Street Charles Road, Columbia, Missouri, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 20, 2015--Letts Community Center, 1220 West Kalamazoo 
Street, Lansing, Michigan, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 21, 2015--Columbus Downtown High School, Commons, 364 
South 4th Street, Columbus, Ohio, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 22, 2015--World Sports Park, Ballroom, 1313 South 
Post Road, Indianapolis, Indiana, 5 to 7 p.m.
     July 23, 2015--Illinois Wesleyan University Memorial 
Center, Young Main Lounge, 104 E. University Avenue, Bloomington, 
Illinois, 5 to 7 p.m.
    The scoping meetings will provide the public an opportunity to ask 
questions, discuss issues with Service and State staff regarding the 
EIS, and provide written comments.
    In addition, the Service will host an online webinar on July 28, 
2015 at 1:00 p.m. central time. Information on how to participate in 
the webinar is provided on the Internet at: http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods:
     U.S. Mail: Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, 
Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458.
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal, at 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the search box enter Docket Number FWS-
R3-ES-2015-0033.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Amidon, Ecological Services, at 
the address shown above or at (612) 713-5164 (telephone). If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) 
and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations at 
40 CFR 1506.6, and pursuant to Section 10(c) of the ESA and Section 
668a of the Eagle Act. We intend to prepare a draft EIS to evaluate the 
impacts of several alternatives related to the potential issuance of 
ITPs under the MSHCP from Covered Activities. The permits would 
authorize the incidental take of species included in the MSHCP that 
could occur as a result of existing and future wind energy development 
and operations. The planning partners intend to request a 45-year 
permit term.
    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public and 
other agencies to assist in developing the EIS by identifying important 
issues and alternatives related to the MSHCP and the Service's proposed 
action (issuance of ITPs under the MSHCP).

Background

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits ``take'' of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered under section 4 (16 U.S.C. 1538, 1533, 
respectively). The ESA implementing regulations extend, under certain 
circumstances, the prohibition of take to threatened species (50 CFR 
17.31). Under section 3 of the ESA, the term ``take'' means to harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or 
attempt to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532(19)). The term 
``harm'' is defined by regulation 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). The term ``harass'' is 
defined in the regulations as an intentional or negligent act or 
omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by 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).
    Under section 10(a) of the ESA, the Service may issue permits to 
authorize incidental take of listed fish and wildlife species. 
``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 
Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA contains provisions for issuing ITPs to 
non-Federal entities for the take of endangered and threatened species, 
provided the following criteria are met:
     The taking will be incidental;
     The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking;
     The applicant will develop a HCP and ensure that adequate 
funding for the plan will be provided;
     The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
     The applicant will carry out any other measures that the 
Secretary may require as being necessary or appropriate for the 
purposes of the HCP.
    Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species 
are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    Eagles are protected under the Eagle Act, which prohibits take and 
disturbance of individuals and nests. ``Take'' under the Eagle Act 
includes any actions that pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, 
capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, and disturb eagles. 
``Disturb'' is further defined in 50 CFR 22.3 as to agitate or bother a 
bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, 
based on the best scientific information available, (1) injury to an 
eagle, (2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering 
with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) nest 
abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering behavior. 50 CFR 22.11 allows Eagle Act take 
authorization to be extended to permittees authorized to take eagles by 
an ITP issued pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. Take coverage 
for bald eagles provided through an ITP applies for the duration of the 
permit, or until the amount or level of take authorized has been met, 
provided the permittee complies with all terms and conditions provided 
in the ITP.

Proposed Plan

    The MSHCP is being prepared by the Service and their planning 
partners for wind energy development within an eight-state Plan Area. 
The planning partners include the conservation agencies for seven of 
the eight states within the Plan Area, the American Wind Energy 
Association, a consortium of wind energy companies, and The 
Conservation Fund. The following summarizes information provided in the 
draft MSHCP.
    The MSHCP Plan Area encompasses all lands within the political 
boundary of Region 3 of the Service, which includes eight states: 
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and 
Wisconsin. The geographic area where incidental take authorization 
would be allowed under the MSHCP (``Covered Lands'') are a subset of 
the Plan Area and specifically exclude lands that are within: (a) 20 
miles of

[[Page 33539]]

sensitive bat hibernacula identified by the Service and state wildlife 
agencies; (b) 3 miles of the shores of the Great Lakes; (c) 1 mile of 
the edges of rivers supporting bird and bat migration corridors and/or 
concentrations of wintering waterfowl; (d) floodplain areas along the 
Mississippi and Illinois Rivers; (e) high bat concentration areas in 
Indiana and Missouri; and (f) bird migratory areas in Illinois and 
around large lakes in Minnesota. In 2012, the Service prepared a notice 
of intent to prepare the MSHCP (77 FR 52754). Public comment during 
that scoping process informed the geographic scope of Covered Lands 
included in the MSHCP.
    The MSHCP does not preclude the development of wind energy projects 
outside of Covered Lands; however, those projects would not be eligible 
for participation in the MSHCP. Mitigation measures under the MSHCP 
(e.g., habitat protection and restoration) may occur throughout the 
Plan Area, as appropriate for the conservation of Covered Species.
    Covered Activities under the MSHCP include actions necessary to 
construct, operate, maintain and repair, decommission and reclaim, and 
repower commercial multi-turbine wind energy projects with Covered 
Lands. Covered Activities also include management of compensatory 
mitigation lands and monitoring. The MSHCP anticipates 33,000 megawatts 
(MW) of new wind energy may be installed within the Covered Lands over 
the term of the permit(s). New wind energy development would vary by 
state. The actual implemented build-out of new wind development 
projects may be less than the maximum anticipated build-out, depending 
on the number and generation capacity of wind energy projects that are 
issued take authorizations under the MSHCP. The Plan Area also 
currently supports approximately 13,681 MW of installed wind energy. 
Existing commercial multi-turbine wind facilities would be able to 
``opt in'' to the MSHCP if they meet all of the requirements of the 
MSHCP for existing facilities and implement the required avoidance, 
minimization, and mitigation measures. Repowering of existing 
commercial wind energy facilities would also be included. There would 
be no limit on the number of qualifying existing wind energy facilities 
that may opt-in to the MSHCP.
    The MSHCP would cover eight species that are subject to injury or 
mortality at wind turbine facilities, including six federally listed 
species and two unlisted species. The six federally listed species 
covered under the MSHCP include: Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), northern 
long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica 
kirtlandii), piping plover (Charadrius melodius) (Great Lakes 
population and northern Great Plains population which are two distinct 
population segments), and interior least tern (Sternula antillarum 
athalassos). The unlisted species included in the MSHCP are little 
brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). 
Species may be added or deleted as the MSHCP is developed based on 
further analysis, new information, agency consultation, and public 
comment.
    The proposed permit term under the MSHCP is 45 years. During the 
first 15 years, proposed and existing commercial multi-wind energy 
projects may apply for and receive take authorizations under the MSHCP. 
The duration of take authorizations issued to new projects would be 30 
years from the time project operations commence or up to the 45 year 
term of the MSHCP. The duration of take authorizations issued to 
existing commercial multi-turbine wind energy projects would extend 
from the time of issuance until the project is decommissioned and 
reclaimed up to a period of 30 years.
    The MSHCP would be implemented as both a ``template'' HCP for wind 
energy project proponents and a ``programmatic'' HCP implemented 
through a ``master permittee.'' Under the template HCP, the Service 
would directly issue individual permits to applicants that agree to 
implement the MSHCP. Under the programmatic HCP, the Service would 
issue a permit to a master permittee, who would be responsible for 
issuing certificates of inclusion to wind energy companies that agree 
to implement the MSHCP at their facility. Issuance of certificates of 
inclusion by the master permittee would be completed in coordination 
with, and with concurrence from, the Service. The master permittee is 
anticipated to be comprised of a Board with representation from the 
wind energy industry and wind energy development-related conservation 
interests.

Environmental Impact Statement

    NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requires that Federal agencies 
conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to 
determine if the actions may significantly affect the human 
environment. Based on 40 CFR 1508.27 and 40 CFR 1508.2, we have 
determined that the proposed MSHCP may have significant effects on the 
human environment. Therefore, before deciding whether to issue Federal 
permits under the MSHCP, we will prepare an EIS to analyze the 
environmental impacts associated with those actions.
    The EIS will consider the impacts of the proposed action--the 
issuance of section 10(a)(1)(B) permits under the ESA on the human 
environment. The EIS will also include analysis of a reasonable range 
of alternatives to the proposed action. Alternatives considered in the 
EIS may include, but are not limited to, variations in the permit term 
or permit structure; the No Surprises timeframe allowed under the ITPs; 
the level of take allowed; the level, location, or type of 
conservation, monitoring, or mitigation provided in the MSHCP; the 
scope of Covered Activities; the list of Covered Species; or a 
combination of these factors. Additionally, a No Action Alternative 
will be included. Under the No Action Alternative, the Service would 
not issue ITPs, and wind energy developers would be obligated to 
prepare an independent Section 10(a)(1)(B) application and/or eagle 
permit application; avoid incidental take of federally-listed species 
and bald eagle; or be subject to enforcement action by the Service.
    The EIS will identify and describe direct, indirect, and cumulative 
impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, 
water resources, socioeconomics, climate, and other environmental 
resources that could occur with the implementation of the proposed 
action and alternatives. The Service will also identify measures, 
consistent with NEPA and other relevant considerations of national 
policy, to avoid or minimize any significant effects of the proposed 
action on the quality of the human environment. Following completion of 
the environmental review, the Service will publish a notice of 
availability and a request for comment on a draft EIS, which will 
include a draft of the proposed MSHCP.

Request for Information

    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 on this 
notice. We will consider these comments in developing the draft EIS. We 
seek specific comments on:
    1. Biological information and relevant data concerning Covered 
Species;
    2. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of Covered Species;

[[Page 33540]]

    3. Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that implementation of 
the proposed Covered Activities could have on endangered, threatened, 
and other Covered Species, and their communities or habitats;
    4. Other possible alternatives to the proposed action that the 
Service should consider;
    5. Other current or planned activities in the subject area and 
their possible impacts on Covered Species;
    6. The presence of archaeological 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
    7. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed MSHCP and permit action.

Public Availability of Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed above in the ADDRESSES section. 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.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the EIS, will be available for public 
inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the 
Services Midwest Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). You may obtain copies of this 
notice on the Internet at: http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org, or 
from the Midwest Regional Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
section).

Scoping Meetings

    See DATES for the date/s and time/s of our public scoping meetings. 
The primary purpose of these meetings and public comment period is to 
provide the public with a general understanding of the background of 
the proposed action and to solicit suggestions and information on the 
scope of issues and alternatives we should consider when drafting the 
EIS. Written comments will be accepted at the meetings. Comments can 
also be submitted by methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the 
draft EIS and proposed MSHCP are complete and made available for 
review, there will be additional opportunity for public comment on the 
content of those documents.
    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meetings should contact the Midwest Region 
using one of the methods listed above in ADDRESSES as soon as possible. 
In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, please make 
contact no later than one week before the public meeting. Information 
regarding this proposed action is available in alternative formats upon 
request.

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.), section 668a of the Eagle Act (16 U.S.C. 668a-668d), and per 
NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 40 CFR 1506.5 and 1508.22).

    Dated: May 29, 2015.
Lynn Lewis,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2015-14408 Filed 6-11-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4310-55-P