Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision on the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan for Incidental Take of Nine Federally Listed Species in Central Texas, 79090-79092 [2015-31844]

Download as PDF 79090 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 243 / Friday, December 18, 2015 / Notices layering review and determined that the project-based voucher assistance is in accordance with HUD subsidy layering requirements. ´ Granted By: Lourdes Castro Ramırez, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing. Date Granted: August 12, 2015. Reason Waived: This waiver was granted to facilitate the start of construction for this veterans project and to avoid the recapture of funds awarded. The LHA was permitted to execute an Agreement prior to the completion of a subsidy layering review, but no vertical construction could begin until this review was completed. Contact: Becky Primeaux, Housing Voucher Management and Operations Division, Office of Public Housing and Voucher Programs, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street SW., Room 4216, Washington, DC 20410, telephone (202) 708–0477. • Regulation: 24 CFR 985.101(a). Project/Activity: Beckville Housing Authority (BHA), Beckville, TX. Nature of Requirement: HUD’s regulation at 24 CFR 985.101(a) states a PHA must submit the HUD-required Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) certification form within 60 calendar days after the end of its fiscal year. ´ Granted By: Lourdes Castro Ramırez, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing. Date Granted: July 20, 2015. Reason Waived: This waiver was granted because for the BHA’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2014. The executive director was not appointed to serve until the latter part of November 2014 and did not receive rights to enter data into IMS/PIC prior to the deadline. At the time of the appointment, no one else had rights to transmit SEMAP certifications. Contact: Becky Primeaux, Housing Voucher Management and Operations Division, Office of Public Housing and Voucher Programs, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street SW., Room 4216, Washington, DC, 20410, telephone (202) 708–0477. [FR Doc. 2015–31874 Filed 12–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES [FWS–R2–ES–2015–N187; FXES11120200000F2–167–FF02ENEH00] Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision on the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan for Incidental Take of Nine Federally Listed Species in Central Texas Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:20 Dec 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), make available the final environmental impact statement (EIS) and draft record of decision (ROD) analyzing the impacts of the issuance of an incidental take permit for implementation of the final Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan (SEP HCP). Our decision is to issue a 30-year incidental take permit for implementation of the SEP HCP preferred alternative (described below), which authorizes incidental take of animal species listed pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. As part of the SEP HCP, measures will be implemented to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to offset impacts to the affected species. DATES: We will finalize the ROD and a permit no sooner than 30 days after publication of this notice. ADDRESSES: You may obtain copies of the final documents by going to http:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ AustinTexas/. Alternatively, you may obtain a compact disk with electronic copies of these documents by writing to Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; by calling (512) 490–0057; or by faxing (512) 490–0974. For additional information about where to review documents, see ‘‘Reviewing Documents’’ under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758 or (512) 490–0057. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the Service, announce the availability of the final EIS and draft ROD, which we developed in compliance with the agency decision-making requirements of the NEPA, as well as the final SEP HCP as submitted by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas (Applicants). All alternatives have been described in detail, evaluated, and analyzed in our November 2015 final EIS. The ROD documents the rationale for our decision. Based on our review of the alternatives and their environmental consequences as described in our final EIS, we have selected the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. The proposed action is to issue to the Applicants an incidental take permit (ITP) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., Act), that authorizes incidental take of nine endangered species SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (Covered Species): Two birds—goldencheeked warbler (Setophaga [=Dendroica] chrysoparia, GCWA) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla, BCVI), and seven karst invertebrates (collectively the Covered Karst Invertebrates)—R. infernalis (no common name), Rhadine exilis (no common name) Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Madla cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (C. venii). The term of the permit is 30 years (2015– 2045). The Applicants will implement minimization and mitigation measures to offset impacts to the Covered Species according to their SEP HCP. The minimization and mitigation measures include, but are not limited to: Restricting activities to avoid the two bird’s breeding seasons, implementing oak wilt prevention techniques, conducting extensive karst invertebrate surveys prior to any activity in karst zones, preserving habitat in perpetuity for all Covered Species, and managing and monitoring preserves in perpetuity. Background The Applicants have applied for an incidental take permit (TE48571B–0, ITP) under the Act, that would authorize incidental take of nine Covered Species in all, or portions, of seven Texas counties, and would be in effect for a period of 30 years. The proposed incidental take of the Covered Species would occur from lawful, nonfederal activities including: Public or private land development projects; construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure; and installation and/or maintenance of utility infrastructure (Covered Activities). The SEP HCP includes a 7-county area: Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Comal, Kendall, Kerr, and Medina counties. Incidental take coverage will: (1) Only be offered to Participants in the jurisdictions of Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, including current and future portions of the City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (except where the City of San Antonio is within Comal County and (2) be provided within any SEP HCP preserves located in 7-county plan area. The final EIS considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of implementation of the HCP, including the measures that will be implemented to minimize and mitigate such impacts to the maximum extent practicable. The Secretary of the Interior has delegated to the Service the authority to E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 243 / Friday, December 18, 2015 / Notices approve or deny an ITP in accordance with the Act. To act on the Applicant’s permit application, we must determine that the HCP meets the issuance criteria specified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. The issuance of an ITP is a federal action subject to NEPA compliance, including the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 CFR 1500–1508). On December 19, 2014, we issued a draft EIS and requested public comment on our evaluation of the potential impacts associated with issuance of an ITP for implementation of the SEP HCP and to evaluate alternatives (79 FR 75830). We included public comments and responses associated with the draft EIS and draft HCP in the final EIS. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Purpose and Need The purpose of the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit is to authorize incidental take associated with the Covered Activities described above. We identified key issues and relevant factors through public scoping and meetings, working with other agencies and groups, and reviewing comments from the public. We received responses from 1 federal agency, 1 tribe, and 110 other nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) and individuals. The Environmental Protection Agency had comments on several sections of the draft EIS including air quality and the need for a Construction Emissions Mitigation Plan, a lack of analysis regarding environmental justice, and lack of a review by potentially affected tribes. The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma stated the project would not impact sights of interest to the Caddo Nation. Comments from individuals and NGOs included both support and concern for the HCP and the EIS selection of the preferred alternative. We believe these comments are addressed and reasonably accommodated in the final documents. Alternatives We considered five alternatives in the EIS. No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, the Service would not issue an incidental take permit for the SEP HCP. Proposed SEP HCP Alternative: Our preferred alternative is the proposed HCP with a 30-year term, as described in the final EIS, which provides for the issuance of an ITP to the Applicants for incidental take of the Covered Species that may occur as a result of Covered Activities. This alternative includes a number of measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the Covered VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:20 Dec 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 Species, including over 30,000 acres of preserves for the Covered Species, avoiding the bird’s breeding seasons to reduce direct impacts, and conducting extensive karst feature surveys to minimize direct impacts to karst invertebrates. This alternative assumes 50 percent of the development activities requiring an ITP for the Covered Species over the next 30 years will participate in the SEP–HCP, which represents 50 percent of the projected GCWA and BCVI habitat loss and 20 percent of the loss of potential habitat supporting the Covered Karst Invertebrates resulting from development within the Enrollment Area over the next 30 years. 10% Participation Alternative: This alternative assumes 10 percent of the development activities requiring an ITP for the Covered Species over the next 30 years will participate in the SEP HCP. The incidental take request represents 10 percent of the projected GCWA and BCVI habitat loss and 10 percent of the loss of potential habitat for the Covered Karst Invertebrates resulting from development within the Enrollment Area over the next 30 years. Single-County Alternative: The Single-County Alternative proposes the preserve system will be located within Bexar County or within 10 miles of the Bexar County border. This alternative proposes the same amount of take for the Covered Species as the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative; however, it proposes one-half of the preserve for GCWA and BCVI and greater participation fees. Increased Mitigation Alternative—The Increased Mitigation Alternative incorporates the same mitigation for the BCVI, higher proposed mitigation for the GCWA, and two times the required amount of preserve needed to achieve conservation baselines for the Covered Karst Invertebrates than that of the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. Additionally, this alternative calls for 60 percent of the GCWA preserve within Bexar County and/or within 5 miles of the county border. Expected participation is the same as the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. Decision We intend to issue an ITP allowing the Applicants to implement the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. Our decision is based on a thorough review of the alternatives and their environmental consequences. Implementation of this decision entails the issuance of the ITP by the Service and full implementation of the HCP by the Applicants, including minimization and mitigation measures, monitoring and adaptive management, and PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 79091 complying with all terms and conditions in the permit. Rationale for Decision We have selected the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative for implementation based on multiple environmental and social factors, including potential impacts and benefits to Covered Species and their habitats; the extent and effectiveness of avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures; and social and economic considerations. We did not choose the No Action Alternative, because compliance with the Act will continue to occur on an individual basis through project-specific consultations with the Service, permitting actions will occur at the level and scope of an individual project, and mitigation requirements will be individually negotiated with the Service. As compared with the No Action Alternative, the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative provides for a more comprehensive and efficient approach to compliance with the Act and will provide larger, more contiguous preserves providing for more robust buffering against threats. We did not choose the 10% Participation Alternative because we believe that participation in the SEP HCP will exceed the requested level of authorized take well before the 30 year time period of the proposed permit. The result of early expiration of the permit would result in either a major amendment to the SEP HCP, expiration of the permit and a return to the No Action Alternative status quo, or starting a new regional HCP planning process. All of these options undermine the expected efficiencies and increased compliance with the Act expected as part of the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. We did not choose the Single County Alternative because we believe the proposed mitigation compared to the amount of requested take is insufficient to meet the issuance criteria (described below) for an ITP. In particular, the criteria requiring an HCP minimize and mitigate to the maximum extent practicable any impacts from proposed takings. We did not choose the Increased Mitigation Alternative because the high cost to participate in the plan would likely decrease participation in the plan causing individuals to come to the Service for individual permits, similar to the No Action Alternative. In order to issue an ITP we must ascertain that the HCP meets issuance criteria as set forth in 16 U.S.C. 1539(a)(2)(A) and (B). We have made E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 79092 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 243 / Friday, December 18, 2015 / Notices that determination based on the criteria summarized below. 1. The taking will be incidental. We find that take will be incidental to otherwise lawful activities, including: public or private land development projects; construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure; and installation and/or maintenance of utility infrastructure. 2. The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impacts of such takings. The Applicant’s have developed and are committed to implementing a wide variety of conservation measures intended to minimize and mitigate the impacts of incidental taking that may result from the Covered Activities. 3. The applicants will develop an HCP and ensure that adequate funding for the HCP will be provided. The Applicants have developed an HCP, which includes a detailed estimate of the costs of implementing the SEP HCP (see Chapter 11of the HCP). The funding necessary to pay for implementing the SEP HCP will come mostly from participation fees and public funding sources. 4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of any listed species in the wild. As the federal action agency considering whether to issue an ITP to the Applicants, we have reviewed the proposed action under section 7 of the Act. Our biological opinion, dated November 20, 2015, concluded that issuance of the ITP will not jeopardize the continued existence of the Covered Species in the wild. No areas designated as critical habitat will be adversely modified. The biological opinion also analyzes other listed species within the planning area and concludes that the direct and indirect effect of the issuance of the ITP will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of other listed species or destroy or adversely modify any designated critical habitat. 5. The applicants agree to implement other measures that the Service requires as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the HCP. We have assisted the Applicants in the development of the SEP HCP, commented on draft documents, participated in numerous meetings, and worked closely with them throughout the development of the HCP, so conservation of Covered Species would be assured and recovery would not be precluded by the Covered Activities. The SEP HCP incorporates our recommendations for minimization and VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:20 Dec 17, 2015 Jkt 238001 mitigation of impacts, as well as steps to monitor the effects of the HCP and ensure success. Annual monitoring, as well as coordination and reporting mechanisms, have been designed to ensure that changes in the conservation measures can be implemented if proposed measures prove ineffective (adaptive management). We have determined that the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative best balances the protection and management of habitat for Covered Species while providing an efficient means for compliance with the Act for the Covered Species in the permit area. Considerations used in this decision include whether (1) mitigation will benefit the Covered Species, (2) adaptive management of the conservation measures will ensure that the goals and objectives of the HCP are realized, (3) conservation measures will protect and enhance habitat, (4) mitigation measures for the Covered Species will fully offset anticipated impacts to species and provide recovery opportunities, and (5) the HCP is consistent with the Covered Species’ recovery plans, where they exist. A final permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of this notice of availability and completion of the record of decision. Reviewing Documents You may obtain copies of the final EIS, draft ROD, and final HCP by going to http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ AustinTexas/. Alternatively, you may obtain a compact disk with electronic copies of these documents by writing to Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 200, Austin TX 78758; by calling (512) 490–0057; or by faxing (512) 490–0974. Copies of the final EIS and final HCP 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 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87102. • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758. 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 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR part 1506.6). Benjamin N. Tuggle, Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico. [FR Doc. 2015–31844 Filed 12–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [LLWO35000.L14300000.FR0000] Renewal of Approved Information Collection; OMB Control No. 1004– 0029 Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: 30-day notice and request for comments. AGENCY: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has submitted an information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to continue the collection of information from applicants for a land patent under the Color-of-Title Act. This request is for an extension without change of OMB control number 1004– 0029. SUMMARY: The OMB is required to respond to this information collection request within 60 days but may respond after 30 days. For maximum consideration, written comments should be received on or before January 19, 2016. ADDRESSES: Please submit comments directly to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior, OMB Control ID: 1004–0029, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, fax 202–395–5806, or by electronic mail at oira_ submission@omb.eop.gov. Please provide a copy of your comments to the BLM. You may do so via mail, fax, or electronic mail. Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1849 C Street NW., Room 2134LM, Attention: Jean Sonneman, Washington, DC 20240. Fax: to Jean Sonneman at 202–245– 0050. Electronic mail: Jean_Sonneman@ blm.gov. Please indicate ‘‘Attn: 1004–0029’’ regardless of the form of your comments. DATES: E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 243 (Friday, December 18, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 79090-79092]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-31844]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2015-N187; FXES11120200000F2-167-FF02ENEH00]


Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision 
on the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan for 
Incidental Take of Nine Federally Listed Species in Central Texas

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), make available the final 
environmental impact statement (EIS) and draft record of decision (ROD) 
analyzing the impacts of the issuance of an incidental take permit for 
implementation of the final Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat 
Conservation Plan (SEP HCP). Our decision is to issue a 30-year 
incidental take permit for implementation of the SEP HCP preferred 
alternative (described below), which authorizes incidental take of 
animal species listed pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended. As part of the SEP HCP, measures will be implemented to 
avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to offset impacts to the affected 
species.

DATES: We will finalize the ROD and a permit no sooner than 30 days 
after publication of this notice.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain copies of the final documents by going to 
http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/. Alternatively, you may 
obtain a compact disk with electronic copies of these documents by 
writing to Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; by calling 
(512) 490-0057; or by faxing (512) 490-0974. For additional information 
about where to review documents, see ``Reviewing Documents'' under 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, 
TX 78758 or (512) 490-0057.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the Service, announce the availability 
of the final EIS and draft ROD, which we developed in compliance with 
the agency decision-making requirements of the NEPA, as well as the 
final SEP HCP as submitted by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, 
Texas (Applicants). All alternatives have been described in detail, 
evaluated, and analyzed in our November 2015 final EIS. The ROD 
documents the rationale for our decision.
    Based on our review of the alternatives and their environmental 
consequences as described in our final EIS, we have selected the 
Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. The proposed action is to issue to the 
Applicants an incidental take permit (ITP) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., 
Act), that authorizes incidental take of nine endangered species 
(Covered Species): Two birds--golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga 
[=Dendroica] chrysoparia, GCWA) and black-capped vireo (Vireo 
atricapilla, BCVI), and seven karst invertebrates (collectively the 
Covered Karst Invertebrates)--R. infernalis (no common name), Rhadine 
exilis (no common name) Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi), 
Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Madla cave 
meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (C. 
venii). The term of the permit is 30 years (2015-2045).
    The Applicants will implement minimization and mitigation measures 
to offset impacts to the Covered Species according to their SEP HCP. 
The minimization and mitigation measures include, but are not limited 
to: Restricting activities to avoid the two bird's breeding seasons, 
implementing oak wilt prevention techniques, conducting extensive karst 
invertebrate surveys prior to any activity in karst zones, preserving 
habitat in perpetuity for all Covered Species, and managing and 
monitoring preserves in perpetuity.

Background

    The Applicants have applied for an incidental take permit 
(TE48571B-0, ITP) under the Act, that would authorize incidental take 
of nine Covered Species in all, or portions, of seven Texas counties, 
and would be in effect for a period of 30 years. The proposed 
incidental take of the Covered Species would occur from lawful, non-
federal activities including: Public or private land development 
projects; construction, maintenance, and/or improvement of roads, 
bridges, and other transportation infrastructure; and installation and/
or maintenance of utility infrastructure (Covered Activities). The SEP 
HCP includes a 7-county area: Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Comal, Kendall, 
Kerr, and Medina counties. Incidental take coverage will: (1) Only be 
offered to Participants in the jurisdictions of Bexar County and the 
City of San Antonio, including current and future portions of the 
City's extra-territorial jurisdiction (except where the City of San 
Antonio is within Comal County and (2) be provided within any SEP HCP 
preserves located in 7-county plan area. The final EIS considers the 
direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of implementation of the HCP, 
including the measures that will be implemented to minimize and 
mitigate such impacts to the maximum extent practicable.
    The Secretary of the Interior has delegated to the Service the 
authority to

[[Page 79091]]

approve or deny an ITP in accordance with the Act. To act on the 
Applicant's permit application, we must determine that the HCP meets 
the issuance criteria specified in the Code of Federal Regulations 
(CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. The issuance of an ITP is a federal 
action subject to NEPA compliance, including the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural 
Provisions of NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508).
    On December 19, 2014, we issued a draft EIS and requested public 
comment on our evaluation of the potential impacts associated with 
issuance of an ITP for implementation of the SEP HCP and to evaluate 
alternatives (79 FR 75830). We included public comments and responses 
associated with the draft EIS and draft HCP in the final EIS.

Purpose and Need

    The purpose of the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit is to authorize 
incidental take associated with the Covered Activities described above. 
We identified key issues and relevant factors through public scoping 
and meetings, working with other agencies and groups, and reviewing 
comments from the public. We received responses from 1 federal agency, 
1 tribe, and 110 other non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and 
individuals. The Environmental Protection Agency had comments on 
several sections of the draft EIS including air quality and the need 
for a Construction Emissions Mitigation Plan, a lack of analysis 
regarding environmental justice, and lack of a review by potentially 
affected tribes. The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma stated the project would 
not impact sights of interest to the Caddo Nation. Comments from 
individuals and NGOs included both support and concern for the HCP and 
the EIS selection of the preferred alternative. We believe these 
comments are addressed and reasonably accommodated in the final 
documents.

Alternatives

    We considered five alternatives in the EIS.
    No Action Alternative: Under the No Action Alternative, the Service 
would not issue an incidental take permit for the SEP HCP.
    Proposed SEP HCP Alternative: Our preferred alternative is the 
proposed HCP with a 30-year term, as described in the final EIS, which 
provides for the issuance of an ITP to the Applicants for incidental 
take of the Covered Species that may occur as a result of Covered 
Activities. This alternative includes a number of measures to avoid, 
minimize, and mitigate impacts to the Covered Species, including over 
30,000 acres of preserves for the Covered Species, avoiding the bird's 
breeding seasons to reduce direct impacts, and conducting extensive 
karst feature surveys to minimize direct impacts to karst 
invertebrates. This alternative assumes 50 percent of the development 
activities requiring an ITP for the Covered Species over the next 30 
years will participate in the SEP-HCP, which represents 50 percent of 
the projected GCWA and BCVI habitat loss and 20 percent of the loss of 
potential habitat supporting the Covered Karst Invertebrates resulting 
from development within the Enrollment Area over the next 30 years.
    10% Participation Alternative: This alternative assumes 10 percent 
of the development activities requiring an ITP for the Covered Species 
over the next 30 years will participate in the SEP HCP. The incidental 
take request represents 10 percent of the projected GCWA and BCVI 
habitat loss and 10 percent of the loss of potential habitat for the 
Covered Karst Invertebrates resulting from development within the 
Enrollment Area over the next 30 years.
    Single-County Alternative: The Single-County Alternative proposes 
the preserve system will be located within Bexar County or within 10 
miles of the Bexar County border. This alternative proposes the same 
amount of take for the Covered Species as the Proposed SEP HCP 
Alternative; however, it proposes one-half of the preserve for GCWA and 
BCVI and greater participation fees.
    Increased Mitigation Alternative--The Increased Mitigation 
Alternative incorporates the same mitigation for the BCVI, higher 
proposed mitigation for the GCWA, and two times the required amount of 
preserve needed to achieve conservation baselines for the Covered Karst 
Invertebrates than that of the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. 
Additionally, this alternative calls for 60 percent of the GCWA 
preserve within Bexar County and/or within 5 miles of the county 
border. Expected participation is the same as the Proposed SEP HCP 
Alternative.

Decision

    We intend to issue an ITP allowing the Applicants to implement the 
Proposed SEP HCP Alternative. Our decision is based on a thorough 
review of the alternatives and their environmental consequences. 
Implementation of this decision entails the issuance of the ITP by the 
Service and full implementation of the HCP by the Applicants, including 
minimization and mitigation measures, monitoring and adaptive 
management, and complying with all terms and conditions in the permit.

Rationale for Decision

    We have selected the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative for 
implementation based on multiple environmental and social factors, 
including potential impacts and benefits to Covered Species and their 
habitats; the extent and effectiveness of avoidance, minimization, and 
mitigation measures; and social and economic considerations.
    We did not choose the No Action Alternative, because compliance 
with the Act will continue to occur on an individual basis through 
project-specific consultations with the Service, permitting actions 
will occur at the level and scope of an individual project, and 
mitigation requirements will be individually negotiated with the 
Service. As compared with the No Action Alternative, the Proposed SEP 
HCP Alternative provides for a more comprehensive and efficient 
approach to compliance with the Act and will provide larger, more 
contiguous preserves providing for more robust buffering against 
threats.
    We did not choose the 10% Participation Alternative because we 
believe that participation in the SEP HCP will exceed the requested 
level of authorized take well before the 30 year time period of the 
proposed permit. The result of early expiration of the permit would 
result in either a major amendment to the SEP HCP, expiration of the 
permit and a return to the No Action Alternative status quo, or 
starting a new regional HCP planning process. All of these options 
undermine the expected efficiencies and increased compliance with the 
Act expected as part of the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative.
    We did not choose the Single County Alternative because we believe 
the proposed mitigation compared to the amount of requested take is 
insufficient to meet the issuance criteria (described below) for an 
ITP. In particular, the criteria requiring an HCP minimize and mitigate 
to the maximum extent practicable any impacts from proposed takings.
    We did not choose the Increased Mitigation Alternative because the 
high cost to participate in the plan would likely decrease 
participation in the plan causing individuals to come to the Service 
for individual permits, similar to the No Action Alternative.
    In order to issue an ITP we must ascertain that the HCP meets 
issuance criteria as set forth in 16 U.S.C. 1539(a)(2)(A) and (B). We 
have made

[[Page 79092]]

that determination based on the criteria summarized below.
    1. The taking will be incidental. We find that take will be 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities, including: public or private 
land development projects; construction, maintenance, and/or 
improvement of roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure; 
and installation and/or maintenance of utility infrastructure.
    2. The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impacts of such takings. The Applicant's have 
developed and are committed to implementing a wide variety of 
conservation measures intended to minimize and mitigate the impacts of 
incidental taking that may result from the Covered Activities.
    3. The applicants will develop an HCP and ensure that adequate 
funding for the HCP will be provided. The Applicants have developed an 
HCP, which includes a detailed estimate of the costs of implementing 
the SEP HCP (see Chapter 11of the HCP). The funding necessary to pay 
for implementing the SEP HCP will come mostly from participation fees 
and public funding sources.
    4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
survival and recovery of any listed species in the wild. As the federal 
action agency considering whether to issue an ITP to the Applicants, we 
have reviewed the proposed action under section 7 of the Act. Our 
biological opinion, dated November 20, 2015, concluded that issuance of 
the ITP will not jeopardize the continued existence of the Covered 
Species in the wild. No areas designated as critical habitat will be 
adversely modified. The biological opinion also analyzes other listed 
species within the planning area and concludes that the direct and 
indirect effect of the issuance of the ITP will not appreciably reduce 
the likelihood of survival and recovery of other listed species or 
destroy or adversely modify any designated critical habitat.
    5. The applicants agree to implement other measures that the 
Service requires as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of 
the HCP. We have assisted the Applicants in the development of the SEP 
HCP, commented on draft documents, participated in numerous meetings, 
and worked closely with them throughout the development of the HCP, so 
conservation of Covered Species would be assured and recovery would not 
be precluded by the Covered Activities. The SEP HCP incorporates our 
recommendations for minimization and mitigation of impacts, as well as 
steps to monitor the effects of the HCP and ensure success. Annual 
monitoring, as well as coordination and reporting mechanisms, have been 
designed to ensure that changes in the conservation measures can be 
implemented if proposed measures prove ineffective (adaptive 
management).
    We have determined that the Proposed SEP HCP Alternative best 
balances the protection and management of habitat for Covered Species 
while providing an efficient means for compliance with the Act for the 
Covered Species in the permit area. Considerations used in this 
decision include whether (1) mitigation will benefit the Covered 
Species, (2) adaptive management of the conservation measures will 
ensure that the goals and objectives of the HCP are realized, (3) 
conservation measures will protect and enhance habitat, (4) mitigation 
measures for the Covered Species will fully offset anticipated impacts 
to species and provide recovery opportunities, and (5) the HCP is 
consistent with the Covered Species' recovery plans, where they exist.
    A final permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication of this notice of availability and completion of the 
record of decision.

Reviewing Documents

    You may obtain copies of the final EIS, draft ROD, and final HCP by 
going to http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/. Alternatively, 
you may obtain a compact disk with electronic copies of these documents 
by writing to Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 200, Austin TX 78758; by 
calling (512) 490-0057; or by faxing (512) 490-0974. Copies of the 
final EIS and final HCP 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 
6034, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road Suite 
200, Austin, TX 78758.
    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 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR part 1506.6).

Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2015-31844 Filed 12-17-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P