Availability of the Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, 22299-22302 [2016-08449]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 73 / Friday, April 15, 2016 / Notices Dated: April 7, 2016. Roxanna Hinzman, Field Supervisor, South Florida Ecological Services Office. 22299 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ANS Task Force provides advice on AIS infesting waters of the United States and other nations, among other duties as specified in the Act. Meeting Agenda [FR Doc. 2016–08727 Filed 4–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–HQ–FAC–2016–N054; FXFR13360900000–FF09F14000–167] Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Meeting Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of meeting. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a public meeting of the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force. The ANS Task Force’s purpose is to develop and implement a program for U.S. waters to prevent introduction and dispersal of aquatic invasive species (AIS); to monitor, control, and study such species; and to disseminate related information. SUMMARY: The ANS Task Force will meet from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2016; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, 2016; and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6, 2016. For more information, contact the ANS Task Force Executive Secretary (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). ADDRESSES: The ANS Task Force meeting will take place at the Park Place Hotel, 300 East State Street, Traverse City, Michigan 49684 (telephone: 231– 946–5000). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Pasko, Executive Secretary, ANS Task Force, by telephone at 703–358– 2466, or by email at Susan_Pasko@ fws.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In accordance with the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App., we announce that the ANS Task Force will hold a meeting. asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DATES: Background The ANS Task Force was established by the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 (Act) (Pub. L. 106–580, as amended), and is composed of 13 Federal and 14 ex-officio members, and co-chaired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Apr 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Availability of the Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project Updates • Nonindigenous Aquatic Species and Great Lakes Aquatic Non-indigenous Species Information System Database Update • Presentation on Idaho’s Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program • Update on the Boat Manufacturer Technical Information Report • Session on Interbasin Transfer of AIS • Session on Asian Carp Risk Assessments • Presentation on Genome Editing Applications for AIS • Update on the Government Accountability Office Report for AIS • Approval of the Revised New York State ANS Management Plan • Updates on Efforts to Address AIS Transport at Federally Managed Water Bodies • Update on the National Early Detection Rapid Response Framework and Emergency Response Funding Plan • Update on Policy and Planning from the National Invasive Species Council There will be a field trip Wednesday, May 4, 2016, from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire, Michigan. The field trip will include additional presentations on and viewing of AIS control projects within Sleeping Bear Dunes. To register for the field trip, contact the ANS Task Force Executive Secretary (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). The final agenda and other related meeting information will be posted on the ANS Task Force Web site at http:// anstaskforce.gov. Meeting Minutes Summary minutes of the meeting will be maintained by the Executive Secretary (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). The minutes will be available for public inspection within 60 days after the meeting and will be posted on the ANS Task Force Web site at http:// anstaskforce.gov. Dated: April 8, 2016. David W. Hoskins, Co-Chair, Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, Assistant Director for Fish and Aquatic Conservation. [FR Doc. 2016–08733 Filed 4–14–16; 8:45 am] Frm 00092 Fmt 4703 [FWS–R3–ES–2015–0033; FF03E00000– FXES11120300000–167] AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Notice of availability; request for comments. ACTION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), announce the availability of the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Planning partners include the State conservation agencies from the States of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), who is representing a consortium of wind energy companies called WEBAT (Wind Energy Bat Action Team), and The Conservation Fund. The Plan Area encompasses all lands within the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The covered species include six federally listed bat and bird species, one bat species that may be listed in the future, and the bald eagle. The activities covered under the MSHCP (‘‘covered activities’’) include the construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and repowering of wind energy facilities, as well as monitoring activities. Up to 18,004 megawatts (MW) of existing facilities and 33,000 MW of new wind development are proposed to be covered under the MSHCP. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, the Service is also announcing the availability of the MSHCP draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). SUMMARY: To ensure consideration, please submit your comments on or before July 14, 2016. The Service will host two online webinars during the public comment period. The webinar dates have not been determined at this time. Information on how to participate in the webinars will be provided on the Internet at http://www.midwest windenergyhcpeis.org. DATES: ADDRESSES: BILLING CODE 4333–15–P PO 00000 Fish and Wildlife Service Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\15APN1.SGM 15APN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 22300 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 73 / Friday, April 15, 2016 / Notices Document Availability • Internet: You may obtain copies of the documents on the Internet at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http:// www.regulations.gov/ (Docket Number FWS–R3–ES–2015–0033) or on the project Web site, at http://www.midwest windenergyhcpeis.org. • In-Person: Hard copies of the documents will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Service’s Midwest Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437–1458. Comment Submission: In your comment, please specify whether your comment addresses the draft MSHCP, the draft EIS, or both. You may submit written hard-copy comments by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437– 1458. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Amidon, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Ecological Services, Midwest Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437–1458; 612– 713–5164. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech disabled, please call the Federal Information Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce the availability of the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Planning partners include the State conservation agencies from Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri; the American Wind Energy Association, who is representing a consortium of wind energy companies called WEBAT (Wind Energy Bat Action Team); and The Conservation Fund. The plan area encompasses all lands within the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. If approved, the MSHCP will authorize incidental take of the covered species that may result from wind energy development activities within covered lands over the 45-year term of the MSHCP. Covered species include the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, Kirtland’s warbler, interior least tern, Great Lakes and Great Plains populations of the piping plover, and the bald eagle. The activities covered under the MSHCP (‘‘covered activities’’) include the construction, operation, maintenance, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Apr 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 decommissioning and repowering of wind energy facilities, as well as monitoring activities. Up to 18,004 megawatts (MW) of existing facilities and 33,000 MW of new wind development are proposed to be covered under the MSHCP. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, the Service is also announcing the availability of the MSHCP draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). If approved, the MSHCP will authorize incidental take of the covered species that may result from wind energy development activities within the covered lands over the 45year term of the MSHCP. The purpose of the proposed Federal action is to allow the Service to respond to applications for incidental take permits (ITPs) under the MSHCP, which, if granted, will authorize the incidental take of covered species resulting from existing and future wind energy development within covered lands. The draft MSHCP, which has been prepared by the Service and the planning partners, covers the construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and reclamation, and repowering of existing and future landbased commercial wind energy facilities within covered lands, as well as monitoring activities. During the first 5 years, existing commercial wind energy projects may apply for and receive incidental take authorizations under the MSHCP; proposed commercial wind energy facilities may opt in during the first 15 years of the MSHCP. The plan area encompasses all lands under the jurisdiction of the Midwest Region of the Service, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The geographic area where incidental take authorization will be allowed under the MSHCP is a subset of the plan area and specifically excludes lands of particular importance to bat and migratory bird species, as well as a wide range of other wildlife species. These lands, which are referred to as covered lands in the MSHCP and the DEIS, were identified during the 2012 scoping process for the MSHCP. The draft MSHCP contains a discussion of the following: (1) Introduction; (2) Covered Activities; (3) Affected Environment and Biological Resources; (4) Take Assessment and Impact of Take; (5) Conservation Plan; (6) Alternatives to Take; (7) Monitoring, Adaptive Management, and Reporting; (8) Funding Assurances, Unforeseen and Changed Circumstances and PO 00000 Frm 00093 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Amendments; and (9) Plan Implementation. 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 an 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 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), which prohibits take and disturbance of individuals and nests. ‘‘Take’’ under the Eagle Act includes any actions that pursue, shoot, shoot at, E:\FR\FM\15APN1.SGM 15APN1 asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 73 / Friday, April 15, 2016 / Notices 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 take authorization to be extended to permittees authorized to take eagles by an ITP issued pursuant to section 10(a)(l)(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. In 2009, the States of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa, on behalf of all eight partner States, submitted a grant proposal to the Service under section 6 of the ESA, proposing to develop a multi-species habitat conservation plan and incidental permitting program for future wind development within the planning area. They envisioned that the MSHCP would be developed as a template HCP, meaning that the Service would issue individual ITPs to future applicants after the MSHCP was approved. They also contemplated one or more of the States would become a master permittee and issue certificates of inclusion (COI); however, at this time none of the States have agreed to serve as the master permittee. As a result, the MSHCP allows for the creation of a not-for-profit entity that would hold a master permit and issue COIs. The entity will be comprised of a five-person board. Three members of the Board will be held by representatives from wind energy companies and two members will be representatives of conservation and other interests that have experience with wind energy conservation-related issues. The MSHCP also allows for companies to seek individual ITPs. The MSHCP intends to provide conservation and recovery benefits to federally listed species while streamlining the permitting process for existing and future wind projects where take of listed species is likely to occur. While wind-generated power is a clean and renewable source of energy, wind turbines are known to cause mortality of bats and birds that are struck by or pass near the turning blades. Wildlife mortality may also result from other VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Apr 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 wind energy facility-related activities (e.g., construction-related activities). While individual wind energy development projects have been addressing endangered species issues by seeking their own facility ITPs under the ESA, a regional solution is desirable to allow for a coordinated conservation effort across large portions of species’ ranges. The MSHCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure the incidental take caused by wind energy development will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the covered species on the covered lands, and provides mitigation to fully offset the impact of the taking. Further, the MSHCP provides a long-term monitoring and adaptive management strategy to ensure that the ITP terms are satisfied, and to account for changed and unforeseen circumstances. Purpose and Need for Action In accordance with NEPA, the Service has prepared a DEIS to analyze the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the MSHCP is approved and implemented and ITPs are issued. Proposed Action Under the Proposed Action, ITPs will be issued under the MSHCP for the covered activities (e.g., construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and reclamation, and repowering of existing and future landbased commercial wind energy facilities within covered lands), as well as monitoring activities. Incidental take coverage will be provided for the covered species; impacts to other federally listed species will either be avoided through siting and best management practices, or addressed through a separate and site-specific ESA section 10(a)(1)(B) permitting process. If impacts to other federally listed species cannot be avoided, and an applicant does not obtain a separate permit for that species, an ITP under the MSHCP will not be issued. The proposed action also includes minimization, monitoring, reporting, and compensatory mitigation requirements as part of the conservation strategy for covered species. Existing wind energy facilities in covered lands (i.e., up to 18,004 MW) and up to 33,000 MW of new wind energy capacity will be considered for incidental take authorization under the proposed action. We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties on the draft documents associated with the ITP application (HCP and HCP appendices), PO 00000 Frm 00094 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 22301 and request that comments be as specific as possible. Alternatives Analyzed in the DEIS The DEIS contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action (no permit issuance); (2) Proposed Action (Proposed MSHCP Alternative); (3) Reduced Permit Duration Alternative; (4) Increased Cut-In Speed Alternative. The DEIS considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the alternatives, including any measures under the Proposed Action alternative intended to minimize and mitigate such impacts. The DEIS also identifies additional alternatives that were considered but were eliminated from consideration as detailed in Section 2.4 of the DEIS. The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested parties on the content of the DEIS. In particular, information and comments regarding the following topics are requested: 1. The direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation of any alternative could have on the human environment; 2. Whether or not the impact on various aspects of the human environment has been adequately analyzed; and 3. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the proposed action on the human environment. EPA’s Role in the EIS Process The EPA is charged under section 309 of the Clean Air Act to review all Federal agencies’ environmental impact statements (EISs) and to comment on the adequacy and the acceptability of the environmental impacts of proposed actions in the EISs. EPA also serves as the repository (EIS database) for EISs prepared by Federal agencies and provides notice of their availability in the Federal Register. The EIS Database provides information about EISs prepared by Federal agencies, as well as EPA’s comments concerning the EISs. All EISs are filed with EPA, which publishes a notice of availability each Friday in the Federal Register. For more information, see http:// www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/ eisdata.html. You may search for EPA comments on EISs, along with EISs themselves, at https:// cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/ action/eis/search. Public Comments You may submit your comments and materials concerning the notice by the methods listed in ADDRESSES. E:\FR\FM\15APN1.SGM 15APN1 22302 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 73 / Friday, April 15, 2016 / Notices If you submit a comment via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http:// www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated with the notice, will be available for public inspection on http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2015–0033, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Service’s Midwest Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. You may obtain copies of the documents on the Internet at: http://www.midwest windenergyhcpeis.org, or from the Midwest Regional Office. Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and it’s implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and it’s implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6; 43 CFR part 46). Dated: March 16, 2016. Lynn M. Lewis, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region. [FR Doc. 2016–08449 Filed 4–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R1–ES–2016–N064; FXES11130100000–167–FF01E00000] Endangered Species; Recovery Permit Applications AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications for recovery permits to conduct activities with the purpose of enhancing the survival of endangered species. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), prohibits certain activities with endangered species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. The Act also requires that we asabaliauskas on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Apr 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 invite public comment before issuing such permits. DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by May 16, 2016. ADDRESSES: Program Manager, Restoration and Endangered Species Classification, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Regional Office, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232–4181. Please refer to the permit number for the application when submitting comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Henson, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above address, or by telephone (503–231–6131) or fax (503– 231–6243). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) prohibits certain activities with respect to endangered and threatened species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. Along with our implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17, the Act provides for certain permits, and requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits for endangered species. A permit granted by us under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act authorizes the permittee to conduct activities (including take or interstate commerce) with respect to U.S. endangered or threatened species for scientific purposes or enhancement of propagation or survival. Our regulations implementing section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act for these permits are found at 50 CFR 17.22 for endangered wildlife species, 50 CFR 17.32 for threatened wildlife species, 50 CFR 17.62 for endangered plant species, and 50 CFR 17.72 for threatened plant species. Applications Available for Review and Comment We invite local, State, and Federal agencies and the public to comment on the following applications. Please refer to the permit number for the application when submitting comments. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review by request from the Program Manager for Restoration and Endangered Species Classification at the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) and the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). Permit Number: TE–041672 Applicant: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Eugene, Oregon. PO 00000 Frm 00095 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 The applicant requests a permit amendment to take (survey, capture, and release) the Fender’s blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) in conjunction with monitoring and habitat restoration activities, and to remove/reduce to possession Erigeron decumbens (Willamette daisy) and Lomatium bradshawii (Bradshaw’s desert parsley) in conjunction with population augmentation in Lane County, Oregon, for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Number: TE–66384A Applicant: Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The applicant requests a permit renewal with changes to take (capture, collect eggs, sample fin rays, tag, sacrifice, cull, and release) the Kootenai River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) in conjunction with spawning, recruitment, monitoring, and population studies in Idaho and Montana, for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Number: TE–84876A Applicant: Andersen Air Force Base, Yigo, Guam. The applicant requests a permit amendment to take (survey, capture, monitor nests, collect tissue samples, tag, and release) green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in conjunction with scientific research, and to remove/reduce to possession the following plants: Eugenia bryanii (no common name), Heritiera longipetiolata (Ufa halumtanu, Ufa halom tano), Psychotria malaspinae (Aplokating palaoan), Serianthes nelsonii (Hayun lagu), Solanum guamense (Biringenas halumtanu, Birengenas halom tano), and Tinospora homosepala (no common name), in conjunction with captive propagation and outplanting on the island of Guam for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Number: TE–91851B Applicant: Washington State University, Pullman, Washington. The applicant requests a permit to take (capture, radio-collar, release, and monitor) gray wolves (Canis lupus) in conjunction with scientific research in Okanogan and Kittitas Counties, Washington, for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Number: TE–210255 Applicant: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Libby, Montana. The applicant requests a permit renewal with changes to take (capture, E:\FR\FM\15APN1.SGM 15APN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 73 (Friday, April 15, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 22299-22302]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-08449]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2015-0033; FF03E00000-FXES11120300000-167]


Availability of the Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species 
Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), announce the 
availability of the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat 
Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Planning partners include the State 
conservation agencies from the States of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, 
Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, the American Wind Energy 
Association (AWEA), who is representing a consortium of wind energy 
companies called WEBAT (Wind Energy Bat Action Team), and The 
Conservation Fund. The Plan Area encompasses all lands within the 
States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, 
and Wisconsin. The covered species include six federally listed bat and 
bird species, one bat species that may be listed in the future, and the 
bald eagle. The activities covered under the MSHCP (``covered 
activities'') include the construction, operation, maintenance, 
decommissioning and repowering of wind energy facilities, as well as 
monitoring activities. Up to 18,004 megawatts (MW) of existing 
facilities and 33,000 MW of new wind development are proposed to be 
covered under the MSHCP. In accordance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Council on Environmental 
Quality (CEQ) regulations, the Service is also announcing the 
availability of the MSHCP draft environmental impact statement (DEIS).

DATES: To ensure consideration, please submit your comments on or 
before July 14, 2016. The Service will host two online webinars during 
the public comment period. The webinar dates have not been determined 
at this time. Information on how to participate in the webinars will be 
provided on the Internet at http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org.

ADDRESSES: 

[[Page 22300]]

Document Availability

     Internet: You may obtain copies of the documents on the 
Internet at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http://www.regulations.gov/ (Docket Number FWS-R3-ES-2015-0033) or on the 
project Web site, at http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org.
     In-Person: Hard copies of the documents will be available 
for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
the Service's Midwest Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458.
    Comment Submission: In your comment, please specify whether your 
comment addresses the draft MSHCP, the draft EIS, or both. You may 
submit written hard-copy comments by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 
Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, 
MN 55437-1458.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Amidon, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Ecological Services, Midwest Regional Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 
55437-1458; 612-713-5164. If you use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech disabled, please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce the availability of the Midwest 
Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Planning 
partners include the State conservation agencies from Michigan, 
Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri; the 
American Wind Energy Association, who is representing a consortium of 
wind energy companies called WEBAT (Wind Energy Bat Action Team); and 
The Conservation Fund. The plan area encompasses all lands within the 
States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, 
and Wisconsin. If approved, the MSHCP will authorize incidental take of 
the covered species that may result from wind energy development 
activities within covered lands over the 45-year term of the MSHCP. 
Covered species include the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, 
little brown bat, Kirtland's warbler, interior least tern, Great Lakes 
and Great Plains populations of the piping plover, and the bald eagle. 
The activities covered under the MSHCP (``covered activities'') include 
the construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and 
repowering of wind energy facilities, as well as monitoring activities. 
Up to 18,004 megawatts (MW) of existing facilities and 33,000 MW of new 
wind development are proposed to be covered under the MSHCP.
    In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(NEPA), as amended, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) 
regulations, the Service is also announcing the availability of the 
MSHCP draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). If approved, the 
MSHCP will authorize incidental take of the covered species that may 
result from wind energy development activities within the covered lands 
over the 45-year term of the MSHCP. The purpose of the proposed Federal 
action is to allow the Service to respond to applications for 
incidental take permits (ITPs) under the MSHCP, which, if granted, will 
authorize the incidental take of covered species resulting from 
existing and future wind energy development within covered lands.
    The draft MSHCP, which has been prepared by the Service and the 
planning partners, covers the construction, operation, maintenance, 
decommissioning and reclamation, and repowering of existing and future 
land-based commercial wind energy facilities within covered lands, as 
well as monitoring activities. During the first 5 years, existing 
commercial wind energy projects may apply for and receive incidental 
take authorizations under the MSHCP; proposed commercial wind energy 
facilities may opt in during the first 15 years of the MSHCP. The plan 
area encompasses all lands under the jurisdiction of the Midwest Region 
of the Service, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, 
Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The geographic area where incidental 
take authorization will be allowed under the MSHCP is a subset of the 
plan area and specifically excludes lands of particular importance to 
bat and migratory bird species, as well as a wide range of other 
wildlife species. These lands, which are referred to as covered lands 
in the MSHCP and the DEIS, were identified during the 2012 scoping 
process for the MSHCP.
    The draft MSHCP contains a discussion of the following: (1) 
Introduction; (2) Covered Activities; (3) Affected Environment and 
Biological Resources; (4) Take Assessment and Impact of Take; (5) 
Conservation Plan; (6) Alternatives to Take; (7) Monitoring, Adaptive 
Management, and Reporting; (8) Funding Assurances, Unforeseen and 
Changed Circumstances and Amendments; and (9) Plan Implementation.

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 an 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 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act 
(BGEPA), which prohibits take and disturbance of individuals and nests. 
``Take'' under the Eagle Act includes any actions that pursue, shoot, 
shoot at,

[[Page 22301]]

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 
take authorization to be extended to permittees authorized to take 
eagles by an ITP issued pursuant to section 10(a)(l)(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.
    In 2009, the States of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa, 
on behalf of all eight partner States, submitted a grant proposal to 
the Service under section 6 of the ESA, proposing to develop a multi-
species habitat conservation plan and incidental permitting program for 
future wind development within the planning area. They envisioned that 
the MSHCP would be developed as a template HCP, meaning that the 
Service would issue individual ITPs to future applicants after the 
MSHCP was approved. They also contemplated one or more of the States 
would become a master permittee and issue certificates of inclusion 
(COI); however, at this time none of the States have agreed to serve as 
the master permittee. As a result, the MSHCP allows for the creation of 
a not-for-profit entity that would hold a master permit and issue COIs. 
The entity will be comprised of a five-person board. Three members of 
the Board will be held by representatives from wind energy companies 
and two members will be representatives of conservation and other 
interests that have experience with wind energy conservation-related 
issues. The MSHCP also allows for companies to seek individual ITPs.
    The MSHCP intends to provide conservation and recovery benefits to 
federally listed species while streamlining the permitting process for 
existing and future wind projects where take of listed species is 
likely to occur. While wind-generated power is a clean and renewable 
source of energy, wind turbines are known to cause mortality of bats 
and birds that are struck by or pass near the turning blades. Wildlife 
mortality may also result from other wind energy facility-related 
activities (e.g., construction-related activities). While individual 
wind energy development projects have been addressing endangered 
species issues by seeking their own facility ITPs under the ESA, a 
regional solution is desirable to allow for a coordinated conservation 
effort across large portions of species' ranges.
    The MSHCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure the 
incidental take caused by wind energy development will not appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the covered 
species on the covered lands, and provides mitigation to fully offset 
the impact of the taking. Further, the MSHCP provides a long-term 
monitoring and adaptive management strategy to ensure that the ITP 
terms are satisfied, and to account for changed and unforeseen 
circumstances.

Purpose and Need for Action

    In accordance with NEPA, the Service has prepared a DEIS to analyze 
the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the MSHCP is 
approved and implemented and ITPs are issued.

Proposed Action

    Under the Proposed Action, ITPs will be issued under the MSHCP for 
the covered activities (e.g., construction, operation, maintenance, 
decommissioning and reclamation, and repowering of existing and future 
land-based commercial wind energy facilities within covered lands), as 
well as monitoring activities. Incidental take coverage will be 
provided for the covered species; impacts to other federally listed 
species will either be avoided through siting and best management 
practices, or addressed through a separate and site-specific ESA 
section 10(a)(1)(B) permitting process. If impacts to other federally 
listed species cannot be avoided, and an applicant does not obtain a 
separate permit for that species, an ITP under the MSHCP will not be 
issued. The proposed action also includes minimization, monitoring, 
reporting, and compensatory mitigation requirements as part of the 
conservation strategy for covered species. Existing wind energy 
facilities in covered lands (i.e., up to 18,004 MW) and up to 33,000 MW 
of new wind energy capacity will be considered for incidental take 
authorization under the proposed action.
    We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties on 
the draft documents associated with the ITP application (HCP and HCP 
appendices), and request that comments be as specific as possible.

Alternatives Analyzed in the DEIS

    The DEIS contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action 
(no permit issuance); (2) Proposed Action (Proposed MSHCP Alternative); 
(3) Reduced Permit Duration Alternative; (4) Increased Cut-In Speed 
Alternative. The DEIS considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative 
effects of the alternatives, including any measures under the Proposed 
Action alternative intended to minimize and mitigate such impacts. The 
DEIS also identifies additional alternatives that were considered but 
were eliminated from consideration as detailed in Section 2.4 of the 
DEIS.
    The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested 
parties on the content of the DEIS. In particular, information and 
comments regarding the following topics are requested:
    1. The direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation 
of any alternative could have on the human environment;
    2. Whether or not the impact on various aspects of the human 
environment has been adequately analyzed; and
    3. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the human environment.

EPA's Role in the EIS Process

    The EPA is charged under section 309 of the Clean Air Act to review 
all Federal agencies' environmental impact statements (EISs) and to 
comment on the adequacy and the acceptability of the environmental 
impacts of proposed actions in the EISs.
    EPA also serves as the repository (EIS database) for EISs prepared 
by Federal agencies and provides notice of their availability in the 
Federal Register. The EIS Database provides information about EISs 
prepared by Federal agencies, as well as EPA's comments concerning the 
EISs. All EISs are filed with EPA, which publishes a notice of 
availability each Friday in the Federal Register.
    For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/eisdata.html. You may search for EPA comments on EISs, along with EISs 
themselves, at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/action/eis/search.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the notice by 
the methods listed in ADDRESSES.

[[Page 22302]]

    If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire 
comment--including any personal identifying information--will be posted 
on the Web site. We will post all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you submit a hardcopy comment that 
includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top 
of your document that we withhold this information from public review. 
However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated 
with the notice, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2015-0033, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Service's Midwest 
Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. You may obtain copies of the 
documents on the Internet at: http://www.midwestwindenergyhcpeis.org, 
or from the Midwest Regional Office.

Authority

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

    Dated: March 16, 2016.
Lynn M. Lewis,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2016-08449 Filed 4-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P