Final Environmental Impact Statement and Final Habitat Conservation Plan for the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project, Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington, 25299-25302 [2019-11393]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 105 / Friday, May 31, 2019 / Notices the crimping and gluing require only a low level of skill and technology. The crimping process takes roughly five seconds to perform, while the alternative gluing process takes roughly 20 seconds to complete. The remaining processing of the Product, consisting of cleaning and drying (spin and convention drying), adding the heat shrink cover, and inserting the Product into the plastic pouch and cardboard packaging are likewise simple, minor, and low-skill operations. Therefore, we find that the name, character, and use of the cutaneous electrode remain unchanged after the lead wire and other components are attached in China. As such, the U.S. origin cutaneous EEG electrodes which are processed in China by attaching a lead wire and being covered with a heat shrink, are not substantially transformed. Accordingly, for purposes of government procurement, we find that the last substantial transformation of the product is in the United States. HOLDING: Based on the information provided, the last substantial transformation of the self-adhesive cutaneous EEG electrode product occurs in the United States. Notice of this final determination will be given in the Federal Register, as required by 19 C.F.R. § 177.29. Any party-at-interest other than the party which requested this final determination may request, pursuant to 19 C.F.R. § 177.31, that CBP reexamine the matter anew and issue a new final determination. Pursuant to 19 C.F.R. § 177.30, any party-at-interest may, within 30 days after publication of the Federal Register notice referenced above, seek judicial review of this final determination before the Court of International Trade. Sincerely, Craig T. Clark Acting Executive Director, Regulations and Rulings, Office of Trade [FR Doc. 2019–11373 Filed 5–30–19; 8:45 am] khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES BILLING CODE P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 May 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2019–N054; FXES11140100000–190–FF01E00000] Final Environmental Impact Statement and Final Habitat Conservation Plan for the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project, Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) and a final habitat conservation plan (HCP) addressing the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project (project) in Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington. The Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project LLC (applicant) is requesting an incidental take permit (ITP) covering the take of one threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and two non-listed federally protected species (collectively referred to as covered species) likely to be caused by the operation of the project over a 30year period. The HCP describes the steps the applicant will take to minimize, mitigate, and monitor incidental take of the covered species. The final EIS has been prepared in response to the ITP application in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. DATES: The Service’s ITP decision will occur no sooner than 30 days after publication of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s notice of the final EIS in the Federal Register, and will be documented in a record of decision (ROD). SUMMARY: You may obtain copies of the documents by any of the following methods: • Internet: http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2019– N054. • Upon Request: You may call Curtis Tanner at 360–753–4326 to request alternative formats of the documents or make an appointment to inspect the documents during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Dr. SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Curtis Tanner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); telephone: 360– 753–4326; email: Curtis_Tanner@ ADDRESSES: PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25299 fws.gov. Hearing or speech impaired individuals may call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339 for TTY assistance. We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) and a final habitat conservation plan (HCP) addressing the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project (project) in Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington. The Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project LLC (applicant) is requesting an incidental take permit (ITP) covering the take of one threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and two non-listed federally protected species (collectively referred to as covered species) likely to be caused by the operation of the project over a 30-year period. The HCP describes the steps the applicant will take to minimize, mitigate, and monitor incidental take of the covered species. The final EIS has been prepared in response to the ITP application, in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The applicant is seeking an ITP authorizing take of the following covered species: Marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). The murrelet is listed as threatened under the ESA. Bald and golden eagles are not listed under the ESA, but are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA; 16 U.S.C. 668– 668d). If issued, the ITP would authorize take of the covered species that may occur as a result of their collision with project wind turbines, and as a result of the applicant carrying out site management and maintenance activities over the 30-year permit term. The applicant is not seeking ITP coverage for the construction phase of the project, which includes, without limitation, the construction of roads and turbine pads, and the erection of 38 commercial wind turbines, transmission lines, and meteorological towers. The applicant is also not seeking ITP coverage for the decommissioning of project facilities. The applicant anticipates completing project construction prior to implementation of the HCP. The HCP describes the anticipated amount of take of each covered species, and the steps the applicant will implement to minimize and mitigate the impacts of that taking. The HCP also describes the life history and ecology of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 25300 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 105 / Friday, May 31, 2019 / Notices khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES the covered species, the biological goals and objectives of the HCP, the impact of the anticipated taking on the affected populations of each covered species, adaptive management procedures, and take monitoring procedures. The Service prepared the final EIS in response to the ITP application and in consideration of comments received on the draft EIS, in accordance with the requirements of NEPA. Background The project site encompasses approximately 9,700 acres of forestlands in Thurston and Lewis Counties, Washington. The applicant intends to initiate turbine operations in 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter. A detailed description of the project is presented in chapter 2 of the HCP. The majority of the project is located in Lewis County, Washington, including all 38 wind turbines. Some supporting infrastructure is located in Thurston County, Washington. The wind energy generation facility is located on a prominent ridgeline on the Weyerhaeuser Company’s Vail Tree Farm, located approximately 18 miles east of Centralia, Washington. The project is expected to produce an output of approximately 137 megawatts (MW) of electricity from 38 wind turbines, each of which is 492 feet tall (from ground to vertical blade tip) with rotor diameters of 446 feet. The turbine operating prescriptions presented in chapter 2 of the HCP include curtailment regimes and site management prescriptions. Pre-project monitoring identified the presence of each covered species in the project area. The applicant determined that adverse effects to each of the covered species are unavoidable, and developed the HCP to cover take of those species caused by project operations over a period of 30 years. The HCP details measures the applicant will implement to minimize, mitigate, and monitor the unavoidable incidental take of the covered species. Avoidance and minimization measures in the HCP to benefit the marbled murrelet include seasonal curtailment of turbine blades (turbine blades are fully stopped and feathered into the wind) and site management prescriptions to maintain transmission and distribution line flight diverters, shield artificial light sources, reduce murrelet collisions with vehicles on the project site, and minimize the artificial increase of potential nest predators in the project area. Mitigation measures in the HCP to benefit the marbled murrelet include acquisition and permanent management of conservation lands to VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 May 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 promote the preservation and enhancement of suitable nesting habitat for the species, and funding the removal of abandoned or derelict fishing nets in the Salish Sea in which murrelets can become entangled and drown. Avoidance and minimization measures in the HCP to benefit the bald eagle and the golden eagle include site management prescriptions to remove mammal carrion to reduce scavenging by eagles on the project site, minimize cover for prey animals such as rabbits to reduce prey-based attractions of eagles to the project site, and testing of eagle detection-based turbine curtailment technologies intended to reduce eagle collisions with operating turbine blades. If effective, the turbine curtailment triggered by automated eagle-detection will be implemented routinely. Mitigation measures in the HCP intended to benefit bald eagles and golden eagles consist of retrofitting power poles to reduce the occurrence of eagle collisions with power lines and electrocution. The action considered in the final EIS is approval of the HCP and issuance of an ITP with a term of 30 years to the applicant, if permit issuance criteria are met. Endangered Species Act Section 9 of the ESA and its implementing regulations prohibit ‘‘take’’ of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered. 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. 1538). 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: 1. The taking will be incidental; 2. The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking; 3. The applicant will ensure that adequate funding for the plan will be provided; 4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 5. The applicant will carry out any other measures that the Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the HCP. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act Though the applicant is requesting incidental take for bald and golden eagles under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, consistency with the requirements of BGEPA is also necessary. The BGEPA prohibits take of eagles where ‘‘take’’ is defined as to ‘‘pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, or disturb’’ and where ‘‘disturb’’ is further defined 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 22.3). Under 50 CFR 22.26, the Service has the authority to authorize take of bald and golden eagles (generally, disturbance, injury, or killing) that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity. For the Service to issue such a permit, the following required determinations must be met (see 50 CFR 22.26(f)): 1. The taking will be compatible with the preservation of the bald or golden eagle (further defined by the Service to mean ‘‘consistent with the goals of maintaining stable or increasing breeding populations in all eagle management units and the persistence of local populations throughout the geographic range of each species’’); 2. The taking will protect an interest in a particular locality; 3. The taking will be associated with, but not the purpose of, the activity; 4. The taking will be avoided and minimized by the applicant to the extent practicable; 5. The applicant will have applied all appropriate and practical compensatory mitigation measures, when required pursuant to 50 CFR 22.26(c); 6. Issuance of the permit will not preclude issuance of another permit necessary to protect an interest of higher priority as set forth in 50 CFR 22.26(e)(7); and 7. Issuance of the permit will not interfere with ongoing civil or criminal action concerning unpermitted past eagle take at the project. The Service can provide eagle take authorization through an ITP for an HCP, which confers take authorization under the BGEPA without the need for E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 105 / Friday, May 31, 2019 / Notices khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES a separate permit, as long as the permit issuance criteria under both ESA and BGEPA will be met by the conservation measures included in the applicant’s HCP. See 50 CFR 22.11(a). National Environmental Policy Act Compliance The development of the HCP and the proposed issuance of an ITP under this plan comprise a Federal action that triggers the need for compliance with NEPA. We prepared a draft EIS and reviewed public comments in preparation of a final EIS to analyze the environmental impacts of a range of alternatives related to the issuance of the ITP and implementation of the conservation program under the HCP. The alternatives include a no-action alternative and three action alternatives: Proposed action (alternative 1), a modified site design for the proposed action (alternative 2), and an enhanced curtailment regime alternative (alternative 3). No-Action Alternative: Under the NoAction Alternative (Options A and B), no permit would be issued, and the applicant’s HCP would not be implemented. This alternative consists of two options: Option A—No Project Operations and Option B—No Project. Option A assumes the applicant would construct the project before the Service makes a final permit decision, but would not operate the project without an ITP. Option A is included in the final EIS because the applicant informed the Service that it may initiate and complete construction of the project before the Service makes a decision on the ITP application. Option B assumes that the applicant would not construct the project without an ITP. Under this option, nothing would change from current conditions and no impacts on the human environment would result from the project. Alternative 1 (Proposed HCP): Issuance of the requested permit and implementation of the conservation program described in the applicant’s HCP. Alternative 1 is the Service’s preferred alternative. Alternative 2: Under the Modified Project Site Design Alternative, the project would not operate the five wind turbine generators (WTGs) closest to documented marbled murrelet nest locations for the duration of the ITP. The Service would issue an ITP authorizing the level of incidental take expected to result from operation and maintenance of the remaining 33 WTGs and site management activities. Alternative 3: Under the Enhanced Curtailment Alternative, all 38 WTGs would operate under an expanded set of VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:42 May 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 curtailment measures intended to minimize the potential for take of the covered species. The Service would issue an ITP authorizing the level of incidental take expected to result from covered activities in accordance with the additional curtailment measures. The environmental consequences of each alternative were analyzed in the final EIS. The types of effects on covered species were similar across action alternatives, with take resulting from project operations being mitigated through land acquisition, derelict net removal, and power pole retrofits. Increasing the use of avoidance and minimization measures through different turbine curtailment regimes can reduce the amount of take of covered species and the amount of renewable electricity produced; a commensurate reduction in the amount of derelict net removal and power pole retrofits are expected with alternatives that increase turbine curtailment. Public comments received in response to the draft EIS were considered, and the final EIS reflects clarifications of the existing analysis to address public comments. The final EIS does not identify an environmentally preferred alternative, because the alternatives reflect a mix of outcomes relating to the amount of renewable energy production versus the extent of effects on covered species, for which there is no single metric of environmental preference. EPA’s Role in the EIS Process The EPA is charged with reviewing all Federal agencies’ EISs. Therefore, EPA is publishing a notice in the Federal Register announcing this EIS, as required under section 309 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401). EPA’s notices are published on Fridays. EPA serves as the repository (EIS database) for EISs prepared by Federal agencies. All EISs must be filed with EPA. You may search for EPA comments on EISs, along with EISs themselves, at https:// cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/ action/eis/search. Public Involvement The Service published a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare a draft EIS in the Federal Register on May 3, 2018 (83 FR 19569). The NOI also announced a public scoping period (May 3, 2018, through June 4, 2018), during which we invited interested parties to provide written comments related to the proposal. Two public scoping meetings were held, in Lacey, Washington, on May 8, 2018, and in Centralia, Washington, on May 10, 2018, in accordance with NEPA procedures (40 CFR 1501.7). Using public scoping PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 25301 comments, we prepared a draft EIS to analyze the effects of the alternatives on the human environment. The Service published a notice of availability (NOA) of the draft EIS in the Federal Register on November 30, 2018 (83 FR 61664), opening a 45-day public comment period. The Service also posted the Federal Register NOA, notice of public scoping meeting, draft HCP, draft EIS, and a news release at http:// www.fws.gov/wafwo/. Two public openhouse meetings were held, on December 5, 2018, in Chehalis, Washington, and on December 10, 2018, in Lacey, Washington, to solicit additional input from the public on the draft EIS and draft HCP. A total of 17 comment letters and electronic submissions were received from the public. The official comment period ended on January 14, 2019. 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.). We will 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 EPA’s NOA of the final EIS in the Federal Register. Public Review We are not requesting public comments on the final EIS and HCP, but any written comments we receive will become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can request in your comment that we withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their entirety. E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1 25302 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 105 / Friday, May 31, 2019 / Notices 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). Dated: May 8, 2019. Robyn Thorson, Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2019–11393 Filed 5–30–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs [190A2100DD/AAKC001030/ A0A501010.999900 253G] Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Ho-Chunk Nation Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, City of Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: This notice advises the public that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as lead agency, with the City of Beloit, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Ho-Chunk Nation (Nation), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) serving as cooperating agencies, intends to file a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) with the EPA in connection with the Nation’s application for transfer into trust by the United States of approximately 33 acres for gaming and other purposes in the City of Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin. DATES: The Record of Decision for the proposed action will be issued on or after 30 days from the date the EPA publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. Any comments on the FEIS must arrive on or before that date. ADDRESSES: You may mail or handdeliver written comments to Mr. Timothy LaPointe, Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Midwest Region, Norman Pointe II Building, 5600 West American Boulevard, Suite 500, Bloomington, Minnesota 55347. Please include your name, return address, and the caption: ‘‘FEIS Comments, HoChunk Nation Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project,’’ on the first page of your written comments. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice for addresses where the FEIS is available for review. khammond on DSKBBV9HB2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 Mr. Timothy Guyah, Archaeologist, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Midwest Region, Norman Pointe II Building, 5600 West American Boulevard, Suite 500, Bloomington, MN 55347; phone: (612) 725–4512; email: timothy.guyah@ bia.gov. Information is also available online at www.ho-chunkbeloiteis.com. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Tribe proposes to develop a casino-hotel resort on approximately 33 acres in the City of Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin. The BIA published a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in the Federal Register on November 26, 2012 (77 FR 70460), and in The Daily News, The Janesville Gazette, and The Rockford Register Star. The BIA held a public scoping meeting on December 13, 2012, at Aldrich Middle School in Beloit, Wisconsin. The BIA published a Notice of Availability for the Draft EIS in the Federal Register on November 9, 2018 (83 FR 56096), and in The Daily News, The Janesville Gazette, and The Rockford Register Star. The BIA held a public hearing for the proposed project on December 11, 2018, at Aldrich Middle School. Background: The Tribe’s proposed project consists of the following components: (1) The Department of the Interior’s (Department) transfer of approximately 33 acres from fee to trust status; (2) issuance of a determination by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2719; and (3) the development of the trust parcel. The proposed casino-hotel resort would include a hotel, convention center, outdoor amphitheater, several restaurant facilities, waterpark, retail buildings, and parking facilities. Access to the project site would be provided via three driveways, one along Willowbrook Road and two along Colley Road. The following alternatives are considered in the FEIS: (1) Proposed Project; (2) Reduced Casino and Commercial Development; (3) Retail Development; and (4) No Action/No Development. The BIA identifies Alternative 1 the Preferred Alternative as discussed in the FEIS. The information and analysis contained in the FEIS, as well as its evaluation and assessment of the Preferred Alternative, will assist the Department in its review of the issues presented in the fee-to-trust application. The Preferred Alternative does not reflect the Department’s final decision because the Department must further evaluate all of the criteria listed in 25 CFR part 151 and 25 CFR part 292. The Department’s consideration and analysis FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 16:42 May 30, 2019 Jkt 247001 PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 of the applicable regulations may lead to a final decision that selects an alternative other than the Preferred Alternative, including no action, or a variant of the Preferred or another of the alternatives analyzed in the FEIS. Environmental issues addressed in the FEIS include geology and soils, water resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural and paleontological resources, socio-economic conditions (including environmental justice), transportation and circulation, land use, public services, noise, hazardous materials, aesthetics, cumulative effects, and indirect and growth-inducing effects. Locations Where the FEIS is Available for Review: The FEIS will be available for review at the Beloit Public Library located at 605 Eclipse Blvd., Beloit, Wisconsin 53511, and online at www.ho-chunkbeloiteis.com. To obtain a compact disk copy of the FEIS, please provide your name and address in writing to Mr. Timothy Guyah, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Midwest Regional Office. Contact information is listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this notice. Individual paper copies of the FEIS will be provided only upon payment of applicable printing expenses by the requestor for the number of copies requested. Public Comment Availability: Comments, including names and addresses of respondents, will be available for public review at the BIA address shown in the ADDRESSES section, during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask in your comment that your personal identifying information be withheld from public review, the BIA cannot guarantee that this will occur. Authority: This notice is published pursuant to Sec. 1503.1 of the Council of Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508) and Sec. 46.305 of the Department of the Interior Regulations (43 CFR part 46), implementing the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of l969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371, et seq.), and is in the exercise of authority delegated to the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs by 209 DM 8. E:\FR\FM\31MYN1.SGM 31MYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 105 (Friday, May 31, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25299-25302]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-11393]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2019-N054; FXES11140100000-190-FF01E00000]


Final Environmental Impact Statement and Final Habitat 
Conservation Plan for the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project, Lewis and 
Thurston Counties, Washington

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) and a 
final habitat conservation plan (HCP) addressing the Skookumchuck Wind 
Energy Project (project) in Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington. 
The Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project LLC (applicant) is requesting an 
incidental take permit (ITP) covering the take of one threatened 
species listed under the Endangered Species Act, and two non-listed 
federally protected species (collectively referred to as covered 
species) likely to be caused by the operation of the project over a 30-
year period. The HCP describes the steps the applicant will take to 
minimize, mitigate, and monitor incidental take of the covered species. 
The final EIS has been prepared in response to the ITP application in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act.

DATES: The Service's ITP decision will occur no sooner than 30 days 
after publication of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's notice 
of the final EIS in the Federal Register, and will be documented in a 
record of decision (ROD).

ADDRESSES: You may obtain copies of the documents by any of the 
following methods:
     Internet: http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-
R1-ES-2019-N054.
     Upon Request: You may call Curtis Tanner at 360-753-4326 
to request alternative formats of the documents or make an appointment 
to inspect the documents during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond 
Dr. SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Curtis Tanner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); 
telephone: 360-753-4326; email: [email protected]. Hearing or 
speech impaired individuals may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-
877-8339 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the availability of a final environmental impact 
statement (EIS) and a final habitat conservation plan (HCP) addressing 
the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project (project) in Lewis and Thurston 
Counties, Washington. The Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project LLC 
(applicant) is requesting an incidental take permit (ITP) covering the 
take of one threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and two non-listed 
federally protected species (collectively referred to as covered 
species) likely to be caused by the operation of the project over a 30-
year period. The HCP describes the steps the applicant will take to 
minimize, mitigate, and monitor incidental take of the covered species. 
The final EIS has been prepared in response to the ITP application, in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    The applicant is seeking an ITP authorizing take of the following 
covered species: Marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), bald 
eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). 
The murrelet is listed as threatened under the ESA. Bald and golden 
eagles are not listed under the ESA, but are protected under the Bald 
and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA; 16 U.S.C. 668-668d).
    If issued, the ITP would authorize take of the covered species that 
may occur as a result of their collision with project wind turbines, 
and as a result of the applicant carrying out site management and 
maintenance activities over the 30-year permit term. The applicant is 
not seeking ITP coverage for the construction phase of the project, 
which includes, without limitation, the construction of roads and 
turbine pads, and the erection of 38 commercial wind turbines, 
transmission lines, and meteorological towers. The applicant is also 
not seeking ITP coverage for the decommissioning of project facilities. 
The applicant anticipates completing project construction prior to 
implementation of the HCP.
    The HCP describes the anticipated amount of take of each covered 
species, and the steps the applicant will implement to minimize and 
mitigate the impacts of that taking. The HCP also describes the life 
history and ecology of

[[Page 25300]]

the covered species, the biological goals and objectives of the HCP, 
the impact of the anticipated taking on the affected populations of 
each covered species, adaptive management procedures, and take 
monitoring procedures.
    The Service prepared the final EIS in response to the ITP 
application and in consideration of comments received on the draft EIS, 
in accordance with the requirements of NEPA.

Background

    The project site encompasses approximately 9,700 acres of 
forestlands in Thurston and Lewis Counties, Washington. The applicant 
intends to initiate turbine operations in 2019, or as soon as possible 
thereafter. A detailed description of the project is presented in 
chapter 2 of the HCP. The majority of the project is located in Lewis 
County, Washington, including all 38 wind turbines. Some supporting 
infrastructure is located in Thurston County, Washington. The wind 
energy generation facility is located on a prominent ridgeline on the 
Weyerhaeuser Company's Vail Tree Farm, located approximately 18 miles 
east of Centralia, Washington.
    The project is expected to produce an output of approximately 137 
megawatts (MW) of electricity from 38 wind turbines, each of which is 
492 feet tall (from ground to vertical blade tip) with rotor diameters 
of 446 feet. The turbine operating prescriptions presented in chapter 2 
of the HCP include curtailment regimes and site management 
prescriptions.
    Pre-project monitoring identified the presence of each covered 
species in the project area. The applicant determined that adverse 
effects to each of the covered species are unavoidable, and developed 
the HCP to cover take of those species caused by project operations 
over a period of 30 years. The HCP details measures the applicant will 
implement to minimize, mitigate, and monitor the unavoidable incidental 
take of the covered species.
    Avoidance and minimization measures in the HCP to benefit the 
marbled murrelet include seasonal curtailment of turbine blades 
(turbine blades are fully stopped and feathered into the wind) and site 
management prescriptions to maintain transmission and distribution line 
flight diverters, shield artificial light sources, reduce murrelet 
collisions with vehicles on the project site, and minimize the 
artificial increase of potential nest predators in the project area. 
Mitigation measures in the HCP to benefit the marbled murrelet include 
acquisition and permanent management of conservation lands to promote 
the preservation and enhancement of suitable nesting habitat for the 
species, and funding the removal of abandoned or derelict fishing nets 
in the Salish Sea in which murrelets can become entangled and drown.
    Avoidance and minimization measures in the HCP to benefit the bald 
eagle and the golden eagle include site management prescriptions to 
remove mammal carrion to reduce scavenging by eagles on the project 
site, minimize cover for prey animals such as rabbits to reduce prey-
based attractions of eagles to the project site, and testing of eagle 
detection-based turbine curtailment technologies intended to reduce 
eagle collisions with operating turbine blades. If effective, the 
turbine curtailment triggered by automated eagle-detection will be 
implemented routinely. Mitigation measures in the HCP intended to 
benefit bald eagles and golden eagles consist of retrofitting power 
poles to reduce the occurrence of eagle collisions with power lines and 
electrocution.
    The action considered in the final EIS is approval of the HCP and 
issuance of an ITP with a term of 30 years to the applicant, if permit 
issuance criteria are met.

Endangered Species Act

    Section 9 of the ESA and its implementing regulations prohibit 
``take'' of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered. 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. 1538). 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:
    1. The taking will be incidental;
    2. The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impact of such taking;
    3. The applicant will ensure that adequate funding for the plan 
will be provided;
    4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    5. The applicant will carry out any other measures that the Service 
may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the 
HCP.

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

    Though the applicant is requesting incidental take for bald and 
golden eagles under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, consistency with 
the requirements of BGEPA is also necessary. The BGEPA prohibits take 
of eagles where ``take'' is defined as to ``pursue, shoot, shoot at, 
poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, or 
disturb'' and where ``disturb'' is further defined 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 22.3).
    Under 50 CFR 22.26, the Service has the authority to authorize take 
of bald and golden eagles (generally, disturbance, injury, or killing) 
that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity. For the Service 
to issue such a permit, the following required determinations must be 
met (see 50 CFR 22.26(f)):
    1. The taking will be compatible with the preservation of the bald 
or golden eagle (further defined by the Service to mean ``consistent 
with the goals of maintaining stable or increasing breeding populations 
in all eagle management units and the persistence of local populations 
throughout the geographic range of each species'');
    2. The taking will protect an interest in a particular locality;
    3. The taking will be associated with, but not the purpose of, the 
activity;
    4. The taking will be avoided and minimized by the applicant to the 
extent practicable;
    5. The applicant will have applied all appropriate and practical 
compensatory mitigation measures, when required pursuant to 50 CFR 
22.26(c);
    6. Issuance of the permit will not preclude issuance of another 
permit necessary to protect an interest of higher priority as set forth 
in 50 CFR 22.26(e)(7); and
    7. Issuance of the permit will not interfere with ongoing civil or 
criminal action concerning unpermitted past eagle take at the project.
    The Service can provide eagle take authorization through an ITP for 
an HCP, which confers take authorization under the BGEPA without the 
need for

[[Page 25301]]

a separate permit, as long as the permit issuance criteria under both 
ESA and BGEPA will be met by the conservation measures included in the 
applicant's HCP. See 50 CFR 22.11(a).

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The development of the HCP and the proposed issuance of an ITP 
under this plan comprise a Federal action that triggers the need for 
compliance with NEPA. We prepared a draft EIS and reviewed public 
comments in preparation of a final EIS to analyze the environmental 
impacts of a range of alternatives related to the issuance of the ITP 
and implementation of the conservation program under the HCP. The 
alternatives include a no-action alternative and three action 
alternatives: Proposed action (alternative 1), a modified site design 
for the proposed action (alternative 2), and an enhanced curtailment 
regime alternative (alternative 3).
    No-Action Alternative: Under the No-Action Alternative (Options A 
and B), no permit would be issued, and the applicant's HCP would not be 
implemented. This alternative consists of two options: Option A--No 
Project Operations and Option B--No Project. Option A assumes the 
applicant would construct the project before the Service makes a final 
permit decision, but would not operate the project without an ITP. 
Option A is included in the final EIS because the applicant informed 
the Service that it may initiate and complete construction of the 
project before the Service makes a decision on the ITP application. 
Option B assumes that the applicant would not construct the project 
without an ITP. Under this option, nothing would change from current 
conditions and no impacts on the human environment would result from 
the project.
    Alternative 1 (Proposed HCP): Issuance of the requested permit and 
implementation of the conservation program described in the applicant's 
HCP. Alternative 1 is the Service's preferred alternative.
    Alternative 2: Under the Modified Project Site Design Alternative, 
the project would not operate the five wind turbine generators (WTGs) 
closest to documented marbled murrelet nest locations for the duration 
of the ITP. The Service would issue an ITP authorizing the level of 
incidental take expected to result from operation and maintenance of 
the remaining 33 WTGs and site management activities.
    Alternative 3: Under the Enhanced Curtailment Alternative, all 38 
WTGs would operate under an expanded set of curtailment measures 
intended to minimize the potential for take of the covered species. The 
Service would issue an ITP authorizing the level of incidental take 
expected to result from covered activities in accordance with the 
additional curtailment measures.
    The environmental consequences of each alternative were analyzed in 
the final EIS. The types of effects on covered species were similar 
across action alternatives, with take resulting from project operations 
being mitigated through land acquisition, derelict net removal, and 
power pole retrofits. Increasing the use of avoidance and minimization 
measures through different turbine curtailment regimes can reduce the 
amount of take of covered species and the amount of renewable 
electricity produced; a commensurate reduction in the amount of 
derelict net removal and power pole retrofits are expected with 
alternatives that increase turbine curtailment. Public comments 
received in response to the draft EIS were considered, and the final 
EIS reflects clarifications of the existing analysis to address public 
comments. The final EIS does not identify an environmentally preferred 
alternative, because the alternatives reflect a mix of outcomes 
relating to the amount of renewable energy production versus the extent 
of effects on covered species, for which there is no single metric of 
environmental preference.

EPA's Role in the EIS Process

    The EPA is charged with reviewing all Federal agencies' EISs. 
Therefore, EPA is publishing a notice in the Federal Register 
announcing this EIS, as required under section 309 of the Clean Air Act 
(42 U.S.C. 7401). EPA's notices are published on Fridays. EPA serves as 
the repository (EIS database) for EISs prepared by Federal agencies. 
All EISs must be filed with EPA. You may search for EPA comments on 
EISs, along with EISs themselves, at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/action/eis/search.

Public Involvement

    The Service published a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare a draft 
EIS in the Federal Register on May 3, 2018 (83 FR 19569). The NOI also 
announced a public scoping period (May 3, 2018, through June 4, 2018), 
during which we invited interested parties to provide written comments 
related to the proposal. Two public scoping meetings were held, in 
Lacey, Washington, on May 8, 2018, and in Centralia, Washington, on May 
10, 2018, in accordance with NEPA procedures (40 CFR 1501.7). Using 
public scoping comments, we prepared a draft EIS to analyze the effects 
of the alternatives on the human environment. The Service published a 
notice of availability (NOA) of the draft EIS in the Federal Register 
on November 30, 2018 (83 FR 61664), opening a 45-day public comment 
period. The Service also posted the Federal Register NOA, notice of 
public scoping meeting, draft HCP, draft EIS, and a news release at 
http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/. Two public open-house meetings were held, on 
December 5, 2018, in Chehalis, Washington, and on December 10, 2018, in 
Lacey, Washington, to solicit additional input from the public on the 
draft EIS and draft HCP. A total of 17 comment letters and electronic 
submissions were received from the public. The official comment period 
ended on January 14, 2019.

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.). We will 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 
EPA's NOA of the final EIS in the Federal Register.

Public Review

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

[[Page 25302]]

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).

     Dated: May 8, 2019.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-11393 Filed 5-30-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P