Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Blue Creek Wind Farm, Van Wert and Paulding Counties, Ohio, 71972-71975 [2019-28112]

Download as PDF khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES 71972 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 249 / Monday, December 30, 2019 / Notices notwithstanding the inclusion of the routine notice. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Molloy, 703–235–9388, dennis.molloy@cisa.dhs.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The CISA ISD Office of Bombing Prevention (OBP) has a leading role in implementation of the national counter-IED policy, articulated through Presidential Policy Directive 17 (PPD–17) Countering IEDs), serving as the Deputy Administrator of the federal interagency Joint Program Office for Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (JPO C–IED) and working in close collaboration with the White House National Security Council. The JPO C–IED coordinates and tracks Federal government progress in building national counter-IED capabilities. OBP also leads the DHS in implementation of the national counter-IED policy, serving as the DHS Counter-IED Program Management Office and chairing the DHS IED Working Group. OBP is instrumental in aligning DHS and national counter-IED efforts through centralized and effective coordination of ongoing programs with national policy and strategy goals, resulting in better resource allocation within OBP and across DHS and our Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners. TRIPwire (Technical Resource for Incident Prevention) is the DHS online, collaborative information-sharing network for bomb technicians, first responders, military personnel, government officials, intelligence analysts, and select private sector security professionals to increase awareness of evolving IED tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as incident lessons learned and counterIED preparedness information. Users from Federal, State, local, and tribal government entities, as well as business and/or other for-profit industries, can elect to register for TRIPwire access. The TRIPwire portal contains sensitive information related to terrorist use of explosives and therefore user information is needed to verify eligibility and access to the system. There are three main instruments within this collection: TRIPwire User Registrations, TRIPwire Revalidations, and TRIPwire Questionnaire. The information collected during the TRIPwire user registration process is reviewed electronically by the OBP to validate the user’s ‘‘need to know,’’ which determines their eligibility for and access to TRIPwire. OBP verifies users need for access by confirming that a valid email address is used to register and checking employment references. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:00 Dec 27, 2019 Jkt 250001 Annually, users are revalidated based on the information provided during their registration. For revalidation, users and employment references receive a system generated email to validate that access is still required and their information is still accurate. OBP sends registered users a quarterly questionnaire seeking feedback as to how registrants use TRIPwire information, products, and tools. OBP uses the information collected during a quarterly questionnaire to review and improve the effectiveness and adequacy of the TRIPwire content and system features. TRIPwire registration is user-driven and is completed electronically via the secure TRIPwire interface. Users are required to have a computer and access to the internet. The registration process requires users to provide their full name, assignment, citizenship, job title, employer name, professional address and contact information, as well as an Employment Verification Contact and their contact information. Notifications regarding the user registration are handled via electronic submission responses and/or email. In addition to electronic registration, TRIPwire uses automated notifications to registered users when/if their account or password is set to expire as well as annual reverification of users’ need for access to TRIPwire. The TRIPwire Questionnaire is also collected electronically via a Survey Monkey link that is emailed to respondents. The Survey Monkey settings selected ensure that submissions are anonymous, and that an IP address is not collected. The changes to the collection since the previous OMB approval include: updating the collection title, updating the TRIPwire User registration page, clarifying the revalidation burden, and adding a TRIPwire Questionnaire. Overall, these changes result in a decrease in burden estimates and costs. This is a revision and renewal of an information collection. OMB is particularly interested in comments that: 1. Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; 2. Evaluate the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; 3. Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 4. Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submissions of responses. Title of Collection: Technical Resource for Incident Prevention (TRIPwire) User Registration and Questionnaire. OMB Control Number: 1670–0028. Frequency: Annually. Affected Public: State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Governments and Private Sector Individuals. Number of Annualized Respondents: 4,333. Estimated Time per Respondent: 0.17 hours, 0.017 hours, 0.083 hours. Total Annualized Burden Hours: 422 hours. Total Annualized Respondent Opportunity Cost: $13,736. Total Annualized Respondent Out-ofPocket Cost: $0. Total Annualized Government Cost: $7,447. Evette Maynard-Noel, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer. [FR Doc. 2019–28133 Filed 12–27–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110–09–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2019–0107; FXES11130300000–201–FF03E00000] Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Blue Creek Wind Farm, Van Wert and Paulding Counties, Ohio Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an application from Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC (applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, for its Blue Creek Wind Farm project. If approved, the ITP would authorize the incidental take of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), which is available for public review. We also announce the availability of a draft SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 249 / Monday, December 30, 2019 / Notices environmental assessment, which has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. We request public comment on the application and associated documents. DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 29, 2020. ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: Electronic copies of the documents this notice announces will be available online in Docket No. FWS–R3–ES– 2019–0107 at http:// www.regulations.gov. Public comments will also be available online at http:// www.regulations.gov. Paper copies of the documents this notice announces will be available at the following libraries: Brumback Library, 215 W. Main St., Van Wert, OH 45891; and Paulding County Carnegie Library, 205 S. Main St., Paulding, OH 45879. Submitting comments: Please specify whether your comment addresses the draft HCP, DEA, or any combination of the aforementioned documents, or other supporting documents. Please submit written comments by one of the following methods: • Online: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for and submit comments on Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2019–0107. • By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail or hand delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2019–0107; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: JAO/lN; Falls Church, VA 22041– 3803. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Megan Seymour, Wildlife Biologist, or Patrice Ashfield, Ohio Ecological Services Office Project Leader, via phone at 614–416–8993, via the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339, or via U.S. mail at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Field Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received an application from Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC (applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If approved, the ITP would be for a 35-year period and would authorize incidental take of the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), which covers the operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm (project). The project consists of a wind-powered electric generation facility located in an VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:00 Dec 27, 2019 Jkt 250001 approximately 40,426-acre area in Paulding and Van Wert Counties, Ohio. The draft HCP describes the following: 1. Permit duration; 2. Covered lands; 3. Covered species; 4. Project description and covered activities; 5. Environmental baseline and affected species; 6. Impact assessment and take authorization request for Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats; 7. Conservation plan, which includes the Biological Goals and Objectives, and measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impact of the taking; 8. Monitoring and adaptive management; 9. Funding assurances; 10. Alternatives to the taking; and 11. Changed and unforeseen circumstances. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the ESA, the Service announces that we have gathered the information necessary to: 1. Determine the impacts and formulate alternatives for an EA related to: a. Issuance of an ITP to the applicant for the take of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat, and b. Implementation of the associated HCP; and 2. Evaluate the application for ITP issuance, including the HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed incidental take of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. Background The Blue Creek project includes 152 operating 2.0-megawatt (MW) Gamesa G90 wind turbines with a total energy generating capacity of 304 MW. The project achieved commercial operation in June 2012. The need for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on the potential that operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm could result in take of Indiana bats and northern longeared bats. The HCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure that the incidental take caused by the operation of the project will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, and provides mitigation to fully offset the impact of the taking. Further, the HCP 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. PO 00000 Frm 00084 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71973 Purpose and Need for Action In accordance with NEPA, the Service has prepared a draft environmental assessment (DEA) to analyze the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the requested ITP were issued and the associated HCP were implemented. Proposed Action Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the ‘‘taking’’ of threatened and endangered species. However, provided certain criteria are met, the Service is authorized to issue permits under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA for take of federally listed species when, among other things, such a taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Under the ESA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered and threatened species, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Our implementing regulations in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations define ‘‘harm’’ as an act which actually kills or injures wildlife, and such act may include significant habitat modification or degradation that results in death or injury to listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The HCP analyzes, and the ITP would authorize, take from killing of bats due to the operation of the Blue Creek project. If issued, the ITP would authorize incidental take consistent with the applicant’s HCP and the ITP. To issue the ITP, the Service must find that the application, including its HCP, satisfies the criteria of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA and the Service’s implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 13 and § 17.22. If the ITP is issued, the applicant would receive assurances under the Service’s No Surprises policy, as codified at 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5). The applicant proposes to operate a maximum of 152 wind turbines and associated facilities for a period of 35 years in Paulding and Van Wert Counties, Ohio. The project consists of wind turbines, associated gravel pads and access roads, underground and aboveground electrical collection circuits, two substations, two permanent un-guyed meteorological towers, and an Operations and Maintenance Facility consisting of an approximately 5,000square-foot building. The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm and includes measures to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES 71974 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 249 / Monday, December 30, 2019 / Notices take on the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. The applicant will mitigate for take and associated impacts through one or more methods including restoration, if necessary, and permanent protection of documented maternity colony habitat and/or swarming habitat, and/or gating of a hibernaculum within the State of Ohio. Habitat mitigation, including any restored habitat, will occur on private land and be permanently protected by a conservation easement, fee simple acquisition with deed restrictions, or another site protection instrument that provides an equivalent level of protection, and will be approved by the Service. Chapter 5 of the HCP describes the Conservation Plan, including details of avoidance and minimization measures and compensatory mitigation that will limit and mitigate for the take of Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats. Chapter 6 of the HCP describes Monitoring and Adaptive Management to ensure take stays within permitted levels and mitigation sites are maintained as suitable habitat for the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat. The Service is soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the HCP to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the proposed incidental take of the covered species and to provide for adaptive management. In compliance with section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)), the Service is making the ITP application materials available for public review and comment as described above. 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. In particular, we request information and comments on the following topics: 1. Whether adaptive management, mitigation, and monitoring provisions in the proposed action alternative are sufficient; 2. Any threats to the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat that may influence their populations over the life of the ITP that are not addressed in the draft HCP or DEA; 3. Any new information on whitenose syndrome effects on the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat; and 4. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the proposed action on the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. Alternatives in the Draft EA The DEA contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action alternative, in which the Service would not issue a VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:00 Dec 27, 2019 Jkt 250001 permit to the applicant, and the project turbines would be feathered until wind speeds reach 6.9 m/s from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise during the entirety of the fall migration season (August 1 through October 31) and spring migration season (March 15 through May 15), under which conditions take of listed species is unlikely to occur; (2) the Applicant’s Proposed Project alternative in which the Service would issue an ITP to authorize incidental take of Covered Species associated with the project’s operations as described in the applicant’s HCP. In this alternative, the project turbines would be feathered until wind speeds reach 3.0 m/s during the spring migration season and summer (April 1 through July 31) from a halfhour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise, and during the fall migration season (August 1 through October 15) project turbines would be feathered until wind speeds reach 5.0 m/s when temperatures are greater than 10 degrees Celsius (°C), from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. In this alternative, the applicant estimated take of Indiana and northern long-eared bats using an approach that addresses inherent uncertainty in take estimates by incorporating a 70 percent confidence bound around the mean estimate, and a 30 percent reduction in take from application of the proposed cut-in speed regime. Under this alternative, 4.39 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 154 Indiana bats over the 35-year permit term, and take of 2.96 northern long-eared bats per year, for a total of 103 northern long-eared bats over the 35-year permit term, would be permitted. To be consistent and comparable in our analysis of all NEPA alternatives, the Service used a simplified method to estimate take across this and all other alternatives, which generated a take estimate for this alternative of 2.5 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 87.5 Indiana bats over the permit term, and take of 1.6 northern long-eared bats per year, for a total of 57.7 northern long-eared bats over the permit term; (3) More Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service would issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different than the Applicant’s Proposed Project. All turbines would be feathered when the ambient temperature is above 10°C based on a 5-minute rolling average from one half-hour before sunset to one half-hour after sunrise, during the spring migration season and summer (April 1 through July 31) up to 3.0 m/s, and during the fall migration season (August 1 through October 15) PO 00000 Frm 00085 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 up to 6.5 m/s. In this alternative, take of 1.4 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 49 Indiana bats over the 35-year permit term, and take of 1 northern long-eared bat per year, for a total of 34.1 northern long-eared bats over the 35-year permit term, would be permitted; (4) Less Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service would issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different than the Applicant’s Proposed Project. All turbines would be feathered when the ambient temperature is above 10°C based on a 5-minute rolling average from one half-hour before sunset to one half-hour after sunrise during the spring migration season and summer (April 1 through July 31) up to 3.0 m/s, and during the fall migration season (August 1 through October 15) up to 4.0 m/s. In this alternative, take of 2.6 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 91 Indiana bats over the 35-year permit term, and take of 1.8 northern long-eared bats per year, for a total of 62.2 northern long-eared bats over the 35-year permit term, would be permitted. The quantity of mitigation needed to offset the impact of the taking and the level of effort of monitoring varies between the alternatives, although mitigation, monitoring, adaptive management, and funding assurances are components of all three action alternatives. The DEA considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the alternatives, including any measures intended to minimize and mitigate such impacts. The DEA also identifies additional alternatives that were considered but were eliminated from analysis as detailed in section 2.4 of the DEA. The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested parties on the content of the DEA. 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 significance of 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. Public Comments You may submit your comments and materials related to the draft HCP, DEA, or other supporting documents by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request you send comments using only one of the methods described in ADDRESSES. E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 249 / Monday, December 30, 2019 / Notices Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated with the notice, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office in Columbus, Ohio (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C.1539(c)) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22) and the NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6; 43 CFR part 46). Lori Nordstrom, Assistant Regional Director. [FR Doc. 2019–28112 Filed 12–27–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION [Investigation No. 337–TA–1188] Certain Pick-Up Truck Folding Bed Cover Systems and Components Thereof Institution of Investigation U.S. International Trade Commission ACTION: Notice AGENCY: Notice is hereby given that a complaint was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission on November 26, 2019, under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, on behalf of Extang Corporation of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Laurmark Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a BAK Industries of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Supplements to the complaint were filed on November 27, 2019 and December 16, 2019. The complaint, as supplemented, alleges violations of section 337 based upon the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain pick-up truck folding bed cover systems and components thereof by reason of infringement of certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,484,788 (‘‘the ’788 patent’’) and U.S. Patent No. 8,061,758 (‘‘the ’758 patent’’). The complaint khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:00 Dec 27, 2019 Jkt 250001 further alleges that an industry in the United States exists as required by the applicable Federal Statute. The complainants request that the Commission institute an investigation and, after the investigation, issue a general exclusion order, or in the alternative a limited exclusion order, and cease and desist orders. ADDRESSES: The complaint, except for any confidential information contained therein, is available for inspection during official business hours (8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.) in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Room 112, Washington, DC 20436, telephone (202) 205–2000. Hearing impaired individuals are advised that information on this matter can be obtained by contacting the Commission’s TDD terminal on (202) 205–1810. Persons with mobility impairments who will need special assistance in gaining access to the Commission should contact the Office of the Secretary at (202) 205– 2000. General information concerning the Commission may also be obtained by accessing its internet server at https://www.usitc.gov. The public record for this investigation may be viewed on the Commission’s electronic docket (EDIS) at https://edis.usitc.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pathenia M. Proctor, The Office of Unfair Import Investigations, U.S. International Trade Commission, telephone (202) 205–2560. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Authority: The authority for institution of this investigation is contained in section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, 19 U.S.C. 1337, and in section 210.10 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, 19 CFR 210.10 (2019). Scope of Investigation: Having considered the complaint, the U.S. International Trade Commission, on December 20, 2019, ORDERED THAT— (1) Pursuant to subsection (b) of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, an investigation be instituted to determine whether there is a violation of subsection (a)(1)(B) of section 337 in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation of certain products identified in paragraph (2) by reason of infringement of one or more of claims 1–4 of the ’788 patent and claims 2 and 3 of the ’758 patent; and whether an industry in the United States exists as required by subsection (a)(2) of section 337; (2) Pursuant to section 210.10(b)(1) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and PO 00000 Frm 00086 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 71975 Procedure, 19 CFR 210.10(b)(1), the plain language description of the accused products or category of accused products, which defines the scope of the investigation, is ‘‘folding cover assemblies for pick-up truck cargo boxes and components thereof’’; (3) For the purpose of the investigation so instituted, the following are hereby named as parties upon which this notice of investigation shall be served: (a) The complainants are: Extang Corporation, 5400 S. State Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Laurmark Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a BAK Industries, 5400 Data Court, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. (b) The respondents are the following entities alleged to be in violation of section 337, and is/are the parties upon which the complaint is to be served: Tyger Auto Inc., 2615 West Renaissance Parkway, Rialto, CA 92376. Cixi City Liyuan Auto Parts Co. Ltd., No. 72 Haiwei Avenue, West District, Guanhaiwei Industrial Park, Cixi City, Zhejiang Province, China 315145. Hong Kong Car Start Industries Co., Limited Shidai Xinju, Building NG No. 681, West Huancheng Road, Haishu District, Zhejian Province, China 315000. (c) The Office of Unfair Import Investigations, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20436; and (4) For the investigation so instituted, the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. International Trade Commission, shall designate the presiding Administrative Law Judge. Responses to the complaint and the notice of investigation must be submitted by the named respondents in accordance with section 210.13 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, 19 CFR 210.13. Pursuant to 19 CFR 201.16(e) and 210.13(a), such responses will be considered by the Commission if received not later than 20 days after the date of service by the Commission of the complaint and the notice of investigation. Extensions of time for submitting responses to the complaint and the notice of investigation will not be granted unless good cause therefor is shown. Failure of a respondent to file a timely response to each allegation in the complaint and in this notice may be deemed to constitute a waiver of the right to appear and contest the allegations of the complaint and this notice, and to authorize the administrative law judge and the Commission, without further notice to the respondent, to find the facts to be as alleged in the complaint and this notice E:\FR\FM\30DEN1.SGM 30DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 249 (Monday, December 30, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 71972-71975]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-28112]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2019-0107; FXES11130300000-201-FF03E00000]


Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation 
Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Blue 
Creek Wind Farm, Van Wert and Paulding Counties, Ohio

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an 
application from Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC (applicant), for an 
incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended, for its Blue Creek Wind Farm project. If approved, the ITP 
would authorize the incidental take of the Indiana bat and the northern 
long-eared bat. The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation 
plan (HCP), which is available for public review. We also announce the 
availability of a draft

[[Page 71973]]

environmental assessment, which has been prepared in accordance with 
the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. We request 
public comment on the application and associated documents.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
January 29, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: Electronic copies of the documents this 
notice announces will be available online in Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2019-
0107 at http://www.regulations.gov. Public comments will also be 
available online at http://www.regulations.gov.
    Paper copies of the documents this notice announces will be 
available at the following libraries: Brumback Library, 215 W. Main 
St., Van Wert, OH 45891; and Paulding County Carnegie Library, 205 S. 
Main St., Paulding, OH 45879.
    Submitting comments: Please specify whether your comment addresses 
the draft HCP, DEA, or any combination of the aforementioned documents, 
or other supporting documents. Please submit written comments by one of 
the following methods:
     Online: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for and submit 
comments on Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2019-0107.
     By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail or hand 
delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-
2019-0107; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: JAO/
lN; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Megan Seymour, Wildlife Biologist, or 
Patrice Ashfield, Ohio Ecological Services Office Project Leader, via 
phone at 614-416-8993, via the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339, 
or via U.S. mail at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Field 
Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), have received an application from Blue Creek Wind Farm, LLC 
(applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If approved, the ITP would 
be for a 35-year period and would authorize incidental take of the 
endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the threatened northern 
long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis).
    The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), 
which covers the operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm (project). The 
project consists of a wind-powered electric generation facility located 
in an approximately 40,426-acre area in Paulding and Van Wert Counties, 
Ohio. The draft HCP describes the following:
    1. Permit duration;
    2. Covered lands;
    3. Covered species;
    4. Project description and covered activities;
    5. Environmental baseline and affected species;
    6. Impact assessment and take authorization request for Indiana 
bats and northern long-eared bats;
    7. Conservation plan, which includes the Biological Goals and 
Objectives, and measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impact of 
the taking;
    8. Monitoring and adaptive management;
    9. Funding assurances;
    10. Alternatives to the taking; and
    11. Changed and unforeseen circumstances.
    Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 43 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.) and the ESA, the Service announces that we have gathered the 
information necessary to:
    1. Determine the impacts and formulate alternatives for an EA 
related to:
    a. Issuance of an ITP to the applicant for the take of the Indiana 
bat and the northern long-eared bat, and
    b. Implementation of the associated HCP; and
    2. Evaluate the application for ITP issuance, including the HCP, 
which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the 
proposed incidental take of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared 
bat.

Background

    The Blue Creek project includes 152 operating 2.0-megawatt (MW) 
Gamesa G90 wind turbines with a total energy generating capacity of 304 
MW. The project achieved commercial operation in June 2012. The need 
for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on the 
potential that operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm could result in 
take of Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats.
    The HCP provides a detailed conservation plan to ensure that the 
incidental take caused by the operation of the project will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the 
Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat, and provides mitigation to 
fully offset the impact of the taking. Further, the HCP 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 draft 
environmental assessment (DEA) to analyze the impacts to the human 
environment that would occur if the requested ITP were issued and the 
associated HCP were implemented.

Proposed Action

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the ``taking'' of threatened and 
endangered species. However, provided certain criteria are met, the 
Service is authorized to issue permits under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
ESA for take of federally listed species when, among other things, such 
a taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful 
activities. Under the ESA, the term ``take'' means to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered 
and threatened species, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. 
Our implementing regulations in title 50 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations define ``harm'' as an act which actually kills or injures 
wildlife, and such act may include significant habitat modification or 
degradation that results in death or injury to listed species by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3).
    The HCP analyzes, and the ITP would authorize, take from killing of 
bats due to the operation of the Blue Creek project. If issued, the ITP 
would authorize incidental take consistent with the applicant's HCP and 
the ITP. To issue the ITP, the Service must find that the application, 
including its HCP, satisfies the criteria of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
ESA and the Service's implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 13 and 
Sec.  17.22. If the ITP is issued, the applicant would receive 
assurances under the Service's No Surprises policy, as codified at 50 
CFR 17.22(b)(5).
    The applicant proposes to operate a maximum of 152 wind turbines 
and associated facilities for a period of 35 years in Paulding and Van 
Wert Counties, Ohio. The project consists of wind turbines, associated 
gravel pads and access roads, underground and aboveground electrical 
collection circuits, two substations, two permanent un-guyed 
meteorological towers, and an Operations and Maintenance Facility 
consisting of an approximately 5,000-square-foot building.
    The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the 
operation of the Blue Creek Wind Farm and includes measures to avoid, 
minimize, mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental

[[Page 71974]]

take on the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. The applicant 
will mitigate for take and associated impacts through one or more 
methods including restoration, if necessary, and permanent protection 
of documented maternity colony habitat and/or swarming habitat, and/or 
gating of a hibernaculum within the State of Ohio. Habitat mitigation, 
including any restored habitat, will occur on private land and be 
permanently protected by a conservation easement, fee simple 
acquisition with deed restrictions, or another site protection 
instrument that provides an equivalent level of protection, and will be 
approved by the Service. Chapter 5 of the HCP describes the 
Conservation Plan, including details of avoidance and minimization 
measures and compensatory mitigation that will limit and mitigate for 
the take of Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats. Chapter 6 of the 
HCP describes Monitoring and Adaptive Management to ensure take stays 
within permitted levels and mitigation sites are maintained as suitable 
habitat for the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat.
    The Service is soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the 
HCP to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the proposed incidental 
take of the covered species and to provide for adaptive management. In 
compliance with section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)), the 
Service is making the ITP application materials available for public 
review and comment as described above.
    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. In 
particular, we request information and comments on the following 
topics:
    1. Whether adaptive management, mitigation, and monitoring 
provisions in the proposed action alternative are sufficient;
    2. Any threats to the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat 
that may influence their populations over the life of the ITP that are 
not addressed in the draft HCP or DEA;
    3. Any new information on white-nose syndrome effects on the 
Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat; and
    4. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat.

Alternatives in the Draft EA

    The DEA contains an analysis of four alternatives: (1) No Action 
alternative, in which the Service would not issue a permit to the 
applicant, and the project turbines would be feathered until wind 
speeds reach 6.9 m/s from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour 
after sunrise during the entirety of the fall migration season (August 
1 through October 31) and spring migration season (March 15 through May 
15), under which conditions take of listed species is unlikely to 
occur; (2) the Applicant's Proposed Project alternative in which the 
Service would issue an ITP to authorize incidental take of Covered 
Species associated with the project's operations as described in the 
applicant's HCP. In this alternative, the project turbines would be 
feathered until wind speeds reach 3.0 m/s during the spring migration 
season and summer (April 1 through July 31) from a half-hour before 
sunset to a half-hour after sunrise, and during the fall migration 
season (August 1 through October 15) project turbines would be 
feathered until wind speeds reach 5.0 m/s when temperatures are greater 
than 10 degrees Celsius ([deg]C), from a half-hour before sunset to a 
half-hour after sunrise. In this alternative, the applicant estimated 
take of Indiana and northern long-eared bats using an approach that 
addresses inherent uncertainty in take estimates by incorporating a 70 
percent confidence bound around the mean estimate, and a 30 percent 
reduction in take from application of the proposed cut-in speed regime. 
Under this alternative, 4.39 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 154 
Indiana bats over the 35-year permit term, and take of 2.96 northern 
long-eared bats per year, for a total of 103 northern long-eared bats 
over the 35-year permit term, would be permitted. To be consistent and 
comparable in our analysis of all NEPA alternatives, the Service used a 
simplified method to estimate take across this and all other 
alternatives, which generated a take estimate for this alternative of 
2.5 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 87.5 Indiana bats over the 
permit term, and take of 1.6 northern long-eared bats per year, for a 
total of 57.7 northern long-eared bats over the permit term; (3) More 
Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service would issue an 
ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different than the 
Applicant's Proposed Project. All turbines would be feathered when the 
ambient temperature is above 10[deg]C based on a 5-minute rolling 
average from one half-hour before sunset to one half-hour after 
sunrise, during the spring migration season and summer (April 1 through 
July 31) up to 3.0 m/s, and during the fall migration season (August 1 
through October 15) up to 6.5 m/s. In this alternative, take of 1.4 
Indiana bats per year, for a total of 49 Indiana bats over the 35-year 
permit term, and take of 1 northern long-eared bat per year, for a 
total of 34.1 northern long-eared bats over the 35-year permit term, 
would be permitted; (4) Less Restrictive Operations alternative, in 
which the Service would issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine 
operations would be different than the Applicant's Proposed Project. 
All turbines would be feathered when the ambient temperature is above 
10[deg]C based on a 5-minute rolling average from one half-hour before 
sunset to one half-hour after sunrise during the spring migration 
season and summer (April 1 through July 31) up to 3.0 m/s, and during 
the fall migration season (August 1 through October 15) up to 4.0 m/s. 
In this alternative, take of 2.6 Indiana bats per year, for a total of 
91 Indiana bats over the 35-year permit term, and take of 1.8 northern 
long-eared bats per year, for a total of 62.2 northern long-eared bats 
over the 35-year permit term, would be permitted. The quantity of 
mitigation needed to offset the impact of the taking and the level of 
effort of monitoring varies between the alternatives, although 
mitigation, monitoring, adaptive management, and funding assurances are 
components of all three action alternatives.
    The DEA considers the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of 
the alternatives, including any measures intended to minimize and 
mitigate such impacts. The DEA also identifies additional alternatives 
that were considered but were eliminated from analysis as detailed in 
section 2.4 of the DEA.
    The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested 
parties on the content of the DEA. 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 significance of 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.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials related to the draft 
HCP, DEA, or other supporting documents by one of the methods listed in 
ADDRESSES. We request you send comments using only one of the methods 
described in ADDRESSES.

[[Page 71975]]

    Comments and materials we receive, as well as documents associated 
with the notice, will be available for public inspection by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the Ohio Ecological 
Services Field Office in Columbus, Ohio (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). Before including your address, phone number, email address, 
or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should 
be aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C.1539(c)) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22) and the 
NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6; 43 CFR part 46).

Lori Nordstrom,
Assistant Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2019-28112 Filed 12-27-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P