Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms, Paulding County, Ohio, 12007-12009 [2020-04046]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 40 / Friday, February 28, 2020 / Notices the PBV assistance is not more than is necessary to provide affordable housing after taking into account other government assistance for the following project: Name, address of project: Name, address of PHA: Phone, FAX, and email: Name, address of HCA: Date of HUD’s approval of HCA’s intent to participate: Name of Authorized HCA Certifying Official: Signature of Authorized HCA Certifying Official: Date: Transmit signed and dated SLR certification as PDF attachments to Miguel A. Fontanez at pih.financial.management.division@hud.gov, with a copy to the Director of the local HUD Office of Public Housing: https:// www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_ indian_housing/about/field_office, with subject line identified ‘‘SLR Certification— Project Name, City, State’’ For questions concerning the submission and receipt of the email, call the Financial Management Division at (202) 402–4212. [FR Doc. 2020–04147 Filed 2–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2020–0005; FXES11140300000–201–FF03E00000] Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms, Paulding County, Ohio AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Notice of availability; request for comments. ACTION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an application from Paulding Wind Farm II, LLC; Paulding Wind Farm III, LLC; and Paulding Wind Farm IV (collectively, the applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, for the Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms project. If approved, the ITP would authorize the incidental take of the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat for a 30-year term. The applicant has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan, which is available for public review. We also announce the availability of a draft 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. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Feb 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before March 30, 2020. ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: Electronic copies of the documents this notice announces will be available online in Docket No. FWS–R3–ES– 2020–0005 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 habitat conservation plan, draft environmental assessment, 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–2020–0005. • By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail or hand delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2020–0005; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: JAO/lN; Falls Church, VA 22041– 3803. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Lott, Wildlife Biologist, or Patrice Ashfield, 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 Ecological Services 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 Paulding Wind Farm II, LLC; Paulding Wind Farm III, LLC; and Paulding Wind Farm IV (collectively, the 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 30-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 Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms (project). The project consists of a wind-powered electric generation facility located in an approximately 65,017-acre area in DATES: PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 12007 Paulding County, 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 project includes 134 wind turbines, with a total energy-generating capacity of 325.8 megawatts (MW). The project was constructed in several phases, during the period 2012–2020. Timber Road II is an operational facility and consists of 55 turbines with a generating capacity of 99 MW. Timber Road III is also an operational facility and consists of 48 turbines with a generating capacity of 100.8 MW. Timber Road IV is anticipated to be operational in 2020; consisting of 31 turbines, it has a generating capacity of 126 MW. The need for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on the potential that operation of the project 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 includes E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1 12008 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 40 / Friday, February 28, 2020 / Notices 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 DEA to analyze the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the requested ITP is issued and the associated HCP is implemented. jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES 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 (CFR) 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 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 the associated 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, codified at 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5). The applicant proposes to operate a maximum of 134 wind turbines and associated facilities for a period of 30 years in Paulding County, Ohio. The project consists of wind turbines, associated gravel pads and access roads, underground and above-ground electrical collection circuits, three substations, four permanent un-guyed meteorological towers, and an operations and maintenance facility. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Feb 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the operation of the project and includes measures to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental 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. 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 avoidance, minimization measures, and compensatory mitigation that will limit and mitigate for the take of Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats. This chapter also includes the monitoring and adaptive management plans to ensure that the level of 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. PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Alternatives in the Draft Environmental Assessment 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 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 3.5 m/s during the spring migration (April 1 through May 15) 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 from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. While take is not anticipated during the summer (May 16–July 31), turbines will be feathered until wind speeds reach 3.0 m/s from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. Minimization measures would be applicable until the temperature was greater than 10 degrees Celsius (°C). 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 50 percent confidence bound around the mean estimate, and a 50 percent reduction in take from application of the proposed cut-in speed regime. The various phases of this project began and will end in different years; thus, different numbers of turbines will be operational during the three different phases, which will change the amount of take during each of the phases. Thus, the estimated fatality rates under this alternative are: • 10.8 Indiana bats and 2.5 northern long-eared bats per year for years 1–22; • 6.3 Indiana bats and 1.5 northern long-eared bats per year for years 23–27; and • 2.5 Indiana bats and 0.6 northern long-eared bats per year for years 28–30. This results in a total of 276 Indiana bats and 64 northern long-eared bats over the 30-year permit term. 3. The Less Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service would E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1 jbell on DSKJLSW7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 40 / Friday, February 28, 2020 / Notices issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different than under 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 (April 1 through May 15) up to 3.5 m/s, during the summer season (May 16 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. The estimated fatality rates for this alternative are: • 13.46 Indiana bats and 3.1 northern long-eared bats per year for years 1–22; • 7.94 Indiana bats and 1.84 northern long-eared bats per year for years 23–27; and • 3.11 Indiana bats and 0.72 northern long-eared bats per year for years 28–30. This results in a total of 345 Indiana bats and 79 northern long-eared bats over the 30-year permit term; 4. More Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service would issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different than under 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 (April 1 through May 15) up to 3.5 m/s, summer (May 16 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. The estimated fatality rates for this alternative are: • 9.47 Indiana bats and 2.18 northern long-eared bats per year for years 1–22; • 5.59 Indiana bats and 1.28 northern long-eared bats per year for years 23–27; and • 2.19 Indiana bats and 0.51 northern long-eared bats per year for years 28–30. This results in a total of 277 Indiana bats and 65 northern long-eared bats over the 30-year permit term. 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. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:27 Feb 27, 2020 Jkt 250001 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. 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, Ecological Services, Midwest Region. [FR Doc. 2020–04046 Filed 2–27–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR [Docket No. DOI–2020–0001; 201D0102DM, DS6CS00000, DLSN00000.000000, DX6CS25] Implementation of Executive Order 13891: Guidance Documents AGENCY: PO 00000 Office of the Secretary, Interior. Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 ACTION: 12009 Notice of availability. We, the Department of the Interior (DOI), announce the availability of a single, searchable, indexed website that contains all of DOI’s guidance documents. This action is required by the Executive Order (E.O.) titled, ‘‘Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents’’ in order to make guidance documents readily available to the public. This website is found at the Electronic Library of the Interior’s Policies (ELIPS) at www.doi.gov/elips/ browse. DATES: This website is available on February 28, 2020. ADDRESSES: The notice is available for public inspection at http:// www.regulations.gov in Docket No. DOI–2020–0001. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bivan Patnaik, Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs, Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs, by phone at 202–208–3181 or via the Federal Relay Service at 800– 877–8339, or via email at: guidance_ document@ios.doi.gov]. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Background Information A central principle of E.O. 13891 is that guidance should only clarify existing obligations and should not implement new, binding requirements on the public. Guidance is defined in the E.O. as ‘‘an agency statement of general applicability, intended to have future effect on the behavior of regulated parties, that sets forth a policy on statutory, regulatory, or technical issue, or an interpretation of a statute or regulation.’’ Therefore, DOI is establishing on its website a single, searchable, indexed database that links to all guidance documents in effect from each bureau and office within the Department. The purpose of this notice is to announce that DOI’s website for agency guidance documents subject to posting on the website under the E.O. will be the Electronic Library of the Interior Policies (ELIPS), https://www.doi.gov/ elips/browse. When the public enters this website, click the Departmental Guidance Documents and Portals folder, which will expand to provide a ‘‘dropdown’’ list of the bureaus and offices within DOI that have issued guidance documents for use by the public. From this list, the public will be able to click on the specific bureau or office, and will further be able to search for a specific document by using such search parameters as title, subject, region, etc. E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 40 (Friday, February 28, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 12007-12009]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-04046]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2020-0005; FXES11140300000-201-FF03E00000]


Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation 
Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Timber 
Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms, Paulding County, 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 Paulding Wind Farm II, LLC; Paulding Wind Farm III, 
LLC; and Paulding Wind Farm IV (collectively, the applicant), for an 
incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended, for the Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind Farms project. If 
approved, the ITP would authorize the incidental take of the Indiana 
bat and the northern long-eared bat for a 30-year term. The applicant 
has prepared a draft habitat conservation plan, which is available for 
public review. We also announce the availability of a draft 
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 
March 30, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: Electronic copies of the documents this 
notice announces will be available online in Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2020-
0005 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 habitat conservation plan, draft environmental assessment, 
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-2020-0005.
     By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail or hand 
delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-
2020-0005; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: JAO/
lN; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Lott, Wildlife Biologist, or 
Patrice Ashfield, 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 Ecological Services 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 Paulding Wind Farm II, 
LLC; Paulding Wind Farm III, LLC; and Paulding Wind Farm IV 
(collectively, the 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 30-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 Timber Road II, III, and IV Wind 
Farms (project). The project consists of a wind-powered electric 
generation facility located in an approximately 65,017-acre area in 
Paulding County, 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 project includes 134 wind turbines, with a total energy-
generating capacity of 325.8 megawatts (MW). The project was 
constructed in several phases, during the period 2012-2020. Timber Road 
II is an operational facility and consists of 55 turbines with a 
generating capacity of 99 MW. Timber Road III is also an operational 
facility and consists of 48 turbines with a generating capacity of 
100.8 MW. Timber Road IV is anticipated to be operational in 2020; 
consisting of 31 turbines, it has a generating capacity of 126 MW. The 
need for the proposed action (i.e., issuance of an ITP) is based on the 
potential that operation of the project 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 includes

[[Page 12008]]

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 DEA to analyze 
the impacts to the human environment that would occur if the requested 
ITP is issued and the associated HCP is 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 (CFR) 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 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 the associated 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, codified at 
50 CFR 17.22(b)(5).
    The applicant proposes to operate a maximum of 134 wind turbines 
and associated facilities for a period of 30 years in Paulding County, 
Ohio. The project consists of wind turbines, associated gravel pads and 
access roads, underground and above-ground electrical collection 
circuits, three substations, four permanent un-guyed meteorological 
towers, and an operations and maintenance facility.
    The draft HCP describes the impacts of take associated with the 
operation of the project and includes measures to avoid, minimize, 
mitigate, and monitor the impacts of incidental 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. 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 avoidance, minimization measures, and compensatory 
mitigation that will limit and mitigate for the take of Indiana bats 
and northern long-eared bats. This chapter also includes the monitoring 
and adaptive management plans to ensure that the level of 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 Environmental Assessment

    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 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 3.5 m/s during the spring migration (April 1 through May 
15) 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 from a 
half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. While take is not 
anticipated during the summer (May 16-July 31), turbines will be 
feathered until wind speeds reach 3.0 m/s from a half-hour before 
sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. Minimization measures would be 
applicable until the temperature was greater than 10 degrees Celsius 
([deg]C). 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 50 percent confidence 
bound around the mean estimate, and a 50 percent reduction in take from 
application of the proposed cut-in speed regime.
    The various phases of this project began and will end in different 
years; thus, different numbers of turbines will be operational during 
the three different phases, which will change the amount of take during 
each of the phases. Thus, the estimated fatality rates under this 
alternative are:
     10.8 Indiana bats and 2.5 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 1-22;
     6.3 Indiana bats and 1.5 northern long-eared bats per year 
for years 23-27; and
     2.5 Indiana bats and 0.6 northern long-eared bats per year 
for years 28-30.
    This results in a total of 276 Indiana bats and 64 northern long-
eared bats over the 30-year permit term.
    3. The Less Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the 
Service would

[[Page 12009]]

issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be different 
than under 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 (April 1 through 
May 15) up to 3.5 m/s, during the summer season (May 16 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. The estimated fatality rates for 
this alternative are:
     13.46 Indiana bats and 3.1 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 1-22;
     7.94 Indiana bats and 1.84 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 23-27; and
     3.11 Indiana bats and 0.72 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 28-30.
    This results in a total of 345 Indiana bats and 79 northern long-
eared bats over the 30-year permit term;
    4. More Restrictive Operations alternative, in which the Service 
would issue an ITP for the HCP, but turbine operations would be 
different than under 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 (April 1 
through May 15) up to 3.5 m/s, summer (May 16 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. The estimated fatality rates for this alternative 
are:
     9.47 Indiana bats and 2.18 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 1-22;
     5.59 Indiana bats and 1.28 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 23-27; and
     2.19 Indiana bats and 0.51 northern long-eared bats per 
year for years 28-30.
    This results in a total of 277 Indiana bats and 65 northern long-
eared bats over the 30-year permit term. 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.
    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, Ecological Services, Midwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2020-04046 Filed 2-27-20; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P