DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project, Alameda County, California; Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan, 48241-48243 [2021-18449]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 164 / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Notices will take into consideration any information that we receive during the public comment period. DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before September 27, 2021. INTER-AMERICAN FOUNDATION Sunshine Act Meetings August 30, 2021, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. PLACE: Via tele-conference. STATUS: Meeting of the IAF Board of Director, closed to the public as provided for by 22 CFR 1004.4(b) MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED: D Executive Session TIME AND DATE: ADDRESSES: CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: Aswathi Zachariah, General Counsel, (202) 683–7118. For Dial-in Information Contact: Karen Vargas, Board Liaison, (202) 524– 8869. The Inter-American Foundation is holding this meeting under the Government in the Sunshine Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(b). Aswathi Zachariah, General Counsel. [FR Doc. 2021–18569 Filed 8–25–21; 11:15 am] BILLING CODE 7025–01–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2021–0094; FF08ESMF00–FXES11140800000–212] Obtaining Documents: The draft categorical exclusion screening form (CatEx), draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), and any comments and other materials that we receive are available for public inspection at https:// www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2021–0094. Submitting Comments: To submit comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your information requests or comments are in reference to the draft CatEx, draft HCP, or both. • Internet: Submit comments at https://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2021–0094. • U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R8– ES–2021–0094; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. For more information, see Public Comments and Public Availability of Comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project, Alameda County, California; Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. Notice of availability of permit application; request for comment. ACTION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the receipt of an application from DifWind Farms Limited VII and DifWind Farms Limited IX (collectively, the applicants) for a 6year incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), along with the applicants’ draft habitat conservation plan. We also announce the availability of the associated draft National Environmental Policy Act categorical exclusion screening form. The applicants have applied for an incidental take permit under the ESA for the DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project in Alameda County, California. The permit would authorize the take of two species incidental to the reclamation of a decommissioned commercial wind energy project. We invite the public and local, State, Tribal, and Federal agencies to comment on the application and related documents. Before issuing the requested permit, we lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:33 Aug 26, 2021 Jkt 253001 Vincent Griego, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, or Ryan Olah, Chief, Coast Bay Division, Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, by phone at 916–414–6600 or via the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the receipt of an application from DifWind Farms Limited VII, and DifWind Farms Limited IX (collectively, the applicants), for a 6-year incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), along with the applicants’ draft habitat conservation plan. We also announce the availability of the associated draft National Environmental Policy Act categorical exclusion screening form (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The applicants have applied for an incidental take permit under the ESA for the DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project in Alameda County, California. The permit would authorize the take of two species incidental to the reclamation of a decommissioned commercial wind energy project. We invite the public and local, State, Tribal, and Federal agencies to comment on the application and related documents. Before issuing the requested permit, we will take into PO 00000 Frm 00128 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48241 consideration any information that we receive during the public comment period. An ITP application requires the preparation of an HCP with measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of incidental take to the maximum extent practicable. The applicants prepared and submitted for Service review their Draft DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The Service then prepared a draft categorical exclusion screening form consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1501.4, and now is making it available in accordance with provisions within 40 CFR 1506.6. The purpose of the screening form is to confirm that the agency action is within a category of actions previously determined, pursuant to agency NEPA procedures, not to normally have significant effects on the natural and human environment, and thus does not require further NEPA evaluation, and that there are no extraordinary circumstances that indicate that an otherwise-excluded action may warrant further NEPA evaluation. Background Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531– 1544 et seq.) and Federal regulations (50 CFR 17) prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the ESA. Regulations governing allowable exceptions to prohibited take of endangered and threatened species via permits are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. For more about the Federal habitat conservation plan program, go to https:// www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/ pdf/hcp.pdf. National Environmental Policy Act Compliance The proposed permit issuance triggers the need for compliance with NEPA. The draft CatEx was prepared to analyze the impacts of issuing an ITP based on the draft HCP and to inform the public of the proposed action, any alternatives, and associated impacts, and to disclose any irreversible commitments of resources. The draft CatEx further confirms if an action is within a category of categorically excluded activities indicating further NEPA evaluation is not necessary. E:\FR\FM\27AUN1.SGM 27AUN1 48242 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 164 / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Notices Proposed Action Alternative Under the proposed action alternative, the Service would issue an ITP to the applicants for a period of 6 years for certain covered activities (described below). The applicants have requested an ITP for two covered species (described below), which are listed as threatened under the ESA. lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 Covered Activities The proposed ESA section 10 ITP would allow take of two covered species from covered activities in the proposed HCP area. The applicants are requesting incidental take authorization to complete the decommissioning and removal of a wind energy project originally installed in the 1980s and 1990s. The applicants have completed non-ground-disturbing work, including the removal of wind turbine blades, nacelles, turbine towers, transformers, meteorological masts, and other minor aboveground facilities. Under the HCP, the applicants would complete the decommissioning and removal of approximately 14 miscellaneous concrete pads, 17 junction boxes, 308 turbine foundations, 41 concrete padmount transformer pads, and would restore approximately 14.7 miles of access roads. The applicants seeks a 6-year permit to match the projected time necessary to complete the activities associated with this proposed decommissioning and reclamation project, including ground-disturbing activities, and remedial actions, if necessary, to ensure restoration of the project site. The applicants propose actions to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects to the Covered Species associated with the Covered Activities through the implementation of the HCP. The proposed mitigation measures in the HCP closely follow the avoidance and minimization measures outlined in the East Alameda Conservation Strategy (EACCS). The measures generally require preconstruction surveys; avoidance and monitoring during construction; and best management practices for restoration of Covered Species habitat. Covered Species The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (central California distinct population segment), and the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), both federally listed as threatened, are proposed to be included as covered species in the proposed HCP. Alternatives In addition to the proposed action alternative in the applicant’s HCP, as VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:52 Aug 26, 2021 Jkt 253001 required by the ESA, the HCP considers several alternatives to such action’s potential taking: (1) The No-Take Alternative; (2) the Reduced Take Alternative, and (3) an Other Alternative. No-Action Alternative Under the no-action alternative, the Service would not issue an ITP to the applicants, and the reclamation would not be completed. The no-action alternative is not feasible, based on the purpose and need of the project. The existing wind energy project has been partially decommissioned, but the applicants are responsible for comprehensive decommissioning and reclamation activities. Ground disturbance during the final phases of decommissioning/reclamation activities is unavoidable, along with plausible incidental take of covered species. For these reasons, the no-action alternative has been rejected. Reduced Take Alternative Under the reduced take alternative, the applicants considered only removing turbine foundations that were located further away from aquatic habitat for the covered species. The Service would issue a permit, and the applicants would implement the proposed mitigation measures. While this reduced take alternative would reduce the amount of California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog habitat affected, it was determined to be infeasible because the applicants have previous agreements with the landowner to remove all project components during decommissioning. The applicants would not be able to meet their obligations with landowners under this alternative, so the reduced take alternative was rejected. Other Alternative The applicants also considered restoring fewer miles of roads as an alternative. The Service would issue a permit, and the applicants would implement the proposed mitigation measures. While this other alternative would reduce by a very small amount the amount of California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog habitat initially affected, the longterm value of rehabilitating areas for future habitat would be lost. Additionally, it was determined to be generally infeasible because the applicants have previous agreements with the landowner to remove all project components during decommissioning. So for these reasons, the reduced take alternative was rejected. PO 00000 Frm 00129 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Public Comments We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this notice, the draft CatEx, and the draft HCP. We particularly seek comments on the following: (1) Biological information concerning the species; (2) Relevant data concerning the species; (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and population trends of the species; (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their possible impacts on the species; and (5) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and (6) Any other environmental issues that should be considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action. Public Availability of Comments Before including your address, phone number, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—might 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. Next Steps Issuance of an ITP is a Federal proposed action subject to compliance with NEPA and section 7 of the ESA. We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and any public comments we receive to determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA. If we determine that those requirements are met, we will conduct an intra-Service consultation under section 7 of the ESA for the Federal action for the potential issuance of an ITP. If the intra-Service consultation confirms that issuance of the ITP will not jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species, or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of the California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog from the E:\FR\FM\27AUN1.SGM 27AUN1 Federal Register / Vol. 86, No. 164 / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Notices implementation of the covered activities described in the draft HCP. We will make the final permit decision no sooner than 30 days after publication of this notice in the Federal Register. Authority We publish this notice in compliance with section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531–1544 et seq.) and its implementing regulations at 40 CFR 17.22 and 17.32; and in furtherance of objectives under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321–4347 et seq.), and its implementing regulations at 40 CFR 1500–1508. Kim S. Turner, Acting Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, California. [FR Doc. 2021–18449 Filed 8–26–21; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R2–ES–2020–N156; FXES11140200000–212–FF02ENEH00] Application for an Incidental Take Permit; Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Assessment for Wildhorse Mountain Wind Project, Pushmataha County, Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a draft environmental assessment (dEA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and application for an incidental take permit (ITP) supported by a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the operation of an existing wind facility, the Wildhorse Mountain Wind project (project), in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. Wildhorse Wind Energy, LLC (Applicant) has applied for an ITP under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The requested ITP, which would be in effect for a period of 30 years, if granted, would cover incidental take of the federally endangered Indiana bat and threatened northern long-eared bat. The potential incidental take would be associated with activities associated with the operation of the existing wind project. We invite public comments on the permit application, proposed HCP, and dEA. DATES: Submission of Comments: We will accept comments received or lotter on DSK11XQN23PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:52 Aug 26, 2021 Jkt 253001 postmarked on or before September 27, 2021. ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: The documents this notice announces are available for public inspection by any of the following means. Internet: You may obtain electronic copies of the dEA and HCP on the Oklahoma Field Office website at https:// www.fws.gov/southwest/es/oklahoma/. U.S. Mail: You may obtain the documents at the following addresses. In your request for documents, please note that your request is in reference to the Wildhorse Mountain Wind Project HCP and dEA. • EA and HCP: A limited number of CD–ROM and printed copies of the EA and HCP are available, by request, from Ken Collins, Acting Field Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, Tulsa OK, telephone 918–581– 7458. • The ITP application is available by mail from the Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Submitting Comments You may submit written comments by one of the following methods: • Email: okes_nepa@fws.gov; or • Facsimile: 918–581–7467, Attn: OKES Wildhorse Mountain Wind Project HCP EA. • U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, 9014 East 21st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74129–1428. Please specify that your information request or comments concern the Wildhorse Mountain Wind Project EA/ HCP. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Collins, by U.S. mail at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office (at the Tulsa street address above), or by phone at 918–581–7458. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service at 800–877– 8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Applicant has applied to the Service for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The requested ITP, which would be in effect for a period of 30 years, if granted, would authorize incidental take of the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) during the operation of an existing wind facility in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. PO 00000 Frm 00130 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48243 In total, the plan area is 13,731.6 acres, including the 13,641.6-acre wind facility and an off-site mitigation area (90 acres of contiguous forested habitat in Pushmataha County). The facility, constructed in 2019, consists of 29 wind turbines, with a total generating capacity of 100 megawatts. Activities potentially causing take include the operation of the existing 29 wind turbines. The Applicant has proposed a HCP that would be implemented to address project impacts to the Indiana bat and northern longeared bat. We are notifying the public of the Applicant’s proposal of an HCP and request to the Service for an ITP to cover incidental take of the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat associated with the operation of the Wildhorse Mountain Wind facility. In addition, we are notifying the public of the Service’s preparation of a dEA regarding impacts of the requested action or feasible alternatives, of an opportunity for public comment on our action, and of our intention to finalize the environmental assessment after consideration of public comment. Background Section 9 of the ESA prohibits ‘‘take’’ of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened (16 U.S.C. 1531–1544). Under section 3 of the ESA, the term ‘‘take’’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532(19)). The term ‘‘harm’’ is further defined by regulation as an act which actually kills or injures wildlife. Such acts may include significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). Under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, the Secretary of the Interior may authorize the taking of federally listed species if such taking occurs incidental to otherwise legal activities and where a conservation plan has been developed under ESA section 10(a)(2)(A) that describes (1) the impact that will likely result from such taking; (2) the steps an Applicant will take to minimize and mitigate that take to the maximum extent practicable, and the funding that will be available to implement such steps; (3) the alternative actions to such taking that an Applicant considered and the reasons why such alternatives are not being utilized; and (4) other measures that the Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the plan. Issuance criteria E:\FR\FM\27AUN1.SGM 27AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 164 (Friday, August 27, 2021)]
[Notices]
[Pages 48241-48243]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-18449]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2021-0094; FF08ESMF00-FXES11140800000-212]


DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project, Alameda County, California; 
Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of permit application; request for 
comment.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the receipt 
of an application from DifWind Farms Limited VII and DifWind Farms 
Limited IX (collectively, the applicants) for a 6-year incidental take 
permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), along with the 
applicants' draft habitat conservation plan. We also announce the 
availability of the associated draft National Environmental Policy Act 
categorical exclusion screening form. The applicants have applied for 
an incidental take permit under the ESA for the DifWind VII & IX 
Reclamation Project in Alameda County, California. The permit would 
authorize the take of two species incidental to the reclamation of a 
decommissioned commercial wind energy project. We invite the public and 
local, State, Tribal, and Federal agencies to comment on the 
application and related documents. Before issuing the requested permit, 
we will take into consideration any information that we receive during 
the public comment period.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before September 27, 
2021.

ADDRESSES: 
    Obtaining Documents: The draft categorical exclusion screening form 
(CatEx), draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), and any comments and 
other materials that we receive are available for public inspection at 
https://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2021-0094.
    Submitting Comments: To submit comments, please use one of the 
following methods, and note that your information requests or comments 
are in reference to the draft CatEx, draft HCP, or both.
     Internet: Submit comments at https://www.regulations.gov 
under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2021-0094.
     U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2021-0094; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: 
PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    For more information, see Public Comments and Public Availability 
of Comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Vincent Griego, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, or Ryan Olah, Chief, Coast Bay Division, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, by phone at 916-414-6600 
or via the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the receipt of an application from DifWind Farms 
Limited VII, and DifWind Farms Limited IX (collectively, the 
applicants), for a 6-year incidental take permit (ITP) under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), along with the applicants' draft habitat conservation plan. We 
also announce the availability of the associated draft National 
Environmental Policy Act categorical exclusion screening form (NEPA; 42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The applicants have applied for an incidental 
take permit under the ESA for the DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project 
in Alameda County, California. The permit would authorize the take of 
two species incidental to the reclamation of a decommissioned 
commercial wind energy project. We invite the public and local, State, 
Tribal, and Federal agencies to comment on the application and related 
documents. Before issuing the requested permit, we will take into 
consideration any information that we receive during the public comment 
period.
    An ITP application requires the preparation of an HCP with measures 
to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of incidental take to the 
maximum extent practicable. The applicants prepared and submitted for 
Service review their Draft DifWind VII & IX Reclamation Project Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The 
Service then prepared a draft categorical exclusion screening form 
consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing 
regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1501.4, 
and now is making it available in accordance with provisions within 40 
CFR 1506.6. The purpose of the screening form is to confirm that the 
agency action is within a category of actions previously determined, 
pursuant to agency NEPA procedures, not to normally have significant 
effects on the natural and human environment, and thus does not require 
further NEPA evaluation, and that there are no extraordinary 
circumstances that indicate that an otherwise-excluded action may 
warrant further NEPA evaluation.

Background

    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) and Federal 
regulations (50 CFR 17) prohibit the taking of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the ESA. 
Regulations governing allowable exceptions to prohibited take of 
endangered and threatened species via permits are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32. For more about the Federal habitat conservation plan program, go 
to https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/hcp.pdf.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The proposed permit issuance triggers the need for compliance with 
NEPA. The draft CatEx was prepared to analyze the impacts of issuing an 
ITP based on the draft HCP and to inform the public of the proposed 
action, any alternatives, and associated impacts, and to disclose any 
irreversible commitments of resources. The draft CatEx further confirms 
if an action is within a category of categorically excluded activities 
indicating further NEPA evaluation is not necessary.

[[Page 48242]]

Proposed Action Alternative

    Under the proposed action alternative, the Service would issue an 
ITP to the applicants for a period of 6 years for certain covered 
activities (described below). The applicants have requested an ITP for 
two covered species (described below), which are listed as threatened 
under the ESA.
Covered Activities
    The proposed ESA section 10 ITP would allow take of two covered 
species from covered activities in the proposed HCP area. The 
applicants are requesting incidental take authorization to complete the 
decommissioning and removal of a wind energy project originally 
installed in the 1980s and 1990s. The applicants have completed non-
ground-disturbing work, including the removal of wind turbine blades, 
nacelles, turbine towers, transformers, meteorological masts, and other 
minor aboveground facilities. Under the HCP, the applicants would 
complete the decommissioning and removal of approximately 14 
miscellaneous concrete pads, 17 junction boxes, 308 turbine 
foundations, 41 concrete pad-mount transformer pads, and would restore 
approximately 14.7 miles of access roads. The applicants seeks a 6-year 
permit to match the projected time necessary to complete the activities 
associated with this proposed decommissioning and reclamation project, 
including ground-disturbing activities, and remedial actions, if 
necessary, to ensure restoration of the project site.
    The applicants propose actions to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the 
effects to the Covered Species associated with the Covered Activities 
through the implementation of the HCP. The proposed mitigation measures 
in the HCP closely follow the avoidance and minimization measures 
outlined in the East Alameda Conservation Strategy (EACCS). The 
measures generally require preconstruction surveys; avoidance and 
monitoring during construction; and best management practices for 
restoration of Covered Species habitat.
Covered Species
    The California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (central 
California distinct population segment), and the California red-legged 
frog (Rana draytonii), both federally listed as threatened, are 
proposed to be included as covered species in the proposed HCP.

Alternatives

    In addition to the proposed action alternative in the applicant's 
HCP, as required by the ESA, the HCP considers several alternatives to 
such action's potential taking: (1) The No-Take Alternative; (2) the 
Reduced Take Alternative, and (3) an Other Alternative.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the no-action alternative, the Service would not issue an ITP 
to the applicants, and the reclamation would not be completed. The no-
action alternative is not feasible, based on the purpose and need of 
the project. The existing wind energy project has been partially 
decommissioned, but the applicants are responsible for comprehensive 
decommissioning and reclamation activities. Ground disturbance during 
the final phases of decommissioning/reclamation activities is 
unavoidable, along with plausible incidental take of covered species. 
For these reasons, the no-action alternative has been rejected.

Reduced Take Alternative

    Under the reduced take alternative, the applicants considered only 
removing turbine foundations that were located further away from 
aquatic habitat for the covered species. The Service would issue a 
permit, and the applicants would implement the proposed mitigation 
measures. While this reduced take alternative would reduce the amount 
of California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog habitat 
affected, it was determined to be infeasible because the applicants 
have previous agreements with the landowner to remove all project 
components during decommissioning. The applicants would not be able to 
meet their obligations with landowners under this alternative, so the 
reduced take alternative was rejected.

Other Alternative

    The applicants also considered restoring fewer miles of roads as an 
alternative. The Service would issue a permit, and the applicants would 
implement the proposed mitigation measures. While this other 
alternative would reduce by a very small amount the amount of 
California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog habitat 
initially affected, the long-term value of rehabilitating areas for 
future habitat would be lost. Additionally, it was determined to be 
generally infeasible because the applicants have previous agreements 
with the landowner to remove all project components during 
decommissioning. So for these reasons, the reduced take alternative was 
rejected.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this 
notice, the draft CatEx, and the draft HCP. We particularly seek 
comments on the following:
    (1) Biological information concerning the species;
    (2) Relevant data concerning the species;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species; and
    (5) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    (6) Any other environmental issues that should be considered with 
regard to the proposed development and permit action.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--might 
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.

Next Steps

    Issuance of an ITP is a Federal proposed action subject to 
compliance with NEPA and section 7 of the ESA. We will evaluate the 
application, associated documents, and any public comments we receive 
to determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 
10(a) of the ESA. If we determine that those requirements are met, we 
will conduct an intra-Service consultation under section 7 of the ESA 
for the Federal action for the potential issuance of an ITP. If the 
intra-Service consultation confirms that issuance of the ITP will not 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we will issue 
a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of the California 
tiger salamander and California red-legged frog from the

[[Page 48243]]

implementation of the covered activities described in the draft HCP. We 
will make the final permit decision no sooner than 30 days after 
publication of this notice in the Federal Register.

Authority

    We publish this notice in compliance with section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations at 40 CFR 17.22 and 17.32; and in furtherance 
of objectives under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 et seq.), and its implementing regulations 
at 40 CFR 1500-1508.

Kim S. Turner,
Acting Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2021-18449 Filed 8-26-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P