Habitat Conservation Plans In Development
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm Draft Habitat Conservation Plan and EIS
Questions and Answers
1. What action is the Service taking?
The Service is making available a draft habitat conservation plan and draft environmental impact statement that outline measures to be taken at the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Indiana. The Service is inviting public comment on the draft plan, EIS and associated documents.
2. What is a habitat conservation plan?
The HCP is required in order for the owners of the facility to apply for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. The permit would allow take (take is harming, harassing or killing) of endangered Indiana bats that is incidental to otherwise legal activities. A habitat conservation plan outlines measures that the applicant will take to avoid or minimize take where possible, and steps that will be taken to mitigate impacts to the covered species when take occurs. Mitigation measures often include habitat conservation or restoration or other actions to ensure that species will be conserved and that contribute to their recovery.
3. What is an incidental take permit, and why does the Endangered Species Act provide for incidental take?
The permit allows the permit-holder to legally proceed with an activity that would otherwise result in the unlawful take of a listed species. The purpose of the incidental take permit is to exempt non-Federal permit-holders—such as States and private landowners— from the prohibitions of take, not to authorize the activities that result in take.
4. How do the measures in the Fowler Ridge draft HCP conserve bats?
Alternatives involve feathering the turbine blades below a specified cut-in speed (the wind speed at which the turbines begin to generate electricity), either 3.5 meters per second, 5 meters per second (the alternative proposed by the applicant and described in the HCP) or 6.5 meters per second. Feathering causes the turbine blades to be motionless, or nearly so, below these wind speeds thus reducing impacts to bats flying through the facility. The measures would be implemented on a nightly basis from sunset to sunrise, adjusted for sunset/sunrise time weekly, from August 1 to October 15 annually.
In addition to efforts to avoid and minimize take, these alternatives describe proposed mitigation for any incidental take of Indiana bats. Mitigation would include coordinating, funding, and monitoring the protection and restoration of both summer habitat and winter habitat. Specifically, Fowler Ridge would preserve and restore summer maternity habitat in the vicinity of existing maternity colonies in Putnam County, Tippecanoe County, Vermillion County, or Warren County, Indiana. The applicant would also protect winter habitat by installing a new bat gate near the entrance of a Priority 1 hibernaculum in Indiana.
5. Why did the Service do an Environmental Impact Statement?
The Service is required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes evaluating the environmental effects of issuing an incidental take permit. The Service determined that an EIS was required to comply with NEPA for the Fowler Ridge project.
6. Where can I find more information about the draft HCP and draft EIS?
More information, including copies of the draft HCP and draft EIS, is available at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/r3hcps.html
A public meeting will be held Thursday, April 18, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Benton County Government Annex, 410 South Adeway, Suite A, in Fowler Indiana.
7. How can I comment?
In your comment, please specify whether your comment addresses the HCP, the draft EIS, both the HCP and draft EIS, or other supporting documents. You may submit written comments by one of the following methods:
- Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R3-ES-2013-0032, which is the docket number for this notice. Then, on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notices link to locate this document and submit a comment.
- By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2013-0032; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
Comments must be received by June 4, 2013.
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