[Federal Register: July 2, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 127)]
[Page 40410]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment/Habitat 
Conservation Plan and Receipt of Application for Incidental Take of the 
Houston Toad by Aqua Water Supply Corporation, Lower Colorado River 
Authority, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc., and Austin Energy

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Aqua Water Supply Corporation, Lower Colorado River 
Authority, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc., and Austin Energy 
(Applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) for an incidental take permit (TE-078366-0) pursuant to 
Section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
The requested permit, which is for a period of 30 years, would 
authorize incidental take of the endangered Houston toad (Bufo 
houstonensis) during the routine maintenance and repair of existing 
facilities and installation of new facilities within the 142,526-acre 
covered area of Bastrop and Lee counties, Texas.
    The Service and applicant have prepared the Environmental 
Assessment/Habitat Conservation Plan (EA/HCP) for the incidental take 
application. A determination of jeopardy to the species and a decision 
under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will not be made 
until at least 60 days from the date of publication of this notice. 
This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and NEP 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: Written comments on the application should be received on or 
before August 31, 2004.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application may obtain a copy 
by writing to the Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
P.O. Box 1306, Room 4102, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103. Persons 
wishing to review the EA/HCP may obtain a copy by written or telephone 
request to Scott Rowin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological 
Services Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758 
(512/490-0057). Documents will be available for public inspection by 
written request or by appointment only during normal business hours 
(8:00 am to 4:30 pm) at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office, 
Austin, Texas. Data or comments concerning the application and EA/HCP 
should be submitted in writing to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758. 
Please refer to permit number TE-078366-0 when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Rowin at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Act prohibits the 
``taking'' of endangered species such as the Houston toad. However, the 
Service, under limited circumstances, may issue permits to take 
endangered wildlife species incidental to, and not the purpose of, 
otherwise lawful activities. Regulations governing permits for 
endangered species are at 50 CFR 17.22.
    Applicants: Aqua Water Supply Corporation, Lower Colorado River 
Authority, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc., and Austin Energy 
have developed an HCP that specifies what steps the applicants will 
take to minimize and mitigate impacts to the Houston toad during 
routine activities including, but not limited to, maintenance, repair, 
upgrades, and new installation of linear and fixed foundation 
facilities. The Applicants cooperatively developed this alternative in 
order to provide tangible conservation measures for the Houston toad 
and wildlife in general, provide a reliable source of funding available 
for additional conservation initiatives, provide realistic and 
immediate solutions to business needs, and continue to provide timely 
and affordable services to local residents.
    Issuance of the permit would authorize activities described above 
on approximately 6,792 acres of the 142,526-acre covered area. 
Facilities already in existence cover approximately 4,241.2 of the 
6,792 acres. Coverage of the remaining 2,550.4 acres will result from 
the installation of new facilities. Many existing facilities (on 
approximately 2,240.8 acres) occur within right-of-ways (ROW) 
(primarily road ROWs) managed and maintained by other entities. The 
Applicants estimate that 2,023.5 acres of the anticipated future 
facilities would be placed within similar ROWs. The remaining 526.9 
acres of new facilities would likely be constructed outside of existing 
roadway ROWs and throughout the covered area. Installation of new 
facilities would be accomplished gradually over the life of the permit.
    Both the Service and Applicants agree that not all portions of the 
covered area contain suitable Houston toad habitat, and not all covered 
activities would result in take of the Houston toad. However, in an 
effort to efficiently and effectively allow normal business practices 
to continue, and to compensate for any impacts to the Houston toad, the 
Applicants propose to mitigate for all activities performed within the 
covered area as described in Sections,, and 6.2.2 of 
the EA/HCP, which would provide mitigation fees throughout the life of 
the permit and thus provide a substantial and dependable source of 
funds for toad conservation; an expected $1,866,354 over the life of 
the permit. The Applicants proposed this mitigation strategy so that 
the cost of mitigation could be spread over the life of the permit. 
Additionally, under this strategy the costs associated with mitigation 
could be incorporated into long-term budgeting and planning. Mitigation 
would occur regardless of whether the activities described above would 
result in take of the Houston toad.

Susan MacMullin,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 04-15069 Filed 7-1-04; 8:45 am]