[Federal Register: July 19, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 137)]
[Page 41424-41425]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Northern 
Indiana Public Service Company and the Indiana-American Water Company, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Northern Indiana Public Service Company and the Indiana-
American Water Company, Inc. (Applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) for a joint incidental take permit for 
one covered species pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application addresses the 
potential for ``take'' of the endangered Karner blue butterfly 
(Lycaeides melissa samuelis) from management activities associated with 
electric power transmission line, natural gas pipeline, and potable 
water pipeline right-of-ways in northern Lake and Porter Counties, 
Indiana. A conservation program to mitigate for the project activities 
would be implemented as described in the proposed Low Effect Habitat 
Conservation Plan (proposed Plan), which would be implemented by the 
Applicants. We are requesting comments on the permit application and on 
the preliminary determination that the proposed Plan qualifies as a 
``Low-Effect'' Habitat Conservation Plan, eligible for a categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 
as amended.

DATES: Written data or comments should be submitted to the Regional 
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 
Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056, and must be 
received on or before August 18, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Peter Fasbender, (612) 713-5343.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals requesting copies of the applications and proposed Plan 
should contact the Service by telephone at (612) 713-5343 or by letter 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office (see DATES). Copies of the 
proposed Plan also are available for public inspection during regular 
business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office located at 1000 
West Oakhill Road, Porter, Indiana or at the Service's Regional Web 
site at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/NEPA.


    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing Federal regulations 
prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 
The definition of take under the Act includes the following activities: 
to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 
U.S.C. 1538). However, under section 10(a) of the Act, the Service may 
issue permits to authorize incidental take of listed species. 
``Incidental take'' is defined by the Act as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for endangered species 
are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22.
    The Applicant is seeking a permit for take of the Karner blue 
butterfly during the 25 years of the permit. The project involves the 
operation and maintenance of 4 utility corridors encompassing 
approximately 86 acres, of which 4.2 acres is currently considered 
habitat for the Karner blue butterfly. Normal maintenance activities 
that would occur include temporary disturbances resulting from 
transmission line maintenance, replacing conductors, gas line 
construction or replacement, water main maintenance and construction, 
and vegetation management to control tree growth. All activities will 
take place within the existing utility right-of-ways and easement. 
Incidental take will occur within the right-of-ways as a result of 
temporary disturbance to Karner blue butterfly habitat by truck and 
heavy equipment traffic, soil disturbances from excavation activities, 
mowing and hand cutting of brush and woody stems, and application of 
herbicides. The project site is not known to contain any other rare, 
threatened, or endangered species or habitat. Critical habitat does not 
occur for any listed species on the project site.
    The Applicant proposes to mitigate the effects to the Karner blue 
butterfly associated with the covered activities by fully implementing 
the Plan. The purpose of the proposed Plan's conservation program is to 
promote the biological conservation of the Karner blue butterfly. The 
Applicant proposes to mitigate the take by creating an additional 9 
acres of habitat by planting wild lupine and other nectar plants.
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the proposed Plan, which includes measures 
to mitigate impacts of the project on the Karner blue butterfly. Two 
alternatives to the taking of the listed species under the Proposed 
Action are considered in the proposed Plan. Under the No Action 
Alternative, no permit would be issued, and no construction would 
occur. Under the No Change from the historic maintenance plan, no 
incidental take of the Karner blue butterfly would be authorized, but a 
reduction in the habitat quality would result since there would be no 
provision for habitat improvements. By eliminating habitat enhancements 
of the corridors, the quality and extent of the existing Karner blue 
butterfly habitat would diminish through normal ecological succession.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of 
the proposed Plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as 
provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 6, Appendix 
1, Section 1.4C(2)) and as a ``low-effect'' plan as defined by the 
Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination 
of Low-effect Habitat Conservation Plans is based on the following 
three criteria: (1) Implementation of the proposed Plan would result in 
minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and 
candidate species and their habitats; (2)

[[Page 41425]]

implementation of the proposed Plan would result in minor or negligible 
effects on other environmental values or resources; and (3) impacts of 
the proposed Plan, considered together with the impacts of other past, 
present, and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated projects, would 
not result in cumulative effects to environmental values or resources 
which would be considered significant.
    Based upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to 
prepare further NEPA documentation. We will consider public comments in 
making the final determination on whether to prepare such additional 
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act. We 
will evaluate the permit application, the proposed Plan, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
we will issue permits to the Applicants for the incidental take of the 
Karner blue butterfly from right-of-way management in Lake and Porter 
Counties, Indiana.

    Dated: June 10, 2005.
Robert Krska,
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota.
[FR Doc. 05-14160 Filed 7-18-05; 8:45 am]