[Federal Register: August 9, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 152)]
[Page 46186-46187]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Scoping Meeting and Notice of Intent to Prepare a 
Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Barton Springs Ecosystem in the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards 

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

ACTION: Notice of intent to conduct scoping meetings and prepare a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Environmental Impact Statement 


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), this 
notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) intends to prepare a draft EIS for an anticipated incidental 
take permit application, including an HCP, by the Barton Springs 
Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (District) of Austin, Texas. The 
proposed application is for an Incidental Take Permit for the 
District's management of underground water through permits authorizing 
withdrawals from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. 
Such withdrawals directly affect the flow of Barton Springs, which are 
four hydraulically connected spring outlets constituting the major 
discharge points for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. 
The District is evaluating the need for a permit for the endangered 
Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum) and the Austin blind 
salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis), a candidate for listing. 
Additionally, the District may prepare an HCP that includes measures to 
minimize and mitigate any taking of species incidental to the permitted 
withdrawal of groundwater from the Barton Springs segment of the 
Edwards Aquifer.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments from all interested 
parties concerning the scope of the analysis must be received on or 
before September 12, 2005. A public scoping meeting for receipt of 
comments will be held at 5 p.m. on August 23, 2005, at the Lady Bird 
Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. The draft EIS is expected 
April 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for information should be sent to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ATTN: Carrie Thompson, 10711 Burnet 
Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758; telephone (512) 490-0057 x230; 
facsimile (512) 490-0974. Comments and materials received will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Austin Ecological Services Office, 
10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas. Questions regarding the 
HCP should be directed to Timothy Riley, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer 
Conservation District, 1124 Regal Row, Austin, Texas 78748, telephone 
(512) 282-8441.
    Applicant: The District, a political subdivision of the State of 
Texas, is charged with the duty to manage, conserve, preserve, and 
protect the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. The District 
issues permits for the drilling of wells and the production of 
groundwater for purposes that are not exempt from regulation under the 
Texas law requiring the District-issued permits.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice is provided as required by the 
NEPA, its implementing regulations (40

[[Page 46187]]

CFR 1500-1508) and related applicable Federal laws, Executive Orders, 
and regulations.
    Background: The Barton Springs Ecosystem is dependent upon adequate 
spring flow from the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer to 
support endangered species. Cessation of spring flow in the Barton 
Springs Ecosystem may result in ``take'' of listed species and an 
appreciable reduction in the likelihood of survival and recovery of 
listed species. Due to the growing water use anticipated in the Barton 
Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, a comprehensive management plan 
may be necessary to assure the sustained spring flow in the Barton 
Springs Ecosystem.
    The Service proposes to prepare a draft EIS to evaluate the impacts 
of alternatives associated with issuing an incidental take permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). Section 9 of the Act prohibits the taking of Federally listed 
species, unless authorized under the provisions of Section 7 or 10 of 
the Act. The term ``take'' under the Act includes actions that may 
directly kill or injure listed species, actions that significantly 
disrupt normal behavioral patterns such as feeding and breeding, and 
actions that detrimentally modify habitat to the extent that harms 
individuals of the species.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) allows the Service to permit taking of listed 
species, provided that taking is incidental to an otherwise legal 
activity, and that it will not jeopardize a listed species. The 
applicant must submit an HCP as part of the incidental take permit 
    Proposed Action: The District will consider adoption of an HCP 
consistent with the Service's Barton Springs Salamander (Draft) 
Recovery Plan (January 2005) and with Sections 9 and 10 of the Act. The 
District's proposed HCP will consider a comprehensive approach to 
protect Federally listed species and their habitats that may be 
affected by groundwater withdrawals from the aquifer. Activities 
proposed for consideration under the Permit may include management and 
permitting of certain water withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer within 
the jurisdiction of the District, and habitat conservation measures to 
mitigate impacts of changes in flows of Barton Springs.
    Comments Requested: The Service is soliciting information and 
comments on the scope of issues to be addressed in the draft EIS. The 
NEPA process is intended to aid public officials to make decisions 
based on the understanding of environmental consequences and take 
actions that protect, restore, and enhance the human environment. NEPA 
scoping procedures are intended to ensure that information on the 
proposed action, alternatives, and impacts are solicited from the 
public and that all information is available to public officials and 
citizens before planning decisions are made. Accurate scientific 
analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny are essential to 
implementing NEPA. NEPA documents concentrate on the issues that are 
significant to the action in question. The Service invites the public 
to submit information and comments either in writing or at the 
scheduled meeting. The Austin meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on August 
23, 2005, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse 
Avenue in Travis County, Texas. The Service requests that comments be 
as specific as possible.
    Major environmental and species concerns in this scoping process 
include the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that 
implementation of the proposal could have on endangered and candidate 
listed species, other environmental resources, and the quality of the 
human environment. Other relevant issues include effects of aquifer and 
water withdrawal levels on Barton Springs flows, effect of various 
aquifer water use management options, and alternative water supply 
options on the environments affected by those options.
    The Service is gathering information necessary for the preparation 
of an EIS. Information regarding the following topics would assist the 
Service in assessing the impacts of the proposed issuance of an 
incidental take permit under the provisions of an HCP: The hydrogeology 
of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer and the effects of 
aquifer levels on spring flows at Barton Springs as they relate to the 
habitat needs of Federally listed species; potential water conservation 
measures and strategies to reduce the withdrawal demands on the Edwards 
Aquifer and their negative effects on spring flows; alternate water 
supplies and their potential effect on reducing Edwards Aquifer water 
withdrawals and maintaining spring flows; effects of aquifer level 
management and spring flow changes on the quality of the issues; the 
impact of no action; or suggestions that would be relevant toward the 
Service's review and development of alternatives.
    In addition to considering impacts on listed species and their 
habitat, the EIS must include information on impacts from the proposal 
and alternatives to the proposal on other components of the human 
environment. These other components include such things as air and 
water quality, cultural resources, other fish and wildlife species, 
social resources, and economic resources.

Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 05-15804 Filed 8-8-05; 8:45 am]