[Federal Register: February 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 34)]
[Page 8602-8603]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Michigan 
Electric Transmission Company, LLC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Michigan Electric Transmission Company, LLC (Applicant) has 
applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for a 5-year 
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) associated with 
reconductoring a 4.07-mile segment of electric power transmission line 
within this right-of-way segment running from east-central Muskegon 
County into the southwest corner of Newaygo County, Michigan. A 
conservation program to mitigate for the project activities would be 
implemented as described in the proposed Cobb to Brickyard 
Reconductoring Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (proposed Plan), 
which would be implemented by the Applicant. 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 March 24, 2005.

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


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application 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 (see DATES) or at 
the Service's Regional Web site at: http://midwest.fws.gov/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 life of the permit. The project encompasses 
reconductoring a 4.07-mile

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segment of electric power transmission line within the right-of-way 
segment. All construction activities will take place within the 
existing 66-foot-wide utility right-of-way. The reconductoring requires 
the applicant to replace existing metal towers with new wooden utility 
poles and hang new power lines on insulators. There are 40 towers 
spaced between 300 and 400 feet apart that will be replaced with wooden 
poles. Construction activities are scheduled to occur during winter 
2005 and to be completed by early spring. Incidental take will occur 
within the right-of-way as a result of temporary disturbance to Karner 
blue butterfly habitat by truck and heavy equipment traffic, cutting 
and removal of existing towers, boring holes for transmission line 
support poles, and installation of new poles. The project site does not 
contain any other rare, threatened, or endangered species or habitat. 
Critical habitat does not occur for any listed species on the project 
    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 impacts of taking by creating an 
additional 1.4 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 Alternate Route Alternative, incidental take of the 
Karner blue butterfly would be authorized, and the applicant would 
reduce the area of impact but eliminate maintenance. By eliminating 
maintenance of the corridor, the quality and extent of the existing 
Karner blue butterfly habitat would diminish through normal ecological 
    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) 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 a permit to Michigan Electric Transmission Company, LLC 
for the incidental take of the Karner blue butterfly from 
reconductoring of the Applicant's right-of-way in Muskegon and Newaygo 
Counties, Michigan.

    Dated: January 14, 2005.
T.J. Miller,
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3.
[FR Doc. 05-3270 Filed 2-18-05; 8:45 am]