[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 165 (Friday, August 24, 2012)]
[Pages 51554-51555]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-20223]

[[Page 51554]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2012-0059; 50120-1112-0000-F2]

Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation 
Plan; Receipt of Application for Incidental Take Permit; Beech Ridge 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability, receipt of application.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the availability of an application for an 
Incidental Take Permit (ITP) and the associated Habitat Conservation 
Plan (HCP) from Beech Ridge Energy, LLC, as well as the Service's draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), for public review and comment.
    We provide this notice to (1) seek public comments on the proposed 
HCP; (2) seek public comments on the draft EIS; and (3) advise other 
Federal and State agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our 
intent to prepare a final EIS.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
October 23, 2012. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES) must be received by 11:59 p.m. 
Eastern Time on the closing date.
    We will consider all requests for public meetings. To accommodate 
scheduling of meetings and allow sufficient time to publicize them, you 
must contact Laura Hill no later than September 14, 2012 (see FOR 

    Document availability: You may obtain copies of the documents on 
the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R5-ES-
2012-0059, or by any of the methods described in Availability of 
    Comment submission: 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-R5-ES-2012-
0059, which is the docket number for this notice. Click on the 
appropriate 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-R5-ES-2012-0059; Division of 
Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 
N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments by only the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more information).

Supervisor, West Virginia Field Office, 694 Beverly Pike, Elkins, WV 
26241; telephone 304-636-6586, ext. 18.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received an application from Beech Ridge 
Energy for an ITP for the operation, and maintenance of 67 existing 
turbines in the project area; the construction, operation and 
maintenance of up to 33 additional turbines and associated 
infrastructure in the project area; the implementation of the HCP 
during the life of the permit; and the decomissioning of the entire 
100-turbine project and associated infrastructure at the end of its 
operational life. If approved, the permit would be for a 25-year period 
and would authorize incidental take of the endangered Indiana bat 
(Myotis sodalis) and Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii 
virginianus) (covered species). A conservation program to minimize and 
mitigate for the impacts of the incidental take would be implemented by 
Beech Ridge Energy as described in the proposed Beech Ridge Wind Energy 
Project HCP. To comply with the NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), we 
prepared a draft EIS that describes the proposed action and possible 
alternatives and analyzes the effects of alternatives on the human 

Availability of Documents

    The proposed HCP and draft EIS are available on the West Virginia 
Field Office's Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/westvirginiafieldoffice/beech_ridge_wind_power.html or at http://www.regulations.gov under 
Docket Number FWS-R5-ES-2012-0059. Copies of the proposed HCP and draft 
EIS will also be available for public review during regular business 
hours at the West Virginia Field Office, 694 Beverly Pike, Elkins, WV 
    Paper copies of the proposed HCP and draft EIS may also be viewed 
at the following public libraries: (1) Greenbrier County Public 
Library, 152 Robert W. McCormick Drive, Lewisburg, WV; (2) Kanawha 
County Public Library, 123 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV; and (3) 
Rupert Public Library, 602 Nicholas Street, Rupert, WV. Those who do 
not have access to the Internet or cannot visit our office or local 
libraries can request CD-ROM copies of the documents by telephone at 
304-636-6586 or by letter to the West Virginia Field Office (see the 


    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of animal species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take is defined under the ESA as to ``harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect 
listed animal species, or to attempt to engage in such conduct'' (16 
U.S.C. 1538). However, under section 10(a) of the ESA, we may issue 
permits to authorize incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental 
take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered 
species, respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (50 
CFR 17.22; 50 CFR 17.32).
    Beech Ridge Energy has been working with staff from the West 
Virginia Field Office since a January 2010 consent decree was signed, 
following a court order ruling that construction and operation of the 
project would violate section 9 of the ESA ``unless and until [Beech 
Ridge Energy] obtains an ITP'' for the Indiana bat. Beech Ridge Energy 
is now seeking a permit for the incidental take of the Covered Species 
for a term of 25 years. Incidental take of these bat species may occur 
due to injury and mortality from collision with turbine blades and 
towers and from barotrauma (sudden changes in air pressure near the 
tips of spinning blades that cause decompression of the bats' lungs). 
Adverse effects to suitable Indiana bat habitat may occur from forest 
clearing and fragmentation.
    The proposed HCP was developed to address operation of 67 existing 
turbines, construction and operation of an additional 33 turbines, and 
decommissioning of all 100 turbines by the end of the permit term 
(covered activities). The 6,860-acre (2,744- hectare) project planning 
area in Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, West Virginia, is located on 
private land managed primarily for timber production.
    The HCP's proposed conservation strategy is designed to avoid, 

[[Page 51555]]

and mitigate the impacts of covered activities on the covered species. 
The biological goals and objectives are to (1) significantly minimize 
mortality of all bat species consistent with the best available 
scientific information; (2) avoid and minimize take of covered species 
by implementing turbine operational protocols learned through a 
research and adaptive management strategy; and (3) mitigate unavoidable 
impacts to covered species by implementing habitat protection or 
restoration measures in key habitats for both species.
    The HCP that Beech Ridge Energy included with its application for 
an ITP includes a series of conservation measures to avoid, minimize, 
mitigate, and monitor the effects of project construction and operation 
on the covered species. These measures include: (1) Constructing fewer 
turbines; (2) relocating turbines greater distances from bat 
hibernacula; (3) reducing risk to bats when they are active at low wind 
speeds by raising turbine cut-in speeds (the wind speed at which 
turbines begin generating electricity) during bat fall migration; (4) 
further reducing risk to bats by fully feathering turbine blades so 
that they barely move at wind speeds below the cut-in speed; (5) 
implementing turbine feathering and cut-in speed research to determine 
effectiveness of the changes in operational protocols; (6) monitoring 
bat mortality for the life of the project to ensure that biological 
goals are being met and that take limits are not exceeded; and (7) 
implementing off-site conservation projects designed to benefit the 
covered species by protecting and managing key habitats in perpetuity.
    The proposed action consists of the issuance of an ITP and 
implementation of the proposed HCP. Beech Ridge Energy considered four 
alternatives to the proposed action in its HCP: No action (no ITP); 
alternate project locations; alternate technologies (such as coal and 
natural gas) to generate electricity; and reduced conservation 
    Beech Ridge Energy has developed an implementation agreement (IA) 
that ensures proper implementation of each of the terms and conditions 
of the HCP and describes the applicable remedies and recourse should 
any party fail to perform its obligations, responsibilities, and tasks, 
as set forth in the agreement. The IA is being included as an appendix 
to the proposed HCP for public review.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We formally initiated an environmental review of the project 
through publication of a notice of intent to prepare an EIS in the 
Federal Register on July 22, 2010 (75 FR 42767). That notice also 
announced a public scoping period, during which we invited interested 
parties to provide written comments expressing their issues or concerns 
related to the proposal and to attend a public scoping meeting held in 
Rupert, West Virginia.
    Based on public scoping comments, we have prepared a draft EIS for 
the proposed action and have made it available for public inspection 
(see ADDRESSES). NEPA requires that a range of reasonable alternatives 
to the proposed action be described. The draft EIS analyzes four 
alternatives, which were derived in response to scoping comments on 
alternatives and from discussions with Beech Ridge Energy during the 
development of the HCP. The alternatives are as follows:
    Alternative 1: No action; do not issue a permit; status quo;
    Alternative 2: The proposed Federal action of issuance of the 
associated ITP and implementation of the proposed HCP for 100 turbines 
and two covered species;
    Alternative 3: Issuance of an ITP and implementation of an HCP for 
100 turbines and 5 covered species; and
    Alternative 4: Issuance of an ITP and implementation of an HCP for 
67 turbines and 2 covered species.
    We are seeking public input on the draft EIS to determine whether 
we reviewed an appropriate list of reasonable alternatives, whether 
there are additional alternatives that we should consider, there is 
additional information that could better inform the EIS, and whether we 
appropriately anticipated the environmental effects of the various 

Public Meetings

    We will consider all requests for public meetings. To accommodate 
scheduling of meetings and allow sufficient time to publicize them, all 
requests for meetings must be received within 21 days after publication 
CONTACT). Please indicate the reasons why a meeting is desired (desired 
outcomes), desired format of the meeting, who is requesting the meeting 
(an individual, group, or groups) and desired meeting location(s).

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the permit application, associated documents, and 
public comments in reaching a final decision on whether the application 
meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). The HCP and EIS may change in response to public comments. We 
will prepare responses to public comments and publish a notice of 
availability of the final HCP and final EIS. We also will evaluate 
whether issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit would comply with 
section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 7 
consultation. We will use the results of this consultation, in 
combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to determine 
whether to issue a permit. If the requirements are met, we will issue 
the permit to the applicant. We will issue a record of decision and 
issue or deny the permit no sooner than 30 days after publication of 
the notice of availability of the final EIS.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the proposed HCP and 
draft EIS during a 60-day public comment period (see DATES). You may 
submit comments by one of the methods shown under ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    We will post all public comments and information received 
electronically or via hardcopy on http://regulations.gov. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative record and will be available to the public. Before 
including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--will 
be publicly available. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this information from public review. However, 
we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 30, 2012.
Spencer Simon,
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-20223 Filed 8-23-12; 8:45 am]