[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Pages 76510-76512]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31365]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N289; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Sussex County, DE; Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; final comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental impact statement.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability for review of our final comprehensive conservation plan 
(CCP) and environmental impact statement (EIS) for Prime Hook National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The CCP/EIS describes how we propose to manage 
the refuge for the next 15 years.

DATES: We will sign a record of decision no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication of this notice.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP/EIS by any of 
the following methods. You may also request a hard copy or a CD-ROM.
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Prime%20Hook/ccphome.html
    Email: Send requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Prime 
Hook NWR'' in the subject line of your email.
    U.S. Mail: Thomas Bonetti, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Fax: Attention: Thomas Bonetti, 413-253-8468.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 302-684-8419 to make an 
appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during

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regular business hours at Prime Hook NWR, 11978 Turkle Pond Road, 
Milton, DE 19968.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Thomas Bonetti, Natural Resource 
Planner, 413-253-8307 (phone); northeastplanning@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Prime Hook NWR. 
We began this process through a notice of intent in the Federal 
Register (70 FR 60365) on
    October 17, 2005, announcing that we were preparing a CCP and 
environmental assessment (EA). On May 9, 2011, we issued a second 
notice in the Federal Register (76 FR 26751) announcing our decision to 
prepare an EIS, rather than an EA, in conjunction with the CCP. On May 
31, 2012, we announced the release of the draft CCP/EIS to the public 
and requested comments in a notice of availability in the Federal 
Register (77 FR 32131). We subsequently extended the public comment 
period in another notice in the Federal Register (77 FR 47435) on 
August 8, 2012.
    This notice announces the availability of the final CCP/EIS for 
Prime Hook NWR in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)). The final CCP/EIS document includes a 
detailed description of the three management alternatives we considered 
to guide us in managing and administering the refuge for the next 15 
years. The document also contains a thorough analysis of impacts 
predicted from implementing each of the alternatives on the surrounding 
natural and human environments. We propose that alternative B, the 
Service-preferred alternative, serve as the foundation for the final, 
stand-alone CCP. We highlight the modifications we made to alternative 
B between the draft and final CCP/EIS in ``Comments,'' below.
    Our next planning step is to complete a Record of Decision no 
sooner than 30 days after publication of this notice (40 CFR 


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge Administration Act), as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each NWR. The purpose for developing a CCP is to 
provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for achieving refuge 
purposes and goals and contributing to the mission of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). CCPs should be consistent with sound 
principles of fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal 
mandates, and our policies, as well as respond to key issues and public 
concerns. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will 
review and update the CCP at least every 15 years, in accordance with 
the Refuge Administration Act.

Prime Hook NWR

    In 1963, Prime Hook NWR was established under the authority of the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Act ``for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or 
any other management purpose, expressly for migratory birds.'' It was 
established primarily to preserve coastal wetlands as wintering and 
breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl. The 10,133-acre refuge 
stretches along the west shore of Delaware Bay and is located 22 miles 
southeast of Dover, Delaware. Eighty percent of the refuge is tidal and 
freshwater wetlands that flow into the Delaware Bay and surrounding 
coastal marshes. The remaining 20 percent of the refuge consists of 
upland habitats that abut intensive agricultural and residential 

CCP Alternatives

    During the scoping phase of the planning process, we identified a 
variety of major issues based on input from the public, State or 
Federal agencies, other Service programs, and our planning team. These 
issues included climate change, sea level rise, refuge marshes, habitat 
and wildlife species management, mosquito control, hunting and other 
public uses, and nuisance and invasive species control. We developed 
refuge management alternatives to address these issues; help achieve 
refuge goals, objectives, and purposes; and support the NWRS mission. 
Our draft CCP/EIS (77 FR 32131) and final CCP/EIS fully analyze three 
alternatives for the future management of the refuge: (1) Alternative 
A, Current Management; (2) Alternative B, Service-preferred 
Alternative; and (3) Alternative C, Historic Habitat Management. 
Alternative A satisfies the NEPA requirement of a ``No Action'' 
alternative. Both the draft and final plans identify alternative B as 
the Service-preferred alternative. Please refer to the final CCP/EIS 
for more details on each of the alternatives.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EIS for Prime Hook NWR from 
May 31 to August 27, 2012 (77 FR 32131; 77 FR 47435). During the 
comment period, we received 107 separate written responses, as well as 
a petition signed by 522 individuals, and 1,024 copies of the same form 
letter. We also held seven public meetings and three refuge open houses 
to answer questions about the draft CCP/EIS and collect oral comments. 
At the public meetings, we received a variety of oral comments, 
including 19 formal comments at our public hearing. We evaluated all of 
the substantive comments we received, and include a summary of those 
comments and our responses to them, as appendix M in the final CCP/EIS.

Changes to the Alternative B, the Service's Preferred Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EIS, we 
have made several changes to alternative B, including adding or 
revising several management strategies. Below we present a brief 
overview of these changes; a full description of the changes is 
included in appendix M in the final CCP/EIS.
     We clarify that dune restoration is a likely first step in 
our proposal to restore marsh habitat on the refuge.
     We make several modifications to our proposed hunting 
program, such as allowing waterfowl hunting 4 days per week until 3 
p.m. to be consistent with State regulations and modifying hunt areas 
to minimize disturbance to resources and reduce conflicts between users 
(e.g., not opening Prime Hook Creek to hunting).
     We will continue to allow year-round access to the western 
4 miles of Prime Hook Creek for visitors engaged in uses such as 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and fishing.
     We decided to permit the use of adulticides for mosquito 
control when there is a documented human disease threat, instead of 
only when a public health emergency is declared.
    Alternative B, with these changes, is still our preferred 
alternative for Prime Hook NWR for several reasons. First, alternative 
B comprises a mix of actions that, in our professional judgment, work 
best towards achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, NWRS 
policies, and the goals of other State and regional conservation plans. 
Second, we also believe that alternative B most

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effectively addresses key issues raised during the planning process.

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain the final CCP/EIS as indicated under 

    Dated: December 14, 2012.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-31365 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 a.m.]