[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 82 (Monday, April 29, 2013)]
[Pages 25092-25093]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09754]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2013-N065; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Sussex County, DE; Record of 
Decision for Final Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; final comprehensive conservation plan 
and record of decision.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
record of decision (ROD) for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). 
We completed a thorough analysis of the environmental, social, and 
economic considerations and presented it in our final CCP and 
environmental impact statement (EIS), which we released to the public 
on December 28, 2012. The ROD documents our decision to implement 
alternative B, as described in the final CCP/EIS. The Regional 
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, signed the 
ROD on March 29, 2013. We will begin implementation of the CCP 

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and ROD by 
any of the following methods:
    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 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 finalize 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. On May 9, 2011, we 
announced our decision to prepare an EIS in conjunction with the CCP, 
rather than an environmental assessment (76 FR 26751). On May 31, 2012, 
we released the draft CCP/EIS for public review and comments (77 FR 
32131). We subsequently extended the public comment period (77 FR 
47435) on August 8, 2012. We released the final CCP/EIS for public 
review on December 28, 2012 (77 FR 76510).
    In the draft and final CCP/EIS, we evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the refuge and completed a thorough analysis of the 
environmental, social, and economic considerations of each alternative. 
Based on comments received on the draft CCP/EIS, we made minor 
modifications to alternative B, the Service's preferred alternative in 
the final CCP/EIS. During the public review period for the final CCP/
EIS, we did not receive any comments that raised significant new 
issues, resulted in changes to our analysis, or warranted any further 
changes to alternative B.
    In accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 
1506.6(b)) requirements, this notice announces our decision to select 
alternative B for implementation and the availability of the ROD and 
final CCP for Prime Hook NWR. Alternative B, as described in the final 
CCP, will guide our management and administration of the refuge over 
the next 15 years.


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 10,144-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 the 
following list of major issues based on input from the public, State or 
Federal agencies, other Service programs, and our planning team: 
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 (77 FR 76510) 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.

Basis for Selected Alternative

    Our decision is to adopt alternative B, as described in the final 
CCP. We provide a brief summary of our decision below. For the full 
basis of our decision, please see the ROD (see ADDRESSES).

[[Page 25093]]

    We determined that, compared to the other two alternatives, 
alternative B includes the suite of actions that best meet the purpose 
of, and need for, the CCP; achieve refuge purposes and goals; 
contribute toward the mission of the NWRS; address the relevant issues, 
concerns, and opportunities identified in the planning process; and 
protect, preserve, and enhance natural resources on the refuge. 
Alternative B is also consistent with the sound principles of fish and 
wildlife and fulfills our statutory and regulatory guidance.
    We believe that alternative B uses the most balanced and integrated 
approach to refuge management, with due consideration for both the 
biological and human environment. Alternative B will best fulfill the 
refuge's biological goals, by emphasizing management for particular 
Federal trust species and habitats that are of regional conservation 
concern. Alternative B would also best restore the natural ecology and 
hydrology of Prime Hook's barrier island and marsh system and provide 
valuable ecosystem services, such as storm surge protection and flood 
protection. Compared to the other alternatives, our proposal under 
alternative B to restore refuge impoundments to healthy, self-
sustaining brackish marsh and salt marsh will encourage the conditions 
most resilient to sea level rise; have sustainable, long-term benefits 
to neighboring human communities; and provide valuable habitat for 
waterfowl, songbirds, waterbirds, shorebirds, and other wildlife. 
Alternative B will also best enhance visitor services by expanding 
access to facilities and opening new trails for wildlife observation, 
photography, interpretation, environmental education, hunting, and 
fishing, and modifying the hunting program for greater administrative 
    In summary, we selected alternative B for implementation because it 
provides the greatest opportunities for Prime Hook NWR to contribute to 
the conservation of fish, wildlife, and habitat in the region; will 
increase the capacity of the refuge to meet its purposes and contribute 
to the NWRS mission; and will provide the means to better respond to 
changing ecological conditions within the surrounding environment.

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain the final CCP and ROD as indicated under 

    Dated: April 19, 2013.
Sherry W. Morgan,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-09754 Filed 4-26-13; 8:45 a.m.]