Public Scoping Meeting Notice Environmental Assessment Regarding Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) invites the public to provide comment and/or participate in a public meeting regarding development of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposed Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to be issued under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, to the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD). The proposed permit will address incidental take of two Federally listed species (the Austin blind salamander and the Barton Springs salamander) that may result from activities associated with management and pumping of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer in Caldwell, Hays, and Travis Counties, Texas.
A 30 day public scoping period was initiated by publication of a notice in the Federal Register on March 05, 2014. Comments may be provided at: www.regulations.gov and must be received by close of business on April 04, 2014.
A public scoping meeting will be held in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, at the BSEACD Offices, 1124 Regal Row, Austin, Texas 78748, on Thursday, April 3, 2014, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The primary purpose of this meeting and public comment period is to solicit suggestions and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to consider when drafting the EA.
Representatives from the USFWS and BSEACD will be available to provide the public with a general understanding of the background of the proposed issuance of an ITP to the BSEACD. For further information about the comment period or the scoping meeting please see the accompanying Federal Register notice. For more information about the BSEACD proposed HCP, please see: www.bseacd.org.
Service Approves Comal County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved the Comal County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP) and associated incidental take permit for the County. The Comal County RHCP includes conservation measures to minimize and mitigate incidental take of the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo associated with proposed road construction, maintenance, and improvement projects; utility construction and maintenance; school development and construction; public or private construction and development; and land clearing within Comal County, Texas. The incidental take permit will be available 30 days after publication of the Record of Decision.
Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program Receives 2013 Partners in Conservation Award
Partners in Conservation award ceremony group photo with Secretary Jewell
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today presented the Department’s 2013 Partners in Conservation awards at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The Secretary honored 20 partnership projects that have demonstrated exemplary natural resource conservation efforts through public-private cooperation. Four partnerships nominated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involving nearly sixty individuals and organizations located in California, Oregon, Kansas and Texas received awards. In Texas, the 2013 award went to the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program.
Service Approves Amendment to the Barton Springs Pool Habitat Conservation Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved the City of Austin’s amendment to the Barton Springs Pool Habitat Conservation Plan (BSPHCP). The amended BSPHCP enables the City of Austin to continue the operations of the Barton Springs Pool while conserving the listed Barton Springs salamander and the Austin blind salamander. The BSPHCP will be in effect for 20 years.
Texas House and Senate Pass Resolutions Lauding the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program
The Texas Senate and House of Representatives took time during the last legislative session to recognize the success of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (or EARIP). The EARIP is comprised of stakeholders from throughout the region that developed an aquifer management plan that protects threatened and endangered species while maintaining ongoing uses of the aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer flows for 180 miles through the limestone bedrock of south-central Texas and serves as the primary water source for over 2 million Texans. The EARIP developed a Habitat Conservation Plan that will restore and enhance habitats for 8 threatened and endangered species while simultaneously implementing water conservation measures that will ensure freshwater flows that support native wildlife and the area’s regional economy.
Service Approves Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program Incidental Take Permit
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program’s (EARIP) Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and incidental take permit. The notice of availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement (fEIS) and incidental take permit for the EARIP, including the Habitat Conservation Plan will publish in today’s Federal Register.
The EARIP HCP is the result of a successful consensus based collaborative effort by a diverse group of more than forty groups and individuals from south central Texas to address the conservation needs of eight listed species and the needs of the communities’ dependent upon the Edwards Aquifer. Issuance of this incidental take permit will enable the Edwards Aquifer Authority; San Antonio Water Systems; the City of New Braunfels, Texas; the City of San Marcos, Texas; and Texas State University (collectively the Applicants) to continue their projects and operations, while preserving protected species and their habitat.
“Approval of the EARIP’s HCP marks a significant conservation achievement for the Edwards Aquifer Region.” stated Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle. “The organizations and individuals involved in the development of the HCP clearly demonstrated that it possible to come together and develop a consensus based solution to a very complex water issue in Texas.” “The Service commends the efforts of those involved in this long and challenging process and we look forward to working with them to protect the eight listed species while providing certainty to those dependent upon the Edwards Aquifer.”
The approved incidental take permit covers activities in Bexar, Medina and Uvalde Counties and portions of Atascosa, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties in Texas. The HCP describes measures the Applicants agree to undertake to minimize and mitigate the effects of incidental take of the following federally listed species dependent on the springs and river systems associated with the Edwards Aquifer: the fountain darter, San Marcos salamander, Texas wild-rice, Texas blind salamander, Peck's cave amphipod, San Marcos gambusia, Comal Springs dryopid beetle and the Comal Springs riffle beetle.
The HCP covers general activities associated with actions including the regulation and production of groundwater for irrigation, industrial, municipal, domestic, and livestock purposes; the use of instream flows in the Comal River and San Marcos River for recreational uses; and other operational and maintenance activities that could affect Comal Springs, San Marcos Springs and the associated river systems.
Adoption of a multispecies habitat conservation approach, rather than a species-by-species/project-by-project approach, reduces the cost of implementing activities to minimize species impacts and implement mitigation measures. In addition, it reduces the costs and time-consuming efforts associated with processing individual incidental take permits.
The Edwards Aquifer is one of the most prolific artesian aquifers in the world. It is also the source of the two largest springs in Texas: Comal and San Marcos. The Edwards Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for more than 2 million people including the seventh largest city in the nation (San Antonio) and serves the domestic, agricultural, industrial and recreational needs of the area.
Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Services Corporation HCP
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of the final Lower Colorado River Authority Transmissions Services Corporation (LCRA) Habitat Conservation Plan (LCRA HCP). The Service will issue a 30-year incidental take permit to LCRA authorizing the incidental take of two federally listed species - the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and the black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) in the following seven Texas counties - - Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Schleicher, Sutton, and Tom Green. The LCRA HCP describes the measures they will undertake to minimize and mitigate the effects of incidental take from activities associated with construction, maintenance, operation, and repair (both routine and emergency) of two Competitive Renewable Energy Zones transmission lines and their associated access roads, which are required to be constructed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced on May 13, 2011, in the Federal Register the availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the final Hays County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP), and the Service’s draft Record of Decision. The Service will issue a 30-year incidental take permit to Hays County authorizing the incidental take of the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) as a result of the Hays County RHCP. The Hays County RHCP includes conservation measures to minimize and mitigate incidental take of the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo that would occur as a result of activities including, but not limited to, public or private land development, transportation projects, or utility projects. The Hays County RHCP conservation measures include the establishment of a preserve system of 10,000-15,000 acres to mitigate for the incidental take of golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos.
Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for Maintenance and Construction Activities for Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement, and final Record of Decision analyzing the impacts of the issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for implementation of the final Oncor Electric Delivery LLC’s Habitat Conservation Plan. Our decision is to issue a 30-year incidental take permit to Oncor for implementation of the Preferred Alternative, which authorizes incidental take of animal species and impacts to plant species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, including: the endangered large-fruited sand-verbena, Texas poppy-mallow, Navasota ladies’-tresses, American burying beetle, Houston toad, whooping crane, golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, and red-cockaded woodpecker; and the threatened Pecos sunflower and Louisiana black bear. Oncor has agreed to implement avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to offset impacts to these species, as described in their HCP. Links to each of these documents is below:
On May 13, 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced in the Federal Register the availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the final Hays County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP), and the Service’s draft Record of Decision that documents our decision based on information contained in the EIS. The Hays County RHCP includes conservation measures to minimize and mitigate incidental take of the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) that would occur as a result of activities including, but not limited to, public or private land development, transportation projects, or utility projects. The Hays County RHCP conservation measures include the establishment of a preserve system of 10,000-15,000 acres to mitigate for the incidental take of golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. As a result, the Service will issue a 30-year incidental take permit to Hays County authorizing the incidental take of the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. The approval of the Hays County RHCP will enable Hays County to continue to develop and grow while ensuring long-term habitat protection for the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.