[Federal Register: October 30, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 210)]
[Page 54776-54778]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances and Permit 
Application for a Proposed Reintroduction of the Robust Redhorse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service has received an application from 
Georgia Power Company (Applicant) for an enhancement of survival permit 
(ESP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 
1973 (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). With the assistance of 
the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) and the Service, 
Georgia Power Company proposes to reintroduce the robust redhorse 
(Moxostoma robustum) into a portion of the upper Ocmulgee River in 
central Georgia and conduct related research and monitoring activities. 
We are announcing our receipt of the permit application as well as the 
availability of a proposed Candidate Conservation Agreement with 
Assurances (CCAA) for the robust redhorse that is intended to 
facilitate the implementation of conservation measures for the species 
by the Applicant, GDNR, and the Service in support of on-going efforts 
to reintroduce the species into areas where it historically occurred.

DATES: Written comments on the CCAA and ESP application should be sent 
to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received 
on or before November 29, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the CCAA and ESP application may 
obtain copies by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, 
Atlanta, Georgia. Documents will also be available for public 
inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the Regional 
Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 
(Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 247 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Georgia 30605. 
Written data or comments concerning the CCAA or ESP application should 
be submitted to the Regional Office at the address listed above and 
must be submitted in writing to be adequately considered in the 
Service's decision-making process. Please reference permit number 
TE038547-0 in your comments, or in requests of the documents discussed 

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7217, facsimile: 
404/679-7081; or Mr. Mark Bowers, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Georgia 
Field Office, Athens, Georgia (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 706/

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The robust redhorse is a large, rare sucker 
that was originally described from the Yadkin River, North Carolina, in 
1869 by Edward Cope. Few specimens were collected and the species' 
status was uncertain until 1991 when a single population of robust 
redhorse was discovered by GDNR biologists along a 70-mile reach of the 
Oconee River in central Georgia. The robust redhorse is the largest 
North American sucker species and historically occurred in medium to 
large rivers of the South Atlantic Coastal Plain where it spawned on 
clean, rocky shoals. It is listed by the State of Georgia as endangered 
and is considered a species of management concern by the Service.
    Since the rediscovery of the species, a number of management and 
conservation efforts for the robust redhorse have been implemented by 
the Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee (RRCC), which was 
established in 1995 through a

[[Page 54777]]

Memorandum of Understanding among State and Federal agencies, private 
interests, research scientists, industry, and conservation 
organizations. The RRCC works voluntarily and cooperatively to 
determine the status of known robust redhorse populations, establish 
additional populations, and implement necessary research and other 
actions to maintain or enhance the survival of this species within its 
historic range. The Applicant, GDNR, and the Service are each members 
of the RRCC.
    The RRCC has made significant conservation advances relative to the 
robust redhorse since 1995, including the development of propagation 
techniques, progress in the understanding of the species' life history 
and habitat requirements, and the discovery of three additional natural 
populations. In addition, three refugial populations have been 
established based on techniques developed through this cooperative 
effort. The RRCC has also secured funding necessary to continue and 
expand collaborative conservation efforts and research for the robust 
    The RRCC has also developed a Conservation Strategy for the robust 
redhorse that includes short- and long-term goals for the conservation 
of the species. The short-term goals of the Conservation Strategy 
include, but are not limited to: (1) Establishing refugial populations 
to reduce the impact of potential catastrophic events on the species' 
survival; (2) Determining habitat and life history requirements of 
robust redhorse; and (3) Establishing reintroduction plans or 
agreements to facilitate conservation actions for specific sites. The 
long-term goal of the Conservation Strategy is to establish or maintain 
at least six self-sustaining populations of robust redhorse distributed 
throughout the species' historic range. These conservation goals are 
based on the recommendations of the RRCC, fishery biologists, research 
scientists, and State and Federal resource agencies, and are based on 
research reviewed by members of the RRCC. The activities covered by the 
proposed CCAA complement the efforts of the RRCC and support the RRCC's 
goals of establishing refugial and self-sustaining populations 
throughout the species' historic range.
    CCAAs encourage private and other non-Federal property owners to 
implement conservation efforts and reduce threats to unlisted but 
declining species by assuring those landowners that they will not be 
subjected to increased land and water use restrictions if a species 
covered by a CCAA is listed in the future. By focusing on species which 
are not currently listed under the Act, including species proposed for 
listing, species which are formal candidates for listing, and species 
which may become proposed or candidate species in the future, CCAAs 
provide the opportunity to conserve declining species prior to or 
instead of listing. The robust redhorse is considered to be a species 
of management concern, and, as such, could become a proposed or 
candidate species in the future. Efforts such as those proposed in 
conjunction with the proposed CCAA will expedite reintroduction of 
robust redhorse into the Ocmulgee River by providing the Applicant with 
a regulatory incentive for participation that would not likely exist 
except for this CCAA. In this way, the proposed CCAA will address both 
the needs of the species and those of the Applicant.
    The proposed CCAA represents a significant milestone in the 
cooperative conservation efforts for the species and is consistent with 
section 2(a)(5) of the Act, which encourages creative partnerships 
among public, private, and government entities to conserve imperiled 
species and their habitats. Consistent with our CCAA policy, the 
proposed CCAA is intended to facilitate conservation actions for robust 
redhorse that will remove or reduce the threats to the species. The 
CCAA is also intended to provide the Applicant with regulatory 
certainty related to its electric power generation operations at Lloyd 
Shoals Dam, which controls flows within that portion of the Ocmulgee 
River where the conservation actions will occur, should the robust 
redhorse become federally listed as threatened or endangered in the 
    The conservation measures in the CCAA would be implemented by the 
Applicant, with the assistance of GDNR and the Service, and would 
consist of reintroducing robust redhorse into a portion of the upper 
Ocmulgee River in central Georgia, monitoring the effectiveness of 
reintroduction efforts, conducting research on critical life history 
and habitat requirements for the species within the project area, and 
working collaboratively to identify and protect important robust 
redhorse habitats within the project area through existing laws and 
regulations. These objectives support the Conservation Strategy for the 
species developed by the RRCC.
    The Applicant has committed to implement the conservation measures 
specified in the CCAA and requests issuance of the ESP in order to 
address the take prohibitions of section 9 of the Act should the 
species become listed in the future. When determining whether to issue 
the requested ESP, the Service will consider a number of factors and 
information sources including the project's administrative record, any 
public comments received, and the application requirements and issuance 
criteria for CCAAs contained in 50 CFR part 17.22(d) and part 17.32(d). 
The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of the ESP complies 
with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 
consultation. The results of this consultation, in combination with the 
above findings, regulations, and public comments, will be used in the 
final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the requested ESP.
    In a CCAA, we will provide that if any species covered by the CCAA 
is listed, and the CCAA has been implemented in good faith by the 
Applicant, we will not require additional conservation measures nor 
impose additional land, water, or resource use restrictions beyond 
those the property owner voluntarily committed to under the terms of 
the CCAA. We have made the preliminary determination that the 
Applicant's conservation measures will likely meet the intent of the 
CCAA policy, primarily due to the potential establishment of another 
self-sustaining population of the species within its historic range. 
The proposed CCAA would be in effect for a period of 22 years in that 
portion of the Ocmulgee River lying downstream of Lloyd Shoals Dam 
(river mile 250.2) and upstream of a low-head dam at Juliette, Georgia 
(river mile 230.9). Habitat conditions within this portion of the 
Ocmulgee River have been evaluated by the Applicant, GDNR, and the 
Service and are believed to be suitable for the robust redhorse such 
that there is a high likelihood that a refugial or reproducing 
population will become established.
    We are providing this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act and implementing regulations for the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR part 1506). We will not make our final 
determination until after the end of the 30-day comment period and will 
fully consider all comments received during the comment period. If the 
final analysis shows the CCAA to be consistent with the Service's 
policies and applicable regulations, the Service will sign the CCAA and 
issue the ESP. The proposed ESP would, in compliance with the CCAA 
policy, only become valid on such date as the robust redhorse is listed 
as a threatened or endangered species under the Act.

[[Page 54778]]

    This notice also advises the public that the Service has made a 
preliminary determination that issuance of the ESP will not result in 
significant environmental, economic, social, historical or cultural 
impacts and is, therefore, categorically excluded from review under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), pursuant 
to 516 Departmental Manual 2, Appendix 1 and 516 Departmental Manual 6, 
Appendix 1. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the Act 
and our CCAA Policy (Federal Register Vol. 64, No. 116, June 17, 1999, 
pp. 32726-32736). The Service specifically requests information, views, 
and opinions from the public via this notice. Further, the Service is 
specifically soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the CCAA 
as measured against the Service's CCAA Policy.

    Dated: October 22, 2001.
H. Dale Hall,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 01-27213 Filed 10-29-01; 8:45 am]