[Federal Register: February 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 37)]
[Page 9375-9377]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Amended Environmental Assessment and Receipt 
of an Application for Renewal and Amendment of an Incidental Take 
Permit for Beach Driving and Related Activities, in Volusia County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The County of Volusia (Applicant) seeks to renew and amend 
incidental take permit (ITP) TE811813. The Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) issued this ITP on November 22, 1996, pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. 
The ITP authorizes take of loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green 
(Chelonia mydas), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Kemp's ridley 
(Lepidochelys kempii), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea 
turtles incidental to the Applicant's regulation of vehicular traffic 
on 35.6 linear miles of beaches under its jurisdiction in Volusia 
County, Florida. Among the proposed amendments to the ITP, the 
Applicant requests incidental take authority for the piping plover 
(Charadrius melodus).
    The mitigation and minimization measures outlined in the 
Applicant's amended Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address the 
effects of vehicle beach access and related activities on federally 
listed species are described further in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section below. The Service announces the availability of the HCP and 
our Environmental Assessment (EA) for the incidental take renewal and 
amendment application. Copies of the HCP and EA may be obtained by 
making a request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must 
be in writing to be processed. This notice is provided pursuant to 
section 10 of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, supporting 
documentation, EA and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional 
Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before April 26, 

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and EA 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, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, 
Florida 32216-0912. Written data or comments concerning the 
application, supporting documentation, EA, or HCP should be submitted 
to the Regional Office. Requests for the documentation must be in 
writing to be processed. Comments must be submitted in writing to be 
adequately considered in the Service's decision-making process. Please 
reference permit number TE811813 in such comments, or in requests for 
the documents discussed herein.

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313; or Mr. 
Michael Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field 
Office, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580, extension 113.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 
comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number 
TE811813 in such comments. You may mail comments to the Service's 
Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the Internet 
to david_dell@fws.gov. Please submit comments over the Internet as an 
ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include your name and return address in your 
internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the Service 
that we have received your internet message,

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contact us directly at either of the telephone numbers listed below 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Finally, you may hand deliver 
comments to either of the Service offices listed below (see ADDRESSES). 
Our practice is to make comments, including names and home addresses of 
respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. 
Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address 
from the administrative record. We will honor such requests to the 
extent allowable by law. There may also be other circumstances in which 
we would withhold from the administrative record a respondent's 
identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and 
address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comments. We will not, however, consider anonymous comments. We will 
make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of 
organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their 
    Piping plovers are small, migratory shorebirds that breed in 
central and eastern Canada and the Great Plains and eastern United 
States. They are typically found on low energy coastal beaches, river 
sandbars, and sparsely vegetated lake shorelines where they feed on a 
variety of invertebrates under the soil surface. The breeding season 
begins with the arrival of mature birds as early as mid-March and 
fledging of young can last through July. At the conclusion of the 
breeding season, piping plovers migrate to wintering areas that include 
south Atlantic, Gulf coast, and Caribbean beaches. Numbers of piping 
plovers are estimated periodically based on surveys conducted within 
three geographically broad breeding areas: Atlantic Coast, Northern 
Great Plains, and Great Lakes populations. Recent surveys indicate that 
the numbers of plovers in the Northern Great Plains breeding population 
are in decline. Within the Great Lakes population, numbers are low and 
have not substantially changed since the bird was placed on the 
endangered species list. Overall, numbers of plovers in the Atlantic 
Coast breeding population are increasing, but decreases have been noted 
in several localities within this population.
    Sea turtles spend the majority of their lives in the sea, and most 
can be found in warm tropical and subtropical waters. The leatherback 
is an exception, traveling as far north as Labrador, Canada, and Alaska 
and as far south as the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and southern New 
Zealand. Adult green sea turtles are herbivores, while all other sea 
turtles are carnivores. During the nesting season, which in the 
continental United States occurs between March and October, adult 
female sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Females excavate pits 
using their front and rear flippers where they lay 50 to 160 eggs about 
the size of a ping-pong ball. The pits are then covered by sand and the 
females return to the sea. Eggs incubate for about 50 to 70 days. Upon 
hatching, young sea turtles make their way up through the sand and 
immediately travel to the ocean. The most recent report to the United 
States Congress lists the status of sea turtles as follows: Kemp's 
ridley and green sea turtles populations are increasing, hawksbill and 
leatherback sea turtle populations are declining, and the status of the 
loggerhead sea turtle population is uncertain.
    The original ITP authorized take of loggerhead, green, leatherback, 
Kemp's ridley, and hawksbill sea turtles in Volusia County, Florida, 
for a period of five (5) years. The Applicant proposes to renew the 
ITP, with modifications, for a period of twenty-five (25) years. In 
this renewal, the Applicant also requests incidental take of piping 
plovers. The proposed taking of these federally listed species is 
incidental to otherwise legal vehicular access, and access related 
activities, on the beaches of Volusia County, pursuant to Volusia Home 
Rule Charter (Section 205, Laws of Florida Special Acts, Chapter 70-
966, as amended). The beaches under the jurisdiction of the Applicant 
encompass 35.6 linear miles.
    The Service issued the original ITP on November 22, 1996, pursuant 
to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The original ITP has been 
administratively amended or modified ten times since the original 
issuance date. The Applicant notified the Service on October 19, 2001, 
of its desire to renew the existing ITP, but the Service was unable to 
take final action on the Applicant's renewal request prior to the 
expiration date of the original ITP, which was on December 31, 2001. 
Therefore, pursuant to 50 CFR 13.22(c), the Applicant has continued 
activities previously permitted under the original ITP, as amended and 
modified, while the Service considers and reviews the renewal request. 
This public notice is a required part of the Service's review of the 
renewal request.
    The Applicant seeks renewal of its ITP to authorize take of 
loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp's ridley, and hawksbill sea 
turtles. Although not covered by the original ITP, the Applicant has 
requested authorization to take piping plovers. In its previous HCP, 
the Applicant determined, and the Service concurred, that piping 
plovers likely would not be taken incidentally to the authorized 
activities. Therefore, authorization to take piping plovers was not 
requested at that time. Since submission of the original HCP and 
issuance of the ITP, however, critical habitat for the piping plover 
has been designated in the vicinity of Ponce de Leon Inlet, Volusia 
County. Portions of piping plover designated critical habitat fall 
within beach areas the County has proposed be accessible to vehicular 
traffic. Southeastern beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris) 
have also been found in one additional area of coastal Volusia County 
since submission of the original HCP and issuance of the ITP. The 
Applicant has determined, however, that ongoing and planned future 
actions related to vehicular beach access and access related activities 
as specified in the revised HCP are not expected to take southeastern 
beach mice. Consequently, authorization for take of this species has 
not been requested.
    In its original ITP application and HCP, the Applicant identified 
five general beach driving activities that could lead to take of sea 
turtles. These actions included: (1) Public safety operations, such as 
those provided by lifeguards, emergency vehicles, and law enforcement 
vehicles; (2) public vehicular access, including the potential for 
shuttle service in certain areas; (3) routine beach maintenance and 
sanitation; (4) access ramp maintenance; and (5) access for 
concessionaires, including motorized rental vehicles such as all-
terrain vehicles and golf carts.
    In addition to the beach driving activities addressed in the 
original HCP, the Applicant has identified other beach access 
activities under the control of Volusia County that were not addressed 
in the original HCP that may result in take of sea turtles and piping 
plovers. These activities include: (1) Actions necessary to implement 
the terms and conditions of the ITP; (2) planned coastal construction 
projects properly permitted by local, State, and/or Federal regulatory 
agencies, such as seawall repair, beach nourishment, dune restoration, 
and removal of windblown sand, where no reasonable upland alternative 
exists; (3) additional scientific monitoring and studies; (4) emergency 
shoreline protection projects properly permitted by local, State, and/
or Federal regulatory agencies; (5) non-routine beach maintenance and 
sanitation, such as removal of hazardous materials, removal of storm-

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debris and/or obstacles that pose a public health or safety risk, and 
other atypical circumstances requiring beach access (e.g., boat 
groundings, downed aircraft, etc.); and (6) routine beach cleaning.
    Other substantive changes to the original HCP that are currently 
proposed by the Applicant include: (1) A reduction in the amount and 
type of biological data to be collected for monitoring; (2) a 200-foot 
expansion of public beach driving in the existing HCP Region 3 
Transitional Beach Driving Area; (3) the removal of the light 
management program as a formal component of HCP mitigation; (4) the 
addition of funding and operation of a sea turtle rehabilitation 
facility as a formal component of HCP mitigation; (5) the 
implementation of an expanded county-wide sea turtle public awareness 
and education program; (6) the construction and operation of a sea bird 
rehabilitation facility at the Marine Science Center in the vicinity of 
Ponce de Leon Inlet; (7) the implementation of annual piping plover 
surveys within designated critical habitat; and (8) the restoration of 
400 linear feet of dune habitat.
    Except for the changes identified above, the Applicant proposes to 
continue implementation of all minimization and mitigation measures 
outlined in the original HCP. Generally, these measures include: (1) 
Year-round closure of 18.92 miles of beach to public vehicular access; 
(2) establishment of a year-round 30-foot conservation zone (i.e., no 
public vehicle entry) and daytime only driving on 11.65 miles of beach; 
(3) establishment of a year-round 15-foot conservation zone and daytime 
only driving on 5.04 miles of beach; (4) annual training of County 
beach management staff; (5) implementation of a public education 
program; and (6) implementation of a vehicle rut removal program.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that renewal of 
the ITP is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment within the meaning of section 
102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may be revised due to 
public comment received in response to this notice and is based on 
information contained in the EA and HCP.
    The Service will evaluate the HCP and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the application meets the issuance criteria 
requirements of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. By conducting an intra-
Service section 7 consultation the Service will also evaluate whether 
issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP would comply with section 7 of 
the Act. The results of this consultation, in combination with the 
above findings, will be used in the final analysis to determine whether 
or not to issue the ITP for the five species of sea turtle and the 
piping plover.

    Dated: January 31, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 05-3647 Filed 2-24-05; 8:45 am]