[Federal Register: January 9, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 6)]
[Page 915-916]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0314; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, St. Martin and Iberville 
Parishes, LA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and associated National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents for Atchafalaya National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR). We provide this notice in compliance with our 
CCP policy to advise other agencies, tribes, and the public of our 
intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues to consider in the planning process.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by February 23, 2009. A public meeting will be held during the scoping 
phase of the CCP development process. The date, time, and place for the 
meeting will be announced in the local media.

ADDRESSES: Comments, questions, and requests for information should be 
sent to: Tina Chouinard, Natural Resource Planner, Hatchie National 
Wildlife Refuge, 6772 Highway 76 South, Stanton, Tennessee 38069.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tina Chouinard, Natural Resource 
Planner; Telephone: 731/780-8208; Fax: 731/772-7839; E-mail: tina_



    With this notice, we initiate our process for developing a CCP for 
Atchafalaya NWR in St. Martin and Iberville Parishes, Louisiana.
    This notice complies with our CCP policy to (1) advise other 
Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of our intention to 
conduct detailed planning on this refuge; and (2) obtain suggestions 
and information on the scope of issues to consider in the environmental 
document and during development of the CCP.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Improvement Act), which amended the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose in 
developing a CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy 
for achieving refuge purposes and contributing to the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal mandates, and our 
policies. 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, wildlife 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will 
review and update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the Improvement Act.
    Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established for 
specific purposes. We use these purposes as the foundation for 
developing and prioritizing the management goals and objectives for 
each refuge within the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, and to 
determine how the public can use each refuge. The planning process is a 
way for us and the public to evaluate management goals and objectives 
for the best possible conservation approach to this important wildlife 
habitat, while providing for wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities that are compatible with the refuge's establishing 
purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for State, 
Tribal, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the public. 
At this time we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, ideas, 
and suggestions for the future management of Atchafalaya NWR. Special 
mailings, newspaper articles, and other media outlets will be used to 
announce opportunities for input throughout the planning process.
    We will conduct the environmental assessment in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA regulations (40 CFR parts 
1500-1508); other appropriate Federal laws and regulations; and our 
policies and procedures for compliance with those laws and regulations.
    Atchafalaya NWR is located in the lower Atchafalaya Floodway in St. 
Martin and Iberville Parishes, Louisiana. The name originated from its 
location within the Atchafalaya River Basin. Atchafalaya NWR is bounded 
on the north by U.S. Highway 190, on the south by Interstate 10, on the 
west by the Atchafalaya River, and on the east by the East Atchafalaya 
Protection Levee. Atchafalaya NWR is part of the Southeast Louisiana 
NWR Complex.
    The Atchafalaya River Basin, located in south-central Louisiana, is 
a natural alluvial flood plain of the Atchafalaya River. The 
Atchafalaya River headwaters begin at Old River near Simmesport and 
flow to the Gulf of Mexico 140 miles to the south.
    In order to provide for safe passage of major floods in the lower 
Mississippi River system below Old River, the Army Corps of Engineers 
(Corps) modified a portion of the natural Atchafalaya River Basin to 
convey flood water in excess of the capacity of the levied Mississippi 
River. The Atchafalaya River Basin Floodway was formed by constructing 
protection levees to the east, west, and parallel to the Atchafalaya 
River channel. In addition to the Atchafalaya River, two artificial 
intakes, the Morganza Floodway and the West Atchafalaya Floodway, have 
been provided to divert excess flood waters of

[[Page 916]]

the levied river channels into the Atchafalaya River Basin. The 
Atchafalaya River Basin Floodway is 65 miles long, 15 miles wide, and 
lies on either side of the Atchafalaya River from Krotz Springs, 
Louisiana, to Morgan City, Louisiana. This floodway is a southern 
extension of the Morganza and West Atchafalaya Floodways at the lower 
end of the Atchafalaya River Basin. Flow is discharged into the 
Atchafalaya Bay and Gulf of Mexico through the lower Atchafalaya River 
at Morgan City and through an artificial channel (known as the Wax Lake 
Outlet) about 10 miles west of Morgan City.
    The Atchafalaya River Basin has been described as the greatest 
river swamp in the United States. It encompasses more than one-half 
million acres of wetlands that may produce as much wildlife as any area 
in the country. The basin provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife 
species. Its waters also support a tremendous sport and commercial 
fisheries' resource.
    For years there was dispute over the conservation of the basin. 
Flood control, agriculture, energy development, recreation, and other 
interests in the basin were difficult to reconcile. All parties 
involved developed an agreement to resolve the major disputes. The 
agreement, which is incorporated in a feasibility study developed by 
the Corps for the basin, calls for specific flood control measures, 
water flow rates, and the purchase of flowage and conservation 
easements designed to keep the basin in a natural state, while 
providing navigation and flood protection for surrounding communities.
    The agreement also calls for the acquisition and management of 
90,000 acres within the basin for public access. The Dow Chemical 
Company donated 40,000 acres. The acquisition of the remaining 50,000 
acres is to be split between the State of Louisiana and the Federal 
    The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) purchased 
11,780 acres on September 13, 1983, and created the Sherburne Wildlife 
Management Area. In the 1984 Supplemental Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 
98-396) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan, a 
total of $10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was 
appropriated to the Service to acquire lands and waters in the 
Atchafalaya River Basin in accordance with statutory authority 
applicable to the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956. The land was purchased 
from the Iberville Land Company.
    Atchafalaya NWR was established in 1986, when 15,220 acres in the 
basin, as directed by Public Law 98-548, were purchased. Since 1989, 
the Corps has purchased 37,000 acres of fee title land adjacent to and 
within the Atchafalaya NWR, which brought the current acreage among all 
three agencies to 64,000. The Corps is in the process of purchasing 
more land to add to the system.
    Under the Cooperative Agreement (Contract No. 14-16-0004-86-946), 
all of the public access lands are managed by the LDWF. Since the 
Federal and State lands share common boundaries, LDWF technical and 
field personnel manage the wildlife on both the wildlife management 
area and the refuge. Service personnel are responsible for all forest 
management and issuance of special use permits.
    Approximately 12 percent of the refuge is inundated open water, 
with isolated cypress trees and willow stands. Bottomland hardwood 
forest is the primary habitat. Self-guided tours can be accessed by 
auto, boat, or foot. Traditional use of the area is hunting, which 
follows the State's annual season dates and specific regulations. 
Camping is allowed nearby on the State's Sherburne Wildlife Management 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying 
information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: December 5, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
 [FR Doc. E9-186 Filed 1-8-09; 8:45 am]