[Federal Register: September 8, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 172)]
[Page 46220-46222]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2009-N180; 33430-1122-0000 F2]

Proposed Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Quad Cities 
Nuclear Station, Rock Island County, IL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice: Receipt of application for an incidental take permit; 
notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Exelon Inc. (Applicant) has applied to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (us, Service) for an incidental take permit (ITP) 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
proposed permit duration is 24 years. The Applicant has prepared a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address potential impacts to two 
mussel species. We have made a preliminary determination that the HCP 
and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The basis for this 
determination is contained in an Environmental Action Statement and 
low-effect screening form, which are also available for public review.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
October 8, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Richard C. Nelson, Field 
Supervisor, by U.S. mail at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rock Island 
Field Office, 1511 47th Ave. Moline, IL 61265, or by fax to (309) 757-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jody Millar (309) 757-5800.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Exelon Inc. (Applicant) has applied to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (us, Service) for an incidental take 
permit (ITP) under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) The proposed 
duration of the permit is 24 years. The Applicant has prepared a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address potential impacts to two 
mussel species: Lampsilis higginsii (Higgins eye pearlymussel), 
federally listed as endangered, and Plethobasus cyphyus (sheepnose 
mussel), a candidate for listing. Exelon's draft HCP addresses three 
specific proposed covered activities:
    (1) Implementation of an alternate thermal standard (ATS) for 
discharge waters associated with the operation of the Quad Cities 
Nuclear Station,
    (2) Maintenance dredging associated with water intake structures, 
    (3) Removal of Edison Pier.
    We have made a preliminary determination that the HCP and permit 
application are eligible for categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The basis for this determination is contained in 
an Environmental Action Statement and low-effect screening form, which 
are also available for public review.

Availability of Documents

    Individuals requesting copies of the application and draft HCP 
should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by telephone at (309) 
757-5800 or by letter (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the draft HCP are also 
available for public inspection during regular business hours at the 
Rock Island Field Office (see ADDRESSES), or at the Service's Regional 
Web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/

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.

[[Page 46221]]


    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing Federal regulations 
prohibit the take of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 
The definition of take under the Act includes the following activities: 
To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed animal species, or to attempt to engage in such conduct 
(16 U.S.C. 1538). We have principal trust responsibility for the 
conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species under 
the Act. Section 10 of the Act, 16 U.S.C. 1539, establishes a program 
whereby persons seeking to pursue activities that otherwise could give 
rise to liability for unlawful ``take'' of federally protected species 
may receive an ITP, which protects them from such liability. To obtain 
an ITP, the applicant must submit an HCP and the taking must be 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity, 
Id. Sec. Sec.  1539(a)(1)(B), 1539(a)(2)(A). Once we have determined 
that the applicant has satisfied these and other statutory criteria, we 
may issue the ITP.
    Exelon Inc. owns and operates Quad Cities Nuclear Station (QCNS), a 
nuclear power station located on the east (Illinois) shoreline of Pool 
14 on the Mississippi River, at River Mile (RM) 506.7, approximately 
halfway between Lock and Dam 13 (upstream) at RM 522.5 and Lock and Dam 
14 (downstream) at RM 493.3.

Covered Activities

    Exelon Inc. is requesting that an alternate thermal standard (ATS) 
be issued for Quad Cities Nuclear Station under section 316(a) of the 
Clean Water Act, (33 U.S.C. Sec.1326(a)). The ATS would include:
    (1) Changing the method for tracking and regaining excursion hours 
(during which the plant currently is authorized to exceed thermal 
limits by up to 3 [deg]F) from a rolling 12-month basis to a calendar 
year basis (January through December).
    (2) Increasing the number of excursion hours available per year 
from 1 percent (87.6 hours), which is currently allowed by the plant's 
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, to 3 
percent (262.8 hours), of which only 1.5 percent (131.4 hours) of those 
hours may be between 89 [deg]F and 91 [deg]F.
    (3) Increasing the excursion hour downstream temperature limit by 
no more than 5 [deg]F (i.e., 91 [deg]F downstream instead of current 
NPD.S Permit limit of 89 [deg]F in July and August, and 90 [deg]F 
downstream rather than current NPDES Permit limit of 88 [deg]F in 
    QCNS currently operates under NPDES permit conditions that allow 
87.6 excursion hours per year, during which the plant may cause river 
temperatures to exceed maximum temperature standards by up to 3 [deg]F. 
QCNS operated within permit conditions during the period 2000-2005. 
Excursion hours were only used in 2001 (57.35 hours) and 2005 (42.50 
hours). In July and August 2006, QCNS was granted a provisional 
variance from these permit conditions to address periods of low 
Mississippi River flows and high ambient river temperatures experienced 
in the summer of 2006. The provisional variance allowed additional 
excursion hours (beyond the annual allotment of 87.6 hours) at 
temperatures up to 5 [deg]F. QCNS used 222.75 excursion hours in 2006, 
but water temperature during excursion hour events were not allowed to 
exceed a 5 [deg]F increase, which equates to 91 [deg]F downstream in 
July, 91 [deg]F in August and 90 [deg]F in September. In 2007, QCNS 
operated within permit conditions, and 74.0 excursion hours were used 
in early August.
    The new ATS would be adopted following proceedings before the 
Illinois Pollution Control Board pursuant to the Board's authority to 
issue ATS under section 316 of the Clean Water Act. Following the 
Board's decision, the Environmental Protection Agency would incorporate 
the standards in the NPDES (discharge) permit.
    A second covered activity described in the draft HCP involves 
maintenance dredging activities in front of the plant's intake. QCNS 
requires a consistent supply of water for safe operations of the two 
nuclear reactors. Over the past few years (2005, 2007, and 2008), 
dredging in front of the intake forebay has been a maintenance 
necessity to achieve the consistent water supply. High water events 
deposit coarse materials in front of the intake. In October 2005, QCNS 
contracted a mussel survey in the intake area. Results of the survey 
indicated that impacts associated with maintenance dredging would be 
limited to a few common species (threehorn, threeridge, hickorynut, and 
plain pocketbook) of freshwater mussels. All other species were 
represented by two individuals or less. One butterfly mussel was also 
found in the survey. An existing dredging permit (CEMVR-OD-P-2006-1856) 
allows dredging within a 500' x 700' area in front of the station's 
forebay. QCNS does not expect to increase the size of the dredging 
area. QCNS anticipates that dredging will be necessary in the near 
future; consequently, this activity is being included in the draft HCP. 
Maintenance dredging is assumed to occur once every 2 years over the 
life of the proposed permit. If the dredging area needs to be expanded 
from the current levels in the future, Exelon will consult with us 
prior to such activities.
    A third covered activity in the draft HCP involves the removal of a 
structure known as the Edison Pier (RM 506.8L), which has been in 
existence since the initial building process of QCNS in the late 1960s. 
Although there are no immediate plans to remove this structure, 
preliminary demolition planning has occurred and this project could 
begin in the next few years. The process of removing this structure 
would extend a minimal distance out into the river channel, and could 
potentially impact any mussels in the area. It is important to note 
that coverage by this HCP does not exempt an activity from other local, 
State and Federal regulations, including permits issued by the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers.

Impact Assessment

    The purpose of an HCP is to ensure incidental take will be 
minimized and mitigated to the maximum extent practicable and will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of this 
species in the wild. Exelon designed the draft HCP in close 
consultation with us to ensure the planning area will continue to 
support suitable habitat for the species, while allowing for incidental 
take from the proposed activities.
    To facilitate the development of the HCP, Exelon retained 
Ecological Specialists, Inc. (ESI) to evaluate potential direct and 
indirect impacts associated with adopting an Alternative Thermal 
Standard on covered species within the study area (RM 503.0 to 506.9). 
A copy of ESI's report is appended to the draft HCP. ESI was also 
retained to conduct mussel surveys in the area associated with 
maintenance dredging and Edison Pier.
    Exelon proposes to minimize, mitigate, and monitor the impacts of 
taking listed species by implementing the following measures:
    (1) Fish propagated at the QCNS will be inoculated with Higgins eye 
pearlymussel and sheepnose mussel glochidia. QCNS will work with the 
Service and other partners to develop parameters for determining 
appropriate species augmentation/reintroduction sites and rates with 
regard to protection of native resident genetics. Methods include free 
release of fish inoculated with Higgins eye pearlymussel and

[[Page 46222]]

sheepnose mussel glochidia in select locations, and use of cage culture 
techniques for rearing of Higgins eye pearlymussel and sheepnose mussel 
in select locations.
    (2) Outreach to universities focused on soliciting studies related 
to temperature and mussels, in situ or in conjunction with the lab 
facilities at QCNS.
    (3) Implementation, effectiveness, and validation monitoring, 
including mussel bed monitoring, monitoring of temperature studies, 
long-term fish monitoring (ongoing), and use of adaptive management 
techniques will be used throughout the length of the permit.


    We will evaluate the permit application, the HCP, and received 
comments to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. 
If the requirements are met, we will issue an incidental take permit to 
the Applicant for take of the Higgins eye pearlymussel and sheepnose 
mussel incidental to the otherwise lawful activities of the project. We 
will not make a final decision until after the end of the 30-day 
comment period and will fully consider all comments we receive during 
the comment period.

    Dated: August 25, 2009.
Richard C. Nelson,
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E9-21513 Filed 9-4-09; 8:45 am]