[Federal Register: March 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 53)]
[Page 13299-13301]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2010-N017; 20124-1112-0000-F2]

Lower Colorado River Authority Transmission Services Corporation; 
Construction, Operation, Maintenance, and Repair of Competitive 
Renewable Energy Zone Transmission Lines and Related Facilities

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a draft environmental impact 
statement and draft habitat conservation plan; announcement of 
meetings; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we intend to prepare a draft environmental impact statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposed 
issuance of an Endangered Species Act permit to the Lower Colorado 
River Authority Transmission Services Corporation (LCRA TSC; applicant) 
for incidental take of six federally listed or candidate species from 
activities associated with LCRA TSC's construction, maintenance, 
operation, and repair of four Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) 
``priority'' transmission lines and related facilities (i.e., 
substations, substation upgrades, and access roads) required to be 
constructed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) 
(collectively, the LCRA TSC CREZ transmission lines). We also announce 
plans for a series of public scoping meetings and a public comment 

DATES: If you wish to submit written comments on alternatives and 
issues for us to address in the draft EIS, we must receive them by 
close of business on June 17, 2010. We will hold public scoping 
meetings at locations throughout LCRA's proposed 14-county permit area. 
The scoping meetings will be noticed in local news papers at least two 
weeks before each scoping meeting and on the following website: http://

ADDRESSES: For further information or to send written comments by mail: 
Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnett Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758-
4460; 512/490-0057 (phone); 512/490-0974 (fax); or Luela_
Roberts@fws.gov (e-mail). Note that your information request or 
comments concern the LCRA TSC draft EIS/HCP.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice in compliance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6), 
and section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We intend to gather the information 
necessary to determine impacts and alternatives to support a decision 
regarding the potential issuance of an incidental take permit to the 
applicant, and the implementation of the supporting draft HCP. We 
intend to prepare an EIS to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives 
to, the proposed issuance of an incidental take permit under the Act. 
The applicant proposes to apply for an incidental take permit through 
development and implementation of an HCP. The proposed HCP will cover 
take of certain species that is incidental to activities associated 
with the construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of LCRA TSC's 
CREZ transmission lines and related facilities and will include 
measures necessary to minimize and mitigate impacts to covered species 
and their habitats to the maximum extent practicable.


    Section 9 of the Act prohibits ``taking'' of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered under section 4 of the Act. The Act's 
implementing regulations extend, under certain circumstances, the 
prohibition of take to threatened

[[Page 13300]]

species. Under section 3 of the Act, the term ``take'' means ``to 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.'' The term 
``harm'' is defined by regulation as ``an act which actually kills or 
injures wildlife. Such act may include significant habitat modification 
or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3). The term ``harass'' 
is defined in the regulations as ``an intentional or negligent act or 
omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying 
it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral 
patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3). Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act requires an 
applicant for an incidental take permit to prepare an HCP that 
describes: (1) The impact that will result from such taking; (2) the 
steps the applicant will take to minimize and mitigate that take to the 
maximum extent practicable, and the funding that will be available to 
implement such steps; (3) the alternative actions to such taking that 
the applicant considered and the reasons why such alternatives are not 
being utilized; and (4) the other measures that the Service may require 
as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the plan. The Act 
requires us to issue an incidental take permit to an applicant when we 
determine that: (1) The taking will be incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities; (2) the applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impacts of such taking; (3) the applicant has 
ensured that adequate funding for the plan will be provided; (4) the 
taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and 
recovery of the species in the wild; and (5) the measures, if any, we 
require as necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the plan will 
be met. Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened 
species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    We expect that the Applicant will request permit coverage for a 
period of 30 years.

Scoping Meetings

    A primary purpose of the scoping process is to receive suggestions 
and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to consider 
when drafting the EIS, and to identify, rather than debate, significant 
issues related to the proposed action. In order to ensure that we 
identify a range of issues and alternatives related to the proposed 
action, we invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties. 
We will conduct a review of this project according to the requirements 
of the National Environmental Policy Act and its regulations, other 
relevant Federal laws, regulations, policies, and guidance, and our 
procedures for compliance with those regulations. Persons needing 
reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in the 
public meetings should contact us at the address listed in the 
ADDRESSES section no later than 1 week before the relevant public 
meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in 
alternative formats upon request. We will accept oral and written 
comments at the meetings. You may also submit comments to persons 
listed in the ADDRESSES section. Once the draft EIS and draft HCP are 
completed and available for review, there will be further opportunities 
for public comment on the content of these documents through additional 
public meetings and comment period.


    The proposed action presented in the draft EIS will be compared to 
the No-Action alternative. The No-Action alternative represents 
estimated future conditions to which the proposed action's estimated 
future conditions can be compared.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the no-action alternative, LCRA TSC would comply with the Act 
by avoiding impacts to listed species where practicable, by receiving 
coverage under a Section 7 consultation where other Federal nexi exist, 
and/or by applying for individual incidental take permits where federal 
nexus does not exist. This approach is likely to be more time-consuming 
and less efficient, and could result in an isolated independent 
mitigation approach. In addition, under this piecemeal approach, it is 
unlikely that LCRA TSC would be able to construct the LCRA TSC CREZ 
transmission lines within the timeline mandated by the Texas 
Legislature and the PUC.

Proposed Alternative

    The proposed action is issuance of an incidental take permit for 
the covered species during construction, operation, and/or maintenance 
of LCRA TSC's CREZ transmission lines. The proposed HCP, which must 
meet the requirements in section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act, would be 
developed and implemented by the applicant. This alternative could 
allow for a comprehensive mitigation approach for authorized impacts 
and reduce the permit processing effort for the Service. Actions 
covered under the requested incidental take permit may include possible 
take of covered species associated with activities including, but not 
limited to, construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of LCRA 
TSC's CREZ transmission lines and all related infrastructure and 
facilities such as substations and access roads. The applicant expects 
to apply for an incidental take permit for six species listed as 
endangered or threatened or considered to be a candidate for listing 
within the proposed permit area. It is anticipated that the impacts to 
listed species associated with the Service's possible approval of the 
HCP also will be considered pursuant to the interagency consultation 
procedures of section 7 of the Act and that future consultation on such 
impacts occurring in accordance with the approved HCP will not be 
necessary and will not require additional measures of the Applicant. 
Species proposed to be covered under the requested incidental take 
permit include: The golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, least 
tern, whooping crane, and black-tailed prairie dog. Counties included 
in the proposed permit area include portions of Tom Green, Schleicher, 
Sutton, Mason, Menard, Kimble, Kerr, Kendall, Irion, Gillespie, Llano, 
Burnet, San Saba, and Lampasas Counties. Species not covered by the 
proposed incidental take permit will also be addressed in the draft HCP 
as evaluation or additional species. These species include the ocelot, 
Concho water snake, Clear Creek gambusia, sharpnose shiner, smalleye 
shiner, Bee Creek Cave harvestman, Texas hornshell, Tobusch fishhook 
cactus, and Texas snowbells. The applicant does not anticipate that 
covered activities will result in take of the evaluation species. The 
purpose of addressing these species is to analyze and explain why the 
applicant believes these species will not be taken by the covered 
activities. Other alternatives considered will also be addressed in the 
draft EIS, including impacts associated with each alternative 

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While

[[Page 13301]]

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.

Environmental Review

    The Service will conduct an environmental review to analyze the 
proposed action, as well as other alternatives evaluated and the 
associated impacts of each. The draft EIS will be the basis for the 
impact evaluation for each species covered and the range of 
alternatives to be addressed. The draft EIS is expected to provide 
biological descriptions of the affected species and habitats, as well 
as the effects of the alternatives on other resources such as 
vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, geology and soils, air quality, water 
resources, water quality, cultural resources, land use, recreation, 
water use, local economy, climate change, and environmental justice. 
Following completion of the environmental review, the Service will 
publish a notice of availability and a request for comments on the 
draft EIS and the Applicant's permit application, which will include 
the draft HCP. The draft EIS and draft HCP are expected to be completed 
and available to the public in early to mid-2010.

Thomas L. Bauer,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2010-5944 Filed 3-18-10; 8:45 am]