[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 202 (Wednesday, October 19, 2011)]
[Pages 64966-64967]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-26793]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2011-N174; 50120-1112-0000-F2]

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment and 
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Karner Blue 
Butterfly and Frosted Elfin From National Grid

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft environmental assessment, 
receipt of application, and habitat conservation plan.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq.) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service or ``we'') announce the availability of an application for an 
incidental take permit and the associated habitat conservation plan 
(HCP) from National Grid (NG), Syracuse, New York, and draft 
environmental assessment (EA) for public review and comment. We 
received the permit application from NG for incidental take of 
federally listed Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and 
unlisted frosted elfin (Callophyrs irus) (should this species become 
listed in the future) over the next 50 years during operations, 
maintenance, and construction activities associated with electric and 
natural gas facilities within portions of Albany, Oneida, Schenectady, 
Saratoga, and Warren Counties, New York. We prepared a draft EA that 
describes the proposed action and possible alternatives and analyzes 
the effects of alternatives on the human environment.
    We provide this notice to: (1) Seek public comments on the proposed 
HCP; (2) seek public comments on the scope of issues and alternatives 
considered in the draft EA and our consideration as to whether the 
draft EA supports a Finding of No Significant Impact under NEPA; and 
(3) advise other Federal and State agencies, affected Tribes, and the 
public of our intent to prepare a final EA.
    The proposed HCP and EA are being made available during a 60-day 
comment period. To ensure consideration, we must receive your written 
comments by December 19, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Send comments by U.S. mail to Robyn Niver, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, New York Field Office, 3817 Luker Road, Cortland, New 
York 13045; by facsimile at 607-753-9699; or by electronic mail at 
robyn_niver@fws.gov. In the subject line of your letter, facsimile or 
electronic mail, include the document identifier: NG HCP.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received a permit application from NG for 
incidental take of federally listed Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides 
melissa samuelis) and unlisted frosted elfin (Callophyrs irus) (should 
this species become listed in the future) over the next 50 years during 
operations, maintenance, and construction activities associated with 
electric and natural gas facilities. A conservation program to minimize 
and mitigate for the incidental take would be implemented by NG as 
described in the draft NG HCP.
    We prepared a draft EA to comply with the NEPA. The Service will 
evaluate whether the proposed action, issuance of an incidental take 
permit to NG, and other alternatives in this draft EA are adequate to 
support a Finding of No Significant Impact.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA and 
NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
    We are requesting comments on the proposed HCP and our 
consideration as to whether the draft EA supports a Finding of No 
Significant Impact under NEPA.

Availability of Documents

    The proposed HCP and draft EA are available on the New York Field 
Office's (NYFO) Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/nyfo/es/kbb.htm. Copies of the proposed HCP and draft EA will be available for 
public review during regular business hours at the NYFO (see 
ADDRESSES). Those who do not have access to the Web site or cannot 
visit our office can request copies by telephone at 607-753-9334 or by 
letter to the NYFO (see ADDRESSES).


    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of animal species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take is defined under the ESA as 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). However, under section 10(a) of the ESA, we may issue 
permits to authorize incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental 
take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered 

[[Page 64967]]

respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (October 1, 
2006, 50 CFR 17.22; October 1, 2001, 50 CFR 17.32).
    NG is seeking a permit for the incidental take of Karner blue 
butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and frosted elfin (Callophyrs 
irus) (should this species become listed in the future) for a term of 
50 years. Incidental take of these species may occur in patches of 
habitat within approximately 56.1 miles of electric transmission line 
right-of-way (ROW), 52.9 miles of electric sub-transmission line, 42.32 
miles of gas lines located in ROWs, and 8.41 miles of distribution line 
ROW (covered lands) within portions of Albany, Oneida, Schenectady, 
Saratoga, and Warren Counties, New York. Where multiple electric lines 
are located parallel in the same ROW, the length has only been counted 
once. Where a gas pipeline is located adjacent to an electric 
transmission line, both lengths have been counted. An additional 28 
acres of mitigation lands are also included as covered lands. The 
covered activities may result in the permanent loss of 3.5 acres of 
occupied habitat and periodic temporary disturbance of 29.3 acres of 
occupied habitat during the term of the permit.
    Proposed covered activities include operations, maintenance, 
reconstruction, and new construction of electric transmission, sub-
transmission, and distribution structures and substations, as well as 
underground natural gas pipelines and associated aboveground gas 
regulator stations and valve sites.
    The HCP's proposed conservation strategy is designed to avoid, 
minimize, and mitigate the impacts of covered activities on the covered 
species. The biological goals and objectives are to complement the 
existing conservation efforts in New York State for the butterflies by 
(a) Focusing mitigation/restoration/enhancement efforts within the 
Albany Pine Bush and Queensbury viable butterfly populations where 
corridor connections can be made and larger habitats of wild blue 
lupine can be developed; (b) working with non-governmental 
organizations in the area with an interest in protecting butterfly 
habitat; (c) avoiding and minimizing negative effects and actions; (d) 
promoting education and outreach; and (e) ensuring that the amount of 
habitat for the covered species within the covered lands does not drop 
below the 2006 Baseline Survey acreage.
    The HCP provides a mechanism to supply funding for a full range of 
conservation measures targeting the butterflies and the ecosystems that 
support them. Conservation measures proposed include implementation of 
avoidance and minimization measures to ensure continued existence of 
the butterflies within the covered lands, creation of a 5-acre, off-ROW 
preserve, and creation and/or enhancement of up to 23 acres of ROW 
habitat. Additionally, and although not required, NG will be proactive 
and conduct enhancement measures above and beyond the regulatory 
requirements that should result in the ultimate creation and promotion 
of habitat within strategically selected ROW areas of the covered 
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the proposed HCP. Two other alternatives 
to the proposed action were considered in the HCP: no action (i.e., the 
incidental take permit for Karner blue butterfly and frosted elfin 
would not be issued and the HCP would not be implemented), and avoiding 
or reducing the performance of infrastructure repairs and replacements. 
However, these two alternative actions were eliminated from further 
consideration, due to logistical and public safety considerations, and 
the associated regulatory and business-related obligations to continue 
providing reliable electricity and natural gas service to NG's 
customers. NG has developed an implementation agreement (IA) that 
ensures proper implementation of each of the terms and conditions of 
the HCP and describes the applicable remedies and recourse should any 
party fail to perform its obligations, responsibilities, and tasks. The 
IA is being included with the proposed HCP for public review.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with the NEPA of 1969, we analyzed the impacts of 
implementing the HCP, issuance of the permit, and a reasonable range of 
alternatives. Based on this analysis and any new information resulting 
from public comment on the proposed action, we will determine if there 
are any significant impacts or effects caused by issuing the incidental 
take permit. We have prepared a draft EA on this proposed action and 
have made it available for public inspection online or in person at the 
    NEPA requires that a range of reasonable alternatives to the 
proposed action be described. The draft EA analyzes three alternatives 
that were derived from discussions with NG during the development of 
the HCP. We evaluated a no action alternative (do not issue a permit, 
status quo), the proposed action, (issue the permit and implement the 
HCP) and one other alternative that limits the mitigation activities to 
areas of impact.

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the plan and comments we receive to determine 
whether the permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a) 
of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We will also evaluate whether 
issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit would comply with section 7 of 
the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. We will 
use the results of this consultation, in combination with the above 
findings, in our final analysis to determine whether to issue a permit. 
If the requirements are met, we will issue the permit to the applicant.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the proposed HCP and 
draft EA during a 60-day public comment period ending on December 19, 
2011. Comments can be submitted to the NYFO (see ADDRESSES). All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the administrative record and may be made available to the public. 
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 may 
request at the top of your document that we withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so.

    Dated: August 11, 2011.
Kenneth D. Elowe,
Acting Regional Director, Region 5.
[FR Doc. 2011-26793 Filed 10-18-11; 8:45 am]