[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 147 (Tuesday, July 31, 2012)]
[Pages 45368-45369]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-18633]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032; FXES111505000000Z-123-FF05E00000]

Draft Environmental Assessment, Habitat Conservation Plan, and 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Indiana Bat, Criterion 
Power Partners, LLC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability, receipt of application.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from Criterion Power Partners, LLC (CPP) for an 
incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (ESA). We are considering issuing a 21-year permit to the 
applicant that would authorize take of the federally endangered Indiana 
bat incidental to otherwise lawful activities associated with 
operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of a 28-turbine wind farm. 
Pursuant to the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act, we 
announce the availability of CPP's incidental take permit application 
and draft habitat conservation plan, as well as the Service's draft 
environmental assessment (EA), for public review and comment. We 
provide this notice to seek comments from the public and Federal, 
Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
October 1, 2012. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted electronically via the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or by hard copy 
to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032; Division of 
Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 
N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. The docket number 
for this notice is FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie Slacum, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office, 177 Admiral Cochrane Drive, 
Annapolis, MD, (410) 573-4595.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received an application from CPP for an 
incidental take permit to take the federally endangered Indiana bat 
(Myotis sodalis) over 21 years during operations, maintenance, and 
decommissioning activities related to CPP's 28-turbine wind farm. A 
conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the impacts of the 
incidental take would be implemented by CPP as described in the draft 
Criterion Wind Indiana Bat Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).
    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.; NEPA), we prepared a draft EA that describes the proposed 
action and possible alternatives and analyzes the effects of 
alternatives on the human environment. The Service will evaluate 
whether the proposed action, issuance of an incidental take permit to 
CPP, and analyses in this draft EA are adequate to support a Finding of 
No Significant Impact.

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the proposed HCP and draft EA on the 
internet at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office's Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/or at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket 
Number FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032. Copies of the proposed HCP and draft EA 
will also be available for public review during regular business hours 
at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office, 177 Admiral Cochrane Drive, 
Annapolis, MD. Those who do not have access to the internet or cannot 
visit our office can request copies by telephone at (410) 573-4599, or 
by letter to the Chesapeake Bay Field Office.


    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 
species, respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 
50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.
    CPP is seeking a permit for the incidental take of Indiana bat for 
a term of 21 years. Incidental take of this species may occur due to 
operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of 28 wind turbines. The 
proposed conservation strategy in the applicant's proposed HCP is 
designed to avoid,

[[Page 45369]]

minimize, and mitigate the impacts of covered activities on the covered 
species. The biological goals and objectives are to minimize potential 
take of Indiana bats through onsite minimization measures and to 
provide habitat conservation measures for Indiana bats to offset any 
unavoidable impacts to the species during operations of the project.
    The HCP provides onsite avoidance and minimization measures, which 
include turbine operational adjustments, project maintenance 
procedures, and decommissioning measures. The estimated level of 
Indiana bat take from the project is 14 Indiana bats over the 21-year 
project duration. In order to provide maximum conservation benefit to 
the Indiana bat, CPP will provide funding for an offsite Indiana bat 
habitat conservation project designed to mitigate the impacts of the 
incidental take of Indiana bat. CPP intends to provide funding for 
implementation of a hibernacula acquisition or gating project within 
the Appalachian Mountain Recovery Unit.
    The proposed action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the proposed HCP. CPP considered two 
alternatives to the proposed action in its HCP: No action (i.e., 
operation of the project without an incidental take permit and without 
onsite or offsite avoidance, minimization, or mitigation of Indiana bat 
impacts); and operation of the project with an incidental take permit 
with complete onsite operational curtailment to avoid or minimize 
Indiana bat impacts only, and no offsite recovery-plan-based mitigation 
measures. CPP has also negotiated a draft implementation agreement (IA) 
with the Service 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, as set forth in the agreement. The draft 
IA is being included with the proposed HCP for public review.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with the NEPA, 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 
Chesapeake Bay Field Office (see Availability of Documents).
    NEPA requires that a range of reasonable alternatives to the 
proposed action be described. The draft EA analyzes four alternatives 
that were derived from discussions with CPP 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), a full minimization alternative (no need for a permit), and a 
reduced permit duration alternative.

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 (see DATES). You may 
submit written comments by one of the following methods:
    Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032, 
which is the docket number for this notice. Then, on the left side of 
the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notices link 
to locate this document and submit a comment.
    By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2012-0032; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will post all public comments and information received 
electronically or via hardcopy on http://www.regulations.gov. All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the administrative record and will be available to the public. Before 
including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--will 
be publicly available. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this information from public review. However, 
we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 12, 2012.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-18633 Filed 7-30-12; 8:45 am]