[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 233 (Wednesday, December 4, 2013)]
[Pages 72926-72928]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29005]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-MB-2013-N241; FF06M01000-145-FXMB12310600000]

Bald and Golden Eagles; Migratory Birds; Phase I Development of 
the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of public comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce our 
intent to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 
Phase I of the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. Our draft 
EIS will analyze the environmental impacts associated with our decision 
on whether to issue a permit authorizing take of eagles for Phase I of 
the project. Programmatic eagle take permits are authorized under the 
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and its implementing 
regulations. We are requesting public comments on issues that should be 
addressed in our draft EIS.

DATES: This notice initiates the public scoping process. To ensure 
consideration in developing the draft EIS, we must receive your 
electronic or written comments by the close of the scoping period on 
February 3, 2014. The public is invited to submit comments and resource 
information by mail or in person, and identify issues or concerns to be 
considered in the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4231-
4347) (NEPA) compliance process.
    The Service will host public scoping meetings, where you may 
discuss issues with Service staff. The time, date, and specific 
locations for these meetings will be announced through the Service's 
Web site: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/index.html as well as via press releases, local 
newspapers, radio announcements, and other media, at least 10 days 
prior to the event.
    If you require reasonable accommodations to attend the meeting, 
contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT at 
least one week before the meeting.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments in writing by one of the following 
methods. At the top of your letter or in the subject line of your 
message, please indicate that the comments are ``Chokecherry-Sierra 
Madre Wind Energy Project Comments.''
     Email: Comments should be sent to: CCSM_EIS@fws.gov.
     U.S. Mail: Written comments should be mailed to 
Chokecherry-Sierra Madre EIS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-
Prairie Region, P.O. Box 25486 DFC, Denver, CO 80225.
     Hand-Delivery/Courier: Chokecherry-Sierra Madre EIS, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region, 134 Union Blvd., 
Lakewood, CO 80228.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Carlson, (303) 236-4254 (phone); 
Dave_E_Carlson@fws.gov (email); or Mike Dixon, (303) 236-8132 
(phone); Michael_D_Dixon@fws.gov (email). Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact the above 
individuals during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 
hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the 
above individuals. You will receive a reply during normal business 


I. The Federal Action
II. Background on the Project
III. Intergovernmental and Interagency Coordination
IV. Alternatives and Related Impacts Under Consideration
V. Public Comment Procedures
VI. Authorities

I. The Federal Action

    The Service is considering a decision whether to issue a 
programmatic permit authorizing take of eagles under the Bald and 
Golden Eagle Protection Act for Phase I of the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre 
Wind Energy Project (CCSM Project or Project) in Carbon County, 
Wyoming. The Federal decision by the Service whether to issue a permit 
to take eagles triggers the need for compliance with the NEPA.
    The Service intends to gather information and prepare a draft EIS. 
Our draft EIS will analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts 
of Phase I of the Project to support a Service decision to approve or 
deny an eagle take permit (ETP). The draft EIS will also analyze a 
reasonable range of alternatives, including a no-action alternative, 
for the potential issuance of a programmatic ETP.
    The Project would be situated in an area of alternating sections of 
private, State, and Federal lands administered lands by the Bureau of 
Land Management (BLM) commonly referred to as the ``checkerboard,'' 
and, in 2012, the BLM completed a final EIS (FEIS) to evaluate whether 
the Project area would be acceptable for development of a wind 
facility. The Service intends to incorporate by reference information 
from the BLM FEIS into our environmental analysis in order to avoid 
redundancy and unnecessary paperwork. Council for Environmental Quality 
(CEQ) regulations authorize incorporation by reference (40 CFR 1502.21, 
CEQ 40 Most Asked Questions 30; see also 43 CFR 46.135). The 
decision to incorporate by reference sections from the BLM FEIS into 
the draft EIS will be based on our evaluation of the BLM FEIS and our 
consideration of public comments.

II. Background on the Project

    A. Power Company of Wyoming proposal. As proposed by the Power 
Company of Wyoming, the CCSM Project will consist of two phases of 
development. When both phases are completed, the CCSM Project will 
consist of up to 1,000 wind turbines capable of generating a total of 
2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (MW).
    Phase I of the CCSM Project, to which this notice primarily 
pertains, would consist of approximately 500 wind turbines, a haul 
road, a quarry to supply materials for road construction, access roads, 
a rail distribution facility, underground and overhead electrical and 
communication lines, laydown areas, operation and maintenance 
facilities, and other supporting infrastructure needed for Phase I to 
become fully operational. For Phase I, PCW is preparing a detailed 
eagle conservation plan (ECP) that it intends to submit to the Service 
to support its application for an ETP. The ECP will identify measures 
that PCW proposes to undertake to avoid, minimize and

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compensate for potential impacts to bald and golden eagles. To help 
meet requirements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, PCW is also 
preparing an avian protection plan containing measures that PCW 
proposes to implement to avoid or minimize impacts of the Project on 
other migratory birds. The Service will consider the information 
presented in the ECP and avian protection plan when we analyze 
environmental impacts in our draft EIS.
    PCW has indicted it will submit a separate plan of development for 
CCSM Phase II, which will consist of about 500 additional wind turbines 
(roughly 1500 MW), at a later date. At this time PCW has not determined 
when development of Phase II of the CCSM project would occur. The 
Service intends to address impacts of CCSM Phase II (a reasonably 
foreseeable future action) as cumulative impacts in the draft EIS for 
Phase I, and will conduct further NEPA review of Phase II if and when a 
take permit application for Phase II is submitted.
    The CCSM Project has a proposed life of 30 years, after which, 
subject to market conditions, the CCSM Project may be repowered as 
necessary to continue its operations.
    B. Migratory Birds and Eagle Protections. Raptors and most of other 
birds in the United States are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty 
Act (16 U.S.C. 703-711). The President's Executive Order 13186 directs 
agencies to consider migratory birds in environmental planning by 
avoiding or minimizing to the extent practicable adverse impacts on 
migratory bird resources when conducting agency actions, and by 
ensuring environmental analyses of Federal actions required by NEPA or 
other established environmental review processes.
    Bald eagles and golden eagles are provided further protection under 
the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668d) (BGEPA), 
which prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the 
Interior, from ``taking'' eagles, including their parts, nests, or 
eggs. An eagle take permit authorizes the take of live eagles and their 
eggs where the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, a human 
activity or project. The regulations pertaining to eagle take permits 
can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 22.26.
    A programmatic take permit authorizes the take of eagles where the 
take is compatible with the preservation of eagles; where it is 
necessary to protect an interest in a particular locality; where it is 
the associated with but not the purpose of an activity; and where take 
is unavoidable even though advanced conservation practices are being 
implemented. The Service will issue programmatic permits for such take 
only after an applicant has committed to undertake all practical 
measures to avoid and minimize such take and mitigate anticipated take 
to the maximum extent achievable to be compatible with the preservation 
of eagles.
    C. The BLM's FEIS. In July 2012, BLM published its FEIS for the 
Project. The BLM action evaluated in the FEIS was to decide whether the 
area identified in PCW's proposal would be acceptable for development 
of a wind facility in a manner compatible with applicable federal laws. 
The BLM FEIS included an evaluation of the impacts of issuing the 
requested rights-of-way (ROW) grants on golden eagles and other raptors 
and migratory birds based on available data and concluded that the 
estimated number of raptor fatalities, as well as the impacts of 
reduced use by passerine birds within the project area, would exceed 
significance criteria. (pages 4.14-26).
    On October 9, 2012, BLM published a Record of Decision (ROD) 
determining that the portions of the area for which PCW seeks ROWs 
grants ``are suitable for wind energy development and associated 
facilities and that design features and mitigation measures must be 
incorporated into any future CCSM wind energy development 
authorizations.'' As explained in the ROD, the BLM's decision does not 
authorize development of the wind energy project; rather, it allows BLM 
to accept and evaluate future right-of-way applications subject to the 
requirements of all future wind energy development described therein 
(ROD at 6-1).
    Prior to issuing ROW grants, BLM will prepare additional 
environmental analyses of site-specific plans of development submitted 
by PCW. The BLM ROD sets forth a framework for conducting additional 
detailed NEPA review of PCW's site-specific plans of development (ROD 
appendix C).

III. Intergovernmental and Interagency Coordination

    Federal, tribal, State, and local agencies, along with other 
stakeholders who may be interested in or affected by the Service's 
decision on Phase I wind development of the Project, are invited to 
participate in the scoping process and, if eligible, may request or be 
requested by the Service to participate as a cooperating agency.
    The Service will conduct consultation with Native American tribes 
in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and Department of the 
Interior policy, and tribal concerns will be given due consideration, 
including Indian trust assets and cultural or religious interests.
    Interested persons may view information about our environmental 
review of Phase I of the Project on our Web site, at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/index.html. 
The Web site contains information concerning the comment period, during 
which persons may submit comments, and the locations, dates, and times 
of public scoping meetings.

IV. Alternatives and Related Impacts Under Consideration

    Our draft EIS will address action alternatives, and direct, 
indirect, and cumulative impacts of the action. Alternatives for the 
Project will, at a minimum, include:
    (a) An action alternative whereby the Service issues the 
programmatic take permit with conditions;
    (b) A no-action alternative, which would result in an eagle permit 
not being issued; and
    (c) Any environmentally preferable alternatives that may be 
identified in accordance with 40 CFR part 1500.
    The Service's draft EIS will consider the predicted magnitude of 
eagle take within the context of regional eagle populations (Bird 
Conservation Regions, or BCRs). The analysis also will take into 
account other factors that may warrant protection of smaller or 
isolated eagle populations within a region. In addition, our draft EIS 
will consider:
     Comprehensive analysis of impacts to eagles that addresses 
not only the predicted take under BGEPA, but also the individual and 
cumulative habitat (including foraging and roosting) and prey base 
impacts that may have adverse population impacts but may not constitute 
take under the BGEPA;
     Potential impacts to migratory birds and their habitats 
(including thorough fragmentation analysis), and review and analysis of 
the applicant's avian protection plan;
     Cumulative impacts analyses of eagles and other migratory 
birds at the local area population scale and at the BCR scale;
     Analysis of effects to wintering golden eagles;
     Analysis of climate change effects, including effects on 
eagles, their habitat and their prey, and the effect on other migratory 
bird resources;
     Analysis of effects to eagles and other species as sacred 
species and as cultural resources. Some tribes and tribal members may 
consider eagle nests

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and other areas where eagles are present to be sacred sites addressed 
in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (42 U.S.C. 1996).
    The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant 
issues that could influence the scope of the environmental analysis, 
including alternatives, and guide the process for developing the EIS 
and related compliance efforts. The final range of reasonable 
alternatives and mitigation to be analyzed in the draft EIS will be 
determined in part by the comments received during the scoping process.

V. Public Comment Procedures

Request for Comments

    In accordance with the CEQ's regulations for implementing NEPA and 
the DOI's NEPA regulations, the Service solicits public comments on the 
scope of the draft EIS, including alternatives, mitigation, cumulative 
impacts that should be considered, and issues that the draft EIS should 
    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or other interested parties on this 
notice. Timely comments will be considered by the Service in developing 
a draft EIS.
    Written comments, including email comments, should be sent to the 
Service at the addresses given in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. 
Comments should be specific and pertain only to the issues relating to 
the proposals. The Service will include all comments in the 
administrative record.
    If you would like to be placed on the mailing list to receive 
future information, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER 
    If you require reasonable accommodation to attend one of the 
meetings, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT at least one week before the meeting.

Availability of Comments

    The Service will make comments, including name of respondent, 
address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying 
information, available for public review during normal business hours.
    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. 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. All 
submissions from organizations or businesses and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses will be available for public review to the extent 
consistent with applicable law.

VI. Authorities

    This notice is published in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Council on Environmental 
Quality's (CEQ) regulations for implementing NEPA, 40 CFR parts 1500 
through 1508; and the Department of the Interior's NEPA regulations, 43 
CFR part 46.

David McGillivary,
Acting Assistant Regional Director--Migratory Birds, Mountain-Prairie 
Region, Denver, Colorado.
[FR Doc. 2013-29005 Filed 12-3-13; 8:45 am]