[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 222 (Tuesday, November 18, 2014)]
[Pages 68690-68692]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-27255]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2014-0047; FXES11120500000]

Early Scoping for an Anticipated Application for Incidental Take 
Permit and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; North Allegheny Wind 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of initiation of scoping.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce our intent to prepare a NEPA document for an 
anticipated Incidental Take Permit (ITP) application and associated 
draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) from the North Allegheny Wind, 
LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy Generating Services (or 
Duke Energy Renewables) for operation of their wind facility within 
occupied habitat of the northern long-eared bat (Myotis 
septentrionalis) and the federally listed endangered Indiana bat 
(Myotis sodalis). The northern long-eared bat has recently been 
proposed for listing as endangered under the ESA. Wind turbine 
operation has the potential to incidentally take Indiana bats and 
northern long-eared bats. Therefore, Duke Energy

[[Page 68691]]

Renewables is developing an ITP application and HCP to address this 
    In advance of receiving the ITP application for this project, the 
Service is providing this notice to request information from other 
agencies, tribes, and the public on the scope of the NEPA review and 
issues to consider in the NEPA analysis and in development of the HCP.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
December 18, 2014. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES) must be received by 11:59 p.m. 
Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments by one of the following 
    Electronically: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2014-0047, 
which is the docket number for this notice. Click on the appropriate 
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-2014-0047; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you send comments by only the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on the Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lora Zimmerman, by mail at U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 315 South Allen Street, Suite 322, State College, 
PA 16801, or by telephone at 814-234-4090, extension 233.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We announce our intent to prepare a NEPA 
document for a pending ITP application and associated draft HCP from 
Duke Energy Renewables. Duke Energy Renewables currently owns and 
operates the North Allegheny Wind Project, a utility-scale wind 
generation facility in Blair and Cambria Counties, Pennsylvania. A map 
depicting the wind facility on the landscape can be viewed on the 
Service's Pennsylvania Field Office Web page; http://www.fws.gov/northeast/pafo//pdf/NAW_LocationMap_100914.pdf . The facility consists 
of 35 2-megawatt turbines, a network of electrical collector lines, and 
access roads. The facility is situated in predominantly forested lands 
that harbor the federally listed endangered Indiana bat and the 
proposed endangered northern long-eared bat. Construction of the 
facility was completed in 2008, and commercial operation began in 
September 2009. Take of one Indiana bat occurred in September 2011. As 
a result, the company has been operating at a cut in speed we believe 
that will avoid further take while permit materials are being developed 
and final decisions are made. As indicated above, wind turbine 
operation has the potential to incidentally take Indiana bats and 
northern long-eared bats. Therefore, Duke Energy Renewables is 
developing an ITP application and HCP to address these activities.
    In advance of receiving the ITP application for this project, the 
Service is providing this notice to request information from other 
agencies, Tribes, and the public on the scope of the NEPA review and 
issues to consider in the NEPA analysis and in development of the HCP. 
We believe we can proceed with an Environmental Assessment (EA), with 
the caveat that we will use it to evaluate, in conjunction with the 
public comments, whether any significant impacts would require further 
analysis in an Environmental Impact Statement.

Request for Information

    We request data, comments, information, and suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this 
notice. We will consider all comments we receive in complying with the 
requirements of NEPA and in the development of the HCP and ITP.
    We seek comments particularly related to:
    (1) Information concerning the biology, range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of Indiana bats, northern long-
eared bats, and other federally listed species that occur in 
Pennsylvania that could be affected by proposed covered activities;
    (2) Relevant data and information concerning wind turbine operation 
and bat interactions; and
    (3) Any other issues relating to the human environment and 
potential impacts that we should consider with regard to the covered 
activities and potential ITP issuance (e.g., cultural and historical 
resources, migratory birds, etc).
    You may submit your comments and materials considering this notice 
by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section.


    Indiana bats are listed as an endangered species under the ESA. The 
population decline of this species has historically been attributed to 
habitat loss and degradation of both winter hibernation habitat 
(hibernacula) and summer roosting habitat, human disturbance during 
hibernation, and possibly pesticides. A more recent threat to Indiana 
bats has been the emergence of white-nose syndrome (WNS), an infectious 
fungal disease that has led to significant population declines in some 
parts of the species' range, including the northeastern and 
southeastern United States.
    The range of the Indiana bat includes much of the eastern United 
States, including Pennsylvania. Winter habitat for the Indiana bat 
includes caves and mines that support high humidity and cool-but-stable 
temperatures. In the summer, Indiana bats roost in trees (dead, dying, 
or alive) with exfoliating bark, cracks, crevices, and/or hollows. 
During summer, males roost alone or in small groups, while females and 
their offspring can roost in larger groups. Indiana bats forage for 
insects in and along the edges of forested areas and wooded stream 
    Northern long-eared bats have recently been proposed for listing as 
endangered under the ESA. WNS is the predominant threat to the species, 
though other threats may include impacts to hibernacula and summer 
habitat, and disturbance of hibernating bats. Northern long-eared bats 
have been abundant in the eastern United States and are often captured 
in summer mist nets surveys and detected during acoustic surveys. 
Northern long-eared bats are known to use forested habitats throughout 
Pennsylvania. Similar to Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats 
generally hibernate in caves and mines during the winter. During the 
summer, the bats roost in live or dead trees, though they are also 
known to use human-made structures such as barns, sheds, and bat boxes.
    Bats are known to be killed in significant numbers by utility-scale 
wind turbines in the eastern United States. Bats have very low 
reproductive rates, with females of most species typically producing 
only one offspring per year. Fatalities resulting from wind facilities 
are considered to be additive to baseline fatalities, that is, they are 
fatalities above and beyond that which would be expected to occur due 
to baseline ecological and biological factors, such as old age, 
predation, and

[[Page 68692]]

climatic extremes. Furthermore, with respect to Indiana bats and 
northern long-eared bats, the additive mortality from wind facilities 
is expected to exacerbate population declines that have resulted from 
    The Federal action that will be analyzed through NEPA will be the 
potential issuance of an ITP to allow incidental take of Indiana bats 
and northern long-eared bats from wind turbines that will be described 
in the HCP. The HCP will incorporate avoidance, minimization, 
mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures aimed at addressing the 
impact of the covered activities to Indiana bats and northern long-
eared bats. A description of the covered lands is currently under 
development for the HCP, but will likely include the 35 turbines, 
turbine pads, electric lines, and access roads. The covered activities 
in the HCP are anticipated to include turbine operation, maintenance 
activities, decommissioning, and mitigation actions that have the 
potential to result in incidental take of Indiana bats and northern 
long-eared bats. Because curtailment of operating turbines is the only 
method presently known to effectively reduce bat fatalities due to wind 
turbine operation, this will likely be the primary minimization measure 
employed. The permit term is under development but is likely to be 
coextensive with the predicted operating life of the turbines, 
generally between 20-30 years.
    The NEPA analysis will assess the direct, indirect, and cumulative 
impacts of the proposed Federal action on the human environment, 
comprehensively interpreted to include the natural and physical 
environment and the relationship of people with that environment. It 
will also analyze several alternatives to the proposed Federal action, 
to include no action, and other reasonable courses of action. Relevant 
information provided in response to this notice will aid in developing 
the draft HCP and NEPA analysis.

Next Steps

    In this phase of the project, we are seeking information to assist 
development of the NEPA analysis and the draft HCP. We will then 
develop a draft NEPA document based on the ITP application, Applicant's 
draft HCP, any associated documents, and public comments received 
through this early scoping effort. We will then publish a notice of 
availability for the draft NEPA document and draft HCP and seek 
additional public comment before completing our final analysis to 
determine whether to issue an ITP.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to provide comments that will assist 
our NEPA analysis during this 30-day public comment period (see DATES). 
You may submit comments by one of the methods shown under ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    We will post all public comments and information received 
electronically or via hardcopy at http://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, electronic mail 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 


    This notice is provided pursuant to NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1501.7 
and 1508.22).

    Dated: October 27, 2014.
Paul Phifer,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2014-27255 Filed 11-17-14; 8:45 am]