[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 103 (Thursday, May 28, 2020)]
[Pages 32044-32046]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-11369]

[[Page 32044]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2019-0116; FXES11140900000-190-FF08E00000]

Endangered and Threatened Species; Receipt of Incidental Take 
Permit Application and Habitat Conservation Plan for the Proposed 
Rooney Ranch Wind Repowering Project, Alameda County, California; 
Availability of Draft Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application for an incidental take permit under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit to conduct activities with the 
potential for take of endangered and threatened species that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out otherwise lawful 
activities. We invite comments on the applicant's permit application 
and habitat conservation plan (HCP), and the associated environmental 
assessment, which we have prepared pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act. We will take comments into consideration 
before issuance of the requested permit.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
July 29, 2020.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents:
     Electronic copies: The documents this notice announces, as 
well as any comments and other materials that we receive, will be 
available for public inspection online in Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2019-
0116 at http://www.regulations.gov.
    You may also obtain electronic copies of the draft Rooney Ranch 
Wind Repowering Project Habitat Conservation Plan (draft HCP) and draft 
environmental assessment (EA) from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office website at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento. (See FOR FURTHER 
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Internet: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2019-
     U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing; Attn: Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2019-0116; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: 
PERMA; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

    For more information, see Public Comment Procedures under 
     Facsimile: 916-414-6713, attn. Ryan Olah.

    We request that you send comments by only the methods described 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Claudia Funari, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES), 916-
414-6600 (telephone). If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf, please call the Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have 
prepared an environmental assessment under the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) for the proposed Rooney Ranch Wind Repowering Project 
in response to an application from Rooney Ranch Wind, LLC (applicant) 
for a 36-year incidental take permit for three species under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). The application addresses the potential for ``take'' of the 
following three federally listed animals: The Central California 
distinct population segment of the California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense) (central CTS), the California red-legged frog 
(Rana draytonii), and the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica). 
The applicant would implement a conservation program to minimize and 
mitigate the project impacts, as described in the applicant's habitat 
conservation plan (HCP). We invite comments on the applicant's permit 
application, HCP, and the associated EA, which we have prepared 
pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended 
(NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations in the 
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1506.6. We will take 
comments into consideration before issuance of the requested permit.
    The applicant has submitted a draft HCP as part of the application 
for an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. The draft HCP includes 
measures necessary to minimize and mitigate the impacts, to the maximum 
extent practicable, of potential taking of federally listed species to 
be covered by the HCP, and the habitats upon which they depend, 
resulting from construction and operation of the proposed Rooney Ranch 
Wind Repowering Project within the project area, to include portions of 
the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in Alameda County, 

Background Information

    Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the take of fish or wildlife species 
listed as endangered; as applicable to the species affected by the 
proposed action, the ESA implementing regulations also prohibit take of 
fish or wildlife species listed as threatened, with exceptions for 
certain ranching activities on private and tribal lands as described in 
50 CFR 17.43(c)(3)(i)-(xi) and 50 CFR 17.43(d)(3)(i)-(xi). Regulations 
governing permits for endangered and threatened species are at 50 CFR 
17.22 and 17.32. For more about the Federal habitat conservation plan 
(HCP) program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/hcp.pdf.
    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) requires Federal agencies to analyze their proposed actions to 
determine whether the actions may significantly affect the human 
environment. In these NEPA analyses, the Federal agency will identify 
direct, indirect, and cumulative effects, as well as possible 
mitigation for effects on environmental resources that could occur with 
implementation of the proposed action and alternatives.

Proposed Action Alternative

    We would issue an ITP to the applicant for a period of 36 years for 
certain covered activities (described below). The applicant has 
requested an ITP for three federally listed species. The HCP addresses 
four types of proposed activities (referred to as covered activities in 
the HCP): (1) Construction of facilities, (2) operation and maintenance 
(O&M) of facilities, (3) conservation actions, and (4) restoration 
actions. The project would consist of the installation of large-scale 
modern wind turbines with generating capacities between 2.3 and 4.0 
megawatts (MW), all generally similar in size and appearance, to 
develop up to 25.1 MW. The proposed layout would include seven new-
generation wind turbines. Generally, existing roads would be used, with 
temporary widening of approximately 2.7 miles of roads and construction 
of approximately 0.3 mile of new roads. An existing on-site substation, 
consisting of an approximately 0.2-acre gravel-covered footprint area, 
may be expanded by 0.1 acre to accommodate installation of upgraded 
equipment. Construction activities would result in 1.8 acres of 
permanent impacts to landcover from the installation of facilities, 
roads, and turbine structures. Construction activities would also 
result in 42.9 acres

[[Page 32045]]

of temporary land cover impacts from activities such as grading, 
trenching, excavation, access roads, and staging areas. Operations and 
maintenance activities would result in temporary landcover disturbance 
of up to 3.0 acres over the life of the permit. The project would 
result in 1.8 acres of permanent impacts (construction) and 45.9 acres 
of temporary impacts (construction + operations/maintenance).

Habitat Conservation Plan Area

    The geographic scope of the draft HCP area comprises two separate 
permit areas: The project permit area and the mitigation permit area. 
The project permit area encompasses approximately 582 acres within the 
APWRA in eastern Alameda County, California, consisting of two Santa 
Clara City-owned parcels between I-580 to the south and Altamont Pass 
Road to the north. The repowering project would be constructed entirely 
within the project permit area. The mitigation permit area comprises 
potential mitigation lands, still to be identified, that the applicant, 
in coordination with the Service, is evaluating in Alameda County. 
Based on where the mitigation lands are located in the County, the 
estimated acreage required of the mitigation site would range from 48.3 
to 51.3 acres. When the permit areas are combined, the HCP area will 
cover approximately 633.3 acres.

Covered Activities

    The proposed ESA section 10 ITP would allow take of three covered 
species resulting from certain covered activities in the proposed HCP 
area. The proposed covered activities under this HCP include 
constructing and installing seven wind turbines and associated 
electrical facilities and access roads, installing a meteorological 
tower, a power collection system, expanding a substation as well as 
maintaining the new wind turbines and the associated facilities, and 
restoring the site. Specifically, proposed covered activities include 
grading, excavating to support access roads, trenching to install 
underground electrical lines, installing erosion-control measures 
during construction and maintenance covered activities, installation or 
temporary expansion of gravel roads, pouring a cement footing to 
support each turbine, installing of other infrastructure, gravel 
placement for road maintenance, vehicle travel, transport of equipment 
and supplies, and other similar actions necessary to support the 
construction, maintenance, and operation of the proposed Rooney Ranch 
Wind Repowering Project. All activities associated with monitoring and 
maintenance of habitat and listed species populations within the 
mitigation site would also be considered covered activities.
    The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects 
to the covered species associated with the covered activities by fully 
implementing the HCP. The following mitigation measures will be 
implemented for covered species as part of the HCP: Minimize impact 
area; avoid injury of covered species during implementation of covered 
activities through such measures as seasonal and daytime work 
limitation, the presence of a biological monitor, and the placement of 
wildlife exclusionary fencing in key areas; avoid habitat impacts 
associated with erosion and sedimentation generated by covered 
activities; minimize the risk of project-related toxic spills that 
could adversely affect listed species habitat; restore all temporarily 
disturbed listed species' habitat in the HCP area to pre-project 
conditions within 1 year of disturbance; ensure implementation of the 
avoidance and minimization measures; offset unavoidable impacts on 
covered species through the purchase of approximately 48.3 to 51.3 
acres of covered species habitat to ensure that temporary and permanent 
effects are mitigated.

Covered Species

    The applicants have requested an ITP for three federally listed 
threatened species: The threatened California red-legged frog (Rana 
draytonii), the threatened Central California distinct population 
segment (DPS) of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma 
californiense) (Central California tiger salamander), and the 
endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica). All species 
included on the ITP would receive assurances under the Service's ``No 
Surprises'' regulations at 50 CFR 17.22(b)(5).

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The draft EA was prepared to analyze the impacts of issuing an ITP 
based on the draft HCP and to inform the public of the proposed action, 
alternatives, and associated impacts and to disclose any irreversible 
commitments of resources. The proposed action presented in the draft EA 
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. Other 
alternatives were not considered or addressed in the draft EA, because 
they did not fulfill the purpose and need of the project.

No Action Alternative

    Under the no-action alternative, the HCP would not be implemented, 
and the proposed ITP would not be issued. There would be no take of 
federally listed species as a result of the project. This alternative 
assumes that existing wind power production facilities and approved 
repowering wind production facilities in the APWRA would continue to 
operate into the future.

Environmental Review and Next Steps

    As described in our EA, we have made the preliminary determination 
that approval of the draft HCP and issuance of the permit would qualify 
as finding of no significant impact (FONSI) under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), as provided by Federal regulations (40 CFR 1500.5(k), 
1507.3(b)(2), 1508.4) and the Department of the Interior Manual. Our EA 
articulates the project effects on all potential resources that could 
be adversely affected, including aesthetics, air quality and climate 
change, biological resources, cultural resources, geology, hazardous 
materials and public safety hazards, hydrology and water quality, 
noise, and traffic and transportation. It also includes an analysis of 
alternatives and other required analysis such as unavoidable adverse 
effects, irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources, and 
finally, short-term uses versus long-term productivity and cumulative 

Public Comment Procedures

    All comments and materials we receive in response to these requests 
will be available for public review at http://www.regulations.gov.
    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--may be made publicly available at any time. 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.

Next Steps

    Issuance of an ITP is a Federal proposed action subject to 
compliance with NEPA. The FWS will evaluate the application, associated 
documents, and any public comments we receive to determine whether the 
application meets the requirements of NEPA regulations and section 
10(a) of the ESA. If the FWS determines that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the

[[Page 32046]]

incidental take of the covered species from the implementation of the 
covered activities described in the HCP. A permit decision will be made 
no sooner than 30 days after the date of publication of this notice in 
the Federal Register.


    We issue this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6 and 43 CFR 

Jennifer Norris,
Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 2020-11369 Filed 5-27-20; 8:45 am]