[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 194 (Tuesday, October 6, 2020)]
[Pages 63134-63136]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-22063]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2020-N119; FXES111602C0000-201-FF02ENEH00]

Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances for the False 
Spike and Texas Fawnsfoot in the Brazos River Basin

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for public comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an 
application from the Brazos River Authority, a special district of the 
State of Texas responsible for development and management of the water 
resources of the Brazos River Basin in Texas. The application is for an 
enhancement of survival permit under the Endangered Species Act that 
would authorize incidental take of two candidate mussel species, false 
spike and Texas fawnsfoot. The application includes a candidate 
conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) for freshwater mussel 
conservation and surface water supply and delivery operations and 
maintenance activities in the Brazos River Basin in Texas. We have made 
a preliminary determination that the CCAA is eligible for categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The basis 
for this determination is contained in a low-effect screening form for 
a categorical exclusion (dCatEx form), which evaluates the impacts of 
implementation of the proposed CCAA. The documents available for 
comment include the low-effect screening form that supports a 
categorical exclusion under NEPA, the CCAA, and an enhancement of 
survival permit application.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received or 
postmarked on or before 11:59 p.m. eastern time on November 5, 2020. We 
may not consider any comments we receive after the closing date in the 
final decision on this action.

    Accessing Documents:
    Internet: The dCatEx form, CCAA, and permit application: You may 
obtain electronic copies of these documents on the Service's website at 

[[Page 63135]]

    U.S. Mail: You may obtain the documents at the following addresses. 
In your request for documents, please reference Brazos River Authority 
     dCatEx form and CCAA: A limited number of CD-ROM and 
printed copies of the dCatEx form and CCAA are available, by request, 
from Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services 
Field Office, Austin, TX 78758, telephone 512-490-0057.
     EOS permit application: The EOS permit application is 
available by mail from the Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103, Attention: 
Environmental Review Branch.
    Submitting Comments: Regarding any of the documents available for 
review, you may submit written comments by one of the following 
methods. In your comments, please reference Brazos River Authority 
     Email: Submit comments to FW2_HCP_Permits@fws.gov.
     U.S. Mail: Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services 
Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758.

We request that you send comments by only one of the methods described 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, by 
mail at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, 
Austin, TX 78758; via phone at 512-490-0057; or via the Federal Relay 
Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act 
(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 the 
enhancement of survival (EOS) of candidate 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 such take of endangered and threatened/candidate species, 
respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 
17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.


    The Brazos River Authority (BRA) has applied to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) for an EOS under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
ESA. The requested EOS permit, which would become effective on the date 
the species may be listed in the future If the EOS is issued, it would 
authorize incidental take of the false spike (Fusconaia mitchelli) and 
Texas fawnsfoot (Truncilla macrodon), two mussels species listed as 
candidates under the ESA. The permit would be in effect from the 
effective date of a listing for the remainder of the 20-year duration 
of the CCAA. The proposed incidental take would result from activities 
associated with otherwise lawful activities resulting from 
implementation of the measures in the CCAA's conservation strategy, and 
ongoing and continuing water supply development activities. The CCAA 
and associated permit would implement a voluntary conservation strategy 
for freshwater mussels developed by the BRA informed by the National 
Strategy for the Conservation of Native Freshwater Mussels developed by 
the National Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society. The conservation 
strategy includes avoidance and minimization measures to reduce impacts 
to candidate mussels and their habitats, a monitoring and adaptive 
management program, environmental flow standards, and a public outreach 
and education program about threats affecting the candidate mussels. In 
addition, it includes development of revised flow standards specific to 
candidate mussels, in conjunction with development of hydrologic 
modeling to inform adaptive management. There is also support for 
development of short-term refugia and research into propagation 
methods. The expected result of the implementation of the conservation 
strategy is likely a net conservation benefit to the candidate false 
spike and candidate Texas fawnsfoot.
    The intent of the CCAA and associated permit is to provide the BRA 
with the opportunity to voluntarily conserve both species and their 
habitat, while carrying out their existing and ongoing water supply and 
water delivery operations and providing a net conservation benefit to 
the species. If approved, the EOS would be for a 20-year period 
following the signature of the CCAA and would authorize incidental take 
of the false spike and Texas fawnsfoot, if the species come to be 
listed under the ESA.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action involves the issuance of an EOS by the Service 
for the covered activities in the permit area, under section 
10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. The EOS would cover ``take'' of the covered 
species associated with implementation of a conservation strategy for 
freshwater mussels and the operation and maintenance of BRA's water 
supply and distribution system within the permit area. An application 
for an EOS must include a CCAA that describes the conservation measures 
the applicant has agreed to undertake to minimize and mitigate for the 
impacts of the proposed taking of covered species to the maximum extent 
practicable. The applicant will fully implement the CCAA if approved by 
the Service.

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the CCAA and comments we receive to determine 
whether the EOS application meets the requirements of section 
10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. We will also evaluate whether issuance of a 
section 10(a)(1)(A) permit would comply with section 7 of the ESA by 
conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. We will also 
evaluate the comments received to determine if the CCAA is eligible for 
categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA). We will use the results of the combination of the above 
findings, in our final analysis to determine whether to issue an EOS. 
If all necessary requirements are met, we may issue the EOS to the 

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. 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 request in your comment that we 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 made available for public disclosure in their 


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA 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

[[Page 63136]]

implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Amy L. Lueders,
Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2020-22063 Filed 10-5-20; 8:45 am]