[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 243 (Thursday, December 17, 2020)]
[Pages 81953-81954]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-27705]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0142; FXES1120800000-201-FF08ENVS00]

Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Application and Draft Low-
Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, and Draft NEPA Compliance 
Documentation, for the Gamebird Substation Expansion in Pahrump, Nye 
County, Nevada

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the proposed low-effect habitat 
conservation plan, and NEPA compliance documentation; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the receipt 
and availability of an application for an incidental take permit (ITP) 
under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and an associated draft low-
effect habitat conservation plan (HCP). Additionally, consistent with 
the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we 
have prepared a draft low-effect screening form and environmental 
action statement supporting our preliminary determination that the 
proposed permit action qualifies for a categorical exclusion under 
NEPA. GridLiance West, LLC has applied for an ITP under the ESA for the 
Gamebird Substation Expansion in Pahrump, Nye County, Nevada. The ITP 
would authorize the take of one species incidental to the development 
and construction of the project. We invite the public and local, State, 
Tribal, and Federal agencies to comment on the permit application, 
proposed low-effect HCP, and NEPA categorical exclusion determination 
documentation. Before issuing the requested ITP, we will take into 
consideration any information that we receive during the public comment 

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before January 19, 

    Obtaining Documents: 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-2020-0142 at 
    Submitting Comments: To send written comments, please use one of 
the following methods and identify to which document your comments are 
in reference--the ITP application, draft HCP, or NEPA compliance 
     Internet: Submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov 
under Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2020-0142.
     U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. 
FWS-R8-ES-2020-0142; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: 
PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    For more information, see Public Comments and Public Availability 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glen W. Knowles, Field Supervisor, 
Southern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, by phone at 702-515-5244 or 
via the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), announce the receipt and availability of an application 
submitted by GridLiance West, LLC (applicant), for a 4-year incidental 
take permit (ITP) under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species 
Act, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Application for the 
permit requires the preparation of an HCP with measures to avoid, 
minimize, and mitigate the impacts of incidental take of endangered or 
threatened species to the maximum extent practicable. The applicant 
prepared the draft Low Effect HCP for the Gamebird Substation Expansion 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA. FWS consideration of 
issuing an ITP also requires evaluation of its potential impacts on the 
natural and human environment in accordance with NEPA. FWS has prepared 
a low-effect screening form and environmental action statement 
(categorical exclusion, or catex documentation), pursuant to NEPA (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1501.4, to preliminarily determine 
if the proposed HCP qualifies as a low-effect HCP, eligible for a 
categorical exclusion.


    Except for permitted exceptions, section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 
1538 et seq.) prohibits the taking of fish and wildlife species listed 
as endangered under section 4 of the ESA; by regulation, take of 
certain species listed as threatened is also prohibited (16 U.S.C. 
1533(d); 50 CFR 17.31). Regulations governing the permitted exception 
for allowable incidental take of endangered and threatened species are 
at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32. For more about the Federal habitat 
conservation HCP program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/hcp.pdf.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The proposed permit issuance triggers the need for compliance with 
the NEPA. The draft catex documentation was prepared to determine if 
issuance of an ITP, based on the draft HCP, would individually or 
cumulatively have only a minor or negligible effect on the species 
covered in the HCP, and would therefore qualify as a low-effect HCP 
eligible for a categorical exclusion from further environmental 
analysis under NEPA.

Proposed Action

    Under the proposed action, the Service would issue an ITP to the 
applicant for a period of 4 years for certain covered activities 
(described below) related to the expansion of the existing Gamebird 
Substation. The applicant has requested an ITP for one covered species, 
the Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), which was, and remains 
as listed under the ESA as threatened in April 1990.

Habitat Conservation Plan Area

    The geographic scope of the draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) 
area encompasses 18.2 acres in Nye County, Nevada, where the expansion 
will occur.

Covered Activities

    The proposed section 10(a) ITP would allow incidental take of one 
covered species from covered activities in the proposed HCP area. The 
applicant is requesting incidental take authorization for covered 
activities, including site preparation, geotechnical drilling, 
associated infrastructure development, expansion of the substation, and 
the installation of a 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to connect 
the substation to an existing 230-kV transmission line that runs from 
Pahrump to the Sloan Canyon Switch.
    The applicant has proposed to minimize and mitigate for the direct 
impacts to desert tortoises and its habitat in the HCP area through the 
following measures:
    1. Implementing a worker environmental awareness training program;

[[Page 81954]]

    2. Setting speed limits to avoid collisions with tortoise;
    3. Having an approved biologist ensure implementation of 
minimization measures, monitor covered activities to avoid collisions, 
and clear the work site and materials, vehicles, and equipment of 
tortoises before work activity;
    4. Requiring pre-movement vehicle and equipment inspections by 
    5. Installing temporary tortoise exclusion fencing around 
substation area;
    6. Conducting pre-construction clearance surveys and translocation 
by an approved biologist;
    7. Developing a plan for spill prevention and control, with 
    8. Implementing proper waste management and disposal actions;
    9. Developing a fire management plan; and
    10. Implementing certain weed management efforts.
    The proposed action will result in the permanent loss of moderate-
quality habitat in Nye County, Nevada. In addition to the minimization 
measures, the applicant will make a one-time contribution of $26,500, 
payable to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), to offset 
the impacts of permanent Mojave desert tortoise habitat loss and 
habitat modification of about 18.2 acres.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the No-Action Alternative, the Service would not issue an ITP 
to the applicant, and the draft HCP would not be implemented. Under 
this alternative, the applicant may choose not to construct the 
facility or would do so in a manner presumed not to result in the take 
of ESA-listed species.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on permit 
application, draft HCP, and associated documents. If you wish to 
comment, you may submit comments by any of the methods in ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    Any comments we receive will become part of the decision 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--might 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 

Next Steps

    Issuance of an incidental take permit is a Federal proposed action 
subject to compliance with NEPA and section 7 of the ESA. We will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and any public comments 
we receive during this comment period to determine whether the 
application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA. If we 
determine that those requirements are met, we will conduct an intra-
Service consultation under section 7 of the ESA for the Federal action 
for the potential issuance of an ITP. If the intra-Service consultation 
confirms that issuance of the ITP will not jeopardize the continued 
existence of any endangered or threatened species, or destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat, we will issue a permit to the 
applicant for the incidental take of the covered species.


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1539(c) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 
17.32), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and NEPA implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1501.4).

Glen W. Knowles,
Field Supervisor, Southern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Las Vegas, Nevada.
[FR Doc. 2020-27705 Filed 12-16-20; 8:45 am]