[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 58 (Monday, March 29, 2021)]
[Pages 16388-16389]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-06402]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2020-0121; FXES11140300000-212]

Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Habitat Conservation 
Plan; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Bitter 
Ridge Wind Farm, Jay County, Indiana

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment and information.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) have received 
an application from Scout Clean Energy's Bitter Ridge Wind Farm, LLC 
(applicant), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered 
Species Act (ESA), for its Bitter Ridge Wind Farm (project). The 
applicant requests the ITP, which would be for a 35-year period, for 
the take of the federally listed endangered Indiana bat and threatened 
northern long-eared bat incidental to the otherwise lawful activities 
associated with the Bitter Ridge Wind Farm. The applicant proposes a 
conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the unavoidable 
incidental take as described in their Habitat Conservation Plan. The 
Service requests public comment on the application, which includes the 
applicant's proposed HCP, and the Service's draft environmental 
assessment, prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA). The Service provides this notice to seek comments from the 
public and Federal, Tribal, State and local governments.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
April 28, 2021.

    Document availability: Electronic copies of the documents this 
notice announces, along with public comments received, will be 
available online in Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2020-0121 at http://www.regulations.gov.
    Comment submission: In your comment, please specify whether your 
comment addresses the proposed HCP, draft EA, or any combination of the 
aforementioned documents, or other supporting documents. You may submit 
written comments by one of the following methods:
     Online: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for and submit 
comments on Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2020-0121.
     By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail to Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2020-0121; U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: PRB/3W; Falls Church, VA 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Pruitt, Field Supervisor, 
Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 620 South Walker Street, Bloomington, IN 47403; 
telephone: 812-334-4261, extension 214; or Andrew Horton, Regional HCP 
Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--Interior Region 3, 5600 
American Blvd., West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458; telephone: 
    Individuals who are hearing impaired or speech impaired may call 
the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 for TTY assistance.



    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (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 incidental 
take of listed 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 incidental take 
permits for endangered and threatened species, respectively, are found 
in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.

Applicant's Proposed Project

    The applicant requests a 35-year ITP for take of the federally 
endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and threatened northern long-
eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). The applicant determined that wind 
farm activities on this land are reasonably certain to result in 
incidental take of these federally listed covered species. Activity 

[[Page 16389]]

could result in incidental take if Indiana bats and northern long eared 
bats is the operation of 52 wind turbines currently being constructed 
in Jay County, Indiana, consisting of approximately 22,170 acres of 
private land. The estimated level of take from the project is 69 
Indiana bats and 45 northern long-eared bats over the 35-year project 
    The proposed conservation strategy in the applicant's proposed HCP 
is designed to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of the covered 
activity on the covered species. The biological goals and objectives 
are to minimize potential take of Indiana bats and northern long-eared 
bats through on-site minimization measures and to provide habitat 
conservation measures for Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats to 
offset any impacts from operations of the project. On-site minimization 
measures include feathering turbine blades up to 3.0 meters per second 
(m/s) during winter and spring (October 16-May 15), up to 5.0 m/s 
during fall (August 1-October 15), and up to 5.0 m/s at 39 turbines 
with risk and 3.0 m/s at the remaining turbines during summer (May 16-
July 31). Minimization measures will be implemented nightly from \1/2\ 
hour before sunset to \1/2\ hour after sunrise when the temperature is 
above 10 [deg]C. To offset the impacts of the taking of Indiana bats 
and northern long-eared bats, the applicant proposes to protect known 
maternity colony habitat for both covered species and staging/swarming 
habitat for Indiana bats. The Service requests public comments on the 
permit application, which includes a proposed HCP, and an EA prepared 
in accordance with NEPA.
    The applicants' HCP describes the activities that will be 
undertaken to implement forestry activities, as well as the mitigation 
and minimization measures proposed to address the impacts to the 
covered species. Pursuant to NEPA, the EA analyzes the impacts the ITP 
issuance would have on the covered species and the environment.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The issuance of an ITP is a Federal action that triggers the need 
for compliance with NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We prepared a draft 
EA that analyzes the environmental impacts on the human environment 
resulting from three alternatives: A no-action alternative, the 
applicant's proposed action, and a more restrictive alternative 
consisting of feathering at a rate of wind speed that results in less 
impacts to bats.

Next Steps

    The Service will evaluate the permit application and the comments 
received to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a) of the ESA. We will also conduct an intra-Service 
consultation pursuant to section 7 of the ESA to evaluate the effects 
of the proposed take. After considering the above findings, we will 
determine whether the permit issuance criteria of section 10(a)(l)(B) 
of the ESA have been met. If met, the Service will issue the requested 
ITP to the applicant.

Request for Public Comments

    The Service invites comments and suggestions from all interested 
parties during a 30-day public comment period (see DATES). In 
particular, information and comments regarding the following topics are 
    1. The direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation 
of any alternative could have on the human environment;
    2. Whether or not the significance of the impact on various aspects 
of the human environment has been adequately analyzed; and
    3. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the human environment.
    Because this permit application was sufficiently complete prior to 
the effective date of the new NEPA regulations, we are exercising our 
discretion to conduct our NEPA analysis under the regulations in effect 
prior to September 14, 2020.

Availability of Public Comments

    You may submit comments by one of the methods shown under 
ADDRESSES. We will post on http://regulations.gov all public comments 
and information received electronically or via hardcopy. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative 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 (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22) and the 
NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6 (2019); 43 CFR part 46).

Lori Nordstrom,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services.
[FR Doc. 2021-06402 Filed 3-26-21; 8:45 am]