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Lilies at Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Garry Tucker, USFWS.

Service announces the availability of the draft economic analysis and a public hearing associated with Critical Habitat designation for the Alabama sturgeon

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of the draft economic analysis associated with the revised proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Alabama sturgeon, a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, as well as the public hearing scheduled for January 28, 2009, in Monroeville, Alabama.

The proposed designation for the sturgeon includes one contiguous unit of river channel in portions of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers in the Mobile River Basin, Alabama. The unit encompasses 245 miles of river channel in the Alabama River and 81 miles of river channel in the lower Cahaba River, for a total of 326 miles of river channel.

The Service is also reopening the public comment period to accept comments on proposed critical habitat units and also announcing the availability of, and accepting comments on, the draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat. The Service is also seeking comment on the proposal to change the first Primary Constituent Element (PCE) from its original description as the original wording failed to indicate that the flow needs of the species are relative to the season of the year. Primary Constituent Elements are those physical and biological features of a landscape that a species needs to survive and reproduce.

Due to confusion surrounding the use of 4,640 cubic feet per second (cfs) as a trigger for section 7 consultation, the PCE is changed to reflect that this number is not a floor on flow in the Alabama River. The Service is allowing all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the original proposed rule, and the associated draft economic analysis. If comments were previously submitted on the original proposed rule and do not need to be revised as the result of the change to the PCE, the draft economic analysis, or through the public hearing, they do not need to be resubmitted, as they will be incorporated into the public record and fully considered as the rule is finalized.

The draft economic analysis finds that the pre-designation (2000 to 2008) impacts associated with species conservation activities for the Alabama sturgeon in areas proposed as critical habitat are approximately $332,000, applying a three percent discount rate, and $367,000, applying a seven percent discount rate.

The potential post-designation (2009 to 2028) baseline impacts (those estimated to occur regardless of the critical habitat designation) associated with species conservation were estimated at $1.33 million applying a three percent discount rate, or $962,000 applying a seven percent discount rate. Dredging accounted for 80.1 percent of the potential post-designation baseline impacts (discounted at seven percent), followed by water management (8.3 percent), water quality (7.3 percent), and other activities (4.4 percent).

Incremental impacts attributed to the proposed critical habitat designation are expected to be associated with water quality, water management, dredging, and other activities. The draft economic analysis estimates the post-designation incremental economic impacts for the next 20 years from $93,800 applying a three percent discount rate, or $71,200 applying a seven percent discount rate. Water quality accounted for 32.9 percent (discounted at seven percent) of potential incremental impacts, followed by water management (37.3 percent), other activities (19.7 percent), and dredging (10.2 percent).

The Service has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed critical habitat designation and the draft economic analysis. The hearing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on January 28, 2009, at Alabama Southern Community College, Nettles Auditorium, 2800 South Alabama Avenue, Monroeville, Alabama. This will be preceded by a public information session from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., at the same location. Maps of the proposal and other materials will be available for public review.

The complete notice has been published in the Federal Register today. Please visit the website: Copies of the draft economic analysis or a copy of the notice can also be obtained by e-mailing Jeff Powell,, or Bill Pearson,, or by mail at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Field Office, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, Alabama 36526; phone 251-441-5181.


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