Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
Notice of availability; notice of receipt of permit application; request for public comments.
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of several documents related to an incidental take permit (ITP) application under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We have received an application from North Allegheny Wind, LLC (NAW) for a 25-year ITP for take of the federally endangered Indiana bat incidental to otherwise lawful activities associated with operation of its North Allegheny Wind Facility, an existing 35-turbine wind farm in Blair and Cambria Counties, Pennsylvania. NAW has proposed a conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the impacts of the incidental take as described in its Draft North Allegheny Wind Indiana Bat Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Pursuant to the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act, we announce the availability of NAW's ITP application, including its HCP, and the Service's draft environmental assessment, for public review and comment. We provide this notice to seek comments from the public and Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments.
We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before December 28, 2018. Comments submitted electronically using regulations.gov (see ADDRESSES) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the closing date.
Internet: You may obtain copies of the draft HCP and draft environmental assessment (EA) online in Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2014-0047 at http://www.regulations.gov.
U.S. Mail: Copies of the draft documents are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Field Office, 110 Radnor Road, Suite 101, State College, PA 16801. Please note that your request is in reference to the NAW HCP.
In-person: Copies of the draft documents are available for public review during regular business hours at the Pennsylvania Field Office, 110 Radnor Road, Suite 101, State College, PA 16801. Call 814-234-4090 to make an appointment.
Submitting Comments: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
Online: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2018-0047.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2018-0047; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide online (see Public Availability of Comments under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION).
We request that you send comments by only the methods described above.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Robert Anderson, by phone at 814-234-4090, x7447, or by mail at Pennsylvania Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 110 Radnor Road, Suite 101, State College, PA 16801.
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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
North Allegheny Wind, LLC (NAW) is seeking a permit for the incidental take of the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) for a term of 25 years. Incidental take of this species may occur due to operation of 35 wind turbines. 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 through on-site minimization measures and to provide habitat conservation measures for Indiana bats to offset any unavoidable impacts during operation of the project.
The HCP provides on-site avoidance and minimization measures, which include turbine operational adjustments. The estimated level of Indiana bat take from the project is four Indiana bats and an estimated reproductive potential of 3.2 bats over the 25-year project duration. To provide a conservation benefit to the Indiana bat, NAW will fund and implement one or more of the following types of mitigation projects to meet the mitigation needs of the Indiana bat: Protection of a hibernaculum, as well as surrounding buffer land necessary to ensure that the protection of the hibernaculum is successful; Protection of land that functions as summer habitat for one or more maternity colonies; and protection of summer and/or swarming habitat near a hibernaculum.
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 have prepared a draft EA that analyzes the environmental impacts on the human environment resulting from three alternatives: A no-action alternative, the proposed action, and an alternative consisting of feathering below the manufacturer's cut-in wind speed.
We will evaluate the plan and comments we receive to determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We will also evaluate whether issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit would comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. We will use the results of this consultation, in combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to determine whether to issue a permit. If the requirements are met, we will issue the permit to the applicant.Start Printed Page 61161
The Service invites the public to comment on the proposed HCP and draft EA during a 30-day public comment period (see DATES). You may submit comments by one of the methods shown under ADDRESSES.
Public Availability of Comments
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 entirety.
This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
Dated: June 28, 2018.
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Northeast Region.
THIS DOCUMENT WAS RECEIVED AT THE OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL REGISTER ON NOVEMBER 23, 2018.
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[FR Doc. 2018-25916 Filed 11-27-18; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P