For this assignment, you will be participating in a Notice and Comment Process involving the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The notice below contains the pertain information regarding the Service’s proposal. You have a lot of freedom in this assignment. You can either write the comment on your own behalf or you can represent a client. I expect you to discuss both NEPA and the ESA, but under that wide umbrella you can choose which particular issues to discuss. Please confine your submission to 2,000 words (you do not need to use all 2,000). Citations are not part of the word count, but non-citation footnotes do.
[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 202 (Wednesday, October 28, 2011)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-26793]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact, and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Karner Blue Butterfly and Frosted Elfin From National Grid
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of availability of draft environmental assessment,
receipt of application, and habitat conservation plan.
SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq.) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or “we”) announce the availability of an application for an incidental take permit and the associated habitat conservation plan (HCP) from National Grid (NG), Syracuse, New York, and draft environmental assessment (EA) for public review and comment. We received the permit application from NG for incidental take of federally listed Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and frosted elfin (Callophyrs irus) over the next 50 years during operations, maintenance, and construction activities associated with electric and natural gas facilities within portions of Albany, Oneida, and Warren Counties, New York. We prepared a draft EA that describes the proposed action and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
We provide this notice to: (1) Seek public comments on the proposed HCP; (2) seek public comments on the draft EA and our conclusion it supports a FONSI under NEPA; and (3) advise other Federal and State agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare a final EA.
The proposed HCP, EA, and FONSI are being made available during a 14-day comment period. To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments by 4pm on November 11, 2011. ADDRESSES: Send comments to Linda Kelly by electronic mail at email@example.com.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received a permit application from NG for incidental take of federally listed Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and frosted elfin (Callophyrs irus) over the next 50 years during operations, maintenance, and construction activities associated with electric and natural gas facilities. A conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the incidental take would be implemented by NG as described in the draft NG HCP. We prepared a draft EA to comply with the NEPA. Based on this EA, the Service is now issuing a FONSI. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
Availability of Documents
The proposed HCP and draft EA are available on the New York Field Office’s (NYFO) Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/nyfo/es/kbb.htm.
Section 9 of the 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 threatened and endangered species, respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (October 1, 2006, 50 CFR 17.22; October 1, 2001, 50 CFR 17.32).
NG is seeking a permit for the incidental take of Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) and frosted elfin (Callophyrs irus) for a term of 50 years. Incidental take of these species may occur in patches of habitat within approximately 56.1 miles of electric transmission line right-of-way (ROW), 52.9 miles of electric sub-transmission line, 42.32 miles of gas lines located in ROWs, and 8.41 miles of distribution line ROW (covered lands) within portions of Albany, Oneida, and Warren Counties, New York.
Where multiple electric lines are located parallel in the same ROW, the length has only been counted once. Where a gas pipeline is located adjacent to an electric transmission line, both lengths have been counted. An additional 28 acres of mitigation lands are also included as covered lands. The covered activities may result in the permanent loss of 35 acres of occupied habitat and periodic temporary disturbance of 293 acres of occupied habitat during the term of the permit.
Proposed covered activities include operations, maintenance, reconstruction, and new construction of electric transmission, sub-transmission, and distribution structures and substations, as well as underground natural gas pipelines and associated aboveground gas regulator stations and valve sites.
The HCP’s proposed conservation strategy is designed to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of covered activities on the covered species. The biological goals and objectives are to complement the existing conservation efforts in New York State for the butterflies by
(a) Focusing mitigation/restoration/enhancement efforts within the Albany Pine Bush and Queensbury viable butterfly populations where corridor connections can be made and larger habitats of wild blue lupine can be developed;
(b) working with non-governmental organizations in the area with an interest in protecting butterfly habitat;
(c) avoiding and minimizing negative effects and actions;
(d) promoting education and outreach; and
(e) ensuring that the amount of habitat for the covered species within the covered lands does not drop below the 2006 Baseline Survey acreage.
The HCP provides a mechanism to supply funding for a small range of conservation measures targeting the butterflies and the ecosystems that support them. Conservation measures proposed include implementation of avoidance and minimization measures to ensure continued existence of the butterflies within the covered lands, creation of a 5-acre, off-ROW preserve, and creation and/or enhancement of up to 23 acres of ROW habitat. The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take permit and implementation of the proposed HCP. Two other alternatives to the proposed action were considered in the HCP: no action (i.e., the incidental take permit for Karner blue butterfly and frosted elfin would not be issued and the HCP would not be implemented), and avoiding or reducing the performance of infrastructure repairs and replacements. However, these two alternative actions were eliminated from further consideration, due to logistical and public safety considerations, and the associated regulatory and business-related obligations to continue providing reliable electricity and natural gas service to NG’s customers. NG has developed an implementation agreement (IA) that ensures proper implementation of each of the terms and conditions of the HCP and describes the applicable remedies and recourse should any party fail to perform its obligations, responsibilities, and tasks. The IA is being included with the proposed HCP for public review.
National Environmental Policy Act
In compliance with the NEPA of 1969, we analyzed the impacts of implementing the HCP. Based on this analysis, we have determined that there will be no significant impacts or effects caused by issuing the incidental take permit. We have prepared a draft EA on this proposed action and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
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 have already determined that there is no need for an intra-Service section 7 consultation. We will use the results of this comment period to determine whether to issue a permit. If the requirements are met, we will issue the permit to the applicant.
The Service invites the public to comment on the proposed HCP, draft EA, and FONSI during a 14-day public comment period ending on November 11,2011. All comments (which may not exceed 2,000 words) received will become part of the administrative record and may be made available to the public. Do not include your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment. Please include your assigned exam number on the top of each page and remember to number each page.
Dated: October 28, 2011.
Acting Regional Director, Region 5.
[FR Doc. 2011-26793 Filed 10-18-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P