[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 101 (Wednesday, May 25, 2011)]
[Pages 30384-30386]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-12860]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2011-N096; 30120-1112-000-F2]

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement for a Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we intend to prepare a draft environmental impact statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of several alternatives relating to the 
proposed issuance of an Endangered Species Act Permit to Fowler Ridge 
Wind Farm LLC, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm II LLC, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 
III LLC, and Fowler Ridge Wind Farm IV LLC (Applicant) for incidental 
take of the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), a Federal endangered species, 
from activities associated with the operation of Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 
in Benton County, Indiana. We also announce a public comment period.

DATES: The public scoping period begins with publication of this notice 
in the Federal Register and will continue through June 23, 2011. The 
Service will consider all comments defining the scope of the EIS that 
are received or postmarked by this date. Comments received or 
postmarked after this date will be considered to the extent 
practicable. The Service will conduct a public scoping meeting in 
Fowler, IN, on June 7, 2011. The scoping meeting will provide the 
public with an opportunity to present comments, ask questions, and 
discuss issues with Service staff regarding the EIS.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Mr. 
Scott Pruitt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 621 South Walker St., 
Bloomington, Indiana, 47403; electronic mail: FowlerRidgeHCP@fws.gov; 
or fax: (812) 334-4273 (Attention: Scott Pruitt).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Scott Pruitt at (812) 334-4261. 
Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the 
Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8337 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice in compliance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1501.7, 
1506.6, and 1508.22), and Section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973 (the Act), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)). We intend to gather 
the information necessary to determine impacts and alternatives to 
support a decision regarding the potential issuance of an incidental 
take permit to the Applicant, and the implementation of the supporting 
draft habitat conservation plan (HCP). We intend to prepare an EIS to 
evaluate the impacts of several alternatives relating to the proposed 
issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Act. The 
applicant proposes to apply for an incidental take permit through 
development and implementation of an HCP. The proposed HCP will cover 
take of the Indiana bat that is incidental to activities associated 
with the operation of Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, and will include measures 
necessary to minimize and mitigate impacts to the Indiana bat and its 
habitat to the maximum extent practicable.

Request for Information

    The Service requests data, comments, new information, or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party 
on this notice. These comments will be considered in the development of 
a draft EIS, in the development of a draft HCP by the applicant, and in 
the determination of whether to issue an ITP. We particularly seek 
comments concerning:
    (1) Biological information concerning the Indiana bat;
    (2) Relevant data concerning wind power and bat interactions;
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the Indiana bat;
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the Indiana bat;
    (5) Any information identified in the aforementioned as it relates 
to other bat

[[Page 30385]]

species, in particular, tree bat species such as red bat (Lasiurus 
borealis), hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), and silver-haired bat 
(Lasionycteris noctivagans) that occur in the project area;
    (6) The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et 
seq.); and
    (7) Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials considering this notice 
by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the NEPA document will be available 
for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bloomington Indiana Field Office 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). You may obtain copies of 
this notice on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/r3hcps.html, or by mail from the Bloomington Indiana Field 


    Section 9 of the Act prohibits ``take'' of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered under section 4 (16 U.S.C. 1538, 1533, 
respectively). The Act's implementing regulations extend, under certain 
circumstances, the prohibition of take to threatened species (50 CFR 
17.31). Under section 3 of the Act, the term ``take'' means ``to 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct'' (16 CFR part 
1521). The term ``harm'' is defined by regulation as ``an act which 
actually kills or injures wildlife. Such act may include significant 
habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3). The term 
``harass'' is defined in the regulations as ``an intentional or 
negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to 
wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt 
normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3).
    Section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act requires an applicant for an 
incidental take permit to prepare an HCP that describes:
    (1) The impact that will likely result from such taking;
    (2) the steps the applicant will take to minimize and mitigate such 
impacts, and the funding that will be available to implement such 
    (3) the alternative actions to such taking that the applicant 
considered and the reasons why such alternatives are not being 
utilized; and
    (4) the other measures that the Secretary may require as being 
necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the plan (16 U.S.C. 
    Section 10(a)(2)(B) of the Act requires the Secretary to issue an 
incidental take permit to an applicant when it determines that:
    (1) The taking will be incidental;
    (2) the applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impacts of such taking;
    (3) the applicant has ensured that adequate funding for the plan 
will be provided;
    (4) the taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    (5) the measures, if any, the Secretary may require as necessary or 
appropriate for the purposes of the plan will be met (16 U.S.C. 
    Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species 
are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    The Indiana bat was added to the list of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants on March 11, 1967 (32 FR 4001). It is currently 
listed as an endangered species under the Act. The population decline 
of this species is attributed to habitat loss and degradation of both 
winter hibernation habitat and summer habitat, human disturbance during 
hibernation, and possibly pesticides. An additional and emerging threat 
to Indiana bats is White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is associated with a 
recently discovered fungus (Geomyces destructans) that affects the skin 
and wing membranes of bats. Over 1 million bats of 6 species, including 
the federally endangered Indiana bat, have died in eastern North 
America from WNS since 2006. The range of the Indiana bat includes much 
of the eastern United States, and Indiana is located within the core of 
the species' range; approximately half of the known population of 
Indiana bats hibernates in Indiana.
    Winter habitat for the Indiana bat includes caves and mines that 
support high humidity and cool but stable temperatures. In the summer, 
Indiana bats often roost under loose bark of dead or dying trees. 
During summer, males roost alone or in small groups while females and 
their offspring roost in larger groups of up to 100 or more. Indiana 
bats forage for insects in and along the edges of forested areas and 
wooded stream corridors. Maternity colonies of Indiana bats occur 
throughout Indiana. FRWF is located approximately 100 miles from the 
nearest known hibernaculum, and it is unlikely that Benton or 
surrounding counties contain Indiana bat hibernacula.

Proposed Action--Modified Operations Alternative

    The proposed action is issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) 
for the Indiana bat during operation of Phases I, II, III, and IV of 
the Applicant's FRWF. The proposed HCP, which must meet the 
requirements in section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act, would be developed and 
implemented by the applicant, and will include measures necessary to 
minimize and mitigate impacts to the Indiana bat and its habitat to the 
maximum extent practicable. The HCP will present the Applicant's plan 
to modify operations to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to 
endangered species that are present or migrating through the action 
    The Applicant for the ITP is developing and operating a wind power 
project in Benton County, Indiana. The area under lease for the FRWF is 
approximately 54,880 acres (ac) (22,209 hectares (ha)) within portions 
of Richland, Parish Grove, Center, Pine, Hickory Grove, Grant and Oak 
Grove Townships. The wind power project includes the operation of 355 
existing wind turbine generators during the first three phases of the 
project, and construction and operation of up to 93 additional turbines 
at Phase IV of the project, for a total of up to 448 wind turbines. The 
project would also include all associated collector lines, access 
roads, utility lines, substations, operation and maintenance facility 
buildings, and temporary staging areas and concrete batch plants, if 
applicable. Up to five different models of wind turbines may be in use 
at various times during the four phases of FRWF. The wind turbine hub 
height at Phases I, II, and III is 263 feet (ft) (80 meters (m)), with 
the rotor diameter varying from 253 ft (77 m) to 315 ft (96 m), 
depending on the type of turbine. Approximate total height at the rotor 
apex at Phases I, II, and III varies from 389 ft (118.5 m)

[[Page 30386]]

to 446 ft (136.5 m), depending on the type of turbine. The proposed 
wind turbine hub height for Phase IV would range 263-328 ft (80-100 m), 
depending on the type of turbine selected. Rotor diameters at Phase IV 
may vary from 253 to 371 ft (77 to 113 m), depending on the type of 
turbine selected. Approximate total height at the rotor apex would vary 
from 389 to 514 ft (118.5 to 156.5 m). Installation of each individual 
turbine will temporarily impact an area of approximately 2.9 ac (1.2 
ha), while the final footprint of each turbine will be approximately 
0.2 ac (0.08 ha). Access roads to the turbines will have a temporary 
width of up to 55 ft (17 m) during construction and a permanent width 
of 16 to 20 ft (4.8 to 6.1 m).
    The project is located in a rural setting, with the landscape 
primarily composed of agricultural properties. Of the roughly 72,953 ac 
(29,523 ha) within 0.5 mi (0.8 km) of turbine locations, row crops 
comprise about 93 percent of the land use for the study area. After 
tilled agriculture, the next most common land uses within the FRWF are 
developed areas (e.g., houses and buildings), which comprise 5.0 
percent of the total, and pastures/hayfields, which comprise 1.4 
percent of the total. There are 22.8 ac (9.2 ha) of grasslands, which 
compose less than 0.1 percent of the study area. Grasslands in the 
study area are limited primarily to strips along drainages, railroad 
rights-of-way (ROW), and ROWs along county and State roads. Trees in 
the study area occur at homesteads, along some of the drainages and 
fencerows, and within some small, isolated woodlots. Forested areas are 
rare within the study area, based on 2001 data, and the 249.3 ac (100.8 
ha) of forest comprise 0.5 percent of the total area. Small amounts of 
barren ground, open water, and woody wetlands are also present.
    Despite the relatively small acreage of land to be affected by the 
project, impacts to wildlife, particularly birds and bats, are 
anticipated. Minimization for potential impacts to Indiana bats will 
include a turbine operational management adjustment program developed 
based on the results of post-construction studies conducted at Phases 
I, II, and III of the project.
    Any turbine operational management adjustment program is likely to 
contain various measures to avoid and minimize impacts to Indiana bats, 
including the impact of lethal take. Various methods that may be 
considered include, but are not limited to: Protection of roost trees 
and surrounding habitat, set-back distances from known roost trees, 
mapping and avoidance of foraging areas, protection and enhancement of 
Indiana bat habitat outside the project area, various operational 
adjustments for turbines during prime activity or migration periods, 
and post-construction monitoring for fatalities.

Alternatives to the Proposed Action

    In addition to the proposed action, there is one additional action 
alternative that is currently under consideration related to the 
proposed issuance of an ITP to the Applicant for activities associated 
with operation of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm. These alternatives, and 
possibly additional alternatives, will be considered in the draft EIS, 
along with the potential impacts associated with each alternative. Each 
action alternative analyzed in the draft EIS will be compared to the No 
Action alternative. The No Action alternative represents estimated 
future conditions to which the proposed action can be compared.

No Action Alternative

    Under the No Action Alternative, an ITP pursuant to Section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act would not be issued for the existing phases or 
the future Phase IV of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm. The existing phases 
of the project would continue to fully operate, and Phase IV would 
fully operate once construction is complete. Under the No Action 
Alternative, the applicant would not have coverage for an incidental 
take of the Indiana bat and would be at risk of violation of Section 9 
of the Act. In addition, no HCP would be produced; therefore, the 
Indiana bat would not have the protections afforded to it through 
development and implementation of an HCP. The proposed project purpose 
would not be met under the No Action Alternative.

Maximally Restricted Operations Alternative

    Under the Maximally Restricted Operations Alternative, an ITP would 
be issued; Phases I, II and III would continue to operate; and Phase IV 
would be constructed as described under Proposed Action--i.e., full 
build-out of up to 448 turbines. Minimization for potential impacts to 
Indiana bats would include shutting down turbines at night during the 
period from April 1 through October 31, the active period for Indiana 
bats. This minimization would occur during all four phases of the 
project, every year the FRWF is in operation.

Environmental Review

    The Service will conduct an environmental review to analyze various 
alternatives for implementing the proposed action and the associated 
impacts of each. The draft EIS will be the basis for the impact 
evaluation for Indiana bats and the range of alternatives to be 
addressed. The draft EIS is expected to provide biological descriptions 
of the affected species and habitats, as well as the effects of the 
alternatives on other resources such as vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, 
geology and soils, air quality, water resources, water quality, 
cultural resources, land use, recreation, water use, local economy, and 
environmental justice. Following completion of the environmental 
review, the Service will publish a notice of availability and a request 
for comments on the draft EIS and the Applicant's permit application, 
which will include the draft HCP. The draft EIS and draft HCP are 
expected to be completed and available to the public in late 2011.


    This notice is being furnished as provided for by NEPA, the NEPA 
regulations, and the Act. The intent of the notice is to obtain 
suggestions and additional information from other agencies and the 
public on the scope of issues to be considered. Comments and 
participation in this scoping process are solicited.

    Dated: May 9, 2011.
Lynn Lewis,
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3, Fort 
Snelling, MN.
[FR Doc. 2011-12860 Filed 5-24-11; 8:45 am]