[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 196 (Wednesday, October 10, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 61663-61719]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-24161]



[[Page 61663]]

Vol. 77

Wednesday,

No. 196

October 10, 2012

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of 
Endangered Species Status for the Alabama Pearlshell, Round Ebonyshell, 
Southern Kidneyshell, and Choctaw Bean, and Threatened Species Status 
for the Tapered Pigtoe, Narrow Pigtoe, Southern Sandshell, and Fuzzy 
Pigtoe, and Designation of Critical Habitat; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 196 / Wednesday, October 10, 2012 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 61664]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2011-0050; 4500030113]
RIN 1018-AW92


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of 
Endangered Species Status for the Alabama Pearlshell, Round Ebonyshell, 
Southern Kidneyshell, and Choctaw Bean, and Threatened Species Status 
for the Tapered Pigtoe, Narrow Pigtoe, Southern Sandshell, and Fuzzy 
Pigtoe, and Designation of Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine endangered 
species status for the Alabama pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae), 
round ebonyshell (Fusconaia rotulata), southern kidneyshell 
(Ptychobranchus jonesi), and Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis), and 
threatened species status for the tapered pigtoe (Fusconaia burkei), 
narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia escambia), southern sandshell (Hamiota 
australis), and fuzzy pigtoe (Pleurobema strodeanum), under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act); and designate 
critical habitat for the eight mussel species. The effect of this 
regulation is to conserve these eight mussel species and their habitat 
under the Act.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on November 9, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This final rule, final economic analysis, and the 
coordinates from which the maps were generated are included in the 
administrative record for this critical habitat designation and are 
available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/PanamaCity and http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2011-0050, and at the 
Panama City FieldOffice. Any additional tools or supporting information 
that we may develop for this critical habitat designation will also be 
available at the Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and Field Office 
set out above, and may also be included in the preamble and/or at 
http://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials received, as well as 
supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, are 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours, at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Panama City Field Office, 
1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, FL 32405; telephone 850-769-0552; 
facsimile 850-763-2177.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Imm, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Panama City Field Office, 1601 Balboa Avenue, 
Panama City, FL 32405; telephone 850-769-0552; facsimile 850-763-2177. 
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This document consists of: (1) A final rule 
to list the Alabama pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae), round 
ebonyshell (Fusconaia rotulata), southern kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus 
jonesi), and Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis) as endangered species, 
and the tapered pigtoe (Fusconaia burkei), narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia 
escambia), southern sandshell (Hamiota australis), and fuzzy pigtoe 
(Pleurobema strodeanum) as threatened species; and (2) a final rule to 
designate critical habitat for the eight species.

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. Under the Endangered Species Act 
(Act), a species or subspecies may warrant protection through listing 
if it is an endangered or threatened species throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. We are listing these eight mussels 
because they have disappeared from portions of their historic ranges or 
are very rare, and facing numerous ongoing threats. The Alabama 
pearlshell and southern kidneyshell no longer occur in 50 percent or 
more of the stream systems in which they were historically found. The 
round ebonyshell is extremely rare, and its distribution is restricted 
to the main channel of the Escambia-Conecuh River. Choctaw bean 
populations in the Escambia River drainage are fragmented, and the 
species' numbers are low throughout its range. The narrow pigtoe, fuzzy 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and tapered pigtoe still occur in much of 
their known range but have disappeared from many of the tributary and 
main channel locations from which they were historically known. All are 
facing a variety of threats. However, habitat degradation and loss as a 
result of excessive sedimentation, bed destabilization, poor water 
quality, and environmental contaminants are considered the most 
significant threats to these eight mussels. We are also designating 
critical habitat under the Act. Critical habitat is designated on the 
basis of the best scientific information available after taking into 
consideration the economic impact, impact on national security, and any 
other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical 
habitat. In total, approximately 2,404 kilometers (km) (1,494 miles 
(mi.)) of stream and river channels in nine units in Bay, Escambia, 
Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington Counties, 
Florida; and Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, 
Crenshaw, Dale, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Monroe, and Pike 
Counties, Alabama, are being designated.
    The basis for our action. Under the Act, a species may be listed as 
an endangered or threatened species based on any of five factors: (A) 
The present destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or 
range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its existence. These eight mussel species are facing threats 
due to three of these five factors (A, D and E). The Act also requires 
that the Service designate critical habitat at the time of listing to 
the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We have determined that 
the designation is prudent and critical habitat is determinable for 
each of the eight species (see Critical Habitat section below).
    We prepared an economic analysis. To ensure that we consider the 
economic impacts, we prepared an economic analysis of the designation 
of critical habitat. We published an announcement and solicited public 
comments on the draft economic analysis. The analysis found that the 
estimated incremental economic cost of this critical habitat 
designation to be $1.70 million over a 20-year time frame. The majority 
of the economic impacts are associated with the transportation sector, 
particularly consultation costs associated with the replacement and 
maintenance of bridges and roads.
    We requested peer review of the methods used in our proposed 
listing and critical habitat designation. We specifically requested 
that four knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise on 
freshwater mussel conservation and biology, and who are familiar with 
the eight species and the three river basins in which they occur, 
review the scientific information and methods in the proposed rule. The 
peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and conclusions and 
provided additional information,

[[Page 61665]]

clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final rule.
    We sought public comment on the designation. During the first 
comment period, we received five comment letters directly addressing 
the proposed listing and critical habitat designation. During the 
second comment period, we received four comment letters addressing the 
proposed listing and critical habitat designation, and the draft 
economic analysis.

Background

    It is our intent to discuss in this final rule only those topics 
directly relevant to the listing and designation of critical habitat 
for the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). For more 
information on the biology, ecology, and critical habitat of these 
eight mussel species refer to the proposed rule published in the 
Federal Register on October 4, 2011 (76 FR 61482). Information on the 
associated draft economic analysis for the proposed rule was published 
in the Federal Register on March 27, 2012 (77 FR 18173).

Previous Federal Actions

    On October 4, 2011, we published the proposed rule to list and 
designate critical habitat for these eight mussels (76 FR 61482). 
Federal actions for these species prior to October 4, 2011, are 
outlined in the proposed rule. Publication of the proposed rule opened 
a 60-day comment period, which closed on December 5, 2011. On March 27, 
2012 (77 FR 18173), we reopened the comment period for 30 days, from 
March 27 through April 26, 2012, in order to announce the availability 
of and receive comments on a draft economic analysis, and to extend the 
comment period on the proposed listing and critical habitat 
designation.

Introduction

    North American freshwater mussel fauna is the richest in the world 
and historically numbered around 300 species (Williams et al. 1993, p. 
6). Freshwater mussels are in decline, however, and in the past century 
have become more imperiled than any other group of organisms (Williams 
et al. 2008, p. 55; Natureserve 2011). Approximately 66 percent of 
North America's freshwater mussel species are considered vulnerable to 
extinction or possibly extinct (Williams et al. 1993, p. 6). Within 
North America, the southeastern United States is the hot spot for 
mussel diversity. Seventy-five percent of southeastern mussel species 
are in varying degrees of rarity or possibly extinct (Neves et al. 
1997, pp. 47-51). The central reason for the decline of freshwater 
mussels is the modification and destruction of their habitat, 
especially from sedimentation, dams, and degraded water quality (Neves 
et al. 1997, p. 60; Bogan 1998, p. 376). These eight mussels, like many 
other southeastern mussel species, have undergone reductions in total 
range and population density.
    These eight species are all freshwater bivalve mussels of the 
families Margaritiferidae and Unionidae. The Alabama pearlshell is a 
member of the family Margaritiferidae, while the round ebonyshell, 
southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, 
southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe belong to the family Unionidae. 
These mussels are endemic to (found only in) portions of three Coastal 
Plain rivers that drain south-central and southeastern Alabama and 
northwestern Florida: the Escambia (known as the Escambia River in 
Florida and the Conecuh River in Alabama), the Yellow, and the 
Choctawhatchee. All three rivers originate in Alabama and flow across 
the Florida panhandle before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, and are 
entirely contained within the East Gulf Coastal Plain Physiographic 
Region. The Alabama pearlshell is also known from three locations in 
the Mobile River Basin; however, only one of those is considered to be 
currently occupied.

General Biology

    Freshwater mussels generally live embedded in the bottom of rivers, 
streams, and other bodies of water. They siphon water into their shells 
and across four gills that are specialized for respiration and food 
collection. Food items include detritus (disintegrated organic debris), 
algae, diatoms, and bacteria (Strayer et al. 2004, pp. 430-431). Adults 
are filter feeders and generally orient themselves on or near the 
substrate surface to take in food and oxygen from the water column. 
Juveniles typically burrow completely beneath the substrate surface and 
are pedal (foot) feeders (bringing food particles inside the shell for 
ingestion that adhere to the foot while it is extended outside the 
shell) until the structures for filter feeding are more fully developed 
(Yeager et al. 1994, pp. 200-221; Gatenby et al. 1996, p. 604).
    Sexes in margaritiferid and unionid mussels are usually separate. 
Males release sperm into the water column, which females take in 
through their siphons during feeding and respiration. Fertilization 
takes place inside the shell. The eggs are retained in the gills of the 
female until they develop into mature larvae called glochidia. The 
glochidia of most freshwater mussel species, including all eight 
species addressed in this rule, have a parasitic stage during which 
they must attach to the gills, fins, or skin of a fish to transform 
into a juvenile mussel. Depending on the mussel species, females 
release glochidia either separately, in masses known as conglutinates, 
or in one large mass known as a superconglutinate. The duration of the 
parasitic stage varies by mussel species, water temperature, and 
perhaps host fish species. When the transformation is complete, the 
juvenile mussels drop from their fish host and sink to the stream 
bottom where, given suitable conditions, they grow and mature into 
adults.

Survey Data

    Recent distributions are based on surveys conducted from 1995 to 
2012. Historical distributions are based on collections made prior to 
1995. Historical distribution data from museum records and surveys 
dated between the late 1800s and 1994 are sparse, and most of these 
species were more than likely present throughout their respective river 
basins. Knowledge of historical and current distribution and abundance 
data were summarized from Butler 1989; Williams et al. 2000 
(unpublished), Blalock-Herod et al. 2002, Blalock-Herod et al. 2005, 
Pilarczyk et al. 2006, and Gangloff, and Hartfield 2009. In addition, a 
status survey was conducted in 2010-2012 by M.M. Gangloff and the final 
report is in preparation. These studies represent a compilation of 
museum records and recent status surveys conducted between 1990 and 
2007. We also used various other sources to identify the historical and 
current locations occupied by these species. These include surveys, 
reports, and field notes prepared by biologists from the Alabama 
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marion, AL; 
Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL; Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission, Gainesville, FL; U.S. Geological Survey, 
Gainesville, FL; Alabama Malacological Research Center, Mobile, AL; 
Troy University, Troy, AL; Appalachian State University, Boone, NC; 
various private consulting groups; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Daphne, AL, and Panama City, FL. In addition, we obtained 
occurrence data from the collection databases of the Museum of 
Fluviatile Mollusks (MFM), Athearn collection; Auburn University 
Natural History Museum (AUNHM),

[[Page 61666]]

Auburn, AL; and Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), Gainesville, 
FL.

Assessing Status

    Assessing the state of a freshwater mussel population is 
challenging. We looked at trends in distribution (range) by comparing 
recent occurrence data to historical data, and we examined recent 
abundance (numbers). One difficulty of investigating population trends 
over time in these species is the lack of historical collection data 
within the drainages. Athearn (1964, p. 134) noted the streams of 
western Florida were inadequately sampled, particularly the lower 
Choctawhatchee, Yellow, and the lower Escambia Rivers. Blalock-Herod et 
al. (2005, p. 2) stated that little collecting effort had been expended 
in the Choctawhatchee River drainage as compared to other nearby river 
systems like the Apalachicola and Mobile river drainages. This paucity 
of historical occurrence data may create the appearance of an increase 
in the number of localities that support a species or an expanding 
range; however, this is likely due to increased sampling efforts and to 
better sampling methods, like the use of SCUBA gear.
    Another difficulty is the lack basic information for some 
historical collections, including specific locality, total number of 
species or individuals collected, or collection date. For these 
reasons, the only accurate comparison that can be made of so many 
different sources of historical and recent collection data is whether a 
particular species was detected (present) or not (absent) during the 
survey. When examining occurrence data, we considered sampled areas in 
close proximity as the same sight. Generally, areas sampled that are 
within 2 river km (1.2 mi) (approximately) of each other are considered 
the same site, and sampled areas that are more than 2 km apart are 
considered different sites. Occurences are based on live animals and 
shell material. The occurrence data we examined using GIS mapping 
software. A summary historical and recent occurrence data, and current 
abundance is presented in Table 1.

    Table 1--Eight Mussel Occurrence and Abundance by River Drainage--Occurrences Are Based on Live and Shell Material and Abundance Is Based on Live
                                                                       Individuals
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                                                              Historical (pre-1995)                    Current (1995-2012)
                                                     -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                 Historical
             Species                    Drainage       Historical   Historical     sites       Current     Total live     Average    General  assessment
                                                         sites      sites re-    currently    sites \1\    collected     abundance
                                                                     surveyed     occupied                                  \2\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Margaritifera marrianae Alabama    Alabama..........            3            3            0            0            0          0     Contracted range,
 pearlshell.                                                                                                                          limited
                                                                                                                                      distribution, very
                                                                                                                                      low numbers.
                                   Escambia.........           12           12            4            9           28          3.14
Fusconaia rotulata round           Escambia.........            3            2            2           11            8          1.1   Limited
 ebonyshell.                                                                                                                          distribution, very
                                                                                                                                      low numbers.
Ptychobranchus jonesi southern     Escambia.........           10            5            0            0            0          0     Contracted range,
 kidneyshell.                                                                                                                         limited
                                                                                                                                      distribution, very
                                                                                                                                      low numbers.
                                   Yellow...........            1            1            0            0            0          0
                                   Choct............           12           11            1           10           41          2.5
Villosa choctawensis Choctaw bean  Escambia.........            7            7            1            7           14          1.4   Fragmented
                                                                                                                                      populations
                                                                                                                                      (Escambia),
                                                                                                                                      localized
                                                                                                                                      extirpations, low
                                                                                                                                      numbers.
                                   Yellow...........            4            3            2            4           15          3.0
                                   Choct............           11           10            3           37          143          3.9
Fusconaia burkei tapered pigtoe..  Choct............           23           22           13           53          361          6.0   Limited
                                                                                                                                      distribution,
                                                                                                                                      localized
                                                                                                                                      extirpations.
Fusconaia escambia narrow pigtoe.  Escambia.........           13           10            7           28          166          6.9   Localized
                                                                                                                                      extirpations,
                                                                                                                                      limited
                                                                                                                                      distribution, low
                                                                                                                                      numbers.
                                   Yellow...........            2            2            1            4           23          2.9
Hamiota australis southern         Escambia.........            6            4            1            6           20          4     Localized
 sandshell.                                                                                                                           extirpations.
                                   Yellow...........            5            4            2           17           65          3.1
                                   Choct............           18           16            5           34          211          4.5
Pleurobema strodeanum fuzzy        Escambia.........           30           18           12           26           52          6.5   Nearly extirpated
 pigtoe.                                                                                                                              from Yellow
                                                                                                                                      drainage,
                                                                                                                                      localized
                                                                                                                                      extirpations.
                                   Yellow...........            4            4            1            1            1          1
                                   Choct............           18           15            8           59          587          9.9
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\1\ Includes all currently occupied sites, both historic and new.
\2\ Average number of live individuals collected per site.


[[Page 61667]]

    We also considered each species' relative abundance in comparison 
to other mussel species with which they co-occur. In addition, we 
relied on various published documents whose authors are considered 
experts on these species. These publications either described the 
status of these species or assigned a conservation ranking, and include 
Williams et al. 1993, Williams and Butler 1994; Mirarchi et al. 2004, 
Blalock-Herod et al. 2005, and Williams et al. 2008.
    Most of the eight species have experienced a decline in populations 
and numbers of individuals within populations, but not all have 
experienced a decline in range. Recent, targeted surveys for the 
Alabama pearlshell and southern kidneyshell show a dramatic decline in 
historical range. The Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, fuzzy pigtoe, 
southern sandshell, and tapered pigtoe still occur in much of their 
historical range; however, they no longer occur at many locations at 
which they were historically known, and their numbers appear to be 
declining. The round ebonyshell's current range is larger than its 
historical range, but this is attributed to the use of dive equipment 
in recent surveys that allowed access to the species' deep, main 
channel habitat. Despite this range extension, the species still has a 
very limited distribution and is considered to be extremely rare.

Taxonomy, Life History, and Distribution

Alabama Pearlshell
    The Alabama pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae, Johnson 1983) is a 
medium-sized freshwater mussel known from a few tributaries of the 
Alabama and Escambia River drainages in south-central Alabama (Johnson 
1983, pp. 299-304; McGregor 2004, p. 40; Williams et al. 2008, pp. 98-
99). The pearlshell is oblong and grows up to 95 millimeters (mm) (3.8 
inches (in)) in length. The outside of the shell (periostracum) is 
smooth and shiny and somewhat roughened along the posterior slope. The 
inside of the shell (nacre) is whitish or purplish and moderately 
iridescent (refer to Johnson 1983 for a full description).
    The Alabama pearlshell is one of five North American species in the 
family Margaritiferidae. The family is represented by only two genera, 
Margaritifera (Schumacher 1816) and Cumberlandia (Ortmann 1912). In 
Alabama, each genus is represented by a single species--the 
spectaclecase (Cumberlandia monodonta) occurs in the Tennessee River 
Basin (Williams et al. 2008, pp. 94-95), and the Alabama pearlshell 
occurs in the Escambia and Alabama river basins in south Alabama. Prior 
to 1983, the Alabama pearlshell was thought to be the same species as 
the Louisiana pearlshell (Margaritifera hembeli Conrad 1838) (Simpson 
1914; Clench and Turner 1956), a species now considered endemic to 
central Louisiana.
    The Alabama pearlshell typically inhabits small headwater streams 
with mixed sand and gravel substrates, occasionally in sandy mud, with 
slow to moderate current. Very little is known about the life-history 
requirements of this species. However, Shelton (1995, p. 5 unpub. 
report) suggests that the Alabama pearlshell, as opposed to the 
Louisiana pearlshell, which occurs in large colonies, typically occurs 
in low numbers. The Alabama pearlshell is also believed to occur in 
male-female pairs. Of the 68 Alabama pearlshell observed by Shelton 
(1995, p. 5 unpub. report), 85 percent occurred in pairs. Males were 
always located upstream of the females and were typically not more than 
1 meter (m) apart, and juveniles were usually found just a few inches 
apart. The species is believed to be a long-term brooder, where gravid 
females have been observed in December. The host fish and other aspects 
of its life history are currently unknown.
    Historically, the Alabama pearlshell occurred in portions of the 
Escambia River drainage, and has also been reported from two systems in 
the Alabama River drainage. The Alabama pearlshell's known historical 
and current occurrences, by water body and county, are shown in Table 2 
below.

          Table 2--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Alabama Pearlshell
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Big Flat Creek...............  Alabama.........  Monroe..........  AL         Historical and Current.
Brushy Creek.................  Alabama.........  Monroe..........  AL         Historical.
Limestone Creek..............  Alabama.........  Monroe..........  AL         Historical.
Amos Mill Creek..............  Escambia........  Conecuh,          AL         Current.
                                                  Escambia.
Autrey Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Beaver Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Bottle Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Brushy Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Burnt Corn Creek.............  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Horse Creek..................  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical.
Hunter Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Jordan Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Little Cedar Creek...........  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Murder Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Otter Creek..................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Sandy Creek..................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Amos Mill population, discovered in 2010, represents a new 
record, and possibly the only known surviving population in the Sepulga 
River drainage. The Burnt Corn and Otter Creek populations reaffirm 
historical records that had not been reported in nearly 30 years. Two 
of the Sandy Creek locations, discovered in 2011, are new populations. 
Since the late 1990s, more than 70 locations within the Alabama River 
Basin were surveyed for mollusks (McGregor et al. 1999, pp. 13-14; 
Powell and Ford 2010 pers. obs.; Buntin and Fobian 2011 pers. comm.), 
35 of which were located in the Limestone and Big Flat Creek drainages, 
and no live Alabama pearlshell were reported. The last documented 
occurrence in Big Flat Creek was a fresh dead individual collected in 
1995 (Shelton 1999 in litt.), and the last reported occurrence in the 
Limestone Creek drainage was 1974, where Williams (2009 pers. comm.) 
reported it as common. Despite numerous visits, the pearlshell has not 
been collected in this system since 1974. A fresh dead individual 
collected by Shelton in 1995,

[[Page 61668]]

represents the most recent record from the Big Flat Creek drainage.
    Recent data suggest that, of the nine remaining populations, the 
largest may occur in Little Cedar and Otter Mill creeks. In 2011, 
Fobian and Pritchett reported new populations at two locations in an 
unnamed tributary to Sandy Creek. Although this is not the first report 
from the Sandy Creek basin, it is the first for the two unnamed 
tributaries. In 2010, Buntin and Fobian (2011 pers. comm.) reported 10 
live individuals from Otter Creek. This is the first time since 1981 
that the pearlshell has been reported from this drainage. Also in 2010, 
Powell and Ford reported three live individuals, and several relic 
shells, from Amos Mill Creek, in Escambia County, AL. This is the first 
report of the pearlshell from this drainage, and county, and the first 
live individual from the Sepulga River system in nearly 50 years. 
Little Cedar Creek supported good numbers of Alabama pearlshell in the 
late 1990's (54 individuals reported in 1998). However, during a 
qualitative search of the same area in 2005, only two live pearlshell 
were found (Powell 2005 pers. obs.), and in 2006, three live 
pearlshells were observed (Johnson 2006 in litt.). Live Alabama 
pearlshell have not been observed in Hunter Creek since 1998, when 
eight live individuals were reported (Shelton 1999 in litt.). During 
two visits to the stream in 1999, Shelton found no evidence of the 
species (Shelton 1999 in litt.), and reported high levels of 
sedimentation. However, in 2005 the shells of three fresh dead Alabama 
pearlshells were reported from Hunter Creek, indicating the persistence 
of the species in that drainage (Powell, pers. obs. 2005).
    Evidence suggests that much of the rangewide decline of this 
species has occurred within the past few decades. Specific causes of 
the decline and disappearance of the Alabama pearlshell from historical 
stream localities are unknown. However, they are likely related to past 
and present land use patterns. Many of the small streams historically 
inhabited by the Alabama pearlshell are impacted to various degrees by 
nonpoint-source pollution.
Round Ebonyshell
    The round ebonyshell (Fusconaia rotulata, Wright 1899) is a medium-
sized freshwater mussel endemic to the Escambia River drainage in 
Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 2008, p. 320). The round 
ebonyshell is round to oval in shape and reaches about 70 mm (2.8 in.) 
in length. The shell is thick and the exterior is smooth and dark brown 
to black in color. The shell interior is white to silvery and 
iridescent (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 61; Williams et al. 2008, p. 
319). The round ebonyshell was originally described by B.H. Wright in 
1899 and placed in the genus Unio. Simpson (1900) reexamined the type 
specimen and assigned it to the genus Obovaria. Based on shell 
characters, Williams and Butler (1994, p. 61) recognized it as clearly 
a species of the genus Fusconaia, and its placement in the genus is 
supported genetically (Lydeard et al. 2000, p. 149).
    Very little is known about the habitat requirements or life history 
of the round ebonyshell. It occurs in small to medium rivers, typically 
in stable substrates of sand, small gravel, or sandy mud in slow to 
moderate current. It is believed to be a short-term brooder, and gravid 
females have been observed in the spring and summer. The fish host(s) 
for the round ebonyshell is currently unknown (Williams et al. 2008, p. 
320).
    The round ebonyshell is known only from the main channel of the 
Escambia-Conecuh River and is the only mussel species endemic to the 
drainage (Williams et al. 2008, p. 320). Due to recent survey data, its 
known range was extended downstream the Escambia River to Molino, 
Florida (Gangloff 2012 pers. comm.), and upstream in the Conecuh River 
to just above the Covington County line in Alabama (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 320). The round ebonyshell's known historical and current 
occurrences, by water body and county, are shown in Table 3 below.

           Table 3--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Round Ebonyshell
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Escambia,         AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Covington.
Escambia River...............  Escambia........  Escambia, Santa   FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Rosa.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The round ebonyshell has a very restricted distribution (Williams 
and Butler 1994, p. 61), with its current range (based on live 
individuals and shell material) confined to approximately 144 km (89 
mi) of the Escambia-Conecuh River main channel. The round ebonyshell is 
also considered to be extremely rare (Williams et al. 2008, p. 320). 
Researchers collected a total of three live individuals during a 2006 
dive survey (Shelton et al. 2007, pp. 8-10 unpub. report), and 4 more 
were collected during a dive survey in 2011 (Gangloff 2012 pers. comm). 
At stations where the species was present in the 2011 survey, 219 
mussels were collected for every 1 round ebonyshell. Because its 
distribution is limited to the main channel of one river, the round 
ebonyshell is particularly vulnerable to catastrophic events such as 
flood scour and contaminant spills, and to activities that cause 
streambed destabilization like gravel mining, dredging, and de-snagging 
for navigation. Due to its limited distribution and rarity, McGregor 
(2004, p. 56) considered the round ebonyshell vulnerable to extinction, 
and classified it as a species of highest conservation concern in 
Alabama. Williams et al. (1993, p. 11) considered the round ebonyshell 
as endangered throughout its range.
Southern Kidneyshell
    The southern kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus jonesi, van der Schalie 
1934) is a medium-sized freshwater mussel known from the Escambia and 
Choctawhatchee River drainages in Alabama and Florida, and the Yellow 
River drainage in Alabama (Williams et al. 2008, p. 624). The southern 
kidneyshell is elliptical and reaches about 72 mm (2.8 in.) in length. 
Its shell is smooth and shiny, and greenish yellow to dark brown or 
black in color, sometimes with weak rays. The shell interior is bluish 
white with some iridescence (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 126; Williams 
et al. 2008, p. 624). The southern kidneyshell was described by H. van 
der Schalie (1934) as Lampsilis jonesi. Following the examination of 
gills of gravid females, Fuller and Bereza (1973, p. 53) determined it 
belonged in the genus Ptychobranchus. When gravid, the marsupial gills 
form folds along the outer edge, a characteristic unique to the genus 
Ptychobranchus (Williams et al. 2008, p. 609).
    Very little is known about the habitat requirements or life history 
of the southern kidneyshell. It is typically found in medium creeks to 
small rivers in firm sand substrates with slow to moderate current 
(Williams et al. 2008,

[[Page 61669]]

pp. 625). A recent status survey in the Choctawhatchee basin in Alabama 
found its preferred habitat to be stable substrates near bedrock 
outcroppings (Gangloff and Hartfield 2009, p. 25). The southern 
kidneyshell is believed to be a long-term brooder, with females gravid 
from autumn to the following spring or summer. Preliminary reproductive 
studies found that females release their glochidia in small 
conglutinates that are bulbous at one end and tapered at the other 
(Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center 2006, unpub. data). Host fish for 
the southern kidneyshell are currently unknown; however, darters serve 
as primary glochidial hosts to other members of the genus 
Ptychobranchus (Luo 1993, p. 16; Haag and Warren 1997, p. 580).
    The southern kidneyshell is endemic to the Escambia, 
Choctawhatchee, and Yellow River drainages in Alabama and Florida 
(Williams et al. 2008, p. 624), but is currently known only from the 
Choctawhatchee River drainage. The southern kidneyshell's known 
historical and current occurrences, by water body and county, are shown 
in Table 4 below.

         Table 4--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Southern Kidneyshell
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Burnt Corn Creek.............  Escambia........  Escambia........  AL         Historical.
Jordan Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Sepulga River................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Covington,        AL         Historical.
                                                  Crenshaw.
Patsaliga Creek..............  Escambia........  Covington,        AL         Historical.
                                                  Crenshaw.
Little Patsaliga Creek.......  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical.
Hollis Creek.................  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Historical.
Sandy Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Historical.
Holmes Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Dale....  AL         Historical and Current.
Pea River....................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Coffee,   AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Dale, Pike,
                                                  Barbour.
Flat Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Historical.
Whitewater Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Historical.
West Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Barbour...  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
East Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Henry.....  AL         Historical.
 River.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Since 1995, the southern kidneyshell has been detected at only 10 
locations within the Choctawhatchee River drainage. The species appears 
to have been common historically (in 1964, H. D. Athearn collected 98 
individuals at one site on the West Fork Choctawhatchee), but it is 
currently considered one of the most imperiled species in the United 
States (Blalock-Herod et al. 2005, p. 16; Williams et al. 2008, p. 
625). In addition to a reduction in range, its numbers are very low. A 
2006-2007 status survey in the Alabama portion of the Choctawhatchee 
basin found the southern kidneyshell was extremely rare. A total of 13 
were encountered alive, and the species comprised less than 0.3 percent 
of the total mussel assemblage (Gangloff and Hartfield 2009, p. 249). 
It is classified as a species of highest conservation concern in 
Alabama by McGregor (2004, p. 83), and considered threatened throughout 
its range by Williams et al. (1993, p. 14)
Choctaw Bean
    The Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis, Athearn 1964) is a small 
freshwater mussel known from the Escambia, Yellow, and Choctawhatchee 
River drainages of Alabama and Florida. The oval shell of the Choctaw 
bean reaches about 49 mm (2.0 in.) in length, and is shiny and 
greenish-brown in color, typically with thin green rays, though the 
rays are often obscured in darker individuals. The shell interior color 
varies from bluish white to smoky brown with some iridescence (Williams 
and Butler 1994, p. 100; Williams et al. 2008, p. 758). The sexes are 
dimorphic, with females truncate or widely rounded posteriorly, and 
sometimes slightly more inflated (Athearn 1964, p. 137). The Choctaw 
bean was originally described by H.D. Athearn in 1964.
    Very little is known about the habitat requirements or life history 
of the Choctaw bean. It is found in medium creeks to medium rivers in 
stable substrates of silty sand to sandy clay with moderate current. It 
is believed to be a long-term brooder, with females gravid from late 
summer or autumn to the following summer. Its fish host is currently 
unknown (Williams et al. 2008, p. 758).
    The Choctaw bean is known from the Escambia, Yellow, and 
Choctawhatchee River drainages in Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 758). The Choctaw bean's known historical and current 
occurrences, by water body and county, are shown in Table 5 below.

             Table 5--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Choctaw Bean
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Escambia River...............  Escambia........  Escambia, Santa   FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Rosa.
Burnt Corn...................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Current.
Murder Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Pigeon Creek.................  Escambia........  Butler..........  AL         Historical.
Patsaliga Creek..............  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical and Current.
Little Patsaliga Creek.......  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical.
Olustee Creek................  Escambia........  Pike............  AL         Current.
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Crenshaw, Pike..  AL         Current.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Okaloosa........  FL         Historical and Current.
Five Runs Creek..............  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical and Current.

[[Page 61670]]

 
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical and Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Walton,           FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Washington,
                                                  Holmes.
Holmes Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Current.
Bruce Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Wrights Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Dale....  AL         Historical and Current.
Pea River....................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Coffee,   AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Pike, Barbour.
Limestone Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Flat Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Whitewater Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Current.
Pea Creek....................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
Big Sandy Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Bullock.........  AL         Current.
Claybank Creek...............  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
West Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Barbour...  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
Judy Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
Pauls Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
East Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Henry, Barbour..  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Choctaw bean persists in most of its historic range. However, 
it has experienced localized extirpations and its numbers are low, 
particularly in the Escambia and Yellow river drainages. Of 7 
historical sites known to support the species within the Escambia River 
drainage, 1 location currently supports the species. Also, its numbers 
within the drainage are very low; a total of 14 individuals have been 
collected since 1995. Within the Yellow River drainage, the Choctaw 
bean is currently known from 4 locations which yielded 15 individuals 
total. In the Choctawhatchee River drainage, 3 of 10 historical sites 
examined recently continue to support the species. The Choctaw bean 
continues to persist in most areas and is currently known from a total 
of 37 locations throughout the drainage.
    Heard (1975, p. 17) assessed the status of the Choctaw bean in 1975 
and stated that it was formerly abundant in the main channel of the 
Choctawhatchee River in Florida, but has become quite rare. McGregor 
(2004, p. 103) considered the Choctaw bean vulnerable to extinction due 
to its limited distribution and habitat degradation, and classified it 
as a species of high conservation concern in Alabama. Williams et al. 
(1993, p. 14) considered the Choctaw bean as threatened throughout its 
range.
Tapered Pigtoe
    The tapered pigtoe (Fusconaia burkei, Walker 1922) is a small to 
medium-sized mussel endemic to the Choctawhatchee River drainage in 
Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 2008, p. 296). The elliptical to 
subtriangular shell of the tapered pigtoe reaches about 75 mm (3.0 in.) 
in length, and is sculptured with plications (parallel ridges) that 
radiate from the posterior ridge. In younger individuals, the shell 
exterior is greenish brown to yellowish brown in color, occasionally 
with faint dark-green rays, and with pronounced sculpture often 
covering the entire shell; in older individuals, the shell becomes dark 
brown to black with age, and sculpture is often subtle. The shell 
interior is bluish white (Williams et al. 2008, p. 295). The tapered 
pigtoe was described by B. Walker (in Ortmann and Walker 1922) as 
Quincuncina burkei, a new genus and species. In the description, 
Ortmann noted the species had gill features characteristic of the genus 
Fusconaia; however, this was dismissed based on the presence of 
sculpture on the shell. Genetic analysis by Lydeard et al. (2000, p. 
149) determined it to be a sister taxon to Fusconaia escambia. Based on 
soft anatomy similarity, Williams et al. (2008, p. 296) recognized 
burkei as belonging to the genus Fusconaia. Recent molecular studies by 
Campbell and Lydeard (2012, p. 28) support the distinctiveness of 
burkei as a species and its assignment to the genus Fusconaia.
    The tapered pigtoe is found in medium creeks to medium rivers in 
stable substrates of sand, small gravel, or sandy mud, with slow to 
moderate current (Williams et al. 2008, p. 296). The reproductive 
biology of the tapered pigtoe was studied by White et al. (2008). It is 
a short-term brooder, with females gravid from mid-March to May. The 
blacktail shiner (Cyprinella venusta) was found to serve as a host for 
tapered pigtoe glochidia in the preliminary host trial (White et al. 
2008, p. 122-123).
    The tapered pigtoe is endemic to the Choctawhatchee River drainage 
in Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 2008, p. 296). Its historical 
and current distribution includes several oxbow lakes in Florida, some 
with a flowing connection to the main channel. The tapered pigtoe's 
known historical and current occurrences, by water body and county, are 
shown in Table 6 below.

            Table 6--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Tapered Pigtoe
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pine Log Creek...............  Choctawhatchee..  Washington, Bay.  FL         Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Walton,           FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Washington,
                                                  Holmes.
Crews Lake...................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Current.
Crawford Lake................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Historical.
Horseshoe Lake...............  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Historical.
Holmes Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington,       FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Holmes, Jackson.
Bruce Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Sandy Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Blue Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.

[[Page 61671]]

 
Wrights Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Tenmile Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Historical.
West Pittman Creek...........  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
East Pittman Creek...........  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Historical and Current.
Parrot Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Limestone Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Historical and Current.
Eightmile Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Flat Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Historical and Current.
Pea River....................  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee, Dale,     AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Pike, Barbour.
Big Creek (Whitewater Creek    Choctawhatchee..  Pike............  AL         Current.
 tributary).
Big Creek (Pea River           Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
 tributary).
Pea Creek....................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
Hurricane Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Historical.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Historical.
Little Choctawhatchee River..  Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Houston...  AL         Historical.
Panther Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Houston.........  AL         Historical.
Bear Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Houston.........  AL         Historical.
West Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Barbour...  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
Judy Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
Pauls Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The tapered pigtoe appears to be absent from portions of its 
historic range and found only in isolated locations (Blalock-Herod et 
al. 2005, p. 17). The species was not detected at 9 of the 22 
historical sites examined during recent status surveys. Most of those 
are in the middle portion of the drainage in Alabama, and the species 
appears to be declining in this portion of its range. The tapered 
pigtoe is currently known from a total of 53 locations within the 
Choctawhatchee River drainage. The species persists mainly in the lower 
portions of the drainage and in isolated locations in Alabama.
    Due to its limited distribution, rarity, and habitat degradation, 
Blalock-Herod (2004, p. 105) considered the tapered pigtoe vulnerable 
to extinction, and classified it as a species of high conservation 
concern in Alabama. The tapered pigtoe is considered threatened 
throughout its range by Williams et al. (1993, p. 14).
Narrow Pigtoe
    The narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia escambia, Clench and Turner 1956) is a 
small to medium-sized mussel known from the Escambia River drainage in 
Alabama and Florida, and the Yellow River drainage in Florida. The 
subtriangular to squarish shaped shell of the narrow pigtoe reaches 
about 75 mm (3.0 in.) in length. The shell is moderately thick and is 
usually reddish brown to black in color. The shell interior is white to 
salmon in color with iridescence near the posterior margin (Williams 
and Butler 1994, p. 77; Williams et al. 2008, p. 316). The narrow 
pigtoe was originally described by W. J. Clench and R. D. Turner in 
1956. Both molecular (Campbell and Lydeard 2012, p. 28) and 
morphological (Williams et al. 2008, p. 316) evidence support the 
distinctiveness of escambia as a species and its assignment to the 
genus Fusconaia.
    Little is known about the habitat requirements or life history of 
the narrow pigtoe. It is found in medium creeks to medium rivers, in 
stable substrates of sand, sand and gravel, or silty sand, with slow to 
moderate current. It is believed to be a short-term brooder, with 
females gravid during spring and summer. The host fish for the narrow 
pigtoe is currently unknown (Williams et al. 2008, p. 317). The species 
is somewhat unusual in that it tolerates a small reservoir environment 
(Williams 2009 pers. comm.). Reproducing narrow pigtoe populations were 
found recently in some areas of Point A Lake and Gantt Lake reservoirs.
    The narrow pigtoe is endemic to the Escambia River drainage in 
Alabama and Florida, and to the Yellow River drainage in Florida 
(Williams et al. 2008, p. 317). The narrow pigtoe's known historical 
and current occurrences, by water body and county, are shown in Table 7 
below.

            Table 7--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Narrow Pigtoe
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Escambia River...............  Escambia........  Escambia, Santa   FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Rosa.
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Escambia,         AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Covington,
                                                  Crenshaw, Pike.
Burnt Corn Creek.............  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Current.
Murder Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Bottle Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Panther Creek................  Escambia........  Butler..........  AL         Historical.
Persimmon Creek..............  Escambia........  Butler..........  AL         Current.
Three Run Creek..............  Escambia........  Butler..........  AL         Current.
Patsaliga Creek..............  Escambia........  Covington,        AL         Current.
                                                  Crenshaw.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Santa Rosa,       FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Okaloosa.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 61672]]

    The narrow pigtoe still occurs in much of its historic range, but 
may be extirpated from localized areas. In the Escambia River drainage, 
the narrow pigtoe occurs in nearly all of its historical range and is 
currently known from 28 locations. It was not detected at 3 out of 10 
historical sites examined recently in the drainage. The species is rare 
in the Yellow River drainage; a total of 23 individuals from 4 
locations have been collected since 1995.
    McGregor (2004, p. 55) considered the narrow pigtoe vulnerable to 
extinction because of its limited distribution, rarity, and 
susceptibility to habitat degradation, and classified it as a species 
of highest conservation concern in Alabama. Williams et al. (1993, p. 
11) considered the narrow pigtoe threatened throughout its range.
Southern Sandshell
    The southern sandshell (Hamiota australis, Simpson 1900) is a 
medium-sized freshwater mussel known from the Escambia River drainage 
in Alabama, and the Yellow and Choctawhatchee River drainages in 
Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 2008, p. 338). The southern 
sandshell is elliptical in shape and reaches about 83 mm (2.3 in.) in 
length. Its shell is smooth and shiny, and greenish in color in young 
specimens, becoming dark greenish brown to black with age, with many 
variable green rays. The shell interior is bluish white and iridescent. 
Sexual dimorphism is present as a slight inflation of the 
posterioventral shell margin of females (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 
97; Williams et al. 2008, p. 337). The southern sandshell (Hamiota 
australis) was originally described by C. T. Simpson (1900) as 
Lampsilis australis. Heard (1975), however, designated it as a species 
of Villosa. It was placed in the genus Hamiota by Roe and Hartfield 
(2005, pp. 1-3), who confirmed earlier published suggestions by Fuller 
and Bereza (1973, p. 53) and O'Brien and Brim Box (1999, pp. 135-136) 
that this species and three others of the genus Lampsilis represent a 
distinct genus. This separation from other Lampsilis is supported 
genetically (Roe et al. 2001, p. 2230).
    The southern sandshell is typically found in small creeks and 
rivers in stable substrates of sand or mixtures of sand and fine 
gravel, with slow to moderate current. It is a long-term brooder, and 
females are gravid from late summer or autumn to the following spring 
(Williams et al. 2008, p. 338). The southern sandshell is one of only 
four species that produce a superconglutinate to attract a host. The 
superconglutinate mimics the shape, coloration, and movement of a fish 
and is produced by the female mussel to hold all glochidia (larval 
mussels) from one year's reproductive effort (Haag et al. 1995, p. 
472). Although the fish host for the southern sandshell has not been 
identified, it likely uses predatory sunfishes such as basses, like 
other Hamiota species (Haag et al. 1995, p. 475; O'Brien and Brim Box 
1999, p. 134; Blalock-Herod et al. 2002, p. 1885).
    The southern sandshell is endemic to the Escambia River drainage in 
Alabama, and the Yellow and Choctawhatchee River drainages in Alabama 
and Florida (Blalock-Herod et al. 2002, pp. 1882, 1884). The southern 
sandshell's known historical and current occurrences, by water body and 
county, are shown in Table 8 below.

          Table 8--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Southern Sandshell
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Burnt corn creek.............  Escambia........  Escambia,         AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Conecuh.
Murder Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Current.
Jordan Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Current.
Sepulga River................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Covington,        AL         Current and Historical.
                                                  Crenshaw, Pike.
Little Patsaliga Creek.......  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical.
Patsaliga Creek..............  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Current.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Okaloosa........  FL         Current.
Shoal River..................  Yellow..........  Okaloosa, Walton  FL         Current.
Pond Creek...................  Yellow..........  Okaloosa........  FL         Historical and Current.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical and Current.
Five Runs Creek..............  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical and Current.
Alligator Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Washington......  FL         Historical.
Holmes Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes, Jackson.  FL         Historical.
Bruce Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
West Sandy Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Historical and Current.
Tenmile Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Historical.
Wrights Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Limestone Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Historical.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Dale....  AL         Historical and Current.
Pea River....................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Coffee,   AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Dale, Pike,
                                                  Barbour.
Flat Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Eightmile Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Walton..  AL, FL     Current.
Natural Bridge Creek.........  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Corner Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Whitewater Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Historical.
Pea Creek....................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Double Bridges Creek.........  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Current.
Little Choctawhatchee River..  Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Houston...  AL         Historical.
West Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Barbour, Dale...  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
Sikes Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
Pauls Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
East Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Henry.....  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

.
[[Page 61673]]

    The southern sandshell persists in its historic range; however, its 
range is fragmented and numbers appear to be declining (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 338). In the Escambia River drainage, the species was detected 
at 1 of 4 historic locations surveyed recently. Also, its numbers are 
very low in the drainage; a total of 20 individuals from 6 locations 
have been collected in the Escambia River drainage since 1995. Southern 
sandshell numbers in the Yellow River drainage are also fairly low, 
with 65 individuals collected recently at a total of 17 locations. The 
species was not detected at 2 of the 4 historic locations examined 
recently in the drainage. In the Choctawhatchee River drainage, the 
number of historic locations that currently support the species has 
declined from 16 to 5, and it appears to be extirpated from central 
portions of the Choctawhatchee River main channel and from some 
tributaries. Sedimentation could be one factor contributing to its 
decline. In order to reproduce, the southern sandshell must attract a 
sight-feeding fish to its superconglutinate lure. Waters clouded by 
silt and sediment would reduce the chance of this interaction occurring 
(Haag et al. 1995, p. 475).
    The southern sandshell is classified as a species of highest 
conservation concern in Alabama by Blalock-Herod (2004, p. 60), and 
considered threatened throughout its range by Williams et al. (1993, p. 
11).
Fuzzy Pigtoe.
    The fuzzy pigtoe (Pleurobema strodeanum, Wright (1898) is a small 
to medium-sized mussel known from the Escambia, Yellow, and 
Choctawhatchee River drainages in Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 574). The fuzzy pigtoe is oval to subtriangular and reaches 
about 75 mm (3.0 in.) in length. Its shell surface is usually dark 
brown to black in color. The shell interior is bluish white, with 
slight iridescence near the margin (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 90; 
Williams et al. 2008, p. 573). The fuzzy pigtoe was described by B.H. 
Wright (1898) as Unio strodeanus. Simpson (1900) reexamined the type 
specimen and reassigned it to the genus Pleurobema. Recent molecular 
data support that strodeanum is distinct as a species and belongs to 
the genus Pleurobema (Campbell and Lydeard 2012, p. 29).
    The fuzzy pigtoe is found in medium creeks to medium rivers in 
stable substrates of sand and silty sand with slow to moderate current. 
The reproductive biology of the fuzzy pigtoe was studied by White et 
al. (2008, pp. 122-123). It is a short-term brooder, with females 
gravid from mid-March to May. The blacktail shiner (Cyprinella venusta) 
was found to serve as a host for fuzzy pigtoe glochidia in the 
preliminary study trial.
    The fuzzy pigtoe is endemic to the Escambia, Yellow, and 
Choctawhatchee River drainages in Alabama and Florida (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 574). The fuzzy pigtoe's known historical and current 
occurrences, by water body and county, are shown in Table 9 below.

             Table 9--Water Bodies With Known Historical and Current Occurrences of the Fuzzy Pigtoe
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Water body               Drainage           County         State           Historical or current
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Escambia River...............  Escambia........  Escambia, Santa   FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Rosa.
Conecuh River................  Escambia........  Escambia,         AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Covington,
                                                  Crenshaw, Pike.
Burnt Corn Creek.............  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Murder Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Jordan Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Sandy Creek..................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Bottle Creek.................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical and Current.
Sepulga River................  Escambia........  Conecuh.........  AL         Historical.
Persimmon Creek..............  Escambia........  Butler..........  AL         Current.
Pigeon Creek.................  Escambia........  Covington,        AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Butler.
Patsaliga Creek..............  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical and Current.
Little Patsaliga Creek.......  Escambia........  Crenshaw........  AL         Historical and Current.
Mill Creek...................  Escambia........  Pike............  AL         Historical.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Okaloosa........  FL         Historical and Current.
Yellow River.................  Yellow..........  Covington.......  AL         Historical.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Walton,           FL         Historical and Current
                                                  Washington,
                                                  Holmes.
Holmes Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Washington,       FL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Holmes, Jackson.
Bruce Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Sandy Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Blue Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Wrights Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Historical and Current.
Tenmile Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
West Pittman Creek...........  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
East Pittman Creek...........  Choctawhatchee..  Holmes..........  FL         Current.
Limestone Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Historical.
Eightmile Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Walton..........  FL         Current.
Choctawhatchee River.........  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Dale....  AL         Historical and Current.
Pea River....................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva, Coffee,   AL         Historical and Current.
                                                  Dale, Pike,
                                                  Barbour.
Flat Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Whitewater Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Current.
Walnut Creek.................  Choctawhatchee..  Pike............  AL         Current.
Pea Creek....................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
Big Sandy Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Bullock.........  AL         Current.
Steep Head Creek.............  Choctawhatchee..  Coffee..........  AL         Current.
Claybank Creek...............  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
Hurricane Creek..............  Choctawhatchee..  Geneva..........  AL         Current.
Little Choctawhatchee River..  Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Houston...  AL         Historical.
Panther Creek................  Choctawhatchee..  Houston.........  AL         Historical.
West Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale, Barbour...  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.

[[Page 61674]]

 
Judy Creek...................  Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
Pauls Creek..................  Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
Unnamed tributary to Lindsey   Choctawhatchee..  Barbour.........  AL         Current.
 Creek.
East Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Dale............  AL         Current.
 River.
East Fork Choctawhatchee       Choctawhatchee..  Henry...........  AL         Historical and Current.
 River.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Within the Escambia River drainage, the fuzzy pigtoe was detected 
at 15 of the 21 historic locations surveyed since 1995; however, its 
status in the drainage is difficult to assess as 9 historical sites 
have not been surveyed since 1995, and at least 3 other sites have 
vague localities. The fuzzy pigtoe is exceedingly rare in the Yellow 
River drainage, where it is currently known from 1 of 4 historic 
locations. A single individual collected in 2010 in the main channel in 
Florida is the only recent record of the species in the drainage. Its 
range in the Yellow River drainage has declined, and the species may no 
longer occur in the upper portion of the drainage in Alabama. In the 
Choctawhatchee River drainage, the fuzzy pigtoe stills occurs in nearly 
all of its historic range and is currently known from a total of 50 
locations; however, the species has become extirpated in localized 
areas. Fifteen of the 18 historic locations in the drainage were 
surveyed recently, and 8 continue to support fuzzy pigtoe populations. 
At one site on Limestone Creek, a once abundant population may have 
disappeared--a total of 42 live fuzzy pigtoes were collected in 1988; 
the surveyor revisited the site in 1993, and found only 1 live and 4 
dead specimens and noted that the creek appeared to have more sand and 
that mussels were not as abundant (Butler 1988 and 1993 in litt.). No 
fuzzy pigtoes were detected during a 2011 site visit (Gangloff 2012 
pers. com.).
    The fuzzy pigtoe is considered vulnerable to extinction because of 
its limited distribution and dwindling habitat by McGregor (2004, p. 
101), who classified it as a species of high conservation concern in 
Alabama. Williams et al. (1993, p. 11) considered the fuzzy pigtoe a 
species of special concern throughout its range.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed 
listing and designation of critical habitat for the eight mussels 
during two comment periods. The first comment period associated with 
the publication of the proposed rule (76 FR 61482) opened on October 4, 
2011, and closed on December 5, 2011. We also requested comments on the 
proposed listing and critical habitat rule and the associated draft 
economic analysis during a comment period that opened March 27, 2012, 
and closed on April 26, 2012 (77 FR 18173). We did not receive any 
requests for a public hearing, so none were held. We also contacted all 
appropriate State and Federal agencies (including the States of Alabama 
and Florida, from whom we directly requested comments), county 
governments, elected officials, scientific organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment. Articles concerning the 
proposed rule and inviting public comment were published by seven local 
newspapers.
    During the first comment periods, we received five comment letters 
directly addressing the proposed listing and critical habitat 
designation. During the second comment period, we received four comment 
letters addressing the proposed listing and critical habitat 
designation and the draft economic analysis. All substantive 
information provided during both comment periods has either been 
incorporated directly into this final determination or is addressed 
below.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we requested the expert opinions of four knowledgeable 
individuals with expertise on freshwater mussel conservation and 
biology, and with familiarity of the eight species and the three river 
basins in which they occur. We received written responses from two of 
the four peer reviewers we contacted.
    We reviewed all comments received from the two peer reviewers for 
substantive and new information regarding the proposal to list and 
designate critical habitat for the eight mussels. The peer reviewers 
generally concurred with our conclusions and provided additional 
information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final 
listing and critical habitat rule. One peer reviewer provided several 
narrative comments, and we addressed most of those below; however, a 
few minor comments are directly incorporated into this final rule. 
Another peer reviewer submitted a marked-up copy of the proposed rule, 
noting errors and suggestions; we adopted most of the suggested changes 
and incorporated them directly into this final rule. Peer reviewer 
comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into 
this final rule as appropriate.

Peer Reviewer Comments

    (1) Comment: Much of the recent status data utilized were obtained 
from personal communications, unpublished (i.e., non-peer-reviewed) 
reports or other generally unavailable reports. Accordingly, it is 
difficult to assess the rigor of these studies or the Service's 
interpretation of their data. More information, including sampling 
effort and methods, mussel catch per unit effort, numbers encountered 
relative to other species, and specifics of study site locations, is 
needed to better assess changes in population status or distributions.
    Our response: We obtained much of the status data, particularly the 
recent survey data, from unpublished reports, field notes, or emails. 
This information is the best scientific data available to us at this 
time. Although the unpublished reports are not available through 
journals, they are part of the administrative record and can be 
obtained through the Panama City Field Office (see ADDRESSES section). 
We agree that information on sampling methods and effort, relative 
numbers, locations, etc., is important; however, the occurrence data 
are a compilation of numerous surveys, and it is not practical to 
report detailed information related to each survey effort. Documenting 
changes in status and population trends over the period of record is 
problematic because historic collections often lack basic information 
such as the specific locality, total number of species or individuals 
collected, or even collection date. The only accurate comparison that 
can be made of so many different sources of

[[Page 61675]]

historical and recent collection data is whether a particular species 
was detected (present) or not (absent) during the survey.
    (2) Comment: The assignment of endangered or threatened species 
status appears to be somewhat arbitrary. Three species are clearly in 
serious decline and warrant endangered status: Alabama pearlshell, 
round ebonyshell, and southern kidneyshell. However, the southern 
sandshell and Choctaw bean appear to have among the largest extant 
ranges of any species covered in the proposed rule and remain extant in 
the Choctawhatchee, Escambia, and Yellow rivers drainages. This 
distinction needs more quantitative or more detailed biological 
justification.
    Our response: In assessing the status of these mussels, we analyzed 
each species' current distribution (range), abundance (numbers), and 
population trend. We also examined the magnitude of the various threats 
to each of the species. Section 3(6) of the Act defines an endangered 
species as ``any species which is in danger of extinction throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range,'' and section 3(20) of the 
Act defines a threatened species as ``any species which is likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range.'' At the time the proposed 
rule published, we had determined that the current status of the 
southern sandshell and Choctaw bean, combined with the threats they are 
facing, made them in danger of extinction throughout their range. 
However, since the proposed rule was published, additional surveys have 
taken place, including a Service-funded status survey, and we now have 
new status and distribution information. In this final rule, we updated 
the occurrence information to reflect the new data, and we reexamined 
the status of each species. These new data include locations of 
populations of the southern sandshell in two new creek systems, Murder 
and West Sandy creeks, and in two historical creek systems, Burnt Corn 
and Pond creeks. The new data also showed that southern sandshell 
abundance is higher than previously known. Because the species is found 
in numerous streams, we have determined it is no longer in danger of 
extinction throughout its range. However, the species does still face 
the wide range of threats explained in the ``Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species'' section and is vulnerable to meeting the 
definition of an endangered species if these threats continue. 
Therefore, we are revising the status of the southern sandshell and are 
listing it as a threatened species (see ``Determination'' section). On 
the other hand, new information confirms that the Choctaw bean's range 
in the Escambia River drainage has declined, and its abundance 
rangewide is currently low. It currently faces severe and imminent 
threats in its aquatic habitats, and these threats are compounded by 
its low abundance. Based on this new information, we therefore find 
that the Choctaw bean continues to be in danger of extinction 
throughout its limited range and are listing it as an endangered 
species as proposed (see ``Determination'' section).
    (3) Comment: More clarification about the number of historical 
sites (as well as what constitutes a `site') that have been resurveyed 
for all of these taxa is needed. The reviewer states that this 
information is critical to assessing declines, and is difficult to 
extract from the rule as currently written.
    Our response: We added Table 1 to the final rule to consolidate 
information on occurrence and abundance. We also added a statement that 
we considered sampling areas in close proximity to the same site. 
Specifically, areas sampled that are within 2 river km (1.2 mi) 
(approximately) of each other are considered the same site, whereas 
sampled areas that are more than 2 km apart are considered different 
sites.
    (4) Comment: The boundaries of the critical habitat units seem 
somewhat arbitrary. The reviewer asserted that separation of the basins 
into these units artificially inflates perceived fragmentation and 
discontinuities in the system. Many of these units are at the very 
least hydrologically and physiochemically connected, and also likely 
remain biologically connected to a degree. Specifically, the peer 
reviewer suggested that units GCM1, GCM2, GCM3, and GCM4 should be 
considered a single critical habitat unit, and GCM6 and GCM7 should 
likewise be merged into a single critical habitat unit. The peer 
reviewer asserted that this would emphasize connectivity of these 
systems and the importance of managing aquatic populations at a 
watershed scale. Another commenter agreed and requested that the 
Service follow the recommendation of the peer reviewer and consolidate 
the six units into two distinct units.
    Our response: We carefully considered how to delineate the 
boundaries of the units. Our consideration focused primarily on 
connectivity and threats, and the spatial distribution of the physical 
and biological features essential to the conservation of each species. 
The four divisions in the Escambia drainage are the result of the two 
mainstem dams on the Conecuh River, creating units GCM1, GCM2, GCM3, 
and GCM4. In the Choctawhatchee drainage, GCM6 and GCM7 are the result 
of the Elba dam on the Pea River mainstem. Threats to units downstream 
of the dams (GCM1 and GCM6) can include altered water quality 
(temperatures, dissolved oxygen), fluctuations in flow regime, and bed 
scour. Threats unique to the unit encompassing the two reservoirs 
(GCM2) are related to the operation of the dams and include drawdowns. 
Threats to the units upstream of the dams (GCM 3, GCM 4 and GCM 7) 
include the absence of anadromous fish hosts. These dams are barriers 
to upstream fish passage, and potentially to mussel gene flow. For 
these reasons, we believe these mainstem dams are logical boundaries. 
Finally, the critical habitat units do not infer recovery units. We 
have not yet completed a recovery plan for these species, but our 
recovery strategy for the eight mussels will undoubtedly involve 
managing and protecting these river systems at the watershed level.
    (5) Comment: A reviewer suggested we consider combining units AP2 
and GCM1.
    Our response: We believe combining units AP2 and GCM1 would be an 
inaccurate representation of the Alabama pearlshell's range and 
habitat. The Alabama pearlshell is a headwater species and, as such, 
seldom co-occurs with the other six species in the drainage.
    (6) Comment: Cumberlandia is found throughout the Mississippi basin 
not just the Tennessee drainage.
    Our response: The context of the Cumberlandia information was the 
distribution of the genus in Alabama. We revised the sentence to make 
this more clear.
    (7) Comment: Dredging, channelization, and snag removal and 
resulting streambed destabilization should be listed as the foremost 
threats to round pearlshell (reviewer meant round ebonyshell). This 
taxon is relatively drought tolerant as its core populations appear to 
reside in deep water habitats.
    Our response: We agree and have added these activities as threats 
to the round ebonyshell.
    (8) Comment: Characterization of narrow pigtoe habitat is somewhat 
vague and seems to imply that this animal is a small to moderate-sized 
stream specialist. The reviewer stated that occupied habitats include 
reaches of the lower Escambia and Yellow rivers, and considers both 
fairly large rivers.

[[Page 61676]]

    Our response: We made minor revisions to the description of narrow 
pigtoe habitat to clarify. However, we disagree that the lower Escambia 
and Yellow rivers are large rivers, and we follow the description by 
Williams et al. (2008 p. 317) which classifies them as medium-sized 
rivers. This species is known from medium-sized creeks such as Murder 
and Patsaliga creeks in Alabama and medium-sized rivers such as the 
lower Escambia and Yellow rivers in Florida. We would describe nearby 
river systems like the Mobile and Apalachicola as ``large.'' The 
species does not occur in these rivers.
    (9) Comment: What is the status of the proposed Little 
Choctawhatchee River Reservoir?
    Our response: The Little Choctawhatchee project is a proposed water 
supply reservoir project in Dale and Houston Counties, Alabama. The 
Choctawhatchee, Pea, and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority 
has applied for a section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers. The project is in need of funding, but it is anticipated 
that it will move forward (Industrial Economics 2012, p. 4-11).
    (10) Comment: One reviewer stated that there may be some commercial 
harvest of Alabama pearlshell, and asked if the Service has encountered 
any evidence for this claim.
    Our response: We have no evidence that Alabama pearlshell were or 
are being harvested commercially.
    (11) Comment: A peer reviewer suggested we include additional 
information in the document regarding the Elba Dam and its impact on 
downstream hydrology. The peer reviewer stated that it is a run-of-
river structure and is, to his knowledge, not managed for hydropower 
production. The peer reviewer would like to see more info about the 
height and permeability of this and other dam structures.
    Our response: At the time the proposed rule was published, we 
mistakenly believed the Elba Dam was not in operation. However, the dam 
is currently operating, generating power during peak periods and 
storing some water. We have revised our discussion of the dam's 
operation, and added dam height and fish passage information for the 
structure. We likewise added dam height and fish passage information 
for the Gantt and Point A dams on the Conecuh River.
    (12) Comment: A peer reviewer mentioned that they did not find any 
mussels during a recent survey in the Yellow River upstream from the 
U.S. 84 crossing or in Hollis Creek. At the time of their survey, 
Hollis Creek was a small, sandy, intermittent stream at its confluence 
with the Yellow River and was unlikely to support listed mussels.
    Our response: The Yellow River at the U.S. 84 crossing has a recent 
(1996) collection of Choctaw bean, and this portion of the river will 
remain as critical habitat. The 5.5-km (3.5-mi) segment of Hollis Creek 
was included as critical habitat in unit GCM5 in the proposed rule, but 
we have removed this segment in this final rule based on this new 
information, and adjusted the final critical habitat lengths for Unit 
GCM5 and the entire designation accordingly.
    (13) Comment: A peer reviewer asked why Fort Rucker lands were not 
included as critical habitat, and stated that this reach seems to be an 
important section that is likely to be disturbed by Department of 
Defense activities, which in turn could affect listed mussel 
populations downstream in the Choctawhatchee River.
    Our response: Fort Rucker has completed an integrated natural 
resources management plan (INRMP) that guides conservation activities 
on the installation through 2014. Lands within military installations 
are exempt from critical habitat designation under section 4(a)(3) of 
the Act, provided they are: ``* * * subject to an integrated natural 
resources management plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act 
(16 U.S.C. 670a), if the Secretary determines in writing that such plan 
provides a benefit to the species for which critical habitat is 
proposed for designation.'' The INRMP specifically addresses 
maintaining and improving water quality through sedimentation and 
erosion control, land management practices, and improved treatment 
facilities. Therefore, in the proposed rule we determined that the 
streams on Ft. Rucker were exempt from the designation. In addition, 
the INRMP will be updated to incorporate the southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. We 
will work with Fort Rucker's Environmental and Natural Resources 
Division to incorporate conservation actions specific to these species 
into the INRMP.

Comments From the States

    Section 4(i) of the Act states, ``the Secretary shall submit to the 
State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt 
regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.'' 
Comments received from the State of Florida regarding the proposal to 
list and designate critical habitat for the eight mussels are addressed 
below. No comments were received from the State of Alabama.
    (14) Comment: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission generally 
concurred with our methods and conclusions, and supports the listing 
and the designation of critical habitat.
    Our response: We appreciate the support and look forward to 
continuing to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to 
recovery these mussels.
    (15) Comment: One commenter asserted that the listing of the eight 
mussels and designation of critical habitat in the Florida Panhandle 
Region will increase costs and time spent on Florida Department of 
Transportation (FDOT) activities due to the need to conduct mussel 
surveys, the need to have formal section 7 consultation with the 
Service, the need to hire specialized consultants to conduct the survey 
and perform the formal consultation, and the mandated time requirements 
of a formal section 7 consultation. The comment states that, due to the 
significant number of bridges needing replacement and the limited funds 
available, these increased costs and prolonged timelines will have an 
economic burden and will constitute a safety concern for the public.
    Our response: The economic analysis includes data provided by FDOT 
on the number of road and bridge construction and maintenance projects 
likely to occur over the next 20 years. The final economic analysis 
(FEA) estimates a total of 122 consultations over the next 20 years 
associated with road and bridge construction and maintenance activities 
within or affecting proposed critical habitat in Florida. The total 
present value incremental impact of consultations on these projects is 
$358,000 (an annualized impact of $31,600). As described in section 3.2 
of the FEA, once the species are listed, the Service may recommend 
mussel surveys for proposed projects. However, these surveys would be 
recommended regardless of critical habitat due to the presence of 
listed species, and are therefore not quantified as a cost of the 
designation. In general, designation of critical habitat by itself does 
not generate the need for formal section 7 consultation. Consultation 
is triggered by activities that may affect the listed species or its 
critical habitat. Because each unit is already occupied by one or more 
of the mussel species, consultation would be required for activities 
with a Federal nexus that may affect the species regardless of the 
designation of critical habitat. Transportation planning, including 
planning for bridge replacement projects, typically has a

[[Page 61677]]

timeline, from planning to construction, of approximately 5 years. 
Informal and formal section 7 consultation can take place concurrent 
with other aspects of environmental planning without adding to the 
overall project timeline. There are also alternatives to individual 
project consultations, such as a programmatic formal consultation for 
bridge replacement projects, that could expedite the consultation 
process while reducing costs. The assessment of potential impacts of a 
project on critical habitat occurs at the same time as the assessment 
of the potential for the project to adversely affect a listed species. 
Consequently, critical habitat designation is not anticipated to 
generate additional delays in project schedules. Bridges that present 
an imminent public safety hazard may constitute an emergency, requiring 
emergency consultation. The Service has procedures for addressing 
emergency consultations that provide guidance to avoid and minimize 
effects to species and their habitat while allowing the emergency 
response to proceed. In non-emergency situations, when public safety is 
at risk, the consultation can often be expedited to address safety 
concerns.
    (16) Comment: One comment states that Florida's Environmental 
Resource Permitting (ERP) Program provides the eight mussels with an 
additional level of environmental protection that is not offered in 
Alabama. The comment states that ERP ensures heightened water quality 
requirements and best management practices. The comment asserts that 
Florida should be excluded from the requirements of critical habitat 
designation due to the presence of applicable State statutes, including 
ERP, which applies to all activities on State, county, city, or Federal 
properties.
    Our response: In response to information provided by the FDOT, 
section 3.1.2 of the FEA includes a description of the Florida ERP and 
the baseline protections it provides the eight mussels. The existence 
of this program does not preclude section 7 consultation requirements 
for projects with a Federal nexus. As such, the existence of this 
program does not change the estimated incremental impacts of critical 
habitat designation in Florida, which are limited to administrative 
costs of consultation. The heightened water quality protection measures 
of Florida's ERP provide benefits to freshwater mussels and support 
primary constituent element (PCE) 4, water quality. However, this 
measure alone cannot address all the potential threats to these species 
and their habitat from large-scale construction projects that can be 
addressed under section 7 of the Act. Threats may include direct injury 
and loss of individuals, as well as effects to other PCEs such as 
maintaining geomorphically stable stream and river channels (PCE 1), 
and stable substrates (PCE 2). Therefore, we are not excluding lands in 
the State of Florida.

Comments From Federal Agencies

    (17) Comment: The U.S. Navy expressed its interest and commitment 
to work proactively with the Service to address potential issues should 
these species be listed under the Act. The Navy also provided 
information on properties within the watersheds of the proposed 
critical habitat units AP2 and GCM1, and these include Naval Air 
Station (NAS) Whiting Field's Navy Outlying Landing Field (NOLF) 
Evergreen (Alabama) and NOLF Pace (Florida).
    Our response: After receiving these comments, the Service contacted 
the Navy and requested updated GIS files to better assess the locations 
of the NOLFs relative to proposed critical habitat. Once we had the 
detailed NOLF boundaries, we determined that the NOLF Pace does not 
have critical habitat within the boundary of the property, and that the 
NOLF Evergreen does have critical habitat within its boundary. NOLF 
Evergreen is situated within the Murder Creek drainage and includes an 
approximately 0.40-km (0.25-mi) segment of Hunter Creek, which is 
critical habitat in unit AP2 for the Alabama pearlshell. We also 
determined that the NAS Whiting Field Complex INRMP specifically 
addresses maintaining and improving water quality, and will be updated 
to incorporate the Alabama pearlshell. Therefore, lands within this 
installation are exempt from critical habitat designation under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act as described in the ``Exemptions'' section, and this 
final rule has been changed accordingly.
    This comment provides new information on the administrative effort 
required on the part of the NAS for maintenance of its INRMP. Review 
and updating of this INRMP occurs annually and would therefore occur 
regardless of critical habitat designation. However, incremental 
administrative effort may be required to consider the impact of 
activities covered under the INRMP on critical habitat. As discussed in 
section 4.1 of the DEA, the Service does not anticipate the critical 
habitat designation will generate recommendations for conservation 
efforts beyond those it would recommend due to the listing of the 
species. As a result, incremental economic impacts of critical habitat 
associated with consultation on the Navy's INRMP would be limited to 
additional administrative effort. The FEA is therefore revised to 
incorporate additional administrative costs to Units AP2 and GCM1 
associated with the annual formal consultation on the NAS's INRMP.

Public Comments

    (18) Comment: Comments received from several groups and individuals 
support the listing of the eight mussels and designation of critical 
habitat. These include: The Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society, 
the Choctawhatchee River Keeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, 
American Rivers, and two anonymous commenters.
    Our response: We appreciate the support.
    (19) Comment: Multiple comments assert that the critical habitat 
designation will generate benefits. One comment suggests that critical 
habitat could be a stimulus for getting local, State, and Federal 
resources agencies to cooperate to address threats such as untreated 
active gully systems and to expand work to reduce pollutant transport 
from unpaved roads and associated roadside water conveyances. Another 
comment asserts that the mussels contribute economic value through 
denitrification of rivers, reducing the need to treat the water. A 
third comment similarly suggests that the Service should consider the 
economic benefits of the rule in terms of water quality improvements 
that will benefit downstream water users and public health.
    Our response: Section 2.3.3 of the DEA describes that, ``[U]nder 
Executive Order 12866, OMB directs Federal agencies to provide an 
assessment of both the social costs and benefits of proposed regulatory 
actions * * * Rather than rely on economic measures, the Service 
believes that the direct benefits of the proposed rule are best 
expressed in biological terms that can be weighed against the expected 
cost impacts on the rulemaking.'' As described in section 4.4 of the 
DEA, the designation of critical habitat is not anticipated to generate 
additional conservation measures for the eight mussels beyond those 
that will be generated by their listing. Absent changes in land 
management or conservation measures for the eight mussels, we do not 
expect any incremental economic benefits, including improved water 
quality and associated benefits to human health and

[[Page 61678]]

reduced cost of downstream water treatment, to result specifically from 
designation of critical habitat for the eight mussels.
    (20) Comment: One commenter provided a recent publication of a 
molecular study by Campbell and Lydeard (2012) titled The genera of 
Pleurobemini (Bivalvia: Unionidae: Ambleminae). The study confirms the 
taxonomy of Fusconaia burkei, F. escambia, and Pleurobema strodeanum, 
and it reassigns Fusconaia rotulata to the new genus Reginaia.
    Our response: We incorporated these recent findings into this final 
determination, except the reassignment of Fusconaia rotulata to the new 
genus Reginaia. It is the Service's policy to recognize a nomenclature 
change once it has been vetted and generally accepted by the scientific 
community. However, because this finding was published in 2012, it has 
not had time to go through this process. If the change is accepted, we 
can revise the name in the future.
    (21) Comment: One commenter agreed with the Service's inclusion of 
the Alabama pearlshell and southern kidneyshell on the Federal List of 
Endangered or Threatened Wildlife, but states that the proposed 
critical habitat should be extended to cover historically known ranges. 
The currently proposed critical habitat zones for the Alabama 
pearlshell, AP1 and AP2, do not contain any main stream channel that 
would prevent population isolation. The commenter recommended the 
Service include those sections of the Escambia River, Conecuh River, 
Cedar Creek, and the entirety of Murder Creek in order to connect Burnt 
Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and the Sepulga River and allow for a 
continuous stretch of critical habitat for the Alabama pearlshell. The 
commenter also stated that unit AP2 (commenter meant AP1) should be 
extended to contain sections of the Alabama River to allow the Alabama 
pearlshell to increase its range and numbers. Finally, the commenter 
recommended extending the southern kidneyshell's proposed critical 
habitat to include unit GCM5 in order to include known historical 
ranges and improve the species' chance of recovery.
    Our response: As described under Criteria Used to Identify Critical 
Habitat, We reviewed available information pertaining to the habitat 
requirements of these species. In accordance with the Act and its 
implementing regulation at 50 CFR 424.12(e), we considered whether 
designating additional areas--outside those currently occupied as well 
as those occupied at the time of listing--are necessary to ensure the 
conservation of the species. We are designating critical habitat in 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing in 2012. We also are designating specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, that 
were historically occupied, but are presently unoccupied, because we 
have determined that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
these species. We have no data showing the Alabama pearlshell occurred 
in any of the rivers or creeks suggested for inclusion in the comment. 
For this reason, and based on the above criteria, we have no scientific 
information to support the extension of critical habitat in units AP1 
and AP2 into the mainstem of these rivers at this time.
    The southern kidneyshell's occurrence in the Yellow River is based 
on a single specimen collected in 1919, from Hollis Creek in Covington 
County, Alabama. The Hollis Creek segment was re-surveyed in 2012, and 
the surveyor noted the stream is small and intermittent, and is 
unlikely to support listed mussels (see comment 12); this may indicate 
habitat degradation or hydrology alteration or both since the 
collection. At this time, we do not believe that southern kidneyshell 
critical habitat should include the Yellow River drainage (including 
GCM5) because it is not essential to the conservation of the species 
and does not contain the physical or biological features needed to 
support the species.
    (22) Comment: The proposed rule contains considerable speculation 
as to possible causes for reduced populations of the eight mussel 
species. The Service should rely instead on rigorous scientific 
information about relationships between factors potentially affecting 
these species, including the proposed water quality criteria associated 
with primary constituent elements, and actual population responses.
    Our response: The Service has monitored the status of the eight 
mussels since they first became candidates for listing in 2004. Since 
that time, the Service and the States have funded numerous efforts to 
develop a better understanding of the natural history of these species. 
We have also analyzed the threats to these species using the best 
available science on surrogate species. The natural histories of these 
species are likely very similar to other species in the family 
Unionidae, and it is reasonable to assume that similar threats will 
affect these species in a similar manner. Each threat is discussed in 
detail in the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species and is 
summarized in the Determination sections. A threats matrix detailing 
our best understanding of the relative importance of these threats has 
been developed and is in the administrative record and available upon 
request (see ADDRESSES above).
    (23) Comment: When properly implemented, forestry best management 
practices protect water quality and habitat for species associated with 
riparian, aquatic, and wetland habitats. Implementation and compliance 
rates for forestry best management practices are high nationally and in 
the Southeast, including in Alabama and Florida.
    Our response: The Service agrees that best management practices 
(BMPs) are protective of water quality and mussel habitat, and that 
industrial forestry activities generally do a good job of implementing 
BMPs. However, BMPs are voluntary and, therefore, are not always 
implemented. In addition, some harvesting operations fail to use BMPs 
adequately, and localized impacts can and do occur. We consider 
sediment from silvicultural activities to be one of many potential 
sediment sources within a watershed.
    (24) Comment: Sustainable forestry certification programs require 
participants to meet or exceed forestry best management practices and 
help ensure high rates of implementation.
    Our response: The Service agrees that the sustainable forestry 
program is one of the most effective programs to ensure BMPs are 
properly implemented. Nonetheless, because they are voluntary, BMPs are 
not always implemented (see our response to Comment (23)) and some 
forestry activities can contribute sediments into stream systems.
    (25) Comment: Suspended solids from modern biological wastewater 
treatment plants are often comprised largely of organic matter, and 
such solids would generally not be expected to contribute significantly 
to sedimentation or contaminated sediment.
    Our response: The Service concurs with this comment. We have no 
information that suspended solids discharged by wastewater treatment 
plants, at permitted levels, are a threat to the eight mussels at this 
time.
    (26) Comment: Sediment issues in the southeastern United States are 
complicated by a legacy of poor agricultural practices during the 1800s 
and early 1900s, which raises questions about sources of sediment 
problems and the relative magnitudes of different sediment sources 
today. Silvicultural activities generally have only a small, short-
lived impact on water quality,

[[Page 61679]]

especially when compared with other land uses.
    Our response: We agree that one of the primary sources of 
sedimentation in these basins is legacy sediment; however, we not aware 
of any studies that have looked at the relative contribution of 
historic and current sediment sources. We agree that silvicutural 
activities have a small and short-lived impact on water quality 
compared to other land uses; however, we do not believe the activities 
have small and short-lived impact to habitat quality. As discussed 
under Factor A under Summary of Factors Affecting the Species, heavy 
sediment loads can destroy mussel habitat, resulting in a corresponding 
shift in mussel fauna (Brim Box and Mossa 1999, p. 100), and can lead 
to rapid changes in stream channel position, channel shape, and bed 
elevation (Brim Box and Mossa 1999, p. 102).
    (27) Comment: Herbicides used in forest management operation pose 
little risk to fauna, and there is no evidence that they endanger 
viability of aquatic organisms.
    Our response: We do not agree that there is no evidence that 
herbicides used in forest management endanger viability of aquatic 
organisms. As described under Factors A and D under Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species, numerous studies have documented that certain 
pesticides are lethal to mussels, particularly to the highly sensitive 
early life stages. A multitude of bioassay tests conducted on several 
mussel species show that freshwater mussels are more sensitive than 
previously known to the pesticides glyphosate and the surfactant MON 
0818, ingredients in some pesticides used in forestry management.
    (28) Comment: Climate change models do not provide information that 
is appropriate for making management decisions regarding these mussel 
species.
    Our response: We agree that it would not be appropriate to use 
climate change models, which are broad in scale, to make management 
decisions regarding the eight mussels. However, we must consider 
evidence that climate change could lead to increased frequency of 
severe storms and droughts, which could affect these eight mussels in 
the future (see Factor E discussion, below).

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    After consideration of the comments we received during the public 
comment periods (see above), we made changes to the final listing rule. 
Many small, nonsubstantive changes and corrections, not affecting the 
determination (e.g., updating the Background section in response to 
comments, minor clarifications) were made throughout the document. 
Below is a summary list of more substantive changes made to this 
document.
    (1) The total length of critical habitat was revised to 2,404 km 
(1,494 mi.) due to the removal of Hollis Creek, the exemption of a 
small section of Hunter Creek, and the accidental omission of one 
segment (Corner Creek) in a spreadsheet used to sum unit lengths for 
the proposed rule. Corner Creek was featured in the unit descriptions 
and maps of the proposed rule, but was inadvertently left out of the 
spreadsheet.
    (2) The status of the southern sandshell was revised to a 
threatened species based on a peer reviewer's comment and new survey 
data.
    (3) Unit AP2 was revised to remove a 0.4 km (0.25 mi) segment of 
Hunter Creek in Covington County, Alabama. This segment was determined 
to be exempt under section 4(a)(3) of the Act because it receives 
management under an approved INRMP created by the U.S. Navy (see 
comment 17 and our response).
    (4) Table 1 was added to address peer review comment 3.
    (5) The Taxonomy, Life History, and Distribution section was 
revised to reflect additional threats to round ebonyshell identified by 
a reviewer. These additional threats include dredging, channelization, 
and de-snagging of trees and brush for navigation.
    (6) Information related to dam height and fish passage for Point A, 
Gantt, and Elba dams was added, and information related to the 
operation of Elba dam on the Pea River was revised.
    In addition to these changes and additions, several errors in the 
proposed rule were corrected. These include:
    (1) Renumbering of tables. The proposed rule contained two Tables 1 
and 2; the second tables 1 and 2 were renumbered to Tables 10 and 11 in 
this document.
    (2) Adding 1 km (1 mi) to the length of AP2. The length was 
recalculated and revised to 96 km (155 mi).
    (3) Removing a portion of GCM5. Hollis Creek from its confluence 
with the Yellow River upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 42, 
Covington County, Alabama, was erroneously included as critical habitat 
in the proposed rule, and we have removed it from this final rule; the 
length of unit GCM 5 was revised to 247 km (153 mi.).
    (4) Adding 5 km (3.0 mi) to GCM6. This corrects an accidental 
omission of the Corner Creek segment length from the total length of 
critical habitat in the proposed rule. This happened due to its 
omission from a spreadsheet used to calculate the total length of 
units. The Corner Creek segment was, however, included in the critical 
habitat description in the proposed rule. The corrected length of the 
unit is 897 mi (557 km).
    (5) Correcting other small errors in Table 10. Specifically, for 
southern sandshell,in unit GCM1, we revisedthe total length to 2,222 km 
(1,379 mi); for southern kidneyshell, we changed unit GCM5 to GCM6 and 
revised its total length to 1,975 km (1,226 mi); and for fuzzy pigtoe, 
we changed unit GCM2 to GCM1 and revised its total length to 2,222 km 
(1,379 mi).
    (6) Changing the term ``protected'' to ``managed'' in Table 11 to 
more accurately define the various types of public lands.
    (7) Where appropriate, updating occurrence information to 
incorporate data from a status survey completed in March of 2012.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. A species may be 
listed as an endangered or threatened species due to one or more of the 
five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present 
or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat 
or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, 
or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy 
of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade 
factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be 
warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in 
combination. Each of these factors is discussed below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    The habitats of freshwater mussels are vulnerable to habitat 
modification and water quality degradation from a number of activities 
associated with modern civilization. The primary cause of the decline 
of these eight mussels has been the modification and destruction of 
their stream and river habitat, with sedimentation as the leading 
cause. Their stream habitats are subject to pollution and alteration 
from a variety of sources including adjacent land use

[[Page 61680]]

activities, in-water activities, effluent discharges, and impoundments.
    Nonpoint-source pollution from land surface runoff originates from 
virtually all land use activities and includes sediments, fertilizer, 
herbicide and pesticide residues; animal wastes; septic tank leakage 
and gray water discharge; and oils and greases. Current activities and 
land uses that can negatively affect populations of these eight mussels 
include unpaved road crossings, improper silviculture and agriculture 
practices, highway construction, housing developments, pipeline 
crossings, and cattle grazing. These activities can result in physical 
disturbance of stream substrates or the riparian zone, excess 
sedimentation and nutrification, decreased dissolved oxygen 
concentration, increased acidity and conductivity, and altered flow. 
Limited range and low numbers make these eight mussels vulnerable to 
land use changes that would result in increases in nonpoint-source 
pollution.
    Sedimentation is one of the most significant pollution problems for 
aquatic organisms (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 55), and has been 
determined to be a major factor in mussel declines (Ellis 1936, pp. 39-
40). Impacts resulting from sediments have been noted for many 
components of aquatic communities. For example, sediments have been 
shown to abrade or suffocate periphyton (organisms attached to 
underwater surfaces); affect respiration, growth, reproductive success, 
and behavior of aquatic insects and mussels; and affect fish growth, 
survival, and reproduction (Waters 1995, pp. 173-175). Heavy sediment 
loads can destroy mussel habitat, resulting in a corresponding shift in 
mussel fauna (Brim Box and Mossa 1999, p. 100). Excessive sedimentation 
can lead to rapid changes in stream channel position, channel shape, 
and bed elevation (Brim Box and Mossa 1999, p. 102). Sedimentation has 
also been shown to impair the filter feeding ability of mussels. When 
in high silt environments, mussels may keep their valves closed more 
often, resulting in reduced feeding activity (Ellis 1936, p. 30), and 
high amounts of suspended sediments can dilute their food source 
(Dennis 1984, p. 212). Increased turbidity from suspended sediment can 
reduce or eliminate juvenile mussel recruitment (Negus 1966, p. 525; 
Brim Box and Mossa 1999, pp. 101-102). Many mussel species use visual 
cues to attract host fishes; such a reproductive strategy depends on 
clear water. For example, increased turbidity may impact the southern 
sandshell life cycle by reducing the chance that a sight-feeding host 
fish will encounter the visual display of its superconglutinate lure 
(Haag et al. 1995, p. 475; Blalock-Herod et al. 2002, p. 1885). If the 
superconglutinate is not encountered by a host within a short time 
period, the glochidia will become nonviable (O'Brien and Brim Box 1999, 
p. 133). Also, evidence suggests that conglutinates of the southern 
kidneyshell, once released from the female mussel, must adhere to hard 
surfaces in order to be seen by its fish host. If the surface becomes 
covered in fine sediments, the conglutinate cannot attach and is swept 
away (Hartfield and Hartfield 1996, p. 373).
    Biologists conducting mussel surveys within the drainages have 
reported observations of excessive sedimentation in the streams and 
rivers of the three basins. While searching for the Alabama pearlshell 
in headwater streams of the Escambia and Alabama drainages, D. N. 
Shelton (1996, pp. 1-5 unpub. report) reported many streams within the 
study area had experienced heavy siltation, and that all species of 
mollusks appeared to be adversely affected. M. M. Gangloff (Gangloff 
and Hartfield 2009, p. 253) observed large amounts of sand and silt in 
the mainstem Pea and Choctawhatchee rivers during a 2006-2007 survey, 
and considered this a possible reason for the decline of mussels in the 
drainage.
    In 2009-2010, The Nature Conservancy completed an inventory and 
prioritization of impaired sites in the Yellow River watershed in 
Alabama and Florida (Herrington et al., 2010 unpub. report). The study 
identified and quantified the impacts of unpaved road crossings and 
streambank instability and erosion within the river corridor and 
riparian zone, to assess impairments that could impact the five species 
occurring in the drainage. A total of 339 unpaved roads and 
approximately 209 river miles of mainstem and tributaries were assessed 
using standardized methods. Out of these, 409 sites ranked ``High'' or 
``Moderate'' in risk of excessive sedimentation according to the 
Sediment Risk Index. Many of the impaired sites (149) were located 
upstream of known mussel locations. In addition, habitat conditions 
were characterized at 44 known mussel locations; the sites were scored 
numerically and rated as poor, fair, good, or excellent. The majority 
of the mussel sites were assessed to be either fair or poor. Most of 
these locations were within the vicinity of bridge crossings and boat 
ramps and several, particularly in the Shoal River in Florida, were 
directly downstream of highly impaired unpaved road and river corridor 
sites. In summary, the study found the threat of sedimentation and 
habitat degradation is high throughout the Yellow River watershed with 
over 75 percent of sites assessed exhibiting high or moderate risk, and 
the majority of known mussel locations impaired.
    Potential sediment sources within a watershed include virtually any 
activity that disturbs the land surface. Current sources of sand, silt, 
and other sediment accumulation in south-central Alabama and western 
Florida stream channels include unpaved road runoff, agricultural 
lands, timber harvest, livestock grazing, and construction and other 
development activities (Williams and Butler 1994, p. 55; Bennett 2002, 
p. 5 and references therein; Hoehn 1998, pp. 46-47 and references 
therein). The Choctawhatchee, Pea, and Yellow Rivers Watershed 
Management Plan (CPYRWMP) and the Conecuh-Sepulga-Blackwater Rivers 
Watershed Protection Plan (CSBRWPP) document water quality impairments 
to the Alabama portion of the watersheds. Both plans identify elevated 
levels of sediment as one of the primary causes of impairment (CPYRWMP, 
p. 156; CSBRWPP, p. 110). In the Choctawhatchee and Yellow river 
drainages, four out of the nine streams in which sediment loads were 
calculated by the Geological Survey of Alabama had significant sediment 
impairment (CPYRWMP, p. 157). In Alabama, runoff from unpaved roads and 
roadside gullies is considered the main source of sediment transported 
into the streams of the drainages (Bennett 2002, p. 5 and references 
therein; CPYRWMP, p. 145). Unpaved roads are constructed primarily of 
sandy materials and are easily eroded and transported to stream 
corridors. In addition, certain silvicultural and agricultural 
activities cause erosion, riparian buffer degradation, and increased 
sedimentation. Uncontrolled access to streams by cattle can result in 
destruction of riparian vegetation, bank degradation and erosion, and 
localized sedimentation of stream habitats.
    Land surface runoff also contributes nutrients (for example, 
nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, sewage, and animal manure) to 
rivers and streams, causing them to become eutrophic. Excessive 
nutrient input stimulates excessive plant growth (algae, periphyton 
attached algae, and nuisance plants). This enhanced plant growth can 
cause dense mats of filamentous algae that can expose juvenile mussels 
to entrainment or predation and be detrimental to the survival of 
juvenile mussels (Hartfield and Hartfield 1996,

[[Page 61681]]

p. 373). Excessive plant growth can also reduce dissolved oxygen in the 
water when dead plant material decomposes. In a review of the effects 
of eutrophication on mussels, Patzner and Muller (2001, p. 329) noted 
that stenoecious (narrowly tolerant) species disappear as waters become 
more eutrophic. They also refer to studies that associate increased 
levels of nitrate with the decline and absence of juvenile mussels 
(Patzner and Muller 2001, pp. 330-333). Filamentous algae may also 
displace certain species of fish, or otherwise affect fish-mussel 
interactions essential to recruitment (for example, Hartfield and 
Hartfield 1996, p. 373). Nutrient sources include fertilizers applied 
to agricultural fields and lawns, septic tanks, and municipal 
wastewater treatment facilities.
    Because of their sedentary characteristics, mussels are extremely 
vulnerable to toxic effluents (Sheehan et al. 1989, pp. 139-140; 
Goudreau et al. 1993, pp. 216-227; Newton 2003, p. 2543). Descriptions 
of localized mortality have been provided for chemical spills and other 
discrete point-source discharges; however, rangewide decreases in 
mussel density and diversity may result from the more insidious effects 
of chronic, low-level contamination (Newton 2003, p. 2543, Newton et 
al. 2003, p. 2554). Freshwater mussel experts often report chemical 
contaminants as factors limiting to unionids (Richter et al. 1997, pp. 
1081-1093). They note high sensitivity of early life stages to 
contaminants such as chlorine (Wang et al. 2007 pp. 2039-2046), metals 
(Keller and Zam 1991, p. 542; Jacobson et al. 1993, pp. 879-883), 
ammonia (Augspurger et al. 2003, pp. 2571-2574; Wang et al. 2007 pp. 
2039-2046), and pesticides (Bringolf et al. 2007a,b pp. 2089-2092, pp. 
2096-2099). Pesticide residues from agricultural, residential, or 
silvicultural activities enter streams mainly by surface runoff. 
Agricultural crops locally grown within the range of these mussels 
associated with high pesticide use include cotton, peanuts, corn, and 
soybeans. Chlorine, metals, and ammonia are common constituents in 
treated effluent from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment 
facilities. A total of 62 municipal and 39 industrial wastewater 
treatment facilities are permitted in Alabama and Florida to discharge 
treated effluent into surface waters of the three river drainages (FDEP 
2010a; ADEM 2010a).
    States maintain water-use classifications through issuance of 
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to 
industries, municipalities, and others that set maximum limits on 
certain pollutants or pollutant parameters. The Alabama Department of 
Environmental Management (ADEM) has designated the water use 
classification for most portions of the Escambia, Yellow, and 
Choctawhatchee Rivers as ``Fish and Wildlife'' (F&W), and a few 
portions (mostly lakes) as ``Swimming'' (S). The F&W designation 
establishes minimum water quality standards that are believed to 
protect existing species and water uses like fishing and recreation 
within the designated area, while the S classification establishes 
higher water quality standards that are protective of human contact 
with the water. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection 
(FDEP) classifies all three river drainages as Class III waters. The 
Class III designation establishes minimum water quality standards that 
are believed to protect species and uses such as recreation. The 
Choctawhatchee and Shoal Rivers are also designated as Outstanding 
Florida Waters (OFW) by the State of Florida. The designation prevents 
the discharge of pollutants, which would lower existing water quality 
or significantly degrade the OFW.
    Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) 
requires States to identify waters that do not fully support their 
designated use classification. These impaired water bodies are placed 
on the State's 303(d) list, and a total maximum daily load (TMDL) must 
be developed for the pollutant of concern. A TMDL is an estimate of the 
total load of pollutants that a segment of water can receive without 
exceeding applicable water quality criteria. Alabama's 303(d) list 
identifies a total of 25 impaired stream segments within the Escambia, 
Yellow, and Choctawhatchee River basins that either support populations 
of the eight species or that flow into streams that support them. The 
list identifies metals (mercury and lead), organic enrichment, 
pathogens, siltation, excess nutrients, or unknown toxicity as reasons 
for impairment (ADEM 2010b, pp. 4-8). Various potential point and non-
point pollution sources are identified, such as atmospheric deposition, 
pasture grazing, feedlots, municipal, industrial, urban runoff, 
agriculture, and land development. Florida's 303(d) list identifies a 
total of 22 impaired stream segments within the basins that either 
support populations of seven of the species (the Alabama pearlshell 
does not occur in Florida) or that flow into streams that support them. 
The list identifies coliform bacteria, low dissolved oxygen 
(nutrients), and mercury (in fish tissue) as reasons for inclusion 
(FDEP 2010b, pp. 4-6).
    While the negative effects of point-source discharges on aquatic 
communities in Alabama and Florida have been reduced over time by 
compliance with State and Federal regulations pertaining to water 
quality, there has been less success in dealing with nonpoint-source 
pollution impacts. Because these contaminant sources stem from urban 
surface runoff, private landowner activities (construction, grazing, 
agriculture, silviculture), and public construction works (bridge and 
highway construction and maintenance), they are often more difficult to 
regulate.
    These mussels require stable stream and river habitats and 
activities that cause channel instability can negatively impact their 
populations. Activities such sand and gravel mining, the removal of 
large woody material, off-road vehicles use, and land use changes are 
known to cause channel destabilization. Activities that destabilize 
stream beds and channels can result in drastic alterations to stream 
geomorphology and consequently to the stream's ecosystem.
    Instream gravel mining has been implicated in the destruction of 
mussel populations (Stansbery 1970, p. 10; Hartfield 1993, pp. 138-
139). Instream sand and gravel mining can cause severe bank erosion, 
channel widening, destruction of riparian habitats, and other 
geomorphic changes (Kanehl and Lyons 1992, pp. 26-27; Brown et al. 
1998, pp. 987-992), including head cuts that can extend considerable 
distances upstream from the mines (Hartfield 1993, pp. 138-139) and 
substrate disturbance and siltation impacts that can be realized for 
considerable distances downstream (Stansbery 1970, p. 10). Poorly 
located or inadequately designed mines in the flood plain can have 
similar effects and result in alterations to streams channels (Mossa 
and Coley, 2004, p. 2). For example, a mined area along Big Escambia 
Creek near Century, Florida resulted in the formation of a new channel 
through the mines, causing excessive sedimentation in downstream areas. 
A large restoration project was required to put the stream back into 
its natural channel. Numerous mining operations occur along a gravel 
vein in the upper Escambia and Choctawhatchee river drainages in 
Florida and Alabama (Metcalf 2012 pers. com).
    Operations that remove large woody material from channels, either 
for navigation and maintenance (desnagging) or for the recovery of pre-
cut submerged timber (deadhead

[[Page 61682]]

logging), have the potential to affect mussel communities by creating 
unstable substrates (Watters 1999, p. 269). These types of permitted 
activities are common in areas where these mussels occur. The removal 
of large logs may result in changes to sedimentation patterns and 
stream morphology, the erosion of banks and bars, and the consequent 
loss of habitat structure and species diversity (Watters 1999, p. 268; 
Cathey et al. unpub. report, p. 1).
    Low flow conditions provide access to stream margins and channels 
for off-road vehicles. The practice of driving off-road vehicles within 
stream channels has been observed in the upper Conecuh and 
Choctawhatchee river drainages (Metcalf 2012 pers. com). These vehicles 
may destabilize stream banks, increase sedimentation rates, and may 
also directly crush mussels (Stringfellow and Gagnon 2001, p. 3).
    Land use activities such as land clearing and development can cause 
channel instability by accelerating stormwater runoff into streams. 
Increased runoff rates can result in bank erosion and bed scour (Brim 
Box and Mossa 1999, p. 103), and can lead to channel incision (Booth 
1990, p. 407; Doyle et al. 2000, p. 157, 175). These flow regime 
changes can significantly and rapidly alter the morphology of the 
stream channel, and can eventually lead to degradation throughout the 
watershed as sediments eroded in the upper portions are deposited in 
the lower reaches (Doyle et al. 2000, pp. 156, 175).
    The damming of rivers has been a major factor contributing to the 
demise of freshwater mussels (Bogan 1993, p. 604). Dams eliminate or 
reduce river flow within impounded areas, trap silts and cause sediment 
deposition, alter water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, change 
downstream water flow and quality, affect normal flood patterns, and 
block upstream and downstream movement of mussels and their host fishes 
(Bogan 1993, p. 604; Vaughn and Taylor 1999, pp. 915-917; Watters 1999, 
pp. 261-264; McAllister et al. 2000, p. iii; Marcinek et al. 2005, pp. 
20-21). Downstream of dams, mollusk declines are associated with 
changes and fluctuation in flow regime, scouring and erosion, reduced 
dissolved oxygen levels, water temperatures, and changes in resident 
fish assemblages (Williams et al. 1993, p. 7; Neves et al. 1997, pp. 
63-64; Watters 1999, pp. 261-264; Marcinek et al. 2005, pp. 20-21). 
Because rivers are linear systems, these alterations can cause mussel 
declines for many miles downstream of the dam (Vaughn and Taylor 1999, 
p. 916).
    Three significant mainstem impoundments are situated within the 
three drainages, all in Alabama. Constructed in 1923 for hydroelectric 
power generation, Point A Lake and Gantt Lake dams are located on the 
mainstem of the Conecuh River in Covington County, Alabama. The 
downstream dam, Point A, is 41 ft. high, and Gantt dam is 35 ft. high. 
Combined, these two dams impound approximately 3,400 acres at normal 
pool. Both impoundments have limited storage capacity and are operated 
as modified run-of-river projects with daily peaking. For example, when 
inflows to Gantt are greater than 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), 
the outflow matches the inflow at Point A. However, during the summer 
months, when inflows can fall below 1,500 cfs, a portion of the inflow 
may be stored and released when power generation is in high demand. 
Regardless of the inflow, Point A dam has a minimum continuous 
discharge requirement of 500 cfs and a requirement to meet a dissolved 
oxygen level of no less than 4.0 milligram per liter (mg/l).
    The Elba dam on the Pea River mainstem near Elba, Alabama, was 
constructed in 1903 for power generation. The dam generates power 
during peak periods and stores some water, but does not have a 
reservoir, only a widened channel which is roughly one and a half to 
two times wider upstream of the dam than downstream. The 29 ft. high 
structure is a barrier to to upstream fish migration (Williams et al. 
2008, p. 34). Channel scour (deepening of the streambed as a result of 
erosion) is occurring downstream of the Elba Dam (Williams 2010 pers. 
comm.).
    All three dams are barriers to upstream fish migration and to the 
movement of potential mussel host species. The Service (2003 pp. 13392-
3) noted that Point A Dam and Elba Dam prevent threatened Gulf sturgeon 
(Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) movement farther upstream at all flow 
conditions. By blocking fish movement, the dams may prevent gene 
exchange between upstream and downstream mussel populations. Gulf 
sturgeon have been shown to serve as a primary host for mussel larvae 
(Fritts et al., in review), although we do not know if they serve as a 
host for any of these eight species. The three dams currently separate 
populations of southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, 
southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. In addition, two smaller 
impoundments are located on tributary streams. Lake Frank Jackson is 
situated on Lightwood Knot Creek, a tributary to the Yellow River in 
Covington County, Alabama; Lake Tholocco, on Claybank Creek, is a 
tributary to the Choctawhatchee River in Dale County, Alabama. Waters 
released from these two shallow impoundments can have extremely 
elevated temperatures in summer, which alters the normal temperature 
cycle downstream (Williams et al. 2000 unpub. data).
    The potential exists for more dams to be constructed within the 
three drainages, and at least four additional impoundments are 
proposed. These include proposed impoundments on Murder Creek and Big 
Escambia Creek in the Escambia River drainage in Alabama, the Yellow 
River mainstem in Florida, and the Little Choctawhatchee River in 
Alabama. These proposed projects have implications for populations of 
all eight species. Given projected population increases and the need 
for municipal water supply, other proposals for impoundment 
construction are expected in the future.
    In summary, the loss and degradation of habitat from various forms 
of pollution, stream bed destabilization, and impoundments are a threat 
to the continued existence of these eight species. Degradation from 
sedimentation and contaminants is a threat to the habitat and water 
quality necessary to support these species throughout their entire 
ranges. Sedimentation can cause mortality by suffocation; impair the 
ability to feed, respire, and reproduce; and destabilize substrate. 
Contaminants associated with municipal and industrial effluents 
(metals, ammonia, chlorine) and with agriculture and silviculture 
(pesticides) are lethal to mussels, particularly to the highly 
sensitive early life stages. These mussels require stabile stream and 
river channels, and quickly disappear from areas destabilized by gravel 
mining, the removal of large woody material, off-road vehicle use, and 
increased surface runoff. The effects of impoundments are more subtle, 
but can cause severe alternations to mussel habitat both upstream and 
downstream of the dam, and can impair dispersal and breeding ability. 
While recent surveys for these species have documented several new 
populations, they have also documented a decline in (and the loss of) 
many of the known populations due to human impact. Therefore, we have 
determined that the present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of habitat and range is a threat with severe impact to the 
Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, and Choctaw 
bean, and is a threat with moderate impact to the tapered pigtoe, 
narrow

[[Page 61683]]

pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. This threat is current 
and is projected to continue and increase into the future with 
additional anthropogenic pressures.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    None of the eight mussels are commercially valuable species, and 
the streams and rivers that they inhabit are not subject to harvesting 
activities for commercial mussel species. Although the eight species 
have been taken for scientific and private collections in the past, 
collecting is not considered a factor in the decline of these species. 
Such activity may increase as their rarity becomes known; however, we 
have no specific information indicating that overcollection is 
currently a threat. Therefore, we find that overutilization for 
commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes is not a 
threat to the eight mussels at this time.

C. Disease or Predation

    Diseases of freshwater mussels are poorly known, and we have no 
specific information indicating that disease poses a threat to 
populations of these eight species. Juvenile and adult mussels are prey 
items for some invertebrate predators and parasites (for example, 
nematodes and mites), and provide prey for a few vertebrate species 
(for example, raccoons, muskrats, otters, and turtles) (Hart and Fuller 
1974, pp. 225-240). However, we have no evidence of any specific 
declines in these species due to predation. Therefore, diseases and 
predation of freshwater mussels remain largely unstudied and are not 
considered a threat to the eight mussels at this time.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    There is no information on the sensitivity of the Alabama 
pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, 
tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, or fuzzy pigtoe to 
aquatic pollutants. Current State and Federal regulations regarding 
pollutants are designed to be protective of aquatic organisms; however, 
freshwater mussels may be more susceptible to some pollutants than test 
organisms commonly used in bioassay tests. A multitude of bioassay 
tests conducted on 16 mussel species (summarized by Augspurger et al. 
2007, pp. 2025-2028) show that freshwater mussels are more sensitive 
than previously known to some chemical contaminants including chlorine, 
ammonia, copper, the pesticides chlorothalonil and glyphosate, and the 
surfactant MON 0818. For example, several recent studies have 
demonstrated that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria 
for ammonia may not be protective of freshwater mussels (Augspurger et 
al. 2003, p. 2571; Newton et al. 2003, pp. 2559-2560; Mummert et al. 
2003, pp. 2548-2552).
    Ammonia is an important aquatic pollutant because of its relatively 
high toxicity and common occurrence in riverine systems. This has 
application to the expected sources of these chemicals in the 
environment. Significant sources of nutrient enrichment leading to 
elevated ammonia include industrial wastewater, municipal wastewater 
treatment plant effluents, and urban and agricultural runoff (chemical 
fertilizers and animal wastes) (Augspurger et al. 2007, p. 2026). 
Elevated copper in surface waters can result from natural runoff 
sources, but is more often associated with a private or municipal 
wastewater effluent. Pesticide residues enter streams from 
agricultural, residential, or silvicultural runoff. Environmental 
chlorine concentrations will most often be associated with a point 
source discharge such as a municipal wastewater treatment facility.
    As indicated in the Factor A discussion above, sedimentation is 
considered the most significant threat to these eight species. Best 
management practices (BMPs) for sediment and erosion control are often 
recommended or required for construction projects; however, compliance, 
monitoring, and enforcement of these recommendations are often poorly 
implemented. Although unpaved roads likely contribute the majority of 
sediment to the streams and rivers in the basins, other sources 
including forestry, row crops, and construction contribute to the total 
sediment load.
    States are required under the Clean Water Act to establish a TMDL 
for the pollutants of concern that the water body can receive without 
exceeding the applicable standard (see discussion under Factor A). 
However, the Federal Clean Water Act is not fully utilized in the 
protection of these river systems. For example, of the 51 impaired 
water bodies identified within the drainages, less than one-fourth 
currently have approved TMDLs (ADEM 2010c, pp. 3-6; FDEP 2010b, pp. 4-
6).
    In summary, some regulatory mechanisms exist that protect aquatic 
species; however, these regulations are not effective at protecting 
mussels and their habitats from sedimentation and contaminants. 
Pollution from non-point sources is the greatest threat to these eight 
mussels (see Factor A discussion); however, this type of pollution is 
difficult to regulate and not effectively controlled by State and 
Federal water quality regulations. Therefore, we find current existing 
regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to protect the eight mussels 
throughout their ranges. This threat is current and is projected to 
continue into the future.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

Random Catastrophic Events
    The Gulf coastal region is prone to extreme hydrologic events. 
Extended droughts result from persistent high-pressure systems, which 
inhibit moisture from the Gulf of Mexico from reaching the region 
(Jeffcoat et al. 1991, p. 163-170). Warm, humid air from the Gulf of 
Mexico can produce strong frontal systems and tropical storms resulting 
in heavy rainfall and extensive flooding (Jeffcoat et al. 1991, p. 163-
170). Although floods and droughts are a natural part of the hydrologic 
processes that occur in these river systems, these events may 
contribute to the further decline of mussel populations suffering the 
effects of other threats.
    During high flows, flood scour can dislodge mussels where they may 
be injured, buried, or swept into unsuitable habitats, or mussels may 
be stranded and perish when flood waters recede (Vannote and Minshall 
1982, p. 4105; Tucker 1996, p. 435; Hastie et al. 2001, pp. 107-115; 
Peterson et al. 2011, unpaginated). Heavy spring rains in 2009 resulted 
in severe flooding in the basins that destroyed numerous stream 
crossings.
    During drought, stream channels may become disconnected pools where 
mussels are exposed to higher water temperatures, lower dissolved 
oxygen levels, and predators, or channels may become dewatered 
entirely. Johnson et al. (2001, p. 6) monitored mussel responses during 
a severe drought in 2000 in tributaries of the Lower Flint River in 
Georgia, and found that most mortality occurred when dissolved oxygen 
levels dropped below 5 mg/L. Furthermore, increased human demand and 
competition for surface and ground water resources for irrigation and 
consumption during drought can cause drastic reductions in stream flows 
and alterations to hydrology (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; Golladay et 
al. 2007 unpaginated). Extended droughts occurred in the Southeast 
during 1998 to 2002, and again in 2006 to 2008. The effects of these 
recent droughts on these eight mussels are unknown; however,

[[Page 61684]]

substantial declines in mussel diversity and abundance as a direct 
result of drought have been documented in southeastern streams (for 
example, Golladay et al. 2004, pp. 494-503; Haag and Warren 2008, p. 
1165). The Alabama pearlshell is particularly at risk during drought as 
its headwater stream habitats are vulnerable to dewatering. Shelton 
(1995, p. 4 unpub. report) reported one of the most common causes of 
mortality in the species is due to stranding by extreme low water.
    There is a growing concern that climate change may lead to 
increased frequency of severe storms and droughts (McLaughlin et al. 
2002, p. 6074; Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; Cook et al. 2004, p. 
1015). Specific effects of climate change to mussels, their habitat, 
and their fish hosts could include changes in stream temperature 
regimes, the timing and levels of precipitation causing more frequent 
and severe floods and droughts, and alien species introductions. 
Increases in temperature and reductions in flow may also lower 
dissolved oxygen levels in interstitial habitats, which can be lethal 
to juveniles (Sparks and Strayer 1998, pp. 131-133). Effects to mussel 
populations from these environmental changes could include reduced 
abundance and biomass, altered species composition, and host fish 
considerations (Galbraith et al. 2010, pp. 1180-1182). The present 
conservation status, complex life histories, and specific habitat 
requirements of freshwater mussels suggest that they may be quite 
sensitive to climate change (Hastie et al. 2003, p. 45).
    The linear nature of their habitat, reduced range, and small 
population sizes make these eight mussels vulnerable to contaminant 
spills. Spills as a result of transportation accidents are a constant, 
potential threat as numerous highways and railroads cross the stream 
channels of the basins. Also, more than 400 oil wells are located 
within Conecuh and Escambia Counties, Alabama. In Conecuh County, most 
of these wells are concentrated in the Cedar Creek drainage, which 
supports at least two populations of the Alabama pearlshell. These 
wells are subject to periodic spills either directly at the well site 
or associated with the transport of the oil. For example, on February 
5, 2010, an oil spill occurred in the headwaters of Feagin Creek. 
Feagin Creek is located between two known pearlshell locations, Little 
Cedar and Amos Mill creeks. The resulting spill discharged more than 
150 gallons of oil into Feagin Creek. Although there were no known 
populations of the pearlshell in Feagin Creek, this type of spill could 
have easily occurred in one of the adjacent watersheds that supports 
the pearlshell. Since 2000, there have been 13 spills reported in 
Conecuh, 36 in Escambia, and 33 in Covington Counties, Alabama.
Reduced Genetic Diversity
    Population fragmentation and isolation prohibits the natural 
interchange of genetic material among populations. Low numbers of 
individuals within the isolated populations have greater susceptibility 
to deleterious genetic effects, including inbreeding depression and 
loss of genetic variation (Lynch 1996, pp. 493-494). Small, isolated 
populations, therefore, are more susceptible to environmental 
pressures, including habitat degradation and stochastic events, and 
thus are the most susceptible to extinction (Primack 2008, pp. 151-
153). It is unknown if any of the eight mussel species are currently 
experiencing a loss of genetic diversity. However, surviving 
populations of the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, and southern 
kidneyshell do have highly restricted or reduced ranges, fragmented 
habitats, and extremely small population sizes.
Host Fish Considerations
    As mentioned in the General Biology section above, all of these 
eight species require a fish host in order to complete their life 
cycle. Therefore, these mussels would be adversely affected by the loss 
or reduction of fish species essential to their parasitic glochidial 
stage. The blacktail shiner (Cyprinella venusta), a common and abundant 
fish species, was found to serve as a glochidial host for the tapered 
pigtoe and fuzzy pigtoe (White et al. 2008, p. 123). The specific hosts 
for the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, and southern sandshell and have not been 
identified; however, other species of the same genera are known to 
parasitize cyprinids (minnows), centrarchids (sunfish), and percids 
(darters) (Haag and Warren 1997, pp. 580-581, 583; Keller and Ruessler 
1997, p. 405; O'Brien and Brim Box 1999, p. 134; Haag et al. 1999, p. 
150; Haag and Warren 2003, pp. 81-82; Luo 1993, p. 16).
Nonindigenous Species
    The Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) has been introduced to the 
drainages and may be adversely affecting these eight mussels through 
direct competition for space and resources. The Asian clam was first 
detected in eastern Gulf drainages in the early 1960s, and is presently 
widespread throughout the Escambia, Yellow, and Choctawhatchee River 
drainages (Heard 1975, p. 2). The invasion of the Asian clam in these 
and in other eastern Gulf drainages has been accompanied by drastic 
declines in populations of native mussels (see observations by Heard 
1975, p. 2; and Shelton 1995, p. 4 unpub. report). However, it is 
difficult to say whether the Asian clam competitively excluded the 
native mussels, or if it was simply tolerant of whatever caused the 
mussels to disappear. The Asian clam may pose a direct threat to native 
mussels, particularly as juveniles, as a competitor for resources such 
as food, nutrients, and space (Neves and Widlak 1987, p. 6). Dense 
populations of Asian clams may ingest large numbers of unionid sperm, 
glochidia, and newly metamorphosed juveniles, and may actively disturb 
sediments, reducing habitable space for juvenile native mussels, or 
displacing them downstream (Strayer 1999, p. 82; Yeager et al. 2000, 
pp. 255-256).
    The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) has been introduced to 
the drainages and may be adversely impacting native fish populations. 
The flathead catfish is a large predator native to the central United 
States, and since its introduction outside its native range, it has 
altered the composition of native fish populations through predation 
(Boschung and Mayden 2004, p. 350). Diet and selectivity studies of 
introduced flathead catfish in coastal North Carolina river systems 
show it feeds primarily on other fish species (Guier et al. 1984, pp. 
617-620; Pine et al. 2005, p. 909). The flathead catfish is now well-
established in the Escambia, Yellow, and Choctawhatchee River 
drainages, and its numbers appear to be growing (Strickland 2010 pers. 
comm.). Biologists working in the Florida portions of these drainages 
have observed a correlation between the increase in flathead catfish 
numbers and a decrease in numbers of other native fish species, 
particularly of bullhead catfish (Ameiurus sp.) and redbreast sunfish 
(Lepomis auritus) (Strickland 2010 pers. comm.). Although we do not 
know the specific fish hosts for six of the mussel species, the loss or 
reduction of native fishes in general could affect their ability to 
recruit.
    In summary, a variety of natural or manmade factors currently are a 
threat to these eight mussels. Stochastic events such as droughts and 
floods have occurred in these three river drainages in the past, and 
climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of

[[Page 61685]]

similar events in the future. The withdrawal of surface and ground 
waters during drought can cause further drastic flow reductions and 
alterations that may cause declines in mussel abundance and 
distribution. Contaminant spills have also occurred in these drainages 
and currently are a threat, particularly in the Alabama portion of the 
Escambia River drainage, where there are numerous oil wells. It is not 
known if these species are currently experiencing a loss of genetic 
viability; however, their restricted or reduced ranges, fragmented 
habitats, and small population sizes increases the risks and 
consequences of inbreeding depression and loss of genetic variation. 
Introduced species, such as the Asian clam, may adversely impact these 
mussels through direct competition for space and resources. Another 
introduced species, the flathead catfish, may consume host fishes, 
thereby affecting mussel recruitment. Therefore, we have determined 
that other natural or manmade factors, specifically threats from 
flooding, drought, and contaminant spills, are severe threats to the 
Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, and Choctaw 
bean, and they are moderate threats to the tapered pigtoe, narrow 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. These threats are 
currently impacting these species and are projected to continue or 
increase in the future. We have determined that threats from the Asian 
clam have moderate impacts to the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, 
southern kidneyshell, southern sandshell, and Choctaw bean, and these 
threats have low impacts to the tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, and 
fuzzy pigtoe. We have determined that reduced genetic diversity, the 
absence or reduction of fish hosts, and the presence of flathead 
catfish have the potential to adversely impact the eight mussels. 
However, we do not know the intensity of these threats at this time.

Determination

    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
to the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe. Section 3(6) of the Act defines an endangered species as 
``any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range,'' and section 3(20) of the Act 
defines a threatened species as ``any species which is likely to become 
an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.'' As described in detail above, these 
eight species are currently at risk throughout all of their respective 
ranges due to ongoing threats of habitat destruction and modification 
(Factor A), inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms (Factor D), 
and other natural or manmade factors affecting their continued 
existence (Factor E). Specifically, these factors include excessive 
sedimentation, municipal and industrial effluents, pesticides, 
excessive nutrients, impoundment of stream channels, recurring drought 
and flooding, contaminant spills, and the introduced Asian clam. In 
addition, existing regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to ameliorate 
some of the threats affecting these mussels and their habitats. Based 
on the best available science, these threats are currently impacting 
these species and are projected to continue and potentially worsen in 
the future. These eight mussels are also at increased threat due to the 
loss of genetic viability and the reduction or absence of fish hosts 
(described under Factor E); however, these threats are not currently 
known to be imminent.
    Species with small ranges, few populations, and small or declining 
population sizes, are the most vulnerable to extinction (Primack 2008, 
p. 137). The effects of certain factors, particularly habitat 
degradation and loss, catastrophic events, and introduced species, 
increase in magnitude when population size is small (Soul[eacute] 1980, 
pp. 33, 71; Primack 2008, pp. 133-135, 152). The impact of habitat 
degradation, catastrophic events, and introduced species are more 
severe to the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, and Choctaw bean than the other four species, which have 
few or isolated populations coupled with low numbers of individuals and 
limited or reduced ranges. Nonetheless, the tapered pigtoe, narrow 
pigtoe, southern sandshell and fuzzy pigtoe, which still occur in much 
of their historical ranges have been eliminated from historic streams 
and main channel locations and have declining numbers of individuals. 
When combining the effects of historical, current, and future habitat 
loss and degradation; historical and ongoing drought; and the 
exacerbating effects of small and declining population sizes and 
curtailed ranges, the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, and Choctaw bean are in danger of extinction throughout 
all of their ranges, and the tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell and fuzzy pigtoe are likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout all of their ranges. In addition, any 
factor (i.e., habitat loss or natural and manmade factors) that results 
in a further decline in habitat or individuals may be problematic for 
the long-term recovery of these species.
    Therefore, based on the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we are listing the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, 
southern kidneyshell, and Choctaw bean as endangered species throughout 
all of their ranges, and the tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe as threatened species throughout all of 
their ranges. In the proposed rule we examined all available 
information on the eight species to determine if any significant 
portions of their ranges may warrant a different status. However, 
because of their limited and curtailed ranges, and uniformity of the 
threats throughout them, we find there are no significant portions of 
any of the species' ranges that warrant a different determination of 
status.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing results in public awareness and 
conservation by Federal, State, and local agencies, private 
organizations, and individuals. The Act encourages cooperation with the 
States and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. The protection measures required of Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities involving listed wildlife are 
discussed in Effects of Critical Habitat Designation and are further 
discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement recovery plans for the conservation of endangered and 
threatened species. The recovery planning process involves the 
identification of actions that are necessary to halt or reverse the 
species' decline by addressing the threats to its survival and 
recovery. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a

[[Page 61686]]

point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning 
components of their ecosystems.
    Recovery planning includes the development of a recovery outline 
shortly after a species is listed and preparation of a draft and final 
recovery plan. The recovery outline guides the immediate implementation 
of urgent recovery actions and describes the process to be used to 
develop a recovery plan. Revisions of the plan may be done to address 
continuing or new threats to the species, as new substantive 
information becomes available. The recovery plan identifies site-
specific management actions that set a trigger for review of the five 
factors that control whether a species remains endangered or may be 
downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery progress. 
Recovery plans also establish a framework for agencies to coordinate 
their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of 
implementing recovery tasks. Recovery teams (comprised of species 
experts, Federal and State agencies, nongovernment organizations, and 
stakeholders) are often established to develop recovery plans. When 
completed, the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, and the final 
recovery plan will be available on our Web site (http://www.fws.gov/endangered), or from our Panama City Field Office (see ADDRESSES).
    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, Tribal, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, 
and private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (e.g., restoration of native vegetation), research, captive 
propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on 
Federal lands because their range may occur primarily or solely on non-
Federal lands. To achieve recovery of these species requires 
cooperative conservation efforts on private, State, and Tribal lands.
    Once these species are listed, funding for recovery actions will be 
available from a variety of sources, including Federal budgets, State 
programs, and cost share grants for non-Federal landowners, the 
academic community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, 
under to section 6 of the Act, the States of Alabama and Florida will 
be eligible for Federal funds to implement management actions that 
promote the protection or recovery of these eight mussel species. 
Information on our grant programs that are available to aid species 
recovery can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/grants.
    Please let us know if you are interested in participating in 
recovery efforts for this species. Additionally, we invite you to 
submit any new information on this species whenever it becomes 
available and any information you may have for recovery planning 
purposes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies to evaluate their 
actions with respect to any species that is proposed or listed as 
endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical habitat, if 
any is designated. Regulations implementing this interagency 
cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR part 402. 
Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to confer with the 
Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a species proposed for listing or result in destruction or 
adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a species is 
listed subsequently, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal 
agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or 
destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal action 
may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible 
Federal agency must enter into formal consultation with the Service.
    Federal agency actions within the species' habitat that may require 
conference or consultation or both as described in the preceding 
paragraph include: The management of and any other landscape-altering 
activities on Federal lands administered by the Department of Defense 
and U.S. Forest Service; issuance of section 404 Clean Water Act 
permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; licensing of hydroelectric 
dams, and construction and management of gas pipeline and power line 
rights-of-way approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; 
construction and maintenance of roads or highways funded by the Federal 
Highway Administration; and land management practices administered by 
the Department of Agriculture.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. The prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, codified at 
50 CFR 17.21 for endangered wildlife, in part, make it illegal for any 
person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take 
(includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), import, export, ship 
in interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. 
Under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42-43; 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), it is also 
illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to 
agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 
17.22 for endangered wildlife, and at 17.32 for threatened wildlife. 
With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit must be issued for the 
following purposes: for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation 
or survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with 
otherwise lawful activities.
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), to identify, to the maximum extent practicable at 
the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a proposed 
listing on planned and ongoing activities within the range of species 
proposed for listing. The following activities could potentially result 
in a violation of section 9 of the Act; this list is not comprehensive:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting, handling, possessing, selling, 
delivering, carrying, or transporting of the species, including import 
or export across State lines and international boundaries, except for 
properly documented antique specimens of these taxa at least 100 years 
old, as defined by section 10(h)(1) of the Act.
    (2) Introduction of nonnative species that compete with or prey 
upon these eight mussel species, such as the zebra mussel (Dreissena 
polymorpha) and the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus).
    (3) The unauthorized release of biological control agents that 
attack any life stage of these species.
    (4) Unauthorized modification of the channel or water flow of any 
stream or water body in which these species are known to occur.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Panama City 
Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).

[[Page 61687]]

Critical Habitat

Background

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species and
    (b) Which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures 
provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and 
procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated 
with scientific resources management such as research, census, law 
enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live 
trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where 
population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise 
relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect 
land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or 
other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government 
or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require 
implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency 
funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species 
or critical habitat, the consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act would apply, but even in the event of a destruction or 
adverse modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action 
agency and the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but 
to implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction 
or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
it was listed are included in critical habitat if they contain physical 
or biological features (1) which are essential to the conservation of 
the species and (2) which may require special management considerations 
or protection. For these areas, critical habitat designations identify, 
to the extent known using the best scientific and commercial data 
available, those physical or biological features that are essential to 
the conservation of the species (such as space, food, cover, and 
protected habitat). In identifying those physical and biological 
features within an area, we focus on the principal biological or 
physical constituent elements (primary constituent elements such as 
roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal wetlands, water quality, tide, 
soil type) that are essential to the conservation of the species. 
Primary constituent elements are the specific elements of physical or 
biological features that provide for a species' life-history processes, 
are essential to the conservation of the species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical 
area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. For example, an area currently occupied by the species but 
that was not occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the 
conservation of the species and may be included in the critical habitat 
designation. We designate critical habitat in areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species only when a designation limited 
to its range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the 
species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available. 
Further, our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered 
Species Act (published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34271)), the Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and 
General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 
106-554; H.R. 5658)), and our associated Information Quality 
Guidelines, provide criteria, establish procedures, and provide 
guidance to ensure that our decisions are based on the best scientific 
data available. They require our biologists, to the extent consistent 
with the Act and with the use of the best scientific data available, to 
use primary and original sources of information as the basis for 
recommendations to designate critical habitat.
    When we are determining which areas should be designated as 
critical habitat, our primary sources of information include the 
articles in peer-reviewed journals, scientific status surveys and 
studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or 
experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. Climate change will be a particular challenge for 
biodiversity because the interaction of additional stressors associated 
with climate change and current stressors may push species beyond their 
ability to survive (Lovejoy 2005, pp. 325-326). The synergistic 
implications of climate change and habitat fragmentation are the most 
threatening facet of climate change for biodiversity (Hannah and 
Lovejoy 2005, p.4). Current climate change predictions for terrestrial 
areas in the Northern Hemisphere indicate warmer air temperatures, more 
intense precipitation events, and increased summer continental drying 
(Field et al. 1999, pp. 1-3; Hayhoe et al. 2004, p. 12422; Cayan et al. 
2005, p. 6; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, p. 
1181). Climate change may lead to increased frequency and duration of 
severe storms and droughts (Golladay et al. 2004, p. 504; McLaughlin et 
al. 2002, p. 6074; Cook et al. 2004, p. 1015).
    We recognize that critical habitat designated at a particular point 
in time may not include all of the habitat areas that we may later 
determine are necessary for the recovery of the species. For these 
reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that habitat 
outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed for 
recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the conservation 
of the species, both inside and outside the critical habitat 
designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation actions 
implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to insure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species, and (3) the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act if actions 
occurring in these areas may affect the species. Federally funded or 
permitted projects affecting listed

[[Page 61688]]

species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still 
result in jeopardy findings in some cases. These protections and 
conservation tools will continue to contribute to recovery of this 
species. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of 
the best available information at the time of designation will not 
control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat 
conservation plans (HCPs), or other species conservation planning 
efforts if new information available at the time of these planning 
efforts calls for a different outcome.

Physical or Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
the regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographical area occupied at the time of listing to designate as 
critical habitat, we consider the physical and biological features 
(PBFs) essential to the conservation of the species, and which may 
require special management considerations or protection. These include, 
but are not limited to:
    (1) Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    (2) Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    (3) Cover or shelter;
    (4) Sites for breeding, reproduction, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historic, geographical, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific physical or biological features essential 
for Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe from studies of these species' habitat, ecology, and life 
history as described in the Critical Habitat section of the proposed 
rule to designate critical habitat published in the Federal Register on 
October 4, 2011 (76 FR 61482), and in the information presented below.
    We have determined that Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, 
southern sandshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, 
narrow pigtoe, and fuzzy pigtoe require the following physical or 
biological features:
Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior
    The Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe are all historically associated with the Escambia, Yellow, 
and Choctawhatchee river drainages in Alabama and Florida. The Alabama 
pearlshell is also known from three locations in the Mobile River 
Basin; however, only one of those is considered to be currently 
occupied. The eight mussels are found embedded in stable substrates 
composed mainly of fine to coarse sand, with occasional patches of clay 
or gravel (Williams et al. 2008, pp. 32-34), and within areas of 
sufficient current velocities to remove finer sediments. These habitats 
are formed and maintained by water quantity, channel slope, and normal 
sediment input to the system. Changes in one or more of these 
parameters can result in channel degradation or channel aggradation, 
with serious effects to mussels. The decline of the mussel fauna of 
these eastern Gulf Coastal Plain drainages is not well understood, but 
is primarily associated with the loss of habitats and channel 
instability due to excessive sedimentation (Williams and Butler 1994, 
p. 55). Sedimentation has been determined to be a major factor in 
habitat destruction, resulting in corresponding shift in mussel fauna 
(Brim Box and Mossa 1999, p. 102). Stable stream bottom substrates not 
only provide space for populations of these eight mussel species, but 
also provide cover and shelter and sites for breeding, reproduction, 
and growth of offspring. Therefore, based on the information above, we 
identify stream channel stability to be a physical or biological 
feature for the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe.
Food
    Freshwater mussels, such as these eight species, filter algae, 
detritus, and bacteria from the water column (Williams et al. 2008, p. 
67). For the first several months, juvenile mussels employ pedal (foot) 
feeding, extracting bacteria, algae, and detritus from the sediment 
(Yeager et al. 1994, pp. 217-221). Food availability and quality are 
affected by habitat stability, floodplain connectivity, water flow, and 
water quality. Therefore, based on the information above, we identify 
adequate food availability and quality to be a physical or biological 
feature for these species.
Water
    The Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe are riverine species that depend upon adequate water flow. 
Continuously flowing water is a habitat feature associated with all of 
the eight species. Flowing water maintains the stream bottom habitats 
where these species are found, transports food items to the sedentary 
juvenile and adult life stages, transports sperm to the adult females, 
provides oxygen for respiration, and removes wastes. Populations of the 
narrow pigtoe were recently discovered in Gantt and Point A Lakes 
(Williams et al. 2008, p. 317), manmade reservoirs on the Conecuh River 
mainstem in Alabama. We attribute the occurrence of the species in 
these impoundments to the relatively small size of the reservoirs, and 
to the operational regime of the dams. As mentioned under Factor A, 
both impoundments have limited storage capacity and are operated as 
modified run-of-river projects with daily peaking. Therefore, most of 
the time, the outflow matches the inflow. Also, some areas in the 
reservoirs are narrow and riverine, for instance the area around Dunns 
Bridge on Gantt Lake. Here, narrow pigtoe were found in relatively high 
numbers in firm, stable sand substrates with little or no silt 
accumulation (Williams 2009, pers. comm.; Pursifull 2006, pers. obs.). 
Although the natural state of the river's hydrological flow regime is 
modified, it does retain the features necessary to maintain the benthic 
habitats where the species are found. Therefore, based on the 
information above, we identify flowing water to be a physical or 
biological feature for these eight mussel species.
    The ranges of standard physical and chemical water quality 
parameters (such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and 
conductivity) that define suitable habitat conditions for the eight 
species have not been investigated. However, as relatively sedentary 
animals, mussels must tolerate the full range of such parameters that 
occur naturally within the streams where they persist. Both the amount 
(flow) and the physical and chemical conditions (water quality) where 
each of the eight species currently exists vary widely according to 
season, precipitation events, and seasonal human activities within the 
watershed. Conditions across their historical ranges vary even more due 
to watershed size, geology, geography, and differences in human 
population densities and land uses. In general, each of the species 
survives in areas where the magnitude, frequency, duration, and 
seasonality of water flow are adequate to

[[Page 61689]]

maintain stable habitats (for example, sufficient flow to remove fine 
particles and sediments without causing degradation), and where water 
quality is adequate for year-round survival (for example, moderate to 
high levels of dissolved oxygen, low to moderate input of nutrients, 
and relatively unpolluted water and sediments). Therefore, based on the 
information above, we identify adequate water flow and water quality 
(as defined below) to be a physical or biological feature for the 
Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe.
    We currently believe that most numeric standards for pollutants and 
water quality parameters (for example, dissolved oxygen, pH, heavy 
metals) that have been adopted by the States under the Clean Water Act 
represent levels that are essential to the conservation of each of 
these eight mussels. However, some States' standards may not adequately 
protect mollusks, or are not being appropriately measured, monitored, 
or achieved in some reaches (see Factors A and D above). The Service is 
currently in consultation with the EPA to evaluate the protectiveness 
of criteria approved in EPA's water quality standards for threatened 
and endangered species and their critical habitats as described in the 
memorandum of agreement that our agencies signed in 2001 (66 FR 11201, 
February 22, 2001). Other factors that can potentially alter water 
quality are droughts and periods of low flow, non-point-source runoff 
from adjacent land surfaces (for example, excessive amounts of 
sediments, nutrients, and pesticides), point-source discharges from 
municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities (for example, 
excessive amounts of ammonia, chlorine, and metals), and random spills 
or unregulated discharge events. This could be particularly harmful 
during drought conditions when flows are depressed and pollutants are 
more concentrated. Therefore, adequate water quality is essential for 
normal behavior, growth, and viability during all life stages of the 
Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe.
Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing
    Freshwater mussels require a host fish for transformation of larval 
mussels (glochidia) to juvenile mussels (Williams et al. 2008, p. 68). 
Thus, the presence of the appropriate host fishes to complete the 
reproductive life cycle is essential to the conservation of these eight 
mussels. The blacktail shiner was found to serve as a host for the 
fuzzy pigtoe and tapered pigtoe in a preliminary study trial (White et 
al. 2008, p. 123). This minnow species occurs in a variety of habitats 
in drainages throughout the coastal plain (Mettee et al. 1996, pp. 174-
175). The specific host fish(es) for the Alabama pearlshell, round 
ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, and 
southern sandshell are not currently known; however, other species of 
the same genera are known to parasitize cyprinids (minnows), 
centrarchids (sunfish), and percids (darters) (Haag and Warren 2003, 
pp. 81-82; Haag and Warren 1997, pp. 580-581, 583; Keller and Ruessler 
1997, p. 405; O'Brien and Brim Box 1999, p. 134; Haag et al. 1999, p. 
150). Therefore, based on the information above, we identify the 
presence of the appropriate host fishes to complete the reproductive 
life cycle to be a physical or biological feature for these eight 
mussel species.
    Juvenile mussels require stable bottom habitats for growth and 
survival. Excessive sediments or dense growth of filamentous algae can 
expose juvenile mussels to entrainment or predation and be detrimental 
to the survival of juvenile mussels (Hartfield and Hartfield 1996, p. 
373). Geomorphic instability can result in the loss of habitats and 
juvenile mussels due to scouring or deposition (Hartfield 1993, p. 
138). Therefore, based on the information above, we identify stable 
bottom substrate with low to moderate amounts of filamentous algae 
growth to be a physical or biological feature for the Alabama 
pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, 
tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe.

Primary Constituent Elements for the Eight Mussels

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of these eight mussel species in areas occupied at the 
time of listing, focusing on the features' primary constituent elements 
(PCEs). Primary constituent elements are those specific elements of the 
physical or biological features that provide for a species' life-
history processes and are essential to the conservation of the species.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and habitat characteristics required to sustain the species' 
life-history processes, we have determined that the primary constituent 
elements specific to the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe are:
    (1) Geomorphically stable stream and river channels and banks 
(channels that maintain lateral dimensions, longitudinal profiles, and 
sinuosity patterns over time without an aggrading or degrading bed 
elevation).
    (2) Stable substrates of sand or mixtures of sand with clay or 
gravel with low to moderate amounts of fine sediment and attached 
filamentous algae.
    (3) A hydrologic flow regime (magnitude, frequency, duration, and 
seasonality of discharge over time) necessary to maintain benthic 
habitats where the species are found, and to maintain connectivity of 
rivers with the floodplain, allowing the exchange of nutrients and 
sediment for habitat maintenance, food availability, and spawning 
habitat for native fishes.
    (4) Water quality, including temperature (not greater than 32 
[ordm]C), pH (between 6.0 to 8.5), oxygen content (not less than 5.0 
mg/L), hardness, turbidity, and other chemical characteristics 
necessary for normal behavior, growth, and viability of all life 
stages.
    (5) The presence of fish hosts. Diverse assemblages of native fish 
species will serve as a potential indication of host fish presence 
until appropriate host fishes can be identified. For the fuzzy pigtoe 
and tapered pigtoe, the presence of blacktail shiner (Cyprinella 
venusta) will serve as a potential indication of fish host presence.

Special Management Considerations or Protection

    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by these species at the 
time of listing contain features that are essential to their 
conservation and that may require special management considerations or 
protections. None of the portions of the critical habitat units for 
these species below has been designated as critical habitat for other 
mussel species that are already listed under the Act. None of the areas 
is presently under special management or protection provided by a 
legally operative management plan or agreement for the conservation of 
these species.
    Many of the threats to the eight mussels and their habitat are 
pervasive and common in all of the nine units that we are designating 
as critical habitat

[[Page 61690]]

(see below). These include the potential of significant changes in 
stream bed material composition and quality by activities such as 
construction projects, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and other 
watershed and floodplain disturbances that release sediments or 
nutrients into the water; the potential of significant alteration of 
water chemistry or water quality; the potential of anthropogenic 
activities such as channelization, impoundment, and channel excavation 
that could cause aggradation or degradation of the channel bed 
elevation or significant bank erosion; and the potential of significant 
changes in the existing flow regime due to such activities as 
impoundment, water diversion, or water withdrawal. Because the areas we 
are designating as critical habitat below are facing these threats, 
they require special management consideration and protection.

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act, we used the best 
scientific and commercial data available to designate critical habitat. 
We reviewed available information pertaining to the habitat 
requirements of these species. In accordance with the Act and its 
implementing regulation at 50 CFR 424.12(e), we considered whether 
designating additional areas--outside those currently occupied (that is 
those occupied at the time of listing)--are necessary to ensure the 
conservation of the species. We are designating critical habitat in 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing (2012). We also are designating specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, that 
were historically occupied but are presently unoccupied, because we 
have determined that such areas are essential for the conservation of 
these species.
    We began our analysis by considering historical and current ranges 
of each of the eight species. Sources of this information include 
research published in peer-reviewed articles and books, agency reports, 
museum collections, and surveys by biologists (see Background section). 
We then identified the specific areas that are occupied by each of the 
eight mussels and that contain one or more of the physical or 
biological features. We defined occupied habitat as those stream 
reaches known to be currently occupied by any of the eight species. To 
identify the currently occupied stream reaches, we used survey data 
collected from 1995 to 2012. Several surveys were conducted in the 
basins between the years of 1995 to 2012 (Shelton 1995 unpub. report; 
Shelton 1999 in litt.; Blalock-Herod et al. 2005; Pilarczyk et al. 
2006; Shelton et al. 2007 unpub. report; Gangloff and Hartfield 2009; 
Gangloff 2010-12, unpub. data). These surveys were used to assess the 
current conservation status of the species, and extended their known 
ranges. For this reason, we considered the year 1995 to be the 
demarcation between historical and current records. To identify 
historically occupied stream reaches, we used survey data between the 
late 1800s and 1994. Therefore, if a species was known to occur in an 
area prior to 1995, but was not collected in the same area since then, 
the stream reach is considered historically occupied.
    We then evaluated occupied stream reaches to delineate the probable 
upstream and downstream extent of each species' distribution. Known 
occurrences for some mussel species are extremely localized, and rare 
mussels can be difficult to locate. In addition, creek and river 
habitats are highly dependent upon upstream and downstream channel 
habitat conditions for their maintenance. Therefore, where more than 
one occurrence record of a particular species was found within a stream 
reach, we considered the entire reach between the uppermost and 
lowermost locations as occupied habitat.
    We then considered whether this essential area was adequate for the 
conservation of each of the eight species. Small, isolated, aquatic 
populations are subject to chance catastrophic events and to changes in 
human activities and land use practices that may result in their 
elimination. Larger, more contiguous populations can reduce the threat 
of extinction due to habitat fragmentation and isolation. For these 
reasons, we believe that conservation of the Alabama pearlshell and 
southern kidneyshell requires expanding their ranges into currently 
unoccupied portions of their historical habitat. Given that threats to 
these two species are compounded by their limited distribution and 
isolation, it is unlikely that currently occupied habitat is adequate 
for their conservation. The range of each has been severely curtailed, 
their occupied habitats are limited and isolated, and population sizes 
are small. For example, the Alabama pearlshell is no longer believed to 
occur in the Limestone Creek system (Monroe County), several 
tributaries in the Murder Creek system, or in the Patsaliga Creek 
drainage. The southern kidneyshell once occurred in all three river 
basins, but is currently known only from the Choctawhatchee basin. 
While occupied units provide habitat for current populations, these 
species are at high risk of extirpation and extinction from stochastic 
events, whether periodic natural events or potential human-induced 
events (see Summary of Factors Affecting the Species). The inclusion of 
essential unoccupied areas will provide habitat for population 
reintroduction and will decrease the risk of extinction. Based on the 
best scientific data available, areas not currently occupied by the 
Alabama pearlshell and southern kidneyshell are essential for their 
conservation, with one exception. We eliminated from consideration the 
Yellow River drainage as critical habitat for the southern kidneyshell. 
Its occurrence in the Yellow River is based on a 1919 collection of one 
specimen from Hollis Creek in Covington County, Alabama. However, we 
believe this single, historical collection is not sufficient to support 
the conclusion that any portions of the Yellow River drainage are 
essential to the conservation of the southern kidneyshell at this time. 
Otherwise, all of the stream habitat areas designated as critical 
habitat that are currently not known to be occupied contain sufficient 
physical or biological features (e.g., geomorphically stable channels, 
perennial water flows, adequate water quality, and appropriate benthic 
substrates) to support life-history functions of the mussels. The 
stream reaches also lack major anthropogenic disturbance, and have 
potential for reoccupation by the species through future reintroduction 
efforts. Based on the above factors, all unoccupied stream reaches 
included in the designations for the Alabama pearlshell and southern 
kidneyshell are essential to their conservation.
    Following the identification of occupied and unoccupied stream 
reaches, the next step was to delineate the probable upstream and 
downstream extent of each species' distribution. We used USGS 1:100,000 
digital stream maps to delineate the boundaries of critical habitat 
units according to the criteria explained below. The upstream boundary 
of a unit in a stream is the first perennial, named tributary 
confluence; a road-crossing bridge; or a permanent barrier to fish 
passage (such as a dam) above the upstream-most current occurrence 
record. Many of the Alabama pearlshell survey sites are located near 
watershed headwaters. In these areas, the upstream boundary of a unit 
is the point where the stream and its tributaries are no longer 
perennially flowing streams. The confluence of a

[[Page 61691]]

tributary typically marks a significant change in the size of the 
stream and is a logical and recognizable upstream terminus. When a 
named tributary was not available, a road-crossing bridge was used to 
mark the boundary. Likewise, a dam or other barrier to fish passage 
marks the upstream extent to which mussels may disperse via their fish 
hosts. The downstream boundary of a unit in a stream is the confluence 
of a named tributary, the upstream extent of tidal influence, or the 
upstream extent of an impoundment, below the downstream-most occurrence 
record. In the unit descriptions, distances between landmarks marking 
the upstream or downstream extent of a stream segment are given in 
kilometers (km) and equivalent miles (mi), as measured tracing the 
course of the stream, not straight-line distance. Distances less than 
10 km (6.2 mi) are rounded to the nearest half number, and distances of 
10 km (6.2 mi) and greater are rounded to the nearest whole number.
    Because mussels are naturally restricted by certain physical 
conditions within a stream or river reach (i.e., flow, substrate), they 
may be unevenly distributed within these habitat units. Uncertainty on 
upstream and downstream distributional limits of some populations may 
have resulted in small areas of occupied habitat excluded from, or 
areas of unoccupied habitat included in, the designation. We recognize 
that both historical and recent collection records upon which we relied 
are incomplete, and that there may be river segments or small 
tributaries not included in this designation that harbor small, limited 
populations of one or more of the eight species considered in this 
designation, or that others may become suitable in the future. The 
exclusion of such areas does not diminish their potential individual or 
cumulative importance to the conservation of these species. However, 
with proper management, each of the nine critical habitat units are 
capable of supporting one or more of these mussel species, and will 
serve as source populations for artificial reintroduction into 
designated stream units, as well as assisted or natural migration into 
adjacent undesignated streams within each basin. The habitat areas 
contained within the units described below constitute our best 
evaluation of areas needed for the conservation of these species at 
this time. Critical habitat may be revised for any or all of these 
species should new information become available.
    Using the criteria above, we delineated a total of nine critical 
habitat units--two units (AP1, AP2) for the Alabama pearlshell, and 
seven Gulf Coast mussels units (GCM1 through GCM7) for one or more of 
the other seven mussel species. We depicted the Alabama pearlshell 
units separately as this species tends to inhabit headwater stream 
environments and seldom co-occurs with the other seven species, 
although some critical habitat in the downstream portions of Unit AP2 
overlaps with the upstream portions of Unit GCM1 in the Escambia River 
drainage. The round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, 
tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe 
often co-occur within the same stream segments, so most of the GCM 
critical habitat units are designated for more than one species. Unit 
GCM2: Point A Lake and Gantt Lake Reservoirs is the only exception, 
which is designated for the narrow pigtoe only.
    When determining critical habitat boundaries within this final 
rule, we made every effort to avoid including developed areas because 
such lands lack physical or biological features for these eight mussel 
species. The areas designated as critical habitat listed below include 
only stream channels within the ordinary high-water line and do not do 
not include manmade structures (such as buildings, aqueducts, runways, 
dams, roads, and other paved areas) and the land on which they are 
located, with the exception of the impoundments created by Point A and 
Gantt Lake dams (impounded water, not the actual dam structures). The 
scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for publication 
within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect the exclusion of 
such developed lands. Any such lands inadvertently left inside critical 
habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this final rule have been 
excluded by text in the rule and are not designated as critical 
habitat. Therefore, a Federal action involving these lands will not 
trigger section 7 consultation with respect to critical habitat and the 
requirement of no adverse modification unless the specific action would 
affect the physical or biological featues in the adjacent critical 
habitat.
    Units are designated based on sufficient elements of physical or 
biological features being present to support life-history processes of 
these eight mussel species. Some units contain all of the identified 
elements of physical or biological features and support multiple life-
history processes. Some segments contain only some elements of the 
physical or biological features necessary to support each species' 
particular use of that habitat.
    The critical habitat designation is defined by the map or maps, as 
modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of 
this document in the rule portion. We include more detailed information 
on the boundaries of the critical habitat designation in the preamble 
of this document. We will make the coordinates or plot points or both 
on which each map is based available to the public on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2011-0050, on our Internet 
sites http://www.fws.gov/PanamaCity, and at the field office 
responsible for the designation (see ADDRESSES above).

Final Critical Habitat Designation

    We are designating nine units as critical habitat for the Alabama 
pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, 
tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. 
The critical habitat areas described below constitute our best 
assessment at this time of areas that meet the definition of critical 
habitat. The occupancy and stream length of designated critical habitat 
units by species is shown in Table 10.

              Table 10--Occupancy and Stream Length of Designated Critical Habitat Units by Species
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                  Total stream
                                                                                                     length
                      Unit                                    Currently occupied?                  kilometers
                                                                                                    (miles)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Alabama pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AP1: Big Flat Creek............................  Yes.........................................            92 (57)
AP2: Burnt Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and         Partially \1\...............................           155 (96)
 Sepulga River.
                                                                                              ------------------

[[Page 61692]]

 
    Total......................................  ............................................          247 (153)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Round ebonyshell (Fusconaia rotulata)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................          558 (347)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Southern sandshell (Hamiota australis)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................          558 (347)
GCM3: Patsaliga Creek..........................  Yes.........................................           149 (92)
GCM4: Upper Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................           137 (85)
GCM5: Yellow River.............................  Yes.........................................          247 (153)
GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River.  Yes.........................................          897 (557)
GCM7: Upper Pea River..........................  Yes.........................................          234 (145)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................      2,222 (1,379)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Southern kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus jonesi)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  No..........................................          558 (347)
GCM3: Patsaliga Creek..........................  No..........................................           149 (92)
GCM4: Upper Escambia River.....................  No..........................................           137 (85)
GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River.  Yes.........................................          897 (557)
GCM7: Upper Pea River..........................  Yes.........................................          234 (145)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................      1,975 (1,226)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................          558 (347)
GCM3: Patsaliga Creek..........................  Yes.........................................           149 (92)
GCM4: Upper Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................           137 (85)
GCM5: Yellow River.............................  Yes.........................................          247 (153)
GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River.  Yes.........................................          897 (557)
GCM7: Upper Pea River..........................  Yes.........................................          234 (145)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................      2,222 (1,397)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Tapered pigtoe (Fusconaia burkei)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River.  Yes.........................................          897 (557)
GCM7: Upper Pea River..........................  Yes.........................................          234 (145)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................        1,131 (702)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia escambia)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................          558 (347)
GCM2: Point A Lake and Gantt Lake Reservoirs...  Yes.........................................            21 (13)
GCM3: Patsaliga Creek..........................  Yes.........................................           149 (92)
GCM4: Upper Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................           137 (85)
GCM5: Yellow River.............................  Yes.........................................          247 (153)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................        1,112 (690)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Fuzzy pigtoe (Pleurobema strodeanum)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GCM1: Lower Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................          558 (347)
GCM3: Patsaliga Creek..........................  Yes.........................................           149 (92)
GCM4: Upper Escambia River.....................  Yes.........................................           137 (85)
GCM5: Yellow River.............................  Yes.........................................          247 (153)
GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River.  Yes.........................................          897 (557)
GCM7: Upper Pea River..........................  Yes.........................................          234 (145)
                                                                                              ------------------
    Total......................................  ............................................      2,222 (1,379)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Totals may not sum due to rounding.
\1\ 17 km (11 mi) of Murder Creek mainstem are unoccupied.


[[Page 61693]]

    The designated critical habitat includes the creek and river 
channels within the ordinary high-water line only. For this purpose, we 
have applied the definition found at 33 CFR 329.11, and consider the 
ordinary high-water line on nontidal rivers to be the line on the shore 
established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical 
characteristics, such as a clear, natural line impressed on the bank; 
shelving; changes in the character of soil; destruction of terrestrial 
vegetation; the presence of litter and debris; or other appropriate 
means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding areas.
    States were granted ownership of lands beneath navigable waters up 
to the ordinary high-water line upon achieving Statehood (Pollard v. 
Hagan, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 212 (1845)). Prior sovereigns or the States may 
have made grants to private parties that included lands below the 
ordinary high-water mark of some navigable waters that are included in 
this rule. Most, if not all, lands beneath the navigable waters 
included in this final rule are owned by the States of Alabama and 
Florida. The lands beneath most nonnavigable waters included in this 
final rule are in private ownership. Riparian lands along the waters 
are either in private ownership, or are owned by county, State, or 
Federal entities. Lands under county, State, and Federal ownership 
consist of managed conservation areas and Department of Defense lands, 
and are considered to have some level of protection. The approximate 
length of each habitat unit and land ownership is shown in Table 11.

                         Table 11--Critical Habitat Units, Location, Approximate Stream Length, and Ownership of Riparian Lands
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                             Total Length km                        Private/ Managed
                  Unit                                Location                    (mi)          Private km (mi)*        km (mi)*        Managed km (mi)*
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AP1.....................................  Big Flat Creek, AL.............        92 (57)             92 (57)               0                           0
AP2.....................................  Burnt Corn Creek, Murder Creek,       155 (96)            155 (96)               0                           0
                                           and Sepulga River, AL.
GCM1....................................  Lower Escambia River, AL, FL...       558 (347)           482 (299)            18 (11)                 59 (36)
GCM2....................................  Point A Lake and Gantt Lake            21 (13)             21 (13)               0                           0
                                           Reservoirs, AL.
GCM3....................................  Patsaliga Creek, AL............       149 (92)            149 (92)               0                           0
GCM4....................................  Upper Escambia River, AL.......       137 (85)            130 (81)              7 (4)                        0
GCM5....................................  Yellow River, AL, FL...........       247 (153)            98 (61)             68 (42)                 81 (50)
GCM6....................................  Choctawhatchee River and Lower        897 (557)           718 (446)            61 (38)                119 (74)
                                           Pea River, AL, FL.
GCM7....................................  Upper Pea River, AL............       234 (145)           228 (142)              0                       5 (3)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overlap between units AP2 and GCM1                                              -85 (53)            -85 (53)               0                           0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Total                   ...............................     2,404 (1,494)       1,987 (1,235)         153 (95)               263 (164)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Totals may not sum due to rounding.
* Ownership is categorized by private ownership on both banks of the river (Private); private on one bank and county, state or federal on the other
  (Private/Managed); and county, state, or federal ownership on both banks (Managed).

    We present brief descriptions of all units, and reasons why they 
meet the definition of critical habitat for each species, below.

Unit AP1: Big Flat Creek Drainage, Alabama

    Unit AP1 encompasses 92 km (57 mi) of the Big Flat Creek drainage, 
in Monroe and Wilcox Counties, AL. The unit is within the Mobile River 
basin. It includes the mainstem of Big Flat Creek from State Route 41 
upstream 56 km (35 mi), Monroe County, AL; Flat Creek from its 
confluence with Big Flat Creek upstream 20 km (12 mi), Monroe County, 
AL; and Dailey Creek from its confluence with Flat Creek upstream 17 km 
(11 mi), Wilcox County, AL.
    Unit AP1 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the Alabama pearlshell. Based on collection records, 
the species was last collected in the Big Flat Creek system in 1995, 
when Shelton (1995, p. 3 unpub. report) documented a fresh dead 
individual. Although it is likely that the Alabama pearlshell has 
always been rare in Big Flat Creek, the unit currently supports healthy 
populations of several other native mussel species, indicating the 
presence of essential physical or biological features, and contains 
PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. A diverse fish fauna, including potential fish 
host(s) for the Alabama pearlshell, are known from the Big Flat Creek 
drainage, indicating the potential presence of PCE 5.
    Threats to the Alabama pearlshell and its habitat may require 
special management of the physical or biological features including 
maintaining natural stream flows and protecting water quality from 
excessive point- and non-point-source pollution. For example, runoff 
from agricultural and industrial sites can alter water quality through 
added nutrients and sediment. Runoff from unpaved roads can also add 
sediments, and poorly designed road culverts can degrade habitats and 
limit distribution of the species. Some culverts can isolate pearlshell 
populations by acting as a barrier for dispersion and movement of host 
fish(es).

Unit AP2: Burnt Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and Sepulga River Drainages, 
Alabama

    Unit AP2 encompasses 155 km (96 mi) of the Burnt Corn Creek, Murder 
Creek, and Sepulga River drainages within the Escambia River drainage 
in Escambia and Conecuh Counties, AL. It includes the mainstem of Burnt 
Corn Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 66 km (41 
mi), Conecuh County, AL; the mainstem of Murder Creek from its 
confluence with Jordan Creek upstream 17 km (11 mi) to the confluence 
of Otter Creek, Conecuh County, AL; Jordan Creek from its confluence 
with Murder Creek upstream 12 km (7 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Otter 
Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 9 km (5.5 mi), 
Conecuh County, AL; Hunter Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek 
upstream 4.4 km (2.7 mi) to the NOLF Evergreen northern boundary, 
Conecuh County, AL; Hunter Creek from the NOLF Evergreen southern 
boundary upstream 3.0 km (1.9 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Sandy Creek from 
County

[[Page 61694]]

Road 29 upstream 5 km (3.5 mi) to Hagood Road; two unnamed tributaries 
to Sandy Creek--one from its confluence with Sandy Creek upstream 8.5 
km (5.0 mi) to Hagood Road, and the other from its confluence with the 
previous unnamed tributary 2.5 km (1.5 mi) upstream to Hagood Road, 
Conecuh County, AL; Little Cedar Creek from County Road 6 upstream 8 km 
(5 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Amos Mill Creek from its confluence with 
the Sepulga River upstream 12 km (8 mi), Escambia and Conecuh Counties, 
AL; Polly Creek from its confluence with Amos Mill Creek upstream 3 km 
(2 mi), Conecuh County, AL; and Bottle Creek from its confluence with 
the Sepulga River upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 42, Conecuh 
County, AL.
    Unit AP2 is mostly within the geographical area occupied at the 
time of listing (2012) for the Alabama pearlshell. The Alabama 
pearlshell currently occurs in Jordan, Hunter, Otter, Sandy, Little 
Cedar, Bottle, and Amos Mill creek drainages. Although it historically 
occurred in the mainstem of Murder Creek, it has not been collected 
there since 1991. Therefore, this short reach of Murder Creek is 
considered unoccupied by the Alabama pearlshell, but essential to the 
conservation of the species. This unoccupied reach retains the physical 
or biological features of a natural stream channel and supports other 
native mussel species. It has potential for reoccupation by the 
pearlshell, particularly if threats can be identified and mitigated.
    The unit currently supports healthy populations of several other 
native mussel species, indicating the elements of essential physical or 
biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. In addition, 
other mussel species, requiring similar PCEs, co-occur with the 
pearlshell. A diverse fish fauna, including potential fish host(s) for 
the Alabama pearlshell, are known from these drainages, indicating the 
potential presence of PCE 5.
    Threats to the Alabama pearlshell and its habitat that may require 
special management of the physical or biological featues include 
alteration and maintenance of natural stream flows (including the 
construction of impoundments), and protecting water quality from 
excessive point- and non-point-source pollution.

Unit GCM1: Lower Escambia River Drainage, Florida and Alabama

    Unit GCM1 encompasses 558 km (347 mi) of the lower Escambia River 
mainstem and 12 tributary streams in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, 
FL, and Escambia, Covington, Conecuh, and Butler Counties, AL. The unit 
consists of the main channel of the Escambia-Conecuh River from the 
confluence of Spanish Mill Creek, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, FL, 
upstream 204 km (127 mi) to the Point A Lake dam, Covington County, AL; 
Murder Creek from its confluence with the Conecuh River, Escambia 
County, AL, upstream 62 km (38 mi) to the confluence of Cane Creek, 
Conecuh County, AL; Burnt Corn Creek from its confluence with Murder 
Creek, Escambia County, AL, upstream 59 km (37 mi) to County Road 20, 
Conecuh County, AL; Jordan Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek, 
upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to Interstate 65, Conecuh County, AL; Mill 
Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 2.5 km (1.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Sandy Creek, Conecuh County, AL; Sandy Creek from its 
confluence with Mill Creek upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 29, 
Conecuh County, AL; Sepulga River from its confluence with the Conecuh 
River upstream 69 km (43 mi) to the confluence of Persimmon Creek, 
Conecuh County, AL; Bottle Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga 
River upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 42, Conecuh County, AL; 
Persimmon Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga River, Conecuh 
County, upstream 36 km (22 mi) to the confluence of Mashy Creek, Butler 
County, AL; Panther Creek from its confluence with Persimmon Creek 
upstream 11 km (7 mi) to State Route 106, Butler County, AL; Pigeon 
Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga River, Conecuh and Covington 
Counties, upstream 89 km (55 mi) to the confluence of Three Run Creek, 
Butler County, AL; and Three Run Creek from its confluence with Pigeon 
Creek upstream 9 km (5.5 mi) to the confluence of Spring Creek, Butler 
County, AL.
    Unit GCM1 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. The southern 
kidneyshell is not currently known to occur in the unit; however, this 
portion of the Escambia River system is within the species' historical 
range, and we consider it essential to the southern kidneyshell's 
conservation due to the need to re-establish the species within other 
portions of its historical range in order to reduce threats from 
stochastic events. The unit currently supports populations of round 
ebonyshell, Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe, indicating the presence of essential physical or biological 
features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. In addition, other mussel 
species, requiring similar PCEs, co-occur with these five species. A 
diverse fish fauna, including potential fish host(s) for the fuzzy 
pigtoe, are known from the Escambia River drainage, indicating the 
potential presence of PCE 5.
    Threats to the five species and their habitat that may require 
special management of the physical or biological features include the 
potential of significant changes in the existing flow regime and water 
quality due to two upstream impoundments. As discussed in Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species, mollusk declines downstream of dams are 
associated with changes and fluctuation in flow regime, scouring and 
erosion, reduced dissolved oxygen levels and altered water 
temperatures, and changes in resident fish assemblages. These 
alterations can cause mussel declines for many miles downstream of the 
dam.

Unit GCM2: Point A Lake and Gantt Lake Reservoirs, Alabama

    Unit GCM2 encompasses 21 km (13 mi) of the Point A Lake and Gantt 
Lake reservoir system in Covington County, AL. Both lakes are 
impoundments on the Conecuh River main channel in the Escambia River 
drainage. The unit extends from Point A Lake dam, Covington County 
upstream 21 km (13 mi) to the Covington-Crenshaw County line in 
Alabama.
    Unit GCM2 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the narrow pigtoe. As mentioned in discussion of 
essential physical or biological features for the narrow pigtoe, we 
attribute its occurrence in these two impoundments to the small size of 
the reservoirs and to the operational regime of the dams. This allows 
for water movement through the system, and prevents silt accumulation 
in some areas. The largest narrow pigtoe population occurs in the 
middle reach of Gantt Lake, where the reservoir narrows and becomes 
somewhat riverine. Although the natural state of the river's 
hydrological flow regime is modified, it does retain the presence of 
the physical or biological features necessary to maintain the benthic 
habitats where the species are found. The persistence of the narrow 
pigtoe within these reservoirs indicates the presence of an appropriate 
fish host. Although its fish host(s) is unknown, other mussels of the 
genus Fusconaia are known to use cyprinid minnows, fish that occupy a 
variety of habitats including large, flowing rivers, and

[[Page 61695]]

lakes and reservoirs (Mettee et al. 1996, p. 128). The unit currently 
supports narrow pigtoe populations, indicating the elements of 
essential physical or biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 3, 4, 
and 5. We consider the habitat in this unit essential to the 
conservation of the narrow pigtoe as it possesses the largest known 
population. The fuzzy pigtoe is known historically from this stretch of 
the Conecuh River (one specimen was collected in 1915). However, the 
collection was made prior to construction of the reservoirs in 1923, 
and it is not presently known to occur in this now-impounded section of 
the river.
    Threats to the narrow pigtoe and its habitat that may require 
special management of the physical or biological features include the 
potential of significant changes in water levels due to periodic 
drawdowns of the reservoirs for maintenance to the dams. Within the two 
reservoirs, mussels occur in shallow areas near the shore, where they 
are susceptible to exposure when water levels are lowered. A drawdown 
of Point A Lake in 2005, and Gantt Lake in 2006, exposed and killed a 
substantial number of mussels (Johnson 2006 in litt.). During the Gantt 
drawdown, 142 individuals of narrow pigtoe were relocated after being 
stranded in dewatered areas near the shoreline (Garner 2009 pers. 
comm.; Pursifull 2006, pers. obs.).

Unit GCM3: Patsaliga Creek Drainage, Alabama

    Unit GCM3 encompasses 149 km (92 mi) of Patsaliga Creek and two 
tributary streams in Covington, Crenshaw, and Pike Counties, AL, within 
the Escambia River basin. The unit consists of the Patsaliga Creek 
mainstem from its confluence with Point A Lake at County Road 59, 
Covington County, AL, upstream 108 km (67 mi) to Crenshaw County Road 
66-Pike County Road 1 (the creek is the county boundary), AL; Little 
Patsaliga Creek from its confluence with Patsaliga Creek upstream 28 km 
(17 mi) to Mary Daniel Road, Crenshaw County, AL; and Olustee Creek 
from its confluence with Patsaliga Creek upstream 12 km (8 mi) to 
County Road 5, Pike County, AL.
    Unit GCM3 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe. The southern kidneyshell is not currently known to 
occur in the unit; however, this portion of the Patsaliga Creek system 
is within the species' historic range. We consider it essential to the 
conservation of the southern kidneyshell due to the need to re-
establish the species within other portions of its historic range in 
order to reduce threats from stochastic events. The unit does currently 
support populations of Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe, indicating the presence of essential physical or 
biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. In addition, 
other mussel species, requiring similar PCEs, co-occur with these four 
species. A diverse fish fauna, including a potential fish host for the 
fuzzy pigtoe, are known from the Patsaliga Creek drainage, indicating 
the potential presence of PCE 5.
    Prior to construction of the Point A Lake and Gantt Lake dams in 
1923, Patsaliga Creek drained directly to the Conecuh River main 
channel. It now empties into Point A Lake and is effectively isolated 
from the main channel by the dams. The dams are barriers to upstream 
fish movement, particularly to anadromous fishes. Therefore, a 
potential threat that may require special management of the physical or 
biological features includes the absence of fish hosts.

Unit GCM4: Upper Escambia River Drainage, Alabama

    Unit GCM4 encompasses 137 km (85 mi) of the Conecuh River mainstem 
and two tributary streams in Covington, Crenshaw, Pike, and Bullock 
Counties, AL, within the Escambia River drainage. The unit consists of 
the Conecuh River from its confluence with Gantt Lake reservoir at the 
Covington-Crenshaw County line upstream 126 km (78 mi) to County Road 
8, Bullock County, AL; Beeman Creek from its confluence with the 
Conecuh River upstream 6.5 km (4 mi) to the confluence of Mill Creek, 
Pike County, AL; and Mill Creek from its confluence with Beeman Creek, 
upstream 4.5 km (3 mi) to County Road 13, Pike County, AL.
    Unit GCM4 is is within the geographical area occupied at the time 
of listing (2012) Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe. The southern kidneyshell is not currently known to occur 
in the unit; however, this portion of the Conecuh River is within the 
species' historic range, and we consider it to be essential to the 
conservation of the southern kidneyshell due to the need to re-
establish the species within other portions of its historic range in 
order to reduce threats from stochastic events. The unit does currently 
support populations of Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe, indicating the presence of essential physical or 
biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. In addition, 
other mussel species requiring similar PCEs co-occur with these four 
species. A diverse fish fauna, including a potential fish host for the 
fuzzy pigtoe, are known from the upper Escambia River drainage, 
indicating the potential presence of PCE 5.
    The Point A Lake and Gantt Lake dams on the Conecuh River mainstem 
are barriers to upstream fish movement, particularly to anadromous 
fishes. Therefore, a potential threat that may require special 
management of the physical or biological features includes the absence 
of fish hosts.

Unit GCM5: Yellow River Drainage, Florida and Alabama

    Unit GCM5 encompasses 247 km (153 mi) of the Yellow River mainstem, 
the Shoal River mainstem, and three tributary streams in Santa Rosa, 
Okaloosa, and Walton Counties, FL, and Covington County, AL. The unit 
consists of the Yellow River from the confluence of Weaver River (a 
tributary located 0.9 km (0.6 mi), downstream of State Route 87), Santa 
Rosa County, FL, upstream 157 km (97 mi) to County Road 42, Covington 
County, AL; the Shoal River from its confluence with the Yellow River, 
Okaloosa County, FL, upstream 51 km (32 mi) to the confluence of Mossy 
Head Branch, Walton County, FL; Pond Creek from its confluence with 
Shoal River, Okaloosa County, FL, upstream 24 km (15 mi) to the 
confluence of Fleming Creek, Walton County, FL; and Five Runs Creek 
from its confluence with the Yellow River upstream 15 km (9.5 mi) to 
County Road 31, Covington County, AL.
    Unit GCM5 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe. The southern kidneyshell was known from the Yellow 
River drainage; however, its occurrence in the basin is based on the 
collection of one specimen in 1919 from Hollis Creek in Alabama. We 
believe this single, historical record is not sufficient to consider 
this unit as essential to the conservation of the southern kidneyshell. 
Therefore, we are not designating Unit GCM5 as critical habitat for the 
southern kidneyshell at this time. The unit does currently support 
populations of Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe, indicating the presence of essential physical or 
biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, and 4. In addition, 
other mussel species, requiring similar PCEs, co-occur with these four 
species. A diverse fish fauna are known from the Yellow River

[[Page 61696]]

drainage, indicating the potential presence of PCE 5.

Unit GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River Drainages, Florida 
and Alabama

    Unit GCM6 encompasses 897 km (557 mi) of the Choctawhatchee River 
mainstem, the lower Pea River mainstem, and 29 tributary streams in 
Walton, Washington, Bay, Holmes, and Jackson Counties, FL, and Geneva, 
Coffee, Dale, Houston, Henry, Pike, and Barbour Counties, AL. The unit 
consists of the Choctawhatchee River from the confluence of Pine Log 
Creek, Walton County, FL, upstream 200 km (125 mi) to the point the 
river splits into the West Fork Choctawhatchee and East Fork 
Choctawhatchee rivers, Barbour County, AL; Pine Log Creek from its 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Walton County, upstream 19 km 
(12 mi) to the confluence of Ditch Branch, Washington and Bay Counties, 
FL; an unnamed channel forming Cowford Island from its downstream 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 3 km (2 mi) to its 
upstream confluence with the river, Washington County, FL; Crews Lake 
from its western terminus 1.5 km (1 mi) to its eastern terminus, 
Washington County, FL (Crews Lake is a relic channel southwest of 
Cowford Island, and is disconnected from the Cowford Island channel, 
except during high flows); Holmes Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Washington County, FL, upstream 98 km (61 mi) to 
County Road 4, Geneva County, AL; Alligator Creek from its confluence 
with Holmes Creek upstream 6.5 km (4 mi) to County Road 166, Washington 
County, FL; Bruce Creek from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee 
River upstream 25 km (16 mi) to the confluence of an unnamed tributary, 
Walton County, FL; Sandy Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Walton County, FL, upstream 30 km (18 mi) to the 
confluence of West Sandy Creek, Holmes and Walton County, FL; Blue 
Creek from its confluence with Sandy Creek, upstream 7 km (4.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Goose Branch, Holmes County, FL; West Sandy Creek 
from its confluence with Sandy Creek, upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to the 
confluence of an unnamed tributary, Walton County, FL; Wrights Creek 
from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Holmes County, FL, 
upstream 43 km (27 mi) to County Road 4, Geneva County, AL; Tenmile 
Creek from its confluence with Wrights Creek upstream 6 km (3.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Rice Machine Branch, Holmes County, FL; West Pittman 
Creek from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 6.5 km 
(4 mi) to Fowler Branch, Holmes County, FL; East Pittman Creek from its 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 4.5 km (3 mi) to 
County Road 179, Holmes County, FL; Parrot Creek from its confluence 
with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 6 km (4 mi) to Tommy Lane, 
Holmes County, FL; the Pea River from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 91 km (57 mi) to the 
Elba Dam, Coffee County, AL; Limestone Creek from its confluence with 
the Pea River upstream 8.5 km (5 mi) to Woods Road, Walton County, FL; 
Flat Creek from the Pea River upstream 17 km (10 mi) to the confluence 
of Panther Creek, Geneva County, AL; Eightmile Creek from its 
confluence with Flat Creek, Geneva County, AL, upstream 15 km (9 mi) to 
the confluence of Dry Branch (first tributary upstream of County Road 
181), Walton County, FL; Corner Creek from its confluence with 
Eightmile Creek upstream 5 km (3 mi) to State Route 54, Geneva County, 
AL; Natural Bridge Creek from its confluence with Eightmile Creek 
Geneva County, AL, upstream, 4 km (2.5 mi) to the Covington-Geneva 
County line, AL; Double Bridges Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 46 km (29 mi) to the 
confluence of Blanket Creek, Coffee County, AL; Claybank Creek from its 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 
22 km (14 mi) to the Fort Rucker military reservation southern 
boundary, Dale County, AL; Claybank Creek from the Fort Rucker military 
reservation northern boundary, upstream 6 km (4 mi) to County Road 36, 
Dale County, AL; Steep Head Creek from the Fort Rucker military 
reservation western boundary, upstream 4 km (2.5 mi) to County Road 
156, Coffee County, AL; Hurricane Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River upstream 14 km (8.5 mi) to State Route 52, Geneva 
County, AL; Little Choctawhatchee River from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Dale and Houston Counties upstream 20 km (13 mi) 
to the confluence of Newton Creek, Houston County, AL; Panther Creek 
from its confluence with the Little Choctawhatchee River, upstream 4.5 
km (2.5 mi) to the confluence of Gilley Mill Branch, Houston County, 
AL; Bear Creek from its confluence with the Little Choctawhatchee 
River, upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 40 (Fortner Street), 
Houston County, AL; West Fork Choctawhatchee River from its confluence 
with the Choctawhatchee River, Dale County, AL, upstream 54 km (33 mi) 
to the fork of Paul's Creek and Lindsey Creek, Barbour County, AL; Judy 
Creek from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River upstream 
17 km (11 mi) to County Road 13, Dale County, AL; Sikes Creek from its 
confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River, Dale County, AL, 
upstream 8.5 km (5.5 mi) to State Route 10, Barbour County, AL; Paul's 
Creek from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River upstream 
7 km (4.5 mi) to one mile upstream of County Road 20, Barbour County, 
AL; Lindsey Creek from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee 
River upstream 14 km (8.5 mi) to the confluence of an unnamed 
tributary, Barbour County, AL; an unnamed tributary to Lindsey Creek 
from its confluence with Lindsey Creek upstream 2.5 km (1.5 mi) to 1.0 
mile upstream of County Road 53, Barbour County, AL; and East Fork 
Choctawhatchee River from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, 
Dale County, AL, upstream 71 km (44 mi) to County Road 71, Barbour 
County, AL.
    Unit GCM6 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. The unit currently 
supports populations of the five species, indicating the elements of 
essential physical or biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, 
and 4. In addition, other mussel species, requiring similar PCEs, co-
occur with these five species. A diverse fish fauna is known from the 
Choctawhatchee River, including a potential fish host for the fuzzy 
pigtoe and tapered pigtoe, indicating the potential presence of PCE 5.
    Not included in this unit are two oxbow lakes now disconnected from 
the Choctawhatchee River main channel in Washington County, Florida. 
Horseshoe Lake has a record of southern kidneyshell from 1932, and 
Crawford Lake has records of Choctaw bean and tapered pigtoe from 1934. 
It is possible these oxbow lakes had some connection to the main 
channel when the collections were made over 75 years ago. The three 
species are not currently known to occur in Horseshoe or Crawford 
lakes, and we do not consider them essential to the conservation of the 
southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, or tapered pigtoe.
    Threats to the five species and their habitat that may require 
special management of the physical or biological features include the 
potential of significant changes in the existing

[[Page 61697]]

flow regime and water quality due to the Elba Dam on the Pea River 
mainstem. As discussed in Summary of Factors Affecting the Species, 
mollusk declines downstream of dams are associated with changes and 
fluctuation in flow regime, scouring and erosion, reduced dissolved 
oxygen levels and altered water temperatures, and changes in resident 
fish assemblages. These alterations can cause mussel declines for many 
miles downstream of the dam.

Unit GCM7: Upper Pea River Drainage, Alabama

    Unit GCM7 encompasses 234 km (145 mi) of the upper Pea River 
mainstem and six tributary streams in Coffee, Dale, Pike, Barbour, and 
Bullock Counties, AL. This unit is within the Choctawhatchee River 
basin and includes the stream segments upstream of the Elba Dam. The 
unit consists of the Pea River from the Elba Dam, Coffee County, 
upstream 123 km (76 mi) to State Route 239, Bullock and Barbour 
Counties, AL; Whitewater Creek from its confluence with the Pea River, 
Coffee County upstream 45 km (28 mi) to the confluence of Walnut Creek, 
Pike County, AL; Walnut Creek from its confluence with Whitewater Creek 
upstream 14 km (9 mi) to County Road 26, Pike County, AL; Big Creek 
(Coffee County) from its confluence with Whitewater Creek, Coffee 
County, upstream 30 km (18 mi) to the confluence of Smart Branch, Pike 
County, AL; Big Creek (Barbour County) from its confluence with the Pea 
River upstream 10 km (6 mi) to the confluence of Sand Creek, Barbour 
County, AL; Pea Creek from its confluence with the Pea River upstream 6 
km (4 mi) to the confluence of Hurricane Creek, Barbour County, AL; and 
Big Sandy Creek from its confluence with the Pea River upstream 6.5 km 
(4 mi) to County Road 14, Bullock County, AL.
    Unit GCM7 is within the geographical area occupied at the time of 
listing (2012) for the southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. The unit currently 
supports populations of the five species, indicating the elements of 
essential physical or biological features, and contains PCEs 1, 2, 3, 
and 4. In addition, other mussel species, requiring similar PCEs, co-
occur with these five species. A diverse fish fauna is known from the 
upper Pea River, including potential fish host(s) for the fuzzy pigtoe 
and tapered pigtoe, indicating the potential presence of PCE 5.
    The Elba Dam on the Pea River mainstem is a barrier to upstream 
fish movement, particularly to anadromous fishes. Therefore, a 
potential threat that may require special management of the physical or 
biological feature includes the absence of potential host fishes.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed 
under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
designated critical habitat.
    Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeal have 
invalidated our regulatory definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 378 F. 3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2004) and Sierra 
Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 245 F.3d 434, 442 (5th Cir. 
2001)), and we do not rely on this regulatory definition when analyzing 
whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat. Under the statutory provisions of the Act, we determine 
destruction or adverse modification on the basis of whether, with 
implementation of the proposed Federal action, the affected critical 
habitat would continue to serve its intended conservation role for the 
species.
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act 
or a permit from the Service under section 10 of the Act) or that 
involve some other Federal action (such as funding from the Federal 
Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, or the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency). Federal actions not affecting listed 
species or critical habitat, and actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that are not federally funded or authorized, do not 
require section 7 consultation.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we document compliance with 
the requirements of section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect, or 
are likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified 
during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action;
    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction;
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible; and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid 
the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies sometimes may need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.

[[Page 61698]]

Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the physical or 
biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces the 
conservation value of critical habitat for Alabama pearlshell, round 
ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, or fuzzy pigtoe. As discussed above, the 
role of critical habitat is to support life-history needs and provide 
for the conservation of these species.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    Activities that, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a 
Federal agency, may affect critical habitat and therefore should result 
in consultation for these eight mussel species include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Actions that would significantly alter channel geomorphology. 
Such activities could include, but are not limited to, channelization, 
impoundment, road and bridge construction, mining, dredging, 
desnagging, and destruction of riparian vegetation. These activities 
may lead to changes in water flows and levels that would degrade or 
eliminate the mussels or their fish host and/or their habitats. These 
actions can also lead to increased sedimentation and degradation in 
water quality to levels that are beyond the tolerances of the mussels 
or their fish host.
    (2) Actions that would significantly alter the existing flow 
regime. Such activities could include, but are not limited to 
impoundment, water diversion, water withdrawal, water draw-down, and 
hydropower generation. These activities could eliminate or reduce the 
habitat necessary for growth and reproduction of these mussels.
    (3) Actions that would significantly alter water chemistry, 
quality, or temperature. Such activities could include, but are not 
limited to, release of chemicals, biological pollutants, or heated 
effluents into the surface water or connected groundwater at a point 
source or by dispersed release (non-point source). These activities 
could alter water conditions to levels that are beyond the tolerances 
of the mussels or their fish host and result in direct or cumulative 
adverse affects to these individuals and their life cycles.
    (4) Actions that would significantly alter stream bed material 
composition and quality by increasing sediment deposition or 
filamentous algal growth. Such activities could include, but are not 
limited to, construction projects, livestock grazing, timber harvest, 
and other watershed and floodplain disturbances that release sediments 
or nutrients into the water. These activities could eliminate or reduce 
habitats necessary for the growth and reproduction of these mussels by 
causing excessive sedimentation and burial of the species or their 
habitats, or nutrification leading to excessive filamentous algal 
growth. Excessive filamentous algal growth can cause reduced nighttime 
dissolved oxygen levels through respiration, and prevent juvenile 
mussels from settling into stream sediments.

Exemptions

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) 
required each military installation that includes land and water 
suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to 
complete an integrated natural resources management plan (INRMP) by 
November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military 
mission of the installation with stewardship of the natural resources 
found on the base. Each INRMP includes:
     An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
     A statement of goals and priorities;
     A detailed description of management actions to be 
implemented to provide for these ecological needs; and
     A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement, 
and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and 
enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas 
owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its 
use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources management 
plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if 
the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit 
to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for 
designation.''
    We consult with the military on the development and implementation 
of INRMPs for installations with listed species. We analyzed INRMPs 
developed by military installations located within the range of the 
proposed critical habitat designation for southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe to determine 
if they meet the criteria for exemption from critical habitat under 
section 4(a)(3) of the Act. The following areas are Department of 
Defense lands with completed, Service-approved INRMPs within the 
proposed critical habitat designation.
Fort Rucker
    The U.S. Army-operated Fort Rucker Aviation Center, located in 
Daleville, Alabama, owns lands that include portions of the proposed 
critical habitat designation (specifically unit GCM6, Choctawhatchee 
River and Lower Pea River Drainage). Portions of Claybank and Steep 
Head creeks are on lands within the Fort Rucker military reservation. 
Fort Rucker has completed an INRMP (US Army 2009) that guides 
conservation activities on the installation through 2014. The INRMP 
specifically addresses maintaining and improving water quality through 
reduction in sedimentation and erosion control, land management 
practices, and improved treatment facilities. (US Army 2009, pp. 82-83, 
90, 128-129). In addition, the INRMP will be updated to incorporate the 
southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe.
    Based on the above considerations, and in accordance with section 
4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, we have determined that the identified lands 
are subject to the Fort Rucker INRMP and that conservation efforts 
identified in the INRMP will provide a benefit to the species occurring 
in habitats within or downstream of the Fort Rucker military 
reservation. Therefore, lands within this installation are exempt from 
critical habitat designation under section 4(a)(3)

[[Page 61699]]

of the Act. We are not including approximately 25 km (16 mi) of stream 
habitat in this critical habitat designation because of this exemption.
NAS Whiting Field Complex
    The U.S. Navy owns lands that include portions of the proposed 
critical habitat designation in unit AP2. A segment of Hunter Creek is 
on lands within the boundaries of Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting 
Field's Navy Outlying Field (NOLF) Evergreen located in Conecuh County, 
Alabama. The NAS Whiting Field Complex has completed an INRMP 
(Department of the Navy 2006) that guides conservation activities on 
the installation through 2016. The INRMP specifically addresses 
improving water quality through vegetative buffers, stormwater and 
pesticide management, erosion control, and land management practices 
(Department of the Navy 2006, pp. 5.4-5.6, 5.15-5.26). In addition, the 
INRMP will be updated to incorporate the Alabama pearlshell.
    Based on the above considerations, and in accordance with section 
4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, we have determined that the identified lands 
are subject to the NAS Whiting Field INRMP and that conservation 
efforts identified in the INRMP will provide a benefit to the Alabama 
pearlshell occurring in habitats within or adjacent to NOLF Evergreen. 
Therefore, lands within this installation are exempt from critical 
habitat designation under section 4(a)(3) of the Act. We are not 
including approximately 0.4 km (0.25 mi) of stream habitat in this 
final critical habitat designation because of this exemption.
Other Department of Defense Lands
    Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), located in Niceville, Florida, owns the 
lands adjacent to the critical habitat designation (specifically unit 
GCM5, Yellow River Drainage). The lower portions of the Shoal and 
Yellow rivers form the northwestern boundary of the military 
reservation. However, no portions of stream or river channels 
designated as critical habitat occur within the boundary of the 
military reservation, and therefore Eglin AFB lands are not exempted. 
These reaches are also currently designated critical habitat for the 
threatened Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) (68 FR 13370, 
March 19, 2033).

Exclusions

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall 
designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of the 
best available scientific data after taking into consideration the 
economic impact, national security impact, and any other relevant 
impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The 
Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he determines 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he determines, based 
on the best scientific data available, that the failure to designate 
such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction of the 
species. In making that determination, the statute on its face, as well 
as the legislative history, is clear that the Secretary has broad 
discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and how much weight to give 
to any factor.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, the Secretary may exclude an area 
from designated critical habitat based on economic impacts, impacts on 
national security, or any other relevant impacts. In considering 
whether to exclude a particular area from the designation, we identify 
the benefits of including the area in the designation, identify the 
benefits of excluding the area from the designation, and evaluate 
whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion. 
If the analysis indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the 
benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may exercise his discretion to 
exclude the area only if such exclusion would not result in the 
extinction of the species.
Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we prepared a draft economic analysis (DEA) 
of the proposed critical habitat designation and related factors (77 FR 
18173). The draft analysis, dated March 5, 2012, was made available for 
public review March 27, 2012, through April 26, 2012 (77 FR 18173). 
Following the close of the comment period, a final analysis (FEA) 
(dated May 24, 2012) of the potential economic effects of the 
designation was developed taking into consideration the public comments 
and any new information (Industrial Economics 2012).
    The intent of the economic analysis is to quantify the economic 
impacts of all potential conservation efforts for the Alabama 
pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, 
tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe; 
some of these costs will likely be incurred regardless of whether we 
designate critical habitat (baseline). The economic impact of the 
critical habitat designation is analyzed by comparing scenarios both 
``with critical habitat'' and ``without critical habitat.'' The 
``without critical habitat'' scenario represents the baseline for the 
analysis, considering protections already in place for the species 
(e.g., under the Federal listing and other Federal, State, and local 
regulations). The baseline, therefore, represents the costs incurred 
regardless of whether critical habitat is designated. The ``with 
critical habitat'' scenario describes the incremental impacts 
associated specifically with the designation of critical habitat for 
the species. The incremental conservation efforts and associated 
impacts are those not expected to occur absent the designation of 
critical habitat for the species. In other words, the incremental costs 
are those attributable solely to the designation of critical habitat 
above and beyond the baseline costs; these are the costs we consider in 
the final designation of critical habitat. The analysis looks at 
baseline impacts incurred from the listing of the species, and 
forecasts both baseline and incremental impacts likely to occur with 
the designation of critical habitat. For a further description of 
analysis methods, see the ``Framework for the Analysis'' section of the 
FEA.
    The FEA also addresses how potential economic impacts are likely to 
be distributed, including an assessment of any local or regional 
impacts of habitat conservation and the potential effects of 
conservation activities on government agencies, private businesses, and 
individuals. The FEA measures lost economic efficiency associated with 
residential and commercial development and public projects and 
activities, such as economic impacts on water management and 
transportation projects, Federal lands, small entities, and the energy 
industry. Decision-makers can use this information to assess whether 
the effects of the designation might unduly burden a particular group 
or economic sector. Finally, the FEA looks at costs that will be 
incurred once listed, and considers those costs that may occur in the 
20 years following the designation of critical habitat, which was 
determined to be the appropriate period for analysis because limited 
planning information was available for most activities to forecast 
activity levels for projects beyond a 20-year timeframe. The final 
economic analysis quantifies economic impacts of conservation efforts 
for these eight species associated with the following categories of 
activity: (1)

[[Page 61700]]

Impoundments, dams, and diversions; (2) dredging, channelization, and 
instream mining; (3) transportation and utilities; (4) residential and 
commercial development; (5) timber management, agriculture, and 
grazing; and (6) oil wells/drilling.
    The FEA states that the present value of total incremental cost of 
critical habitat designation is estimated to be $1.70 million over the 
analysis timeframe (2012 to 2031), applying a 7 percent discount rate 
or $147,000 annually. All of these impacts stem from the administrative 
cost of addressing adverse modification of critical habitat during 
section 7 consultations. Because the region is primarily rural, with 
little planned economic activity, the Service and contacted 
stakeholders do not anticipate that designation of critical habitat for 
these mussels will have substantial impact on economic activity. The 
majority of the incremental impacts (67 percent) are related to road 
and bridge construction and maintenance projects. Specifically, over 
the 30-year timeframe of the FEA, the Alabama Department of 
Transportation (ADOT) and the Florida Department of Transportation 
(FDOT) expect 208 road and bridge maintenance and resurfacing projects 
will occur in the region, and ADOT and FDOT will, therefore, conduct 
section 7 consultations with the Service when roadways cross streams 
designated as critical habitat. In Alabama, data were not available to 
determine the number of road crossings in critical habitat, and this 
likely results in an overestimate of impacts to transportation projects 
in Alabama.
    Our economic analysis did not identify any disproportionate costs 
that are likely to result from the designation. Consequently, the 
Secretary is not exerting his discretion to exclude any areas from this 
designation of critical habitat for these eight species based on 
economic impacts.
    A copy of the final economic analysis with supporting documents may 
be obtained by contacting the Panama City Field Office (see ADDRESSES) 
or by downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov.
Exclusions Based on National Security Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the Department of Defense where a national 
security impact might exist. In preparing this final rule, we have 
exempted from the designation of critical habitat those Department of 
Defense lands with completed INRMPs determined to provide a benefit to 
the Alabama pearlshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. We have also determined 
that the remaining lands within the designation of critical habitat for 
the species are not owned or managed by the Department of Defense, and, 
therefore, we anticipate no impact on national security. Consequently, 
the Secretary is not exercising his discretion to exclude any areas 
from this final designation based on impacts on national security.
Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant 
impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national 
security. We consider a number of factors, including whether the 
landowners have developed any Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) or 
other management plans for the area, or whether there are conservation 
partnerships that would be encouraged by designation of, or exclusion 
from, critical habitat. In addition, we look at any tribal issues, and 
consider the government-to-government relationship of the United States 
with tribal entities. We also consider any social impacts that might 
occur because of the designation.
    In preparing this final rule, we have determined that there are 
currently no HCPs or other management plans for the Alabama pearlshell, 
round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, 
narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, or fuzzy pigtoe, and the final 
designation does not include any tribal lands or trust resources. We 
anticipate no impact on tribal lands, partnerships, or HCPs from this 
critical habitat designation. Accordingly, the Secretary is not 
exercising his discretion to exclude any areas from this final 
designation based on other relevant impacts.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review--Executive Order 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. The Office 
of Information and Regulatory Affairs has determined that this rule is 
not significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while 
calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency must publish a notice of 
rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effects of the rule on small entities (small businesses, 
small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no 
regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency 
certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. SBREFA amended RFA to require 
Federal agencies to provide a certification statement of the factual 
basis for certifying that the rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small 
entities include small organizations, such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; as well as small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small 
businesses include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 
500 employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, 
retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual 
sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 
million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than 
$11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with 
annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic 
impacts to these small entities are significant, we consider the types 
of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this rule, as 
well as the types of project modifications that may result. In general, 
the term ``significant economic impact'' is meant to apply to a typical 
small business firm's business operations.

[[Page 61701]]

    To determine if the designation of critical habitat for the eight 
mussel species will affect a substantial number of small entities, we 
consider the number of small entities affected within particular types 
of economic activities (e.g., governments (counties), development, and 
dredging). We apply the ``substantial number'' test individually to 
each industry to determine if certification is appropriate. However, 
the SBREFA does not explicitly define ``substantial number'' or 
``significant economic impact.'' Consequently, to assess whether a 
``substantial number'' of small entities is affected by this 
designation, this analysis considers the relative number of small 
entities likely to be impacted in an area. In some circumstances, 
especially with critical habitat designations of limited extent, we may 
aggregate across all industries and consider whether the total number 
of small entities affected is substantial. In estimating the number of 
small entities potentially affected, we also consider whether their 
activities have any Federal involvement.
    Designation of critical habitat only affects activities authorized, 
funded, or carried out by Federal agencies. Some kinds of activities 
are unlikely to have any Federal involvement and so will not be 
affected by critical habitat designation. In areas where the species is 
present, Federal agencies already are required to consult with us under 
section 7 of the Act on activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
that may affect the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, or fuzzy pigtoe. Federal agencies also must consult with us 
if their activities may affect critical habitat. Designation of 
critical habitat, therefore, could result in an additional economic 
impact on small entities due to the requirement to reinitiate 
consultation for ongoing Federal activities (see Application of the 
``Adverse Modification'' Standard section).
    In our final economic analysis of the critical habitat designation, 
we evaluated the potential economic effects on small entities resulting 
from conservation actions related to the listing of the eight mussels 
and the designation of critical habitat. The analysis is based on the 
estimated impacts associated with the rulemaking as described in 
Chapters 2 through 4 and Appendix A of the analysis and evaluates the 
potential for economic impacts related to: (1) Impoundments, dams, and 
diversions; (2) dredging, channelization, and in-stream mining; (3) 
transportation and utilities; (4) residential and commercial 
development; (5) timber management, agriculture, and grazing; and (6) 
oil wells/drilling.
    According to the final economic analysis, impacts on small entities 
due to this rule are expected to be modest because the incremental 
costs of the rule are estimated to be administrative in nature. The 
final economic analysis evaluated the incremental impacts of 
designating critical habitat for these eight mussels over the next 20 
years (2012-2031), which was determined to be the appropriate period 
for analysis because limited planning information is available for most 
activities to forecast activity levels for projects beyond a 20-year 
timeframe. This analysis estimates that 7 small governments, 20 small 
development-related entitities, and 4 small dredging-related entities 
are likely to incur administrative costs as third parties associated 
with section 7 consultation. Applying a 7 percent discount rate, 
incremental impacts associated with the designation are estimated to 
represent less than 1 percent of the annual revenues each small entity.
    In summary, we considered whether this designation would result in 
a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small 
entities. Based on the above reasoning and currently available 
information, we concluded that this rule will not result in a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
Therefore, we are certifying that the designation of critical habitat 
for the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, 
Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities, and a regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 (E.O. 
13211; ``Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect 
Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use'') on regulations that 
significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and use. E.O. 13211 
requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when 
undertaking certain actions. OMB has provided guidance for implementing 
this Executive Order that outlines nine outcomes that may constitute 
``a significant adverse effect'' when compared to not taking the 
regulatory action under consideration. The economic analysis finds that 
none of these criteria are relevant to this analysis. Thus, based on 
information in the economic analysis, energy-related impacts associated 
with the 8 mussels conservation activities within critical habitat are 
not expected. As such, the designation of critical habitat is not 
expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal 
governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments'' with two 
exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It also 
excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal 
program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing Federal 
program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, 
local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government's 
responsibility to provide funding,'' and the State, local, or tribal 
governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. At the time of 
enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; Aid to Families 
with Dependent Children work programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; 
Social Services Block Grants; Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; 
Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Independent Living; Family 
Support Welfare Services; and Child Support Enforcement. ``Federal 
private sector mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose an 
enforceable duty upon the private sector, except (i) a condition of 
Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from participation in a 
voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only

[[Page 61702]]

regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must ensure that their 
actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical habitat under 
section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive Federal funding, 
assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require approval or 
authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be indirectly 
impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally binding 
duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat 
rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the extent that 
non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they receive 
Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid program, 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would critical 
habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs listed above 
onto State governments.
    (2) We do not believe that this rule will significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments because it would not produce a Federal mandate 
of $100 million or greater in any year; that is, it is not a 
``significant regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform 
Act. Small governments will be affected only to the extent that any 
programs having Federal funds, permits, or other authorized activities 
must ensure that their actions will not adversely affect the critical 
habitat. The final economic analysis concludes incremental impacts may 
occur due to administrative costs of section 7 consultations for 
activities related to impoundments and dams, development, and dredging 
projects; however, these are not expected to significantly affect small 
government entities. Consequently, a Small Government Agency Plan is 
not required.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), 
we have analyzed the potential takings implications of designating 
critical habitat for the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe in a takings implications assessment. As 
discussed above, the designation of critical habitat affects only 
Federal actions. Although private parties that receive Federal funding, 
assistance, or require approval or authorization from a Federal agency 
for an action may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.
    The majority of the designation occurs in navigable waterways whose 
stream bottoms are owned by the States of Alabama and Florida. Impacts 
of this designation could occur on non-Federal riparian lands adjacent 
to the designated streams where there is Federal involvement (e.g., 
Federal funding or permitting) subject to section 7 of the Act, or 
where a decision on a proposed action on federally owned land could 
affect economic activity on adjoining non-Federal land. However, in 
general, we believe that the takings implications associated with this 
critical habitat designation will be insignificant. The takings 
implications assessment concludes that this designation of critical 
habitat for these eight mussels does not pose significant takings 
implications for lands within or affected by the designation.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this rule 
does not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism impact 
summary statement is not required. In keeping with Department of the 
Interior and Department of Commerce policy, we requested information 
from, and coordinated development of, this critical habitat designation 
with appropriate State resource agencies in Alabama and Florida. We 
received comments from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Commission and have addressed them in the Summary of Comments and 
Recommendations section of this rule. The designation of critical 
habitat in areas currently occupied by the Alabama pearlshell, round 
ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow 
pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe imposes no additional 
restrictions to those currently in place and, therefore, has little 
incremental impact on State and local governments and their activities. 
The designation may have some benefit to these governments in that the 
areas that contain the physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the elements 
of the features of the habitat necessary to the conservation of the 
species are specifically identified. This information does not alter 
where and what federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it 
may assist local governments in long-range planning (rather than having 
them wait for case-by-case section 7 consultations to occur).
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, 
consultation under section 7(a)(2) will be required. While non-Federal 
entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that 
otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for 
an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical 
habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the applicable 
standards set forth in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We are 
designating critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the 
Act. This final rule uses standard property descriptions and identifies 
the elements of physical or biological features essential to the 
conservation of the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe within the designated areas to assist the 
public in understanding the habitat needs of these species.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and 
a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with listing a species as an endangered or 
threatened species under the Act. We published a notice outlining our 
reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 
1983 (48 FR 49244).
    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals

[[Page 61703]]

for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare environmental analyses 
pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.) in connection with designating critical habitat under the Act. 
We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in 
the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position 
was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas 
County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 
1042 (1996)).

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and 
Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    We determined that there are no Tribal lands occupied at the time 
of listing (2012) that contain the features essential for the 
conservation, and no unoccupied Tribal lands that are essential for the 
conservation, of the Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe. Therefore, none of the designated critical 
habitat for these species is on Tribal lands.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Panama City Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES).

Authors

    The primary authors of this package are the staff members of the 
Panama City Field Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by adding entries for ``Bean, Choctaw,'' 
``Ebonyshell, round,'' ``Kidneyshell, southern,'' ``Pearlshell, 
Alabama'', ``Pigtoe, fuzzy'', ``Pigtoe, narrow'', ``Pigtoe, tapered'', 
and ``Sandshell, southern'' in alphabetical order under ``CLAMS'' to 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                     Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                         population where                                 Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range        endangered or         Status     When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                               threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
              Clams
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Bean, Choctaw....................  Villosa choctawensis  U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  E                      808     17.95(f)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Ebonyshell, round................  Fusconaia rotulata..  U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  E                      808     17.95(f)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Kidneyshell, southern............  Ptychobranchus        U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  E                      808     17.95(f)           NA
                                    jonesi.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pearlshell, Alabama..............  Margaritifera         U.S.A. (AL).........  NA.................  E                      808     17.95(f)           NA
                                    marrianae.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pigtoe, fuzzy....................  Pleurobema            U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  T                      808     17.95(f)           NA
                                    strodeanum.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pigtoe, narrow...................  Fusconaia escambia..  U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  T                      808     17.95(f)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Pigtoe, tapered..................  Fusconaia burkei....  U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  T                      808     17.95(f)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Sandshell, southern..............  Hamiota australis...  U.S.A. (AL, FL).....  NA.................  T                      808     17.95(f)           NA
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



[[Page 61704]]


0
3. In Sec.  17.95, amend paragraph (f) by adding an entry for eight 
mussel species in four northeastern Gulf of Mexico drainages, 
immediately before the entry for ``Georgia Pigtoe (Pleurobema 
hanleyianum)'' to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

* * * * *
    (f) Clams and Snails.
* * * * *
    Eight mussel species in four northeast Gulf of Mexico drainages: 
the Choctaw bean (Villosa choctawensis), round ebonyshell (Fusconaia 
rotulata), southern kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus jonesi), Alabama 
pearlshell (Margaritifera marrianae), fuzzy pigtoe (Pleurobema 
strodeanum), narrow pigtoe (Fusconaia escambia), tapered pigtoe 
(Fusconaia burkei), and southern sandshell (Hamiota australis).
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for the following counties:
    (i) Alabama. Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, 
Crenshaw, Dale, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Monroe, and Pike 
Counties.
    (ii) Florida. Bay, Escambia, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, 
Walton, and Washington Counties.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements of the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Alabama pearlshell, round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe consist of five components:
    (i) Geomorphically stable stream and river channels and banks 
(channels that maintain lateral dimensions, longitudinal profiles, and 
sinuosity patterns over time without an aggrading or degrading bed 
elevation).
    (ii) Stable substrates of sand or mixtures of sand with clay or 
gravel with low to moderate amounts of fine sediment and attached 
filamentous algae.
    (iii) A hydrologic flow regime (magnitude, frequency, duration, and 
seasonality of discharge over time) necessary to maintain benthic 
habitats where the species are found, and to maintain connectivity of 
rivers with the floodplain, allowing the exchange of nutrients and 
sediment for habitat maintenance, food availability, and spawning 
habitat for native fishes.
    (iv) Water quality, including temperature (not greater than 32 
[deg]C), pH (between 6.0 to 8.5), oxygen content (not less than 5.0 
milligrams per liter), hardness, turbidity, and other chemical 
characteristics necessary for normal behavior, growth, and viability of 
all life stages.
    (v) The presence of fish hosts. Diverse assemblages of native fish 
species will serve as a potential indication of host fish presence 
until appropriate host fishes can be identified. For the fuzzy pigtoe 
and tapered pigtoe, the presence of blacktail shiner (Cyprinella 
venusta) will serve as a potential indication of fish host presence.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include manmade structures (such as 
buildings, aqueducts, runways, dams, roads, and other paved areas) and 
the land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries 
on November 9, 2012, with the exception of the impoundments created by 
Point A and Gantt Lake dams (impounded water, not the actual dam 
structures).
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created with USGS National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) GIS data. The 
1:100,000 river reach (route) files were used to calculate river 
kilometers and miles. ESRIs ArcGIS 9.3.1 software was used to determine 
longitude and latitude coordinates using decimal degrees. The 
projection used in mapping all units was Universal Transverse Mercator 
(UTM), NAD 83, Zone 16 North. The following data sources were 
referenced to identify features (like roads and streams) used to 
delineate the upstream and downstream extents of critical habitat 
units: NHD data, Washington County USFWS National Wetlands Inventory, 
1999 Florida Department of Transportation Roads Characteristics 
Inventory (RCI) dataset, U.S. Census Bureau 2000 TIGER line waterbody 
data, ESRIs World Street Map Service, Florida Department of 
Transportation General Highway Maps, DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteers, and 
USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps. The maps in this entry, as modified 
by any accompanying regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the 
critical habitat designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on 
which each map is based are available to the public at the Service's 
internet site, http://www.fws.gov/PanamaCity, http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2011-0050, and at the field 
office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field office 
location information by contacting one of the Service regional offices, 
the addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5) Index maps follow (Map 1 for the Alabama pearlshell, and Map 2 
for the round ebonyshell, southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered 
pigtoe, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe):

BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 61705]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.000


[[Page 61706]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.001

    (6) Unit AP1: Big Flat Creek Drainage, Monroe and Wilcox Counties, 
AL. This unit is critical habitat for the Alabama pearlshell.
    (i) The unit includes the mainstem of Big Flat Creek from State 
Route 41 upstream 56 kilometers (km) (35 miles (mi)), Monroe County, 
AL; Flat Creek from its confluence with Big Flat Creek upstream 20 km 
(12 mi), Monroe County, AL; and Dailey Creek from its confluence Flat 
Creek upstream 17 km (11 mi), Monroe and Wilcox Counties, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit AP1, Big Flat Creek Drainage, and Unit AP2, Burnt 
Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and Sepulga River drainages, follows:

[[Page 61707]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.002

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C
    (7) Unit AP2: Burnt Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and Sepulga River. 
Drainages, Escambia and Conecuh Counties, AL. This unit is critical 
habitat for the Alabama pearlshell.
    (i) The unit includes the mainstem of Burnt Corn Creek from its 
confluence with Murder Creek upstream 66 km (41 mi), Conecuh County, 
AL; the mainstem of Murder Creek from its confluence with Jordan Creek 
upstream 17 km (11 mi) to the confluence of Otter Creek, Conecuh 
County, AL; Jordan Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 
12 km (7 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Otter Creek from its confluence with 
Murder Creek, upstream 9 km (5.5 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Hunter Creek 
from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 4.4 km (2.7 mi) to the 
Navy Outlying Field (NOLF) Evergreen northern boundary, Conecuh County, 
AL; Hunter Creek from the NOLF Evergreen southern boundary upstream 3.0 
km (1.9 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Sandy Creek from County Road 29 
upstream 5 km (3.5 mi), Conecuh County, AL; two unnamed tributaries to 
Sandy Creek--one from its confluence with Sandy Creek upstream 8.5 km 
(5.0 mi) to just above Hagood Road, and the other from it confluence 
with the previous unnamed tributary upstream 2.5 km (1.5 mi) to just 
above Hagood Road; Little Cedar Creek from County Road 6 upstream 8 km 
(5 mi), Conecuh County, AL; Amos Mill Creek from its confluence with 
the Sepulga River upstream 12 km (8 mi), Escambia and Conecuh Counties, 
AL; Polly Creek from its confluence with Amos Mill Creek upstream 3 km 
(2 mi), Conecuh County, AL; and Bottle Creek from its

[[Page 61708]]

confluence with the Sepulga River upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County 
Road 42, Conecuh County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit AP1, Big Flat Creek Drainage, and Unit AP2, Burnt 
Corn Creek, Murder Creek, and Sepulga River Drainages is provided at 
paragraph (6)(ii) of this entry.
    (8) Unit GCM1: Lower Escambia River Drainage in Escambia and Santa 
Rosa counties, FL, and Escambia, Covington, Conecuh, and Butler 
Counties, AL. This unit is critical habitat for the round ebonyshell, 
southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes the Escambia-Conecuh River mainstem from the 
confluence of Spanish Mill Creek Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, FL, 
upstream 204 km (127 mi) to the Point A Lake dam, Covington County, AL; 
Murder Creek from its confluence with the Conecuh River, Escambia 
County, AL, upstream 62 km (38 mi) to the confluence of Cane Creek, 
Conecuh County, AL; Burnt Corn Creek from its confluence with Murder 
Creek, Escambia County, AL, upstream 59 km (37 mi) to County Road 20, 
Conecuh County, AL; Jordan Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek, 
upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to Interstate 65, Conecuh County, AL; Mill 
Creek from its confluence with Murder Creek upstream 2.5 km (1.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Sandy Creek, Conecuh County, AL; Sandy Creek from its 
confluence with Mill Creek upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 29, 
Conecuh County, AL; Sepulga River from its confluence with the Conecuh 
River upstream 69 km (43 mi) to the confluence of Persimmon Creek, 
Conecuh County, AL; Bottle Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga 
River upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 42, Conecuh County, AL; 
Persimmon Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga River, Conecuh 
County, upstream 36 km (22 mi) to the confluence of Mashy Creek, Butler 
County, AL; Panther Creek from its confluence with Persimmon Creek 
upstream 11 km (7 mi) to State Route 106, Butler County, AL; Pigeon 
Creek from its confluence with the Sepulga River, Conecuh and Covington 
Counties, upstream 89 km (55 mi) to the confluence of Three Run Creek, 
Butler County, AL; and Three Run Creek from its confluence with Pigeon 
Creek upstream 9 km (5.5 mi) to the confluence of Spring Creek, Butler 
County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM1, Lower Escambia River, follows (to preserve 
detail, the map is divided into south and north sections):
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 61709]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.003


[[Page 61710]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.004

    (9) Unit GCM2: Point A Lake and Gantt Lake Reservoirs in Covington 
County, AL. This unit is critical habitat for the narrow pigtoe.
    (i) The unit extends from Point A Dam, Covington County, upstream 
21 km (13 mi) to the Covington-Crenshaw County line, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM2, Point A Lake and Gantt Lake Reservoirs, 
follows:

[[Page 61711]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.005

    (10) Unit GCM3: Patsaliga Creek Drainage in Covington, Crenshaw, 
and Pike Counties, AL. The Patsaliga Creek drainage is within the 
Escambia River basin. This unit is critical habitat for the southern 
kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy 
pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes Patsaliga Creek from its confluence with 
Point A Lake at County Road 59, Covington County, AL, upstream 108 km 
(67 mi) to Crenshaw County Road 66-Pike County Road 1, AL; Little 
Patsaliga Creek from its confluence with Patsaliga Creek upstream 28 km 
(17 mi) to Mary Daniel Road, Crenshaw County, AL; and Olustee Creek 
from its confluence with Patsaliga Creek upstream 12 km (8 mi) to 
County Road 5, Pike County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM3, Patsaliga Creek Drainage follows:

[[Page 61712]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.006

    (11) Unit GCM4: Upper Escambia River Drainage in Covington, 
Crenshaw, Pike, and Bullock Counties, AL. This unit is critical habitat 
for the southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern 
sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes the Conecuh River from its confluence with 
Gantt Lake reservoir at the Covington-Crenshaw County line upstream 126 
km (78 mi) to County Road 8, Bullock County, AL; Beeman Creek from its 
confluence with the Conecuh River upstream 6.5 km (4 mi) to the 
confluence of Mill Creek, Pike County, AL; and Mill Creek from its 
confluence with Beeman Creek, upstream 4.5 km (3 mi) to County Road 13, 
Pike County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM 4, Upper Escambia River Drainage, follows:

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    (12) Unit GCM5: Yellow River Drainage in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and 
Walton Counties, FL, and Covington County, AL. This unit is critical 
habitat for the Choctaw bean, narrow pigtoe, southern sandshell, and 
fuzzy pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes the Yellow River mainstem from the confluence 
of Weaver River (a distributary located 0.9 km (0.6 mi), downstream of 
State Route 87), Santa Rosa County, FL, upstream 157 km (97 mi) to 
County Road 42, Covington County, AL; the Shoal River mainstem from its 
confluence with the Yellow River upstream 51 km (32 mi) to the 
confluence of Mossy Head Branch, Walton County, FL; Pond Creek from its 
confluence with the Shoal River upstream 24 km (15 mi) to the 
confluence of Fleming Creek, Walton County, FL; and Five Runs Creek 
from its confluence with the Yellow River upstream 15 km (9.5 mi) to 
County Road 31, Covington County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM5, Yellow River Drainage, follows:

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.008

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C
    (13) Unit GCM6: Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River Drainages 
in Walton, Washington, Bay, Holmes, and Jackson Counties, FL, and 
Geneva, Coffee, Dale, Houston, Henry, Pike, and Barbour Counties, AL. 
This unit is critical habitat for the southern kidneyshell, Choctaw 
bean, tapered pigtoe, southern sandshell, and fuzzy pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes the Choctawhatchee River mainstem from the 
confluence of Pine Log Creek, Walton County, FL, upstream 200 km (125 
mi) to the point the river splits into the West Fork Choctawhatchee and 
East Fork Choctawhatchee rivers, Barbour County, AL; Pine Log Creek 
from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Walton County, 
upstream 19 km (12 mi) to Ditch Branch, Washington and Bay Counties, 
FL; an unnamed channel forming Cowford Island from its downstream 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 3 km (2 mi) to its 
upstream confluence with the river, Washington County, FL; Crews Lake 
from its western terminus 1.5 km (1 mi) to its eastern terminus, 
Washington County, FL (Crews Lake is a relic channel southwest of 
Cowford Island, and is disconnected from the Cowford Island channel, 
except during high flows); Holmes Creek from its

[[Page 61715]]

confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Washington County, FL, 
upstream 98 km (61 mi) to County Road 4, Geneva County, AL; Alligator 
Creek from its confluence with Holmes Creek upstream 6.5 km (4 mi) to 
County Road 166, Washington County, FL; Bruce Creek from its confluence 
with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 25 km (16 mi) to the confluence 
of an unnamed tributary, Walton County, FL; Sandy Creek from its 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, upstream 30 km (18 mi) to the 
confluence of West Sandy Creek, Holmes and Walton Counties, FL; Blue 
Creek from its confluence with Sandy Creek, upstream 7 km (4.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Goose Branch, Holmes County, FL; West Sandy Creek 
from its confluence with Sandy Creek, upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to the 
confluence of an unnamed tributary, Walton County, FL; Wrights Creek 
from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Holmes County, FL, 
upstream 43 km (27 mi) to County Road 4, Geneva County, AL; Tenmile 
Creek from its confluence with Wrights Creek upstream 6 km (3.5 mi) to 
the confluence of Rice Machine Branch, Holmes County, FL; West Pittman 
Creek from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, upstream 6.5 
km (4 mi) to Fowler Branch, Holmes County, FL; East Pittman Creek from 
its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 4.5 km (3 mi) to 
County Road 179, Holmes County, FL; Parrot Creek from its confluence 
with the Choctawhatchee River upstream 6 km (4 mi) to Tommy Lane, 
Holmes County, FL; the Pea River from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 91 km (57 mi) to the 
Elba Dam, Coffee County, AL; Limestone Creek from its confluence with 
the Pea River upstream 8.5 km (5 mi) to Woods Road, Walton County, FL; 
Flat Creek from the Pea River upstream 17 km (10 mi) to the confluence 
of Panther Creek, Geneva County, AL; Eightmile Creek from its 
confluence with Flat Creek, Geneva County, AL, upstream 15 km (9 mi) to 
the confluence of Dry Branch (first tributary upstream of County Road 
181), Walton County, FL; Corner Creek from its confluence with 
Eightmile Creek, upstream 5 km (3 mi) to State Route 54, Geneva County, 
AL; Natural Bridge Creek from its confluence with Eightmile Creek, 
Geneva County, AL, upstream 4 km (2.5 mi) to the Covington-Geneva 
County line, AL; Double Bridges Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 46 km (29 mi) to the 
confluence of Blanket Creek, Coffee County, AL; Claybank Creek from its 
confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, Geneva County, AL, upstream 
22 km (14 mi) to the Fort Rucker military reservation southern 
boundary, Dale County, AL; Claybank Creek from the Fort Rucker military 
reservation northern boundary, upstream 6 km (4 mi) to County Road 36, 
Dale County, AL; Steep Head Creek from the Fort Rucker military 
reservation western boundary, upstream 4 km (2.5 mi) to County Road 
156, Coffee County, AL; Hurricane Creek from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River upstream 14 km (8.5 mi) to State Route 52, Geneva 
County, AL; Little Choctawhatchee River from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Dale and Houston Counties, upstream 20 km (13 mi) 
to the confluence of Newton Creek, Houston County, AL; Panther Creek 
from its confluence with Little Choctawhatchee River, upstream 4.5 km 
(2.5 mi) to the confluence of Gilley Mill Branch, Houston County, AL; 
Bear Creek from its confluence with the Little Choctawhatchee River, 
upstream 5.5 km (3.5 mi) to County Road 40 (Fortner Street), Houston 
County, AL; West Fork Choctawhatchee River from its confluence with the 
Choctawhatchee River, Dale County, AL, upstream 54 km (33 mi) to the 
fork of Pauls Creek and Lindsey Creek, Barbour County, AL; Judy Creek 
from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River upstream 17 km 
(11 mi) to County Road 13, Dale County, AL; Sikes Creek from its 
confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River Dale County, AL, 
upstream 8.5 km (5.5 mi) to State Route 10, Barbour County, AL; Pauls 
Creek from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee River upstream 
7 km (4.5 mi) to one mile upstream of County Road 20, Barbour County, 
AL; Lindsey Creek from its confluence with West Fork Choctawhatchee 
River upstream 14 km (8.5 mi) to the confluence of an unnamed 
tributary, Barbour County, AL; an unnamed tributary to Lindsey Creek 
from its confluence with Lindsey Creek upstream 2.5 km (1.5 mi) to 1.0 
mile upstream of County Road 53, Barbour County, AL; and East Fork 
Choctawhatchee River from its confluence with the Choctawhatchee River, 
Dale County, AL, upstream 71 km (44 mi) to County Road 71, Barbour 
County, AL.
    (ii) Map of Unit GCM6, Choctawhatchee River and Lower Pea River 
Drainages, follows (to preserve detail, the map is divided into south, 
central, and north sections):
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.011

    (14) Unit GCM7: Upper Pea River Drainage in Coffee, Dale, Pike, 
Barbour, and Bullock Counties, AL. The Pea River drainage is within the 
Choctawhatchee River Basin. This unit is critical habitat for the 
southern kidneyshell, Choctaw bean, tapered pigtoe, southern sandshell, 
and fuzzy pigtoe.
    (i) The unit includes the Pea River mainstem from the Elba Dam, 
Coffee County, upstream 123 km (76 mi) to State Route 239, Bullock and 
Barbour Counties, AL; Whitewater Creek from its confluence with the Pea 
River, Coffee County, upstream 45 km (28 mi) to the confluence of 
Walnut Creek, Pike County, AL; Walnut Creek from its confluence with 
Whitewater Creek upstream 14 km (9 mi) to County Road 26, Pike County, 
AL; Big Creek (Coffee County) from its confluence with Whitewater 
Creek, Coffee County, upstream 30 km (18 mi) to the confluence of Smart 
Branch, Pike County, AL; Big Creek (Barbour County) from its confluence 
with the Pea River upstream 10 km (6 mi) to the confluence of Sand 
Creek, Barbour County, AL; Pea Creek from its confluence with the Pea 
River upstream 6 km (4 mi) to the confluence of Hurricane Creek, 
Barbour County, AL; and Big Sandy Creek from its confluence with the 
Pea River upstream 6.5 km (4 mi) to County Road 14, Bullock County, AL.

[[Page 61719]]

    (ii) Map of Unit GCM7, Upper Pea River Drainage, follows: 
    [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR10OC12.012
    
* * * * *

    Dated: September 20, 2012.
Rachel Jacobson,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-24161 Filed 10-9-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P