[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 155 (Monday, August 14, 2017)]
[Pages 37849-37851]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-17105]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

RIN 0648-XF431

Endangered Species; File No. 21516

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for public comments.


SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have received an application from Virginia Electric 
and Power Company, D.B.A. Dominion Virginia Power (Dominion) for an 
incidental take permit, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 
1973, as amended, for activities associated with the otherwise lawful 
continued operation and maintenance of the Dominion Chesterfield Power 
Station (CPS) in Chesterfield, VA. We are considering issuing a 10-year 
permit to the applicant that would authorize take of ESA-listed 
Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) from the Chesapeake 
Bay Distinct Population Segment (DPS) incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities associated with the withdrawal of cooling water from the 
James River and entrainment and impingement sampling required by the 
Clean Water Act. Pursuant to the ESA and the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA), we announce the availability of Dominion's ITP 
application and draft habitat conservation plan (HCP), as well as our 
draft environmental assessment (EA), for public review and comment. We 
provide this notice to seek comments from the public and Federal, 
Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: To allow for timely processing of the permit application, we 
must receive your comments no later than September 13, 2017.

ADDRESSES: The application is available for download and review at 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/esa_review.htm under the section 
heading ESA section 10(a)(1)(B) Permits and Applications and at http://www.regulations.gov. The application is also available upon written 
request or by appointment in the following office: Protected Resources 
Division, NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great 
Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930; phone (978) 281-9328.
    Submit your comments by including NOAA-NMFS-2017-0051, by either of 
the following methods:

[[Page 37850]]

     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2017-0051,
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields
    3. Enter or attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written information to Julie Crocker, NMFS, 
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, Protected Resources 
Division, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.
    Instructions: We may not consider comments if they are sent by any 
other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the 
end of the specified period. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.) confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information submitted 
voluntarily by the sender is publicly accessible. We will accept 
anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to 
remain anonymous). We will accept attachments to electronic comments in 
Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats, only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie Crocker, (978) 282-8480.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received an initial draft application 
from Dominion in December 2016 and a complete application on April 10, 
2017, for an ITP to take federally listed Atlantic sturgeon over a 10-
year period. The ITP would authorize take resulting from continued 
operations of the facility, including impingement and entrainment in 
the cooling water intake system and collection during studies and 
sampling required by section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. A 
conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the impacts of the 
incidental take would be implemented by Dominion as described in the 
draft HCP.
    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.) (NEPA), we prepared an EA that describes the proposed 
action, issuance of an ITP to Dominion, and possible alternatives and 
analyzes the effects of the proposed action and alternatives on the 
human environment. We will evaluate whether the EA's analysis is 
adequate to support a Finding of No Significant Impact.


    Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of species listed as endangered or threatened. The ESA defines ``take'' 
to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, 
or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. However, under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, we may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by 
the ESA as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying 
out an otherwise lawful activity. Section 10(a)(2)(A) of the ESA 
requires an ITP applicant to submit an HCP that specifies the steps the 
applicant will take to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the taking. 
Regulations governing ITPs for threatened and endangered species are 
found at 50 CFR 222.307.
    The CPS is a coal-fueled power station in Chesterfield, Virginia in 
the upper tidal portion, approximately river mile 82 (river kilometer, 
rkm, 132), of the James River. It has been in operation since 1945. It 
operates pursuant to a permit issued by the Virginia Department of 
Environmental Quality under section 402 of the Clean Water Act (the 
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program). CPS has a 
design intake flow of approximately 1,090 million gallons per day 
(MGD), at least 25 percent of which is used exclusively for cooling 
purposes, and is therefore subject to the Clean Water Act section 
316(b) existing facility rule (79 FR 48300, August 15, 2014).
    Dominion is seeking a permit for the incidental take of Atlantic 
sturgeon for a term of 10-years. Incidental take may occur as a result 
of operation of the cooling water intakes and performance of studies 
required to comply with Clean Water Act 316(b). Additional activities 
considered, but for which take is not expected include, dredging, 
constituent discharge, thermal discharge, vessel movements, and 
shoreline and structure maintenance. The permit application includes 
Dominion's consideration of the potential effects to shortnose sturgeon 
(Acipenser brevirostrum). However, Dominion does not anticipate 
incidental take of shortnose sturgeon because shortnose sturgeon rarely 
occur in the James River.
    Dominion estimates the take of up to 846 Atlantic sturgeon larvae 
per year from the Chesapeake Bay DPS due to entrainment in the Dominion 
CPS cooling water intakes. Dominion estimates the take of up to two 
juvenile, subadult or adult Atlantic sturgeon from the Chesapeake Bay 
DPS over a ten-year period as a result of impingement at the Dominion 
CPS intakes.

Conservation Plan

    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA specifies that no permit may be 
issued unless an applicant submits an adequate HCP. Dominion's proposed 
HCP describes measures designed to minimize, monitor, and mitigate the 
incidental take of Atlantic sturgeon. Dominion's proposed HCP includes 
support for two research initiatives to increase knowledge of Atlantic 
sturgeon in the James River. The first would build on the existing 
knowledge of the genetic structure of cohorts spawning in the James 
River. The second would characterize Atlantic sturgeon spatial and 
temporal use of the upper tidal portion of the James River. The HCP 
also includes monitoring of incidental take. Other monitoring and 
mitigation actions will be undertaken as required.
    The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP and implementation of 
the proposed HCP. Dominion considered two alternatives to the proposed 
action in its HCP: (1) No change to existing operations, studies and 
maintenance at CPS, and (2) avoiding and minimizing permitted 
activities (e.g., modifying water withdrawals; modifying the cooling 
water intake structure; not conducting or not continuing the planned 
CWA 316(b) studies; not dredging and/or dredging less frequently; not 
using barges or vessels for the shipment or delivery of bulk materials; 
not performing or reducing shoreline and structure maintenance 
activities at CPS).

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with NEPA, we analyzed the impacts of the proposed 
issuance of an ITP and implementation of the HCP, and alternatives. 
Based on this analysis and any new information resulting from public 
comment, we will determine if there are any significant impacts caused 
by the proposed action. We have prepared a draft EA on the proposed 
action and have made it available for public inspection online or in 
person at the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (see 
Availability of Documents).
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA and 
the National Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). We 
will evaluate the application, associated documents, and submitted 
comments received to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We will 
also evaluate whether issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit would 
comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 

[[Page 37851]]

consultation. We will use the results of this consultation, in 
combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to determine 
whether to issue a permit. If the requirements are met, we will issue 
the permit to the applicant.
    We will publish a record of our final action in the Federal 

    Authority:  This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of 
the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 

    Dated: August 9, 2017.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2017-17105 Filed 8-11-17; 8:45 am]