[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 244 (Tuesday, December 22, 2009)]
[Pages 68073-68075]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-30340]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2009-N242; 80221-1112-0000-F2]

Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit to Shell Wind Energy for 
Construction and Operation of the Bear River Ridge Wind Power Project 
(Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan), Humboldt County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Report 
(EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and notice of public 
scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), intend to 
prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding an application from Shell 
Wind Energy for an incidental take permit for take of threatened 
wildlife species in accordance with section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The USFWS and the 
County of Humboldt will be developing a combined EIR and EIS document 
for the proposed project. Shell Wind Energy is proposing to construct 
and operate the Bear River Ridge Wind Power Project near Ferndale, in 
Humboldt County, California. The project would consist of up to 25 wind 
turbines with a generating capacity of 50 megawatts (MW) of 
electricity. Activities Shell Wind Energy will propose for permit 
coverage in its habitat conservation plan (Plan) include construction, 
operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of the Bear River Ridge 
Wind Power project and associated off-site improvements. The Plan may 
also cover certain proposed off site mitigation activities. We are 
furnishing this notice to announce the initiation of a public scoping 
period, during which we invite other agencies and the public to provide 
written comments on the range of alternatives and scope of issues to be 
included in the EIS.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
February 22, 2010. We will hold two public scoping meetings:
1. Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 7-9 p.m., Fortuna, CA.
2. Wednesday, February 3, 2010, 7-9 p.m., Eureka, CA.


Public Meeting Locations

1. Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at the Riverlodge, 1800 Riverwalk Drive 
Fortuna, CA 95540.
2. Wednesday, February 3, 2010, at the Wharfinger Building, 1 
Marina Way, Eureka, CA 95501.

    EIS Preparation and NEPA Process: Address any information, written 
comments or questions related to the preparation of the EIS and NEPA 
process to Mr. James Bond, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1655 Heindon 
Road, Arcata, CA 95521. Alternatively, you may fax written comments to 
707-822-8411. Comments we receive will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours (Monday 
through Friday; 8-4:30 p.m.) at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. James Bond, at the Arcata address 
above, or by telephone: 707-822-7201; fax: 707-822-8411; or e-mail: 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In accordance with section 10(a)(2)(A) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), Shell Wind Energy is preparing a habitat conservation plan in 
support of an application for a permit from USFWS to incidentally take 
the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), and northern spotted 
owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) in connection with the construction, 
operation and decommissioning of the Bear River Ridge Wind Power 
Project in Humboldt County, California. Both the marbled murrelet and 
the northern spotted owl are listed as threatened species under the 
Act. To facilitate a consistency determination under the California 
Endangered Species Act from the California Department of Fish and Game 
for the proposed project, the Plan is also expected to include the 
yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) and willow flycatcher 
(Empidonax traillii) as covered species.


    Shell Wind Energy proposes to construct, operate, and decommission 
the Bear River Wind Power Project in Humboldt County, California. The 
Bear River Wind Power Project would be located on private property, 
primarily along the Bear River Ridge within the northern Coast Ranges 
around Cape Mendocino in Humboldt County, California. Shell Wind Energy 
has obtained long-term agreements (wind leases) with local landowners 
to develop the property for the wind energy project. The project area 
is currently used primarily for agriculture

[[Page 68074]]

(i.e., cattle production) and timberland management.
    The Bear River Wind Project proposes to operate up to 25 wind 
turbines with an anticipated total generating capacity of up to 
approximately 50 MW. The wind turbines would be arranged within turbine 
``strings'' and be sited within 500-foot-wide corridors.
    In addition to turbines, Shell Wind Energy's proposed project 
includes the following components:
     Approximately 5 miles of newly constructed access roads, 
turbine string roads and turn-around areas;
     Up to three permanent meteorological towers;
     A site-control and data acquisition system;
     A 34.5-kilovolt (kV) power collection system that will 
deliver power generated by the turbines to the project substation. 
Collector cables will be placed in trenches and buried underground 
between turbine locations. The underground collection system would 
terminate at the project substation;
     A project substation where power from the 34.5-kV 
collection system would be stepped up to the voltage required for the 
interconnection to the regional transmission system.
     An approximately 12-mile-long overhead transmission line 
that would transfer power from the project substation to the Pacific 
Gas and Electric (PG&E) regional transmission system in the City of Rio 
Dell; and
     An operations and maintenance (O&M) facility, including a 
main building with offices, spare parts storage, restrooms, a shop 
area, outdoor parking facilities, a turn-around area for larger 
vehicles, outdoor lighting, and a gated access with partial or full-
perimeter fencing located in the City of Rio Dell near the existing PG& 
E substation.
    Construction of the proposed project would also require a staging 
area on the project site and potentially a temporary concrete batch 
plant. During construction, a total of approximately 3 million gallons 
of water would be required for road compaction, underground collection 
line installation, dust suppression, and concrete mixing. Approximately 
half the water consumption would be for dust control and the other half 
for all other construction activities. No new wells would be drilled or 
springs developed. Water needed for the construction activities would 
be provided through a nearby water source with a permitted water right 
issued through the State of California, State Water Resources Control 
Board Division of Water Rights.
    Construction of the project's roads, facilities, and electrical/
communication lines would occur at about the same time, using 
individual vehicles for multiple tasks. Based on data provided for 
typical wind energy projects of similar size, it is anticipated that 
during the construction period, there would be approximately 60 daily 
round trips by vehicles transporting construction personnel to the 
site. Over the entire construction period, there will be approximately 
850 trips of large trucks delivering the turbine components and related 
equipment to the project site and approximately 2,500 truck trips by 
dump trucks, concrete trucks, water trucks, cranes, and other 
construction and trade vehicles. After construction, project O&M 
activities would require approximately three round trips per day using 
pickups or other light-duty trucks.
    Construction traffic would be routed from Humboldt Bay along State 
and county roads, ultimately accessing the project site through 
Ferndale and/or Rio Dell. It is anticipated that improvements to county 
roads would be required to enable the passing of trucks transporting 
large turbine components.
    Routine maintenance would consist primarily of daily travel by 
technicians that would test and maintain the wind facilities. Operation 
and Maintenance staff would travel in pickup or other light-duty 
trucks. Occasionally, the use of a crane or equipment transport 
vehicles may be necessary for cleaning, repairing, adjusting, or 
replacing the rotors or other components of the turbines. Cranes used 
for maintenance activities are not as large as the large track-mounted 
cranes needed to erect the turbine towers and are likely to be 
contracted at the time of service and not stored at the facility.
    Monitoring the operations of the Project will be conducted from 
computers located in the base of each turbine tower and from the O&M 
building using telecommunication links and computer-based monitoring. 
Over time, it will be necessary to clean or repaint the blades and 
towers and periodically exchange lubricants and hydraulic fluids in the 
mechanisms of the turbines.
    Decommissioning would involve removing the turbines, support 
towers, transformers, substation, and the upper portion of foundations. 
Site reclamation after decommissioning would be based on site-specific 
requirements and techniques commonly employed at the time the area will 
be reclaimed. Techniques could include regrading, spot replacement of 
topsoil, and revegetation of all disturbed areas with an approved 
native seed mix. Turbine tower and substation foundations would be 
removed to a depth as agreed upon with landowners.
    Activities that Shell Wind Energy will propose for permit coverage 
include construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the 
wind power project and associated offsite improvements. The company may 
also request permit coverage for certain off-site mitigation 
activities. Construction, operation and decommissioning of the wind 
farm, and actions to minimize and mitigate project impacts, have the 
potential to take wildlife species protected under the Act. Section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act authorizes the Service to issue incidental take 
permits to non-Federal land owners for the take of endangered and 
threatened species, provided that, among other requirements, the take 
will be incidental to otherwise lawful activities, will not appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in 
the wild and will be minimized and mitigated to the maximum extent 
practicable. Shell Wind Energy is preparing a habitat conservation plan 
that is intended to provide for management of the project site over its 
lifetime in a manner that will minimize and mitigate the impacts of 
take of the Federally listed marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl 
and certain other wildlife species that may be listed during the life 
of the Plan. Once completed, it is expected that Shell Wind Energy will 
submit the Plan to USFWS as part of an application for the incidental 
take permit.

Environmental Impact Statement

    We will conduct an environmental review of the permit application, 
including the Plan. We will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) in accordance with NEPA requirements, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), and NEPA implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500 through 
1508), and in accordance with other applicable Federal laws and 
regulations, and the policies and procedures of the USFWS for 
compliance with those regulations. The Shell Wind Energy project will 
also require a conditional use permit from Humboldt County. The County 
is the lead agency pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act 
and is responsible for preparing an Environmental Impact Report for the 
project. The County and USFWS intend to prepare a joint EIR/EIS that we 
anticipate will be available for public review in late 2010. The EIR/
EIS will analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed wind energy 
project and associated incidental take of species

[[Page 68075]]

proposed to be covered under the Plan. The EIR/EIS will also analyze 
the impacts of the conservation strategy proposed by Shell Wind Energy 
to minimize and mitigate those impacts to the maximum extent 
practicable. We anticipate that the conservation strategy will identify 
several biological goals, including development of high quality, 
suitable habitat necessary for the long-term persistence of the covered 
species and retention and recruitment of specific habitat elements, 
including older, larger and more structurally complex or decadent trees 
to provide for successful reproduction of marbled murrelets and spotted 
owls. The environmental review will analyze a full range of reasonable 
alternatives to the proposed action, including a No Action alternative, 
and describe the associated environmental impacts of each. We are 
currently in the process of developing alternatives for analysis.
    In connection with developing alternative approaches, we will 
consider, for example, modified lists of covered species, modified 
permit coverage areas (i.e., portions of the landscape subject to 
permit coverage), modified permit terms, and different resource 
management strategies that would serve the purpose of minimizing and 
mitigating the impacts of incidental take. We will consider other 
reasonable project alternatives recommended during this scoping process 
in order to develop a full range of alternatives.
    We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties to 
ensure consideration of a full range of reasonable alternatives related 
to development of the EIR/EIS. The USFWS requests that comments be as 
specific as possible. Comments are requested to include information, 
issues and concerns regarding:

    (1) The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that 
implementation of any reasonable alternatives could have on endangered 
and threatened species and their habitats;
    (2) Other reasonable alternatives, and their associated effects;
    (3) Measures that would minimize and mitigate potentially adverse 
effects of the proposed project;
    (4) Baseline environmental conditions in and adjacent to the 
covered lands;
    (5) Adaptive management or monitoring provisions that may be 
incorporated into the alternatives, and their benefits to listed 
    (6) Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this project; 
    (7) Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of 
this project on the human environment.
    The environmental review will analyze the effects that the 
considered alternatives would have on the marbled murrelet, spotted 
owl, yellow-billed cuckoo and willow flycatcher, as well as on other 
components of the human environment, including but not limited to 
cultural resources, social resources (including public safety), 
economic resources, water and air quality, global climate change, and 
environmental justice.
    Direct any comments or questions to the USFWS contact listed above 
in ADDRESSES. All comments and materials we receive, including names 
and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be 
released to the public. Before including your address, phone number, e-
mail address, or other personal identifying information in your 
comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--including your 
personal identifying information--may be made publicly available at any 
time. While you may ask us in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so.

Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to attend and participate 
in public meetings should contact James Bond (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT) as soon as possible. To allow sufficient time to 
process requests, please call no later than 1 week before the public 
meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in 
alternative formats upon request.

Ken McDermond,
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 8, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. E9-30340 Filed 12-21-09; 8:45 am]