[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 83 (Friday, April 29, 2016)]
[Pages 25688-25690]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-09783]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-MB-2016-N014; FF06M00000-XXX-FRMB48720660090]

Availability of Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Eagle 
Take Permits for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Phase I Wind Energy 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for public comments; 
announcement of public meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS), 
have prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), in 
response to an application from Power Company of Wyoming (PCW) for 
eagle take permits (ETPs) pursuant to the Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act (BGEPA) and its implementing regulations. PCW has 
applied for standard and programmatic ETPs for the Chokecherry and 
Sierra Madre (CCSM) Phase I Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, 
Wyoming. We announce a public comment period on the draft EIS. We 
request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party.

    Submission of comments: This notice initiates the public comment 
period. To ensure consideration, we must receive your electronic or 
written comments by June 27, 2016.
    Public meetings: We will host public meetings on June 6 and June 7, 
2016, where you may discuss issues with Service staff and submit 
written comments. The meeting on June 6, 2016, will be held in 
Saratoga, Wyoming, between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The meeting on June 7, 
2016, will be held in Rawlins, Wyoming, between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. 
Additional meeting details will be announced through the Service's Web 
site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/index.html, as well as via press releases, local 
newspapers, radio announcements, and other media, at least 10 days 
prior to the event.
    If you require reasonable accommodations to attend the meeting, 
contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT at 
least one week prior to the meeting.

    Submission of comments: You may submit comments in writing by one 
of the following methods. At the top of your letter or in the subject 
line of your message, please indicate that the comments are for ``Draft 
EIS for Phase I Chokecherry-Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project 
     Email: Comments should be sent to: [email protected].
     U.S. Mail: Written comments should be mailed to 
Chokecherry-Sierra Madre EIS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-
Prairie Region, Attention: Louise Galiher, P.O. Box 25486 DFC, Denver, 
CO 80225.
     Hand-Delivery/Courier: Chokecherry-Sierra Madre EIS, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region, Attention: Louise 
Galiher, 134 Union Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80228.
    For information on how to view comments on the EIS from the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or for information on EPA's role 
in the EIS process, see EPA's Role in the EIS Process under 
    Public meetings: The meeting on June 6, 2016, will be held at the 
Platte Valley Community Center, 210 West Elm Street, Saratoga, Wyoming. 
The meeting on June 7, 2016, will be held at the Jeffrey Center, 315 
West Pine Street, Rawlins, Wyoming.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Louise Galiher, 303-236-8677 (phone); 
[email protected] (email); or Clint Riley, 303-236-5231 (phone); 
[email protected] (email). Persons who use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay 
Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact the above individuals 
during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individuals. 
You will receive a reply during normal business hours.


Availability of Documents

    Copies of the draft EIS, as well as the permit application and the 
supporting Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP), are available for review at 
the Carbon County Library System at 215 West Buffalo Street, Rawlins, 
Wyoming; the Saratoga Public Library at 503 West Elm Street, Saratoga, 
Wyoming; USFWS Wyoming Ecological Services Office at 5353 Yellowstone 
Rd, Suite 308A, Cheyenne, Wyoming (contact Nathan Darnall to coordinate 
access at [email protected] or 307-772-2374 ext 246); and USFWS 
Region 6 Office at 134 South Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado 
(contact Louise Galiher to coordinate access at [email protected] 
or 303-236-8677). Individuals wishing to obtain copies of the draft 
EIS, permit application, and ECP should contact the Service by 
telephone (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or letter (see 
ADDRESSES). These documents are also available on the Service's Web 
site at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/index.html.

Public Coordination

    The notice of intent to prepare an EIS for this project was 
published in the Federal Register on December 4, 2013

[[Page 25689]]

(78 FR 72926). Two public scoping meetings for the USFWS EIS were held 
on December 16 and 17, 2013, in conjunction with the Bureau of Land 
Management's (BLM's) scoping meetings for an Environmental Assessment 
(EA) of the Phase I CCSM Project.
    In addition to this notice of availability of the draft EIS that 
the Service is publishing, EPA is publishing a notice announcing the 
draft EIS, as required under section 309 of the Clean Air Act (42 
U.S.C. 7401 et seq.). The publication of EPA's notice is the official 
start of the minimum requirement for a 45-day public comment period for 
an EIS (see EPA's Role in the EIS Process).

Background Information

    A. Migratory Birds and Eagle Protections. Raptors and most other 
birds in the United States are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty 
Act (16 U.S.C. 703-711). The President's Executive Order 13186 directs 
agencies to consider migratory birds in environmental planning by 
avoiding or minimizing to the extent practicable adverse impacts on 
migratory bird resources when conducting agency actions, and by 
ensuring environmental analyses of Federal actions as required by NEPA 
or other established environmental review processes.
    Bald eagles and golden eagles are provided further protection under 
BGEPA, which prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary 
of the Interior, from ``taking'' eagles, including their parts, nests, 
or eggs. An ETP authorizes the take of live eagles and their eggs where 
the take is associated with, but not the purpose of, a human activity 
or project that is otherwise a lawful activity. Regulations governing 
permits for bald and golden eagles can be found in the Code of Federal 
Regulations at 50 CFR 22.26.
    ETPs authorize the take of eagles where the take is compatible with 
the preservation of eagles; where it is necessary to protect an 
interest in a particular locality; where it is associated with, but not 
the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity; and where take is 
unavoidable even though advanced conservation practices are being 
implemented. The Service will issue permits for such take only after an 
applicant has committed to undertake all practicable measures to avoid 
and minimize such take and mitigate anticipated take to the maximum 
extent achievable to be compatible with the preservation of eagles. 
Standard ETPs authorize eagle take in an identifiable timeframe and 
location. Programmatic ETPs authorize eagle take that is recurring and 
not within a specific, identifiable timeframe and/or location. 
Programmatic ETPs may be issued for a period of up to 5 years.
    B. Power Company of Wyoming Application. As proposed by PCW, the 
Phase I CCSM Project will consist of approximately 500 wind turbines, a 
haul road, a quarry to supply materials for road construction, access 
roads, a rail distribution facility, underground and overhead 
electrical and communication lines, laydown areas, operation and 
maintenance facilities, and other supporting infrastructure needed for 
Phase I to become fully operational. PCW has applied for a standard ETP 
for disturbance related to construction of CCSM Phase I wind turbines 
and infrastructure components, and a programmatic ETP for operation of 
the CCSM Phase I Project.
    The applicant has prepared an ECP identifying measures it intends 
to undertake to avoid, minimize, and compensate for potential impacts 
to bald and golden eagles. To help meet requirements of the Migratory 
Bird Treaty Act, the applicant has also prepared an avian protection 
plan containing measures the applicant proposes to implement to avoid 
or minimize impacts of the Project on other migratory birds. The 
Service has considered the information presented in the ECP and avian 
protection plans in our analysis of environmental impacts in the draft 
    C. BLM's NEPA Review. The CCSM Phase I Project would be situated in 
an area of alternating sections of private, State, and Federal lands 
administered by BLM. In 2012, BLM completed a final EIS (FEIS) to 
evaluate whether the Project area would be acceptable for development 
of a wind facility in a manner compatible with applicable Federal laws. 
On October 9, 2012, BLM published a Record of Decision (ROD) 
determining that the portions of the area for which PCW seeks right-of-
way grants ``are suitable for wind energy development and associated 
facilities.'' As explained in the ROD, BLM's decision does not 
authorize development of the wind energy project; rather, it allows BLM 
to accept and evaluate future right-of-way applications subject to the 
requirements of all future wind energy development described therein 
(ROD at 6-1).
    PCW has since submitted to BLM site-specific plans of development 
from which BLM is developing site-specific tiered EAs. In 2014, BLM 
published a final EA 1, which analyzes major components of project 
infrastructure, including the haul road, rail facility, and rock 
quarry. EA 2 is currently under development by BLM, and analyzes the 
wind turbines and pads, access roads, laydown areas, electrical and 
communication lines, and a construction camp.
    The Service has incorporated by reference information from the BLM 
FEIS, ROD, EA1, and EA2 into our environmental analysis in the draft 
EIS in order to avoid redundancy and unnecessary paperwork. Council for 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations authorize incorporation by 
reference (40 CFR 1502.21, CEQ 40 Most Asked Questions #30; see also 43 
CFR 46.135).


    In the draft EIS, the Service identified and analyzed the Proposed 
Action Alternative, the Proposed Action with Different Mitigation, an 
alternative to Issue ETPs for Phase I of Sierra Madre Wind Development 
Area Only, and the No Action Alternative.
    Alternative 1: Proposed Action. Alternative 1 is for the Service to 
issue ETPs for the construction of the Phase I wind turbines and 
infrastructure components and for the operation of the Phase I CCSM 
Project, based on the ETP applications submitted by PCW. The Proposed 
Action includes avoidance and minimization measures, best management 
practices, and compensatory mitigation described in detail in the draft 
EIS and in PCW's application and ECP. PCW has proposed to retrofit 
high-risk power poles as compensatory mitigation, thereby reducing 
eagle mortality from electrocution.
    Alternative 2: Proposed Action with Different Mitigation. Under 
Alternative 2, the Service would issue ETPs for the construction and 
operation of the Phase I CCSM Project as under Alternative 1, but would 
require PCW to implement a different form of compensatory mitigation 
than proposed in its ETP applications. We are considering mitigation of 
older wind facilities, lead abatement, carcass removal, carcass 
avoidance, wind conservation easements, habitat enhancement (focusing 
on prey habitat), and rehabilitation of injured eagles as possible 
alternative forms of compensatory mitigation.
    Alternative 3: Issue ETPs for Phase I of Sierra Madre Wind 
Development Area Only. The Service received numerous comments during 
the scoping process requesting that we examine a different development 
scenario from that proposed by PCW. However, to issue an ETP, we must 
analyze a specific project and ECP to determine if

[[Page 25690]]

it meets the requirements for an ETP. Alternative 3 represents an 
example of a different development scenario PCW could present in a new 
application if the Service were to determine that the Phase I CCSM 
Project would meet all the criteria for issuing an ETP, but not at the 
scale proposed. Alternative 3 is for the Service to issue ETPs for the 
construction of Phase I infrastructure and the construction and 
operation of wind turbines only in the Sierra Madre Wind Development 
Area (WDA) (298 turbines total). The alternative includes avoidance and 
minimization measures, best management practices, and compensatory 
mitigation described in PCW's application as they apply to the Sierra 
Madre WDA.
    Alternative 4: No Action. Under Alternative 4, the Service would 
deny PCW standard and programmatic ETPs for construction and operation 
of the Phase I CCSM Project. In addition to being a potential outcome 
of the permit review process, analysis of the No Action alternative is 
required by CEQ regulation (40 CFR 1502.14) and provides a baseline 
against which to compare the environmental impacts of the Proposed 
Action and other reasonable alternatives. ETPs are not required in 
order for PCW to construct and operate the project; therefore, if we 
deny the ETPs, PCW may choose to construct and operate the Phase I CCSM 
Project without ETPs and without adhering to an ECP. Alternative 4 
analyzes both a ``No Build'' scenario and a ``Build Without ETPs'' 

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Our decision whether to issue standard and programmatic ETPs to PCW 
triggers compliance with NEPA, which requires the Service to analyze 
the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the CCSM Phase I 
project before we make our decision, and to make our analysis available 
to the public. We have prepared the draft EIS to inform the public of 
our proposed permit action, alternatives to that action, the 
environmental impacts of the alternatives, and measures to minimize 
adverse environmental effects.

EPA's Role in the EIS Process

    The EPA is charged under section 309 of the Clean Air Act to review 
all Federal agencies' EISs and to comment on the adequacy and the 
acceptability of the environmental impacts of proposed actions in the 
    EPA also serves as the repository (EIS database) for EISs prepared 
by Federal agencies and provides notice of their availability in the 
Federal Register. The EIS database provides information about EISs 
prepared by Federal agencies, as well as EPA's comments concerning the 
EISs. All EISs are filed with EPA, which publishes a notice of 
availability on Fridays in the Federal Register.
    For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/eisdata.html. You may search for EPA comments on EISs, along with EISs 
themselves, at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/action/eis/search.

Public Comment Procedures

    In accordance with CEQ's regulations for implementing NEPA and 
DOI's NEPA regulations, the Service requests public comments on the 
draft EIS. Timely comments will be considered by the Service in 
preparing the final EIS.
    Written comments, including email comments, should be sent to the 
Service at one of the addresses given in the ADDRESSES section of this 
notice. Comments should be specific and pertain only to issues relating 
to the proposals. The Service will include all comments in the 
administrative record.
    If you would like to be placed on the mailing list to receive 
future information, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER 

Public Availability of Submissions

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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 can 
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.
    Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the office 
where the comments are being submitted.


    This notice is published in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969; the CEQ's regulations for 
implementing NEPA, 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508; and the Department 
of the Interior's NEPA regulations, 43 CFR part 45.

Matt Hogan,
Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region.
[FR Doc. 2016-09783 Filed 4-28-16; 8:45 am]