The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will in the Nov. 2 Federal Register announce the availability of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the final Environmental Assessment (FEA) for the issuance of a take permit for golden eagles in association with the operation of the Alta East Wind Project in Kern County, California.
The FEA was prepared in response to an application from Alta Wind X LLC, an affiliate of NRG Yield, for a 5-year programmatic take permit for golden eagles. The applicant will implement a conservation program to avoid, minimize, and compensate for the project’s impacts to eagles, as described in the applicant’s Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP).
The service earlier this year solicited comments on the draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) and has reviewed those comments in the course of preparing its findings for this project. Based on the FEA, the service concludes that a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is appropriate. Based on the FONSI and findings the service prepared associated with the permit application, it intends to issue the permit after 30 days.
The Alta East Wind Project is an existing, operational wind facility in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area (WRA) within Kern County. The application includes an Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP) as the foundation of the applicant’s permit application. The ECP and the project’s Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy describe actions taken and proposed future actions to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse effects on eagles, birds, and bats.
The service invited public comment on the Draft EA. In response,it received ten submissions; two from Native American tribes, three from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), three from the public, one from the electric utility industry and one from the applicant. Overall, the comments raised issues regarding the opportunities and challenges associated with issuing eagle take permits. The service said it made changes to three topic areas of the FEA based on these comments. First, it added information on our risk evaluation under the curtailment program. It added more detailed information on the science behind the electric utility pole retrofit process for mitigation. It also expanded its discussion about its National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Eagle Mitigation Account.