We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are proposing to issue an eagle take permit (eagle permit) under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) (16 U.S.C. 668–668d and 50 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 22.26) for take of eagles that is incidental to otherwise lawful operation and maintenance of the Wild Horse Wind Facility (Wild Horse or Project). The Service’s proposal to issue an eagle permit constitutes a discretionary Federal action that is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 United States Code [U.S.C.] 4321 et seq.). This Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) is tiered to the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Eagle Rule Revision (PEIS; USFWS 2016b). Our proposed action and preferred alternative is Alternative 2 – to issue a 5-year permit to the applicant based on their revised Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP). The alternatives to the proposed action are to deny the issuance of the permit, also called the No Action Alternative (Alternative 1) in this Draft EA and to issue a 30- year permit (Alternative 3). Denying the issuance of this eagle permit (Alternative 1) would result in no requirement for monitoring, adaptive management, or compensatory mitigation to offset predicted impacts of the Project. Issuing a 30-year permit (Alternative 3) would come with a requirement for monitoring, adaptive management, and compensatory mitigation over the expected life of the project.
We received an application for a 5-year Eagle Permit from Puget Sound Energy (PSE, or the Applicant) on January 6, 2015, requesting authorization of non-purposeful or “incidental” take of bald and golden eagles under the Eagle Act for operational activities associated with the Wild Horse Wind Facility. The Applicant’s ECP (Appendix A) is the foundation of the permit application for the operation of the Project under an eagle permit. The analyses in this Draft EA consider the potential effects on the human environment under the two action alternatives as compared with the no action alternative