BP Wind Energy North America Inc. (BP Wind Energy), a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of BP p.l.c., a publicly traded company, or an affiliate thereof, is proposing to develop, own, and operate the Mohave County Wind Farm (Project) in Mohave County, northwestern Arizona, on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). BP Wind Energy has applied to interconnect the proposed Project with either the Western Area Power Administration’s (Western) Liberty-Mead transmission line or the Mead-Phoenix transmission line (of which Western is one of several co-owners) for up to 500 megawatt (MW). The proposed Project would interconnect through a new switchyard to be constructed within the Project area. Currently, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed for the Project to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The NEPA process was initiated in 2006. BLM is the lead agency for the Project and released the Draft EIS for public comment from April 27, 2012 to June 18, 2012. The Final EIS is scheduled to be released to the public starting in December 2012.
BP Wind Energy contracted Tetra Tech to create this Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP) and Bird Conservation Strategy (BCS) in order to meet the requirements of BLM Instructional Memorandum (IM) 2010-156, which provides direction for compliance under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA; see Section 1.4.1, Regulatory Framework) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA; see Section 1.4.2, Regulatory Framework). The purpose of this document is to provide sufficient information to allow BLM to comply with BLM IM 2010-156. The IM states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must issue a letter of concurrence that addresses the adequacy of an Avian Protection Plan (APP) prior to BLM signing a Record of Decision (ROD) for BGEPA and NEPA compliance. During the evolution of this process, USFWS has changed their preferred terminology from an APP to an ECP and BCS, as outlined in the Final Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012b). At the time when the IM was issued, USFWS had the authority to issues permits (USFWS 2009), but did not have implementing guidelines that were subsequently released in the 2011 Draft ECP Guidance (USFWS 2011a). The USFWS views the process as described in the IM as one of issuing a letter of acknowledgement instead of approval. The USFWS and BLM have agreed that consideration of the ECP/BCS as the basis for issuing the letter of acknowledgement will satisfy the IM requirement.
This version of the document will not be the mechanism for permit issuance because BP Wind Energy and USFWS will continue to confer on the content of the ECP as BP Wind Energy prepares their formal application for a take permit. After submittal of the formal eagle take permit application, the USFWS has indicated they will complete their own NEPA analysis to consider issuance of a permit using the most current version of the ECP. This ECP/BCS is being submitted so that BLM can meet their NEPA requirement in order to issue a ROD for the Project.
This ECP/BCS summarizes the environmental conditions at the Project, avian studies that have been conducted and their results, an assessment of potential impacts to eagles and non-eagle bird species, avoidance and minimization elements, and compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts of the Project. BP Wind Energy has worked closely with USFWS, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), BLM, and Reclamation to develop the ECP/BCS (Table 1).