USFW Service Re-opens Review Of Draft Economic Analysis For The Proposed Critical Habitat Designation For 2 Freshwater Mussels

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-opening the public comment period on the draft environmental assessment for the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels.  The assessment discusses the estimated costs and economic impacts of the proposed designation.

Last year, the Service proposed to list the Neosho mucket as endangered, and the rabbitsfoot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also proposed to designate critical habitat for these two mussels in 43 critical habitat units encompassing 2,138 river miles of stream channels in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. 

Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species.  The designation of critical habitat will help ensure that federal agencies and the public are aware of the mussels' habitat needs and proper consultation is conducted by federal agencies when required by law.  A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is involved. It does not allow government or public access to private land. Federal agencies that undertake, fund, or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

The Service conducted a draft economic analysis of these mussels’ proposed critical habitat designation, as required under the ESA.  It sought public comment on both these reports between May 9, 2013, and June 10, 2013.  The Service is now re-opening the time available for public comment for an additional 60 days, until Oct. 28.

The analysis considered the potential impact of the designation on various sectors of the economy.  Based on the best available information, including extensive discussions with stakeholders, the Service estimates that the designation may cost $4.4 million to $5.9 million over 20 years, or annually $290,000 to 390,000 over the next 20 years. The majority of these costs are administrative and may be borne by federal and state agencies, however, some costs may be incurred by local governments and businesses.  These costs stem from the requirement for federal agencies to consult with the Service regarding the impacts of their actions, or those that they fund or authorize, on critical habitat.  Transportation and utility activities are likely to be subject to the greatest impacts at $1,400,000 over the next 20 years; followed by timber, agriculture, and grazing at $960,000; development at $760,000; other (animal and biological control, prescribed burns, land clearing, bank stabilization, habitat or shoreline restoration) at $530,000; oil and gas development at $320,000; water flow management at $190,000; water quality management at $120,000, and mining at $71,000.  The Service anticipates the proposed designation will have minimal effects on 227 entities or small businesses annually.

The Service completed the draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.  The draft environmental assessment found the preferred alternative of designating critical habitat for the Neosho mucket  and rabbitsfoot at the 43 proposed locations would not have significant impacts to people or their activities.  More details on the methods used to assess impacts to the human environment are available in the draft environmental assessment.  

Seventy-two miles, or four percent of these mussels’ proposed critical habitat, is currently already designated critical habitat for two other species (yellowcheek darter and oyster mussel - now called the Duck River dartersnapper). 

The draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket # FWS–R4–ES–2013–0007.  The public also may mail comments and materials concerning the proposed critical habitat designation, draft economic analysis, and draft environmental assessment to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2013–0007; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.  Comments also can be filed electronically at http://www.regulations.gov

All comments must be received by Oct. 28, and must include a first and last name, city, state, country and zip code.  Any comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services, 110 South Amity Road, Suite 300, Conway, AR, 72032; by telephone 501 513-4475.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast.  Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.


Memorial Day Holiday Weekend Is Traditional Start To Tennessee's Summer Boating Season

Memorial Day holiday weekend is regarded as the unofficial start to the summer boating season and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wants to emphasize the use of life jackets while boating in a safe and responsible manner. Annually, the Memorial Day weekend is one of the year’s busiest boating weekends. Last year, there were not any boating-related fatalities over the holiday ... (click for more)

Group Raises Concerns About Dock Expansion At Harbor Lights Marina On Lake Chickamauga

A group of residents near the Harbor Lights Marina on Lake Chickamauga are raising concerns about the construction of a dock expansion in front of Aries restaurant.   The group plans to take a petition to TVA and the Army Corps of Engineers.   It reads:   Due to the construction on the Harbor Lights Marina dock in front of Aries restaurant, we would ... (click for more)

Erlanger Expects $5 Million Profit Despite "Very Challenging" Budget

Erlanger Health System officials said they expect a $5 million profit for the upcoming fiscal year despite a "very challenging" budget. Britt Tabor, chief financial officer, said there will be continued top line growth, which has brought a 51 percent rise in patient revenue over the past five years. "This is organic growth. It's not from mergers or acquisitions," Mr. Tabor ... (click for more)

Public Defender Says Another Entity Needs To Continue Funding For New Mental Health Court

Public Defender Steve Smith said another entity needs to take over funding the new Mental Health Court. He said Criminal Court Judge Don Poole has agreed to oversee the court and will make a budget presentation to the County Commission on May 31. Mr. Smith told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that he has been funding the program through the services of Anna Protano ... (click for more)

Tennessee Business Expansions On Rise Across State

In 2016, Tennessee was named State of the Year for Economic Development by Southern Business & Development Magazine based on project totals and the variety of industries that invested in the state and created jobs. To a great extent, Bradley and Polk Counties have benefited from that investment.   From February 2015 to February 2016, Cleveland/Bradley County led the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: DeVos Changes Everything

I believe that from every point on my moral compass the state’s hijacking of five public schools in Hamilton County is wrong. I also believe I can argue with success from any direction on my compass against any of the proposals or terms that Commissioner Candice McQueen just threatened to impose on the county’s Department of Education. But today let’s go to ‘True North’ on my compass ... (click for more)