Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation

The Department of Energy (DOE) is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 to assess the potential environmental impacts from its proposed action of granting a Presidential permit to Northern Pass Transmission, LLC[1] (Northern Pass or Applicant) to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a new electric transmission line across the United States (U.S.)/Canada border in northern New Hampshire (NH) (the Project). The Northern Pass Transmission Line Project Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0463) (the EIS) will address potential environmental impacts from the Proposed Action and the range of reasonable alternatives. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New England District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1, and the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (NHOEP) are cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.

The purpose of this Biological Assessment (BA) is to evaluate the potential impacts of the proposed Project on federally listed threatened or endangered species, and to comply with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA or “the Act”) of 1973 (16 United States Code [U.S.C.] 1531–1534). The Proposed Action by the DOE is the issuance of a Presidential permit that would authorize Northern Pass to construct, operate, and maintain the proposed Project crossing of the U.S./Canada border.

As required by 10 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 205.320(a), any entity “who operates an electric power transmission or distribution facility crossing the border of the United States, for the transmission of electric energy between the United States and a foreign country, shall have a Presidential permit, in compliance with EO 10485, as amended by EO 12038.” Executive Order (EO) 10485, as amended by EO 12038, authorizes the Secretary of Energy “upon finding the issuance of the permit to be consistent with the public interest, and, after obtaining the favorable recommendations of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense thereon, to issue to the applicant, as appropriate, a permit for [the] construction, operation, maintenance, or connection” of “facilities for the transmission of electric energy between the United States and a foreign country.”

Pursuant to EO 12038, DOE must determine whether the issuance of a Presidential permit would be consistent with the public interest. To do so, DOE will consider two criteria: (1) environmental impacts, and (2) impact(s) on electric reliability. The potential environmental impacts, which may result from the implementation of any of the action alternatives, are analyzed within this EIS. The potential for impact(s) on electric reliability will be analyzed in a separate reliability report to be prepared by Independent System Operator New England (ISO-NE) and used by DOE in reaching a reliability determination. Together these analyses will inform DOE’s decision of whether or not to issue a Presidential permit for the Project.

Biological Consultation

Biological Assessment

Consultation History

The following interactions between DOE and the following entities: USFWS, Northern Pass, SE Group, NHNHB, Normandeau Associates, Inc. (Normandeau), USACE, E & E, NHFG, USFS, EPA, and Burns & McDonnell, in regards to biological issues related to ESA listed species associated with the proposed Project, have occurred prior to the preparation of this BA and have supported its development:

  • 001 - 2010-03-10 - Letter from USFWS to Ed Bowers including information and comments on the presence of resources or property under the jurisdiction of the USFWS that may be a constraint to the siting of the Project.
  • 002 - 2011-02-16 - Letter from the USFS to the Northern Pass Project Director (Anne Bartosewicz) in response to the received proposal to construct the Project on National Forest System lands in the WMNF. The letter includes findings/determinations on initial screening criteria for the Project to obtain a Forest Service Special Use Application.
  • 003 - 2011-08-24 - Letter from the USFWS to Normandeau where the USFWS responded to a request for information dated May 4, 2011 on the presence of resources or property under the jurisdiction of the USFWS in relation to the Project through northern and central New Hampshire.
  • 004 - 2012-01-20 - Communication from USFWS Pondicherry Division of Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge to E & E and the SE Group regarding the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge Special Use Permit to Conduct Surveys.
  • 005 - 2012-01-30 - Letter from E & E to the USFWS requesting data and recommendations for field survey protocols for the proposed Project.
  • 006 - 2012-01-30 - Letter from E & E to the USFS requesting data and recommendations for field survey protocols for the proposed Project.
  • 007 - 2012-01-30 - Letter from E & E to the NHFG requesting data and recommendations for field survey protocols for the proposed Project.
  • 008 - 2012-01-30 - Letter from E & E to the NHNHB requesting data and recommendations for field survey protocols for the proposed Project.
  • 009 - 2012-01-30 - The SE Group hosted a conference call with USFS WMNF to discuss survey methodology for winter surveys, sensitive species, and sensitive ecological resource surveys for the Project. Attendees included USFS representatives, E & E representatives, and an SE Group representative.
  • 010 - 2012-02-02 - The SE Group hosted a conference call with NHFG to discuss survey methodology for winter surveys, sensitive species, and sensitive ecological resource surveys for the Project. Attendees included representatives from NHFG, SE Group, and E & E.
  • 011 - 2012-02-22 - Letter from the USFS to E & E in response to a previous data request letter (January 30, 2012). Information provided includes a summary of the conference call hosted by E & E on January 30, 2012, discussing existing information, survey protocols, and available data.
  • 012 - 2012-03-16 - Email update from E & E to the USFWS providing an update on the Project’s winter survey schedule and postponement.
  • 013 - 2012-12-03 - Letter from USFS WMNF to the SE Group regarding a request to meet with the USFS resource specialist to discuss anticipated survey and analysis needs for surveys crossing the WMNF. The letter provides the recommendation to coordinate with Forest Planner Stacy Lemieux and requests all reasonable alternatives are considered as previously requested in a letter submitted February 16, 2011.
  • 014 - 2012-12-12 - Meeting minutes from the December 12, 2012, Northern Pass Wildlife Agency Meeting held at the USFWS Concord, NH, Field Office, taken by Dan Belin with E & E. Attendees included representatives from NHFG, NHNHB, USFWS, SE Group, DOE, and E & E. The meeting included information on Project updates, overall issues, Canada lynx surveys, American marten surveys, and other wildlife and habitat concerns.
  • 015 - 2013-01-07 - Email from E & E to the USFWS, USFS, and NHFG regarding the February winter survey general schedule.
  • 016 - 2013-01-09 - Email from E & E to NHFG requesting a timeline on the inclusion of NHFG’s 2012 data on the Canada lynx and American marten observations to the NHNHB database.
  • 017 - 2013-01-14 - Conference call meeting minutes, on behalf of NHFG. Attendees included representatives from USFWS, NHFG, DOE, SE Group, and E & E. The conference call included information on project schedule and updates, and American marten and Canada lynx modeling.
  • 018 - 2013-01-22 - Email from E & E to the USFWS, USFS, and NHFG regarding preparation for January 30th meeting in Lancaster, NH, and Winter Survey draft work-plans.
  • 019 - 2013-01-23 - Email response from E & E to the USFWS including American marten model results.
  • 020 - 2013-01-30 - Meeting minutes from the Northern Pass Winter Wildlife Agency Meeting held January 30, 2013 at the NHFG Region 1 Office. Attendees included representatives from the USFS, USFWS, DOE, NHFG, SE Group, and E & E. The meeting included information on proposed use of a Canada lynx Habitat Suitability Model.
  • 021 - 2013-02-20 - Conversation record from E & E regarding contact with Tony Tur (USFWS) informing him of the initiation of winter field surveys and discussion of the North 40 Route.
  • 022 - 2013-02-21 - Email from E & E to the USFWS, USFS, and NHFG including LiDAR data interpretation and preparations to survey the 40 miles of flight path.
  • 023 - 2013-03-04 - Email from NHFG to E & E including initial comments from the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program at NHFG for discussing at the upcoming meeting focused on spring and summer wildlife surveys. The email also includes mussel protocols discussed by NHFG, USFWS, and Normandeau.
  • 024 - 2013-03-06 - Email from E & E to USFWS, USFS, and NHFG regarding work plan development for spring and summer biological surveys.
  • 025 - 2013-03-27 - Meeting minutes written by E & E for the Spring/Summer Biological Surveys – WMNF meeting held in Campton, NH. Attendees included Leighlan Prout (USFS), and E & E representatives (Dan Belin, Courtney Dohoney, and Sean Meegan). The meeting included discussion on winter survey efforts, spring and summer work plans, and discussion on bat species, Bicknell’s thrush, and threatened and endangered (T&E) bird surveys.
  • 026 - 2013-03-28 - Meeting minutes written by E & E for the Spring and Summer Threatened and Endangered Species Surveys meeting held March 28, 2013 at the USFWS Concord, NH, Field Office. Attendees included representatives from USFWS, NHFG, NHNHB, USFS, DOE, SE Group, and E & E. The meeting included discussion of the results of the winter survey for Canada lynx and other wildlife species, review of agency comments, and other wildlife and waterbody assessments and concerns.
  • 027 - 2013-03-28 - Email from the NHFG to E & E including NHFG comments on the “Fisheries Work Plan for the Northern Pass Transmission Project.”
  • 028 - 2013-04-05 - Email from E & E to representatives at USFWS, NHFG, NHNHB, USFS, DOE, USACE, and SE Group to ensure all agencies have the same information and are included in the same distribution list for all further meetings and announcements.
  • 029 - 2013-04-17 - Email from E & E to NHFG regarding spring/summer biological work plans. The email included a request for NHFG to provide direction on level of effort for bat habitat assessment/acoustic monitoring efforts.
  • 030 - 2013-07-02 - Email from SE Group Team (SE Group Team refers to the SE Group, Inc., Ecology and Environment, Inc., and other specialty subcontractors, as needed) to USFWS, USFS, NHFG, USACE, DOE, and E & E regarding Northern Pass submission of the amended Presidential permit application to the DOE, and requesting review of potential meeting dates for a collaborative discussion on the Project to include all agencies within one meeting.
  • 031 - 2013-07-23 - Meeting minutes written by E & E from the Northern Pass Bat Surveys meeting conducted July 23, 2013 at the USFWS Field Office in Concord, NH. Attendees including representatives from the USFWS, DOE, SE Group, E & E, Normandeau, and Burns & McDonnell.
  • 032 - 2013-07-25 - Meeting minutes written by E & E for the Northern Pass Amended Presidential Permit Application – Biological Surveys meeting held July 25, 2013 at the USFWS Concord, NH, Field Office. Attendees included representatives from the USFWS, USFS, USACE, USEPA, NHFG, DOE, SE Group, and E & E. The meeting included discussion of the Amended Presidential Permit Application and NEPA, 2013 Biological Surveys, T&E species, work plan updates, and the EIS.
  • 033 - 2013-07-30 - Letter from the DOE to the USFWS including a data request for the Amended Presidential Permit Application for the Project and recommendations for field survey protocols.
  • 034 - 2013-08-26 - Email from E & E to the SE Group Team, USFWS, USFS, USACE, and DOE regarding the Northern Pass Amended Presidential Permit Application and implications for field surveys and including attached meeting notes from the July 25, 2013, meeting.
  • 035 - 2013-08-27 - Email from the EPA to E & E, including edits to the Northern Pass Amended Presidential Permit Application.
  • 036 - 2013-09-12 - Letter from the USFWS to the DOE to inform them of a proposal to revise the designation and definition of critical habitat for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of the Canada lynx to address two court orders resulting from litigation over the 2009 critical habitat designation and a settlement agreement to revise the Distinct Population Segment boundary to include New Mexico.
  • 037 - 2014-01-30 - Email from E & E to USFWS, NHFG, and SE Group including the 2014 Winter Survey Work Plan and request for review and feedback.
  • 038 - 2014-03-28 - Email from E & E to the USFWS including a recommended time frame for bald eagle and osprey nest aerial surveys along the proposed route.
  • 039 - 2014-03-28 - Email from the USFWS to E & E response to information request on the same day.
  • 040 - 2014-04-23 - Email from E & E to the NHFG to inform the NHFG of the start of herpetofauna surveys for the Project as presented in the Work Plan.
  • 041 - 2014-04-24 - Email from NHFG to E & E requested the scope of work for herpetofauna surveys.
  • 042 - 2014-04-24 - Email from E & E to NHFG including the final version of the Northern Pass EIS Spring/Summer 2013 Work Plan, including information on herpetofauna surveys requested in previous email of the same day (April 24, 2014).
  • 043 - 2014-05-22 - Email from E & E to USFWS, NHFG, and EPA regarding DOE’s release of an Alternatives Addendum to the existing Scoping Report and its influence on field surveys where public roadway access can be obtained. The email requests feedback related to the collection of field data for the alternatives.
  • 044 - 2014-06-30 - Email from E & E to the USFWS including the 2013 draft results for surveys for the Project right-of-way.
  • 045 - 2014-07-21 - Email from E & E to NHNHB including a request for amended data for the proposed route and alternatives, with the addition of two new alternatives.
  • 046 - 2014-10-07 - Email from E & E to the USFWS, Normandeau, and Burns & McDonnell, including an attached summary from the July 23, 2014 meeting at the USFWS Field Office in Concord, NH.
  • 047 - 2014-10-07 - Email from E & E to the USFWS requesting the results of the 2013 acoustic bat survey previously provided and discussed at the end of July meeting.
  • 048 - 2014-10-28 - Email from the USFWS to E & E including the recommendation for additional expert review of Indiana bat acoustic survey results.
  • 049 - 2014-12-09 - Letter from the DOE to the USFWS regarding initiation of informal consultation under Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA for the Project, and including a request to approve a list of potentially affected species from the Project and/or to provide a list of additional species.
  • 050 - 2015-04-15 - Letter from Normandeau to USFWS and NHFG, including additional details on construction timing and methods used for the Project in habitat known to be occupied by Karner blue butterflies.
  • 051 - 2015-05-04 - Email from E & E to the USFWS providing the Northern Pass Transmission Line Bat Survey Report’s external review of acoustic data by two external expert firms (Bat Call Identification, Inc., and BatSense).
  • 052 - 2015-05-04 - Email from E & E to USFWS regarding the Northern Pass Transmission Line DEIS Chapter 3.
  • 053 - 2015-05-04 - Email from E & E to USFWS regarding the Northern Pass Transmission Line EIS third-party Bat Review, with Draft Northern Pass EIS Chapter 3.
  • 054 - 2015-05-05 - Email from SE Group to USFWS, E & E, and DOE including information related to the Indiana bat, relevant and necessary for review of the species.
  • 055 - 2015-06-12 - Letter from the USFWS to the DOE regarding the review of the amended proposed transmission line and alternatives being analyzed in the EIS as described in the Northern Pass Scoping Report, Alternatives Addendum, dated May 2014.
  • 056 - 2015-06-22 - Email from USFS to SE Group including requested information on Northern long-eared bat detections, lynx documentations, osprey and common loon habitat, and easements.
  • 057 - 2016-11-30 - Letter from DOE to USFWS requesting USFWS review and acceptance of bat data.
  • 058 - 2016-12-06 - Submittal to DOE from Northern Pass regarding mitigation measures for Karner blue butterfly.
  • 059 - 2016-12-15 - Email from DOE to USFWS resending November 30 letter.
  • 060 - 2016-02-24 - Letter from the USFWS to interested parties regarding ongoing efforts to collect information for a status review of the Bicknell’s thrush, and requests any information the reader may deem helpful.
  • 061 - 2016-05-24 - Meeting minutes written by the SE Group during a Northern Pass Wildlife Meeting held May 24, 2016 at the USFWS Field Office in Concord, NH. Attendees included representatives from the USFWS, USFS, DOE, E & E, SE Group, Burns & McDonnell/Northern Pass, and Normandeau/Northern Pass. The meeting included information on the contents of the BA.
  • 062 - 2016-06-27 - Northern Pass Response to DOE Data Request WILD-3, including additional Karner blue butterfly mitigation measures and ongoing Migratory Bird Treaty Act mitigation measure development.
  • 063 - 2017-02-09 - Letter from DOE to USFWS inquiring about USFWS response to letter provided November 30, 2016.
  • 064 - 2017-02-15 - Submittal to DOE from Northern Pass providing new bat data and analysis, which had also been previously provided to USFWS.
  • 065 - 2017-02-20 - Submittal of the Draft BA from DOE to USFWS.
  • 066 - 2017-03-23 - Email between USFWS and DOE providing response to letter provided November 30, 2016.

 

[1] Northern Pass Transmission, LLC is owned by Eversource Energy Transmission Ventures, Inc. (formerly NU Transmission Ventures, Inc.), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities), which is a publicly-held public utility holding company. Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is also a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eversource Energy, and does business as Eversource Energy.