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United States Department of the Interior FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE Southern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office 4701 North Torrey Pines Drive ‘Las Vegas, Nevada 89130 IN REPLY REFER TO: (O8ENVS00.2014-TA.0022 February 5, 2018 Dave Sterner Senior Manager, Siting and Permitting 135 Main Street, 6th Floor San Francisco, California 94105 Subject: Recommendations related to the proposed Sunshine Valley Solar photovoltaic electric facility in Amargosa Valley, Nye County, Nevada Dear Mr. Sterner: This letter transmits the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) latest recommendations regarding impacts of the proposed Sunshine Valley Solar photovoltaic (PV) facility on the Yuma Ridgeway’s rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis; formerly Yuma clapper rail), a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et sseq.). The proposed project would consist of a 110-megawatt alternating current solar PV electric generating facility occurring on approximately 745 acres of private lands and would include a 0.5 mile long, 138-kilovolt generation-tie line also occurring on private lands, in the Amargosa Valley, Nye County, Nevada. ‘We had previously provided recommendations to you on this project by letter dated July 11, 2014, in which we recommended that you apply for an incidental take permit, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, because of the potential for take of individuals of Yuma Ridgeway’s rail. Our letter was based on our knowledge and assumptions at the time; specifically, we were aware of the mortality of two Yuma Ridgeway’s rails at PV projects in southern California and of the presence of individuals of this species at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), which is approximately 8 miles southeast of the project site. Since that time, we have continued to collect information regarding the mortality of listed migratory birds at solar facilities and their associated generator tie-in lines; we have also attempted to analyze the effects of specific renewable energy facilities on listed bird species. The information we have collected to date indicates that individuals of listed migratory birds have indeed died as a result of interactions with solar facilities. However, when we attempted to evaluate the risk of collision at specific renewable energy projects, we determined that the risk to individuals of listed migratory birds, including the Yuma Ridgeway’s rail was unquantifiably low and therefore discountable. We will continue to evaluate this risk on a case-by-case basis and to provide site-specific recommendations to Federal agencies regarding consultation Dave Sterner (0BENVS00-2014-TA-0022) 2 pursuant to section 7(a)(2) of the Act and to non-Federal entities regarding applying for incidental take permits. Although the Sunshine Valley Solar PV facility would be built near occupied Yuma Ridgeway’s rail habitat at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, we nevertheless consider the risk of ‘mortality of Yuma Ridgeway’s rail posed by the project to be unquantifiably low and therefore discountable. Therefore, based on the information that is available to us at this time, we do not recommend that you apply for an incidental take permit for the proposed action. During our discussions, you indicated that First Solar was interested in making positive contributions to our knowledge of the movements of Yuma Ridgeway’s rails and their overall conservation. To this end, we have jointly developed the following conservation actions that First Solar has voluntarily proposed to implement. We appreciate your willingness to implement these actions. Measure 1. Yuma Ridgeway’s Rail Habitat Enhancement and Maintenance (Prescribed burning). This measure is based on the assumption that prescribed burning temporarily reduces density of vegetation thus increasing habitat quality (including breeding habitat) for Yuma Ridgeway’ rails. In June, 2017, First Solar and a biologist from WEST Inc. met biologists from the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Southern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office to discuss potential habitat improvement measures. As a result, a rotational approach to prescribed burning over a 30-year period was developed. Three habitat units were identified within the Refuge as targets because they are currently occupied by rails or have potential as rail habitat. A different unit would be burned every two years. This would provide a six-year burning cycle for each unit (ie., each unit would be burned 5 times over a 30-year period). The prescribed burning activities would be funded by First Solar and managed by the Refuge. Measure 2. Provide Funds for Yuma Ridgeway’s Rail Telemetry Research. Dr. Courtney ‘Conway, avian researcher at the University of Idaho, is in the final year of a three-year study on ‘Yuma Ridgway's rail dispersal patterns funded by the Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Study methods involve capturing rails and attaching satellite transmitters, and then using relocation records to discern patterns in the dispersal movements and behavior of the rails. As part of this measure, First Solar proposes to provide a financial contribution in support of Dr. Conway's research. This money will ideally be used to increase the research capacity of the third year of Dr. Conway’s rail dispersal study in 2018, logistics and timing considerations permitting, ‘Alternatively, the money will be used to fund a fourth year of the rail dispersal study in 2019. Study sites for 2018 and/or 2019 are to be determined based on funding availability, the particulars of Dr. Conway's pending permit renewal from the Service, and research priorities. Under any scenario, First Solar’s contribution will be aimed at supporting the ability of Dr. Conway's study to provide valuable data for management of the Yuma Ridgway’s rail. Our staff is currently working on a large-scale strategy to address the issue of the mortality of listed migratory birds at renewable energy facilities in a way that would provide a reasonable and prudent approach for applicants to obtain incidental take permits or exemptions to the prohibitions against take. I look forward to engaging you in this conversation in the near future. Dave Sterner (OBENVS00-2014-TA-0022) Again, we appreciate your willingness to engage in these discussions with us and to undertake actions to conserve the Yuma Ridgeway’s rail. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me at 702-515-5244. Sincerely, MO. Kamrber— Glen W. Knowles Field Supervisor