Obtaining an Incidental Take Permit as Big as Texas
In October 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued to LCRA Transmission Services (LCRA TSC) an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. The permit authorizes take of 22 species of wildlife in connection with LCRA TSC’s construction, operation, and maintenance of its transmission system in Texas. The permit covers 241 of the state’s 254 counties.
While the scale of the permit is, itself, remarkable, the speed at which the permit was issued by USFWS was even more so. LCRA TSC, USFWS, Nossaman, and SWCA Environmental Consultants worked closely together beginning in 2016 to discuss the framework for a nearly state-wide incidental take permit. On July 31, 2017, USFWS published a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with the then-contemplated permit. Helped in part by a 2017 Department of the Interior memorandum intended to streamline NEPA compliance, the USFWS published a notice of availability of the final EIS and its decision to issue to LCRA TSC the requested permit on September 6, 2019.
In an age where obtaining even a project-specific incidental take permit can take years, the LCRA TSC incidental take permit represents a significant accomplishment. We played a significant role as outside environmental counsel to LCRA TSC.