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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
SACRAMENTO FWO: Comment period opens for innovative Habitat Conservation Plan Covering PG&E Right-of-Ways in California
Region 8, November 26, 2008

 By Al Donner and Steve Martarano
Plans for an innovative Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) covering most of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) power line and pipeline right-of-ways were announced Nov. 26 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The proposal covers four geographic regions served by PG&E: the Central coast and Northern coast (from Santa Barbara to Oregon), and the areas served by PG&E in the Sacramento Valley and the Sierra Nevada. Differing from typical HCPs, which blanket an entire region, the proposed PG&E Operations and Maintenance (O&M) HCP will cover only the 550,000 acres directly used by PG&E, about 1 per cent of the vast 80,000-square-mile area in 36 of California’s 54 counties.  

When completed, the innovative HCP will address impacts from PG&E’s routine O&M on its thousands of miles of gas pipelines, electric power lines and supporting facilities. The HCP will cover 109 native species for 50 years. Of those species, 75 are federally protected (including California red-legged frog, the vernal pool tadpole shrimp, the Buena Vista Lake Shrew, the San Joaquin kit fox, and Tipton kangaroo rat) while 34 species are unlisted but face some survival perils. The HCP will contain measures to minimize and mitigate incidental take that could result from PG&E’s activities.

 

The creative approach to addressing the small-scale impacts over a wide area from routine utility activities was pioneered last February when the Service issued a permit to PG&E for an HCP covering all of the utility’s O&M work in nine San Joaquin Valley counties. HCPs are commitments to protect and help rare species. HCPs are developed by local or non-governmental interests in cooperation with the Service. The plans simplify permitting under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and they provide better species protection by planning for entire landscapes than single project consultations.

 

Activities to be covered in the HCP include gas pipeline protection, repair, and replacement; electric line protection, repair and replacement; electric pole repair/replacement; vegetation management around facilities; and minor construction for new gas and electric extensions. The HCP would not cover power generation facilities. The Plan Area includes the network of PG&E facilities in 18 counties in the Sacramento Valley region, 20 in the Sierra region (of which 12 overlap with Sacramento Valley) six in the Central Coast region, and four in the North Coast region.

 

The proposal does not cover PG&E’s facilities in the nine-county San Francisco Bay region, which is the focus of another PG&E HCP planning effort under way. The comment period closes on Dec. 26.

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov