[Federal Register: February 27, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 39)]
[Page 10033-10034]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Corrections Corporation 
of America, California City Prison Project, Kern County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, 
Tennessee, has

[[Page 10034]]

applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service for an incidental take permit 
pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
Service proposes to issue an incidental take permit for the federally 
threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) at the proposed 
California City Prison Project site, located in Kern County, 
California. Corrections Corporation of America has requested that the 
Service include the Mojave ground squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis), a 
species listed as threatened by the State of California, and the 
burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), a California species of special 
concern, as covered species in the Habitat Conservation Plan submitted 
with their application. This notice announces the availability of the 
permit application and the Environmental Assessment for the proposed 
action. The permit application includes the Habitat Conservation Plan 
for the California City Prison Project and an Implementing Agreement. 
The Service specifically requests comment on the appropriateness of the 
``No Surprises'' assurances contained in this application. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative record and may be made available to the public.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, Habitat Conservation 
Plan, Environmental Assessment, and Implementing Agreement should be 
received on or before March 30, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Comments regarding the application or adequacy of the 
Environmental Assessment and Implementing Agreement should be addressed 
to the Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, 
Suite B, Ventura, California 93003. Written comments may also be sent 
by facsimile to (805) 644-3958. Individuals wishing copies of the 
documents should immediately contact the Service's Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office at the above referenced address or facsimile, or at the 
telephone number listed below. Documents will also be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Denise Washick, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address or call (805) 644-1766.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The ``take'' of threatened and endangered 
species is prohibited under Section 9 of the Act and its implementing 
regulations. ``Take'' is defined, in part, as killing, harming or 
harassing listed species, including significant habitat modification 
that results in death of or injury to listed species. Under limited 
circumstances, the Service may issue permits to take listed species if 
such taking is incidental to otherwise lawful activities. Regulations 
governing permits are found at Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, 
sections 17.22 and 17.32.
    The Service proposes to issue a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit to the 
applicant for incidental take of the desert tortoise, Mojave ground 
squirrel, and the burrowing owl (covered species) during the 
construction and operation of the prison. The proposed development of 
the prison would result in a permanent loss of habitat for the covered 
species as the project site is bladed and the vegetative communities 
are permanently removed during the construction of the prison. The 
construction and operation of the prison could directly and indirectly 
affect the covered species.

Background Information

    Corrections Corporation of America proposes the construction and 
operation of a new 2,304-bed medium security prison facility located on 
undeveloped land in the northern one-half of section 13 of Township 32 
South, Range 38 East in California City, Kern County, California. The 
proposed prison would occupy approximately 105 acres of a 320-acre 
property characterized by creosote bush scrub vegetation. This site is 
known to support a population of the threatened desert tortoise and may 
support populations of Mojave ground squirrels and burrowing owls, the 
latter species being listed as threatened and sensitive, respectively, 
by the State of California.
    The proposed action would authorize the incidental take of all 
desert tortoises on the 105-acre site in the form of harassment as a 
result of being moved out of harm's way. Additionally, two desert 
tortoises may be taken in the form of direct mortality associated with 
construction and operational activities and travel on the access road. 
Burrowing owls are unlikely to be killed or injured by the proposed 
action. If Mojave ground squirrels are present on the site, they would 
likely be killed during the initial grading of the construction areas. 
The proposed acquisition and management of the habitat off-site would 
be the primary means of compensating for the loss of habitat and direct 
take of the Mojave ground squirrel and burrowing owl.
    The Habitat Conservation Plan proposes several measures to mitigate 
and minimize the effects of the prison development on the desert 
tortoise. Before construction activities commence, an amount of habitat 
of the covered species equal to that being destroyed will be purchased 
and placed in management for recovery of the desert tortoise. A fence 
to prevent desert tortoises from entering the construction site will be 
constructed under the supervision of a biologist and the area enclosed 
by the fence will be systematically searched. All desert tortoises 
found will be relocated to adjacent habitat in a manner consistent with 
current handling procedures and guidelines. Workers at the construction 
site will be educated about the status of the desert tortoise and 
procedures to take if desert tortoises are found during work activities 
or while traveling on access roads. The Corrections Corporation of 
America or their contractor will ensure that trash is handled in a way 
that does not lure predators of the desert tortoise into the area or 
increase their presence on-site.
    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the 
Environmental Assessment examines the environmental consequences of 
four alternatives. These include the proposed action, a smaller project 
that would impact 40 acres, an alternate site that would also require 
the issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit for the incidental take of 
the desert tortoise, and a no take alternative.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act 
and Service regulations for implementing the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will evaluate the 
application, its associated documents, and submitted comments to 
determine whether the application meets the requirements of law. If the 
Service determines that the requirements are met, a permit will be 
issued for the incidental take of the listed species. A final decision 
on permit issuance will be made no sooner than 30 days from the date of 
this notice.

    Dated: February 23, 1998.
David L. McMullen,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 98-5054 Filed 2-26-98; 8:45 am]