[Federal Register: August 4, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 149)]
[Page 42407-42408]
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 the Statewide Electrified 
Fence Project in California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The California Department of Corrections has applied to the 
Fish and Wildlife Service for an incidental take permit pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The proposed permit would authorize incidental take of the 
federally threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), Aleutian 
Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinum nivosus), 
coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), 
and the federally endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia 
silus), California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus), 
American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum), southwestern 
willow flycatcher (Empidonax taillii extimus), Tipton kangaroo rat 
(Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides) and San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes 
macrotis mutica).
    The proposed taking of these species would be incidental to the 
implementation of the Statewide Electrified Fence Project at 25 
existing prisons and 4 planned prison sites throughout California. The 
proposed permit also would authorize future incidental take of 51 
currently unlisted species, should any of them become listed under the 
Act in the future. The permit would be in effect for 50 years. The 
permit application, available for public review, includes a Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan) which describes the proposed project and 
mitigation, and the accompanying Implementing Agreement.
    The Service also announces the availability of an Environmental 
Assessment for the incidental take permit application. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
official administrative record and may be made available to the public.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before September 3, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 3310 El 
Camino Avenue, Suite 130, Sacramento, California 95821-6340. Written 
comments may be sent by facsimile to (916) 979-2723.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Lori Rinek, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address (telephone: 916-979-2129).


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, Environmental 
Assessment, the Plan, and Implementing Agreement for review should 
immediately contact the above office. Documents also will be available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the above address.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. That is, no one 
may harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or 
collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 
USC 1538). Under limited circumstances, the Service, however, may issue 
permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed animal species 
(defined by the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity). Regulations 
governing permits for threatened species and endangered species, 
respectively are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22.


    The California Department of Corrections seeks a permit for take of 
the federally listed desert tortoise, Aleutian Canada goose, bald 
eagle, western snowy plover, coastal California gnatcatcher, blunt-
nosed leopard lizard, California brown pelican, American peregrine 
falcon, southwestern willow flycatcher, Tipton kangaroo rat and the San 
Joaquin kit fox incidental to the implementation by the Department of 
lethal electrified fences at 25 existing prisons and 4 planned prison 
sites throughout California. The proposed permit also would authorize 
future incidental take of 39 bird, 9 mammal, and 3 reptile species that 
are currently unlisted, should any of them become listed under the Act 
in the future. Collectively these listed and unlisted species addressed 
in the Plan are referred to as the ``covered species'' for the 
Statewide Electrified Fence project.
    The California Department of Corrections has installed and is 
operating lethal electrified fences at 25 existing prison sites 
throughout California, and is considering installation of such fences 
at 4 future prison sites. The primary reason for implementing the 
Statewide Electrified Fence Project is to reduce the operational costs 
of State prisons, while maintaining perimeter security. The project 
involves the installation and activation of lethal electrified fences 
within the secured perimeter of the prison facilities. The potential 
cause of the taking is the direct mortality of animals by accidental 
electrocution on the lethal electrified wires of the fence. The 29 
prison sites are generally located near rural communities or in 
isolated areas in 16 counties. All of the electrified fence sites are 
located on State property.
    To compensate for project impacts, California Department of 
Corrections has organized their minimization and mitigation program 
into three tiers. Tier 1 measures include maintenance and operational-
related measures designed to modify or remove habitat or other 
attractions to wildlife from the secured

[[Page 42408]]

perimeter area of each prison, which in turn would reduce wildlife use 
of the perimeter and thus lower electrocution risks. These measures 
affect only previously disturbed areas and do not result in the 
modification or destruction of any listed species habitat. Tier 2 
measures involve installation of exclusion and deterrent fence devices 
which are designed to prevent or deter wildlife from making contact 
with the electrified fences. The most critical exclusion device that 
California Department of Corrections has/will install that prevents 
most birds from contacting the fence is vertical mesh netting that 
envelops both sides of the electrified fence. Tier 3 measures are 
designed to offset the residual loss of wildlife resources at the 
prisons as a result of electrocution risks that remain even after Tier 
1 and Tier 2 measures have been implemented. Tier 3 measures include 
acquisition of lands; habitat enhancement via creation, restoration, or 
management; and monetary contributions to species recovery efforts.
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of five alternatives in addition to the Proposed Action. 
The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit to the California Department of Corrections and implementation 
of the Plan and its Implementing Agreement. Under Alternative 1, the 
Selective Use of Electrified Fences, California Department of 
Corrections would reinstate the traditional perimeter security approach 
of guard tower surveillance at the seven prisons with the highest 
wildlife mortality or the three prisons with the least labor cost to 
staff guard positions, thereby reducing the overall risk of incident 
take of the covered species. Alternative 2 would entail the use of the 
stun-lethal alternative design for the electrified fences instead of 
the lethal design. Alternative 3 would involve netting the electrified 
fence all the way to the top. Alternative 4 would entail installing 
netting at the five prison sites which have the smallest numbers of 
bird electrocutions. Under Alternative 5, the No Action Alternative, 
the Service would not issue an incidental take permit. The electric 
fences would not be energized, and no incidental take of the listed 
species would occur.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and Service regulations for implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon 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 covered species. The final permit decision will 
be made no sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: July 22, 1999.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 99-19972 Filed 8-3-99; 8:45 am]