[Federal Register: October 1, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 190)]


[Page 53401-53403]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]





Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of an Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental 

Impact Report and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take 

Permit for the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation 

and Open Space Plan in California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The San Joaquin Council of Governments has applied to the Fish 

and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit pursuant 

to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 

amended (Act). The San Joaquin Council of Governments has applied on 

behalf of the cities of Escalon, Lathrop, Lodi, Manteca, Ripon, 

Stockton, and Tracy; San Joaquin County; the East Bay Municipal Utility 

District; California Department of Transportation-District 10 within 

San Joaquin County; San Joaquin Council of Governments; San Joaquin 

Area Flood Control Agency; Stockton East Water District; and the South 

San Joaquin Irrigation District (applicants). The proposed permit would 

authorize incidental take of 16 federally listed species. The proposed 

taking of these species would be incidental to the implementation of 

the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation and Open 

Space Plan, which provides, in part, for the conversion of open space 

to non-open space uses. The proposed permit also would authorize future 

incidental take of 84 currently unlisted species, should any of them 

become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. The proposed 

permit duration is 50 years. The permit application, available for 

public review, includes a Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) which 

describes the proposed program and mitigation, and the accompanying 

Implementing Agreement.

    The Service also announces the availability of a joint draft 

Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Impact 

Statement/Report) 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 HEARING: A public hearing will be held November 9, 1999, from 

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Hutchens Street Square, 125 South 

Hutchens St., Lodi, California. For additional hearing information, 

contact Ms. Amy Augustine at (209) 532-7376. Oral and written comments 

will be received at the meeting.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before January 7, 


ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Fish 

and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage 

Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. Written comments may be sent 

by facsimile to (916) 414-6711.


Supervisor, at the above address, telephone (916) 414-6601.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, draft Impact 

Statement/Report, Plan, and Implementing Agreement for review should 

immediately contact the San Joaquin Council of Governments by telephone 

at (209) 468-3913 or by letter to the San Joaquin Council of 

Governments at 6 S. El Dorado St., Suite 400, Stockton, California 

95202. Copies of the draft Impact Statement/Report, Plan, and 

Implementing Agreement also are

[[Page 53402]]

available for public inspection at branch libraries in San Joaquin 

County during regular business hours.

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 San Joaquin Council of Governments seeks a permit for take of 

the following federally listed species: threatened Aleutian Canada 

goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), giant garter snake (Thamnophis 

gigas), California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), delta smelt 

(Hypomesus transpacificus), Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys 

macrolepidotus), vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), valley 

elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), fleshy 

owl's-clover (Castilleja campestris ssp. succulenta), Colusa grass 

(Neostapfia colusana), and endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes 

macrotis mutica), Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), 

longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta longiantenna), vernal pool tadpole 

shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), large-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia 

grandiflora), palmate-bracted bird's-beak (Cordylanthus palmatus), and 

Greene's tuctoria (Tuctoria greenei). This take would be incidental to 

the applicants' conversion of open space to non-open space uses within 

the 900,000+ acre planning area in San Joaquin County, California. The 

proposed permit also would authorize future incidental take of 84 

species that are not currently federally listed, should any of them 

become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. The 84 

currently unlisted species include 24 plant species, 2 fish species, 5 

invertebrate species, 3 amphibian species, 3 reptile species, 32 bird 

species, and 15 mammal species (9 of which are bats). Collectively, the 

100 listed and unlisted species addressed in the Plan are referred to 

as the ``covered species'' for the San Joaquin County Multi-Species 

Habitat Conservation and Open Space Plan.

    In the Plan, the applicants have proposed the conversion of 

approximately 109,302 acres from open space to non-open space uses 

throughout the life of the permit, primarily by activities already 

addressed in adopted plans of the local cities and County. These 

activities include residential, commercial, and industrial development; 

aggregate mining; construction and maintenance of transportation 

facilities, public utilities, schools, and parks and trails; minor 

dredging, non-federal flood control and irrigation district projects; 

agricultural conversions of vernal pool grasslands; managing reserves; 

and other anticipated projects. A more detailed description of covered 

activities is provided in the Plan.

    The Plan classifies the County's land uses into four general 

categories: Natural Lands, Agricultural Lands, Multi-Purpose Open 

Space, and Urban Lands. Habitat preservation and/or creation will be 

required to mitigate for loss of Natural and Agricultural Lands. For 

Agricultural Land (e.g., row and field crops), 1 acre will be preserved 

for each acre impacted. For Natural Lands, mitigation varies according 

to habitat type: (a) for non-wetland habitat (e.g., grasslands, oak 

woodlands, scrub), 3 acres will be preserved for each acre lost; (b) 

for vernal pools in the designated ``Vernal Pool Zone'', 2 acres will 

be preserved and 1 acre will be created for each acre lost; (c) for 

vernal pools in the ``Southwest Zone'', 3 acres of preservation will be 

required for each acre lost (unless vernal pool conservancy shrimp or 

vernal pool longhorn shrimp are impacted which will require 5 acres of 

preservation for each acre lost); and (d) for wetlands other than 

vernal pools (e.g., channel islands, riparian creeks, sloughs), each 

acre lost will be mitigated through 3 acres of preservation, at least 1 

acre of which will be created. Up to 71,837 acres of Natural and 

Agricultural Lands could be converted under the plan, requiring 

approximately 100,241 acres of habitat preservation and/or creation. 

Additionally, up to 37,465 acres of Multi-Purpose Open Space are 

expected to be converted, requiring mitigation in the form of fee 

payments to help finance enhancement, management, and administration 

costs associated with the preserve system. The amount of land that will 

actually be converted during the life of the permit is unknown, but 

maximum acreage limits have been set based on existing local land use 


    An additional 600 acres will be preserved under the Plan to 

compensate for potential impacts to covered species which stray from 

preserve lands onto neighboring lands. At the election of landowners 

within 0.5 mile of preserve land, agricultural and aggregate mining 

activities will receive incidental take authorization for covered 

species, except for foraging Swainson's hawks, that become established 

on the property after the adjacent land has been preserved. For 

foraging Swainson's hawks, landowners within 10 miles of established 

preserves may receive neighboring land protections at their discretion. 

Exceptions to this coverage and other details regarding these 

neighboring land protections are provided in the Plan.

    Preservation is anticipated to be achieved primarily through the 

purchase of conservation easements (approximately 90 percent) with some 

purchase of lands in fee title (approximately 10 percent). Conservation 

easements would stress the preservation of existing agricultural 

practices which are deemed compatible with the conservation of the 

covered species. It is anticipated that about 100,841 acres of Preserve 

will be acquired (about 100,241 to mitigate loss of Natural and 

Agricultural Lands and 600 acres to mitigate for neighboring land 

protections) during the 50-year term of the Plan. These lands would be 

preserved and managed for wildlife values in perpetuity.

    The Plan includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental take 

for each of the covered species, emphasizing project design 

modifications to protect both habitats and species individuals. A 

monitoring and reporting plan will gauge the Plan's success, based on 

biological success criteria, and ensure that compensation keeps pace 

with open space conversions. The Plan also includes adaptive management 

which allows for changes in the conservation program if the biological 

success criteria are not met, or new information becomes available to 

improve the efficacy of the Plan's conservation strategy.

    In addition to incidental take avoidance measures, the Plan 

includes requirements for conserving corridors for the San Joaquin kit 

fox and for avoiding the creation of linear barriers to species 

dispersal. The Plan also establishes limits on Natural Land conversions 

and for particular species covered by the Plan. Details of avoidance 

and minimization measures, and preserve design and management are 

presented in the Plan.

[[Page 53403]]

    The Plan would be implemented by a Joint Powers Authority which 

would be advised by a Technical Advisory Committee including 

representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Service, California 

Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among 

others. Additional assistance will be provided to the Joint Powers 

Authority by conservation, agricultural, and business interests, and 

other stakeholders in the County.

    Funding for the Plan is anticipated to be provided by multiple 

sources including development fees (to fund 67 percent of the Plan); 

local, state and federal funding sources (16 percent of Plan funding); 

Plan-generated income (e.g., through lease revenues--approximately 5 

percent of funding); conservation bank revenues (2 percent); and 

revolving funds (10 percent).

    The draft Impact Statement/Report considers five alternatives, 

including the Proposed Action and the No-Action Alternatives. Under the 

No-Action Alternative, landowners within the County would continue to 

apply for individual incidental take permits on a case-by-case basis, 

resulting in piecemeal planning that would establish isolated patches 

of mitigation land scattered throughout the County. This could result 

in cumulatively significant adverse impacts to those species which 

would benefit from larger tracts of interconnected habitats.

    Under the Reduced Land Acquisition/Increased Preserve Enhancement 

Alternative, mitigation would focus on habitat enhancement which could 

interfere substantially with agricultural activities, creating 

significant adverse impact to agricultural productivity in the County. 

This alternative would have questionable benefits to the covered 

species because habitat enhancement is unpredictable and may be 


    Under the No Wetlands Coverage Alternative, landowners within the 

County would continue to apply for individual permits pursuant to the 

Federal Clean Water Act, resulting in piecemeal planning. Mitigation 

lands would consist of smaller and more widely scattered habitat blocks 

than would occur with the Proposed Action, resulting in cumulatively 

significant adverse impacts to those wetland-dependent species which 

would benefit from larger tracts of interconnected habitats.

    Under the Preserve Location Outside of the County Alternative, 

significantly less habitat within the County would be preserved than 

with the Proposed Action, adversely impacting some covered species by 

creating gaps in the species' range and potentially disrupting the 

genetic integrity of some populations. This alternative could also 

adversely impact relatively immobile species that are unable to 

relocate to distant newly created habitats.

    The California Department of Fish and Game intends to use this 

draft Impact Statement/Report and the Plan as a basis for issuing state 

permits for incidental take equivalent to the actions described above.

    In addition, under a separate action, the U.S. Army Corps of 

Engineers may use this draft Impact Report/Statement and the Plan as a 

basis for developing a programmatic general permit pursuant to section 

404(e) of the Federal Clean Water Act [33 CFR 322.2(f) and 323.2(h)] in 

consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency covering Waters 

of the United States for the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat 

Conservation and Open Space Plan covered activities conducted on 

jurisdictional lands. In conjunction, these documents will be used by 

the California State Water Resources Control Board or Central Valley 

Regional Water Quality Control Board to consider the issuance of a 

water quality certification or waiver pursuant to section 401 of the 

Federal Clean Water Act after issuance of the programmatic section 

404(e) general permit.

    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 

Species Act and Fish and Wildlife Service regulations for implementing 

the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: September 22, 1999.

Elizabeth H. Stevens,

Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 

Sacramento, California.

[FR Doc. 99-25140 Filed 9-30-99; 8:45 am]