[Federal Register: December 29, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 249)]
[Page 73058-73060]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and 
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the High 
Desert Power Project, Victorville, San Bernardino County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior (Lead Agency); Bureau of 
Land Management, Interior and Corps of Engineers, Army (Cooperating 

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The High Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company 
(Applicant) 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. The

[[Page 73059]]

proposed 50-year permit would authorize the incidental take of the 
threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) in connection with the 
development, operation, maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of 
the High Desert Power Project (Power Project) in San Bernardino County, 
California. The proposed permit would also authorize the incidental 
take, in connection with the Power Project, of the Mohave ground 
squirrel (Spermophilis mohavensis), a species listed as threatened by 
the State of California, in the event that species becomes listed as 
threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act during the 
term of the requested permit.
    The Service, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and 
the Army Corps of Engineers, has prepared a draft Environmental Impact 
Statement addressing the potential effects on the human environment 
that may result from the proposed granting of an incidental take permit 
and other federal actions associated with the construction and 
operation of the Power Project.
    The permit application, including the Applicant's proposed Habitat 
Conservation Plan and Implementing Agreement, are available for public 
review and comment. The Environmental Impact Statement also is 
available for public review and comment. 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 must be received on or before February 23, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Ms. Diane Noda, Field 
Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, 
Ventura, CA 93003. Written comments may also be sent via facsimile to 
(805) 644-3958.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. George Walker, Fish and Wildlife 
Service Biologist, Barstow, California, at (760) 255-8852.


Document Availability

    Copies of the incidental take permit application materials and 
draft Environmental Impact Statement are available for review at the 
following government offices and libraries:
    Government Offices--Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Field 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003, (805) 
644-1766; and the Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office, 2601 
Barstow Road, Barstow, California 92311, (760) 252-6000.
    Libraries--California State Library, Information and Reference 
Center, 914 Capital Mall, Room 301, Sacramento, California 95814, (916) 
654-0261; San Bernardino County Library, Adelanto Branch, 11744 
Bartlett Avenue, Adelanto, California 92301, (760) 246-5661, San 
Bernardino County Library, Victorville Branch, 15011 Circle Drive, 
Victorville, California 92392, (760) 245-4222.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species 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 Endangered Species 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 and endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 
and 50 CFR 17.22.
    The High Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company seeks an 
incidental take permit for the threatened desert tortoise, and for the 
Mohave ground squirrel should it be listed under the Act during the 
term of the permit. Take of these species would be incidental to the 
High Desert Power Project. The Applicant proposes to construct, operate 
and maintain a 680- to 830-megawatt natural gas-fueled electricity 
generation power plant on a 25-acre site located in the northeast 
corner of the Southern California Logistics Airport, formerly a part of 
George Air Force Base, in the City of Victorville, San Bernardino 
County, California. The Applicant proposes to use an additional 24-acre 
area for construction staging. The proposed project also includes the 
construction, operation and maintenance of 7 water injection/extraction 
wells within the Mojave River watershed; 2 water supply pipelines (one 
approximately 2.5 miles in length and the other approximately 6.5 miles 
in length); 2 natural gas supply pipelines (one approximately 3.5 miles 
in length and the other approximately 32 miles in length); and a 7-
mile-long electrical transmission line.
    Construction of the Power Project and associated facilities would 
result in short-term, long-term, and permanent disturbances to desert 
tortoise and Mohave ground squirrel habitat. The Power Project would 
disturb approximately 630.2 acres of habitat, with approximately 244.1 
acres of short-term disturbance and 386.1 acres of long-term and/or 
permanent disturbance.
    The Applicant proposes to minimize and/or mitigate for impacts 
associated with the Power Project, in part, by conducting pre-
construction surveys of proposed work areas and construction zones, and 
by developing an employee and contractor education program that would 
describe allowable practices when constructing in desert tortoise and 
Mohave ground squirrel habitat area. The Applicant would revegetate 
habitat disturbed during construction, operation, maintenance, and/or 
decommissioning activities in accordance with an approved habitat 
conservation plan. As compensation for impacts to habitat on private 
land, the Applicant would ensure the protection in perpetuity of 
1,242.8 acres of off-site mitigation lands or habitat credits, having 
habitat value for both desert tortoises and Mohave ground squirrels 
that is at least as great as the value of the habitat being impacted. 
The number of compensation acres was developed based on an agency-
approved formula which assesses the categories of previous and 
potential disturbance, the condition and classification of the impacted 
habitat, and potential impacts to adjacent habitat.
    In addition to issuance of an incidental take permit by the 
Service, the High Desert Power Project Limited Liability Company has 
requested other Federal authorizations for the proposed project. The 
Applicant seeks Nationwide Permit No. 12 authorizations by the Army 
Corps of Engineers, pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, for 
pipeline crossings of waters of the United States. The Applicant also 
seeks a right-of-way grant from the Bureau of Land Management pursuant 
to Section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, to authorize 
construction, operation and maintenance of the 32-mile natural gas 
pipeline. To mitigate for impacts to desert tortoise and Mohave ground 
squirrel associated with construction and operation of this gas 
pipeline, the Applicant proposes that funding for restoration 
activities may be provided either in lieu of or in combination with the 
purchase of compensation lands or habitat credits.
    In December 30, 1998, a notice was published in the Federal 
Register (61 FR 71940) announcing that the Service would take the lead 
in preparing an

[[Page 73060]]

Environmental Impact Statement addressing the Federal actions 
associated with the Power Project. The Bureau of Land Management and 
Army Corps of Engineers may use this Environmental Impact Statement as 
the basis for their separate Federal permit decisions. Comments 
received by the agencies during scoping were considered and are 
reflected in the draft Environmental Impact Statement made available 
for comment through this notice.
    The draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzes the potential 
environmental impacts that may result from the Federal actions 
requested in support of the proposed development of the High Desert 
Power Project, and identifies various alternatives, including the No 
Action Alternative (no incidental take permit), the Combined Cycle 
Power Plant with Dry Cooling Alternative, and various alternatives 
proposing the power plant be located in different locations. Several of 
these alternatives would reduce the amount of habitat disturbance and 
levels of take of threatened and endangered species compared to the 
Proposed Project Alternative but would have potentially greater adverse 
effects on other resources such as air quality, land use, views, and 
geological hazards.
    The analysis provided in the draft Environmental Impact Statement 
is intended to accomplish the following: inform the public of the 
proposed action and alternatives; address public comment received 
during the scoping period; disclose the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative environmental effects of the proposed actions and each of 
the alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources 
that would result from implementation of the proposed action.
    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: December 21, 1999.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 99-33616 Filed 12-28-99; 8:45 am]