[Federal Register: January 7, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 5)]
[Page 1163-1165]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment and Receipt of 
an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Tulare Irrigation 
District Main Intake Canal Lining Project, Tulare County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The Tulare Irrigation District has applied to the Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit (Permit) 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (Act). The Service proposes to issue a 5-year Permit to 
Tulare Irrigation District that

[[Page 1164]]

would authorize take of the threatened valley elderberry longhorn 
beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) (beetle) and the endangered 
San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) (fox) incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities. Such take would occur during the concrete 
lining of 9.7 miles of an existing canal in Tulare County, California. 
Lining of the canal will result in the loss of up to 54 elderberry 
plants with 227 stems which provide habitat for the beetle. This 
project may also result in destruction of potential fox dens, and could 
result in harassment of foxes during construction.
    This notice advises the public that the Service has opened the 
comment period on the permit application and the draft environmental 
assessment. The permit application includes Tulare Irrigation 
District's Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) for the beetle and fox. The 
Plan describes the proposed project and the measures that Tulare 
Irrigation District would undertake to minimize and mitigate take of 
beetles and foxes. The environmental assessment addresses effects on 
the environment that may result from the Service's issuance of the 
Permit. Issuance of a Permit to Tulare Irrigation District for the 
canal lining project has already been subject to a 30-day public 
comment period (64 FR 42408). The original application requested 
incidental take for the beetle only. The Service now proposes to issue 
the Permit for take of the beetle and the fox.
    The Service will evaluate the application, associated documents, 
and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application 
meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and 
section 10(a) of Act. The Service will also evaluate whether the 
issuance of the requested permit complies with section 7 of the Act by 
conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. The resulting 
section 7 biological opinion, in combination with the National 
Environmental Protection Act and section 10(a) evaluations, will be 
used in the final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the 
requested permit. The final National Environmental Protection Act and 
Endangered Species Act determinations will not be completed until after 
the end of a 30-day comment period and will fully consider all comments 
received. If it is determined that the requirements are met, the 
requested permit will be issued for the incidental take of the beetle 
and fox subject to the provisions of Tulare Irrigation District's Plan.

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

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Wayne White, Field Supervisor, 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, 
California 95825-1846. Comments may be sent by facsimile to 916-414-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jesse Wild, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address or call (916) 414-6600.


Document Availability

    Please contact the above office if you would like copies of the 
application, Plan, and environmental assessment. Documents also will be 
available for review by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the above address.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish or wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take of 
listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act to include kill, harm, 
or harass. The Service may, under limited circumstances, issue permits 
to authorize incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, and not 
the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for threatened and 
endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively.
    Tulare Irrigation District operates the Main Intake Canal (canal) 
primarily to transport an average of 60,000 acre-feet of water from the 
St. Johns and Kaweah Rivers to agricultural areas within Tulare 
Irrigation District boundaries. The canal begins at a turnout on the 
Friant-Kern Canal approximately 4 miles east of the community of 
Ivanhoe in Tulare County and proceeds in a general southwesterly 
direction to the Tulare Irrigation District boundary at Road 132 
approximately 3 miles west of the community of Farmersville. The 
existing canal is unlined with a varying capacity up to 900 cubic feet 
per second. Since 1978, the canal has conveyed water an average of 177 
days per year. According to Tulare Irrigation District, approximately 
10 percent of water conveyed through the canal is lost to seepage. 
Therefore, Tulare Irrigation District has proposed to line the canal to 
conserve water, increase water deliveries, and decrease per-unit costs 
associated with water deliveries.
    Although the maintained banks of the canal are generally 
unvegetated, several mature oaks, cottonwoods, and elderberry bushes 
are present within and adjacent to Tulare Irrigation District right-of-
ways. Land use adjacent to the canal is primarily agricultural 
(vineyards, orchards, and nurseries) interspersed with stretches of 
sparse residential and industrial developments. The irrigation district 
comprises approximately 70,000 acres of land, which has been entirely 
developed for agricultural, residential, and/or commercial purposes.
    In 1998, biologists surveyed the project area for special-status 
wildlife and plant species that could be affected by the project. Blue 
elderberry plants, potential habitat for the beetle, were observed at 
various locations along the canal. Some of these plants had stems with 
exit holes indicating use by beetles. Potential fox den sites were also 
found along the canal.
    Lining of the canal will result in the loss of up to 54 elderberry 
plants (beetle habitat) with 227 stems greater than one inch in 
diameter (the minimum stem size believed to be necessary for supporting 
beetles). Tulare Irrigation District has agreed to implement the 
following measures to minimize and mitigate take of the beetle: (1) 
Protect elderberry bushes in place, where possible, by using protective 
fencing and conducting educational meetings with contractors to 
highlight the importance of protecting elderberry bushes; and (2) make 
a one-time payment into the Beetle Mitigation Fund that has been 
established through a joint agreement between the Service and the 
Center for Natural Lands Management. Payments made to the Beetle 
Mitigation Fund will be dispersed by the Center for Natural Lands 
Management at the direction of the Service to preserve and manage large 
tracts of habitat suitable for supporting beetles.
    Foxes potentially inhabiting the project area could be harassed 
through temporary disturbance during construction. The Service expects 
take of up to five potential fox dens. To minimize these impacts, 
Tulare Irrigation District agreed to implement the following measures 
to minimize take of foxes: (1) Conduct preconstruction surveys 
consistent with Service protocol; (2) collapse unoccupied potential 
dens to prevent occupation during construction; (3) limit construction 
to daylight hours, to minimize harassment of nocturnally active 
wildlife, including foxes; (4) cap pipes over four inches in diameter, 
or check any such pipes for wildlife before they are moved; (5) check 
for presence of wildlife before operating any equipment with the 
potential to conceal

[[Page 1165]]

wildlife; and (6) place speed limits of 20 miles per hour or less on 
canal roads.
    The Proposed Action addressed in the environmental assessment 
consists of the issuance of a Permit to allow the potential incidental 
take of beetles and foxes incidental to the Main Intake Canal Lining 
Project. The environmental assessment focuses on the potential impacts 
on beetles and foxes that may result from issuance of a Permit and 
implementation of the Plan. Impacts on other resources (ground water 
and surface water, land use, aesthetic resources, air quality, noise, 
cultural resources, public services, traffic, and circulation) are 
discussed in detail in the Environmental Impact Report for the Main 
Intake Canal Lining Project and are summarized in the Service's 
environmental assessment.
    An alternative to the taking of listed species under the Proposed 
Action is considered in the Plan and environmental assessment. Under 
the No Action Alternative, no permit would be issued. However, the No 
Action Alternative is unacceptable as it will continue to result in the 
loss of up to 6,000 acre-feet of water per year. Five other 
alternatives are presented in the Plan and the environmental 
assessment, but are considered unacceptable for various reasons, 
including disagreement among, or opposition from, local landowners.
    All interested agencies, organizations, and individuals are urged 
to provide comments on the permit application and environmental 
assessment. All comments received by the closing date will be 
considered in finalizing National Environmental Protection Act 
compliance and permit issuance or denial. The Service will publish a 
record on its final action in the Federal Register.

    Dated: January 3, 2000.
Thomas Dwyer,
Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 00-333 Filed 1-6-00; 8:45 am]