[Federal Register: July 12, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 134)]
[Page 43031-43034]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Bureau of Reclamation

Fish and Wildlife Service

Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) for the Lower Colorado 
River, Arizona, California, and Nevada

AGENCIES: Bureau of Reclamation, Interior; Fish and Wildlife Service, 

ACTION: Supplemental Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS)/Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and notice of 
supplemental public scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and 
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the U.S. Bureau of 
Reclamation (Reclamation), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), 
and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California 
(Metropolitan), intend to prepare an EIS/EIR to evaluate the impacts 
associated with implementing the MSCP for the Lower Colorado River 
(LCR) in the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada.

[[Page 43032]]

DATES AND ADDRESSES: Written comments on conservation alternatives and 
issues to be addressed in the EIS/EIR are requested by August 11, 2000, 
and should be sent to Mr. Tom Shrader, Attention: LC-2011, Bureau of 
Reclamation, P.O. Box 61470, Boulder City, NV 89006-1470, or faxed to 
Mr. Shrader at (702) 293-8146. Oral and written comments will be 
accepted at the public scoping meetings to be held at the following 
    July 31, 2000, 6-8 p.m., Yuma Desalting Plant, Bureau of 
Reclamation, 7301 Calle Agua Salada, Yuma, Arizona.
    August 1, 2000, 6-8 p.m., California Department of Fish and Game, 
14700 S. Broadway, Blythe, California.
    August 2, 6-8 p.m., Regional Government Center, 101 Civic Way, 
Laughlin, Nevada.
    August 3, 2000, 6-8 p.m., Henderson Convention Center, 200 South 
Water Street, Henderson, Nevada.
    Starting at 6:30 p.m. at each of the public scoping meetings listed 
above, the lead agencies will present an overview of MSCP alternatives 
currently being considered and issues that will be addressed in the 
EIS/EIR. There will be an opportunity for individuals to make formal 
statements following each presentation.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT: Mr. Tom Shrader, Ecologist, Bureau of 
Reclamation at (702) 293-8703 or Mr. Sam Spiller, Lower Colorado River 
Coordinator, Fish and Wildlife Service at (602) 640-2720, ext. 208. 
Questions regarding the CEQA process should be directed to Ms. Laura 
Simonek, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California at (213) 
217-6242. Information on the purpose, membership, meeting schedules and 
documents associated with the MSCP may be obtained on the Internet at 
www.lcrmscp.org, with a supplemental link to Reclamation's web page at 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The initial notice of intent to prepare an 
EIS/EIR and notice of public scoping meetings were published in the 
Federal Register of May 18, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 95, pages 27000-2702). A 
summary of comments provided during the initial scoping period and at 
the public scoping meetings held at six locations from June 15 to July 
1, 1999, is provided on the Internet at Reclamation's web site: 
www.lc.usbr.gov. Look for ``Scoping Summary Report'' under Multi-
Species Conservation Program.
    The proposed action is a multi-species conservation program that 
will (1) conserve habitat and work toward the recovery of threatened 
and endangered species as well as reduce the likelihood of additional 
species listings under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the 
California Endangered Species Act (CESA), (2) accommodate current water 
diversions and power production and optimize opportunities for future 
water and power development, to the extent consistent with the law, and 
(3) provide the basis for take authorization pursuant to ESA and CESA.
    Reclamation and the Service are joint Federal leads for the EIS. 
The EIS will be the basis for (1) Reclamation's Record of Decision on 
implementing its portion of the MSCP and (2) the Service's Record of 
Decision on issuing an ESA section 10 permit. In addition to the EIS/
EIR document, Reclamation will also prepare a biological assessment on 
its ongoing and future discretionary actions on the LCR, and the 
Service will utilize the assessment in preparing a biological opinion 
pursuant to section 7 of the ESA. Metropolitan is the designated CEQA 
lead agency for the EIR.
    The Lower Colorado River MSCP is a partnership of state, Federal, 
tribal, and other public and private stakeholders with interest in 
managing the water and related resources of the Lower Colorado River 
basin. In August of 1995, the Department of the Interior and the states 
of Arizona, Nevada, and California entered into a Memorandum of 
Agreement and later a Memorandum of Clarification (MOA/MOC) for 
Development of a Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation 
    It is proposed that the MSCP will serve as a coordinated, 
comprehensive conservation approach for the lower Colorado River basin 
within the 100-year floodplain from below Glen Canyon Dam to the 
Southerly International Boundary with Mexico for a period of 50 years. 
The participants agreed to develop, implement, and fund the MSCP. It 
was also agreed to pursue an ecosystem-based approach to developing the 
MSCP for interim and long-term compliance with applicable endangered 
species and environmental laws and to implement conservation and 
protection measures for included species and habitats.
    Preliminary MSCP alternatives currently under consideration for the 
MSCP include: (1) No Action, (2) Large habitat core restoration areas 
with minimized management, (3) Smaller habitat core restoration areas 
with more active, long-term management, (4) Habitat preservation and 
enhancement, and (5) Species coverage limited to Federal threatened and 
endangered, and a number of sensitive, non-listed species. These 
preliminary MSCP alternatives are further defined below and additional 
details will be provided during the presentations at the four scheduled 
public scoping meetings listed above. The alternatives presentations at 
the public scoping meetings will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by an 
opportunity for individuals to make formal statements on the MSCP. The 
lead agencies will be seeking suggestions and comments regarding 
alternatives and issues and concerns that need to be addressed in the 
    Under the No Action/No Project alternative, it is assumed that some 
or all of the current and future projects proposed for coverage under 
the MSCP would be implemented. Under the No Action/No Project 
alternative, impacts from these potential projects on listed and 
sensitive species and habitats would be evaluated and mitigated on a 
project-by-project basis, as is presently the case. Individual ESA 
section 10 permits or section 7 consultations would be required for 
activities involving take of listed species.
    The Large Core/Minimal Management alternative addresses about 100 
species and includes riparian, marsh, and aquatic strategies for the 
conservation efforts. The main focus of this alternative uses a 
habitat-based approach with large core habitat creation (1,250 acres or 
greater), existing habitat for corridors, and restoration areas with 
minimal management. The aquatic strategy in this alternative creates 
offstream refugia and allows for periodic reconnection to the river 
system. Non-native control strategies are included. The approaches for 
delivering water to the core areas include engineered connections such 
as canals, weirs, and other devices. This alternative also includes the 
provision for up to 40,000 cubic-feet-per-second releases from upstream 
reservoirs in conjunction with bankline and levee modification to 
create habitat. A floodplain management strategy would also be 
developed under this alternative. Water may be acquired for habitat 
management or maintenance through a variety of means, for example, from 
willing sellers or a water bank. The range of alternative acreage 
strategies suggested by a variety of scientists and biologists includes 
12,000-80,000 acres of habitat restoration/creation.
    The Smaller Core/Active Management alternative addresses about 100 
species and includes riparian, marsh, and aquatic strategies for the 
conservation efforts. The main focus of this alternative uses a 
habitat-based approach with small core habitat

[[Page 43033]]

creation (250 to 1,250 acres) in conjunction with habitat for corridors 
and restoration areas with an active management component. The aquatic 
strategy in this alternative creates offstream refugia without 
provision for periodic reconnection to the river system. Non-native 
control strategies are included. The approaches for delivering water to 
the core areas include engineered connections such as canals, weirs, 
and other devices. The range of alternative acreage strategies 
suggested by a variety of scientists and biologists includes 12,000-
80,000 acres of habitat creation/restoration.
    The Habitat Restoration and Enhancement alternative also addresses 
about 100 species and includes riparian, marsh, and aquatic strategies 
for the conservation efforts. The main focus of this alternative uses a 
habitat-based approach through preservation and creation of habitat 
anywhere within the species' breeding range within the United States 
and may take advantage, where appropriate, of cooperative activities 
with related/adjacent programs. The aquatic strategy in this 
alternative focuses on the establishment of self-sustaining populations 
in the Upper Salt River and other LCR tributaries through renovation of 
habitat, stocking of fish, and removal of non-native fish. Studies have 
indicated that approximately 58,000 acres of land throughout the 
breeding range of the southwestern willow flycatcher may be available 
for acquisition and subsequent preservation. This habitat conservation 
would need to be supplemented with other conservation for species 
residing only within the LCR.
    The Smaller Number of Species alternative is a species-based 
approach that works toward recovery on an individual species basis. 
This alternative addresses a limited number of species, including ESA-
listed species and those species that are most likely to be listed. 
Elements of large core and small core alternatives are incorporated to 
meet the recovery goals on a case-by-case basis. The aquatic strategy 
in this alternative creates off stream refugia and allows for periodic 
reconnection to the river system. Non-native control strategies are 
included. The approaches for delivering water to the core areas include 
engineered connections such as canals, weirs, and other devices. The 
range of alternative acreage strategies suggested by a variety of 
scientists and biologists includes 12,000-80,000 acres of habitat 
creation/restoration. However, the actual acreage required would depend 
on the suite of species covered under this alternative.
    A public involvement program has been initiated and will be 
maintained throughout this EIS/EIR process. The goal is to keep the 
public and affected parties informed and actively involved as the 
project evolves. Given the number of entities participating (Federal, 
State, and local governments, Native Americans, and private interest 
groups), successfully providing information and soliciting feedback are 
critical to the project's effectiveness.
    Probable Environmental Effects--Following is a preliminary list of 
probable environmental and economic issues and effects associated with 
the project. Other issues may be identified during the internal MSCP 
and public scoping process.
    Biological Resources--Among the endangered species known to use the 
project area are the southwestern willow flycatcher, Yuma clapper rail, 
razorback sucker, bonytail, and bald eagle (being considered for 
delisting). Of prime concern will be the conservation of these and 
other species, such as the yellow-billed cuckoo (under review for 
listing under the ESA), and associated habitat within the 100-year 
floodplain. Implementation of the MSCP will have an overall benefit on 
biological resources by moving species toward recovery and reducing the 
likelihood of additional species listings.
    Hydrology and Water Quality--Certain conservation strategies may 
alter onsite water resources, including waters of the United States [as 
defined in 40 CFR 230.3(s)], which are under the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers (Corps) jurisdiction. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water 
Act, the Corps is responsible for issuing a permit if a project may 
result in the placement of material into water of the United States. 
Until specific alternatives are developed, the effects on hydrology and 
water quality are unknown.
    Floodplains and Wetlands--Implementation of the MSCP will have 
overall beneficial impacts on floodplains and wetlands, especially in 
maintaining or creating backwaters (wetlands) and reestablishing native 
riparian habitat which is essential to the recovery of species. The 
MSCP partnership has identified several thousand acres of flood plain 
sites that may have the potential for restoration and enhancement of 
native habitat. There are several opportunities for the MSCP 
partnership and Federal, state, Native American and private landowners 
to voluntarily develop and engage in long-term native habitat 
restoration. The conversion of developed crop lands to native habitat 
could be an important component of an MSCP alternative. The MSCP is 
also exploring the economic requirements associated with long-term 
leases or purchases of private holdings from willing lessors or 
    Cultural Resources--The program could disturb or affect 
archaeological resources, traditional cultural properties, Indian 
sacred sites, and Indian Trust Assets. However, it is the intent of the 
MSCP to avoid or mitigate such effects and the MSCP, as part of the 
EIS/EIR process, is currently evaluating the potential effects of the 
preliminary alternatives on such resources.
    Socioeconomics--The potential socioeconomic impacts associated with 
implementation of the MSCP will be evaluated. This assessment may 
include municipal and industrial uses, agricultural productivity, and 
other socioeconomic considerations.
    Recreation--During the initial scoping in 1999, numerous 
recreational concerns and issues were identified. In general they 
involved the potential effects of the MSCP on access to the flood plain 
and river; activities such as camping, fishing and hunting; boat size 
and type of motor; off road vehicle use; and implementing ESA and 
Executive Order 12962 regarding recreational fisheries.
    Water and Hydroelectric Power Uses--The effect of various 
conservation measures on water and hydroelectric power uses will be 
evaluated. It is the intent of the MSCP to accommodate these uses while 
protecting covered species and their habitat within the project area.
    Agricultural and Other Land Uses--Current agricultural resources or 
operations and land uses may be impacted. Land use and cropping 
patterns would change with the voluntary conversion of agricultural 
lands to native riparian habitat or the transfer of water rights for 
habitat maintenance and restoration.
    International Impacts--Pursuant to council on environmental quality 
guidance regarding NEPA, potential trans-boundary impacts to Mexico 
resulting from implementation of the MSCP will be identified and 
analyzed. The project will not affect the delivery of water pursuant to 
the 1944 Mexico Water Treaty.
    Environmental Justice--It is anticipated that the MSCP will not 
result in disproportionately high and adverse human health or 
environmental effects on minorities and/or low income populations.
    Related Project Documentation--It is anticipated that the EIS/EIR 
process will make full use (including incorporation

[[Page 43034]]

by reference, as appropriate, pursuant to NEPA and CEQA) of the 
following project documents, copies of which are available for 
inspection at Metropolitan, Reclamation, and Service offices:
    Bureau of Reclamation, Description and Assessment of Operations, 
Maintenance, and Sensitive Species of the Lower Colorado River--Final 
Biological Assessment, August 1996.
    Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological and Conference Opinion on 
Lower Colorado River Operations and Maintenance--Lake Mead to Southerly 
International Boundary, April 1997.
    These documents may also be accessed through Reclamation's web site 
at www.lc.usbr.gov. See ``Published Reports'' at Multi-Species 
Conservation Program.
    The draft EIS/EIR is expected to be available for public review by 
the first half of 2001.

    Dated: July 5, 2000.
Robert W. Johnson,
Regional Director, Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation.
    Dated: July 6, 2000.
Nancy M. Kaufman,
Regional Diector, Region Two, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-17578 Filed 7-11-00; 8:45 am]